Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A bunch of good jazz records

On Consort in Motion, a new release on the Swiss Kind of Blue label, trombonist Samuel Blaser reimagines Baroque works by Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, and Marini in a contemporary jazz vein. Before you get the idea that this is some awkward shoehorn job (anybody remember Jazz Guitar Bach from the '60s?), be not afraid. While less gregarious than his illustrious forebears Rudd and Mangelsdorf, Blaser has an expressive voice on the unwieldy horn. His take on these venerable compositions is original and impressionistic, and his accomplices -- particularly pianist Russ Lossing and that most sensitive of trap-kickers, Paul Motian (who made his mark accompanying cerebral ivory-tinklers Bill Evans, Paul Bley, and Keith Jarrett) -- are equally attuned to each other's thought-streams.

More visceral is Boundless, due on Hat Hut in October, which documents a 2010 tour by that year's edition of Blaser's quartet. Abercrombie-esque guitarist Marc Ducret occasionally attacks his axe in the atonal manner of Derek Bailey or Fred Frith, while drummer Gerald Cleaver splatters his skins with polyrhythmic fury and Banz Oester proves himself an alert and nimble bassist. In this company, Blaser can be more playful, employing a burry, vocalized sound on "Boundless Suite, part 2" before Ducret solos with great fluidity over a restless rhythm. Metric time is abandoned in "Part 3." Ducret cranks up to Mahavishnu velocity before Blaser joins the dialogue, bringing his mastery of multiphonics to the fore. "Part 4" churns and roils like a whirlpool at first, then settles down to a stoner rock tempo before Blaser surprises with scratching deejay imitations. Overall, Boundless is a good example of the kind of communication and interplay musicians can achieve when they're living in each other's pockets.

Speaking of 'bone players, Michael Dessen has a unique approach, incorporating the use of a laptop for live processing and sampling into performances by his trio. He's also a scholar and scribe, and has written an article on "Asian Americans and Creative Music Legacies" that I need to read. On his latest Clean Feed release, Forget the Pixel, some of the music is programmatic in intent. The opening "Fossils and Flows" is a response to the 2010 BP oil spill that blighted the Gulf coast of Louisiana and Texas. One piece was titled after a poem, another after a series of paintings. The electronics are used sparingly (I kind of wanted to hear them more), and the trio isn't afraid to use silence and space. Well wrought, if not exactly fiery.

When last heard from, Canadian-born/New York-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt was fronting a quintet, Canada Day, that evoked comparisons to classic '60s Blue Note sides like Dolphy's Out To Lunch and Andrew Hill's Point of Departure. Now he returns at the helm of a bassless September Trio, with pianist Angelica Sanchez (whose solo A Little House employed acoustic and toy pianos in interesting ways) and saxophonist Ellery Eskelin (a familiar of Dennis Gonzalez whose latest project, an organ trio, just garnered some New York Times ink). Their new Clean Feed release is a record of lush, romantic beauty, with ruminative, orchestral richness from Sanchez and a brawny, big-hearted Ben Webster tone from Eskelin. As a leader, Eisenstadt is confident enough to put himself in the background.

Eisenstadt's also present on another Clean Feed release, Nate Wooley Quintet's (Put Your) Hands Together, a happening post-bop date that can't quite escape the echoes of Miles Smiles in trumpeter Woley's tunes, or Out To Lunch in Josh Sinton's burbling bass clarinet and Matt Moran's vibes. Wooley and Moran also appear on Organic Modernism by the Daniel Levin Quartet, a drummerless outfit led by a cellist; it's an engagingly impressionistic outing. Finally, I'm always a sucker for a good piano record, of which Julio Resende Trio's You Taste Like a Song is certainly one. Resende's a Portugese pianist in the contemplating mold of Evans and Jarrett. Here, with unobtrusively supportive accompaniment from two different rhythm sections, he creates a spiritual space similar to the one Don Pullen conjured on his Healing Force solo album, and covers Radiohead as well as Monk. Worthwhile.


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