#recentlistening – August 2019

Ingi Bjarni – Tenging
Ingi Bjarni Skúlason, Jakob Eri Myhre, Merje Kägu, Daniel Andersson, Tore Ljøkelsøy
Release date: 30 August 2019 (Losen Records)
losenrecords.no/release/tenging

Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble – Reflections Transformations | Improvisations
Eddie Parker, James Allsopp, Gareth Lockrane, Jan Hendrickse, Rowland Sutherland, Alcyona Mick, James Gilchrist, Brigitte Beraha, Imogen Ridge, Steve Watts, Simon Limbrick, Martin France
Release date: 13 September 2019
debussymirroredensemble.org

Michael Janisch – Worlds Collide
Michael Janisch, Jason Palmer, John O’Gallagher, Rez Abbasi, Clarence Penn
with John Escreet, George Crowley, Andrew Bain

Release date: 6 September 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
michaeljanisch.bandcamp.com/album/worlds-collide

Zac Gvi – Monk Spent Youth
Zac Gvirtzman, Ben Davis, Fred Thomas
Release date: 13 August 2019 (F-IRE)
zacgvi.bandcamp.com/album/monk-spent-youth

Michael J Bolton – Earthrise
Michael J Bolton, Mike Walker, Neil Yates, David Hentschel, Alex Smith, Matthew Johns, Marc Russo, Tim Garland, Noelle Rollings
Release date: 30 August 2019 (Market Square Music)
propermusic.com/product-details/Michael-J-Bolton-Earthrise-267575

Corey Mwamba – NTH
Corey Mwamba, Laura Cole, Andy Champion, Johnny Hunter
Release date: 2 July 2019 (Discus Music)
discus-music.co.uk/catalogue-mobile/dis86-detail

‘Live at ReVoice!’ – Georgia Mancio

GeorgiaMancio

A SONG isn’t truly a song until it reaches out and grabs your heart, with both singer and accompanist sharing the enjoyment and responsibility of sensitively breathing life into its particular character. Communication is all.

Some five years ago, London-based vocalist Georgia Mancio founded her popular ReVoice! Festival (in association with the Pizza Express Jazz Club), and has since curated and programmed more than 160 emerging and established artists, including Norma Winstone, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Carleen Anderson, Claire Martin and Gregory Porter. Amongst this abundance of live jazz showcases has been Georgia herself, making 44 appearances to date – and somehow, she has managed to whittle down numerous recorded accounts from the festival into this hour-long, twelve-track treasure trove.

What particularly stands out about this release is the raw, pared-down sincerity of the performances. Georgia Mancio shares the stage each time with a single guest instrumentalist – and rather than any sense of ‘anonymous accompanist’, there’s an enthralling synergy between them; in some respects, no surprise at all when the calibre of the musicians (listed below) is taken into account. These are bold, no-hiding-place expressions, and Mancio – as storyteller – possesses an innate adaptability, both in technique and artistry, to enhance the melodies and lyrics of these well-chosen pieces so naturally and so clearly, without the need for over-embellishment or showboating. And that’s classy.

Wherever you dive in, this music has the ability to stop you in your tracks. The wistful, affectionate poetry of Paul Simon’s I Do It For Your Love is softly illuminated by Mancio’s gliding phraseology and endearing vibrato, with Nikki Iles’ subtle pianistic invention typically exquisite; and the emotion of Sting’s Fragile is drawn into focus as Andrew Cleyndert’s cantabile double bass wraps itself around the vocalist’s poignant yet agile delivery. The impudent swagger of Hendricks/Turrentine number Sugar is priceless – a fabulously intuitive double-act with Mancio’s rapid, teasing phrases matched by Laurence Cottle’s bluesy, looped, 5-string bass brilliance; whilst Sammy Cahn’s The Things We Did Last Summer, to Colin Oxley’s luscious electric guitar chords and fleet-fingered extemporisations, couldn’t be more carefree (especially when Georgia’s signature whistling completes the sunshiny picture).

The wistfulness of Lennon & McCartney’s In My Life is elegantly reimagined, James Pearson’s rubato piano so at one with the vocal; as is Carole King’s Going Back, with Liane Carroll’s characteristic keyboard grandeur honouring that strong ’60s songwriting tradition. Michael Janisch’s double bass is recognisably and percussively ebullient (audacious, even!) in quickfire Just In Time, Mancio scatting energetically; and the shared Italian heritage of the vocalist and her accordionist Maurizio Minardi is eloquently expressed in Le Strade Di Notte, Minardi’s rising and falling dynamics intimating dimly-lit melancholy.

