Saturday, January 10, 2015

Arni Karlsson: Hold

JazzWrap: 2014 Album Of The Year

Árni Karlsson (piano)
Hold (Mold Music; 2014)
Þorgrímur Jónsson (bass)
Scott McLemore (drums)

Romantic and modern. That is the best way to describe the new album from Icelandic veteran, Arni Karlsson. On his fourth release, Hold, Karlsson explores similar territory to his previous trio effort, Mold. Again, the composition are excellently crafted and brilliantly executed by Jonsson and McLemore.

"Time" is beautiful and spacious. The piece is filled with moments patience that allows the notes to linger and listeners imagination to absorb and drift with the melody. While still a midtempo ballad, the trio does begin a slow climb to heavy tonality towards the mid-period on the tune, but the overall impression of the piece is still calm and reflective.

"Morning Glow" and "View" both provide different insights into the trio. "Morning Glow" flows with a classical perspective but infused with some bubbly chord changes on Karlsson's part. "View" is an uptempo piece flexing more muscle amongst all three musicians. McLemore and Karlsson working counter with Jonsson exploring a steady path enhances the rhythm just underneath.

The closing number, "Petra," is a bit of a departure for Karlsson. It maintains his tradition playing but the composition has more improvised and stunning moments performed by Jonsson and McLemore. They seem to stretch out more. This piece seemed slightly reminiscent of the latter E.S.T. works. Very enlightening and a nice framework for the future.

Hold is a consistent and enchanting session that I have yet to stop listening to over the last few months. Arni Karlsson has created an album in Hold that will make you fall in love with it on every spin. Highly and Emotionally Recommended.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tann: Needle Committed

Tann (trio)
Needle Committed (Traumton Records; 2014)
Dirk Häfner (guitar)
René Bornstein (bass)
Demian Kappenstein (drums)

A fun and interesting discovery a few days ago. I stumble my way into listening to the new release from German trio, Tann. This is an exciting record from a growing set of cross genre bending veterans on the German scene.

Needle Committed is a beautiful blend of both jazz and rock that stands out among many of the European trios of the moment. This is mainly due to emphasis on the guitar instead of the piano. Bouncing numbers like "Mandy's Dandy," and "Nanunks Garten" bring a fierce energy that cuts with rock intensity filled with steady intricate lines of the jazz ethos.

"Dra Di Net Um" with its funk basslines and staccato structure show the trio and embody avant garde and groovy in the same four minute span. While "Orgosolo" is more of a gentle ballad which you would have expected from a guitar trio like this. But this beautiful piece comes very late into the album and is a welcome spot--showing maturity as well as standout quality.

Needle Committed provides a new variety of styles that should provide a number of hours for the listen to dissect and enjoy. I've loved listening to this record over the last few days. Here's hoping that we hear more Tann soon rather than later.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Jason Adasiewicz: From The Region

Jason Adasiewicz (vibes)
From The Region (Delmark, 2014)
Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass)
Mike Reed (drums)

There are times when I feel like Jason Adaasiewicz has channeled the spirit of Walt Dickerson, another great vibraphonist. Both posse a unique talent of making their instrument and compositions sound and feel more personal than what it appears.

Adasiewicz has done it again with his latest release, From The Region. It's dark and lovely with brushes of intimacy at its center. Crafting a hard bop vibe on "Classic Route," Adasiewicz invites you in with some warm opening chord progressions. Then waiting to just about the middle of the number to begin showing the listener the trios full impact with hypnotic tones and tight calculated notes which soon round back to the opening lines and guide the listen out.

Flaten starts off "Two Comes One" with some superb low notes as both Adasiewicz and Reed slide in smoothly. While Reed takes the swinging action of the piece, Flaten and Adasiewicz revolve around his playing with a mixture of groovy details and free form. "Is A Bell A Rose" is a steady ballad that allows the trio ease you out of session on a heavy, somber tone but with sweet mixture of longing and desire for more.

Jason Adasiewicz has really come into his own in the last few years and after taking a really long spin with From The Region, I feel like this is probably my favourite of all his records. And it is by far one of my favourite records of the year. An well balanced and high developed session. Highly Recommend!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Traeben: Looking At The Storm

Traben (quartet)
Looking At The Storm (Jarr Records ; 2014)
Jens Larsen (guitar)
Soren Ballegaard (sax)
Haye Jellema (drums)
Olaf Meijer (bass)

On their third outing, Danish quartet, Traeben, continue with a free roaming blues and groove laden formula that made their second album Push one of my favourites in 2011. Looking At The Strom sees the quartet growing further and stronger with each number. It's a well rounded continuation of the solid compositions on Push.

Opening with what felt like a fun spy-jazz themed theme, "Do You Think They're Any Good," showcases the groups depth and agility to move from fun and rugged to adventurous with ease. Ballegaard and Larsen ride swiftly here with some sharp and bold tones keep the listener focused and intrigued throughout.

"Better Than The Other One" kicks things into a different gear and feels more like a rock group moving with heavy patches of guitar and pounding bass and drums. Ballegaard's sax provides a little respite but cuts tightly against the aggression of the rest of the band. This is a band really stretching out to be more than just another European jazz ensemble.

The title track seems to be perfect way to end the album. It takes a clam relaxed tone and slowly builds to cascade of crashing symbols, lush sax melodies and harmonic guitar lines. Bluesy, bold and beautiful.

Looking At The Storm is an effort that takes chances and sees Traeben growing as band and composers. Their ability to move forward with some really creative pieces makes Looking At The Storm an exciting musical experience and worth every listen. Over and over. Definitely a record not be missed out on this year.