This is one of those sessions I was waiting to happen for a long time. Eight years actually as this is exactly the time which passed from original Mare Nostrum recording. Only a few like that exist in a entire music history which are possessing the same magic and charm.
I had the pleasure to write about Espen Eriksen‘s Trio before when their début LP What Took You So Long hit the world. Since that two more recordings followed with the latest Never Ending January which I am just taking on board. Eriksen’s style has something unusual in his melodic approach. It reflects that a lot had been learned from Esbjorn Svensson Trio.
This recording goes away from Jazz quite far but good music doesn’t have to be pure Jazz. I went through those tracks many times as I know the musicians playing in the rhythmic section very well. No experience with Kalima himself, so here I am entering an unexplored territory. Sort of. Lets start with a colloquial manifest that I don’t like Country at all. The only true Country like recordings I heard firmed by a jazz musician is Bill Frisell‘s Nashville. That I can not only stand but also enjoy. Intrigued?
Greg Cohen made so many freaky departures with multiple Zorn‘s squats that he can truly be called The Mighty Veteran. Despite the fact he is not that old yet. I am madly in love with his music! Max Andrzejewski on the contrary is a new spirit to me and I reviewed here his Traumton recordings. These ones again I admire and value highly for their devilishly challenging sense of humour on pair with his technical virtuosity. Kalima, being a guitarist automatically had been compared to Frisell in a project like this. Not only he survived but also hold his own. Those three musicians found an absolute perfection in the way they communicate. And there are few reasons for this I believe.
First of all is that despite the fact they did choose western tunes it didn’t determinate the way they interpreted them. Far from a cowboy’s ethos, they remind me more of the urban knights. Somehow they found the way to compare the loneliness of the human being today which compares to the riders of the vast barren prairies which they had been faced with .
The second they stuck to the feeling of vastness of the open space and kept it prevented and not losing this in their tracks. In a piece like Ghost Riders in The Sky, a typical western soundtrack they kept the drive and energy. But they did drop the ideology. I can listen to this music now and watch different pictures in the background without a single wrong feeling.
Kalima learned a lot from Frisell. One can hear this over and over on the following High Noon or El Paso, but also from Marc Ribot. Look at the piece entitled Lannen Lokari with a marching snare intro teamed with guitar chords. We are getting there music which is sounding more like Russian folk tune played on a Balalaika rather than on a guitar. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah carries completely new meaning in this environment. Here it gets the Appalachian treatment it never before had to match the boundaries.
Except this tune by Salomaa and one other from Jean Sibelius all the others came from the Country and Western stables. Handled by the musician like those three, they are flirting with everything from jazz and blues or scratched rubato riffs to the classical music. Occasionally as well in intentional interludes they go down to silly village country rides. Just to show that whatever happens in front of your ears stays in the required territory. Most importantly however is the journey as it sounds. The charm of holding this dialogue is enchanting , captivating and entertaining.
This is why now,if you would believe it, I do have TWO whole country records in my collection 😉 .
It is a real blossom of the new talents in Switzerland I must admit. After an excellent début of Fabienne Ambühl with her trio now we got another Ace here: Florian Favre . This is one of this recording which really knocked me out and gave a lot of pleasure when I tried to follow some paths and inspirations which made that personality.
The Fire! recently active as an 18 musicians Orchestra incarnation, still downgraded from 30!, somehow – don’t ask me HOW? – found the way to make that trio recording possible. But bless them they did as an album is remarkable. As I head a pleasure recently to hear the Fire! on stage in their furious Orchestra-charged ride. With a number of gigs and rehearsals taking place plus few Fire! Orchestra recordings made meanwhile it is simple a miracle to me.
Getting back to the subjects it starts with Fire! as one should expect. But Rock alike energy here is just a surface layer. This LP is only four tracks but each has its own significance. She owned his voice is an opening one. From the initial energy escalation and Walkerian ride it moves slowly but firmly towards more modal jazz improvisation, with the lovely long lines played by Mats fulfilled by equally stunningly working rhythm section arm in arm.
Tittle She sleeps, she sleeps is my favourite one here. It contains in the mix the guitar of Oren Ambarchi. The sleepy, almost somnambulist feeling which comes from the monotony of the percussion framework that Andreas developed here is captivate. Hypnotic guitar loops are heavy and hanging around like a foggy cloud. Matts’ tenor lament builds around that and gives piece a drive. Emotional intensity makes you feel like you are dreaming one of those dreams which paralyse you but in the same time fascinates to the degree that you won’t to wake up. Ringy sounds of tortured strings are counterpointing lovely with a long decay of bells strongly hit at each brake. The piece dances in your head like Bolero as it counts alike on 3/4 too. It is like day after night, all over again. You don’t want it to stop. I do not want it to stop.
