Silent Photographer is an excellent trio recording. The tone is generally hushed and introspective, and the improvisations are searching and cerebral. Though the group does utilize dissonance, space and tense harmony, the music never feels alienating. The musicianship here is first rate, and the group's interplay is equally impressive. Further credit also goes John Stowell (long an underrated and original guitarist) and Jeff Johnson for contributing well crafted and fitting originals to this album. This album is worth seeking out. Highly recommended.
Mike Melito's The Right Time features nine songs that come squarely from the bop and hard bop traditions. The set is an interesting one from the standpoint of compositions, featuring a mix of standards, orignals and two lesser known songs from the pen of John Coltrane.
Ten Tunes is a loose and playful recording. The band hints at a multitude of styles; they touch on rock, country and funk, as well as Middle Eastern and Latin music, all within a jazz context. Despite the group's eclectic influences, Ten Songs works well as a cohesive whole. This can be attributed to two reasons. First, the group assembled here—leader Bill Barner on clarinet, Stan Smith on guitar, Roger Hines on bass and Danny Aguiar on drums—establish in the pocket grooves on each track, so that each song has an easy rhythmic appeal. Secondly, though the context of the songs may change, Bill Barner always writes around simple, singable melodies.
Tommy Vig has created an original, strangely intuitive, and ultimately satisfying big band. This music is avant garde, and dissonance is integral to their vision. That said, Vig's pieces are about as catchy as avant garde big bands could conceivably be. Fast unison parts are balanced with clear melodies, and rounded out with explorative soloing and inventive charts.
Lucky's Boy is a 2011 release by veteran New England pianist Pamela Hines. Hines is joined by the stellar rhythm section of John Lockwood on bass and Les Harris, Jr. on drums. Also present is April Hall on vocals, whose bluesy style fits well with the proceedings. The entire set is devoted to Hines' originals.
EnCore, as its title suggests, is the second outing by Fred Fried and Core. Listening to this record, one can see why Fred Fried wished to work with this group for a second time—the band, comprised of Fried on eight string guitar, Michael Lavoie on bass and Miki Matsuki on drums, interacts with natural ease and their individual styles are matched well.
Psychedelic pranksters M'lumbo return with the amusingly titled Celestial Ghetto. The title of the album is quite fitting as M'lumbo draw from many sources, and can alternate seamlessly between the gritty and the ethereal. With M'lumbo, there is no distinction between high and low art where refined soloing is juxtaposed against a sense of nutty humor. This might be irritating to some (why obscure a perfectly good solo with seemingly random samples?) but this recording is refreshingly free from intellectual pretenses.
After 75 Years is an ambitious work. Macy Chen has created a concept album of sorts about the parallel lives of herself and her grandfather. Both Chen and her grandfather, Chin-Chang Liu, had left their homes in Taiwan to pursue jazz music, against the practical wisdom of their friends and family. Though she never met her grandfather, Macy Chen always felt a connection with him through jazz music.
The recording is dedicated Mr. Yoshitaka Sugaya, a personal friend of the group who was lost in the tsunami disaster in March, 2011. This lends a personal and tragic feel to this often raw recording. Free Jazz fans will likely find a lot to interest them here.