Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Intersection: The New Mastersounds

The Intersection: An ongoing feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that have blended jazz, world and electronica in new and highly creative ways.

The New Mastersounds
Out On The Faultline (One Note Records; 2012)
Joe Tatton (keys)
Pete Shand (bass)
Eddie Roberts (guitar)
Simon Allen (drums)

In short, this is the best New Mastersounds record to date. An awesome tour de force. On their eighth studio album, Out On The Faultline, we get the usual soul-funk fusion. But as with recent sessions the quartet have blended more jazz and vocal elements into their sound. The results are slowing bearing rich fruits.

The hyper voltage of the two opening numbers, "You Mess Me Up" and "Way Out West" are classic TNM. Allen and Roberts are blistering on both tracks. Setting the pace for an all-out groovy jam party.

"Ding-A-Ling" is a party call-to-arms. Just a straight up dance number. Chaotic and potent, with some excellent horn work from Joel Cohen. All alongside the twisting jumpin' jivin' party lyrics from the group. "Turncoat" for me, had a little spy-jazz vibe to it. The haunting keyboard work and bluesy guitar lines from Robert makes for some added heavy soul.

"Summercamp" is a dreamy, funky midtempo piece that feels slightly different than previous TNM numbers. It has an ethereal nature to it (circa early Paul Weller solo or even Mother Earth). Shand and Tatton add the creative framework throughout. But the soulful guitar of Roberts comes in towards the middle and carries the tune through a number sublime changes.

While much of The New Mastersounds work has been based in the American soul and British Acid Jazz vibe; the quartet in recent years has really grown and developed an excellent voice and direction. Out On The Faultline is a superb document of over a decade of work. And is easily one of my albums of year. Well worth any amount of money it cost to get it. Highly Recommended!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ken Fowser & Behn Gillece: Top Shelf

Ken Fowser (sax)
Behn Gillece (vibes)
Top Shelf (Posi-Tone; 2013)
Michael Dease (trombone)
Dezron Douglas (bass)
Rodney Green (drums)
Steve Einerson (piano)

A Ken Fowser & Behn Gillece outing is always going to be top-notch and smooth; like good old fashion club date. With their fourth album, Top Shelf, they keep the relaxed bebop aesthetics of their previous albums while assembling yet another stellar array of musicians to assist in molding their material.

A steady, straight forth "Slick" leads the way, with some terrific bold notes from Fowser and triple toned patterns from Green and Gillece. A strong opening with Dease as a great counterfoil for Fowser.

"Ginger Swing" brings Einerson up in front alongside Fowser nicely. Gillece comes in and rips a set of notes midway through that are balanced perfectly from Green. But Gillece's agility really shines here as he begins some nice improvising before things swing back to Einerson and sextet move towards the closing notes.

"Top Shelf" is a killer piece with a slight Latin tinge. The rhythm is a scorcher and the beat laid down by Douglas, Gillece and Einerson is infectious. "Proximity" while dreamy also features Dease in a nice comfortable roll (almost Fuller-esque). I really love the way each member gets their opportunity to shine on this closing number.

One of the great things I've loved about Ken Fowser and Behn Gillece is their tight arrangements and dedication to tradition. Their writing gets stronger with each record. And their ability to find the right members is extraordinary. Top Shelf is yet again, another will delivered document from a duo that is continually growing and finding an exquisite voice.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fred Hersch & Benoit Delbecq: Fun House

Benoit Delbecq (piano)
Fred Hersch (piano)
Fun House (Songlines Recordings; 2013)
Mark Helias (bass)
Gerry Hemingway (drums)
Jean-Jacques Avenel (bass)
Steve Arguelles (drums)

It's always an exciting prospect when two great conceptualists combine their ideas. The results can be sublime. And that is exactly what happens on Fun House, the new collaboration between Fred Hersch and Benoit Delbecq.

A fantastic intersection of classical tradition, jazz ethos and soundscapes. Delbecq known for his complex patterns and sparse ambience. Hersch renown for his creativity, elegance and agility to move the jazz tradition forward. These elements are pulled, stretched and expanded through Fun House in various hues by an amazing double trio.

"Ronchamp" is a heavy, dense piece that while revolving around improvised notes of Hersch and Delbecq, also serves as a platform of vibrant performances by Avenel and Helias. The movements feature deep lows and cathartic high tones. All folded into a short three and a half minutes.

"Fun House" and "Le Rayon Vert" are complexed ballads wrapped in third-stream harmonic melodies. They are at once blissful and serene. Then carving a pattern of improvised exchanges between each instrument. While "Night For Day" is the more traditional piece in this set. A straight ahead one, two bop rhythm. It's cool and playful as Hersch sounds like the shadow of Thelonious Monk.