A handful of piano-accompanied jewels complete the selection, including delightfully waltzing yet bittersweet Bendita, co-written by Mancio and Tom Cawley; charming Willow Weep For Me (Jason Rebello’s harmonic searchings so magical); Robert Mitchell’s lithe fingerwork pirouetting with Mancio’s impressive vocal elaborations on Just Friends; and an irresistibly misty end piece, David Bowie’s When I Live My Dream, accompanied by Ian Shaw.

Seasoned fans of ReVoice! will probably be itching to get their hands on this. For any other appreciator of beautifully-fashioned vocal jazz… equally, it’s a must.

Released on 26 November 2015, on Roomspin Records, Live at ReVoice! can be purchased from Jazz CDs and Amazon, as well as at iTunes.

 

Georgia Mancio voice
with
Liane Carroll piano
Tom Cawley piano
Andrew Cleyndert double bass
Laurence Cottle electric bass
Nikki Iles piano
Michael Janisch double bass
Maurizio Minardi accordion
Robert Mitchell piano
Colin Oxley guitar
James Pearson piano
Jason Rebello piano
Ian Shaw piano

georgiamancio.com

Roomspin Records – 1942 (2015)

‘Andromeda’ – Alex Garnett’s Bunch of 5

AlexGarnett

HARD-BOPPING, full-swinging and with two solid tenors upfront, this new offering from Alex Garnett’s ‘Bunch of 5’ project packs mighty punch after punch!

Over the last couple of decades, Alex Garnett has been much in demand as sideman, session player, composer and arranger, and his excellent quartet album of 2011, Serpent (Whirlwind), marked his long-awaited solo debut. Now, with a stellar quintet which also features tenorist Tim Armacost (read Garnett’s entertaining liner notes on the beginnings of the saxmen’s acquaintance), the ‘bunch’ hit the heights with a rollicking, eight-track, hour-plus performance which pretty much shines as brightly as any live gig. Completing the line-up are Liam Noble (piano), Michael Janisch (bass) and James Maddren (drums).

The combination of the leader’s tone and delivery is every bit as commanding as Rollins or Getz, whether rocking widely or producing those gorgeously lush, reaching phrases – and the diversity and inventiveness of the strong Garnett/Armacost musical partnership here is compelling throughout. Most compositions are Garnett’s and express the skill of his writing which, as he describes, “reflect brief moments in a twenty-year passage of time through my musical life experience”.

Opener So Long!, a beautifully straight-down-the-line swinger inspired by an early ’90s Benny Golson concert, is infectious in its ‘old standard’ melody and simplicity. Following, the childlike interruptedness of Charlie’s World (Garnett explains all) is both endearing and fascinating, Noble’s mischievous, jarring pianism a delight as Janisch also ‘comes out to play’; and there are some sparkling individual improvs from both tenors. Buoyantly lyrical, title number Andromeda (after the galaxy) finds Garnett and Armacost intertwining so richly, Maddren’s muted snare and toms effecting a certain weightlessness – and listen out for the magical, nebulous aura of both Noble and Janisch.

A rip-roaring, pacier version of Garnett’s Delusions of Grandma (heard also on Robbie Harvey’s Blowin’ that Old Tin Can release) is a show-stealer, the two unison tenor lines remarkably staying together before breaking into extemporised abandon; with Garnett clucking grittily and Armacost flowing freely, they eventually duel it out unaccompanied – an absolute joy, especially with the added complex solo display of Maddren. An arrangement of the Burns/Mercer tune Early Autumn reflects the influence of Stan Getz on Garnett, and both saxophonists here do well to summon his spirit with their own warm, deeply-felt searchings; and, written for this quintet, Her Tears exudes an unswerving edge which its composer explains as ‘lovers growing apart’, reflected in the fascinatingly terse melodic and rhythmic conversations shared throughout the band.

Holmes (Inspector, no less), though devoid of fiddle, opens with a bright Mancini (Clouseau?) swagger, clearly enjoyed by the five – blithe yet propulsive, it swings with a great joint sax melody. And, to close, the band make a good fist of Garnett’s arrangement of Irving Berlin’s familiar I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm as it rattles along with exuberant, breathless and extended improvisation from all corners – and when the saxmen stand aside, the focus on Noble, Janisch and Maddren confirms both the intelligence and musicality of their performances throughout, including a dazzlingly high-flying piano solo (with the merest hint of Isley Brothers in its chordal conclusion!).

Releasing 26 January 2015, and currently being toured, Andromeda is weighty, fun, and available from Whirlwind Recordings. More information, promo video and purchasing here.

