REVIEW: ‘Sounding Point’ – Mark Feldman

VIOLIN … FREE JAZZ … isn’t that possibly a touch narrow and ‘out there’ for a 44-minute solo recital? Well, not when the album is in the secure yet exploratory hands and mind of New York-based veteran Mark Feldman.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on Intakt Records on 12 February 2021 and available at Bandcamp.

 

Mark Feldman solo violin

Mark Feldman on Intakt Records

Intakt Records – Intakt CD 354 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Wait For Me’ – Snowpoet

A PORTAL to aesthetic escapism, the divergent and beautifully efflorescent approach of Snowpoet (vocalist Lauren Kinsella and producer/instrumentalist Chris Hyson) was laid down in an early EP and their eponymous debut album of 2016, followed by 2018’s Thought You Knew.

Now, new release Wait For Me explores ‘the deeper questions of how we love, how we accept our faults and how we let go in a time of profound confusion’, offering ‘protection and solace, advocating openness to adversity and a way to safely navigate great change’. In that vein, perhaps these twelve original songs are more cogitative than before, given the uncertain age in which we presently live – but they’re no less compelling.

Whether you hear Godley & Creme/10cc in multi-layered A Chance To Hear The Rain, Annette Peacock in the ‘spoken singing’ of pop-pulsed The Wheel, or Laurie Anderson in the oblique art of Early Feelings, Kinsella and Hyson have the ability to coax memories of our formative years’ musical experiences, distilling them through their unique brand of genre-defying music and poetry (pop/electronica/jazz might be an opening reference point). There are also songwriter evocations of Joni Mitchell and Björk, with digital grooves and effects that bind the whole with more current influences. Each listen prompts another ripple of emotion – maybe a fleeting, halcyon recollection or even a physical sensation of hypnopompic warmth; and Kinsella’s wordplay may ‘click’, baffle or provide a single line or phrase that feeds the imagination. That’s the artistry – and therein lies the allurement.

Friends from the jazz/creative music world again contribute to the weave, including saxophonist Josh Arcoleo, pianist Matthew Robinson and drummer Dave Hamblett. While the structural foundation of these creations can sometimes be a simple oscillation or riff – as in the folky zephyr of FaceTime or elevated, anthemic Sky Thinking – it’s the blend of Hyson’s synthy atmospheres/arrangements and Kinsella’s distinctive palette of vocal expression and lyricalness that produce the wonder. For example, Roots bustles to her signature clipped soundbites and harmonies over radio-friendly beats, while also featuring Arcoleo’s billowing sax and the nightingale-suggested violin of Alice Zawadzki.

Preceded by Tiers’ industrial, Eno-style smog, With You hints at the electronic bop of Everything Everything, Hyson’s busy production packing much into its four minutes, while sustained fortitude in Here’s the Thing (“… she has a secret, there’s a field, there’s a forest, there’s a river running through her”) maintains a balmy sway. Burn Bright, too, possesses the gossamer weight of earlier Snowpoet, Kinsella’s encouragement (“Can you touch someone’s pain? Burn bright, my love”) supported by improvisatory elegance from Zawadzki and Arcoleo. The gently-accompanied prose of Floating Practice is delightful – just rest and listen; and ticking, nursery-rhyme-like chant Wool, Cotton, Lace & Snow leads out with “sunny days … and warming rays”.

Through word, music and ambience, Snowpoet adeptly build the layers on their canvases, while at times leaving space for our own impressions and emotions. These fifty minutes might simply wash over you, provide an urban soundtrack or become profoundly moving and connective. However you respond, there’s no doubting Snowpoet’s continued mastery.

Released on 19 February 2021 (streaming/download) and 26 March 2021 (worldwide – CD/LP) at Edition Records.

