New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Category: jazz

Wickedly Catchy, Eclectic Solo Bass From Jorge Roeder

Up until the lockdown, bassist Jorge Roeder was a ubiquitous presence not only in the New York jazz scene but in several other styles from south of the border. The title of his solo album, El Suelo Mío – streaming at Bandcamp – translates loosely as “my turf.” While it’s his salute to the sounds of his native Peru, the compositions here span the vast range of music he typically plays. And it’s incredibly catchy: this isn’t just a big dump from the riff bag.

Roeder doesn’t even pick up a bow until eleven tracks into the album. His style is terse, even spare in places: definitely no wasted notes here. He opens with the title track, building his shout-out to iconic Peruvian chanteuse Chabuca Granda with incisive chords and bends, anchoring the melody with a muted pedalpoint at the same time. Lots of ideas for four-string players here!

Roeder’s anthemic, insistent solo arrangement of another Granda homage, Manuel Alejandro’s Chabuca Limeña, makes a good segue. Solo Juntos is a similarly dancing, catchy number that makes the unlikely connection between Moroccan gnawa and the huaynos of the Peruvian Andes.

He reinvents Peruvian composer Felipe Pinglo Alva’s populist El Plebeyo as a shadowy, chromatically spiced, balletesque anthem. Bounce, true to its title, is sinuous and slinky against a hypnotic pedal note, subtly referencing both Shostakovich and a wry moment of Beatles psychedelic overkill.

Roeder picks up the energy with a scrambling, incisively climbing take of I Remember April – a hot month for this guy, it seems. In the coyly titled, bounding Thing Thing, Roeder deconstructs the standard What Is This Thing Called Love through the prism of a handful of favorite pianists, notably Lennie Tristano.

Roeder dedicates the harplike flurries and spacious angst of Patrona as well as the bittersweet, imaginatively voiced Americana inflections of Santa Rosita to guitarist Julian Lage, a longtime employer and collaborator.

Rambler, a spacious, clustering, rather suspenseful Charlie Haden homage, makes an apt segue with a bristling, not quite desperately bowed take Ornette Coleman‘s Lonely Woman, inspired by a Haden solo intro to that piece. Roeder returns to snaky bends and punchy melody in the early 1900s Brazilian number, Silencio De Uno Minuto. He closes the album with the pensively vamping Les Lapins, spiced with high harmonics and hints of reggae. The fun Roeder is having here is visceral.

Dynamic, Tuneful, Playful Outside-the-Box Solo Bass From Daniel Barbiero

Those of us who play low-register instruments tend to think of them as complementary, which in most styles of music they almost always are.

But inevitability theories of anything, whether history or music, are not healthy, and they don’t hold water. Maybe it’s high time we got past them.

With its sheer catchiness, playful sense of humor and dynamic range, bassist Daniel Barbiero‘s solo album of graphic scores, In/Completion – streaming at Bandcamp – will get you thinking outside the box, whether you’re a player or a listener. “At their best, graphic compositions are both beautiful and provocative. Beautiful in that they can, when artfully done, stand as independent works of visual art,” Barbiero asserts in his liner notes.

You could say that the album’s opening number, Root Music by Makoto Nomura, was written by nature itself, a vegetable patch that the composer planted in shallow soil whose roots turned out to be visible. Barbiero chose to interpret it as a series of catchy, hypnotically circling series of looping phrases in the high midrange.

Traces, by Silvia Corda, offers many choices of riffs and how to arrange them: Barbiero uses a generous amount of space for his emphatic, vigorously minimal plucks and washes. His solo arrangement of Alexis Porfiriadis‘ string quartet piece Spotting Nowhere makes a good segue and is considerably more spacious and often sepulchral, with its muted flurries and spiky pizzicato.

Barbiero recorded Paths (An Autumn Day in a Seaside Town), by his four-string compadre Cristiano Bocci on their recent duo album. The terse theme and variations of this solo version are more starkly sustained and expansive, yet whispery and sparkling with high harmonics in places, minus the found sounds from the shoreline which appear on the duo recording.

