December 29, 2017

Esperanza Spalding - Exposure [2017]

This review was published on NextBop

Lately Esperanza Spalding seems to be in the business of doing things her fans don't expect. Considering the music of the more R&B-influenced Radio Music Society, her last album, Emily's D+Evolution, was a sharp left turn. Spalding had returned with a fantastic record that lies somewhere in whatever one would call an amalgamation of rock, pop and jazz fusion elements. The abrupt change in style may have caught some fans by surprise, but D+Evolution, contains some of the musicians best songs. With the epic "One", pop-sized fusion of "Judas" and Joni Mitchell-esque tracks like "Noble Nobles", it is arguably the best record of her discography. 

Cat Toren's Human Kind - Cat Toren's Human Kind [2017]

This review was published on NextBop

In the liner notes of Cat Toren's Human Kind, the pianist looks to the past to address the present. Even without the notes, it does not take much analysis to come to the conclusion that this record is political. The fact that it was released on the day of the presidential inauguration, the images of protestors, the Washington monument and song titles like "Regression" and "Sanctuary City", should be enough clues for any American. The pianist points out that in the past, jazz artists such as Nina Simone held benefit concerts for civil rights organizations like the Congress of Racial Equality and by donating the proceeds of this record to the American Civil Liberties Union, she addresses the present by honoring this past tradition. With the help of Xavier Del Castillo (Saxophone), Yoshie Fruchter (Oud/Guitar), Jake Leckie (Bass) and Matt Honor (Drums), Toren's compositions shine throughout Human Kind.

December 17, 2017

Greg Saunier, Mary Halvorson & Ron Miles - New American Songbooks, Volume 1 [2017]

This review was published on Free Jazz Blog
It would not be an exaggeration to say that it is literally impossible to find someone who genuinely loves jazz - be it a musician, fan or critic - that hasn't had some type of exposure to the songs in what has come to be known as the Great American Songbook. Famous numbers like Vernon Duke's "April In Paris", Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and many other show tunes that became jazz standards are still regularly played to this day. New American Songbooks, Volume 1, a Sound American release which features a collaboration between Greg Saunier (drums), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ron Miles (cornet), takes the past format - adapting music to the idiom of jazz that may not have been written with extended improvisation in mind - and applies it to more contemporary compositions.

December 16, 2017

Jaimie Branch - Fly or Die [2017]

This review was published on NextBop

Although Jaimie Branch has been playing music for a while now, having been part of the Chicago jazz scene before her recent move to Brooklyn, Fly or Die is her debut as a bandleader. The trumpeter's band is made up of Jason Ajemian (bass), Chad Taylor (drums) and notably cellist Tomeka Reid, whose quartet had a standout release in 2015. The main quartet is occasionally joined by Matt Schneider (guitar) and two cornetists, Ben Lamar Gay and Josh Berman. Debut albums in jazz can be a tricky business. In the case of a musician like Branch, who has been a side-woman in past studio recordings, the goal should be to firmly plant a compelling and distinct compositional voice on the recording, and that is exactly what she has done in Fly or Die.

December 4, 2017

To Be Continued - Poetry From The Future [2017]

This review was published on Free Jazz Blog

To Be Continued is a quartet composed of experienced musicians of the New York City improvised music scene. Each musician here is very talented, but upon a review of the personnel, the instrument that will catch the most eyes is the unconventional inclusion of a bassoon, expertly played by Claire de Brunner, a former student of jazz great Lee Konitz. She is joined by Carol Leibowitz, a veteran pianist who is just as versatile in the harsh as she is in the sublime. Daniel Carter shows his range, performing on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, trumpet and clarinet. The quartet is rounded out by Kevin Norton, whose gorgeous vibraphone, skilled drumming and other percussion, although often used more sparingly than the other instruments, are integral to some of the best moments on the record.