June 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:

now is the timeSpirit In The Dark – Now Is The Time (Jazzland): We’ve have grown accustomed to – and it might be added, tired of – always hearing the Hammond in an organ trio with guitar and drums, channelling that goodtime groove of the 1960s. So it’s like a breath of fresh air to stick this Spirit In The Dark disc in the player, and like so many breaths of fresh air, it comes from Norway. David Wallumrød on Hammond and other keyboards, Audun Erlien on bass and Anders Engen on drums mix originals with gospel tunes on an album that grooves strongly and digs deep.

trace povisoireDominique Pifarély Quartet – Trace Provisoire (ECM): Having spent an evening enjoying live the smooth, seemingly effortless, joyously singing tone of Norwegian violinist Bjarte Eike, I must confess to finding the wider-ranging but sometimes edgy tone of Pifarely a little unsettling. But then this music – with the leader’s violin in amongst Antonin Rayon’s piano, Bruno Chevillon’s double bass and François Merville’s drums – is meant to be edgy. There is a lot of dark and light, a lot of space, a lot of abstract improv and contemporary classical strains in amongst occasional jazz leanings. No sloppy romanticism here!

further explorationsAlchemy Sound Project – Further Explorations (ARC): Sometimes one has to fight one’s way past a fairly turgid band and album name, together with some uninspiring cover art to find the joys beneath. There are some early on in this listen to a fairly academic bunch of jazz composers brought together by the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute in the U.S. For example, there is the bass clarinet timbre of Salim Washington on his opening composition Charcoal, Clear, Beautiful All Over (that’s a more inspiring title as well). And there are the interweaving lines of Washington, tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay and trumpeter Samantha Boshnack with melodies that recall in an oblique way, Coltrane’s Naima. Other writing on this album comes from Lindsay, Boshnack, bassist David Arend and pianist Sumi Tonooka. Nice textures, writing and arranging.

dreamlandZoe Rahman – Dreamland (Manushi Records): The British/Bengali pianist has previously recorded in duo, trio and bigger group formats, but here she is solo for the first time, and it feels as if she has overcompensated. Certainly Rahman is a forceful musician not short of ideas, and with a wide range of expression from the giant driving chords that call to mind Oscar Peterson or McCoy Tyner to more abstract breaking up of the harmony. And the listener certainly gets their money’s worth in terms of notes. But there is precious little space on this record – a mix of originals and interpretations of Ellington, Jessica Williams and Abdullah Ibrahim – and surprisingly little variation in tone or attack. Both heaviness of touch and the way piano is recorded make it feel oppresive; I was quite surprised to find it is just 50 minutes long – it feels a lot longer.

sky beginsDaniel Meron – Sky Begins (Rabbit/Daniel Meron): The Israeli-born, Brooklyn resident pianist has Maia Karo on vocals, Noam Wiesenberg on bass and Jimmy Macbride on drums, and a batch of strong, self-composed songs which sit very happily in a meeting place between jazz and sophisticated non-generic songwriting. For a masterful example of how to set some lyrics which are not at all “moon in June” to a catchy, modern melody try Fish In The Air, its six-note rising then falling motif not only a melodic earworm but its rhythmic push from the tight rhythm team of equal hooky power. Notes From A Journey is a more intense ride, and Like Water more reflective. Karo has just the right tone for this material, a cool, almost deadpan style that is more akin to the singer/songwriter Laura Veirs than any “jazz” singer; Meron’s solos and accompaniment are a joy. There is a sense of composer and performers (Meron and Karo are husband and wife) in fruitful synergy. Highly recommended.

what's going onBenn Clatworthy – What’s Going On (Laughing Lettuce): The English tenor player who was taught by Ronnie Scott and has forged a career out in LA where he has played with everyone from Horace Silver to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, recorded this set last autumn with regular cohorts John Donaldson on piano, Simon Thorpe on bass and Matt Home on drums. The title Marvin Gaye track is a lightly-stepping jazz waltz, while Clatworthy’s arrangement and reading of the traditional Danny Boy suits his melodic tendencies and ever-so-slightly mournful tone down to the ground. A solid WYSIWIG recording from a man with his own unassuming, personal tenor sound and style.



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