Daily Archives: April 10, 2012

GENEROSITIES: OUR FRIEND IN JAZZ, LENA BLOCH

The superb tenor saxophonist Lena Bloch is ready to make her first CD in May 2012 with Dave Miller, Cameron Brown, and Billy Mintz.  If you haven’t heard Lena play, the company she keeps should indicate her worth: Mal Waldron, Joe Lovano, Johnny Griffin, Ted Brown, Michael Kanan, Evgeny Sivtsov, Kenny Werner, Brad Linde, Joel Press . . .

To learn more about Lena’s history, her compositions — to hear and see her play — click here.

Here she is in May 2011 in duet with Evgeny on EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME:

I am delighted that she is finally going to allow her music to be heard beyond YouTube videos and club dates.  But such enterprises need a little help from friends . . .

In another world, Lena would be the happy recipient of a substantial government grant — but such things aren’t easy to come by in 2012, especially if you are “a foreign artist without a home country.”

So she has begun the most modest campaign on Kickstarter — to raise $2000 for the disc.  (I’ve never seen a campaign that started with contributions of five dollars — something that speaks to Lena’s essential modesty and humility.)  As always with Kickstarter, there are a variety of “rewards,” depending on how much one can contribute to the project.  All the money will go to pay the musicians, for studio time, mixing and mastering costs.  (Did I say that the CD has the clever title of UNFOREHEARD?)

The contributions are being handled through Amazon, so no one will be charged anything until the deadline, which is May 13.  At 2 AM, to be exact.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/813167235/lena-bloch-debut-cd-unforeheard?ref=live

The CD will feature improvising — individual and collective — on themes and freely . . . and it will be dedicated to Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh.

Lena Bloch and her music — what she is creating now and what she will create — deserve your attention and support.

May your happiness increase.

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ROLLICKING! WHIT SMITH and MATT MUNISTERI: “HELL AMONG THE HEDGEHOGS”

The new CD by Whit Smith, Matt Munisteri, and Tim Luntzel,  HELL AMONG THE HEDGEHOGS is a delight, so varied and lively, that I have found myself playing it twice in a row, enjoying it more each time.

I know that you can’t listen to the cover, but even the wry drawing (the cover of an imagined hip children’s book) by Ariella Huff says something about the CD’s witty, swinging sensibility:

Some of you will be ready to order it right now — so why should I burden you with details?  You can accomplish that goal right here or (if you feel Amazonian) here — or if you like all things Baby, then here.

I always think that the absolute best way, should you want a tangible disc, is to buy it from the artist at a gig — doubling your pleasure and the artist’s — but I know that isn’t convenient for everyone.

Whit and Matt, peerless guitarists, romp on “two old Gibson electric guitars,” with their distinctive sound — and are joined by the fine string bassist Tim Luntzel.  The sessions were recorded in 2010, and they sound real, with no studio trickery or tension.  The final track comes from a live session at Barbes in Brooklyn — and has some impromptu crowd support, as is appropriate.

Guitarists will want this disc immediately: it is a casual, playful series of tumbling conversations between two players who swing intuitively, whose epigrammatic phrases and long lines ring in the mind.  The brief comments on the back of the paper sleeve distinguish Whit and Matt for those not immediately familiar with the sound of each player: “Whit’s sound is more compact and warm; Matt has more treble and gloss; Whit is tighter and dry; Matt is slithery and wet.  Whit is hedgehog, Matt is muskrat.”

Now we can move on, having cleared that up.

The sound of the three string instruments suggests — at turns — shirt-sleeved daredevils on the shady porch, creating new paths through familiar melodies, taking their time.  At times a ringing phrase suggests Bix or Louis, George Barnes or Chet Atkins — or the local train meandering through the history of intimate swing playing of the last ninety years.  You’ll hear a barn dance and a Harlem jam session of 1941.  Nothing drags or races; everyone explores the open vistas of rocking Medium Tempos in light-hearted ways.

Whit sings ALONG THE NAVAJO TRAIL; Matt offers SINGIN’ THE BLUES with the never-heard verse.  Those two selections will indicate the wide range of the nine songs: from obscure pop songs to hokum to jazz classics to one by Eldon Shamblin and Tiny Moore, YOU JUST TAKE HER.  The songs show a deep immersion in the jazz tradition — MUSKRAT RAMBLE, DEEP HENDERSON, a Coleman Hawkins line, TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING; a Sidney Bechet tune, OKEY DOKE.  But don’t think that this CD is jazz archaeology, dusty jazz idolatries.  Certainly not.  The classic lines are used as foundations for energetic, joyous playing.  The title track — an original by Whit — is a left-handed consideration of STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE (to my ears) full of surprises.  And no CD that ends with YOU’RE BOUND TO LOOK LIKE A MONKEY WHEN YOU GROW OLD (one of those tough truths no one wants to hear) can be overly serious, can it?

I never cared much for muskrats and hedgehogs before this, but I’ve changed my mind.  You will, too.

READ IT AND WEEP: “NEARLY ENTIRELY ACOUSTIC”

The writer of this press release gets high marks for enthusiasm, low marks for restraint or clarity.  I have erased the names of the innocent artists.  

Since the early 1990s, the soulful, spacey jazz grooves of X have been a familiar part of ______’s alternative music scene, having in the past released her own original music on ________ Records. X’s keyboard skills have augmented the live performances and studio recordings of world renowned artists such as ______, soul diva R, as well as X currently being a core member of W’s space jazz outfit P.

X Five is her latest project, nearly entirely acoustic, and is an intoxicating cocktail of her many diverse influences including blues and soul, jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms, combined with ambient dance music, always interesting, absorbing and surprising. The album represents a fresh direction for the label, and is one they are extremely excited about.

Opening up with ________which is a spell binding and hypnotic blend of 21st century jazz sensibilities, combined with ambient dance music minimalism and is a first rate lesson in the ‘less is more approach’ to music making. The sense of restraint and space captured on this recording is a quite beautiful and rare thing, especially in the jazz world.

Renowned vocal sensation Q makes two contributions on the album, the first being the rolling, rhythm & blues romper stomper H, which is already egetting major support from critics and jazz radio, and allows Q to stretch out within a fresh and wide open musical landscape and the result speaks for itself. Her second appearance on this collection, I, is gospel influenced soul with X’s tender piano and organ work underpinning Q’s quite outstanding and touching vocal performance.

Across on the entire album, X and her band mates, bassist K and percussionists D and G, adeptly weave together various rhythmic palates into a varied but cohesive selection of sounds that draw together a world of influences and textures, from the latin pulse of V, the jaunty and swinging vibe of G, and the punchy yet considered attack of T, this tight musical unit display a rare skill for playing with taste, precision and a selfless, collaborative attitude where the only end result that matters is the music.