Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:
1. Chamber Music Society by Esperanza Spalding (Heads Up – August 17, 2010) CLICK HERE TO BUY
Centuries ago, long before the advent of radio or recording technology, chamber music was the music for the masses – the music in which people from nearly every segment of society could find meaning and relevance. A decade into the 21st century, Esperanza Spalding – the bassist, vocalist and composer who first appeared on the jazz scene in 2008 – takes a contemporary approach to this once universal form of entertainment with Chamber Music Society.
Backed by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and pianist Leo Genovese – and inspired by the classical training of her younger years – Esperanza creates a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements. The result is a sound that weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical music.
“So much of my early musical experience was spent playing chamber music on the violin, and it’s a form of music that I’ve always loved,” says Esperanza. “I was very inspired by a lot of classical music, and chamber music in particular. I’m intrigued by the concept of intimate works that can be played and experienced among friends in an intimate setting. So I decided to create my version of contemporary chamber music, and add one more voice to that rich history.”
Chamber Music Society is a place where connoisseurs of classical music and jazz devotees – and fans of other musics as well – can find common ground. The recording offers a chamber music for modern times – one that brings together people of different perspectives and broadens their cultural experience, just as it did in an earlier age.
Esperanza first took the world by storm in 2008 with her self-titled debut recording that spent more than 70 weeks on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. Two years later, she continues to push the boundaries of jazz and explore the places where it intersects with other genres. Co-produced by Esperanza and Gil Goldstein, Chamber Music Society surrounds Esperanza with a diverse assembly of musicians. At the core are pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and percussionist Quintino Cinalli. The string trio is comprised of violinist Entcho Todorov, violist Lois Martin, cellist David Eggar and Gretchen Parlato on voice. The great Milton Nascimento also makes a guest appearance on one track.
This is the work of a brilliant young musical talent who isn’t afraid to challenge the limits of jazz and its relationship to other forms of musical expression. Chamber Music Society is the first of two current Esperanza projects. Radio Music Society, set for release in the spring of 2011, features an exciting new repertoire of funk, hip-hop, and rock elements fused into songs that are free from genre. “I’m confident that this music will touch people,” she says of Chamber Music Society. “We all want to hear sincerity and originality in music, and anyone can recognize and appreciate when love and truth are transmitted through art. No matter what else has or hasn’t been achieved on this recording, those things are definitely a part of this music. Those are the things I really want to deliver.”
2. Mirror by Charles Lloyd (ECM Records – September 14, 2010) CLICK HERE TO BUY
Many critics have opined that Lloyd’s “New Quartet”, with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland may be the best of all his groups. The quartet’s previous release in this line-up, the live-recorded Rabo de Nube, met with across-the-board approval and was voted #1 album of the year in both the Critics and Readers Polls of JazzTimes.
Mirror is the first studio album by the Lloyd-Moran-Rogers-Harland unit and it features beautiful, transformed versions of favorites including both Lloyd originals and tunes Charles has made his own over the years. There is a pair of Thelonious Monk tunes, “Ruby, My Dear” and “Monk’s Mood”, as well as hymns and traditionals including “Go Down Moses”, “Lift Every Voice And Sing”, and “The Water Is Wide”. Lloyd covers Brian Wilson’s’ “Caroline, No” (the saxophonist guested on several Beach Boys albums in the 70s, including the classic “Surf’s Up”), and plays an achingly lovely version of the the standard “I Fall In Love Too Easily”. Lloyd originals include “Desolation Sound”, “Mirror”, “Tagi” (which includes a Bhagavad Gita inspired spoken-word meditation by Lloyd) and “Being and Becoming”.
The band plays superbly. Interaction between Jason Moran and the elastic rhythm section of Harland and Rogers is agile and alert in every moment. While each of these three players is completely in tune with Lloyd’s way of working, none of them had yet been born when Charles had his idiomatic breakthrough with “Forest Flower” in 1967. Moran recalls that his father encouraged him to listen to Forest Flower when he was just starting to check out jazz, and the album was part of the soundtrack of his childhood.
There is plenty of Lloyd’s graceful, mellifluous and poetic tenor sax: We also get to hear some of his rarely-showcased alto saxophone, the instrument that Billy Higgins called Charles’s “secret weapon”.
“Charles is playing really beautiful,” Ornette Coleman says, in the documentary film The Monk and the Mermaid. “He’s expressing the qualities of what we experience. Trying to make a contribution to the quality of life, to do with knowledge.” The knowledge, experience, and wisdom conveyed through Lloyd’s tender saxophone soliloquies have drawn great musicians to him over the decades, and contributed to a reputation as one of the most insightful band leaders in all of jazz. Those qualities are reflected once more in Mirror, which is perhaps as succinct a portrait of Charles’ music as can be embraced by a single disc.
