There's so much good jazz being recorded around the world....a lot of it on small labels....and yet it rarely gets airplay. JAZZ it's own small way....tries to put that right!

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Sunday 31 December 2017

Pete's Pick of 2017

It’s that time of year again. Time to say thanks to those musicians who have stirred my head, heart and feet over the past 12 months. As always, I’ve only heard a fraction of the new releases and I’m sure there’s plenty more good stuff out there that I’ve missed. no particular order.....

Team Hegdal – Vol 4 (Particular Recordings)

A band that fall into the category ‘deserving wider recognition’. Team Hegdal Vol 3 was one of my Picks of 2015. And I make no apology for adding Vol 4 to my list for 2017.
There’s something about the way a number of Scandinavian jazz musicians have integrated past and present. This isn’t your fragile Nordic ambience. If anything these are sounds closer to Chicago. This is thorny free-bop.
Eirik Hegdal and Andre Roligheten, reeds, Oscar Gronberg, piano, Ole Morten Vagen, bass and Gard Nilssen, drums; four Norwegians and one Swede, interpreting 13 compositions from Eirik Hegdal, a musician best known for directing the prestigious Trondheim Jazz Orchestra from 2002 to 2016. The reedsmen split their time between a range of clarinets and saxophones to add variety to the group sound. And Eirik assures me that the cover image is not a self portrait. Although he did paint it. Roll on Vol 5.

Tamara Mozes – Moozing (Yolk)

I’m no great lover of vocal jazz, mainly because it often veers to middle of the road and loses that edge that I find so important. However the music of vocalist Tamara Mozes caught my ear.  Tamara hails from Hungary where she was classically trained at the Liszt Ferenc University of Music in Budapest. She followed up with studies in improvisation in France and Belgium.
On this, her 3rd album, she integrates voice and piano in a creative way utilising both lyrics and scat. Her playing harbours a great deal of joy and her compositions take inspiration from popular song, folk music and French chanson. Someone to keep tabs on methinks.

CVDG Project – Paradise (Trouble in the East)

Six Berlin-based musicians all versed in the art of free improv, taking a backwards glance at the heyday of jazz. There’s no parody here though, just good foot-tapping music, with references to Monk, Ellington and Basie. Nine originals interspersed with five short free-form ‘miniatures’.
Leader of the project is pianist Christian von der Goltz, a musician I’ve not encountered before. He’s pulled together a classy line-up, comprising Henrik Walsdorff, alto saxophone, Rudi Mahall, bass clarinet, Martin Klingeberg, trumpet, Jan Roder, bass and Kay Luebke, drums.
And although the music may allude to the 1950’s, the solos retain a current day sensibility. And every time I hear the reeds of Rudi Mahall, it reinforces my view that he has one of the most characteristic sounds in today’s jazz, regardless of setting.

The album issued by a small independent label run by musicians Gerhard Gschlossl, Alberto Cavenati and Sunk Poschl. The label’s name alludes to a composition by Ornette Coleman and the musicians’ East German heritage. Check out their other releases. All are worth a listen.

Eric Revis – Sing Me Some Cry (CleanFeed)

As with so many of today’s jazz musicians, bass player Eric Revis can deliver the goods regardless of whether the music falls right or left of centre.  Here the music tends to left field, but never loses sight of the history.
On this, his 5th outing on the adventurous Clean Feed Label, he brings along the earthy reeds of Ken Vandermark, the angular piano of Kris Davis and the propulsive drums of Chad Taylor. All four contribute compositions and at times, such as Eric’s composition PT 44, the performances can get incandescent. And Drunkards Lullaby is anything but. In all cases, its music that rewards repeat listening.
A quartet that demonstrates how far the sax, piano, bass and drum configuration has progressed over the past couple of decades.

Kati Briens Dream Band – Happy Music (self produced)

The great thing about online sites such as Bandcamp is that they give musicians the opportunity to release their music to a wider audience.  This can be a two-edged sword in the sense that the quality can sometimes be suspect. However there are occasions, as with this band, that a gem appears.