Barbiero employs a lot of extended technique on this record, especially in his deviously slithery, harmonically bristling lines in Bruce Friedman’s fleeting OPTIONS No. 3. Wilhelm Matthies’s GC 1 (2-9-17), a partita, is rather somberly bowed, yet Barbiero also incorporates some subtly wry conversational phrasing.

5 Paths 4 Directions, by Patrick Brennan comes across as contrasts between purposefulness and anxiety. Barbiero winds up the record with a stark, allusively chromatic interpretation of Morton Feldman’s Projection 1, originally devised for solo cello.

Catchy, Thoughtful Rainy-Day Sounds From Modern Nature

Modern Nature play a tuneful, individualistic blend of pastoral jazz and chamber pop with tinges of vintage 70s soul music. Their new album Annual is streaming at Bandcamp. They like nature imagery and long, catchy, circling phrases over simple, muted drums.

They open the record with Dawn, a hazy miniature balancing bandleader Jack Cooper’s uneasy, lingering guitar over Arnulf Lindner’s overtone-laden bass drone. Elegantly uneasy soul guitar anchors frontwoman Kayla Cohen’s muted, half-whispered delivery as Flourish gets imderway, up to a big, anthemic chorus with Jeff Tobias’ fluttery sax and then back down. From there they segue into Mayday, which has a funkier swing but is just as hypnotically circling.

Spacious, incisive piano and balmy sax mingle with syncopated guitar jangle throughout the album’s fourth track, Halo. In Harvest, the band build very subtle variations into a staggered, loopy hook. They bring the record full circle with Wynter. “Outside the trees are groaning,” Cohen sings with an airy calm over the resonant, brooding clang of the guitar. Let’s hope the lockdown doesn’t destroy this band as it has so many others, and we get to hear more from them.

An Eclectically Catchy Big Band Album by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Players

Does listening to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Players transform them from a seventeen-piece big band into a trio? One of the premises of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is that some particles are so small that merely observing them changes their state. It’s an extension of the basic idea that some tools are too heavy for the job: you don’t use a hammer where just your thumb would do.

Ultimately, Heisenberg’s postulate challenges us to consider whether some things will always be essentially unknowable: a very Islamic concept, when you think about it. But you hardly need special powers of observation to enjoy this big band’s energy, and catchy themes, and pervasive sense of humor. Their album Gradient is streaming at Bandcamp. There’s a high-energy sax solo on almost every one of bandleader/conductor John Dorhauer’s compositions here, sometimes expected, sometimes not.

The opening number, Boombox, makes a momentary Mission Impossible theme out of the old surf rock hit Tequila, then hits a Weather Report style faux-soukous bubbliness for a bit before shifting toward a gospel groove beneath Matthew Beck’s joyous tenor sax.

The second track, Nevertheless She Persisted is a slow, slinky gospel tune, Stuart Seale’s tersely soulful organ ceding the spotlight to a low-key, burbling trombone solo from Chris Shuttleworth and a big massed crescendo from the brass. Subject/Verb/Object has clever, rhythmless variations on a circling, Ethiopian-tinged riff, in an Either/Orchestra vein; the polyrhythms that ensue as the piece comes together and then calms to an uneasy syncopation are a cool touch.

Four Sides of the Circle begins as a stately, mysterious, Indian-tinged theme for choir and piano, then chattering high reeds take centerstage as the song almost imperceptibly edges toward dusky, modal soul over a familiar Radiohead hook.

The East African tinges return, but more cheerily in Plasma, with its rhythmically tricky interweave of counterpoint. Mahler 3 Movement 1 is exactly that: a moody, jazzed-up classical theme that rises from rumors of war, to brassy King Crimson art-rock fueled by Chris Parsons’ burning guitar, to chipper, Gershwinesque swing over a quasi-reggae beat and then back.

