September CD releases in brief

Here are paragraphs about some of the music I was listening to this past month which I couldn’t devote full reviews to:

lineagePablo Held Trio – Lineage (Pirouet Records): Ten years together – it’s quite an achievement in these times of musicians constantly on the move and forming new line-ups for each tour or album. The benefits of this continuity are clear to be heard in the honed group sound and seemingly effortless interaction between pianist Held, bassist Robert Landfermann and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel. Held recalls how they started playing togethere while at the conservatory in Cologne: “It was an exciting time… Everything was new. From the beginning, we’ve hung out together. We’re close friends…” The album title reflects the traditions the musicians come from: jazz but also classical, European, German but also connected to America through the music. All original tunes, written by Held and played by all three like they own them communally.

dream-mapsPhilip Clemo – Dream Maps (all colour arts): Clemo can assemble quite a lot of sounds on his own, as guitarist, keyboard player, electronics manipulator, voice artist, sampler and field recorder. But for this album he also has no fewer than 21 collaborators, from trumpeters Arve Henriksen, Henry Lowther and Byron Wallen through to drummer Martin France, taking in BJ Cole on pedal steel for one track and Thomas Bloch on ondes martenot and glass harmonica for others. The mood is always ambient and all the instruments tend to become colours and lines in Clemo’s overall musical map of dreams. There may be many musicians contributing but this still sounds like the music of one man. And strangely one-dimensional.

we-live-hereLorenzo De Finti Quartet – We Live Here (Suite for Jazz Quartet) (Losen Records): A group of trumpeter Gendrikson Mena, double bassist Stefano Dall’Ora and drummer Marco Castiglioni led by Italian pianist De Finti, playing music by him and bassist Dall’Ora. They wanted to achieve “a musical space closer to classical music than jazz” but that doesn’t mean it sounds like anything other than jazz, of course. The suite is divided into six parts with three introductions in there as segues, and it works really well as a single near-hour-long listen. The playing is lovely and the sound, in RSI studio 2 in Lugano, is superb. Very satisfying, very intimate, very personal acoustic chamber jazz.

reciprocityOlivier Le Goas – Reciprocity (Neu Klang): Fascinating, singular compositions from the French drummer who has previously recorded with Kenny Wheeler, John Abercrombie and Ralph Alessi, and this time has Nir Felder on guitar, Kevin Hays on piano and Phil Donkin on bass. Le Goas’s music is often based on short motifs repeated and rotated with intriguing interlocking counter melodies often locking Felder and Hays into cycles that both intrigue and delight. It could all sound a little technical, but the motifs are hooky and the playing is excellent, with all players given generous scope to shine individually as well as as a unit.

susSandra Borøy – Sus (Losen Records): Norwegian singer and songwriter Borøy has Dyrstad Valberg on guitar, Guttorm Strande Syrrist on bass and Jonatan Eikum on drums. She writes sensuous, flowing melodies and gives the band a nice variety of pulses as well as a loose-limbed ethos most suited to improvisers. It results in highly attractive music that happy straddles the jazz-singer/songwriter styles.  As the lyrics are in Norwegian I can’t comment on their worth – I’m happy for them to be part of the rich musicality of this album. As so often the Norwegians seem to find a way of doing things with equal originality and accessibility.

kem-som-kan-a-leveBuilding Insrument – Kem Som Kan Å Leve (Hubro): The singing sounds like Japanese at one moment and like some Scandinavian language the next – actually it’s completely made up, part of the musical creation of this trio which comprises Mari Kvien Brunvoll on vocals, zither, sampler, percussion and kazoo, Øyvind Hegg-Lunde on drums and percussion, and Åsmund Weltzien on synth and electronics. It’s spacey and homely at the same time. Apparently some of the material was written for a concert inspired by the artist Kurt Schwitters and it has some of his Dadaist collage feel. Fall sounds just a little like Bob Dylan’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door. And any album that includes some kazoo gets a tick in my book.

ante-lucemIro Haarla – Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet (ECM): The Finnish pianist and harpist has a core band of Hayden Powell on trumpet, Trygve Seim on soprano and tenor saxophones, Ulf Krokfors on double bass and Mika Kallio on drums and percussion, and then the Norrlands Operans Symfoniorkester conducted by Jukka Iisakkila arrayed around it. Her music is a set of four separate though linked pieces. The opener, Songbird Chapel, begins with the core group, then blossoming into supporting strings and low horns – it feels a bit like a growing sunrise before things become more complex, both musically and emotionally. Haarla describes the overall theme as “the struggle between darkness and light” and also mentions pilgrimage, suffering and eventual enlightenment. Music as big as its themes.

reiselivTorstein Ekspress – Reiseliv (Just for the records): Back to Norway. The band is Torstein Lavik Larsen on trumpet, Hanna Paulsberg on tenor saxophone, Fredrik Luhr Detrichson on bass and Hans Hulbækmo on drums. In some ways it’s modest music, a simple acoustic quartet making their way through some original tunes that have a lot of space and freedom in them while maintaining a melodic flow. But the interaction of the players, their strength on their instruments, the relaxed feel of the session and the rich sound of the recording mean that their direct, no-nonsense approach gives such modesty a real stature. It’s jazz pared back to its essentials and all the better for it. Excellent.

we-drift-meridianMonocled Man – We Drift Meridian (Whirlwind Recordings): Monocled Man is very much the vision of trumpeter/multi-instrumenalist Rory Simmons, who creates sonic environments in his home studio. He has help from drummer Jon Scott and guitarist Chris Montague plus, on some tracks, vocalists Emilia Martensson and Ed Begley. The mix of electronic washes, the left-field guitar style, the way-up-in-the-mix drums which occupy the acoustic/electronic border, and the sometimes plaintive, sometimes forceful trumpet makes for a lively listen. I’m not completely convinced by the lyrics which sometimes sit uneasily in the music. A strong evocation of strange places.



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