by: Hobart Taylor
Bill Frisell - Music Is - (Okeh)
Certain artists play themselves through their instruments. In a strange way their instruments are peripheral to their performances and their compositions are vehicles for their passing humours. In these sixteen short pieces for electric guitar and effects Frisell presents a summation of a musical and more urgently a personal vision. Like Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier" or Coltrane's "A Love Supreme", this suite dwells in the essence of it's creator and seeks to expand the range of an instrument by expanding the range of performance and technique, and ultimately expanding the range of perception and awareness. Frisell's "Music Is" could also be titled Music "Frisell Is".
Norma Winstone - Descansado: Songs For Films - (ECM)
Norma Winstone approaches singing with the bifocal vision of a jazz instrumentalist. She listens to herself with a detached perfectionism that allows her to marvel and discover just what her voice can do without taking it personally. This gives her performances and especially her collaborations with other performers balance and integrity. Musicians aren't backing her up nor is she making tunes more accessible by adding that popular touchstone the human voice.
Some singers are actors. Some singers are storytellers. Winstone acts and tells stories, but not through the lyrics which she honors, but through her intense musicality. On this recording her conversations with the other musicians, particularly with saxophonist/clarinetist Klaus Gesing, convey realms of intangible sensation in much the way (appropriately for this recording) films do. (Note For KUCI DJ's not for webpage: cuts 4 Vivre Sa Vie and #5 Lisbon Story good starting points).
Guillermo Nojechowicz and El Eco - Puerto de Buenos Aires 1933 - (Zoho Music)
Composer/drummer Nojechowicz started with a passport...his grandmother's. It showed how she fled Poland and the soon to be encroaching Nazis in the 1930's. She fled to Argentina with his father. Building from that narrative, Nojechowicz moves from eastern European Jewish folk tunes through dramatic jazz to Brazilian jungle music, and finally Argentinian tango and mambo. Supported by the expressive vocals of Kim Nazarian, Marco Pignataro's saxes, pianist Helio Alves, bassist Fernando Huergo, and special guest trumpeter Brian Lynch, this is a ultimately a happy tale of escape, survival, and celebration.
Counterweight - Counterweight - (Wide Hive)
Bay area composer/pianist/bassist (I'm running out of slashes here) Matt Montgomery and his frequent collaborators, composer/arranger Greg Howe, trumpeter Erik Jekabson and drummer Mike Hughes are very prolific. Sometimes they call themselves Throttle Elevator Music and they play jazz with punk sensibilities. Here they are Counterweight and they often have a Steve Bernstein/Sexmob vibe. Lots of counterpoint and minor key spookiness. These guys are great, a lot of fun, and sneakily deeper than they sound on the surface.
Ilios Steryannis - Bethany Project - (Self Released)
Canadian composer/drummer Steryannis heads up a large ensemble (as opposed to a big band) and plays sprightly tunes gently influenced from world music traditions and neo be-bop in the Mingus vein. Makes me smile.
Avi Granite 6 - Orbit - (Pet Mantis Records)
Brooklyn based Canadian guitarist/composer Granite goes to those special places full of surprise and delight. These tunes are hard to put on a finger on. Like Zappa, the changes are all fucked up and perfect at the same time. Apparently strongly horn driven, (trumpet, trombone and reeds,) yet really driven by the near invisible line of the guitar these tunes barrel down on you like a semi in the fast lane. Highly recommended.
Eva Cortez - Crossing Borders - (Origin)
Honduran singer/songwriter is a star in Spain and frequently delights audiences in New York. Her sound is her own amalgam of Caribbean/Cuban, Brazilian, blues/jazz and balladry. Backed by some of New York's finest club players she drops here an intimate and satisfying release.
As Is featuring Alan and Stacey Schulman - Here's To Life - (Self Released)
Pop jazz as good as it gets. Clean as Paul Ryan's kitchen. Easiest of listening music, but not at all trivial.