‘Last Things Last’ – Greg Cordez

Greg Cordez_Last

MUSIC sometimes has the curious approach of making one wait, in a ‘just stay with me, let’s see where this takes us’ kinda way; but after doing exactly that with bassist/composer Greg Cordez’s latest release, Last Things Last, its restrained beauty has gradually unfurled.   

UK-born and New Zealand-raised Cordez’s 2015 album, Paper Crane, is a return-to delight – and with a different instrumental angle and line-up, this follow-up presents a cool, Stateside aura which is perhaps enhanced by its Brooklyn recording location as well as the influence of production associate (and respected US bassist) Ben Allison. The leader describes his original compositions as exploring “themes of coincidence, optimism, and the slow dissolution of a personal relationship” – but, as suggested by its desolate gas-station cover, there’s also the tangibility of contemplative night-time journeying; a fitting soundtrack to endlessly snaking freeway lights ahead.

Alongside guitarist Steve Cardenas and drummer Allison Miller, Cordez pairs cornettist Kirk Knuffke and saxophonist Michael Blake upfront, their unison and contrapuntal horn melodies featuring strongly in eight numbers which don’t overstay their welcome; in fact, they succinctly say what they need to say, yet happily prompt repeat play.

The streetlight shuffle of Chekhov’s Gun is maintained through mobile electric bass groove, Rhodes-like guitar chords and fleeting electronics, with Knuffke and Blake intertwined in attractive, close riffs; and Cherry v Des Moines‘ American-rock bass pulse might easily invite a shouty vocal. But elsewhere, a hazy stillness pervades Cordez’s writing. Figlock‘s beautiful drowsiness is created by echoic horns and thrummed strings before crescendoing to pitch-bent electric guitar heaven; Last Things Last‘s resigned serenity is imbued with frail doubt, its brighter dawn inviting sublime individual guitar, sax and cornet improv; and Low Winter Sun‘s positivity is felt through gently propulsive rhythms and lasting melodies.

Charmingly soporific All That Is, with malleable rubato, allows the softness of Knuffke’s cornet and Blake’s sax to roam as they please, whilst Clementine‘s similar confidence in creating lush, open ground for solo and ensemble creativity provides a balm-like feel-good; and Junebug‘s cheery guitar-and-cornet ‘all is well’ tunefulness might even hint at Herb Alpert.

Cruise into the afterglow with Last Things Last… and see where it takes you.

Released on 18 August 2017 and available as a CD through Greg’s website (the break-up ‘F37 Glaser Street’ font takes an impressive tumble on the inlay tray!) or digitally at Bandcamp.

 

Kirk Knuffke cornet
Michael Blake saxophones
Steve Cardenas guitar
Greg Cordez bass
Allison Miller drums

gregcordez.com

Self-released (2017)

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‘BIX – A Tribute to Bix Beiderbecke’ – Echoes of Swing (2CD)

bix

AN INVENTIVE PROJECT from Echoes of Swing and guests, this double-CD tribute to early 20th Century cornettist and composer Bix Beiderbecke illuminates the brilliance of his work.

Sample a few bars of the historical mono recordings of Beiderbecke’s own performances with jazz orchestras of the 1920s (the useful reason for the second, complementary, ten-track CD provided in this release), and the sound world of rip-roaring, flapper-style jazz is immediately evoked. But the main feature of BIX (CD1), directed by pianist Bernd Lhotzky, sets out to refashion for a current generation – as well as inspire new compositions – selections from the output of a young American musician (perhaps the Miles Davis of his day) whose genial talent would astound audiences. That was until ill-health – reportedly caused by the pressures of recording and performing, along with persistent alcoholism – resulted in his death, in 1931, at the early age of 28.

