Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ricardo Gallo:The Great Fine Line

Ricardo Gallo (piano)
The Great Fine Line (Clean Feed; 2010)

Ray Anderson (trombone)
Dan Blake (sax)
Mark Helias (bass)
Satoshi Takeishi (drums, percussion)
Pheerdan Aklaff (drums)

I've discussed Ricardo Gallo's many virtues recently. He is an artist who continually gets better with each album. The Great Fine Line, his first album for Clean Feed records is another marvelous addition to his growing cannon of material.

This sextet recording was done just a few short weeks after his mainstay quartet had finished its third release, Resistencias (Ladistrito Fonica). The Great Fine Line is a more expansive and freedom exploring outing in which the musicians including Gallo stretch their emotional muscle with wonderful results.

The album's title refers to the famous Argentine author, Julio Cortazar (author of the amazing novel, Hopscotch) and his belief that music is a no-mans land and that everything becomes blurred. This is true when it comes to The Great Fine Line with it's varying passages and moments of exploration by each member.

On "Stomp At No Man's Land" Ray Anderson and Dan Blake take prime space to rip through chord changes as Ricardo Gallo controls the balance around the edges. An intricate battle ensues on "Three Versions Of A Lie" in which the interchanges from each musicians is bold and vibrant. Gallo's use of two drummers for this session is also a wonderful choice. It does give distinct to each track. Takeishi's performance on "Three Version Of A Lie" is superb and dominates the proceeding.

"Hermetismo" starts in melodic, gentle tones with Helias, Gallo and Aklaff leading way until Blake and Anderson join in to make it almost a contemporary bop-ish affair. It's probably the most straight-ahead piece on the album but still having abstract undertones. Contradiction? I don't think so.

"La Pina Blanca" starts like a homage to New Orleans before spinning quickly into varying level of free form point/counterpoint. Lovely stuff as each member quickly shuffles back and forth in time.

With The Great Fine Line, Ricardo Gallo continues to make his name on the new jazz community. The diversity of his projects and his compositional work is truly setting him apart from the pact. Another well deserved must listen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sylvie Courvosier: Signs And Epigrams

Sylvie Courvosier (piano; 1968)
Signs And Epigrams (Tzadik; 2007)

In the world of improvised piano, Sylvie Courvosier is one the best. A friend turned me on to her music only recently. Very difficult to give you a good reference point but maybe a combination of John Cage, Keith Jarrett and Cecil Taylor might be appropriate.

Born is Switzerland and now living in Brooklyn with her husband and fellow musician, cellist, Morton Feldman. Courvosier has performed with some of the best avant garde musicians on the New York scene including John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Joey Baron, Tim Berne to name a few. I don't allot a Sylvie Courvosier's music but one of the albums I constantly listen to is a solo piano release entitled, Signs And Epigrams on John Zorn's Tzadik label.

Signs And Epigrams is jazz improvisation and classical thought moving in various patterns and structures. Moving through different tonal structures, "Ricochet" bounces back and forth in a delicate pattern that is both challenging for the listener both introspectively rewarding. The harmonic structures Courvosier utilizes over the course of Signs And Epigrams is simply startling. This is a subtle study in construction of sound and deconstruction of sound. There are moments in which Courvosier's playing sounds like an ensemble instead of a solo piano (that was the intention after all).

That intention is evident on the three part suite "Epigrams I-III" as Courvosier manipulates the piano in various points. There are moments of intricate joy and periods of intense exaltation. It's as if Glenn Gould and Keith Jarrett performing a recital together playing completely separate pieces. Amazing.

"Soliloquy" closes out this harmonic journey with multi-levels of sounds that connect with a sheer range of beauty that the piece takes on a whole character of its own almost separate of the rest of the album. Midway through "Soliloquy" Courvosier turns gentle and emotional before returning to a multi-textured plain of sound and then quickly moving to a close.

Signs And Epigrams is one of those rare solo piano records that enveloped in sound, compelling and dynamic in its construction. It's an undiscovered treasure in my opinion. Go find it...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Emergency!: Live In Copenhagen

Emergency! (group; formed 2001)
Live in Copenhagen 2006 (JVTLandt)
Otomo Yoshihide (guitar)
Ryoichi Saito (guitar)
Hiroaki Mizutani (bass)
Yasuhiro Yoshigaki (drums)

The Japanese experimental free jazz scene has really evolved over the last decade with artists such as Otomo Yoshihide and Yasuhiro Yoshigaki leading the way in their various groups and collaborations. One of the best groups both perform in is the quartet Emergency!. I'm assuming an homage to the legendary Tony Williams, Emergency! combines elements of the aforementioned drumming legend (thanks to the groups founder Yoshigaki), King Crimson and Last Exit. But unlike Fripp and Laswell's tour de force, Emergency! takes very specific moments to spin the guitar wall of sound into layered ambient soundscapes.

