Some wonderful news arrived today to share with all the music lovers and for those with a taste for the classical music jazzy re – arrangements in particular. If you remember the review of the Stark Liennemann Transcedence Chopin vol.II and III CD review I wrote and published some 18 months back on my review board ,as well as in #HifiCritics magazine pages, here is another wonderful project coming. The Picture at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky.
releases: September 8, 2018
Hidden Details is a new studio album of Soft Machine, recorded at the late great Jon Hiseman’s Temple Studio in Surrey, England, last December 2017, and it will be released in September 2018 on MoonJune Records (North America; on CD and HD Download), on John Etheridge’s Dyan Records (UK/Europe on CD, and iTunes), and on Vivid Sounds (Japan), exactly 50 years since the release of the band’s 1968 debut album The Soft Machine. Limited and highly collectable vinyl edition of only 200 coloured vinyl (orange, blue and tour edition orange & blue marbled) will be released on the Dutch label Tonefloat, on September 8, 2018.
I was awaiting this record to come for two years now. To make a long story short once I heard the Trio on the stage with guest appearance of Andy Sheppard I knew that they got no other choice than to record it. If it was so clear to me it must had been even more to them. Simples 😉 And there it is. Rune wouldn’t let it go either.
The lyrical, woolly and embracing feeling that EET creates makes one falling in love with it immediately and it doesn’t surprise me at all that their popularity rises fast and shows sell full. Andy fits into this world like a hand into the glove. His own language is equally lyrical and fragile and it belongs to the trio in the same natural way.
It becomes clear when you listen to the previous recordings and starting to asking yourself when the sax is going to join? An open character of Espen’s compositions would kind of allow that any time, with slight twist to the tempo maybe, when it comes to the faster ones.
Title ballad is one of my favourite here. It possesses all the quality I value so high with that band but in the same time brings a lot of space to accommodate saxophonist. It happens by listening of course and by gentle re-arrangements. Rhythm slowing down here and there to keep on time with Andy’s smooth breath. That again shows the high skills of the drummer as he makes it so natural that it almost takes all the trouble out of the bassist.
The fragility of the Above the Horizon, almost makes you fly straight from an opening note. Amazing how easy it is for them to create such an instant illusion. Andy to me is one of these musicians who’s being long time looking for his own voice. He always sounded to me a bit like Garbarek, a bit like Henderson and these are just his recent ECM recordings which are showing his own fully grown voice. And so wonderful it is.
1974 is one of such tracks I have no knowledge who composed it but is sounds so Andy that I have no doubts. Sax figures are having perfect pace here, and the sound blossoms with every note, which is so rounded and fine that there is no better way to play it. The way how piano dialogues with sax encharms, so does the ability of the rhythm section to merge into the tissue so deep that they become almost harmonics for the piano.
Indian Summer simply paints the perfect picture. So many colours that it becomes difficult to trace. Sax, dry like a summer air and in the same time warm in tone, sketches watercolours between your ears. You can almost feel the sun rays on your face and distant buzz of flies. This piece reminds me the feeling I used to have when listening to early Pat Matheny recordings, so folksy in their melodic aspect.
Following Suburban Folk Song leaves no doubts where the inspiration came from. And indeed repetitive motive multiplied in piano layers and covered with the brass lines make perfect reference to the Nordic folklore.
Naked Trees , is another example of the perfectly illustrative nature of the tunes they committed in Quartet. Waltz alike melody flirts with elegiac sax lines flying high and the thrill bringing incredible gentleness to the feeling.
Saying that it is another great recording from EET would be trivial. This music is too beautiful to put margins like that. One needs simply to hear and feel it to understand. It is the way it touches and comforts you mind ,feeling etc., more than it sounds like. Just taste to feel and we can talk about it later.
International release 17.08.18
In the Moskus universe there may be no such thing as a finished product, as everything remains permanently in flux and subject to further adaption and change. Even as it is articulated, a thought or musical phrase is already being reconsidered or evolving into something else. This is contingent music, hyper-alert to nuance and environment, changing like temperature or the weather just as the dynamic of the trio shifts its emphasis when roles are exchanged or the lead swapped from one player to another.
Norwegian release: 27.04.2018
– LP available May 11
International release: 27 July 2018
It’s a tough task going for transcendence straight from the off, but that is what Skadedyr’s new album does, almost immediately summoning up a mood of ecstatic abandon whose wailing guitar and keyboard drones, ululating voice and rattling percussion, bring to mind the cosmic spirit of Alice Coltrane and Carlos Santana, or the deep spiritual jazz of Pharoah Sanders at its most cathartic. That the opening (whose governing mood is to be picked up again in a later sequence) is then followed by a weird deconstructed interlude of percussion, parping tuba, free-improv glissandi, oompah-band musical jokes and ’noise’ might appear frustrating, but this is to penetrate to the heart of what Skadedyr are about.