Kati Briens Dream Band have been together for 7 years, although I believe this is their debut on record. They have the interesting instrumental line-up of two alto saxophone (Kati Brien and Bastian Duncker), bass clarinet (Viktor Wolf), trombone (Andrej Ugoljew), bass (Simon Quinn) and drums (Tilo Weber). Key to their success are Kati’s compositions and arrangements. Her compositions are often melodic, sometimes quirky. And the sextet creates some wonderful harmonies.
There are a number of exciting young bands emanating from Berlin at present. Kati is in her late 20’s, has been a member of the German Jazz Orchestra and has studied with the likes of Greg Cohen and Kurt Rosenwinkel.  She’s definitely a musician to keep an eye on.

Anton Hunter – Article XI (efpi)

And it’s not only Germany that is producing new talent. There appears to be a number of forward-looking musicians linking Manchester and London, musicians that feature in bands such as Sloth Racket, Favourite Animals and the Beats and Pieces Big Band.

One of the prime movers is guitarist Anton Hunter, who has recently issued the debut album of his eleven-piece ensemble Article XI. The band was commissioned for the 2014 Manchester Jazz Festival, and a couple of the tracks come from that performance. The remainder were recorded at The Vortex in London a few days later.

The band harbours the reeds of Simon Prince, Cath Roberts, Mette Rasmussen and Sam Andreae, the brass of Graham South, Nick Walters, Seth Bennett and Richard Foote, plus the rhythm section of Anton Hunter, Eero Tikkanen and Johnny Hunter. And the adventurous writing is credited to ‘Anton and all the band’. If you like cutting edge jazz, then this album is well worth investigating.

Himpel Eskildsen Duo – 3rd Room (Jazzhausmusik)

Music that seems to probe dark corners, before letting in the light. It’s my first encounter with both musicians. Benjamin Himpel hails from Stuttgart and splits his time between tenor and soprano saxophones and bass clarinet. Simon Eskildsen is from Copenhagen and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus. He’s also a graphic artist of some pedigree and has designed the intriguing CD cover.
All bar one of the thirteen compositions have been penned by the duo, often romantic and with classical overtones. It’s a engaging and mature debut.


Noah Preminger – Meditations on Freedom (self-released)

Noah Preminger is a saxophonist growing in stature with each recording. This is his 6th outing, the third with his quartet, namely trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman. It mixes originals with standards from Bruce Hornsby, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Sam Cooke. And everything is riddled with the blues. Meditations on Freedom was released in the USA on January 20th, Inauguration Day. And the political comment carries across to the originals, with titles such as Women’s March, Mother Earth and Broken Treaties. A saxophonist who plays with confidence and authority. A musician who has something to say. And an excellent quartet to boot.

Dylan Jack Quartet – Diagrams (Creative Nation Music)

Another debut of note. And an album that insinuated itself into my psyche over time.
It’s my first encounter with Dylan Jack. He hails from Boston, Massachusetts and has written about and teaches drumming in the local area. He also composed all five of the angular compositions herein, often with unusual meters. His band comprises Todd Brunel on reeds, Eric Hofbauer, guitar and Anthony Leva, bass.

Dylan comes across very much as a team player, allowing plenty of space for his bandmates to have their say. And I’ve long been a fan of guitarist Eric Hofbauer, who sticks to the amplified acoustic instrument throughout. Todd Brunel is a musician who splits his time between classical and jazz work, and is also a member of Eric’s Quintet. Here he sticks primarily to the clarinet (Bb and bass). And I have not heard the bass of Anthony Leva before, but he contributes equally to the success of this band. I look forward to their future output.

Roligheten – Homegrown (Clean Feed)

Another example of the burgeoning Scandinavian scene. And a second mention for reedsman Andre Roligheten, a musician who has appeared on Jazz Today numerous times, most notably with the duo Albatrosh, the quintet Friends and Neighbours and the aforementioned Team Hegdal.
Completing his eponymous quartet are Adrian Loseth Waade on violin, Jon Rune Strom on bass and Erik Nylander on drums. And the presence of a string instrument in the front line adds a different dimension to this release. The band are capable of swinging (with the wonderfully titled Telemark Tango), introspection (Syvsover) and freedom (Nidkjaer).

The album cover shows an elderly man wearing headphones and wielding a mattock in the middle of a pasture. Looks like a thankless task. Unlike the effort it would take to track down this album.


