SMOKY NIGHTS – A Selection of the Best Jazz of the last few months, Volume 02 (September 2017).

The second volume of my SMOKY NIGHTS series of mixtapes features a selection of tracks from a few incredible Jazz albums published this year, and you’ll find both acclaimed and wordly respected artists but also a few minor gems that didn’t reach yet the same fame. The compilation I’ve assembled for this volume is actually an ode to jazz improvisation and the fantastic capacity of crafting dissonant and articulated harmonies that only the great ensembles succeed in doing. The selection for the second volume includes songs taken from the recent albums by SLOWFOX and the incredible supergroup featuring DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield. The mix is completed by other great pieces by “The Stone House” (Wingfield, Reuter, Stavi, Sirkis), Hadouk and the wonderful duo Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita. I really hope you enjoy it. Listen to the mixtape and, as usual, you can read some additional info after the widget.


 

SLOWFOX is the avant-garde jazz trio founded by German double bass virtuoso Sebastian Gramss with saxophonist Hayden Chisholm and pianist Philip Zoubek. The song appearing in the mixtape, Seen Dancing, is taken from their recent album, Gentle Giants, which is the second they have published so far. The beauty of the album – which is captured by the song selected for the mix – relies moslty in the exceptional balance between the beautiful harmonic improvisations and the reassuring melodies that lie in the background. This is one of the best LP I’ve listened in the recent times. I couldn’t open the new mixtape without them!

SLOWFOX - 1280x300


 

Guitarist John Scofield, drummer Jack DeJohnette, keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Larry Grenadier are four legends of modern jazz and their quartet undoubtedly deserves the caption of a “supergroup”. Their recent album, named Hudson, is an incredible example of what these masters of jazz improvisation may create together and the title track features interesting electronic and groovy elements that further enrich the musical landscape they’ve created.

FE11JAZZ.jpg


 

Third song of the mixtape is taken from The Stone House, the interesting album recorded live in the studio – withouth any overdub – by British guitarist Mark Wingfield, German touch guitarist Markus Reuter, bassist Yaron Stavi, and drummer Asaf Sirkisby. All of the music, including the hypnotic and fascinating track Tarasque, was completely improvised with no music written down or rehearsed.

the stone house - 1280x300


 

With Hadouk and its last album Le Cinquieme Fruit we enter into the last part of the mixtapes, where we abandon the intriguing and sometimes dissonant sounds of  improvisation to tackle another theme, which is the search for distant and lost sonorities. The music crafted by this incredible quartet is in fact an ecstatic journey through different cultures and their sounds, and the track selected for the mixtape, Valse au pays du tendreby, is a particulary poetic and dreamlike tune which sets the tone for this final section of the compilation.

Hadouk - 1280x300


 

The last piece of the mixtape comes from Transparent Water, the album released by the incredible duo featuring Cuban-born pianist Omar Sosa and Senegalese drummer, vocalist and kora player Seckou Keita. This record has been indicated many times here in this blog as one of the best jazz albums of 2017. The album is in fact a magic and wonderful mix of sounds and influences from the most disparate areas of the world. The song selected for the compilation, Another Prayer, features additional artist such as Japanese koto player Mieko Miyazaki and Chinese sheng master Wu Tong. The track is a spiritual and deeply emotional song that fully represents the spirit of this incredible collaboration.

SOSA & KEITA - 1280x300


 

Previous edition of the mixtape serie: SMOKY NIGHTS – Volume 01 (June 2017), featuring Avishai Cohen, Verneri Pohjola, Aaron Parks, Ben Street, Billy Hart, Anthony Jambon and Ferenc Snetberger.


 

SMOKY NIGHTS – A Selection of the Best Jazz of the last few months, Volume 01 (June 2017).

With SMOKY NIGHTS I present the best Jazz albums that have been published in the last few months. And on every issue of this series there will be a special mixtape where the best songs from these albums have been selected and mixed together in a 30-minutes seamless flow of beautiful music. The idea is that SMOKY NIGHTS will become a periodic event of my blog and will let us discover new artists as well as new works from consolidated artists. Enjoy the playlist and go read the commentary just below the widget.

