March 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:

The Jeff Williams Quintet at the CBSO Centre (Photo © John Watson/

The Jeff Williams Quintet at the CBSO Centre (Photo © John Watson/

Jeff Williams – Outlier (Whirlwind Recordings): This band – Josh Arcoleo on tenor, Phil Robson on guitar, Kit Downes on piano and Sam Lasserson on bass – played a fine set at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham back in January 2015, so it’s good to hear them again. All the tunes are the drummer’s and allow the mostly young band some space – it might be a suit he’s sewn but it’s well cut for movement. Arcoleo is particularly adept at moving from a clean tone to a dirty one, from playing “in” to moving “out”. Downes is full of energy whether soloing or in support. The recording does full justice to Williams’ distinctive cymbal work.

Steinar Aadnekvam – Freedoms Trio (Losen Records): The Norwegian acoustic guitarist had just returned from a few years in Brazil, and teamed up with Mozambican drummer singer Deodato Siquir and visiting Brazilian bassist Rebem Farias for a record made in Spain but with the southern hemisphere very much in  the hearts of its players. Aadnekvam’s playing is highly assured but he never feels like he is playing safe – just fearlessly and full of melodic and rhythmic invention. The vocals are multi-tracked for sunny choral effect, and the good time the jazz-fusion-world trio is having is clearly communicated in every track. A joy.

Ferenc Snétberger

Ferenc Snétberger

Ferenc Snétberger – In Concert (ECM): More acoustic, nylon-string guitar, this time from the Hungarian all alone in concert at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. The programme is eight originals – named Budapest Part 1 to Budapest Part 8, with Somewhere Over The Rainbow as an encore. Snétberger really is the complete guitarist, with classical baroque, Brazilian, Flamenco, jazz, tango and free styles all secure under his fingertips. His tone is immaculate, the recording sound sublime and the sense of relaxation and freedom along with such lightly-worn virtuosity makes this a thoroughly absorbing and pleasure-filled hour of music.

Joris Roelofs – Amateur Dentist (Pirouet Records): It’s not the most nerving album title, is it? Of the title track which is in fact a 1 minute 21 second interlude in the middle of the album, the Dutch bass clarinetist says: “If we are successful with what we planned, it sounds like a dentist feverishly at work as the drill pulsates and grinds.” Doing the pulsating and grinding with Roelofs are bassist Matt Penman and drummer Ted Poor. The rest of the album is a lot more fun than being laid back in the chair with a drilling maniac overhead. The band is tight when needed and loose when that is the required modus. It’s also good to hear the marvellously adaptable bass clarinet through a whole album rather than as an occasional second instrument.

Aki Rissanen – Amorandom (Edition): The Finnish pianist who has worked with trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and saxophonist Dave Liebman has Antti Lötjönen is on bass and Teppo Mäkynen on drums for this trio disc. He chooses a mix of minimalist, phrase-based pieces and Northern cool romanticism, music originally written for an animated film. There is wit and a great deal of movement in it, and it’s easy to create one’s own twisting and turning, jumping and switchbacking visuals to suit the activity of the music. It’s an album that gets under the skin with overall mood and atmosphere rather than landing any melodic hooks in the memory.

Søren Gemmer – The Lark (Why Play Jazz): Pianist Gemmer has bass and drums (Tapani Toivanen and Andreas Fryland) on most tracks, and alternates the fourth member between trumpeter Mads La Cour and Per Møllehøj. The leader says his compositions are intended “to portray a series of persons that have been part of my social reality in the last few years.” He also indicates that there is a move from his previous album which was more chordal whereas this is more about melody. What The Lark shows is a most distinctive composer and player who has the strength of vision to take all the other players along with him. Sometimes stern but always compelling.

Bastian Stein

Bastian Stein

Bastian Stein – Viktor (Pirouet Records): The German trumpeter may not be familiar to English listeners but his rhythm team will be: Phil Donkin is on bass and James Maddren on drums. Completing the non-chordal line-up is tenor saxophonist Johannes Enders. The tunes are Stein’s with the exception of the closer, which is an interpretation of a Mahler Lied Von Der Erde. Tati, written for the French film-maker, features suitably long-limbed harmony lines from the two horns, while Traces has the kind of tricky timing that Maddren loves. Stein has a clean and bright tone and a marvellously subtle variation of attack.

Categories: CD review

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