 

Lauren Kinsella vocals
Chris Hyson piano, synths
Matthew Robinson piano, synths
Josh Arcoleo saxophone
Dave Hamblett drums (except on With You)
Lloyd Haines drums (on With You)
Alex Haines guitar
Alice Zawadzki violin

snowpoet.co.uk

Edition Records – EDN1166 (2021)

RECENT LISTENING: February 2021

‘Soft Works’ – Abracadbra in Osaka
Elton Dean, Allan Holdsworth, Hugh Hopper, John Marshall
Release date: 4 December 2020
softmachine-moonjune.bandcamp.com

‘Wait For Me’ – Snowpoet
Lauren Kinsella, Chris Hyson with
Matthew Robinson, Josh Arcoleo, Dave Hamblett, Lloyd Haines, Alex Haines , Alice Zawadzki
Release date: 19 February 2021
editionrecords.com

‘Songs of Joy’ – Yoko Miwa Trio
Yoko Miwa, Will Slater, Scott Goulding plus Brad Barrett
Release date: 12 February 2021
propermusic.com/ubuntu

‘Sounding Point’ – Mark Feldman
Mark Feldman – solo violin
Release date: 12 February 2021
intaktrec.bandcamp.com

‘Transparence’ – Hitra
Hilmar Jensson, Alessandro Sgobbio, Jo Berger, Øyvind Skarbø
Release date: 19 February 2021
alessandrosgobbio.bandcamp.com

‘The Glamour Action’ – Aparticle
Cristiano Arcelli, Michele Bonifati, Giulio Stermieri, Ermanno Baron
Release date: 22 February 2021
aparticle.bandcamp.com

REVIEW: ‘Uma Elmo’ – Jakob Bro, Arve Henriksen, Jorge Rossy

SLOW-BURNING, ruminative, even introspective, Uma Elmo is an intriguing new collaboration between electric guitarist Jakob Bro, trumpeter Arve Henriksen and drummer Jorge Rossy.

Danish-born Bro’s original compositions are true to the elevated spirit of ECM Records, this being his fifth album as leader for the label. Recorded in the late summer of 2020, when the increasing tremors of a virus-torn world had already begun to shake the foundations of artists’ livelihoods, this esteemed trio entered the studio with respected engineer Stefano Amerio to produce an hour of both abstract and melodic sounds which, Bro says, reflect (as always) what is going on around them. The album title doesn’t require translation – it’s simply derived from the middle names of the guitarist’s two young children, with much of this music apparently composed around his newborn son’s naps.

The name of Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen is familiar to many through ECM recordings which have included his own Cartography (2008) as well those of Tigran Hamasyan, Trygve Seim and Trio Mediaeval; and Spanish drummer Jorge Rossy has worked with a long catalogue of jazz luminaries such as Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and Wayne Shorter. Bro himself formerly played in Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band and and was a member of Tomasz Stanko’s Dark Eyes Quintet.

It’s fair to say that these shifting, minimal landscapes won’t realise their potential if only allowed cursory attention. Conscious immersion is key to the listening experience – and then the effect, though low in dynamic or compositional variance, progressively rewarding.

Reconstructing a Dream (previously recorded many years ago with Paul Motian) heralds the focused landscapes the trio inhabit in a shadowy, sustained episode. Reminiscent at times of Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Part 1)’,  it develops texturally and dynamically, Henriksen’s simple improvisations becoming more complex over turbulent drumming and overdriven guitar and electronics. To Stanko, dedicated to the late Polish trumpeter, finds the guitarist’s clear, lapping accompaniment (redolent of ‘Spanish Romance’ – Sor, et al.) wistfully supporting Henriksen’s dry, breathy improvisations; and Rossy’s sparse colouring around the kit is especially effective.

The more one listens, the more the detail emerges. Beautiful Day’s gong-like effects and tunnelled echoes underpin busy percussion as Henriksen’s inquisitive and increasingly agitated lines explore a piece which curiously belies its title. In Morning Song, an aubade of gently burbling electronics and cymbals uplift soft, sunrise trumpet and guitar melodies that attractively rise and then fall to earth (its later variation, though, appears so subtle that a more contrasting take would have been welcome). Across eleven-minute Housework, Arve Henriksen’s effected, rasping trumpet produces low-register impressions reminiscent of the baritone sax of John Surman before its pellucid ‘after the rain’ atmospheres are suffused with heavier, prog-style guitar.