Whenever I get my hands on any new Scandinavian modern piano trio I cannot be more surprised. Looks like the torch of progress in that department is firmly hold by Northerners. Take for example their compatriots first: Tord Gustavsen, Espen Enriksen or another fresh newcomer I had a great pleasure to approach – Kjetil Mulelid. Or, to get more back in time, Swedish Super Group E.S.T.
Music of Esbjorn Svensson group simply dominated over decade from their rise in middle 90’s to the disband in the years after millennium and All That simply set up the new standards for Modern Piano Trio. But one needs to understand that the phenomena of the EST didn’t come from no-where, but from massive devotion to the tradition, which regarding to a native folk music study, created the brand-new language for emotional communication.
Here, with Oddgeir Berg Trio we are about to face the same sort of sensation, as Svensson’s Monk did some 23 years back. One can guess that easy that despite of the debut recording we do have here well-seasoned musicians who are playing the game on the very high level.
All sort of inspiration can be heard here as well, starting from classics like Horace Silver, Bill Evans, Sonny Clark or Monk. Then obviously Keith Jarret and Herbie Hancock. And those whom I listed above. But one can add to the melting pot Jimmy Hendrix, Petter Molvear , Miles Davis, late Coltrane, or the Bad Plus. It his highly spiritual tour de force pressing many buttons in my head and putting smile on my face.
The music is shaped perfectly and arrangements are making listening possible hours and hours without a trace of getting bored. From the first meaty riffs of the double bass opening the Mermaids’ Dance tune wonderful trip starts.
Following Oldies, opens with drums intro of an outstanding depth, to move into slow tempo piano invocation, remarkably romantic and touchy, with a bit of this so Jarret-esque touch of the Latin spirit. To me the discipline of the rhythm section together with an outstanding acoustic sense of space which contributes to this recording is a key factor here.
Following, Here Comes the Toughest, with its energetic, funk-a-delic section is a pure tribute to an electric Miles and in an extension automatically to Hancock’s vital piano virtuosity. The quote from his Watermelon Man, underlining the score with every upcoming chorus and going through the constant makeover says it all. So, does the tune called A.C.M, which additionally takes things out from where Esbjorn left them with tasty modulated piano sampling.
Lovely melancholic Waltzie, as the name suggests, dances with firmly stomping bass to the sparkling percussion tissue weaved by Klaus Robert Blomvik, the drummer who’s name I would strongly recommend remembering.
Short, coming after Slattesven is the one lasting hardly two minutes and is like a little poem with rhymes where few chords keep playing with rhythmic figures on the very fine edge, but it takes the skills and imagination to create little burlesque like that.
No point to go through all remaining tracks with the same analytic eye. Better to leave it for your ears and minds to enjoy and make your own discoveries. I can gladly promise you that you will soon get lost in connotations and immersive beauty of the tunes. Simply killing Debut and a MUST have LP for every Piano Trio fan.
This seems to be second project that Norwegian singer Ruth Wilhelmine Meyer recorded under her own name. But here it doesn’t really count, as even if not a debut or whatever one wish to call it, it is not the music you usually come across. She has been always involved in lots of projects of different sort and with her very unique vocal approach and 5 octave range voice available as one can imagine. Her name stands out enough to not easy be forgotten. Therefore, I remember her from her collaborations with another brilliant singer, her compatriot: Agnes Buen Garnås as well as from long time collaboration with an Ethnic formation AKKU. More recent is her phenomenal project in Duo with pianist Helge Lien called “Memnon: Sound portraits of Ibsen characters”, from some few years back, also issued by Ozella.
Klangbiotober however, as I said above is something completely different. The main reason for that is an artistic or even political statement that artist did put for it in a foreword:
“When I set out to record this album, I saw the atrocities that we were committing towards our planet and it got me thinking”, Meyer recounts, “I reflected on my lack of will to do something about the situation and about our collective failure to take action. In some ways, working on the album was a way for me to enter into a dialogue with the places, plants and creatures of nature.”
Let’s drop the titles then as they got no meaning to me and sunk into the music. From the first touch it brings performance one might expect from Meredith Monk for example, for its theatrical connections clearly audible here as a part of the expression. On the other hands an organic and natural recount to the Nordic folklore are bringing associations with artists like Lena Willemark or Mari Boine. Also, many performing artists might be quoted, just as easy as Mongolian throat singers to give just one completely opposite example. In fact, the type of folk doesn’t matter that much here like its clear reference to primary philosophic systems practised by native cultures inhabiting various areas of our planet. With their respect to The Mother Earth as a feeding power. Some basic instinct we surely lost in our civilisation climb.
The simplicity and organic nature of the human voice is matched here with equal virtuosity by matching quartet of musicians which are also extraordinary.
First is very well known to me percussionist Terje Isungset. Drumming can not possibly be done in more essential and basic manner like he does. Known for his multiple projects with use for sound making almost everything, from archaeological remains to stones, ice and trees.
