Quick Review: “Black Blank” by Laurent Assoulen

The first time I had the pleasure to listen to the music played by French pianist Laurent Assoulen, the thing that impressed me the most was not his technique or virtuosity, but rather his clear passion for fascinating melodies, ethnic sounds and popular tunes. What he does in most of his compositions is basically to start from a beautiful and catchy motif, and then manipulate and elaborate into an intriguing Jazz piece.


Assoulen’s new album, named Black Blank, can be divided into two main groups of songs. On the one hand, we have a number of pieces that reflect the modern canons of contemporary Jazz, still with a special emphasis on melody and catchiness. These songs are all extremely sweet, serene and seem perfect to accompany many moments of our days. Someone could lack something in terms of harmonic complexity and improvisation, but this is balanced an accentuated weight of the melodic component.


The second group of songs is the one where Assoulen ventures into the field of World music, mixing the typical dynamics of Jazz with deeply suggestive ethnic sounds and melodies. These two categories of songs alternate along the LP, making the listening experience extremely dynamic and lively.


I’m giving this album a rating of 6/10. Black Blank is the perfect LP for all those moments in which we want to enjoy elegant and fascinating melodies, and leaving our mind free to travel into distant regions of the world.

My favourite songs of the LP are: Every Day is a New Life, Col Chic, Far Away and Waking up in Africa.



Black Blank can be streamed from Spotify, and a couple of songs from the LP are now featured on two of the playlists that are curated by the blog: The Voyager (special selections in World Music) and The JAZZ MUSIC Radar (the best jazz songs of 2019). Enjoy, and follow them!


FORWARD THINKING JAZZ: a Playlist of the music that looks into the future

Contemporary Jazz is sometimes wrongly regarded as a kind of music that is rooted into the past or, even worse, as a genre that where the musicians can’t do anything more thanreiterate the usual basic patterns, above which some technically gifted artist improvises through articulated scales and advanced techniques. Lovers of this music, and in particular those who have also the opportunity to deal with other different genres, know which is the reality. Very often is in the world of Jazz that we find those musical seeds, the gems of innovation, that grow with time – maybe along lines which were impossible to predict at the beginning – to generate their fruits in contexts that can be even very distant from the point of origin.

FORWARD THINKING JAZZ is a new playlist that was created to celebrate the artists and the songs that more than others bring inside the elements of musical innovation. This is the kind of Jazz that has the potential to leave the most profound mark into the world of music. The playlist is launched with a first set of eleven songs, all released in the last few months, for an initial duration of about 1 hour. But stay tuned and keep following the playlist because new innovative Jazz tracks will be added very frequently to the initial list. Most important, however, be assured that you’ll find here always the best Jazz as soon as it’s released.


 

Absolute Beauty, The Best of Melodic Jazz

 

The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or ever touched,
they must be felt with the heart.

 


 

I’ve selected and arranged the most delicate and elegant Jazz songs of the last few years into a compilation of 2 hours of absolute beauty. It’s available both as a Mixcloud track and a Spotify compilation. Both widgets are provided below.

The selection features artists such as Jan Lundgren, Tigran Hamasyan, Avishai Cohen, Brad Mehldau, Nicolas Kummert, Janek Gwizdala and many others.



 

Melodies in Jazz

This is an ode to the conclusion of summer. This is a compilation with some of the most beautiful, delicate and elegant Jazz songs of the year. The list of contributors to this playlist includes: Markus Stockhausen, Anthony Jambon Group, Nicolas Kummert, Jan Lundgren, Note Forget, Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita, Benedikt Jahnel Trio, and Hadouk. The two aphorisms which open and conclude the compilation are from François de La Rochefoucauld.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


 

Three Jazz Albums You Can’t Absolutely Miss: SLOWFOX, Vijay Iyer and Markus Stockhausen

One of the best things of music is that it’s always able to amaze you. Some artists succeed in manipulating conventions and recombining the basic elements of their genre by creating something new that did not exist before. I found this element in three of the Jazz albums I have heard in recent times and which I propose your attention to this post. You’ll find a couple of well know artists (Iyer and Stockhausen) but also a relatively new ensemble (SLOWFOX). What a great year for Jazz has been this one!


 

Gentle Giants by SLOWFOX (feat. Sebastian Gramss, Hayden Chisholm & Philip Zoubek)

 

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SLOWFOX is the recent jazz project founded by German double bass virtuoso Sebastian Gramss. The project is basically a jazz / avant-garde trio featuring saxophonist Hayden Chisholm and pianist Philip Zoubek. The three skilled musicians have released on last May the second album of the project, named Gentle Giants, which is an excellent testimony of the current status of contemporary chamber music. The beauty of the album relies moslty in the exceptional balance between the beautiful harmonic improvisations and the melodic background that characterize all the songs of the disc. The music of SLOWFOX seems to float perpetually between these two domains, that boundless creativity and the reassuring melodies. The absence of the drums makes this sensation even stronger, and creates an extravagant, intriguing and sometimes hypnotic effect. The artistic concept that has guided the composition of the songs of the album is probably summarized by the quote that is obtained by reading one after the other the titles of the 15 songs: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” (probably to be accredited to Friedrich Nietzsche)

A few selected tracks from Gentle Giants, taken from the bandcamp page of the album:

 


 

Far From Over by Vijay Iyer Sextet

 

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One of the most influential figures of the current Jazz scene, American pianist Vijay Iyer is also one of the most experimental and prolific composers of these days. After having achieved a remarkable success with the two great – and relatively “standard” – albums released for the ACT label in 2009 (Historicity) and in 2013 (Accelerando), he’s been involved in wide range of heterogenous musical projects which explored territories well beyond conventional Jazz. Iyer’s last work, the beautiful Far From Overapparently marks a sort of return to the more usual sounds and structure of Jazz music, but in reality it conceals an absolutely modern and courageous reading of the old canons of this musical genre. From a purely formal point of view, in fact, we find in this album a collection of compositions which correspond to the typical structures of hard bop, swing, funky-jazz or avant-garde. The approach to the music, however, is completely innovative and sees the artis and his five skilled bandmates taking corageous paths which unpredictably diverge from the convention. In some songs of the album, partly because of the composition of the ensemble (two saxophones, one flugehorn, piano, bass and double drums) and partly because of the peculiar way of playing of the musicians, I felt sensations and emotions similar to those I had the first time I listened Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka. That’s another milestone for Jazz, another great album by Vijay Iyer.


