Rudresh Mahanthappa Gamak (ACT): A fine example of what cutting edge jazz in New York sounds like at the moment. The second generation Indian-American alto saxophonist continues to pursue his path of applying some of the ideas in Indian classical music to the instruments and rhythms of jazz.
The word “gamak” refers to ornamentation in Indian classical music, and the music on the album has a lot of ornamentation from the busy playing of the band leader to the Eastern-flavoured guitar style of David Fiuczynski. Completing the band is French double bassist Francois Mouton and drummer Dan Weiss, who was in Birmingham last month for the Mike Fletcher Big Band gig.
If you were a fan of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, this is a more arty, more humorous, less bombastic take on the Indian/jazz crossover, but it still has that jazz-rock fusion broad appeal.
Trichotomy Fact Finding Mission (Naim Jazz): The Australian trio of pianist Sean Foran, percussionist John Parker and double bassist Patrick Marchisella has moved further from its E.S.T.-tinged early material with this thoroughly modern and beautifully recorded set.
It’s diverse in character, the title tune containing samples from George Dubya among others in a kind of edgy spy thriller for piano trio, while the closer, Brick By Brick, has a distinctly Middle Eastern feel thanks to the addition of percussion and reeds, as well as its rhythmic and harmonic patterns.
The arrival of children in the lives of two of the trio results in the charming self-explanatory Lullaby and the bouncy, fun-filled Song For EV.
The guitar of James Muller brings a Pat Metheny feel to the first part of The Blank Canvas, which returns later on, developing from a delicate solo piano intro to a rolling climax. Civil Unrest has a funky repeating riff with jaw harp at its heart.
Trichotomy has managed to feed a disparate set of influences into its music and come up with a coherent and original result.
Neon Quartet Subjekt (Edition Records): The quartet of saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, vibes player Jim Hart, pianist/organist Kit Downes and drummer Tim Giles reflects as wide a range of jazz influences as it does age range.
The three younger players create beds of busy percussive stuff over which senior citizen Stan can weave his dry-toned saxophone lines.
Hart’s Maison Musique is funky in groove and edgy in atmosphere, while Downes’ Mother Hen is thoughtfully atmospheric and a textural delight. Sulzmann’s Ruskins Retreat lets the saxophonist stretch out with his distinctive tenor tone and apparently easy way of moving through some pretty complex improvisations, and Downes fills in the bass parts on organ.
In addition to all the new compositions from the band members, they also do a nifty, free-time version of Monk’s Bye Ya. This is fresh and original jazz with a distinctly British feel.
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble Songs Of The Metropolis (World Village): The Israeli-born, London-resident musician chooses the cities of the world as inspiration for his latest recording with his long time quartet in which he has added clarinet and accordion to his usual saxophone skills.
Frank Harrison is on piano and other keyboards, Yaron Stavi on double bass and Eddie Hick on drums, and a wonderfully adept and adaptable group they make.
Paris is deeply romantic and moves from delicate retro-clarinet to impassioned soprano saxophone via accordion, while Tel Aviv moves at a swift pace and into a very dark mood. Among the other metropoli, Atzmon identifies Buenos Aires with pathos, Vienna with charm and sweetness, and plays Manhattan “in loving memory of America”.
The only non-original tune is the only British city portrayed in music: Scarborough, with special reference to its Fair. Another rich hour of music from an excellent band and a passionate leader.
Zoe Schwarz/Rob Koral/Ian Ellis Slow Burn (33Jazz): Vocalist Zoe Schwarz and guitarist Rob Koral showed with their previous release the duo could be self-contained, with Koral enjoying mixing bass lines, accompanying chords and decorative single note lines in around Schwarz’s straight manner with a melody, rich tone and artful way with a lyric.
Now, perhaps inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest book and TV series, they have added a third ingredient: the characterful tenor saxophone of Ian Ellis.
The programme mixes jazz standards and originals, with the pervasive mood being blue-hued. So we get The Meaning Of The Blues, I Cover The Waterfront, Angel Eyes, Detour Ahead and Willow Weep For Me interspersed with a few Rob Koral/Sue Hawker songs, all fitting together nicely.
Schwarz is particularly fine on I Cover The Waterfront, which she takes at a daringly slow pace, while Koral is outstanding using a nearly acoustic sound on his own Was It Something You Said.
There’s the surprise inclusion of Jack Bruce’s We’re Going Wrong from Cream’s Disraeli Gears, and it works a treat. The only downside is the dreadful CD cover.