Live In Copenhagen documents the group's first exploration outside of its native country and takes their free form vehicle to the fertile grounds of one of Europe's more experimental countries, Denmark. And Emergency! really do impress.

The Yoshigaki penned "Re-Baptizum", opens the evening with a bold exchange between Yoshihide and Saito that shift between gentle and storm-threatening. This all with some superb playing by the founder, Yoshigaki.

Things get really intriguing after Yoshigaki's original as the group move through three covers to finish out this live concert. A bizarre choice--"Sing, Sing, Sing" is fascinating, fun and soaring. Lots of action going on in this one. It's worth continued listens and probably worth the price of the CD altogether.

Two beautiful and complicated compositions from two legends that seem completely appropriate in the hands of this quartet close out the evening. First, the Charles Mingus protest piece, "Fables Of Faubus". Yoshigaki's playing throughout this live recording moves from rippling to atmospheric with ease. The quartet tackles Rahsaan Roland Kirk's classic, "The Inflated Tear" as the final number and it is as intense, deep and touching as its original.

At this point in 2006 when this was recorded, Emergency! had only recorded two albums, but those albums are phenomenal and worth seeking out. While Emergency! are categorized as an experimental outfit, Live In Copenhagen demonstrates that this quartet has vision and structure that goes far beyond experimental. Highly Recommended.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mike DiRubbo: Chronos

Mike DiRubbo (sax; b. 1970)
Chronos (PosiTone Records, 2011)
Brian Charette (organ)
Rudy Royston (drums)

It's funny, I don't own a single Mike DiRubbo album, which now sounds like a crime. But I actually own almost ever album his performed on as a sideman. Weird. I checked before I started writing this entry and its true!

DiRubbo is one of those rare breeds in the new crop of straight-ahead musicians. His style is very reminiscent of his influences, Coltrane, Parker and his mentor/teacher Jackie McLean. But he has developed his own vision and approach which has made him an in-demand sideman since his debut in 1999. He has worked with a plethora of his contemporaries and legends including Steve Davis, Eric Alexander, Peter Washington, Harold Mabern, Bruce Barth and of course Jackie McLean.

DiRubbo's latest, Chronos (PosiTone) is a sheer delight. It is a change in direction compared to the rest of his catalog. Mainly in set up. This outing is a trio lineup with the stellar Rudy Royston on drums and Brian Charette on organ.

Organ sessions can be a tricky affair. The organ while emotional and funky can sometimes overwhelm the session. On Chronos it is a major compliment. This sounds like a group that has been together for years. Chronos is a face paced session with tracks like "Rituals" and "Minor Progress" moving with rich vibrant tones but also keep the listener engrossed with the individual activities of each performer.

Charette's playing is really outstanding. On "Nouveau" the trio are in complete ballad mode. It helps temper the more upbeat rhythm of the opening tracks and displays the diversity of DiRubbo's talent. "Eight For Elvin" is DiRubbo's tribute to legendary John Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones. It's a moment where history meets influence and works perfectly. Royston is fantastic and infectious. Charette seems calm and relaxed. And DiRubbo intermingles with the two superbly and romantically.

It would have been interesting to hear Coltrane mixing it up with Jimmy Smith or John Patton. Maybe the closet comparison would be Jimmy Smith's work with Lou Donaldson or the emotional work Jackie Mac did with Mal Waldron (piano).

Chronos is definitely a side step for DiRubbo but its a beautiful side step that I think every jazz fan will dig. It's emotional. It's funky. It's crafty. And most of all it's got a vision and pace that is worth repeated listens. I really think you're all going to dig it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

John Esposito: Orisha

John Esposito (piano; b. 1953)
Orisha (Sun Jump Records; 2010)
Ira Coleman (bass)
Peter O'Brien (drums)

It looks like tradition is running wild at JazzWrap this week.

New York native, John Esposito has been on the scene for over three decades. He has worked with a variety of jazz artists including Dave Douglas, Ryan Kisor, Dave Holland and Sam Rivers among others. He has a style that is relaxed but also complexed. There is a beautiful side to his compositions that reminds me of the craftier moments of Bill Charlap or Blue Note era Herbie Hancock.