 

Far into the Stars by Markus Stockhausen

 

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One year after the release of beautiful and poetical album Alba, German trumpeter and composer Markus Stockhausen comes back with another ethereal release. Far into the Stars, the last of a long discography of albums, is a further testimony to the artist’s ability of creating delicate and fascinating atmsopheres where no sound is ever dissonant with the former one, and all the instruments works organically for the definition of engaging and emotional layers of melodies. The style of Stockhausen is often tending towards the sonorities and musicality typical of classical music and this album does not deviate from this trend. The songs of the album are soft, gentle but still permeated by an underlying tension. This is another precious gem in the collection of records released by a great representative of modern Jazz.


 

 

 

 

 

Guerino presents: BOUNCING ATOMS, Special Selections in Electronic Music, Volume 01 / Vintage & Electro-Swing (07/2017)

Readers of the blog will have noticed that I’m launching in the last few weeks a new series of mixtape, each one dedicated to a specific musical genre. The idea is to collect in a more structured way the various mixes that are published frequently on the blog and to present with them the best new music that is released for every different category. BOUNCING ATOMS will be the mixtape series collecting the best of new electronic music. Given the huge heterogeneity of sub-genres within electronic music, each chapter of the series will be devoted to a specific theme. Firs volume is dedicated to the funny and crazy world of Electro Swing, a genre which fuses dance-floor rhythms with modern jazz and vintage swing inserts. This kind of electronic music is getting a lot of attention nowadays because of a number of very talented musicians that are producing incredible albums.

Main contributors to Volume 1 of the mixtape series are Tape Five, Parov Stelar, Chinese Man and Phoenix. There are also a couple of special tracks featuring Waldeck and Igorrr.

Enjoy this selection of tracks selected and mixed by Guerino and follow the blog for future updates.

 

Other recent mixtape series recently published in this blog:

 

Best of New Rock

 

Best of New Jazz

 

Best of New Meditative and Modern Classical Music

 

Best of New Indie Pop

 

Best of New Thrash Metal

 

 

Mid-Year Verdicts: TOP TEN JAZZ ALBUMS IN 2017

EDIT: if you arrived to this page with a search engine, please be informed that there are updated charts with the best Jazz albums of 2017. You can easily discover these from the Jazz section of the blog.


 

After the publication of the top ten chart for Electronic music, let’s see now which are the best ten albums for the Jazz category. This list takes into consideration the releases occurred within the first six months of 2017. The interesting thing which emerges from a quick view of the chart is that there are a lot of relatively young musicians and two debut albums, meaning that we’re living in a special period of jazz renewal.

The new artists who are entering the Jazz scene evidently transfer into their music the experiences and the typical feelings of those generations which are today between 30 and 40 years old, with all the different musical influences that they have been exposed to. And it is no coincidence that contemporary Jazz language is increasingly embracing the dynamics and timbres of other musical genres, even those which are apparently quite far from the classical paradigms of Jazz: folk, rock, noise, and metal. If this may bother the purists of the genre, it seems to me a truly exceptional thing and it’s probably one of the elements that keeps this fantastic musical genre alive.

Before starting with the list of albums, let me give you a small reminder about the new series of Jazz compilations that I’ve just started to publish in this blog. This series, named Smoky Nights, collects the most recent and valuable songs appearing on the recent albums. Here is the first volume of the series, which will be followed by periodical updates.

And let’s start now with the Top Ten chart.

 

#1) An Ancient Observer by Tigran Hamasyan

I spoke about the wonderful new album by Tigran Hamasyan in many recent post of this blog, and it’s definitely no surprise that this work is still solidly at the top of the rankings. From the very first opportunities I had to listen to An Ancient Observer, I immediately understood that it was going to be a major release for the current year, across all genres.

Differently from Tigran’s most recent productions, An Ancient Observer sees the young Armenian composer focused primarily on the piano. The simplicity of the arrangements in this case is in favour of Tigran’s music, since we can fully appreciate the beautiful balance that he managed to achieve between Armenian folk music (which is based on a different tonal system with respect to the European one) and those more conventional – and for us familiar – musical structures. The melodies in Tigran’s songs are always suspended on this unstable equilibrium between two worlds and two cultures, and this dynamic contrast creates a fascinating and magical atmosphere. Listening to the album, however, we appreciate how this is today the result of years and years of work and persistent refinement rather than just a circumscribed musical experiment. As a matter of fact, we’re speaking of a musician that is incorporating local folk melodies into jazz-form improvisations since his teens.

Sometimes, even if quite rarely, there are songs that can hit you deep in your emotions. Songs where the beauty of the melodies is combined with a great expressiveness of the interpretation. An Ancient Observer is full of these kind of songs. This is with no doubts a musical work that will leave a mark for a long time. Not to be missed, absolutely.

 

#2) Transparent Water by Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita

Cuban-born jazz pianist Omar Sosa has built a vast discography of works in which he plays with musicians from all around the globe, often travelling outside the standard of jazz traditions. In his last album he joined the efforts with the Senegalese drummer, vocalist and kora player Seckou Keita, who is today one of the most charismatic musicians from Africa. The duo has released a beautiful album, Transparent Water, which sees contributions from other musicians from the most disparate areas of the world with their characteristics musical instruments: we have Japanese koto player Mieko Miyazaki, Chinese sheng player Wu Tong, and Venezuelan percussionist and batá player Gustavo Ovalles, just to mention a few ones.

