Each time I am about to listen to a new album signed by pianist Robert Magris I expect to hear that subtle "European" touch he is infusing his songs. No mistake, Kansas City Outbound where the Italian pianist honors American jazz is not an exception. Along with famous standards, Magris included four originals. I would mention the beautiful Rainbow Eyes a balladesque fusion between the jazz of two continents and the intense, nervous Iraqi Blues. Magris, wonderfully joined here by Art Davis’ quite robust and deep bass lines, has a sense of keeping the listener alert and surprised, switching rhytms and tempos, blending classical touches with modern sonorities. The tonal contrasts and consonances between piano and bass are deligtful throughout the album and particulary on the intimate Darn That Dream or on A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, where the theme is captured in its essence while the rhytm brings an interesting modern twist One can feel the music of this album as a view to the mainstream jazz, filtered by a sensitive "magrisian" manner, spiced up with "new age" inflexions and unexpected grooves. Although it may not be apropriate to characterize the album as an "intelligent soulful jazz improvization" it is hard to oversee the precision of performers combined with the emotional drive that makes the jazz a lively music.
Diversity leads to harmony seems to be the musical message emerging from Anthony Ocaña's new album. From beginning to end, "Solo" is an exquisite journey built on classical lines blended with airy improvisations, distilled folk and jazz themes. Sculpting in sounds, Ocana uses spaces and tempos to create a structured concept revealed layer by layer to the listener. Each song tells a story, at times joyful at times contemplative yet seamlessly integrated with the overall elegant atmosphere noticeable throughout the album. Among the highlights, the intimate "Improviso 2 (a Anouar Brahem)" and the two Beatles classics arranged with a sense of freshness and free style.
On Guitar Sketch virtuoso Italian guitarists Matteo Minozzi and Eugenio Polacchini give a personal expression to a set of ten well-known jazz standards. The album features also a beautiful piece composed by E. Polacchini. It is a surprisingly fresh and energetic guitar dialogue, sometimes punctuated with humour, blending classical and "sketchy" jazz. The beauty of the album as a whole relies undeniably on the clever interplay between the two musicians. Their musical personalities intersect, complete and compliment each other, spontaneously filling the right space, telepathically finding the right tone at the speed of sound. There is no cliché here, their swing is rather impressionistic and warm with an inventive twist to each song that often takes the listener by surprise.
Inspired from the traditional Cretan music, "Generations" is more than Greek Oud Jazz, as it is stated on the CD cover. This impressive band featuring bass, drums, percussion, piano, organ, violin, saxophone, harp, flute, and George K himself playing oud, bouzuki and guitar, shows an equal understanding of the ancestral Greek musical elements and also requires a special feeling to blend all this musical treasures with jazz improvisations. The keyword is good taste without compromise. George K is not merely juxtaposing traditional and modern themes and rhythms, his arrangements rise beyond a colorful kaleidoscope of eclectic sonorities to achieve inclusiveness, a new compositional structure that merges together the essence of Greek dances and the spontaneity of jazz orchestrations. There is a flavor of infused Eastern musical spirituality flowing, which gives the music a distinctive dimension.
An exciting new release from Haftor Medbøe Group continuing the seductive cinematic atmosphere of their previous albums, this time blending in the smooth hypnotic vocals of Anneke Kampman(for some reason it reminds me of Skye) and tasteful drum programming. The new sonorities bring an interesting futuristic dimension to arrangements, fluidizing, breezing and echoing, yet without distorting the melodic poetry of the music. The album features five songs like a five act play(!) featuring a prologue and an epilogue. A special mention for the final track, "Surfrize", a meditative synthesis charged with emotion where all the band members excel in beautiful polyphonies, at times at unison or soloing. Trying to label Haftor Medbøe Group as a postmodern jazz fusionists may not be appropriate but it gives an idea of their artistic direction.