“Charles approaches the music with such openness”, pianist Jason Moran said recently “I like playing with leaders who let you bring what you’ve got to the table, and interpret the music however you’d like. Charles is a great promoter of free-thinking music, and letting it develop on the spot.”
Reuben Rogers was born in the Virgin Islands and grew up listening to calypso and reggae as well as jazz, exposure that seems to have impacted on the lyrical dancing swing of his bass playing. He works exceptionally well with Harland, exploring loose grooves behind Lloyd’s solos, and speaks of the joy of “being in the music in the moment,” when the Lloyd band is improvising collectively, “without any worries, just giving it all.” A much sought after sideman, Reuben has also worked extensively with Nicholas Payton, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves and more.
Eric Harland is increasingly regarded as one of the most important contemporary jazz drummers. In addition to his work with Lloyd in the quartet and in the Sangam trio (with Zakir Hussain) he has played and recorded with McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Greg Osby, Dave Holland and many others.
3. Beautiful Dreamers by Bill Frisell (Savoy Label Group – August 31, 2010) CLICK HERE TO BUY
For a long time I’d had the dream of making a trio with Eyvind Kang and Rudy Royston. We’ve known each other for years and worked together in many situations. The idea came about as a result of the power and strength of the connection that happens when we play music together. It wasn’t about the instruments, it was about the people. We played our first gig on June 7, 2008 in Eugene, Oregon and from the first note, it was working. Each time we get together the music feels new…..and old. Backwards and forwards. Up and down. Anything is possible. I can’t wait to hear what happens next. Of course, the next thing on my mind was wishing, hoping we could make an album together of new music. I went to my friend Lee Townsend. Anyone familiar with my music needs no introduction to Lee. Over more than 20 years he has produced many of my albums. We were working together on another project at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley CA. and I started noticing the size, shape, sound, vibe of the room there. It was like it had been custom designed. The perfect set up and atmosphere to record this trio. The next thing I knew, we were in there recording and Savoy came along and wanted to put out the record! I’m so fortunate having the chance to play music with Eyvind and Rudy and having an audience willing to go along for the latest adventure. I’m the luckiest guy in the world being surrounded by all these folks who have so much faith and trust in the music, helping me to make my dreams come true. Beautiful dreamers.
4. Never Stop by The Bad Plus (E1 Entertainment – September 14, 2010) CLICK HERE TO BUY
For the past ten years The Bad Plus Reid Anderson on bass, Ethan Iverson on piano and David King on drums have created an uncompromising body of work by shattering musical convention. Rolling Stone called their amalgam of jazz, pop, rock and avant garde about as badass as highbrow gets, while The New York Times said the band is better than anyone at mixing the sensibilities of post- 60s jazz and indie rock. Few jazz groups in recent memory have amassed such acclaim, and few have generated as much controversy while audaciously bucking musical trends.
Ten years together is a milestone we chose to mark with a set of originals, said Iverson. The new album, NEVER STOP, is a ten-track set, the group s first album of all-original material, strictly an instrumental affair and a collection whose live groove belies its studio origins. It s a rapid-fire succession of engaging performances showcasing the band’s range as well as its three distinct personalities. From gentle and melodic to fierce and abstract, from swing to 80s techno, NEVER STOP does just what the title says: it keeps rolling and flowing, a kinetic playground of new sounds.
With a year-long anniversary tour planned for 2010-2011, The Bad Plus is ready to solidify its status as the go-to band for the ultimate in jazz and beyond. You re going to have to deal with us some time or another,” says Iverson. “We re never going to stop.
5. Providencia by Danilo Perez (Mack Avenue – August 31, 2010) CLICK HERE TO BUY
Danilo Perez’ debut on Mack Ave Records is deeply anticipated by the critical community and while that level of near-academic excitement exists, it is vital to remember that this music is truly moving on visceral, physical and emotional planes. In a nutshell – and from the artist himself – Providencia crosses streams of jazz, classical and Latin American folk music, which Perez refers to as ‘hearing music in three dimensions.’ The title track itself is buoyed by pulsating Latin rhythms and an enticing vocalizes foray. While there is no doubt that talent and technique abound on this record – in Danilo’s facile fingers and players – a great heart also resides in the compositions and performances. The birth of his daughters and his ongoing commitment to education and social change through music spark his desire to make music that matters – music for all to enjoy and hopefully draw inspiration from its vivacity. ‘Daniela’s Chronicles’ is part of an ongoing symphony he’s writing for his daughter and ‘Cobilla’ is a title she contributed to one of the CD’s tunes, a challenging yet playful exploration. This is well worth the 25 years Danilo claims it took for him to create this exemplary music – only you have to set aside an hour to partake in its fruits.