He has played in a variety of contexts but the two albums that have always drawn my attention are his trio dates. The latest, Orisha (Sun Jump Records) is a wonderful collection of originals (unlike the previous release Down Blue Marlin Road, which heavily featured standards and originals) that are joyous and jumpin'.

While Esposito is the leader on this date, this is definitely a group affair. On "Myanmar" the trio move through uptempo and midtempo without hesitation. It's a lovely introspective listen that is emotional effective.

"Fly" written and performed by drummer, Peter O'Brien, while short is nicely and fiercely delivered and moves quickly into "Stygian Bright", a multi-patterned piece with some nice chordal changes by Esposito. "Personal Blues" while based on a blues structure doesn't move in a blues fashion. This is a fast paced number that delivers a night club feel that you are bound to find intoxicating.

Orisha is a stellar collection of high spirited originals performed by a trio that while not playing regularly, demonstrates years of experience of which they all hold, rolled up into just over an hour of marvelous listening.

Monday, January 17, 2011

John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Keeping Tradition

John McNeil/Bill McHenry (trumpet/sax)
Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (Sunnyside Records)
Joe Martin (bass)
Jochen Ruecket (drums)

This is a bloody brilliant record. I wish I had heard about this a few weeks ago, it would have made of Best Albums Of 2010.

Chill Morn He Climb Jenny is the follow up to the duo's previous quartet effort, Rediscovery (Sunnyside; 2008). Both albums explore compositions written by largely unheralded jazz musicians of the past. The genesis for both these sessions came out of live performances over the last few years. On Chill Morn... McNeil and McHenry re-imagine with ease and beauty numbers from Russ Freeman, Thad Jones and one of my all-time favourites, Wilbur Harden.

The lineup is the same as Rediscovery, with Rueckert and Martin bringing in the rhythm. McNeil and McHenry compliment each other very well. They share duties and intermingle these tunes with traditional reverence. "Three And One" (originally written by Thad Jones) is an excellent display of the quartet's hard bop sensibilities. It rolls and rumbles with each member having an opportunity shine. Joe Martin's subtle movement along the scales is quiet but resonates just underneath. Jochen Ruecket drum work keeps the rhythm flowing freely throughout. The interplay between McNeil and McHenry is really something for the listener to key in on. This is a tight and at time blistering performance, especially when McHenry sets off on a solo midway through.

"Wells Fargo", a classic piece of hard bop written by Wilbur Harden (and originally featuring John Coltrane) is a magnificent tribute. This is a track you probably wouldn't hear that often. Harden is definitely a forgotten figure who really needs to be reexamined by the jazz community.

At times you really do feel like you fallen by into a late '50s - 60s jazz club and are setting listening to one killer performance after another. That is highlighted again on the Russ Freeman piece "Bea's Flat" a smokin' piece where the band rip through a series of chord changes and rhythms that will leave you quite astounded. The album closes with will a great but unfortunately short rendition of Mile Davis' "No Blues". It goes for a slightly different tone than the original and feels like an appropriate way to close out this sizzlin' outing.

Chill Morn He Climb Jenny is a great homage to some well deserved and truly underrated hard bop figures. It's an album that really should appeal to everyone. An album built on tradition but exudes a modern style that is a must listen for sure.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rodrigo Amado

Rodrigo Amado (sax; b. 1964)
Searching For Adam (Not Two Records; 2010)

The multi-talented Rodrigo Amado was responsible for one of my favourite jazz labels, Clean Feed (co-founding member) and now running his own label European Echoes.

But he is also an accomplished photographer and highly creative and challenging spirit in the free jazz arena. His style is clear, vibrant, adventurous and soaring. For me shades of Pharoah Sanders, Sam Rivers and Ornette Coleman surround his music.

But while this improvising spirit stretches across the spectrum, the listener actually gets the unique experience of song structure that may not have been a predetermined result. Amado is working in a similar arena that can only be possessed by fellow improvisers Ken Vandermark (Vandermark 5) and Mats Gustafsson (The Thing).

Amado has six album as leader, working in trio and quartet formats but also in standard setting as well as string based outfits. In addition to collective work with his band, Lisbon Improvisation Players and guest works with the likes of Luis Lopes and Dennis Gonzalez.