The newly-recorded clarity of Beiderbecke favourites is delivered by a core line-up of piano, alto sax, cornet/trumpet and drums, with trombone, guitar double bass and the occasional vocal adding a rich depth of colour. Immediately, new interpretations (rather than carbon copies) pull into focus this music’s relevance, almost a century on; and the fourteen tracks, across a full hour, also include a few surprises – for example, Antônio Carlos Jobim clothed in ’20s attire and a soul bossa groove for period piece Jazz Me Blues. The original, dry mono, clarinet-embellished exuberance of At the Jazz Band Ball is repainted in relaxed swing with great attention to dynamics and balance; I’m Coming Virginia‘s new, Brubeck-styled 5/4 groove is inspired, introducing deliciously shaped vocal and effervescent trombone solo from Shannon Barnett; and Rodgers & Hart’s playful Thou Swell (enjoy the crackly 78rpm with croaky baritone sax) seemingly hits the railroad in alto saxophonist Chris Hopkins’ gently propulsive, chuffing arrangement which intertwines Barnett’s trombone with the cornet of Colin T Dawson.

Bernd Lhotzky’s At Children’s Corner cleverly and sympathetically weaves together themes from Debussy’s piano original (Beiderbecke was a fan of the French composer), with Hopkins’ dreamy alto, between the cakewalking frivolity, a real pleasure. So too is Nix Like Bix, Shannon Barnett’s teasing, swooning trombone-and-bass take on Blue River; and as to the acquaintance of Chris Hopkins’ own The Boy from Davenport with Jobim’s The Girl from Ipanema – well, right there, Bix could be in the mix! I’ll Be a Friend with Pleasure (from the pen of Maceo ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ Pinkard) invites lyrical crooning from Pete York, and perennial Ol’ Man River (Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II) briskly captures the mood of the great cornettist’s era with sparkling stride piano from Bernd Lhotzky and a pin-sharp pairing of trumpet and alto sax.

Whether listening to Beiderbecke’s music as an enthusiast, or perhaps approaching from an altogether different angle, Echoes of Swing’s ‘new light through old windows’ is unexpectedly and heartwarmingly delightful (as is the 1927 solo recording of Bix Beiderbecke at the piano which concludes the 2-CD set).

Released on 14 October 2016 and available from ACT MusicAmazon, iTunes, record stores, etc.

Video: The making of BIX – A Tribute to Bix Beiderbecke.

 

CD1
ECHOES OF SWING

Bernd Lhotzky piano, musical director
Chris Hopkins alto saxophone
Colin T Dawson cornet, trumpet
Oliver Mewes drums
with
Shannon Barnett trombone, vocals
Mulo Francel c-melody saxophone, guitar
Pete York drums, percussion, vocals
Henning Gailing double bass
and special guest (on Jazz Me Blues)
Emile Parisien soprano saxophone

CD2
BIX BEIDERBECKE & HIS GANG
(historical mono recordings, 1927)
with Bix Beiderbecke cornet
FRANK TRUMBAUER & HIS ORCHESTRA (historical mono recordings, 1927)
with Bix Beiderbecke cornet
JEAN GOLDKETTE & HIS ORCHESTRA (historical mono recording, 1927)
with Bix Beiderbecke cornet
BIX BEIDERBECKE piano solo, In A Mist (historical mono recording, 1927)

echoes-of-swing.de

ACT Music – ACT 9826-2 (2016)

‘Seaside’ – Liane Carroll

Seaside

BREATHE IN DEEPLY, and you can almost sense that familiar, hazy blend of aromas on the breeze: salty sea air, fish’n’chips, candy floss… and then the distant sounds of brass band vibrato and children’s play against a reassuring, shingle-stroked ebb tide. It’s all conjured by eminent, award-winning British jazz/soul singer Liane Carroll in a new coastal-inspired collection of songs – Seaside.