Other 2017 releases I wouldn’t be without:

Olie Brice Quintet – Day After Day (Babel); Misha Mullov-Abbado – Cross Platform Interchange (Edition); Masters of Turbosilence – WinterReise (Fish Music); Slowfox – Gentle Giants (Traumton); Immigration Booth – Hinterm Spiegel (Float Music); Vincent Courtois, Daniel Erdmann & Robin Finker – Bandes Originales (Label La Buissone) ; David Arthur Skinner – Skinner Plays Skinner (Losen); Operasjon Hegge – Midt Pa Natta (Particular); OK:KO – Land E (AMP); Jason Stein Quartet – Lucille (Delmark); Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri (Eclipse Music); David Chevallier Trio – Second Life (Cristal); Mike Reed – Flesh & Bone (482 Music); Mikko Innanen 10+ (We Jazz); Joy Ellis – Life on Land (F-IRE); Sophia Domancich – Alice’s Evidence (Marge); Phil Schurger – Echoes of the Ancestors (Ears & Eyes); Hans Ludemann’s Rooms – Blaue Kreise (BMC); Red Planet & Bill Carrothers (Shifting Paradigm); Michel Portal – Eternal Stories (Erato); Lisa Stick Septett - Tyst (Jazzlab); The Gareth Lockrane Big Band - Fistfight at the Barndance (Whirlwind)

Sunday 24 December 2017

Playlist - Dec 24th 2017

Jure Pukl & Matija Dedic: Hempburger from Hybrid (Whirlwind)
Hradcany: Accordion Pride from Y’Ocam (Quoi deNeuf Docteur)
Huw Warren: Against the Odds from Nocturnes and Visions (self-released)
Masters of Turbosilence: Lamento aus Eschwege from Winterreise (Fish Music)
Dave Douglas with The Westerlies and Anwar Marshall: Colonial Cubism from Little Giant Still Life (Greenleaf)
Jaska Lukkarinen Trio: Komeda  from Origami (We Jazz)
Kneebody: For the Fallen from Anti-Hero (Motema)
Pigfoot: 12th Street Rag from 21st Century Acid Trad (Village Life)
Francois Bourassa Quartet: Carla and Karlheinz from Number 9 (Effendi)
Gordon Grdina Quartet: Casper from Inroads (Songlines)
Henry Lowther’s Still Waters: Lights of the North Circular from Can’t Believe, Won’t Believe (Village Life)
Favourite Animals: Confirm or Deny from Favourite Animals (Luminous Label)
Jure Pukl & Matija Dedic: Lonely Woman from Hybrid (Whirlwind)
Mario Laginha, Julian Arguelles & Helge Andreas Norbakken: Fiscamente from Setembro (Edition)
David Chevaller Trio: Six from Second Life (Cristal)
Scheen Jazzorkester & Jon Oystein Rosland: Sjarlatan from Tamanoar (Losen)

Sunday 10 December 2017

Playlist - Dec 10th 2017

Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song from Happy Song (Anzic)
CVDG Project: Marche Funebre from Paradise (Troublein the East)
David Chevallier Trio: Double from Second Life (Cristal)
Anton Hunter: Peaceful Assembly from Article XI (efpi)
Kenny Werner Trio: The Song is You from Animal Crackers (Pirouet)
Immigration Booth: The Old Forest Lands from Hinterm Spiegel (Float Music)
Lisa Strockens & Stephan Goldbach: Liar from LouLou (Jazzhausmusik)
Secret Quartet: Ants from Bloor Street (Edition)
Daniel Foose: Mississippi Monk Milk from Of Water and Ghosts (Brooklyn Jazz Underground)
Lina Allemano Four: Sometimes Y from Sometimes Y (Lumo)
Blanco Y Negro: Something Personal from Timbero (Stunt)
Mazzle: Alone Together from Genetic Modified Art...GMA (Monks and Thieves)
Immigration Booth: Nog Turn from Hinterm Spiegel (FloatMusic)
Jukka Eskola Soul Trio: Soft Drop from II (Grotto XWe Jazz)
Lisa Strockens & Stephan Goldbach: Lulu’s Back in Town from LouLou (Jazzhausmusik)
Giovanni Benvenuti: Finestre from Dissolvenze (Improvvisatore Involontario)
Simen Kiil Halvorsen: Finding Words from Scripted Conversations (AMP Music & Records)