May CD releases in brief

Here are paragraphs about some of the music I was listening to this month which I couldn’t devote full reviews to:

early americansJane Ira Bloom – Early Americans (Outline): Bloom is that rare saxophonist – a soprano specialist. And one of the finest players of that sometimes tricky, sometimes tiresome instrument. Bloom makes it sound far from tricky, playing complicated stuff with ease, and far from tiresome, having the most marvellous, rich and, yes, “blooming” tone even when playing way up in the registers. She wrote all the material here with the exception of the closer, Leonard Bernstein’s Somewhere, and it has an Americana, folk feel indicated by the album title, It’s all for a trio of Bloom, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. The latter is a particularly fine choice for a saxophone trio, so musical and supportive is his playing, and Helias is excellent too, especially when playing arco. But it’s really a showcase for an exceptional saxophone and composing talent.

significanteSignificant Time – Regnbueponniens Significante Påskesang (Periskop): The Stavanger-based quartet which often incorporates Signe Irene Stangborli Time’s voice into the piano trio as another instrument has added trumpet and saxophone in for this music which was commissioned for the Stavanger’s Maijazz festival. Inspiration – and song titles – reference Ornette Coleman, Ravel, Ellington, Mingus and Chopin, and the music embraces and incorporates freedom within song-based structures. Great fun.

ritualFire! Orchestra – Ritual (rune grammofon): The band has its core in Swedes Mats Gustafsson (saxophone), Johan Berthling (bass) and Andreas Werliin (drums) but it is an inclusive ensemble of players from Sweden mainly but also from Denmark, Norway and France, and in slimmed down form as here it still numbers 21. Crucial to its sound are singers Sofia Jernberg and Mariam Wallentin who can get bluesy or abstract, sing lyrics or become part of the wailing and substantial horn section as they like. The beats are often strongly rocking, and the riffs come from rock more than jazz, but in the end this is an exciting unclassifiable collective, and Ritual finds them in strong form.

the meetingOleg Kireyev & Keith Javors – The Meeting (Inarhyme Records): Saxophonist Kireyev and pianist Javors have Tom Harrell on trumpet, Ben Williams on acoustic bass and EJ Strickland on drums. A classy band with a rich, rounded sound, playing warm and equally rounded tunes by the leaders as well as the finest non-Brazilian song ever sung by João Gilberto, Estate, and nifty re-arrangements of those jazz warhorses Caravan and Body And Soul. It’s one of those old-fashioned recordings, made in a single day with a rehearsal the night before, so it has real coherence and captures a time as only the most experienced and proficient musicians can – with style and real substance within the playing.

erosPaolo Fresu & Omar Sosa – Eros (Bonsai Music): At the other end of the scale from the acoustic band all in the same studio for a day (but just as successful) this is a highly produced concept album from the Sardinian trumpeter and Cuban pianist. The pair played, sampled, multi-tracked and recorded in Cavalicco, Italy, then had Maghreb singer Natacha Atlas add some vocal parts in Toulouse, France, and cellist Jacques Morelenbaum contribute from a studio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There are some magical moments like the Fresu composition Sensuousness, a simple trio of trumpet, acoustic piano and cell, with some added low vocal atmospherics just enhancing it at the right moment. And then there are the more complicated multi-layered mixes of acoustic instruments, electronic tweaking, with vocal and percussion decorating. It can get a little muzak-y or new-agey at times but Fresu and Sosa have the musical nous to pull it off.

invisible manJukka Perko Avara – Invisible Man (ACT): Perko is on alto and soprano saxophones and Avara is his Finnish trio with Jarmo Saari on electric guitar and Teemu Viinikainen on acoustic guitar. The line-up works remarkably well, the two guitars close enough in sound to sometimes almost work like one four-handed accompanist to the saxophone, yet sufficiently contrasting to expand the textures. Sometimes Perko acts as an accompanist himself with one of the guitarists. The programme is mainly original material and all three contribute. Then there is Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give Up, Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane and even Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven sounds passably fresh with this line-up.

out of the skyJohn Etheridge & Vimala Rowe – Out Of The Sky (Dyad Records): The British national treasure of a guitarist is here in a set of duo performances with a singer of powerful voice and impressive range. Rowe’s low notes are particularly effective against Etheridge’s soaring electricity. The material mixes originals composed by the performers with some standard classics like Solitude and Detour Ahead. The Miriam Makeba hit Malaika works really well, with Etheridge double tracking the guitars. And then there is the truly unexpected: the Lord’s Prayer sung in Aramaic with a marvellously ethereal shimmering  guitar background.



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