The record winds up with the Basketball Suite. The first segment, Switch Everything is the band’s Dr. J (that’s a Grover Washington Jr. reference). Part two, Point Giannis is probably the slowest hoops theme ever written: Dan Parker’s hypnotic bassline brings to mind a classic Jah Wobble groove on PiL’s Metal Box album. The band take a turn back toward booding, pulsing Ethiopiques with Schedule Loss, Adam Roebuck’s incisive trumpet contrasting with James Baum’s suave, smoky baritone sax. It ends with the album’s warmly funky, vamping title track An entertaining achievement from an ensemble that also includies saxophonists Natalie Lande, Kelley Dorhauer and Dan Burke, trombonists Michael Nearpass, Josh Torrey and Dan Dicesare, trumpeters Jon Rarick and Emily Kuhn and drummer Jonathon Wenzel.

Poignant, Gorgeous, Paradigm-Shifting Iranian and Ethiopian Flavored Mashups From SoSaLa

It’s been a long time between albums as a bandleader for Iranian-American saxophonist Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi, who records under the name SoSaLa. His 2008 album Nu World Trash was a wildly eclectic mix of Middle Eastern, dub, Ethiopiques and jazz, among other styles. The album’s underlying concept was to encourage people to get back to reality and leave the virtual one behind. There’s never been a more important time for that message, and auspiciously SoSaLa has a follow-up, wryly titled Nu World Trashed – which  hasn’t hit the web yet, although there are a few tracks up at Soundcloud – to remind us how little the paradigm has changed since then. But, damn, the world is on the brink of a seismic shift, and this guy is ready!. If jazz, psychedelia, Middle Eastern or Ethiopian music are your jams. crank this often starkly beautiful album. Fans of great Levantine reedmen from Daro Behroozi to Hafez Modirzadeh are especially encouraged to check it out.

The opening number, Welcome Nu World has brooding, gorgeously allusive tenor sax over spare, echoey electric piano from Paul Amrod and a dissociative electronic backdrop with agitated crowd noise.  The second track, Enough Is Enough is a hip-hop broadside against “vampire capitalists” and the anti-artistic contingent who are so well represented among the lockdowners. Cornel West makes a characteristically fiery cameo; the bandleader plays a poignantly melismatic, Ethopian-tinged solo.

Mystical Full Moon Hymn for Ornette Coleman is an attractively modal Ethiopian reggae shout-out to Ladjevardi’s onetime teacher and mentor. David Belmont does a spot-on recreation of a sarod, Ladjevardi loops a balmy but bracing Ethiopiques riff and kamancheh player Kaveh Haghtalab jabs and plucks in a live remake of an acid jazz number from the previous album, Sad, Sad, Sad Sake.

There are two versions of Anybody Out There?, the first a haunting trip-hop number with stately, flurrying Ethiopian-tinged sax and delicate acoustic guitar attcents from Bob Romanowski over an echoey, loopy backdrop of Rhodes electric piano and twinkling atmospherics. The second is a bitingly swirly dub miniature.

What’s What? is the album’s most hypnotic number, Ladjevardi’s elegantly incisive modal phrasing over similarly stark kamancheh from Haghtalab and a dubby background. “Fucking internet, taking our private time away,” Ladjevardi grouses.. The album’s most epic track is  My Shushtari, a shout-out to the late Iranian musical icon Mohamad Reza Shajarian, with Ladjevardi on imploring, plaintive soprano sax and David Shively rippling sepulchrally and intensely across the sonic spectrum on cimbalom. It will give you chills. The duo revisit the theme more broodingly further down the scale to close the album with the ironically titled Intro Music.

Devious Humor and Poignancy on Violinist Mark Feldman’s New Solo Album

Violinist Mark Feldman has been a staple of the downtown New York jazz scene since the 90s, notably in his long-running duo with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier. Like innumerable artists during the lockdown, he’s put out a solo album, Sounding Point, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s incisive, purposeful and sometimes haunting, everything the artists he’s played with have sought him out for. But there are just as many moments here that border on hilarious. Feldman’s sense of humor has seldom come across so deviously as it does on this album.

Some of these pieces are built around a single melody line, others are judiciously multitracked. The opening number, As We Are features varations on a coy “here we go!” theme, Feldman building to his usual erudite mix of extended technique and economical melodicism, laced with harmonics, swells and delicate pizzicato. The album’s title track has plaintive, spacious phrases over delicately fluttering sustained lines.