He simply sounds here as natural as sound of the nature, never touched by the human hands. But this is his trademark. Nobody fits better here. If I would think of replacement possibly Paul Wirkus only might feel that fragile balance they created here.
Saxophonist Grzech Piotrowski represents exactly the same mental set up as Isungset. He is well known for his World Orchestra project which refers to the basic definition of sound and intuitive communication with music and via music. His instrumental approach as well as the music written for the symphonic format keeps exploring the same basic simplicity and refers rather to our inner senses than to any sort of intellectual recognition.
The tuba player Lars Andreas Haug is one of the former members of the AKKU trio, so he works with Meyer over two decades now. Eight years back also Piotrowski became a solid member of this unique formation which is now quintet, so as you can see there is a lot of connections and the names are not picked randomly. Haug’s playing here reminds me what French virtuoso Michel Godard does, but it shouldn’t be any surprise given the fact that both gents are exploring similar plots.
This music has to be heard and felled. You will actually feel it with your entire arsenal of senses, not just hearing and it’ll touch you deeply. You won’t be the same anymore after. So, won’t be your judgement of the world as it became with our greediness and lack of common sense. I hope that this message will sink deeper and we start questioning ourselves as human and spiritual beings. So far, there is no planet B.
International release 13.07.18
Acclaimed trumpeter/soundscaper Hilde Marie Holsen follows up her critical hit mini-album debut, ‘Ask’, with the dark and mysterious ‘Lazuli’, a suite of four compositions inspired by visual art and named after minerals used to colour paint.
Hilde Marie Holsen’s ‘Lazuli’ is an almost shockingly complete musical statement. It’s as if an intense dialogue between the processes of composition and improvisation, and the interplay of sound and music, has led to the creation of experimental and often challenging work that nevertheless comes across as absolutely fully-formed; as inevitable, even.
Second recording from well acclaimed Austro-German formation led by bassist Lukas Kranzelbinder, the groove pillar of Mario Rom’s Interzone Trio, took the world by storm, just like their debut The Golden Fang. Immaculately vivid septet with doubled rhythm section and a brass trio grown as on yeasts from igniting festival commission to the Star Band serving fully sold shows wherever they set foot.
What put the band in the spotlight from the very beginning was an incredible hypnotic mixture of the jazz grooves, mixed with afro-beat ad folk which seems to energise needs of todays urban nomads. With an incredible drive supplied by doubled rhythm section the band just rides over the audience’s heads. Additionally, arranges written by leader for the brass are riding fast underlined but the burning sections forces. There are speed, charm and constant virtuosity – ingredients which must spice the dish just right.
An opening Dancing in the Cage of Soul is just like that. The melody puts the spell over your head when your feet are already part of the roller-coaster.
He merges energetically just perfect with the Shake Stew’s outcome and it is an immediate click on. His composition called How We See Things is based on African polyphonic rhythm, reminding Malian origins with the brass lines written to die for. Especially Rom’s lines for trumpet are charming and possessing incredible power.
Goodbye Johnny Staccato, vigorous piece driven by extraordinary saxes dialogue flying over bluesy bass walk and repetitive rhythm drags listener from joyful reflection to ecstatic lament. There is something incredibly elegant in the way that arrangements are made and the tune moves from hysteric cannonade to the poetic spin to end up with a New Orleans alike marching climax and killing drums outro, when you started to believe that nothing there can surprise you more.
Fall Downs Seven Times with Mario’s deeply touching intro brings me feelings of Interzone, especially when backed up by the bass lines, but these are the same musicians at the end of the day so it should not surprise. His phrasing, especially with his trademark over-blowing clearly set up the mood and execute composition to the very bottom. It is a one man show.
Get up Eight is another one of the two played as Octet. Again, very Afro-beat influenced with both rhythm and reminiscences to poly-rhythmic African tradition with brass arrangements re-referring to choir tribal traditions. It is very floating and shiny piece without a trace of heaviness which firmed Schabaka’s own tune.
Closing No Sleep my King is more lurking with constant presence of the bass riff , drum-sets shimmering in the background and single brass voices joining the path and coming into unison in melodic choruses. Very cheering tune with an incredible hypnotic power and grip despite of being played slow tempo and mostly piano.
So, the six tunes only but all together leaving a storm in the head and with rich emotional approach and in the same time dance. Storm for refreshing however, not for the hungover and certainly a need for more.
Norwegian release 29.03.2018
International release 08.06.18
A bigger breakthrough
The jazz trio format is tried and tested and has become one of the basic ensemble formats of modern jazz. Here is a trio that has its feet planted firmly within the tradition, but still offers something unique to the listener. The Espen Berg Trio made its mark with the group’s first album, “Mønster”, in 2015. The trio was referred to as “the biggest and most important musical discovery in the first half of 2016” by Jazz Japan, and they have toured extensively in Japan, where they have also signed a recording contract. Now the trio is back, with a striking and elegant new album that very possibly will be an even bigger breakthrough for the trio. This is a group that is positively overflowing with talent and musical enthusiasm.