Two records that I highly recommend are a trio session he recently did with Paal Nilsson Love (drums) and Kent Kessler (bass), The Abstract Truth (European Echoes; 2009) and Teatro (European Echoes; 2006). Both are provide an excellent balance between avant garde and modern structure. The interplay between three is highly rewarding for the listener.

Amado's most recent release, Searching For Adam (Not Two Records; 2010) is phenomenal. Featuring the stellar lineup of Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet/flugelhorn), Gerald Cleaver (drums) and John Hebert (bass), Amado has created the perfect work built out of improvised vision and dynamic European moods, creating a beautiful causal structure.

Searching For Adam is an album that moves through abstract aggression and delicate time changes that appear at the precisely the right moments throughout this session.

While being the longest piece on the album, "Waiting For Andy" is also the most touching and exploratory. The interplay between Bynum and Amado is lovely to experience. Moving up and down the scale with fierce attraction. "Newman's Informer" features some impressive time keeping from Cleaver (someone who I believe is criminally under-rated) and Amado has moments of Shepp and Ware spinning throughout.

On "Renee, Lost In Music", John Hebert begins with delicately stroking the chords for Amado to then join in on a light but richly free flowing piece that exploits the best phrases from Amado. "4th Avenue, Adam's Block" has swathes of Atlantic era Coltrane. A real bold well structured piece that again shines light on the brilliant musicianship of Rodrigo Amado.

Similar to my obsession with Mary Halvorson after I picked up Dragon's Head, I became obsessed with Rodrigo Amado's work. In the last few weeks I have managed to buy (yes, I did buy them) all of his work as leader. I'm hoping to find a chance to tell everyone about them soon.

As for today, I think if you are familiar with Ken Vandermark, Keefe Jackson, Mats Gustafsson, I highly recommend you check Searching For Adam. An album that is truly deserving of a wider listen from us all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

JazzWrap Break

Hi everyone. Taking a small break to rechange our brains. We will return on Wednesday, January 12th.

Friday, January 7, 2011

In Honour Of Mick Karn

Mick Karn (bass, multi-instrumentalist; b. 1958)
The Concrete Twin (MK Music)

I titled this piece "Enough Said" because I have a feeling that many of you who read this blog are fully aware of Mick Karn. After Jaco Pastorius, Mick Karn is probably the most distinctive bass player of the last 35 years. And he has done this by never actually learning how to read music. Some people just have that creative ability in them. Not yours truly. I can't read or play an instrument with any skill whatsoever.

Mick Karn's style on the bass (specifically fretless bass) is something you truly can't believe when you first hear it. It's like an oboe, cello and a upright bass all being folded and manipulated into itself. Truly distinctive and original. Fans of Karn know his playing within seconds of the opening chords.

I will try to keep the history portion of this short.

Like many musicians, as a child, the bass wasn't his first instrument of choice. That credit goes to a variety of instruments (bassoon, violin and mouth organ). But it was shortly after a brief stint playing classical music he hooked up with what become a legendary group (and group of musicians), Japan. Japan included David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri, Steve Jansen (and briefly Rob Dean). Japan's short-lived but highly influential career turned each member into instant legends. The bands ability to craft a blend of atmospherics, East/West aesthetics into a rhythmically accessible language captivated cult audiences around the globe.

Since the unfortunate break up of Japan, Mick Karn has worked with a myriad of talented musicians including, Peter Murphy (Bauhaus), Kate Bush, Midge Ure (Ultravox), David Torn (Lonely Universe, Polytown) and Mark Isham to name a few.

Mick Karn has effortlessly shifted between rock, ambient/electronica, jazz and world. He has built a solid foundation of seven solo albums. All I highly recommend. His latest, Concrete Twin (MK Music) is wonderful work of aural sculpture. It's rich, cinematic, introspective and dense. The production is crisp and enveloping. The majority of the music is as usual played by Karn himself (with additional drum work by Pete Lockett and manipulation by Karn).

While Concrete Twin has its origins in electronics, there is also a deep sense of organics within the tunes. "Ashamed To Be A Part Of Them" opens the album on a similar path as Mick's earliest albums (Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters and Titles). As usual, Karn's bass is front and center in the mix with a gentle East Asian atmosphere surrounding the piece.

On "Yes, I've Been To France" a bit of Karn's jazz past comes to the front. The cinematic nature of the material with Lonely Universe can be felt. There are moments improvised piano and Fripp-like guitar distortion. Probably not intended but you get a sense Mick is exploring a number of different themes throughout Concrete Twin. Where his last few records have been dominated by dance orientated material.