Warriors is an amusingly ornamented multitracked piece including but not limited to swirly glissandos, a plucky march, pregnant pauses, hints of darkly rustic blues and Appalachia: it could be completely improvised. Unbound has a bit of a scramble, calmly whistling buffoonery, and a sly classical quote or two.

The album’s big, almost ten-minute epic is Viciously, which is aptly titled, horrified cadenzas emerging and suddenly giving way to spare, pensive variations on a blues riff, surreal glissandos and strangely muted echoes. Rebound is arguably the album’s funniest number, a mashup of echoey extended technique and all sorts of cartoonish japes.

Maniac is more dissociative than frantic, a playful pastiche of concise riffs. Feldman’s final number is titled New Normal: other than being more ghostly and disturbingly furtive than the other tracks here, it’s impossible to read any references to totalitarianism, surveillance or death by lethal injection into it. Violin jazz fans, and anyone with a sense of humor, should check this out.

Mind-Blowing Power and Tunesmiting on Derrick Gardner and the Big Dig! Band’s First Album

There hasn’t been a debut big band jazz recording as powerful, and lavish, and fun as Derrick Gardner and the Big Dig! Band’s first album, Still I Rise – streaming at Bandcamp – in a long time. Solos are brilliantly wild, Gardner’s compositions are colorful, unpredictable, explosive and have a frequently searing political resonance. It’s very brassy, as you would expect from a trombonist bandleader. The arrangements are a clinic in counterintuitive creativity. It’s the kind of record you want to transcribe, to steal every good idea from. It’s awfully early in the year to be talking about the best debut of the year, but if the world ended today, this would be a lock. We’ll see what else happens between now and December.

A couple of elegant rounds of baroque-inflected counterpoint followed by a couple darkly simmering, insistent massed riffs fueled by bassist Luke Sellick and pianist Zen Zadravec’s looming chords introduce the mighty first track, Push Come da Shove. Then the orchestra engage in Mozart-like exchanges of voicings up to a brightly enigmatic trumpet solo over drummer Curtis Nowosadl’s careening swing. Soprano sax bobs and weaves relentlessly in tandem with elephantine, undulating drums, then the band return. Eighth-note harmonies echo 1930s Ellington and lead to a firebomb of a false ending with the trumpets going full force. Told you this was fun!

The album’s title track is another hard swinger, trumpet spinning and soaring as layers of counterpoint burst throughout the orchestra, trombone taking over the spotlight with a steely focus. They keep the brisk pulse going with Soulful Brother Gelispie, guitarist Kasey Kurtz in punchy, trad mode even as the brass punch harder and harder all around. Soprano sax adds a fleeting pensive edge, but the conflagration returns. Kurtz gets another round over as the firestorm reaches fever pitch and once again keeps his cool, no easy task!

The group memorialize Trayvon Martin, murdered by a Florida racist who was later acquitted, in the lustrously brooding, blues-infused Melody for Trayvon. The conversational pairing of muted and unmuted trumpets packs a punch, as does the alto sax versus the whole ensemble later on and the gravitas of the trombone solo afterward. 

The band pick up the pace again with To Whom it May Concern, Kurtz’s cascading riffage setting off more of an elegant avalanche from the band. Likewise, Sellick’s sotto-voce, balletesque solo sets off another round of echoes from the orchestra, down to a cynical, circling theme and world-weary trombone solo. The ominously modal tenor solo afterward over a floating swing is one of the album’s calmer yet most riveting moments.

One Thing Led to Another is a terse but haphazard clave number with another tart, terse soprano solo, trumpet and trombone solos as voices of reason against all kinds of devious accents and riffs from the rest of the band: the devil is on everybody’s shoulder here.

Blues á la Burgess wouldn’t have a thing if it didn’t have that biting minor-key….you get the picture. Strange quasi-Ellingtonian reed harmonies will get you smiling; the wildly soaring trumpet solo afterward ignites the brass, tenor sax drawing a more titanic response from the rest of the orchestra.

