Eric Revis Quartet: In Memory Of Things Yet Seen (CF 294)
Bassist Eric Revis has performed and recorded with saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ bands since 1997, and is a first-call session artist. Marsalis appears on two tracks for the bassist’s third solo date on the progressive Portugal-based label, Clean Feed Records. The core quintet features a formidable frontline with tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry and alto saxophonist Darius Jones. And diversity is a key driver during a host of jazz-centric formats, constructed on scrappy maneuvers; contrapuntal statements, quirky rhythmic jaunts, and ballsy, hard-hitting grooves. The album also contains pieces that are modeled with swarming, episodic free style dialogues, perky bop fabrications and exploratory ruminations.
Revis introduces Sun Ra’s “The Shadow World” with a complex bass passage that also triggers a degree of anticipation of how the piece will develop. Hence, the saxophonists enter into the picture with compact unison phrasings, elevating the festivities to a soul-stirring pitch and leaving space in between choruses atop Chad Taylor’s blustery drumming. Hence, a torrential downpour ensues, and a sense of urgency takes center stage via the soloists spiraling discourses amid seething crescendos. Moreover, the rhythm section operates at a feverish pace, leading to a red-hot apogee. Ultimately, Revis skillfully aligns prominent artistic values into a contrasting set of compositions, perhaps highlighting his worldly experiences as a consummate jazz musician whose visionary outlook comes to fruition once again.
Tony Malaby Tamarindo – Somos Agua (CF 304)
While Tony Malaby has many outlets for his burly tenor saxophone, few of them pack the visceral heft of Tamarindo, the outfit crewed by bassist William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits. Malaby hit paydirt with the trio’s eponymous 2007 debut, built on that success by adding trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith for a somewhat murky live recording in 2010, but has now reverted to the original lineup for the band’s third album, Somos Agua. It’s every bit the match for its illustrious forebears. Heads tend to be sketchy affairs, which only serve to get the real business underway – a series of cohesive collective outbursts.
Malaby is a monster, restlessly creative through all the registers of his horn, from earthy honks to fluent overblowing. But what makes him so fascinating is
that the undoubted power is leavened by a willingness to enlist any resource, whether muffled snorts, hoarse whistles, multiphonic shrieks or querulous wavering cries. Whatever works. Parker has the savvy to follow wherever Malaby roams, able to turn on a dime from gargantuan propulsion to bravura swipes of the bow while Waits blends crisp articulation at high tempos with a playbook of ever-changing rhythmic patterns.
At first blush each of the seven cuts sounds part of an unfettered blowing session, but after repeated listens barely discernible melodic themes become apparent, which briefly surface from the organic ebb and flow (not always at the outset) and fuel further group exploration. Neither tone nor time pass as absolutes in Tamarindo’s universe, shifting unpredictably and stretching or compressing elastically. Malaby forges a particularly strong connection to Parker, manifest most notably on the lengthy discursive conversation between the pair on “Bitter Dream”. But bass and drums don’t always shadow the saxophone, creating a quicksilver threepart counterpoint emerging from more conventional trio transactions. Malaby clearly understands the paradox that it takes a really tight unit to play this loose yet still keep focus.
Matt Bauder And Day In Pictures—Nightshades (CF 289)
Matt Bauder is a man of diverse interests. A former student of Anthony Braxton’s, the reed player has reinterpreted doo–wop, explored the intersection of minimalist process music and improvisation and occupied the horn chair in Arcade Fire. If one thing ties together these endeavors, it’s his determination to respect what he is playing but not simply take it at face value. Bauder finds a way to put a very personal spin on whatever he plays, and that is just as true with jazz combo Day In Pictures. The quintet, which includes trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Kris Davis (replacing Angelica Sanchez), bassist Jason Ajemian, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, takes the sounds and conventions of what was called modern jazz half a century ago and reconciles it with more contemporary elements.
Neither side subverts the other, and both get their due.
“Octavia Minor” kicks things off with a hell of a scenario. What if Ethio-jazz originator Mulatu Astatke had arranged and composed for Horace Silver in the mid-’60s? The rhythm section finds common ground between them right away, with Davis’s insistent left hand and short ascending figures introducing a sinuous twist to Ajermian and Fujiwara’s Latin-tinged swing. Bauder’s tenor comes in with a bent note so alluring you want to give it your wallet, then plays out a series of questing variations on the tune that seem to dance close to Davis’s accompaniment without ever quite touching. Further on, he restates the theme with a rough flutter that Wooley picks up and elaborates; the horn language says improv, now as forcefully as the harmonies and rhythms say Addis and NYC, then. The boundaries between decades dissolve.
One could count down the ways that post-micro-sound gets in bed with Blue note-vintage Wayne Shorter, and contemporary noise hooks elbows with funny hat-era Pharoah Sanders, but it would probably be more fun for you to play through the record and marvel at these resolutions of difference for yourself.
Or one could simply step back and admire the way rigorous execution and pleasurable expression become one throughout this marvelous album. No one is doing more these days to make accessible sense of jazz’s advances since the Eisenhower administration than this ensemble and Wooley’s similarly focused Sextet, which also records for Clean Feed. Next time someone questions jazz’s viability, play ‘em this.
Kris Davis Trio – Waiting For You To Grow (CF 292)
Quem faça questão de sentir chão firme sob os pés levará algum tempo a habituar-se a uma música ritmicamente tão instável como uma cama de água. Claro que só músicos do mais alto gabarito estão aptos a mover-se sobre substratos tão vacilantes e a pianista Kris Davis encontrou-os em John Hébert (contrabaixo) e Tom Rainey (bateria), que assinam aqui o segundo disco do trio. Entra-se nele por “Whirly Swirly”, feita de piano esquelético e ácido (Monk paira por aqui) e contrabaixo e bateria encabritados, mas que, para o fim, engrena num ritmo obsessivo, cada vez mais denso e brutal. Melhor ainda é “Hiccups” (soluços), cujo início entrecortado faz justiça ao título e se converte, pouco a pouco, numa formidável engrenagem rítmica, assimétrica e angulosa.
Kullhammar/Zetterberg/Aalberg – Basement Sessions Vol 2 (CF 293)
Jonas Kullhammar’s Basement Sessions: Volume 2 is an excellent album, confident and powerful, influenced by and adding to the great tradition of hard bop sax/bass/drum trios like Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Ornette Coleman, and Dexter Gordon. This album is a tribute to a trio led by Elvin Jones, who, with Joe Farrell and Jimmy Garrison, released two albums on Blue Note — Puttin’ it Together, and Ultimate.
The trio of Jonas Kullhammar, Espen Aalberg and Torbjorn Zetterberg were clearly drawing from these sessions as inspiration for the Basement Sessions. Drummer Aalberg, composer of most of the compositions, evokes the spirit of those Blue Note sessions in track like Gluck, One for Joe, Elvin’s Birthday Song and Moserobie Blues, with Kullhammar punching and parrying playfully thoughout, and Zetterberg laying the solid rhythms to provide the glue between the two. Yet while upholding this tradition, they are cognizant of the contemporary music scene, and tracks like Moksha and Triton, they become more contemplative and abstract without being too obtuse.
Kullhammar has had, throughout his career, one foot in traditional hard bop and the other in contemporary improvisational music, and his efforts to combine both and make meaningful, urgent jazz in the 21st century make for compelling listening. With the combined efforts of Aalberg and Zetterberg, Kullhammar has put out one of his best efforts in years.