 

Alex Garnett tenor saxophone
Tim Armacost tenor saxophone
Liam Noble piano
Michael Janisch double bass
James Maddren drums

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4664 (2015)

‘Abstract Forces’ – Cloudmakers Trio

Cloudmakers

IN 2012, vibraphonist Jim Hart’s Cloudmakers Trio featured renowned Californian trumpeter Ralph Alessi on their inaugural tour – and the recorded live set from the Pizza Express date, subsequently identified for album release (Live in London), won many plaudits across the contemporary jazz fraternity for both the quality and immediacy of the performances. 

Their much-anticipated second release, Abstract Forces – a studio album of seven extended new Hart compositions for trio only – now builds on this ensemble’s strongly improvisational ethos (the band name stemming from the analogy of a power station or engine room creating ever-changing, cloud-like abstractions). And, with the driving bass of Michael Janisch and trademark drumming vigour of Dave Smith, Cloudmakers continues to produce inventive, oblique, tricksy-but-accessible grooves. On the back of the live album, the absence of an out-front lead instrument might have left this line-up seeming somewhat lacklustre… but the key to success here is very much the chemistry between these three collaborative minds (who have worked together for many years), intuitively brewing up their own ingenious brand of ‘cumulonimbus’ clout.

Janisch’s thrummed bass sets up the bristling momentum of Snaggletooth, Jim Hart extemporising colourfully and broadly with mallets and bows – and immediately the high energy of the trio can be grasped. Hart’s assuredness at the vibes is breathtaking, whether soloing rapidly or pushing the pulse with chordal clusters, including judicious use of electronics. Angular Momentum races to impossibly-complex written time signatures, yet the three players remain remarkably synced throughout (#jawdrop), Smith hustling and bouncing magnificently.

Great explorations characterise Post Stone, Hart’s free electro-distorted hammers and celestial bowings ringing to the busyness of bass and drums, and then breaking loose into ‘ordered delirium’. Michael Janisch’s solo bass is both lithe and attractive, teasing out chords, harmonics and trills – and, appropriately, it introduces melodious Early Hours, Hart’s compositional prowess here leaning more towards the Bachian mystery of John Lewis’s writing for the Modern Jazz Quartet (Hart also features in The MJQ Celebration – reviewed). The playing here displays delightful luminosity, sustained vibes balanced delicately with the lightness of bass and drums.

Social Assassin swings out to Janisch’s bass chords, Smith hitting the kit solidly, Hart roaming freely; and Ramprasad conjures a little more of that Milt Jackson magic, Hart and Janisch sharing its inquisitive melody before electronics coax ethereal bell chimes and drones from the vibes. Finally, Conversation Killer fizzes with Phronesis-like bass impetus, Smith thrashing in tandem with Hart’s persistent Steve Reich-ian rhythms.

There is never a sense that this is ‘easy listening’ or ‘background’ jazz (piped lounge bar muzak of the late ’60s and early ’70s never did the vibraphone any favours!). Instead, Cloudmakers offer intelligently crafted music, in terms of composition and synergetic execution, which demands close scrutiny to understand its many details and nuances – a real tour de force.

Released on 29 September 2014, check out the Abstract Forces album page at Whirlwind for promo video, audio samples and purchasing – tour dates below – as well as the Live in London album page.

 

Jim Hart vibraphone
Michael Janisch double bass
Dave Smith drums

2014 tour dates
28 September: The Albert, Bristol
29 September: North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore
30 September: St Ives Jazz Club
03 October: LAUNCH – The Crypt, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London
10 October: Sheffield Jazz Club

cloudmakerstrio.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4655 (2014)

‘Colorfield’ – Romain Pilon

Color_Pilon

FRENCH GUITARIST Romain Pilon presents pretty much a blank, white canvas for the cover of his new release on Whirlwind Records – which seems entirely appropriate, given the title ‘Colorfield’. For, just as the distinctive art movement of the same name saw the likes of Rothko and Gottlieb creating enveloping expanses of bright, abstract, overlapping colour, so too gleams Pilon’s impeccably-formed quartet with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Michael Janisch (bass) and Jamire Williams (drums).

Since graduating from Berklee College, the past ten years or so of Romain Pilon’s rising career have seen him working with top flight musicians in New York and Paris, and is currently a member of the Paris Jazz Underground collective (along with David Prez, Olivier Zanot, Sandro Zerafa, Yoni Zelnik and Karl Jannuska). Although a new name to me, this characterful album is sure to increase Pilon’s profile.

Colorfield’s impressive sequence of seven originals (plus a sublimely rich tenor and guitar reading of Horace Silver’s ‘Lonely Woman’) displays a sense of carefully crafted chamber jazz – though the quartet can certainly ramp up the tempo, as heard in the bass- and guitar-driven groove of the title track. There is clarity and warmth both in Pilon’s writing and playing, his open and fluid guitar style allowing the band considerable latitude, typified by the measured, cerebral calmness of ‘Man on a Wire’. And, on the subject of balance… as the chordal player here, Romain Pilon demonstrates remarkable respect for the overall colour palette, as heard in mobile opener ‘Acceptance’.