8 Ball, Side Pocket is also a blues, part retro 30s, part Willy Wonka movie theme, with a long, suave tenor solo matched by the piano. The slinky next-to-last number, a more ambered blues, is titled DAAAYUUUM. Muted trumpet descends memorably from the clouds, signaling a return to a triumphant twin-trumpet trope; tenor sax brings contentment before the whole thing goes up in flames. The band wind up the record with the epic Heavens to Murgatroyd, in many respects a Spike Jones-class parody of basically everything they’ve just done here, the bandleader bustling at the center along with a slashing interweave of voices. DAAAYUUUM!

A performance for the ages by the bandleader and his brother Vincent Gardner alongside Joel Green, Anthony Bryson and Bill Green on trombones; saxophonists Mark Gross, Greg Gatien, Rob Dixon, Tristan Martinuson and Ken Gold; and trumpeters Bijon Watson, Jeff Johnson, Curtis Taylor and Andrew Littleford.

Chris Pattishall Flirts With Psychedelia in an Iconic Jazz Suite

Over the past few years, pianist Chris Pattishall has entranced New York audiences with his performances of Mary Lou Williams’ cult classic Zodiac Suite. From time to time, he’s engaged his longtime guitarist colleague Rafiq Bhatia to create a sound that’s closer to ambient music or psychedelia – or Radiohead – than postbop jazz. Now they’re made an album out of it, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s like nothing yofoxu’ve ever heard anyone do with this, at one moment completely purist and true to its origins, at another drifting over into a completely different universe. He and the band don’t usually stay in one place for very long here: he really leaves you wanting more.

Pattishall evinces some richly bell-like tones from the upper registers before the band stomp their way in, trumpeter Riley Mulherkar joyously running the big hook over the piano’s proto-Monk chromatics, bassist Marty Jaffe and drummer Jamison Ross lurking back. There’s enough echo on the trumpet solo to drive a truck through, Bhatia’s processing adding a woozy dubwise edge

Pattishall has fun warping the time as Gemini gets underway, only to diverge into a spacy, surrealistically plucky Bhatia guitar interlude. The band’s leap into racewalking swing turns out to be a false start;

Cancer, like the opening track, has darkness and bluesy majesty as the group lift off slowly. A trumpet solo signals a pause, then Pattishall brings the eerily chiming surrealism and grimly organlike textures back. The shivers of Ruben Fox’s sax solo out are equally phantasmagorical.

Leo is here and gone in less than a couple of minutes, a strangely martial fanfare . Virgo swings genially with more than a hint of a Miles Davis classic and a suave sax solo. Pattishall’s saturnine solo lyricism in Libra is one of the album’s high points; it’s over too soon.

Creepy slinkiness and bright horns contrast in Scorpio, up to a dissociative ambient interlude before resuming with a coy bounce. Pattishall makes impressionistic, Debussyesque blues out of Saggitarius, solo, then bass, drums and subtle, strange electronics return for an exploratory, tantalizingly short, moody take of Capricorn.

Mulherkar raises the warmly anticipatory edge of Aquarius, although there’s subtle phantasmagoria here too: we are dealing with the occult, after all. With its Monklike chromatics, Pisces is the quiet stunner here, just enough of a dusky carnival to be genuinely sinister. The group romp their way through a swinging, hard-hitting, Brubeckian take of Aries. The electronics here may leave some listeners mystified, but Pattishall has really gone under the hood with this music, and the nuances, and surprises he unveils here are the best advertising he could possibly give his live show. Now we need to see him play somewhere soon around these parts!

A Lively, Fearless, Colorful New Album From Susie Ibarra

Susie Ibarra is one of the most distinctive and interesting composers to emerge from the New York downtown jazz scene of the 90s. She’s best known for her Electric Kulintang project, which draws on magical, pointillistic sounds from her Filipina heritage as a stepping-off point for improvisation and cross-pollination. Her latest album, Talking Gong – streaming at Bandcamp – is a trio collaboration with pianist Alex Peh and flutist Claire Chase.

