Falling in love with jazz again, sort of: Louis Armstrong, new Clean Feeds,Geoff Dyer
2) A new release from Portuguese indie Clean Feed -- my tip for the Blue Note of the Teens -- is always like a candygram from the gods. Of the latest batch, standouts include Kaja Draksler's The Lives of Many Others, on which the Slovenian pianist alternates density and lyrical minimalism; on my favorite track (the latter part of the dauntingly titled "Suite: Wronger/Eerier/Stronger than (just a thought)/I recall"), hypnotically repeating figures interrupt the main motivic thrust like a nagging thought. On Tone Hunting's self-titled debut, Polish altoist Anna Kaluza and trumpeter Artur Majewski bat ideas back and forth like Brotzmann and Bennink calling out to each other in the Black Forest's vastness while Kuba Suchar's drum clatter provides an ongoing commentary. On Twine Forest, pianist Angelica Sanchez provides settings of empathetic elegance and grace for AACM originator Wadada Leo Smith's stabbing trumpet. And on Floodstage, the John Hebert Trio's sound displays a refreshing spareness and spaciousness, adding tasteful electronics to the piano trio format on a couple of tracks, while my favorite ("Saints") features a herky-jerky melody like a child's toy calliope.
3) Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful [A Book About Jazz] contains the most graceful evocation of the music I've yet read, rendered in imagined vignettes, some of them inspired by photographs, that capture the spirit of artists like Duke Ellington (driving through the night with baritone saxophonist Harry Carney in a series of episodes that tie the book together) and Lester Young (drinking himself to death in a hotel room); the chapters on Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell are particularly moving. Apparently Dyer can write a good book about anything; his weakest moment here is the closing essay, which still contains a useful insight (borrowed from George Steiner): that all art which is influenced by other art is implicitly a critique of that which inspired it, which is a useful device to have when considering an art form like jazz in the current decade, when certain influences (Monk, Ornette, '60s Blue Note, '70s Miles, the AACM, the European free improv movement) seem pervasive.