Saturday, November 07, 2009

Catching up... Darius Jones & post-summer jazz records

I really should set, and stick to, a goal of writing at least one post a week, preferably on a specific day. Lately, other projects have prevented me from wiritng much here, and it's not been for lack of want or lack of music or topics to write about. A more structured time table should allow me to juggle various tasks more easily, and give me time to write more regularly here. There's been no "Music of the Week" for a while, and my much touted update of the 2009-list has not come to fruition.

So, I'd thought I'd use some space to do some catching up with a couple of the best jazz records I've come accross since sometime this summer (a few of them have been included on previous MotW posts). I'll only write a few lines about most of them, but the first certainly deserves extra space.

Darius Jones is an up-and-coming saxophonist living in Brooklyn in New York having arrived form Richmond, Virginia in 2005. The Southern heritage is apparent in much of the music on this stunning debut. The record is bluesy, and (like the title says) both raw and beautiful, with Mr. Jones often using simple melodic lines as the basis of the music, much like Albert Ayler used to. There's a similarity between Jones and Ayler in the physicality of their playing and the wailing tones as well, 'though Jones can certainly hold his own and more often switches to softer themes than similar players tend to do. The band - with elder statesmen Cooper-Moore on the bass-like (and ancient) diddley-bo(w) as well as piano, and Rakalm Bob Moses on drums completing the trio - swithch between fairly loose structures and stricter blues based rhythms. Cooper-Moore has a knack for blending the seemingly simplistic and potent, as he does with his own band Digital Primitives.

On "Cry Out", for example, Cooper-Moore plays a rough blues walk on the piano, Bob Moses shuffles and Jones plays a slightly plaintive melodies on top. The tune has a certain noir quality to it. "Chasing the Ghost" is another highlight, with Cooper-Moore playing vibrating low bass notes on the diddley-bo(w), Bob Moses skitting over and under, while Jones plays variations and improvised lines over a strong melodic theme. The "chasing" of the title sends ones thoghts to one of Coltrane's classic work-outs, while the "ghost" part, well, it certainly opens up to other interpretations of what the piece is about. The result is nonetheless both beautifully disturbing and powerful. Having been roughed up by much of the music on the album, the simplistic loveliness of the closing "Forgive Me" becomes extra heartwrenching by the juxtaposition alone. Cooper-Moore plays a Satie-like chordal theme, with Jones seemingly exorcising his demons with a softer, almost weeping tone. It is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard all year. A bonus track with Adam Lane on bass Jason Nazary on drums is more in line with a rougher blues-bop tradition, but it's still a collaboration I'd like to hear more from, Lane himself having a similar knack for roughing things up.

Bluesy, slightly funky, free and with a hint of eastern and African melodic sensibility. Much like their previous record, but equally good.

Baltimore band, improvising over rock riffs and beats, made more apparent by the inclusion of a fuzz driven guitar. "Rock" means both Led Zeppelin and Fugazi here, and the result is often quite rivetng.

The great man in a playful mood (when has he not been?) with what is probably his most interesting and flexible group since the amazing Sextet(t) of the 80s.

Tenor saxophonist J.D. Allens best record yet, a slightly more traditional post-bop sax, bass & drums trio, but one that has not gone untouched by later musical strains. The rhtyhm section blends simplistic power with great mobility, and Allan plays strong melodic themes as well as flying improvised solos. The track "Sonhouse" in particular is a favorite.

Another sax, bass, drums trio. Strickland plays tenor and soprano. The music is slightly soulful jazz, and rhythmically the music has tinges of modern R&B and hip-hop. The album includes reworkings of music by Björk, OutKast and Oumo Sangare, to name a few interesting choices. "Set Free", though, has a Coltrane-like quality.


Jason Crane said...

Great choices, Chris. I love the Darius Jones record. He was on my show a few weeks back:

I also wrote a review of his record for Popdose:

And this weekend I spent a few hours with Cooper-Moore. Part of our conversation will form the basis for an episode of The Jazz Session later this fall.

All the best,


Chris Monsen said...

Thanks for the comment.

I did indeed hear the Darius Jones show, Jason. Good work. Will listen in on the Cooper-Moore conversation, too.



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