The animated ‘Twombly’ suggests the freedom of the American painter’s expressionism, Pilon’s deft, reaching solo work easily echoing the artist’s huge red swirls seen recently at the Tate Modern. Further evidence of the leader’s skilful soloing is to be found in ‘Three on Seven’, along with subtle, lush chords and the fast, fluttering bass and drums of Michael Janisch and Jamire Williams. Profoundly delicate – and maybe a love song – the melodic line of ‘You’ is shared by Walter Smith and Pilon who also allow space for Janisch’s bass to sing, both as soloist and support; and closing number ‘7th Hour’ scurries joyfully to the high rhythm maintained by Williams who is a brilliantly precise presence throughout this recording.

Launched on 7 October 2013, and featuring in the first Whirlwind Festival (Kings Place, 10-12 October), this is an intelligent and engaging set from a quartet of players who clearly feel a great connection.


Romain Pilon
 guitar
Walter Smith III tenor saxophone
Michael Janisch acoustic bass
Jamire Williams drums

romainpilon.com
whirlwind recordings.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4641 (2013)

 

‘Infinite Blue’ – Patrick Cornelius

Infinite

I THINK I love this album (there… I’ve said it!). What began as a cursory listen – never a good idea – is already blossoming, after the much longer and closer inspection due, into an exciting and absorbing programme by Patrick Cornelius and a clutch of august, experienced musicians.

‘Infinite Blue’ is a quartet recording, or so it would seem – for when the already sturdy alto sax, piano, bass and drums combo is augmented on a good number of the nine tracks by trombone and/or trumpet, it grows legs and becomes an even more highly charged powerhouse of equally tightly-arranged and creatively-improvised original pieces. The strength of this new album by New York-based saxophonist and composer Cornelius lies in the very apparent display of confidence and intuition which all contributors share and radiate from beginning to end. Respected pianist Frank Kimborough, Whirlwind’s virtuosic Michael Janisch on bass and no-need-for-introductions Jeff Ballard on drums are joined by trombonist Nick Vayenas for five numbers, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet for three.

So what is it that entices so? Well, take a listen to ‘Puzzler’, with the sextet cramming so much into its four minutes. From the off, the pacey tempo and precision arrest the ears with an unbridled, thrilling display of unison writing, launching off into consummate, flighty improvisation from Rodriguez and Cornelius, with Ballard clattering hard on snare and toms (call it hard-bop, post-bop, whatever… but it’s almost worth the price tag alone!). Opening number ‘Regent Street’ shows similar pizazz with Vayenas’ slick, clean trombone soloing and Kimborough’s high flying piano above the secure, swinging rhythm section. ‘Waiting’ – a spacious, mellow offering – finds the close-knit horns suggesting a Big Apple cityscape, Janisch laying down flexing bass both for Cornelius’s yearning alto and a gently caressing high piano line.

The leader’s instrumental delivery is as strong on captivating improvisation as it is for his carefully-scored melodies, an ethic shared by his colleagues. Vayenas’ agile, lustrous trombone adds much to the big ensemble sound (check out his commanding solo on ‘Unfinished Business’); Kimborough and Cornelius communicate restrained, late-night melancholy on ‘In the Quiet Moment’ (one of two numbers as quartet alone); and Rodriguez’s adept brassiness shines throughout.

Photographically, the album sleeve alludes to Patrick Cornelius’s inspiration for his title – a family holiday flight through clear azure skies and a noted-down melody, followed later by his young daughter offering her crayons (and colouring book) to him, one labelled Cielo Infinito; indeed, the title track itself does seem to represent a calm, fresh and easy-going journey. To conclude, the attractive ‘Projection’, written by guest pianist for this track, John Chin, has a relaxed bossa feel (and, to my ears, a particular progression fleetingly reminiscent of McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’!), gliding along to produce uplifting displays from all three frontmen.

Recorded and engineered with great clarity in Brooklyn last October – and releasing on Michael Janisch’s own flourishing Whirlwind Recordings label on 30 July 2013 – further information, sound clips and purchasing options can be found at: http://www.whirlwindrecordings.com/infinite-blue/

I shall keep on listening… and cranking it up loud!


Patrick Cornelius
 alto saxophone
Frank Kimbrough  piano
Michael Janisch  bass
Jeff Ballard  drums
with
Nick Vayenas  trombone
Michael Rodriguez  trumpet
John Chin  piano

http://www.patrickcornelius.com/

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4637 (2013)