The Musicorium

Sharing some music.

Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

Three Great Contemporary Jazz Artists

Posted by SP on January 12, 2010

I was going to write “there are few forms of music that I love more than jazz” but screw it.  There aren’t ANY forms of music that I love more than jazz.  Unfortunately, really good, innovative, and musically sound jazz is hard to find.  Most releases stateside are either anemic descendants of 70’s fusion (think Weather Channel music) or staid attempts at traditionalism by otherwise really competent players who might swing like hell live, but won’t sell records on a major label if they dare push the envelope to jazz snobs in North America.

That’s why I’m dedicating this entry to three American jazz artists that I think are breaking that mold and doing really creative, electrifying work that deserves to be heard: Christian Scott, Jason Moran, and Sean Jones.

First New Orleans native Christian Scott.

I got introduced to his music through the recommendation of a friend that I check out 2007’s Anthem, Scott’s melancholic, thoughtful, and altogether moving reflection on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.  I was immediately arrested by Scott’s whispery tone, which is truly unique (allegedly the product of his own exploration and guidance from legendary mentor Clark Terry).  Anthem is dark and moody, but it fits its subject matter perfectly and stands out, at least to me, as an expressive benchmark.  Below is a video of Scott performing live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2008.

Jason Moran has been a favorite of mine for years.  His 2003 record The Bandwagon: Live at the Village Vanguard got my attention with his versatility, feel, and remarkable sense of song.  It was also just cool as hell.  Who can argue with a jazz cover of Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa? I mean, come on.  His later work, however, far outshines anything on that record.  His latest release Artist in Residence is absolutely arresting in its beauty and structure.  Far from being just an exceptional piano player, Moran has developed the compositional vocabulary to show just how much he understands this music without losing sight of his own message and sensibility.  It is a shame he isn’t better known outside jazz.  The song in this video, from Artist in Residence, is called “He Puts on His Coat and Leaves”.  The video doesn’t do it justice.  If you can, listen to the original.  It’s an entire novel in less than five minutes.

“He Puts on His Coat and Leaves” (live)

Finally there’s Sean Jones, another trumpeter, but from Ohio.  Sean Jones’ reputation used to be strongest in the Detroit-Pittsburgh corridor.  (Jones teaches Jazz at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh) but a turn with the much valorized Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra the last five years has changed that, and Jones is finally coming into some very well-deserved publicity.  Jones’s playing is nothing short of beautiful.  He plays with a clarity and phrasing that are slightly reminiscent of Terence Blanchard (at least to me) but where Blanchard’s playing is austere, Jones radiates warmth and light.  He’s the perfect yang to Scott’s yin.  Plus, as the videos below attest, the guy can swing like there’s no tomorrow.  Jones’ latest release, 2009’s The Search Within, is nothing short of a revelation.  As a composer, Jones already has a fresh and unmistakable signature sound that I think will one day put him in the same league with other great trumpeter/composers like Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd.   The Search Within will knock you out.

Sean Jones, Kenny Blake, Howie Alexander, live in Pittsburgh doing a blazing rendition of Herbie Hancock’s classic “Watermelon Man” parts I & II

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Nicola Conte: Jet Sounds Revisited

Posted by SP on October 6, 2009

Nicola Conte: Jet Sounds Revisited

Nicola Conte: Jet Sounds Revisited

Nicola Conte is a guy who really gets something that a lot of people miss about jazz. Before the culture at large started looking at jazz as coffee house muzak or something to buy upscale furniture too, jazz was party music. It was club music; dance music. It was meant to be played loud and meant to shake booty. Nicola Conte gets this completely, which is why his melding of Brazilian rhythms, classic West Coast cool vibes and house music works so incredibly well where so many other “acid jazz” artists produce music that’s turgid, generic sounding and completely forgettable.

Nicola Conte’s blend works, I think, because he stays true to his background as a jazz guitarist even when he’s DJ-ing, because he has a first rate understanding of how rhythm works in dance music regardless of the culture it comes from, and because he knows how to create the kinds of aural textures with voices and instruments that makes the golden age of exported Brazilian bossa and samba in particular is so famous. His tunes are built from the inside out around fidelity to rhythm, not slapped together in an unstable mash up of varying influences. For all its craftsmanship though, it doesn’t feel forced or pretentious the way that some otherwise really good house music does at times. Conte keeps it light and fun, quoting from film soundtracks, adding in the odd spoken vocal sample here and there, and just generally showing a great sense of humor about the whole thing.

It’s jazz music for people that like house music, or house music for people that love jazz. I challenge you to put on Jet Sounds Revisited and not be shaking your hips, keeping time, or dancing around your house at least once before it’s over.

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Kind of Bloop

Posted by David on October 4, 2009

Kind of BloopHave you ever been listening to Kind of Blue and thought to yourself, “As much as I’m fond of Miles Davis, I really wonder what it would sound like if my NES had performed this music instead”? Well, wonder no longer. A group of chiptune artists took it upon themselves to recreate the classic jazz album track by track, and the result is Kind of Bloop. There was maybe a five or ten minute period between me seeing a link to this, listening to the samples, and giving in to the urge to spend $5 on downloading it. I haven’t regretted it for a moment — I think they did a fantastic job of balancing note-by-note faithfulness to the original tunes with the occasional period of gloriously 8-bit rocking out. Recommended to anyone whose fancy this sort of thing might tickle.

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The Five Corners Quintet

Posted by SP on September 29, 2009

The Five Corners Quintet: Chasin the Jazz Gone By (2005)

The Five Corners Quintet: Chasin the Jazz Gone By (2005)

A lot of really good jazz is coming out of Scandinavia right now, and one of the first groups that really hooked me in that recent wave was the Five Corners Quintet out of Helsinki, Finland.  These guys swing.  I mean, they swing.  While others in what one could arguably call their peer group saunter through bossa nova and lounge idioms, these guys play it like they mean it–just chopping the stage up into little bits. They’re thoroughly modern players whose performances breathe life and energy into what can seem–even to real lovers of jazz–like a fairly played out idiom with few places to go.  On first listen it’s going to be hard to listen past what will seem like pretty standard harmonies and horn parts, but if you want to hear what makes this group so special you’ll have to do some multiple listening.  My advice would be to pay special attention to what the rhythm section is doing–especially on the Hot Corner EP. Some of the drum lines are so complicated that they could fit right in to really technical drum & bass tracks.  It’s little realizations like that that make a group really fun to listen to for me.  Plus they just ooze cool, and did I mention they swing? 2005’s Chasin’ the Jazz Gone By was one of the freshest records I’d heard in a long time–it’s well worth a listen.  It’s a great high-powered mid-sized combo jazz in a classic post-bop style with those understated, distinctive, and amazing contemporary touches that reward multiple listening.  Solid from start to finish.  No gaps or weak tracks.  Though you can find their stuff in digital formats on the web, their preferred medium is vinyl.  If you can find it or are motivated enough to special order either Chasin’ the Jazz Gone By or  the more recent Hot Corner EP, you won’t be let down.

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