But like a sort of magic, what could be imagined at first as a chaotic mix of sounds, influences and instruments, here is wonderfully transformed into a celebration of simplicity and – to some extent – it becomes an ode to the universality of music. The experience of listening to this beautiful album is really a journey through ethnic sounds and enchanting melodies, with the different musical traditions which complement each other providing the listener with varied nuances of the same basic tune. Wonderful.

 

#3) Potsdamer Platz by Jan Lundgren

Potsdamer Platz is the last work by Jan Lundgren and it’s actually the first “conventional” Jazz album we find in this chart if we want to stick to the common idea that most people have of a Jazz ensemble.

Postdamer Plaz sees the Swedhish pianist and composer play together with a new quartet he assembled with Jukka Perko (alto & soprano sax), former E.S.T. Dan Berglund (bass), and Morten Lund (drums). This all-Scandinavian band has managed to craft and record a fantastic sequence of songs, which initially may appear as simple lounge-bar jazz tunes but that in reality show how it’s possible to balance enjoyability with tradition, something that it’s easy to proclame but very difficult to implement in reality.

As reported on his biography, Lundgren is part of a remarkable and long tradition of innovative pianists from Sweden like Jan Johansson, Bobo Stenson and Esbjörn Svensson. He has the ability to integrate the most disparate musical influences into a fascinating whole. Whether its contemporary classical music, the northern folk tradition or the groove of jazz, Lundgren has a unique way of leading the listener on a voyage of discovery – sometimes relaxed, sometimes more passionate – through his magnificent musical soundscapes. An instant classic.

 

#4) Precious Time by Anthony Jambon Group

At place 4 of the chart we encounter the best Jazz debut of the year (or at least of the first six months of 2017). This is the surprising album named Precious Time released by French guitarist Anthony Jambon, who’s supported here by four additional young Jazz musicians (Joran Cariou, Camille Passeri, Swaéli Mbappe and Martin Wangermée).

I really enjoyed this work, in particular for the delicate balance that Jambon has managed to achieve between simplicity of his melodies and complexity of the rythimc sessions. The eight songs of the album are definitely accessible and easy to enjoy also by less experienced listeners, but the apparent simplicity of the musical constructs looks definitely as a precise stylistic choice and certainly not a limitation in curiosity of the author towards musical exploration and improvisation. This is one of the happy surprises of the year, and Jambon is for sure an artist that we shall follow to see his future steps into the realms of Jazz. Fresh and vibrant.

 

#5) La Diversité by Nicolas Kummert

The album which we find today at 5th place of my chart is slowly but steadily ascending on most of the charts that I periodically write in this blog, not only when I speak about Jazz, and this is because some musical works need a longer time to be fully comprehended and appreciated. And we can’t even rule out that its growth hasn’t stopped here. The album that I’m talking about is La Diversité, produced by the young Belgian jazz singer and tenor saxophonist Nicolas Kummert with major support from Benin-born guitarist and singer Lionel Loueke.

Differently to the two albums which precede this one on the chart (i.e. Potsdamer Platz and Precious Time) here we are in front of a less immediate kind of Jazz. Kummert’s saxophone lines are subtle and articulated, his style incorporates so many different influences that it’s today incredibly eclectic, vibrant and surprising. In addition to that, Lionel Loueke gave a very significant contribution to the entire album and a special touch of Africanism to many songs in this record.

This is not an album wnich you can just put in the background during your busy evenings and leave it there for its nice soundscapes; you need to listen it carefully in order to enjoy its curious and inspired musical lines. And as I said at the beginning, this is an album that I’m appreciating more and more everytime I put it once again in my music player. Profound and full of suprires, one of the most challenging but interesting albums of the year.

 

#6) Titok by Ferenc Snétberger

Titok, by Hungarian artist Ferenc Snétberger, is an ode to guitar. Snétberger is playing this instrument since almost 50 years (his biography states that he had classical guitar lessons from 1970) and throughout his career he has been exploring many different styles and influences (from the ‘hot‘ jazz guitar of “Django” Reinhardt to Latin American musics, passing through US jazz and European classical traditions). Well, what we hear in this record seems to be a point of arrival for all these different experiences he had so far and the album certainly represents an important chapter in the artist’s career.

In this record Snétberger plays together with Swedish bassist Anders Jormin and US drummer Joey Baron. The album contains some old Snétberger’s tunes that are reinterpreted (magistrally) by the trio, along with new compositions where the three musicians are more oriented towards improvisation. The atmospheres created by the guitarist and his comrades are typically warm and gentle, and everything seems made with the precise will to enhance the poetic sound of Snétberger’s guitar. That’s a very good Jazz release, for both lovers of jazz guitar and also those causal listeners who simply want to enjoy a beautiful collection of nice songs.

 

#7) Circles by MEM3

MEM3 is a relatively young and cosmopolitan jazz trio consisting of pianist Michael Cabe from Seattle, bassist Mark Lau from Sydney and drummer Ernesto Cervini from Toronto. The trio has released to this date two very enjoyable and elegant jazz albums, the last one named Circles and published in the first months of 2017. In their albums they play mostly original compositions from all three musicians as well as a few traditional hymns.

The particularity of this trio is that you really feel how each single member of the group was equally important for the development of the album. In everyone of the songs of the album you can clearly recognize who’s the leading player for that tune, this is typically the composer of the piece, but he’s always skilfully supported by the other musicians of the band. The alternation of the leader role for the various pieces guarantees in itself a good variety in the songs of the album. Additionally, tthe delicate and just perceptible contrast among the three different music styles gives the album a further element of interest.