In spacial Music for Black Pigeons (titled by and dedicated to the memory of another of Bro’s musical associates, saxophonist Lee Konitz), Henriksen’s high, muted melodies possess a beguiling vocal quality, their electronically intervallic mystery also suggesting Debussy’s ‘Syrinx’. Sound Flower slowly unfurls to Bro’s calmative, rippling guitar effects, its sense of measured expectation highlighted by cymbal flashes and aspirational trumpet phrases; and Henriksen’s beautiful, melodic falling pairs in Slaraffenland (again associated with Paul Motian) offer a freeform mood of fragile optimism.

Expressing that hope, the quietly persuasive meanderings of Bro, Henriksen and Rossy can be a balm to the soul – if given space and time.

Released on 19 February 2021, Uma Elmo is available from ECM Records and Proper Music.

 

Jakob Bro guitar
Arve Henriksen trumpet, piccolo trumpet
Jorge Rossy drums

jakobbro.com
arvehenriksen.com
jorgerossy.com

ECM Records – ECM 2702 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Human’ – Shai Maestro

THIS ALBUM has already become very special – and it’s taken a while to evaluate why, on each listening, Human continues to play on the senses in such a powerful way.

Israeli pianist Shai Maestro, who recorded four albums with bassist Avishai Cohen’s trio, recently appeared on Ben Wendel’s High Heart (Edition Records, 2020), doubling with Gerald Clayton to create dynamic atmospheres on piano and Fender Rhodes as part of a sextet fronted by Wendel’s tenor sax and the unique voicings of Michael Mayo. This new quartet release, however, with double bassist Jorge Roeder, drummer Ofri Nehemya and trumpeter Philip Dizack finds Maestro returning to the his own chamber project, presenting original music alongside an adroit Duke Ellington reinterpretation.

So what marks it out with such distinction? The acoustic line-up isn’t especially unusual. But this feels so sensational – often quietly so – that it pulses the kind of emotional electricity experienced when hearing a specific contemporary jazz approach for the very first time; and that in itself is a remarkable achievement. Human follows The Dream Thief (ECM, 2018) with Roeder and Nehemya – a recording that presented a pianist whose classical training paved a way to his uniquely restless, oblique yet precise impressionism; and a trio that, through some extraordinary kind of alchemy, considerably elevated the traditional expectation of the format. But now, Dizack adds a significant dimension to Maestro’s work, his seemingly inexhaustible palette of trumpet textures, always beautifully toned, melding immaculately with the original personnel’s established creativity. Here is an ensemble that walks the enigmatic tightrope between precise arrangement and spontaneous improvisation, which feels crucial to the success of these eleven tracks.

Maestro’s intricate ornamentation, across an hour that demands absolute concentration, is exquisite. Following the abstract prelude of Time, waltzing Mystery and Illusions is the first indicator of his chromatic searching, punctuated by beautifully fidgety drum invention, before Dizack matches the piano’s melodic lines and then takes stratospheric flight. In GG, the rapid complexity of these shared piano and trumpet ‘improvisations’ is simply extraordinary, while homey title track Human culminates in a grandeur featuring Dizack’s distinctive, portamento-shaped phrasing. Bristling, explosive The Dream Thief continues the theme of the previous album’s title track. In Hank and Charlie is heard the most graceful, country/gospel-imbued tribute to Maestro‘s heroes, Hank Jones and Charlie Haden – 4:42 of sheer, balladic perfection, right down to the concluding harmonic effect as the piano’s sustain pedal is lifted.