She bid a meaningless farewell which comes after starts with ascetic drumming with a massive gravity. Handled mostly on snare and toms it makes almost tribal appearance. Matts lines are drifting on the waves in silent natural way. The brake comes with cello pizzicatos added to the mix, played by Leo Svensson, which naturally blends with the drums into gentle harmony, to merge into the silence at the end.
Closing, she penetrates the distant silence. slowly, is a show of Johan Berthling’s pace keeping capabilities. Specially interesting giving his reputation of the rough sound making player. His opening riff, keeps it pace perfectly from first to last note and creates a core of the tune. Matt is swinging around that with his sexy rounded, alluring lines like fallen angel in a go go bar. The music is dark and viscid. Smoky thick and full of suspense. It sneaks like a darkness and in the same time steps light like a temptation. Cello Arcos, present in this tissue as it comes closer to the end, makes it fuller bodied and harmonically rich. It comes into gentle choruses with airy sax at some points when their paths cross. I love that recording madly and sure everybody will! Not just a trusty Fire! fans.
So, here is a deal. I got the record which suppose to be 3rd for the leader saxophonist and in the same time his début for the prestigious Blue Note label. Never heard previous two or an artist either , so it is a proper first contact and first impression situation. That is what I like about it.
Ian Show is a man of many talents and professions and had been already crowned The Number One Jazz singer in the UK. Despite of the fact I have my own king chosen already to put on this position it doesn’t change the fact that he belongs to the absolute top few indeed. His output has a quality which most would be jealous for and remains consistent for years on.
This latest songbook is a tricky one. On one side he departs from his Single mode and brings the piano trio to build the set. And the choice of instrumentalist. It is the premium one as well . Repertoire is a mix of songs of different origins. Some of them have been long time along. New make over however given to them as well as the new context brings sometimes very surprising feelings.
An opening Small Day Tomorrow (Bob Dorough) for example has given very fast tempo and modern approach. Piano accompaniment is very well arranged and I like it personally more than ex. recent Jamie Cullum version.
Blossom Daearie‘s You fascinated me So , again speeds up comparing to the original and many other covers too. But phrasing is very motoric and I like the way like an old song fits into the modern life speed.
Joni Mitchell‘s classic In France they Kiss on the Main Street has a nice drive too after jazzy arrangement’s touch with very nice piano culminations and Ian’s story telling like narration with lots of rubatos and rich voice modulations.
Where are we Now first time appeared on Bowie‘s The Next Day, pretty recent album. I like the song a lot as it refers to my favourite Berlin period memories. Lyrics bring mature reflection on life that Bowie nicely bridges with memories from his youth. Shaw kept that feeling perfectly present all the time and somehow enriched it with his own lifespan experience.
This tune mirrors an emotional plot we are entering in My Brother, the piece with an obvious dedication. How Do You Keep the Music Playing ? stays in the same camp mood wise. Beautiful ballad written by Michel Legrand is one of my long time favourite. Even it’s not as long time as some of the other pieces of this puzzle.
The most surprising choice to me is song from Olivier musical You Have got to Pick Up a Pocket or Two. Funny enough it fits the mix quite well. The lyrics after Show’s treatment are coming in such a natural way like it was always the only purpose for them.
Ian’s own All This and Betty Too definitely is a top pick of this recording to me, showing him at his best and clearly explaining why he belongs right to the top. Traffic‘s hit The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys is next in row. Give it a listen and you soon find out why.
Brel‘s Ne Me Quitte Pas is an perfect outro and it frames it all beautifully.
Nothing works better than the surprise especially in a show business That’s probably why on their latest 10th album the band came with the project like that. Following their leader’s , Micheal League, confession “…it expresses band’s desire to work with vocalist/composers whom they greatly admire”. Choice of the guest vocalist is quite vast and covers different genres. From Gospel , Soul ,Folk to Jazz and even Pop, which can be equally enjoyable if only served well.
Opening bit, I Asked featuring Becca Stevens starts with stylish Appalachian scent like intro. With the gentle touch of folk and soul accompaniment it blends with slightly pop-ish arrangement in the vocal parts. But piece holds on to its folk core in choruses. Instrumental part of the tune is more rooted in jazz tradition and I am pretty sure that is partially improvised.