From a musical point of view, the trio is clearly influenced by a few masters of Contemporay Jazz such as Peter Erskine, The Bad Plus and the Esbjorn Svensson Trio. Their music is kind, elegant but never trivial, and the album benefits of excellent recording and production that allow you to listen even to the most subtle nuances of the sounds produced by their instruments. There are a few delicate electronic inserts that do not disturb at all, rather they enrich the songs and make even more intense some of the beautiful atmospheres produced by the three musicians. A small gem in the landscape of modern jazz.

 

#8) Planetary Prince by Cameron Graves

Planetary Prince is the exaggerated and exuberant solo album by Cameron Graves, who is mostly known for being the pianist of Kamasi Washington’s jazz ensemble. This is the second debut album in the chart and another confirmation of what I was writing at the beginning of the post about the transformation that these new artists are producing on conventional Jazz, something that is particularly evident here given the mind-expanding inventions that mark all of Cameron Grave’s work.

The progressive Jazz pianist from Los Angeles wrote for this LP a phenomenal and quite refreshing collection of songs which remind us about the tunes of the past but with the addition of a healthy dose of madness. Kamasi Washington said Abou the album: “it is an amazing and almost unbelievable combination of modal jazz, romantic era European classical music, and mathematical death metal. A style so cool that it deserves its own genre

Cameron Graves is also a founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective, a collaborative group of musicians born and raised in Los Angeles. The members of the collective (which includes also Kamasi Washington, Miles Mosley, Tony Austin, Ryan Porter, Ronald Bruner Jr. and Brandon Coleman) are united by their common will to innovate music. Graves, on his part, gave an important contribution by trying to reimagine the modern jazz with main influences from progressive rock and cosmology.  Terrific and energetic, Planetary Prince is an incredible collection of explosive and vibrant songs.

 

#9) Sleepwalkers by Omer Klein

Sleepwalkers is the seventh album by the Israeli-born pianist Omer Klein, recorded with his world-touring trio featuring Haggai Cohen-Milo on bass and Amir Bresler on drums. The album follows his successful 2015’s LP Fearless Friday, which gave him increased popularity.

Omer Klein grew up in Israel, a Country which gave so many talented Jazz musicians in the last decade, but his Jazz formation happened in the U.S. where he became a notable member of the NYC jazz scene. Today he lives in Germany, and the move to Europe gave Klein a notable further improvements in compositional style and also additional influences for improvisations.

The music in Sleepwalkers is a magical fusion between introspection and energy, something that’s today a characteristic feature of Klein’s style, and the album definitely increases the number of rewarding piano trio releases we had the opportunity to enjoy this year.

 

#10) Danse by Colin Vallon Trio

The final entry of this Top Ten chart for Jazz is occupied by Colin Vallon and his last album Danse, which sees the Swiss pianist playing with Patrice Moret on bass and Julian Sartorius on drums and percussions. This also the third release for ECM after publication of Le Vent in 2014 and Rruga in 2011.

Colin Vallon’s music is mostly based on the idea of exploring basic melodies or elementary harmonies with nuanced motifs or disjointed and dissonant counterpoints. And one the most beautiful aspects of the music in this album is that sense of dangerous instability that exists between classical musical forms and a restless spirit of experimentation that ultimately explodes in all the songs.

Colin Vallon is another valid representative of that young generation of Jazz musicians who are deliberately transforming the conventional canons of the genre through the use of inspirations from distant worlds, in this case we clearly recognize both the obsessive rhythms of György Ligeti and the melodic melodic developments of melodic rock, like those of the early Radiohead. 

 

June 2017, Best Jazz Album of the Month: Titok by Ferenc Snétberger

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Readers of this blog should have noticed that in the last few weeks I’m talking often about this artist and his last fantastic record. As a matter of fact, from the first moments I came across with Titok, the recent album that the Hungarian artist Ferenc Snétberger has released for ECM, I became a fervent sponsor of this LP and practically I mention it in any article about jazz I write for the blog. And I will continue to do so, also because I’m about to publish the list of the top ten Jazz albums of the first half of 2017, and I can anticipate that this work has quickly won a position in this ranking. As a side note: the album has been officially released at the end of April, but I managed to get a copy only a few weeks ago and I couldn’t miss the chance to give it the reward it deserved.

Titok is an ode to guitar. Snétberger is playing this instrument since almost 50 years (his biography states that he had classical guitar lessons from 1970) and throughout his career he has been exploring many different styles and influences (from the ‘hot‘ jazz guitar of “Django” Reinhardt to Latin American musics, passing through US jazz and European classical traditions). Well, what we hear in this record seems to be a point of arrival for all these different experiences he had so far and the album certainly represents an important chapter in the artist’s career.

“Alom” on the present disc is an adaptation of an old theme referencing Roma music, while “Orange Tango” and “Renaissance” acknowledge their inspirational sources in their titles. Yet none of these pieces sounds “eclectic”, the diverse sources are integrated organically inside Snétberger’s music, and accessed readily through the guitar. (snetberger.com)

In order to record this album, Ferenc Snétberger joined with Swedish bassist Anders Jormin and US drummer Joey Baron. Titok marks the first time they have played together on an album, but it is evident that a special chemistry was generated among these musicians. Snétberger and Jormin, in particular, often find themselves exploring the most hidden facets of the main melodies, and it seems like they really played together since a long time from the way the two complement each other without any hesitation.