The album’s centerpiece is the almost seventeen-minute title track, referencing the gong’s use as a means of communication in the Philippines, in the same vein as African talking drums. It’s typical Ibarra, Peh negotiating its rigorous staccato and rippling textures with a steely intensity, the bandleader adding nebulous and sparkling color, Chase’s breathy pops and coyly oscillating textures leading to a more-or-less straightforward drive. A wary strut with moody bass flute calms to mystical sparseness, chiming passages alternating with storminess, clustering frenzy, deep-forest rapture and what could be lumberjacks there. The Asian pentatonics come to the forefront more and more as the music develops.

Peh’s bell-like staccato and brooding resonance contrasts with Ibarra’s spare cymbals and toms in Paniniwala (Belief). The solo piano piece Dancesteps vividly brings to mind the imploring repetition of Jehan Alain’s iconic organ work Litanies, with similarly stark harmonies but more nimble rhythms and a rapturous bird-on-the-wire interlude midway through.

Speaking of the avian kingdom, there are two tracks here inspired by our feathered friends. Ibarra’s evocation of a hummingbird in Kolumbrí is much more than just delicate, muted fluttering. We get a taste of the flowers and greenery and this creature’s businesslike activity, which is less hyper and far more mysterious than you might think. Chase is deputized, solo, to play Sunbird, a native Philippine species, with cheery, resonant lines, circumspect ambience and anxious stepping around: it’s a showcase for her daunting extended technique.

There are also four largely improvisational miniatures here which Ibarra calls “meriendas,” meaning “snacks.” The first is flitting and muted; the second is a jaunty, trililng flute/piano conversation. Chase dances between Peh’s brooding droplets in the third, and all three musicians join in a ticklishly jungly thicket in the final one.

Not only is this entertaining music: it’s a triumph of artistic fearlessness. It’s impossible to remember what ridiculous restrictions Andrew Cuomo had put in place, in violation of citizens’ Constitutional right to free assembly, when the trio recorded this album at a (presumably) empty SUNY campus space last July. Whatever the case, Ibarra, Peh and Chase made the record undeterred. Let that be an inspiration for the rest of us.

An Anthemic, Vividly Tuneful Octet Album From Ellen Rowe

The funniest song title on pianist Ellen Rowe‘s latest album Momentum: Portraits of Women in Motion – streaming at Soundcloud – is The First Lady (No, Not Melania). It doesn’t seem to be a portrait of any first lady in recent memory. It’s too gentle for Michelle Obama, and there’s too much bluesy shuffle for Jackie Kennedy, let alone Rosalyn Carter. And none of the others from the past several decades rate. Maybe it’s a look forward to the time when we have a confidently easygoing woman in the Oval Office.

It always makes sense to open your record with a song you can close a show with, and the first number here, Ain’t I a Woman fits that bill perfectly. Rowe’s stern gospel voicings and an increasingly artful lefthand line anchor balmy individual horn voices – that’s saxophonists Tia Fuller, Virginia Mayhew and Lisa Parrott, clarinetist Janelle Reichman and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen coalescing with a steady, swinging march beat. Trombonist Melissa Gardiner takes it further toward New Orleans, Rowe closer to the blues, Fuller bringing it all together, followed by a slinky bass solo. There’s a lot going on here.

Balmy horn harmonies over Allison Miller’s suspenseful drizzle of cymbals kick off RFP (Relentless Forward Progress), lithely blippy bass underneath an increasingly soaring, optimistic theme that quickly hits a chugging latin groove echoed by a spiraling Jensen solo.

A biting, upward chromatic piano interlude opens off The Soul Keepers, a boogie with plush, sailing brass. There’s a bluesy late 40s Gillespie band purism here, Rowe’s gritty incisions ceding the stage to a triumphant alto solo and sagacious trombone.

There’s a wistful, gorgeously pastoral sensibility to Anthem, Reichman’s clarinet at the center over the bandleader’s precise chords, down to another purposeful bass solo. Saxes converse cautiously and broodingly as The Guardians slowly rises toward a pensive quasi-bolero groove: in a quiet way, it’s the album’s most vivid and strongest track. Rowe closes it with the playful but determined Game, Set and Match, a web of New Orleans riffs building to a return to Miller’s second line-inflected swing. At this point it hits you: this is one of the most tuneful jazz albums of recent months, arguably the high point in Rowe’s underrated career.