by: Hobart Taylor
Gabriel Alegria Afro -Peruvian Sextet - Diablo en Brooklyn - (Saponegro Records)
The African diaspora commonly receives a North American/Caribbean spin in the United States, and jazz analysis and performance is no exception. In reality, slavery was everywhere in the Americas ranging from Boston to Buenos Aries , and so were African cultural influences in the fine and domestic arts, cuisine, and music. Folks are aware of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz, but Colombia and Peru are rich sources of the admixture of Native, European, and African musics as well.
Trumpeter Alegria and his collaborators have an African sound, bass and percussion driven, but also are deeply influenced by "creative" music in the tradition of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. They use Gershwin's "Summertime" as a foil to scaffold primal rhythms on top of European melodic structure and the blues. Throughout, guitar fills and other identifiably Latin elements especially guapeo, verbal exhortations to drive the music and the audience redolent of the call and response tradition, illustrate how difficult and ultimately meaningless it is to attempt to extract precise cultural strands. The incredible array of percussion instruments, cajon, cajita, (resonant boxes),the quijada, (donkey's jawbone), and bells provide a sonic panorama. Finally critical to the sound are the dynamic interaction between Alegria on trumpet and flugelhorn, and the stunning contributions of Laura Andrea Leguia on soprano, tenor, and baritone saxophones.
Bonerama - Hot Like Fire - (Basin Street Records)
Straight out of NOLA. New Orleans brass consortium Bonerama consists of three trombones, a sousaphone, bass guitar, guitar, drums and some vocals. They feature funk street band music a la Dirty Dozen and Rebirth and a multitude of brass bands that play venues like The Glass House, 5914 Florida Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana (in case you are headed that way). They can rock out in the psychedelic soul stylings of the '70's or get down and dirty in the haze of the soul/blues. Spooky minor key riffs, abound, and there is the requisite humorous song about food, "Mr. Okra". My faves, "High Horse" and "Paranoid Android", a slow building conflagration.
Dave Douglas/The Westerlies - Little Giant Still Life - (Greenleaf Music)
One of the most prolific recording artists in modern jazz is the trumpeter Dave Douglas. With over forty releases, many on his own label, this alumnus of John Zorn's Masada Quartet has made major contributions to jazz/classical, and post generic muisc. He collaborates with many of the most creative of musicians from Vijay Iyer to Tom Waits. On this recording his confreres are the brass ensemble, The Westerlies (two trombones, two trumpets) and the drummer Anwar Marshall. The results are jagged pulsing quivering masses of sound. Sometimes serial, sometimes modal explorations, sometimes just deconstruction of scales, these tunes explore dimensions of breath and breadth.
Jonathan Saraga - Journey to a New World - (Fresh Sound Records)
Young trumpeter/composer Saraga has casual authority and sophistication in his playing and arrangements. These provide a strong foundation to his uber hip melodies. Working with a sextet, bass,drums,keyboards, guitar, and the wonderful sometimes flutelike alto sax playing of Remy Le Boeuf, Saraga is amazing on moody melodic material, like "Sabbath Prayer" and on his cover of Cedar Walton's joyous tune "Firm Roots".
This is a special record from a player with expressive virtuosity and calm yet total tonal control.
Ed Neumeister & NeuHat Ensemble - Wake Up Call - (MeisterMusic)
Composer/arranger/conductor Neumeister uses a large ensemble as his instrument. A large ensemble rather than a big band. Big bands tend to shout and pound their chests. Large ensembles are intricate machines or better yet organisms that operate as metaphors for the human body, or the gravitational dance of the cosmos.
Neumesiter's melodies expand and contract like beating hearts, breath, the shadows of passing clouds. Lateral, horizontal, and skew contrapuntal melodies overwhelm the sensitive listener and send her or him into realms of satori. I guess you get that I like this music.
Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington - Bicoastal Collective - (Chapter Five OA2 Records)
Another large ensemble posing as a big band is this collaboration between baritone saxophonist Aaron Lington and trumpeter Paul Tynan. Playing tunes by one or the other, they join 12 other horn and woodwind artists, a piano and rhythm section in straight ahead excursions that amble off into realms of expanding consciousness.
The baritone solo on "I Remember Every Day" leads into multifaceted overviews of moments in time that have Zappalike musical purity. Lington's "Four Taiwanese Folk Melodies" shows of a more traditional big band approach, but is gloriously tonally askew, and has changes that elevate the whole composition. My favorite tune is "More Than Just A Single Road", which is an apt description of this project in general.