From a musical point of view the songs of Titok belong to two main categories: there are same old Snétberger’s tunes that are reinterpreted (magistrally) by the trio, along with new compositions where the three musicians are more oriented towards improvisation. There is, however, a consistency of style that makes it an absolutely homogeneous record and in its essence the album can also be seen as a single continuous music stream. The atmospheres created by the guitarist and his comrades are typically warm and gentle, and everything seems made with the precise will to enhance the poetic sound of the guitar and the beautiful melodic lines of which the disc is full. That’s a very good release, for both lovers of jazz guitar and also those causal listeners who simply want to approach a beautiful musical experience.

The title-track song of the album was featured as the opening track of my recent mixtape dedicated to Jazz guitar, you may enjoy it from the widget below.

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.

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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.

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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)

 

 

 

Mid-Year Verdicts: TOP TEN ELECTRONIC ALBUMS IN 2017

I’m starting with this post the selection of the best albums of the first half of the year 2017.  First entry is dedicated to Electronic Music. As you may expect the chart is going to include many different styles ans sub-genres, reflecting the thousand faces of this musical genre. We will find below a few elegant musicians playing with delicated electronic effects alongside with artists of noise or maniacs of the experimentation. In all cases, however, the albums that have found their position in the list have something special and unique, it may be musical innovation or the perfection in songwriting. Ten albums, ten great artists or bands, ten different ways to convey passion and emotions through electronic tools.

 

#1) Shikantaza by Chinese Man

(Trip Hop, Funk, Dub, Hip Hop, Reggae and Jazz)

Since the first moment I played this album on last February, I realized that this was going to be a long-term companion throughout the year. Now that we have arrived at mid-year, it’s no surprise that Shikantaza, the last release by the electronic collective Chinese Man, is at the top of the Electronic Chart.

5 years after their first album Racing with the Sun, Chinese Man is back with a new opus, Shikantaza, composed between Marseille, Mumbay and their secret nest in the french countryside. Shikantaza is an invitation to let go, to capture the moment, a personal path to enlightenment. (Chinese Man Records)

With this album, the French trip-hop-influenced rap collective has realized a woderful and perfectly balanced mix of funky, groove, hip-hop and many other fragements of musical genres and ethnic references. The are a few songs that stand out for their brilliance and creativity, but at the end it is the average level of all the tracks which leave us speechless. Shikantaza is an album made to be listened and listened again, this is one of those albums that you can easily play in the background during your day for hours and hours and never get tired of listening to it. But sometimes you will find yourself turning up the volume and dancing alone like a fool, captured by one of the many vintage rhythms that punctuate the entire disc.

 

#2) The Assassination of Julius Caesar by Ulver

(Synth Pop, New Wave, EDM)

It’s not easy to categorize the music from Ulver, the Norwegian experimental musical collective that is nowadays approaching 25 years of activity. If their early works explored the realms of black and folk metal, with the passing of time they have initiated an incredible and ambitious exploration of other musical genres, including ambient, electronica, and neoclassical. This year, with their last work named The Assassination of Julius Caesar, the band is experimenting with synthpop and EDM. The result is brilliant, as if the four Norwegians were long-term and celebrated artists of this genre, and not the neophytes of this type of music as they are in reality.

Those familiar with this stubborn pack of wolves from Oslo will not be surprised that they also this time round are shifting shape. Never afraid of challenging or redefining current musical conventions, Ulver has now enacted what they are calling “their pop album”. You don’t have to worry about vexing radio humdrum or pastel ear candy though – Talk Talk and Music Machine are pop music as good as any in the universe of Ulver. A universe where “pop” is more a mark of distinction, denoting immediacy and possible body movement (House of Mithology)

The album manages to combine an incredible fluidity of sounds with a unique and truly elegant musical elegance, something that’s really challenging and not easy to achieve with electronic music. The quality of the LP is very high, on all aspects, and that’s basically one of the entries in this music chart which surprised me the most

 

#3) Savage Sinusoid by Igorrr

(Breakcore, Experimental, Baroquecore, Death Metal)

I was expecting this album for ages. And when it arrived, it delivered. Igorrr is a unique project, led by one of those musical innovators who appear once every generation. And the last album produced by Gautier Serre and his supporting musicians, Savage Sinusoid, is simply a masterpiece of experimentation and electronic madness.

On this record, electronic manipulations, accordion, saxophone, sitar, harpsichord, mandolin and strings sit comfortably alongside ruthless blastbeats, chunky riffs, death grunts and soaring operatic vocals – and as chaotic as this might sometimes seem, there is no lack of heart behind everything thundering from the speakers. (Igorrr.com)

There is no way to properly capture Igorrr’s sound and style by just words, the best you can do if you’re not familiar with the production from these crazy Frenchmen is to visit their bandcamp page and start exploring their rich discography. If this is not your first encounter with the band you already know what to expect with Savage Sinusoid. There is however some evolution with the previous works, in particular for what concern the level of experimentation they do with the basic elements of the songs. In the early works of their discography you could see that the starting point of the song (whether it was an harpsichord sonata by Scarlatti or a popular Balkan dance) was just the beginning of an exploratory journey that could eventually lead to something really different. In their last album, the amount of experimentation seems a little bit reduced and the original baselines are more present throughout each of the songs, giving even more diversity to the different tracks of the album.

From a technical point of view, the album is “sample free“, meaning that everything you listen in the album has been played or generated for the purpose of the disc. You really need to see the “making of” videos on YouTube to understand how Igorrr play and record their songs. Alternatively, the official video for the song Cheval gives an hint on their unique style.

In summary… this is not music for everyone: it requires mental opening, curiosity and sense of wonder to go beyond the chaos. I like it a lot, I’m listening to this album almost uninterruptedly since the first day I got it. And it’s not excluded that in the coming months we will find it even in higher rankings of this chart.

