So many great records to rave about…and so little time to rave.
Last year I started a new tradition with a “just one more list before we’re done with lists” kind of list. These are a handful of releases from this year that I listened to and liked, but for various reasons didn’t get around to putting thoughts into virtual paper. Since we don’t put any albums on our honor rolls unless we went through the trouble of a write-up on them first, a few good ones slip through the cracks. It inevitably happens due to the sheer volume of deserving releases to sort though and absorb.
Thus, the following is the “unlist,” a compilation of the best jazz and fusion records of 2013 that didn’t qualify for year-end consideration through no fault of the artist. It’s all on me. So in an ironic way, they’re going to get their salutes, anyway. It’s the least we can do…
Aaron Lebos – Reality: Guitarist Lebos and his contemporary jazz quartet is a regional act, active in the Miami/South Florida scene, but Lebos’ introductory album is nationwide good. Lebos & Co. combine jazz, funk, blues, rock, Latin and RnB, as a lot of fusion acts are capable of doing. But they channel all that know-how into some taut, complex yet catchy tunes. Lebos himself owns an appealing tone and is a master of chromatics. There’s a lot here that evokes the best of seventies rock-jazz (dig keyboardist Jim Gasior’s vintage Moog solo on “Hippy Car Getaway”), but original enough to make this much more than just a nostalgia act. There’s no filler here, just good grooves and lots of sharp playing.
Bryn Roberts – Fables: This is Roberts’ first album in nine years and him being Canadian and a pianist might invite comparisons to Oscar Peterson, but his restrained style is actually the opposite of Peterson’s. Moreover, Fables is a showcase for Roberts’ modern compositions, which are uniformly solid, and having saxophonist Seamus Blake sharing the front line is a fine way to get these songs carried out in their best light. He needs to make records much more often.
I Know You Well Miss Clara – Chapter One: Like simakDialog, here’s another great find by Leonardo Pavkovic’s MoonJune Records from the musically fertile Indonesia. Formed just three or four years ago, this quartet led by guitarist Reza Ryan distills the influences of the UK Canterbury Scene, American fusion, and surprisingly so for a rock-jazz band, posseses a whole lot of straight jazz sensibility. Even more astonishing that these guys are mastering the most perplexing, sophisticated corners of prog-fusion with this debut release. The unity and melodiousness of this group throughout the unprectible turns they take is startling. Moreover, the music has real emotion and organic flow. Chapter One is the beginning of some fantastic sonic book. Chapter Two won’t go unreviewed on this space.
Ivo Perelman – Enigma: I managed to get five 2013 Ivo Perelman releases covered, but that was one too few. Enigma was skipped over, though it’s every bit as good as the other five. How can it not be? The tenor saxophonist is backed by Matthew Shipp and his trusty bassist Whit Dickey, with the freakish Gerald Cleaver on drums. As one of the most intelligent drummers in jazz of every stripe, Cleaver has a rapport with Perelman developed over a short time that would take years for other drummers to develop, if ever. Moreover, melody is present, or at least lurking around the corner; Shipp plays a key role in that, notably on “Irresistable Incarnation.” It’s funny, but Perelman has tried just about every possible permutation amongst a cadre of about a half dozen musicians, and each one of these combinations have worked. The trust he has placed in these hot shots and the trust returned back to him are the reasons why.
Frank Rosaly – Cicada Music: Whenever there’s a good record by one of Chicago’s avant garde young lions, Rosaly is usually the drummer. Here, he assembles many of the best of that bunch and as a leader conceived all the music, which is based on a documentary about urban scrap metal recyclers. Rosaly’s richly creative drums is fronted by Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Keefe Jackson (various reeds), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), James Falzone (clarinet) and Jason Robke (bass), and they run through a connected fare of short segues and extended improvisations. The odd electronics here and there brings a taste of Chicago Underground to the party, too. The familiarity amongst them makes Rosaly’s ideas succeed. Not bad for a debut record, not bad at all.
Nohaybandatrio – Nohaybandatrio: Indonesia isn’t the only country with a thriving experimental rock-jazz scene, Italy’s got it going on, too. The sax/guitar+bass/drums ensemble Nohaybandatrio stands out in its ability to sound free flowing as it metes out stilted, mathematical rhythms, deliver a metal crunch as it bops, and sound quite melodic as it goes far-out experimental. “Led Zep” highlights an unlikely connection between out-jazz and the legendary heavy rock band that’s apparent even without the samples of Robert Plant’s “Whole Lotta Love” vocals. Nohaybandatrio is hardcore for the thinking man.
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