Argentinian singer’s Susan Baca appearance changes the mood into more Ethnic-funk structure with strong Latin American / African rhythmic accents. Additionally Charlie Hunter‘s guitar, which is unique on his own rights makes a special signature too. Hunter , just like Mark Ribot posses his own very distinguish technique. Molino Molero is one of the best on that LP to my ears.
Coming after Liquid Love with lead vocal of Chris Turner is a classic fusion with call and response which defined 70’ties soul from which Prince learn such a great lot.
Afriki, with Malian singer Salif Keita , as expected takes as to central African sonic universe. Lead vocal and female choir make vocal lines, supported by Brazilian percussionist Bernado Aguiar and his colleague Carlos Malta, flautist. All this merge of different folk traditions comes together really nice. Due to general competence of the band which is actually well familiar with that sort of music. As musicians often appears as a session players with Erika Badu alike artist to give just one example. For this reason there is no surprise that Birmingham’s Gold , singer Laura Mvula fits the bill perfectly with her deep and silky smooth in the same time voice. Duet with Canadian vocalist Michelle Willis is fulfilling tissue with her fruity girlish timbre comes really tasty and charming.
Literally each collaboration making this blend comes to its own rights. It really establishes some organic qualities deeply rooted in artists origins. Family dinner title then makes great sense as this recording is like a fest with kitchen full of different ingredients. Therefore it is up to chefs to create unbelievable testy dishes for listener’s enjoyment.
All this project speaks quality as should be expected from the line up like that. Musicians with such a vast experience and interests. Listening to this is a great pleasure and results in multiple discoveries. Once you are digging to dipper layers and getting familiar with material you starting to discover more and more stubble flavours drifting in the air. I am doing it almost a month and I still do so.
Mette’s double bill comes out as an unusual debut. Not often happens that someone so young as her comes out with work as mature as she did. First disc is performed in a trio, again unusual with piano and the cello played respectively by Johan Lindvall and Katrine Schiott. This is a word of the miniatures. With space carefully arranged with sounds and silence being next to each other on the equal rights. Some of the pieces only last less than a minute but the charm they possess leaves a lasting impact on the listener.
One might ask suspiciously if a 73 years old Hammond B3 Giant can make any Evolution yet after all these years of being around. Certainly a good question with surprisingly big YES answer. Coming back to Blue Note after 40 years is an unusual move as well. The set starts with Lonnie’s long time hits.
Opening Play It Back strikes straight forward and takes no prisoners with two drummers on set and guest appearance of Robert Glaspar on piano. The tune knocks out with its energy and dense rhythm structure. It stands out when compared to original Live At Club Mozambique recording made 45 years back. From pure funk piece, driven by usual 4/4 beat which sounded close to James Brown or The Headhunters like sonic universe it moved into rich two keyboards dialogue. Full of chunky , percussive B3 chops and piano walking on the melody lines.
Afrodesia another 40 year old tune goes through the similar makeover. Here the leader invited to the session his old band mate Joe Lovano, who also was a part of the original recording. It keeps almost the same tempo , but unusual change to soprano sax makes the bit sounding at least 20 years younger. What stands out here are great brass interludes played tutti by two drummers with soprano sax and trumpet on the top. Brass solos are very well weighted and tasty as well.
In the For Heaven’s Sake Lovano gets back to his main weapon. It suits a gentle ballad better. Also it comes in quite a contrast to fast tempos which are mostly sketching this recording. Then we have the mix of old good standards and new compositions played in the regular trio set up .
Straight No Chaser surprises with its fast tempo and modern approach. Doctors’ touch is gentle here and distances itself from the opening cannonade. Similar , made of muslin like mood comes with opening notes of My Favorite Things. Melody develops gently and somehow shyly, before the break from the drums pushes it back into vivid and more dancy territories. Talk About This is modern funky bit with striking trumpet solo floating over . These trumpet lines alone are worth having the record. It’s the peak of the project to me. Closing African Suite makes nice outro with its ethnic touch and lovely chunky chorales. Flute solo travelling through the main rhythmic corridor is a wonderful show from multi reed instrumentalist John Ellis.
Summing up then here we got a few Evolutions. First is transition of young lion who left the label as a cub and got there back with the crown on his head. Second is matured life achievement of the Hammondist who made his way through the Funk era, co- creating the movement, and at his late days is still proving that there is a bright future for the funk waiting to be discovered. Certainly this is The Evolution at its best.