Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Listening Booth: half year round-up, Jazz, pt.1

The next couple of days, I will be posting thoughts on some of the records I've heard these past 6 months, by and large 2013 releases, that I haven't reviewed for Musikkmagasinet or in any other capacity but have listening notes for. I'll try to round up most of these releases by the end of this week, when I leave for a largely internet free vacation by the sea side for a couple of weeks. Starting with a couple of post of jazz records and hopefully come Friday, finishing off with some notable relases of rock/pop/rap/other. Possibly even a top 10 or so list of "2013 faves so far". Some of these albums stretch back to the beginning of the year, some may have been mentioned in previous posts, and may even already appear on the (admittedly not very up-to-date) 2013 favorites page.

EDIT: for info about my published reviews from January to June 2013, see here and here.

  • Barry Altschul: The 3dom Factor (TUM Records) – Veteran drummer whips up 10 tunes of playful, loose and at times refreshingly humorous free spirited jazz in collaboration with the bustling sax of Jon Irabagon and the meaty bass of Joe Fonda. Melodies, always central here, spin out of purposefully tumbling yet resolute and pivotal rhythms as the musicians expertly straddle the rowdy and the buoyant. 8*
  • Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam Records) – Nothing if not ambitious, the second outing by the Darcy James Argue conducted jazz-rock-avant jazz-post-rock-folk big band is a musical story of sorts about a mythic Brooklyn, in part a collaboration with visual artist Danijel Zezelj. Ellington-esque in vision though not necessarily execution, the music is at times both interesting and even engrossing in its scope, mimicking the hustle-and-bustle of urban life through a variety of styles and techniques, the tunes decisively moving forward. But quite often the music is too rigid, like a cab stuck in the stop-start of rush hour traffic where you'd want it to be like the street wise kid nimbly working his way in and around a crowded street. To put it another way: the jazz doesn't rock enough nor the rock swing enough, and vice-versa. 6*
  • Terence Blanchard: Magnetic (Blue Note) – Rhythmically, this recalls both syncopated modern R&B – think D'Angelo's band in their pomp – and modern post-bop/post-fusion. Not unlike such similarly inclined Blue Note releases as the recent Robert Glasper projects, even if this leans heavier on jazz. Spearheaded by the husky tone of Blanchard's trumpet, the playing is tactful, almost restrained at times, which in particular suits the low key ballads neatly. Blanchard also graciously gives plenty of room for the rest of the band: Brice Winston shines on "Jacob's Ladder", for example, while good ol' bass master Ron Carter owns the sprightly "Don't Run", not to take anything away Blanchard and Ravi Coltrane's solos. A gorgeous sounding album, not all of this works: some of it is hampered by a rather schematic turn-taking of solos, and the insistence on building layers-upon-layers in tunes like the title cut, feels a bit heavy handed in the long run. 7*

 * The Perfect Sounds Listening Booth series is where I post jotted down thoughts and impressions of records. The writing of these notes is mostly done during listens, without too much consideration to composition and/or argumentation, and while the intention is that these notes will form the basis of possible future reviews, they should not be considered fully formed reviews in and of themselves. The grades are tentative and liable to change.

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