 

#4) The Burning Spider by Parov Stelar

(Electro Swing, Downtempo, Dance Pop)

Parov Stelar is the stage name for Marcus Füreder, an Austrian musician, producer and DJ which gained some popularity in the electronics industry as one of the pioneers of “electronic-swing”. In his productions he mixes with great skill disparate elements from house music, dance and even some fragments of jazz. It’s worth saying that Parov Stelar is Austria’s most successful international artist and won 7 Amadeus Austrian Music Awards. His unique sound, his specific approach to music production and the unorthodox combination of musical genres soon made him the star of an uprising scene.

In the last years he released a number of good and captivating albums, almost one every year. The album he published in 2017 is named The Burning Spider and it is another great collection of enjoyable and variegated electro-swing tracks together with more conventional dance-pop tracks.

 

#5) Soiree Deluxe by Tape Five

(Electro Swing, Dance)

This year we see a clear resurgence of the electro-swing and it is not by chance that we have in this chart, one after the other, two worthy representatives of this musical genre. German collective Tape Five claim to be the co-inventors of the electro-swing and Soiree Deluxe is the 6th studio album of the project.

Beyond the bold statements from the band, it is beyond doubt that these guys have found the perfect recipe to mix together virbant electronic beats with swing jazz, bossa nova, reggae and other multiple influences. The album is a collection of refreshing tracks that are enriched with marvellous performance from very skilled musicians (mostly horn sections and singers). A special positive characteristic of the album is the high number of very good tracks that you will find inside. Very rarely I find myself liking so many tracks from a single work, and this is one of these few cases.

 

#6) Migration by Bonobo

(Downtempo, Chill Out, Ambient Electronic)

Migration, the sixth electronic album in the career of British DJ Simon Greenby (a.k.a. Bonobo), was the first electronic album this year to be awarded in this blog as Best Album of the Month. This is in fact a work that is immediately appreciated for its class and elegance, and its value is confirmed with time after repeated listening.

Probably today Bonobo is one of the best artists in the downtempo sub-genre, his works are emotive, passionate, intricate but delicate, with a special attention to every detail. And it’s a real pleasure to get lost within the intriguing musical harmonies that permeate the work-

All told, Migration is an impressive improvement over The North Borders (Bonobo’s previous album), and easily the most listenable record of Bonobo’s fifteen-plus year career. It’s a record with equal appeal for electronic music fans and general listeners, something you could put on anywhere. Essentially, it recasts downtempo as a genre with more potential than party music on the Bosphorus. (Pitchfork)

 

#7) World Eater by Blanck Mass

(Experimental, Drone Music, Noise)

Blank Mass is the electronic solo project by the English DJ and producer Benjamin John Power, who is mainly known for being one of the two founders of the experimental duo Fuck Buttons (where he plays together with Andrew Hung). World Eater is the new album released by Blank Mass, and the third of its discography (there are actually a number of other releases as EPs and soundtracks).

For those who are familiar with the earlier work by this artist, both solo and with Fuck Buttons, you know what to expect: a sonic attack with mesmeric repetitions and industrial inserts.  And this record, in fact, is no exception. The album contains seven interesting tracks that move between noise and experimentation, all seasoned with a good dose of sonic violence.

A particular aspect of this album is that BJP tried to work with a limited set of electronic tools, trying to focus the development of the songs with a small number of effects. And the result is very interesting and enjoyable to listen.

“As an exercise in better understanding myself musically, I found myself using an increasingly restricted palette during the World Eater creative process. Evoking these intense emotions using minimal components really put me outside of my comfort zone and was unlike the process I am used to. Feeling exposed shone a new light on this particular snapshot. I feel enriched for doing so”. (Benjamin John Power on Bandcamp)

 

#8) What If by Hauschka

(Avant Garde, Prepared Piano)

At the 8th place in the chart there is another album that was really hard to classify. It’s included in the electronic category beacause of a greater assonance with the genre: actually there are electronic elements within the songs but also many other things. To define What If, the recent work by Hauschka, as a simple electronic album is therefore a limitation and it could be also misleading for some listeners.

German pianist Volker Bertelmann, who’s the man behind the stage name Huschhka, is mostly known for his compositions for prepared piano, i.e. a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects on or between the strings (in this case scraps of aluminum, ping-pong balls and other household items). On his new album, which is the eighth of his career, Hauschka plays the prepared piano in combination of other keyboards instruments such as a Yamaha’s high-tech player piano and a 1970s-vintage Roland analog synthesizer, and such a blending of new and old Technologies is used by the artist to generate singular but enjoyable pieces of modern music. The real peculiarity of this author is that he transforms the piano into a mechanical instrument, a source of sounds which are at times delicate and sometimes disturbing. The result is a combination of multiple layers of minimal and introspective music which manage to evoke different and sometimes contrasting feelings.

Likely to prove one of 2017’s most original albums, while at the same time inspiring questions about the very nature of the world we inhabit, What If redefines the very notion of piano music in a dramatic and exceptional fashion. It stands as a rebuttal to those who lazily seek to shoehorn Hauschka’s work into the so-called, uncomfortably broad ‘new classical’ category, and instead underlines his status as a unique and invaluable artist. (Bandcamp)

 

#9) Ti Amo by Phoenix

(Synth Pop)

Ti Amo, the new album by French synth-pop masters Phoenix, is a controversial album.

One one side this is an happy journey into a dreamilized version of Italian summers, with all the elements that you may associate with that idea: love, desire, food, beaches, and disco nights. And it’s a real fun to be captured by the catchy and cheerful motives of some of the songs of the album (as the title track, which is maybe the best track of the work). On the other side, however, this romanticised version of Italy is probably a concept a bit too weak to sustain an entire disk and what really remains in many of the tracks of the album is just an over-sweet layering of synthesizers with curious Italian terms quoted here and there.

If you take the funny part of it, this is an enjoyable electronic pop album without too many pretenses of seriousness. If instead we focus on the conceptual element of the album, the result is probably below expectations.

