Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Listening Booth: Reviews 3rd Quarter, July through September, 2014

July was more or less a month free of writing, seing as Klassekampen's music supplement takes a break throughout that month. I did, however, write some reviews for Jazznytt, Norway's premier jazz monthly, which was relaunched this September.

Several of the records reviewed during these months had been out for a while when my write-ups hit the streets, the exception being my review of the latest Spoon which was published the week the album came out, as well as this week's review of two recent Wadada Leo Smith albums, both of which were released this September.

Speaking of the Leo Smith discs, they are both very good albums that share some common themes: change, particularly over long periods of time, and open spaces. On the brilliant The Great Lakes Suites, Leo Smith hooks up with Henry Threadgill on saxophone and flutes and drummer Jack DeJohnette, in addition to long-time partner John Lindberg on bass. This is stunning, expansive music that is both calm, restrained and patient, yet in bursts volatile and throbbing. This is in line with Smith's vision of the lakes and their importance to the surrounding areas: huge, flat surfaces that at a glance seem peaceful, but with pockets of bustling activity, they're scenes for both recreation as well as commerse and growth. Here, Threadgill plays some of his most touching saxophone lines in years, pensive and careful yet firm and assertive, particularly on the majestic "Lake Huron", equaled by Wadada's longing and piercing trumpet tones, while Lindberg and DeJohnette create supportive frameworks, quietly rumbling and suspensefully bubbling. It is a lovely album.

Red Hill was recorded with a slightly younger generation of musicians: Jamie Saft on keys, Joe Morris – perhaps best known as a guitarist – on bass, and Balasz Pandi on drums. It contains three compositions named after rock formations, and one that shares its name with the Roman diety Janus, a symbol for change, among other things. Rock too, of course, has been formed over long periods of time. With this in mind, the tunes too take time to develop, yet are comparatively busier once they get going. It is intriguing and thrilling music, and in comparison to Great Lakes..., it is equaly cerebral music, yet not quite as emotionally stirring.
  •  Spoon: They Want My Soul (Lomo Vista) – 7* (Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, August 4th, 2014. 5 out of 6)
  •  Jemeel Moondoc: The Zookeeper's House (Relative Pithc Records) – 8* (Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, August 25th, 2014. 5 out of 6)
  • Peter van Huffel's Gorilla Mask:  Bite My Blues (Cean Feed) – 7* (Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, September 8th, 2014. 4,5 out of 6)
  • Peter van Huffel, Michael Bates & Jeff Davis: BOOM CRANE (Fresh Sound New Talent) – 8* (Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, September 8th, 2014. 5 out of 6)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (TUM Records) – 8* (Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, September 29th, 2014. 5,5 out of 6)
  • Wadada Leo Smith, Joe Morris, Jamie Saft & Balasz Pandi: Red Hill (RareNoiseRecords) – 7* (Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, September 29th, 2014. 4,5 out of 6)
Additional reviews:

(These were reviewed for the September 2014 issue of the relaunched Jazznytt magazine, who operate without a grading system)
  • Håkon Stene: Lush Laments for Lazy Mammal (Hubro) (Tentative grade: 6)
  • Ross Martin, Max Jonson & Jeff Davis: Big Eyed Rabbit (NotTwo Records) (Tentative grade: 7)
  • The Microscopic Septet: Manhattan Moonrise (Cuneiform Records) (Tentative grade: 7)
* Grades adjusted for the PerfectSounds scale.

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