From ambient post-rock to improvisational, scattered rock-jazz (and a record that has all that, and more), the new releases at the midpoint of this year have already given us pleasant surprises of all sorts in the broad, field of fusion jazz. One musician — Nels Cline — figured in heavily for two of these eight selections, and with the amazing array of embracing projects he is immersed in at any given time, it really shouldn’t be so shocking.
Perhaps the biggest treat came from forty year-old recordings from an electric bass pioneer who’s been dead for twenty-seven years. Arguably, the music heard on Jaco Pastorius’s demo recordings were the seeds for music that profoundly influenced some of the other artists being represented here, and certainly, many other fusion jazz acts operating today.
In no particular order or ranking, this is the last of a four-part series on the best 2014 records I’ve heard so far this year; navigate to the other three installments from the bottom of this one. Access to the full lowdowns on these records are just a click on the album title away.
Medeski, Martin & Wood + Nels Cline – Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 2: Cline and the whole creating on-the-spot setting pushes MMW to make their most immediate, consequential album in years.
Scott Feiner & Pandeiro Jazz – A View From Below: Feiner successfully transfers his own creation pandeiro jazz into electric fusion in producing a breezy concoction that goes down as easy as rum punch, and is just as intoxicating.
Erik Friedlander – Nighthawks: Erik Friedlander’s newest Bonebridge record sprung forth from the dark and quiet of New York City in the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. As good as the playing is, it all starts with the songs, songs that transcend the style that they’re played in; it’s amazing what a temporary loss of technology can inspire.
O (Circle) – When Plants Turn Into Stones An enchanted alchemy of post-rock, ambience and new age advances Germany-based O immediately to the head of the class for these styles of music.
Nels Cline Singers – Macroscope: If there was any stylistic stone remained uncovered here, it probably deserved to be left alone. The Nels Cline Singers can do everything, all right, but their true distinction is that they do it with verve and always manage to craft something artful in the process.
Tohpati, with Jimmy Haslip and Chad Wackerman – Tribal Dance: Tohpati proves he can hang with the best America has to offer while serving up his own, Indonesian-brewed concept of fusion.
Jaco Pastorius – Modern American Music…Period! The Criteria Sessions: With precious few recordings prior to his staggering, self-titled 1976 debut, Jaco Pastorius’ The Criteria Sessions is a set of demos that, for once, really do matter and matter a lot.
Lorenzo Feliciati and Colin Edwin – Twinscapes: Steeped in a rich complexion and gleaming musicianship that serves the song, not the ego, Twinscapes is the one you save for your good headphones and just get lost in it.