The vocalist/pianist who brought us such memorable gems as her own, peppy Dublin Morning and a powerfully emotive interpretation of Tom Waits’ Picture in a Frame now reaches new heights in this, her ninth album, surrounding herself with a fabulous array of musicians (notably multi-instrumentalist and producer James McMillan). Prompted by friend and renowned singer, pianist and songwriter Joe Stilgoe (who gifted Carroll the wonderfully evocative and wistful title track), here are ten songs inspired by the singer’s affection for her home town of Hastings; an inviting musical promenade which encounters sunny exuberance, swaggering grooves and tender, reassuring love, sometimes tinged with melancholy.

That title track is, indeed, a winner – its swirling silver band arrangement and classy, solid, melodic hooks (easily redolent of late Lennon & McCartney) combine with lyrics which tell a story of ardent, carefree, though perhaps seasonal companionship (“We’ll always have the seaside”); and love’s exhilaration is embodied in the bubbly piano-trio-and-scat burst of Lerner and Loewe’s Almost Like Being in Love (or Hove, as teasingly alternatively titled by Liane!). One of this album’s exquisite surprises is a thoughtful, mellow rendering of Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee’s Bring Me Sunshine – light years away from Eric’n’Ern’s japes, it might warmly pictorialise the cuddled devotedness of a couple looking out across the waves from their seafront shelter.

Led Zeppelin’s originally heavy-rocking Nobody’s Fault But Mine is effectively reimagined as a gravelly, bluesy strut (featuring Julian Siegel on tenor) – those characteristically wide, soulful vocals as impressive as ever; and the countryfied feel of Fred Lavery and Gordie Sampson’s Get Me Through December (previously recorded by, amongst others, Alison Krauss) becomes quietly majestic in Carroll’s hands. Evan Jolly’s broad, gospel-imbued arrangement of Mary Gauthier’s Mercy Now displays all the brassy stature of an Elton John chart high-rider; and Wild is the Wind (from the 1950s movie of the same name) features the lush piano and brass arrangements of Malcolm Edmonstone, its haunting lyricism emphasised by bowed and sustained vibes.

A guitar-accompanied vocal interlude – popular 1930s standard I Cover the Waterfront, which Carroll has always wanted to record – is delightfully decorated by Rob Luft’s scampering fret work; and My Ship (Kurt Weill & Ira Gershwin), with a playful vocal timbre reminiscent of Natalie Cole, cruises breezily before switching into fast scat swing. Finally, in recognition of the ever-present dangers of seafaring communities, Liane offers a poignant reading of J B Dykes’ familiar hymn tune Melita (words by William Whiting) – For Those In Peril on the Sea‘s reverent vocals are underpinned by Mark Edwards’ sublime jazz piano and organ harmonies, enhanced by James McMillan’s plaintive flugelhorn.

Seaside consolidates Liane Carroll’s position as one of the UK’s most expressive jazz/soul vocalists and pianists in an accessible recording which combines unalloyed high spirits with beauteous, heart-aching emotion. Released on 18 September 2015, the album is available from Linn Records and jazz retailers (take a look at the Seaside video).

 

Liane Carroll vocals, piano
Steve Pearce acoustic bass
Ian Thomas drums
James McMillan flugelhorn, keyboards, percussion, bass, tenor horn, vibraphone
Evan Jolly trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn; brass band and brass arrangements
Andy Wood euphonium, trombone
Julian Siegel tenor saxophone
Rob Leake baritone and tenor saxophones
Mark Edwards piano
Malcolm Edmonstone piano; brass arrangements
Mark Jaimes acoustic and electric guitars
Rob Luft guitar

lianecarroll.co.uk

Linn Records – AKD 533 (2015)

‘Our Lady of Stars’ – Sorana Santos

SoranaSantos

OVERFLOWING with intrigue and frequently startling with the unexpected, Sorana Santos’ debut album Our Lady of Stars on her own label I Dream in Sound feels like one of the most delightfully original vocal jazz offerings of the year to date; a recording whose original compositions and performances progress with delicious unpredictability until they eventually seep into one’s soul.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Sorana Santos piano, prepared piano, guitar, voice
James Maddren drums
Joe Wright saxophones, feedback flute
Alex Bonney trumpet, cornet
Ligeti Quartet strings

sorana.co

I Dream in Sound – IDIS1CD (2015)

‘The Aviators’ Ball’ – Matt Owens

MattOwens

I AM REMINDED of a golden age of TV themes. Statuesque 1960s/70s tunes and traditional orchestrations that have remained in the mind, the merest few bars’ snippet triggering inextricably-linked carefree memories. Manchester composer and bassist Matt Owens seems to capture such a spirit in this fine debut of charming, sometimes quirky, and beautiful creations.