In an imaginative reworking of In a Sentimental Mood (in particular, the Ellington/Coltrane meeting), staccato snippets of the melody are stated over continually bobbing rivulets of accompaniment, with the various strands seamlessly intertwined. Only at its conclusion comes a reverent nod to the original’s legato elegance. Understated Compassion allows Maestro’s vocal expressions to be heard, while They Went War represents futility through repeated snare pattern and mournful trumpet. A simple, falling, Beethovenesque figure is central to Prayer, featuring Nehemya’s fascinating percussive maelstrom; and the meditative Middle-Eastern swirl of Ima once again highlights the pianist’s semitonal finesse.

Shai Maestro describes this music as often arriving in quick bursts of creativity during the stillness of night, and then letting it “just be”, presenting it as a “human effort”. As a listener completing that circle (or square), I extol the beauty, craftsmanship and warmth found in both Human and The Dream Thief – wondrous, attentive recordings that will undoubtedly stay with me for a very long time.

Released on 29 January 2021, Human is available from ECM Records and Proper Music.

 

Shai Maestro piano
Jorge Roeder double bass
Ofri Nehemya drums
Philip Dizack trumpet

shaimaestro.com

ECM Records – ECM 2688 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Future Stride’ – Emmet Cohen

IF A ROYAL JAZZ VARIETY SHOW were to exist, it’s conceivable that American pianist Emmet Cohen and colleagues could take the stage for the first number and still be wowing the audience – clapping, or rattling their jewellery, as John Lennon put it – at the final curtain! Such is the diversity and entertainment to be found in Future Stride.

Already the recipient of numerous awards, including winner at the 2019 American Pianists Awards, Cohen began his journey at the tender age of three with the Suzuki method of instruction, and has become a pretty neat exponent of stride piano. But venture further than the evocative post-ragtime verve of this collection’s opening, century-old Symphonic Raps (which showcases those leaping left-hand skills) and you’ll find the first of many gear changes into lush contemporary or whimsical chamber jazz. Hence the album title’s implication of connection and continuity, reinforcing his commitment to ‘the intergenerational transfer of the knowledge, history and traditions of jazz’.

The pianist’s trio with double bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole is joined on a clutch of numbers by tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trumpeter Marquis Hill. Together, they produce a fabulously rich sound across a blend of Cohen’s own compositions and those of past masters, including Rodgers & Hart, Duke Ellington and Van Heusen/Cahn.

Reflections at Dusk introduces the full quintet with a lush, melodious weave of muted trumpet and sax, underpinned by Cohen’s considered ornamentation. The blithe swing of Toast to Lo glides to the horns’ smooth, individual and combined improvisations, honouring the life of drummer Lawrence “Lo” Leathers (a big influence on this album’s players) through Kyle Poole’s glinting rhythms; and the eventual snap into double time is sublime. Full of audacious metrical switches and playful conversations, title trio track Future Stride flaps and fizzes, while breathlessly-swinging You Already Know suggests the mid-Sixties ‘cool’ of Johnny Dankworth – a foot-tapping joy-bringer that tumbles with solo after solo.

Cohen’s arrangements for his trio are just as inviting, Second Time Around sustaining its timeless beauty through cascading piano lines and group empathy, while My Heart Stood Still skips brightly. Now over a hundred years old, jaunty piano piece Dardanella is bathed in new light as Hall and Poole provide the intensifying, showtime impetus; and Ellington’s Pitter Panther Patter becomes a jolly, bass-slapping duo with piano. Finally, for Cohen’s Little Angel, Marquis Hill’s mellow trumpet overlays intervals and responsive phrases in this gorgeous ballad.

If that all smacks of a potpourri of disconnected ideas, the total experience is far from it. Instead, these performances are slick, engaging, and certainly not just about the piano. Emmet Cohen’s aptitude for sequencing and contrasting keeps it bubbling, prompting the desire to catch this album’s many delights over and over again. Encore, please!

Released on 29 January 2021, Future Stride is available from Mack Avenue and Proper Music.

 

Emmet Cohen piano
Russell Hall acoustic bass
Kyle Poole drums
with special guests
Melissa Aldana tenor saxophone
Marquis Hill trumpet

emmetcohen.com

Mack Avenue – MAC1181 (2021)