April 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:

some other timeBill Evans – Some Other Time (Resonance Records): This previously unreleased double disc, subtitled The Lost Session From The Black Forest, finds the late, great pianist back in 1968 at the MPS Studios in Villingen, Germany, with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The reason the recordings were not released at the time could be because Evans had just signed to a new label. In the comprehensive liner notes Marc Myers suggests this session finds Evans between his ‘swinging romantic’ style and a more upbeat, percussive phase. Certainly it’s a pretty jolly couple of hours, though I confess it’s not my favourite period of Evans’ career. All the great tunes are here, from You Go To My Head through to You’re Gonna Hear From Me, with Lover Man, My Funny Valentine and I’ll Remember April in between, plus alternate versions of some, but I find some of the improvisations a little too packed with what now sound now like clichéd phrases. However, while some undiscovered recordings leave one wondering why they weren’t left in the vaults, this is certainly not one of those.

Hiromi – Spark (Telarc): Ironically the least indulgent track is called Indulgence. It’s more of a slow groover, the pianist turning some nice Oscar Peterson-soul phrases and the spacious pace giving the low, low notes of Anthony Jackson’s “contrabass guitar” room to breathe. Simon Phillips completes the trio on drums. There are some other enjoyable moments, too, but generally the freneticism of Hiromi remains undimmed and remains exhausting. Fans of her previous albums will like this one too.

Masabumi Kikuchi – Black Orpheus (ECM): This recording is the final live document of a solo recital from the pianist who died last year. It was a homecoming of sorts, made in Tokyo’s Bunka Kaikan hall in 2012, and it comprises a series of improvisations with the Brazilian title piece in the middle and a piece written for his daughter as an encore. It is a fascinating example of his singular style, often dense and dark, but such pieces are often interspersed with sparse sections, and his touch is sometimes heart-breakingly delicate. What he does with Black Orpheus is a good way in to his own compositions. Searching stuff.

Sonny Rollins – Holding The Stage: Road Shows Vol 4 (Okeh): The latest compilation of the tenor giant’s unreleased live recordings ranges from 1979 to 2012. There are the bravura solos on standards like In A Sentimental Mood and in the final medley which ends with Don’t Stop The Carnival, and he lopes funkily on Professor Paul. I prefer the band from the late ’90s/early ’00s which has Clifton Anderson on trombone and Stephen Scott on piano. Disco Monk is a novelty but an enjoyable one. Overall I am left admiring the man’s never-dimming bravery in going after something fresh but also looking forward to playing again the recordings from his younger prime.

unstaticManu Katché – Unstatic (Anteprima): The opening track, Introduccción, is a tasty Latin number, pianist Jim Watson leading the way with guest percussionists filling out the leader’s characteristic drumming and another guest, Nils Landgren, playing trombone. I could have done with more in similar vein. The core Pan-European band is completed by Ellen Andrea Wang on bass, Tore Brunborg on saxophone and Luca Aquino on trumpet. It’s all very pleasant but the presence of Landgren on a number of tracks is, for me, indication of a wider danger: tipping over into blandness. I still think the group Katché had for his ECM album, Playground, is his best so far, but, hey, one can’t go back. This is still lovely if you’re in a forgiving frame of mind.

Zhenya Strigalev – Never Group (Whirlwind Recordings): The core band is Strigalev on alto, Tim Lefebvre on bass guitar and Eric Harland on drums. Bruno Liberda adds some electronics and there are guest musicians in the form of Matt Penman on double bass, John Escreet on keys and Alex Bonney on trumpet. Strigalev is a musician bursting with ideas and with energy, his influences are eclectic and he directs them into a fluent style. Lefebvre and Harland are a monster rhythm team and the whole thing has an envigorating bustle.

sun blowingDanielsson Neset Lund – Sun Blowing (ACT): The double bassist Lars Danielson, the tenor saxophonist Marius Neset and the drummer Morten Lund in the studio for a day, having never played as a trio before, and with a book of tunes from each, plus Don Grolnick’s The Cost Of Living as a neat closer. All are in fine spontaneous form, and Neset especially shows his maturity with a performance that pays more than a passing tribute to another tenor player who flourished in the exposing trio air: Sonny Rollins. Liner note writer Sebastian Scotney draws a fitting analogy between a recording of jazz improvisation and fresco painters working directly on fresh plaster. It takes considerable mastery to make so accurately and astutely those quick artistic strokes that will be preserved forever.

Wolfert Brederode Trio – Black Ice (ECM): Are there too many good piano trios out there? It sometimes seems hard to keep up with them all. This one, with Brederode on piano, Gulli Gudmondsson on double bass and Jasper van Hulten on drums, is not in the slightest atypical of ECM piano trios, with the accent on a quieter mood and on the creation of atmosphere. The delight comes only in absorbing those atmospheres but also in appreciating the subtle differences between this and other trios on the label. Drummer van Hulten is often the key to it, managing to bring a subtle but definite crispness to the rhythms and beats of the band. Track three, Bemani, is a good place to start.

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