"Tender Poison" is a beautiful piece stressing the keys and subtle excursions with drum and percussion. Emotional effective yes. But also magnificently crafted. "Vote For Lies" and "Antisocial Again?" both are delicate haunting; with eerie bass lines and treated piano movements that make for an excellent explorations into the soul.

Mick Karn continues to be one of the best bass players in all of music today. But he has become a significant writer over the last ten years as well. His compositions have become more complex and his musicianship continues be exacting. Concrete Twin is by far one his best albums in years.

A few days ago Mick Karn past away due to complications from advanced cancer; so it is even more important that people spread the news of this great and wildly overlooked talent to the wider audiences. If you are a Mick Karn fan buy a Mick Karn CD (physical if possible) and give it to someone you know will enjoy it. The least we can all do is support one of the greatest musician who has brought so much joy and creative music to our lives over the last three decades. If you are just hearing about Mick Karn through this blog--buy Concrete Twin today if you can. You won't be disappointed. Mick we will miss you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Espen Eriksen Trio

Espen Eriksen Trio
You Had Me At Goodbye (Rune Grammofon)

Espen Eriksen (piano)
Lars Tormod Jenset (bass)
Andreas Bye (drums)

Eriksen and his trio have put forth a delightful debut. You Had Me At Goodbye combines the soft folk, classical jazz of many fellow Scandinavian artists. The trio blend melodic themes and lyrical structures that set a quiet atmospheric mood.

You Had Me At Goodbye is something of a departure for the bands label, Rune Grammofon which has been known for more experimental, free form and abstract concepts from artists like Supersilent, Elephant9, Food, Scorch Trio and Motorpsycho. Eriksen Trio is much more in the vein of ECM recordings than latter.

This is an album that will definitely please listeners looking for something rich and pleasant on the ear. Recent recordings by Kit Downes, fellow Norwegian, Helge Lien also come to mind when I listen to Eriksen. I'm stirring clear of the obvious E.S.T. comments because I really don't see the comparison.

"Grinde" and "Masaka Tsara" display a cleaver bit of adventure with some great interplay between Eriksen and Jenset with Bye and nice brushes of timing. This is a trio with a crisp sound that resonates individually as well as a unit.

"Not Even In Brazil" is the definite standout for me. A rhythmic uptempo number that really shows the dynamics of the trio, especially for Bye. Bye's performance moves from soft to infectious and back again. Eriksen adds some solid movement of his own throughout the piece. Warm, touching and glowing--a beautiful number.

"On The Jar" might be the most distinct track on the album. It has a blues/gospel tinged that moves quite effortlessly with some wonderful bass lines from Jenset.

You Had Me At Goodbye isn't perfect but for those looking for a delightful entry point into late night jazz this is well worth your time. I did enjoy this record allot but there isn't a great deal to make it standout from the other trio records over the last 12 months but you should be the final decision not me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

JazzWrap Best Albums Of 2010 Recap

It was a fantastic year for music. Here's a recap of JazzWrap's Best Albums Of 2010.

Mary Halvorson
One For All
Soweto Kinch
Soil & Pimp Sessions
Jason Moran
The Vandermark 5
Polar Bear
Bobby Avey
Dave Stapleton

There were a couple of albums I didn't get a chance to write about in our Best Of 2010 list. More because I was ill for a few days and couldn't put brain to computer to get the words out. These are by no means "honorable mentions". These are fantastic and in some cases (Jason Adasiewicz, Curtis Fuller, Kris Davis and Ricardo Gallo) phenomenal records that are worth every moment hunting down.

Ricardo Gallo Resistencias (Laidstrito Fonica)

Kris Davis Good Citzen (Fresh Sounds/New Talent)
Brian Eno Small Craft On A Milk Sea (Warp Records)
Curtis Fuller I Will Tell Her (Capri Records)
Tom Rainey Pool School (Clean Feed Records)
Keefe Jackson Seeing You See (Clean Feed Records)
Magnus Broo Swedish Wood (Moserobie Music)
Jason Adasiewicz Sun Rooms (Delmark)

I discovered a lot of new music this year. This was in part to some great friends, musicians, record labels and other blog writers. I especially wanted to mention my two favourite blogs Minimalistic Music and Jazznyt. Both are a little more avant garde than JazzWrap and provide a different perspective on the global community.

In addition, contributing editor, Kristopher Spencer has the insansely insightful site Scorebaby that discusses soundtrack music from every part of the globe as well as a great book on soundtracks that he wrote a year ago which you must own. I highly recommend you check them all out.