The closing track, Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," was also featured on Hersch's Alive At The Vanguard release from a year ago. Here in the double session, it has more atmospherics and a rich psychedelic feel. Still deeply personal but also crackling with life thanks to dueling conversation between the two pianists.

At times throughout Fun House it's difficult to discern which musician is which coming through the left and right channels. But that actually is the point. This set of accomplished musicians, whom have played together before in various configurations, sound like one ensemble in harmony. Fun House is an easy and control session with lots of dynamics that will be immensely enjoyable to admirers of both Delbecq and Hersch. But also for those seeking something new and introspective. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Soweto Kinch: The Legend Of Mike Smith

Soweto Kinch (sax, vocals, programming)
The Legend Of Mike Smith (SW Recordings; 2013)
Julian Joseph (piano)
Shabaka Hutchings (sax)
Karl Rasheed Abel (bass)
Graham Godfrey (drums)
Cleveland Watkiss (vocals)
Rachel Maby (vocals)
Eska Mtungwazi (vocals)

The story of city. The story of artist as a young man. Or how to survive it all. On your own terms. Those are some of the ways to look at Soweto Kinch's latest hybrid opus, The Legend of Mike Smith.

As with his previous albums of jazz fueled hip hop (or hip hop fueled jazz?), Soweto Kinch has filled this album with more hilarious interludes and mind boggling tales, that very well could be true. Or at least resembles scene that I know have happened in meetings between artists, management and labels. The Legend of Mike Smith is played with sheer brilliance from the composer to all the bandmates and cast members.

The album surveys the journey of creativity running and battling against the stale, bland and repetitiveness of an industry and environment that continues be stagnant. "Invidia" (or envy) exemplifies Kinch's rage and beauty with description of the balance between the artist reality and the fame that seems to eludes him. Hard hitting beats and "jungle-like" vocals that are true to the portrait.

While "Invidia" is a glimpse into the hip-hop language of Soweto Kinch, "Road Block" is filled with candescence melodies from Kinch on sax. An variance that definitely shows his skill on the horn is growing and becoming more individually descriptive.

"Vaccum" is a lovely ballad filled with bold lines and calm serenity that I personally haven't heard from Kinch on previous albums. And the performance from Jay Phelps is sublime. "Sweeping Changes," allows quartet portion of the ensemble to move effortlessly through a steady midtempo arrangement where Kinch almost sounds like Sonny Rollins.

"Avarita" sparks the sociopolitical side of Kinch's lyrics. Discussing the city and global disparities of well-being for all and it's effects. Kinch has an energy and bit that slices cross the headphones like Roots Manuva. A great track filled with rough and ready beats and lyrics--solid stuff. "The Healing" and "The Bounce" close out Mike Smith's trials and tribulations on a joyous note. Built with funky hard bop pattens but maintaining a rich view of the future--Soweto Kinch nails the ending elements of this epic album perfectly.

The Legend Of Mike Smith is ambitious (spanning two discs) but Soweto Kinch does have a lot to say and makes great use of the talent around him. Always a delicate balancing act between his hip hop influences and his jazz inventiveness--The Legend Of Mike Smith an excellent document of what happens when the two genres are done the right way. One of my albums of the year.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nicole Mitchell: Aquarius

Nicole Mitchell (flute)
Aquarius (Delmark; 2013)
Frank Rosaly (drums)
Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone)
Joshua Abrams (bass)

Nicole Mitchell returns to scene with her fifteenth album, Aquarius. And--as always, its a majestic affair. Pared with fellow Chicago creatives, Rosaly, Adasiewicz and Abrams, Nicole Mitchell has breathed new life into her already ethereal compositions.

The spirit of Coltrane and Dolpy floats swiftly through "Aqua Blue." Filled with a funky blues vibe, Abrams and Rosaly moving the melody along mixed with Mitchell and Adasiewicz swirling harmonics solidifies a beautiful opening number. Abrams sets a dark tone on "Aquarius." His opening lines and strokes are heavy, intense and intricate. The rest of group slowly arrive, creating a choral ballad that slides and drifts from structure to improvised, effortlessly. Mitchell's tone and steady pace is augmented by the freedom she allows her bandmates to explore through the last quarter of the piece.

I loved the soulful bebop ride of "Sunday Afternoon." A groovy number with an infectious rhythm section that sets up Mitchell's richly spiritual spacial patterns. Closing with the tribute to Chicago legend and one of my personal favourite musicians, Fred Anderson is lovely sentiment. Guest vocalist, Calvin Gantt delivers the importance his presence was (and is) to the scene. A pray and a testimony to his greatness.

Aquarius is yet another excellent session from Nicole Mitchell. And with another great set of young musicians, Mitchell brings a fresh perspective that just might be what those who haven't heard before need. Aquarius will be one of those records that you'll want to tell everyone friend you know to get. Highly Recommended.