 

Volume 1 of SMOKY NIGHTS is basically divied in two parts. At the beginning of the mixtape we have two complex and intimate pieces composed and recorded by two relatively young trumpetist: Avishai Cohen and Verneri Pohjola. The central piece, by pianist Aaron Parks and his bandmates, is the perfect transition between the first section, more dark and dissonant, and the final section of the mixtape, definitely more catchy and less introspective, which features a couple of great Jazz guitarist: Anthony Jambon and Ferenc Snetberger.

 

First song of the mixtape is 50 Years and Counting from the last album by trumpeter Avishai Cohen, named Cross My Palm With Silver, released on last May 5th. Cohen is one of the best trumpeter of his generation and on the two last albums he recorded for ECM he’s developing a different musical approach and compositional style compared to his early records (the Triveni phase), when the songs he played were certainly less profound and less conceptual than today. The song included in this mixtape is a valid representative of Cohen’s new phase of impressionistic and emotional jazz.

AVISHAI COHEN - 1280x300

 

Second track of the mixtape is Benjamin by Finnish trumpeter and composer Verneri Pohjola, and it’s picked up from his last record, Pekka, where he reinterprets the music of his late father, Pekka Pohjola, who was a (locally) acclaimed and revered prog-rock bassist and composer. Pohjola’s new record, released on June 2nd, provides us with an interesting jazz style in which rock influences are blended with eclectic sounds and sometimes dissonant constructions. It’s quite a complex work to comprehend at first, but it’s really growing on me with ripetute listens. The song in the playlist is one of my current favorites within the album, with its slow and incessant rhythm over which the melodic lines of the various instruments develop.

VERNERI POHJOLA - 1280x300

 

Third and central track of the playlist is Adrift, the first song from the last work by Aaron Parks, Ben Street and Billy Hart. The album, named Find the Way, has been published by EMC on last April 21st and sees Parks’s trio developing a fantastic combination of pulsating rythms and melodic piano lines. This is the eight album released by the prize-winning American pianist Aaron Parks as a leader, the second for ECM, and beyond the appearance of a classic piano-trio recording it presents some very special moments in which the three musicians find themselves playing outside of the classical boundaries of this genre and exploring relatively innovative musical structures. The song selected for the mixtape, however, is perhaps one of the most “classic” pieces of the entire album and it’s in fact rich of really enjoyable melodies on top of rather linear harmonic developments.

AARON and bandmates - 1280x300

 

The following track of the playlist comes from one of the best surprises in I encountered this year in Jazz, which is the debut album Precious Time by French guitarist Anthony Jambon and his four supporting virtuosistic musicians (Joran Cariou, Camille Passeri, Swaéli Mbappe and Martin Wangermée). I really like this work for the delicate balance that Jambon managed to achieve between simplicity of melodies and complexity of the rythimc sessions, The eight songs of the albums are definitely accessible and easy to enjoy also by less experienced listeners, but on such apparent simplicity I see a precise stylistic choice and certainly not a limitation in curiosity for musical exploration and improvisation. This is one of the best new artist who came out in 2017, and he did it with a superb debut release. The song from Precious Time which I selected for the mixtape is named Life and is a piece of passion and elegance.

Anthony Jambon Group @ New Morning - 02/05/2016

 

This first volume of the SMOKY NIGHT series is concluded with Kek Kerek, one of the most beautiful pieces from the beautiful album Titok released on last June by Hungarian guitarist Ferenc Snétberger. I fell in love with this album from the first time I listened to it. I presume that the special joy I get from this disc is also because this album is to some extent a partial compensation for the disappointment I had with the last work of Ralph Towner (My Foolish Hearth), on which maybe I put too many expectations and that in the end, after many weeks of listening, left me a little disappointed. I love acoustic guitar, sometimes I have a physical need to listen to it, and every time I’m aware of new record I enter in a state of fibrillation. And Titok was definitely not a disappointment! The album shows also Snétberger’s trio in a clear peak of inspiration and it demonstrates the special link that the three musicians achieved by playing together in many concerts. This trio features Swedish bassist Anders Jormin and US drummer Joey Baron, who’s been John Abercrombie’s drummer of choice for almost two decades.

SNèTBERGER - 1280x300

 

If you liked this new series of Jazz playlists and commentaries, stay tuned for the next releases which will appear on the blog. And in the meantime maybe you want to explore the other collections I’ve published with the best music of the last few months.

 

Best of New Pop (June 2017)
Best of New Rock (June 2017)
Best of New Thrash (June 2017)