We have enjoyed working with and hearing from everyone and we hope to continue with some great new material in 2011. I hope you dig the music and have discovered some cool stuff. For us its all about turning people on to music that's both accessible and adventurous. As always we want to hear from you as well. So if you have a record you feel would be a great fit for us to know about please let us know.

And we are looking forward to another solid year of adventure in 2011.

Video: Tom Rainey Trio (Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson and Ingrid Laubrock)From all of us at JazzWrap, thank you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best Albums Of 2010: Dave Stapleton

JazzWrap revisits our favourite albums of 2010.

Dave Stapleton (piano)
Between The Lines (Edition Records)

Another surprise album for me this year was from Dave Stapleton, the young but highly accomplished pianist/composer from England and his impressive quintet. Their third album Between The Lines (Edition Records) was one of those consistently rewarding listens throughout the year. I found myself having a new favourite song with every listen.

Stapleton's classical training and a strong dose of Herbie Hancock is apparent throughout Between The Lines. The album starts with the melodic drone of "October Sky" and then really kicks into gear with the funky psychedelic rhythms of "Horn" obviously the focal point for the Bruce and Waghorn, whom both shine brightly on here and throughout Between The Lines. "Horn" is really killer and set a perfect fresh and exciting tone for the rest of the session.

While the rest of the British jazz community is stretching the boundaries of the avant garde, Dave Stapleton is using the tradition and improving upon it. This is really, really compelling stuff from a band that has definitely been together awhile and knows each other inside and out. "Socks First" shows the delicate nature of the band some truly exquisite simpatico as each member features prominently. The titled track, "Between The Lines" starts with some lovely playing by the rhythm section and some understated piano work from Stapleton. A lovely number for those you wishing for a glass of wine with your jazz.

Lots of funky interplay take place on "Wig Wag" between Paula Gardiner (bass), Jonny Bruce (trumpet) and Ben Waghorn (sax) which could be placed along side some of the better moments of Jools Hollands or mid-period Branford Marsalis works. Fun, exuberant exchanges with lots passion built into ever note.

"Under The Cherry Tree" is the band performing a lovely ballad in the vein of Keith Jarrett and Sonny Rollins and moves with great ease taking the album to a wonderful conclusion with "Images" a sparse romantic number highlighting Stapleton's classical tradition on piano and again some great work from Waghorn.

In a year dominated with E.S.T. clones and avant garde creativeness (Not that there's anything wrong with avant garde. That's what JazzWrap is based on for crap sakes.) Between The Lines is a refresh and absorbing release that can be enjoyed on many levels. One of 2010 contemporary masterpieces.

Best Albums Of 2010: Bobby Avey

JazzWrap revisits our favourite albums of 2010.

Bobby Avey (piano)
A New Face (JayDell Records)

Thomson Kneeland (bass)
Jordan Pearlson (drums)
David Liebman (sax)

This year I spent a lot more time discovering new artists than any other time in my life of music. It has been fantastic. One of those little discoveries was Bobby Avey and his fantastic debut, A New Face (JayDell Records). This was an album that I automatically got switched on to with the first listen. While Avey isn't a complete debutant (he has worked with Dave Liebman in the past) his debut does sound a bell that there is a new voice thinking creatively and willing to take chances.

A New Face opens with "Late November" a multi-layered piece driven by Avey's delicate improvising at the piano and countered by some stellar interplay from Pearlson and Kneeland. The trio have been together for over five years so the understanding of each members movements is expected but it is still impressive to capture it in one session throughout the entirety of the recording.

The group are joined by longtime collaborator, David Liebman for four numbers including the title track "New Face" and "Time Unfolding". Liebman's playing is exquisite and fierce throughout and probably one of the best sessions I've heard him perform. The two show a unique bond on the duet "Influence", a lovely ballad that flows effortlessly into a battle of interplay resulting in a pleasant hypnotic denouement. A really beautiful piece that is probably my favourite track on the album.

A New Face closes with "Time Unfolding", a blistering quartet piece which Liebman leads the trio through a series of crisp, distinct and rolling rhythms that allow each member to stretch their abilities. Avey's movements are precise and mature--exactly what you expect from young and creative new comer. A New Face is an excellent debut that I couldn't stop listening to throughout the year. I keep thinking to myself "this album can't be that perfect"--but you know what--it's that good. One of my favourite discoveries of 2010.