With the current rate of release of good albums, it’s necessary to have frequent updates of the JAZZ MUSIC Radar. This third episode of the radar features a selection of albums that were released principally after the first days of February. As already said before, the list of records that you’ll find below is fairly representative of what’s happening in contemporary Jazz but it’s not intended to report every and single release that occurred in the period of interest, but rather to recommend a group of albums and artists that got my attention because of their quality and originality.
Before starting with the review of the new albums, let’s remember what we discussed in the previous episodes:
- Episode 1: Jose Carra, Kevin Reveyrand, Sean Hicke, and Melon Shades.
- Episode 2: Christian Li / Mike Bono, Andrew Lawrence, Mark Lockheart, Wandering Monster, Graham Costello’s STRATA, Manu Katché, Paolo Fresu / Richard Galliano / Jan Lundgren
Let’s see the artists that emerged in the last few weeks, and stay tuned for future updates!
“Steps”, by Salieri Govoni Negrelli Trio
I’m happy to start the new issue of the radar with an album coming from Italy, which is the second album in the discography of the Jazz ensemble Salieri Govoni Negrelli Trio, which consists of Jacopo Salieri (piano), Nicola Govoni (double bass), and Fausto Negrelli (drums). Their brand new release, named Steps, offers a nice and intriguing version of contemporary Jazz which takes influences and inspirations from many giants of today scene, from GoGoPenguin to Avishai Cohen.
Steps fits in that wide category of albums that consider the accessibility of Jazz as one of the key objectives to be pursued. And this goal here is fully achieved. In fact, the songs of Steps are full of enjoyable melodies, punctuated and groovy rhythms, and also quite linear progressions of chords. Improvisation is present but relegated to a secondary role. The cohesion among the instruments, the harmonic development and the rhythmic intensity are definitely more important for the three Italian musicians. Of course, such a “mainstream” approach to jazz brings with it the risk that music may become a little predictable, with very few surprises. Indeed, there are some tracks on the record that are destined to slip away from the listener’s memory (I can mention Along the River). Other pieces are decidedly more stimulating and manage in being, at the same time, extremely melodic and interesting to explore from the point of view of the harmonic constructs and counterpoint (the title track is a good example).
My overall opinion is positive. We all need a bunch of good records to be put in the stereo every now and then to fill the walls of our house with catchy and enjoyable songs: we’re not always in the mood to focus our attention on conceptual architectures of sounds or atonal melodies. Coming back to the specific case of Steps, here the balance between the most interesting songs and the less successful ones is in favour of the first, also because in the latter we can still appreciate a nice balance of sounds, strengthened by a remarkable production.
“The Alaska Sessions”, by Accidental Tourists (Burger, Erskine, Magnusson)
One of the most beautiful releases of the last few weeks was without any doubt the new record by Markus Burger‘s project Accidental Tourists. For his latest record, named The Alaska Sessions, Burger asked the collaboration of two of the most renowned musicians of the American jazz scene: acclaimed drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Bob Magnusson.
The Alaska Sessions features a collection of beautiful songs that were initially written by Burger during a series of trips he made in Alaska and then interpreted by the trio during an intense two-day recording session in Los Angeles. The LP is absolutely, and objectively, a great album to listen to. The three musicians managed to convey that sense of “classic” and universal amazement that only the wildest and most uncontaminated nature can give to a man. Starting from Burger’s nature-inspired and valuable material, Erskine and Magnusson did much more than just supporting the leader, they enriched all the pieces with significant and remarkable contributions.
“The Addition of Strangeness”, by Doron Segal
The Addition of Strangeness, which is the debut LP from Israeli jazz pianist Doron Segal, is one of those records that can demonstrate to the sceptical ones how modern Jazz, when played by brilliant musicians, can really tell about the world where we live today, and not of something that exists only in our memories. The music offered by Segal follows the path that was initiated by other brilliant musicians like Shai Maestro and Tigran Hamaysan, which sees the combination of timeless and beautiful melodies with alterations and influences coming from many different sources of inspiration, spanning from folk to rock.
This was one of the best debut albums that I had the opportunity to enjoy since the beginning of the year. Doron Segal is a new promise of the international jazz scene and his music is at the same time modern, relatively accessible, but full of interesting details.
I have published a dedicated review of the LP, you can access it from here.
“And Then Comes the Night”, by Mats Eilertsen
An album like And Then Comes the Night is totally built upon atmospheres. The music wrote by Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen for his new LP leverages the contrasts and the combinations that are created by the instruments to arouse strong emotions in the listener, and you will end up venturing into foggy and partly haunting musical landscapes.
Eilertsen is supported for this release by Dutch jazz pianist Harmen Fraanje and renowned and prolific Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen. The three interpreters alternate (short) moments in which they follow the same melody, with longer phases in which they diverge along different directions, with each musician following his own spark of inspiration. The three, however, always manage to keep the individual improvisations almost consistent with the general atmosphere of the songs.
And Then Comes the Night is a very special record, extremely atmospheric, in which part of the charm comes from the music, and part from the silence.
“Imaginary Friends”, by Ralph Alessi
I couldn’t imagine closing this review of the most relevant events in Jazz without mentioning the new record by American jazz trumpeter Ralph Alessi. Imaginary Friends, his latest effort, develops mainly around the duet between Alessi’s trumpet and the saxophone of his friend and longtime music partner Ravi Coltrane.
Alessi and Coltrane are the two undisputed protagonists of the album, and they basically polarize the attention on all the songs of the LP, which however benefit also of the precious support from pianist Andy Milne, drummer Mark Ferber, and bassist Drew Gress.
The album is mainly based on improvisation, and the aspect that I liked the most of these songs is given by the suspended and at times dark atmospheres that are created by the musicians. Compared to Alessi’s previous release (2016’s Quiver), the songs of Imaginary Friends seem to me relatively less immediate and dramatic, but the album as a whole is still deep and full of many details to savour with calm and tranquillity.
All the new releases in Jazz are collected in The JAZZ MUSIC Radar, the playlist on Spotify which features all the artists and the best songs that are mentioned in this series of articles. Listen to it, follow it, and spread the word!