 

#10) Out Of Time by Hugo Kant

(Trip Hop, Downtempo)

We conclude this mid-year chart with Out Of Time, the third work by trip-hop artist and multi-instrumentalist Hugo Kant. The album hosts a number of very good and delicate songs that may be the perfect background for reflection and meditation, and the record also succeeds in the difficult task of telling us something new about a genre that absolutely needs some innovation.

Another valuable element of this album is the use made by the author of numerous jazz and cinemaitc influences. Nothing completely original, of course, but the blend that has been developed by the artist from Marseilles is definitely interesting and he managed to stand out from the average level of the downtempo albums which I heard in recent times.

 

 

Flying on the Wings of Music, a collection of the best Jazz compilations which appeared on this site in the last few months

Jazz compilations are among the most favourite entries in this blog as measured in terms of site visits and interactions. Here are collected a few of the most appreciated mixes which I made in the recent months.

Best of Guitar Jazz

 

Best of Piano Jazz

 

Classical-inspired Modern Jazz

Five months of Jazz, the best albums

EDIT: if you arrived to this page with a search engine, please be informed that there are updated charts with the best Jazz albums of 2017. You can easily discover these from the Jazz section of the blog.


 

The first five months of 2017 have seen quite a good number of valuable publications in Jazz, with a few masterpieces that are among the best albums of the year across all genres (as Tigran‘s Ancient Observer, which is one of the most beautiful discs you will hear this year). There are some interesting musical collaborations (Omar Sosa with Seckou Keita, Nguyen Le with Ngo Hong Quang, and Chris Thile with Brad Mehldau), a few publications by jazz masters (Ralph Towner, Matthew Shipp and John Abercrombie), but also a number of musicians who have the potential to become the future references in the jazz music scene, such as Nicolas Kummert and Cameron Graves.

I recommend here the best 20 albums that I encountered in this five-months travel into the realms of jazz, in strict alphabetical order.

 

Anne Quillier Sextet, Dusty Shelters

Dusty Shelters is the second album from the young French pianist and music writer Anne Quillier, featuring Pierre Horckmans on bass clarinets, Aurélien Joly on trumpet and flugelhorn, Grégory Sallet on saxophones, Michel Molines on double bass, and Guillaume Bertrand on drums. The style of Anne Quillier and her bandmates is particular: they alternate lovely and delicate tunes with more conceptual (sometimes “mathematical“) and sophisticated harmonic constructs. The result is definitely enjoyable and, to some extent, vigorous.

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Anthony Jambon Group, Precious Time

Precious Time is the debut album by the ecletic guitarist Anthony Jambon and his four supporting skilled jazz musicians (Joran Cariou, Camille Passeri, Swaéli Mbappe and Martin Wangermée). It’s one of the suprises of the year and I must admit that was quite impressed by the simplicity and elegance of their music.

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Avishai Cohen, Cross My Palm With Silver

Having the opportunity to watch him playing live last summer in Italy, where he executed the entire album Into the Silence, I had the direct chance to see the transformation that the Israeli native / New York based trumpeter Avishai Cohen made in the last few years. From the straight jazz and free-bop of his “Triveni” phase, he entered into a new phase of impressionistic and emotional jazz, which culminated with the release of his most recent album, Cross My Palm With Silver.

AVISHAI COHEN - 1280x300.jpg

 

Benedikt Jahnel Trio, The Invariant

The trio with Spanish bassist Antonio Miguel and Canadian drummer Owen Howard has been an “invariant” in the life of Canadian native but Berlin based pianist Benedikt Jahnel. Hence the album title: The Invariant. The album was issued as the three musicians started a celebrating tour for the tenth anniversary of the trio as a working unit.

BENEDIKT JANEL TRIO - 1280x300

 

Benoît Lugué, Cycles

Cycles is the new experimental album from the French bassist Benoît Lugué and his  sextet, which features Matthis Pascaud on guitar, Martin Wangermée on drums, Denis Guivarc’h on saxophone, Johan Blanc on trombone, and Olivier Laisney on trumpet. The album includes a number of outstanding experimental compositions which reflect lots of different inspirations from areas that are far from conventional jazz (math-rock, noise, drone music). One of the most original albums of the year, withou any doubt.

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Cameron Graves, Planetary Prince

Planetary Prince is the exaggerated and exuberant solo album by Cameron Graves, who is mostly known for being the pianist of Kamasi Washington’s jazz ensemble. Cameron Graves has been able to record a phenomenal and quite refreshing collection of songs which remind us about the tunes of the past but with the addition of a healthy dose of madness. Kamasi Washington said Abou the album: “it is an amazing and almost unbelievable combination of modal jazz, romantic era European classical music, and mathematical death metal. A style so cool that it deserves its own genre”

CAMERON GRAVES 2 - 1280x300

 

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (S/T)

Early 2017 has been signed by the long awaited collaborative project by American mandolinist virtuoso and vocalist Chris Thile with award-winning American pianist Brad Mehldau. The album includes a mix of covers and original songs. The most beautiful moments, in my opinion, are reached when Tile is singing with his very peculiar voice and Mehldau fills the background with his fine music.

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Colin Vallon Trio, Danse

Danse is the third album that Swizz jazz pianist Colin Vallon published with his Trio which features Patrice Moret on bass and Julian Sartorius on drums and percussions. Colin Vallon’s music is mostly based on the idea of exploring basic melodies or elementary harmonies with nuanced motifs or disjointed and dissonant counterpoints.

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Ferenc Snétberger, Titok

Hungarian guitarist Ferenc Snétberger released a beautiful album filled with melodic acoustic guitar improvisations, named Titok. The album shows Snétberger’s trio in a clear peak of inspiration and demonstrates the special link that the three musicians achieved by playing together in many concerts. Snétberger’s trio for Titok features Swedish bassist Anders Jormin and US drummer Joey Baron, who’s been John Abercrombie’s drummer of choice for almost two decades and appears on another album of this list, i.e. the Abercrombie Quartet’s newest release Up and Coming.

