by: Hobart Taylor
Joonsam (with Aaron Parks-Nate Wood-Ralph Alessi and Ben Monder) - A Door - (Origin)
Bassist Joonsam Lee along three brilliant ECM all stars (pianist Parks, trumpeter Alessi, and guitarist Monder) debuts here with a set of tunes that is both profoundly thoughtful and viscerally exciting. The melodies are sometimes rapidly propelled jagged shards of stutter step fragments, as in "Zadrak", or evoke timeless and inevitable beauty and grace as in "Doraji the Flower", or unlock the mysteries of the everyday via a stately march under the wistful stream of consciousness reflections as performed by Parks in "Airport Music". This release marks an auspicious start to Joonsam Lee's recording career.
Autobahn - Of the Tree - (Self-Released)
In that magic place where "experimental", jazz, and classical intersect often emerges a tribal music that comes from somewhere "uncivilized", that is to say not always clearly linked to the predominate melodic tropes of Western, Asian, or African music but occasionally making tangential references to them. So what makes this music so special is that divorced from our usual expectations it can still seem familiar. Canada's Autobahn, produced by Rich Brown, and featuring trio James Hill, piano, Jeff LaRochelle, tenor sax and bass clarinet, and drummer Ian Wright, make a world music that seems planetary, which is to say not a fusion but rather a direct connection to the human species, and earth itself.
Ralph Alessi - Quiver - (ECM)
Figure and Ground. Alessi's compositions often have him commenting via impassioned solos over serial modal explorations. There are quiet conversations with pianist Gary Versace before Versace fades back into the rhythm section. Most of the the CD is reflective, down tempo and deeply meditative. The melodies are inside out, as if you are hearing all the notes where other people leave silence and skip the the expected bits. It is quite lovely. I particularly like "Gone Today, Here Tomorrow", the slightly funky "Scratch" which features drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Drew Gress, and the title tune "Quiver".
Vijay Iyer/Wadad Leo Smith - A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke - (ECM)
A duet (Smith trumpet/Iyer piano, fender rhodes, electronics) recording featuring both individual compositions by each artist and a centerpiece collaborative suite of seven tunes, "A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke", this is of a piece, not a collection of songs. These tunes are not conversations, they are mind melds. Ideas and emotions emerge sometimes in succession as melodic ideas expand, sometimes all at once. This is a profound and authentic experience which just happens to take the form of music.
Wolfert Brederode Trio - Black Ice - (ECM)
In the ECM tradition, pale fire. This is one of those perfectly balanced trios which require the careful listener to constantly shift focus. The interplay is guided by Dutch pianist Brederode's deft and fluid performance. Subtly syncopated while retaining European neo-classicism, these tunes often employ melodies that slowly build dynamically while descending or ascending tonally as the basic compositional device used to entice. Faves, "Black Ice", "Olive Tree" and ""Bemani" (variation).
Trevor Giancola Trio - Fundamental - (Self-Released)
Canadian guitarist Giancola is pretty straight ahead yet slightly skew, with mildly idiosyncratic intonation and occasional forays ahead or behind the beat. Low key and pleasant, I like his spacey composition "Fundamental", his lively rendition of Joe Henderson's "Punjab", and and his nice take on the classic "You Go To My Head".