Happily difficult to pigeonhole in terms of genre, with elements of jazz, folk, pop and movie soundtrack, Owens draws on an abundance of instrumentalists and vocalists (below) to convey the character of his distinctive writing. The majority of The Aviators’ Ball (a title inspired by Owens’ real-life discovery, in Prague, of an aviation society’s ball!) comes from his suite Ten – one of Manchester Jazz Festival’s excellent mjf originals commissions – and unabashedly seeks a mostly acoustic landscape of waltz, curtsy and blithe melody.

With woodwind, brass and breezy Irish tin whistle, Raindrops on our Rooftop immediately makes that retro leap, its persistent bassoon figure suggesting an era of Puppet on a String and marginal folk/rock band curiosity Gryphon. Title track The Aviators’ Ball exudes all the warmth of gentle period drama as mellow cornet improvisations float over piano and tea-parlour strings; and then – with a cosy woodwind intro redolent of… that’s right… The Clangers! – singer and guitarist Tom Davies delivers his winsome Mouse Song with unexpected and touching simplicity.

As sunshiny as a beach-bound, open-top Morris journey, the crisp, wordless vocal momentum of Going Back to the Village confirms Owens’ picture-painting prowess, arranged here by Manchester favourite (and co-producer of this album) guitarist/singer Kirsty Almeida; and the folksy theme of Every Wish is for You, initiated with pianistic nursery-rhyme candour, rolls along to placid trumpet and flute extemporisation.

The singular, expressive voice of Rioghnach Connolly interprets Celtic love song Black is the Colour like no other, her affecting tones breathing “I love the ground whereon he stands” like changeable winds across heather land. Soft-pop The Peanut Train shuffles to Owens’ downy horn-and-woodwind arrangement; Monsoon is similarly entrancing, led by the impassioned vocal of Zoe Kyoti; and full of dreamy nostalgia, Violet concludes the set, once again highlighting Matt Owens’ aptitude and greater potential for niche soundtrack scoring.

In an album which might initially appear quaint, due to the genuiness of its eclectic, yesteryear approach, the persuasive strength of its endearingly tuneful hooks and arrangements make it utterly irresistible – certainly a delightful musical diversion.

Launching at Chorlton Arts Festival on 18 May 2015, The Aviators’ Ball is available from All Made Up Records.

 

Matt Owens double bass
Neil Yates trumpet, tin whistle
John Ellis piano
Rick Weedon drums, percussion
Sophie Hastings marimba, glockenspiel
Amina Hussian flute
David Benfield oboe
Lucy Rugman clarinet
Jon Harris French horn
Simon Davies bassoon
Semay Wu cello
Steve Chadwick cornet
Edward Barnwell piano
Danny Ward drums
Alison Williams violin
Naomi Koop violin
Aimée Johnson viola
Tom Davies guitar, vocals
Carla Sousa flute
Philip Howarth cor anglais
Jill Allen clarinet
Lucy Keyes bassoon
Kirsty Almeida vocals
Caroline Sheehan vocals
Orli Nyles vocals
Cara Robinson vocals
Atholl Ransome alto flute
Rioghnach Connolly vocals
Billy Buckley guitar, lap steel
Zoe Kyoti vocals, guitar
Rosa Campos Fernandez clarinet

mattowens.co.uk

All Made Up Records – AMU0007 (2015)