SNèTBERGER - 1280x300.jpg

 

Jan Lundgren, Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz is the last work by Swedish pianist and composer Jan Lundgren, and it’s definitely one of the best jazz works I heard in these first months of the year. Lundgren is part of a remarkable and long tradition of innovative pianists from Sweden like Jan Johansson, Bobo Stenson and Esbjörn Svensson. In this album he shows an undeniable ability to integrate the most disparate musical influences into a fascinating whole.

JAN LUNDGREN BIS - 1280x300

 

John Abercrombie Quartet, Up And Coming

Up and Coming is the second album that the jazz-rock pioneer John Abercrombie recorded by with the quartet featuring Marc Copland on piano, Drew Gress on double bass, and Joey Baron on drums. Seven of the eight tracks of the album are original pieces, mostly composed by the duo Abercrombie & Copland, one song is a cover of Miles Davis’ Nardis (1958).

JOHN ABERCROMBIE - 1280x300

 

Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song

Prolyfic American pianist and band leader Matthew Shipp released in 2017 what was initially declared as his last record on Peter Gordon’s influential label (Thirty Ear), which he supported since many years as both artist and curator. Piano Song sees Shipp’s piano leading a complex dialogue with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker, and features a dense selection of articulated and exploratory tracks.

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MEM3, Circles

MEM3 is a relatively young and cosmopolitan jazz trio consisting of pianist Michael Cabe from Seattle, bassist Mark Lau from Sydney and drummer Ernesto Cervini from Toronto. The trio has released so far two very enjoyable and elegant jazz albums, the last one named Circles and published in the first months of 2017. In their albums they play mostly original compositions from all three musicians as well as a few traditional hymns. This is one of the new discoveries I made this year and I’m really happy for that!

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Nguyên Lê & Ngô Hồng Quang, Hà Nội Duo

Nguyên Lê and Ngô Hồng Quang are two Vietnamese musicians who joined their efforts in this beautiful album, Hà Nội Duo, where they mange to integrate oriental and ancient traditions with contemporary music and arrangements. The beauty of the album lies mostly on such extreme juxtaposition between tradition and modernity, and the dynamic encounter of these two worlds generates moments of pure transcendence and musical passion.

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Nicolas Kummert, La Diversité

On his last record, named La Diversité, young Belgian jazz singer and tenor saxophonist Nicolas Kummert is accompanied by Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke, who gave a very significant contribution to the entire album and a special touch of Africanism to many songs in this record. This is not an album wnich you can just put in the background during your busy evenings; you need to listen carefully in order to enjoy its curious and inspired musical lines. This is also an album that I’m appreciating more and more evrytime I put it once again in my music player. Definitely recommended: that’s one of the most interesting discs of the year.

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Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita, Transparent Water

Cuban-born jazz pianist Omar Sosa has already played on various projects with world musicians from all around the globe, often travelling outside the borders of “coventional” jazz. In Transparent Water, he joined the efforts with the Senegalese drummer, vocalist and kora player Seckou Keita, who is today one of the most charismatic musicians from Africa. The result is magnificient.

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Omer Klein, Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers is the seventh album by the Israeli-born pianist Omer Klein, recorded with his world-touring trio featuring Haggai Cohen-Milo on bass and Amir Bresler on drums. Klein’s musical style is a magical fusion between introspection and energy, and this album is no exception.

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Ralph Towner, My Foolish Heart

After critically-lauded projects with trumpeter Paolo Fresu (Chiaroscuro) and with fellow guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan (Travel Guide), living legend Ralph Towner returns to solo guitar with this new release for ECM, My Foolish Heart. Towner has been on the scene for years but it seems he’s always capable to explore new territories with his magical guitar and instantly recognizable style.

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Tigran Hamasyan, An Ancient Observer

Differently from Tigran’s most recent productions, An Ancient Observer sees the young Armenian composer focusing primarily on the piano. The simplicity of the arrangements in this case is in favour of Tigran’s music since we can fully appreciate the beautiful balance that he managed to achieve between Armenian folk music (which uses a different tonal system with respect to the European one) and more conventional – and for us familiar – musical structures,

tigran-short

 

Wingfield, Reuter, Stavi and Sirkis, The Stone House

The Stone House is an incredible album recorded live in the studio with no overdubs: everything you hear in the album was completely improvised with no music written down or rehearsed before the recording started. That’s a controversial but illuminating work featuring British guitarist Mark Wingfield, German touch guitarist Markus Reuter, bassist Yaron Stavi, and drummer Asaf Sirkis. The video below captures the recording of one of the tracks of the album, which – for what we wrote above – it’s actually the same music we have on the album.

STONE HOUSE - 1280x300.jpg

When the Magic travels on Six Strings, a Jazz Guitar Compilation

Inspired by a couple of beautiful songs I heard on the recent album by Ferenc Snetberger I selected a few other guitar jazz songs and crafted this beautiful compilation. The mix features artists such as Ralph TownerJakob BroJohn Abercrombie and Mary Halvorson.

Drops of Ancient Melodies: the beauty of classical architectures in Contemporary Jazz

A few days ago I was listening to The Invariant, the very nice last work by Benedikt Jahnel Trio, and I starten to think about how many beautiful Jazz works, even if not explicitly re-doing classical songs, are unequivocally and explicitly inspired by classical tradition.

The playlist I share with you today includes some of the most delicate and classical inspired pieces that I enjoyed in the last few years. This selection includes artists such as Benedikt Jahnel, Gwilym Simcock, Yuri Goloubev, Michael Wollny, Iiro Rantala and Aaron Goldberg.