On the Turntable, February, 2019

February 5th, 2019

 

 

 

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Another month full of listening to some very interesting recently-released jazz recordings.

Unlike when I was a kid — when I lay the needle down on the vinyl and sat on a comfy chair while intently listening through JBL speakers — much of this listening took place through $49 ear buds while walking the dog around the park (and even, on occasion, up a reasonably steep hill), usually at sunrise.  The time and place (and often the weather) tends to influence what I choose to play, so if this particular issue seems top heavy with atmospheric, small ensemble recordings, that’s only because it is.  As the light of the morning returns, and when spring emerges, perhaps that will change…

What follows are some of the recently released recordings that caught my ear in January, listed in order of my discovery of them.

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(Songs from this playlist are available on Spotify and other music streaming services, and of course at your local music store)

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Alder Ego is a Finnish quartet (trumpet, sax, bass, drums). — “Solitude,” from their album II…This doesn’t feel like a “great” recording (yet), but occasionally greatness arrives, as in the case of this tune.  As the title implies, it is introspective, at times wandering, but imminently intriguing.  I hear a bit of Dexter Gordon in this one…

Another piece to box around a bit is “Cubism,” which offers a more angular approach to their sound, with outstanding trumpet and saxophone solos (they often play in unison throughout much of the album). This is an interesting group and one to keep an ear on.

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Doug Webb is an LA based sax player who assembled a nice band to play an hour or so of pretty good bebop…It is rarely thrilling but anyone practicing bebop at this level and with this ambition is easy to recommend.

A couple of rewarding tunes that have hit home enough to repeat play several times:  “Surfing the Web” (great interplay between Webb and trombonist Michael Deese), and a very nice Jule Styne ballad “The Things We Did Last Summer.”

 

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Temporary Kings is a recent ECM release, and a pairing of the extraordinary generational talents of pianist Ethan Iverson and saxophonist Mark Turner, who over recent years have contributed greatly to the current aesthetic of jazz music.

The entire album is a flawless work of expressive genius and remarkable interplay.  That this recording is a creative success is not surprising.  Should they extend their collaboration beyond something “temporary,” they have the potential to, once again, be major provocateurs in widening the language of jazz.

Three brilliant pieces from the album to get you started…”Myron’s World” and “Unclaimed Freight,” and “Seven Points.”

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From one downright brilliant album to the next…Bassist Matt Penman’s album Good Question is impossibly rich from beginning to end, and features more of Mark Turner’s luminous playing, and the deft playing of Aaron Parks on piano.  Just a wealth of pleasure throughout, with Penman’s radiant bass lining the sound throughout…For low key but persistent rhythmic urgency, try “Ride the Paper Tiger.”  For great sound, composition, and the kind of virtuosity you will encounter throughout the recording, check out “Fifths and Bayou.”

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Brad Mehldau recordings are always a combination of artistry, fascination, energy, curiosity, and sheer wonder.  “How does he do that?”  In Seymour Reads the Constitution, we are witness to eight very unique pieces that at times feels like going to jazz church, with the colorful profiles of Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, and even Vince Guaraldi carved in the stain glass windows.  Mehldau’s aesthetic is now hard-wired into the sound of contemporary jazz, and that’s a really good thing.  This is a seriously great record.

“Ten Tune,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” and “Friends” are three songs to recommend, but set aside an hour to enjoy the entire album if you can…

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Ben Wendel…The Seasons.  This is an impressive album (and a remarkable piece of marketing as well — which you can read about by visiting Wendel’s site devoted to this album).

This is, at times, off the charts brilliant, consisting of, Wendel writes, “12 original pieces dedicated to 12 musicians I deeply admire, released over 12 months.” Every song on this recording is titled a month of the year, and was inspired by Wendel’s love of Tchaikovsky’s 1876 composition The Seasons, 12 pieces written for piano which characterize each month of the year.

It’s a fabulous way for the listener to visualize Wendel’s compositions, and to experience his wide-ranging sound — brash, tender, playful, (at times) dense, and always  confident.

If you can, listen to the recording in its entirety.  For starters, I particularly enjoy the feeling of hopefulness in “January,” and the unfolding romantic beauty in “March.”   This is a terrific listening experience, from beginning to end.

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Julian Lage…Modern Lore…This is a “binge listen” recording if there ever was one — you play it over and over and over and pray for another “season.”  What a guitar album!  Lage — from the Jim Hall school — expresses himself in so many styles, and on Fender Telecaster, no less.  At times I think I am listening to Link Wray with a little Bill Frisell thrown in.

Two recordings to offer up from this January, 2018 album, the first on the record (“The Ramble,” a toe tapper with incredible fidelity and virtuosity) and the last (“Pantheon,” a lovely ballad that displays Lage’s immense talent).

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Don Byron/Aruan Ortiz….Random Dances & (A)Tonalities  

Don Byron recordings are always an event — he has covered so much ground in his career in virtually every musical genre.  This album — ten lovely duets with pianist Aruan Ortiz — is a captivating, stimulating “recital” that will appeal to those who enjoy the collaboration of jazz and classical music.

Two great pieces to recommend and get you on your way…Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” is humorous, tender, refreshing, repeatable.  “Delphian Nuptials,” with Byron on clarinet, is a breathtaking whisper of a piece — romantic and unforgettable.

 

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Esbjorn Svensson Trio….from Live in London

This playlist started with a Scandanavian group, and it will end there also, with a 2005 live performance (released in 2018) of the late Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson and his trio. Two tracks from this sterling London performance stand out: On “Eighty-Eight Days in my Veins” Svensson plays with tender vigor, alternating quiet, space and reflection with an enthusiastic energy that drives the sound. Great piece! The other, “Mingle in the Mincing Machine” is a spectacular, refreshing, and at times thrilling work featuring the bass of Dan Berglund.

This album is a reminder of the musical brilliance that was lost with Svensson’s tragic passing in 2008.

 

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“On the Turntable” — June, 2019

“On the Turntable” – May, 2019

“On the Turntable” – April, 2019

“On the Turntable” — March, 2019

“On the Turntable” — February, 2019

“On the Turntable” — January, 2019

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