Tag Archives: Gut String Records

MS. YOO TO YOU! “I AM CURIOUS”: JINJOO YOO, NEAL MINER, JIMMY WORMWORTH (Gut String Records)

We know “curious” as being eager to learn or know something, but the less well-known definition is unusual, rare, unexpected.

Photograph by Jennie Karpadai

The inventive jazz pianist and composer Jinjoo Yoo is both of these things, qualities sweetly embodied in her debut CD, I AM CURIOUS, a trio session with Neal Miner and Jimmy Wormworth on Gut String Records.  And if you think you’ve heard and seen her before, you are correct: I wrote admiringly of her at the end of February 2018 here.

The disc offers six of Jinjoo’s originals, and although I ordinarily view “originals” with some trepidation, I welcomed hers and wish that a full-scale CD is coming soon.

Her music is unhackneyed, melodic, welcoming.  She spins out long graceful lines that aren’t four-bar modules copied from other pianists.  She has her own voice, or I should say, “voices.”  The performances often begin with a simple melodic motif set over a clear, swinging rhythmic foundation . . . and they transparently show off her curiosity.

I can hear her asking of the music, “Notes, chords, where will you take me?” And the results are gently playful, as if she were turning over brightly-colored bits of melody and harmony in the sunlight to see what reflections they cast on the while wall.  She can be tender, ruminative, but she can also create vivid joyous dances: songs that call out for lyrics.

Her playing is spare but I never felt it to be sparse, the sonic equivalent of a large room with one canvas chair against the wall.  No, her single notes seem just right — percussive commentary when needed, lyrical otherwise, and her harmonies are lovely, neither formulaic nor jarring.  Her voicings are subtle but right: the listener isn’t overpowered by force or volume, but welcomed in.  And she works wonderfully with the stellar members of this trio.  It’s music that will deeply reward those steeped in the modern piano tradition, but music one could play for someone outside the circle who would find it refreshing.  It’s clear that she has steeped herself in the jazz tradition — reaching far and wide to include bebop, Jimmy Rowles, Ellington, Monk, and American popular song at its best — but she is herself.  And she has an essential sense of humor: even her most pensive moments have an airy quality.

The titles are: BLULLABY, DIZZY BLOSSOM, I’M CURIOUS, AND I CALL IT HOME, TO BARRY WITH LOVE, BLULLABY (alternate take).

Jinjoo writes, “I owe my inspiration to the blue morning light sneaking in through my window (Track 1, 6), A bird singing, and flower petals floating in the air during springtime (Track 2), Fantasies created by desire and curiosity (Track 3), Teymur Hajiyev’s film about the reality of life in the slums of Azerbaijan <Shanghai, Baku> (Track 4), My hero, my teacher, the one and only Barry Harris (Track 5).”

I predict a bright future for this sensitive, intuitive artist — both as pianist and composer.  You can learn more about I’M CURIOUS and other Gut String Records releases here.  I encourage you to do so: these CDs don’t always get the press barrage their contents deserve, but they are rewarding in music and sound.

Here’s Neal’s video of BLULLABY, from the recording session:

and TO BARRY, WITH LOVE:

Welcome, Ms. Yoo!  Consider yourself invited to stay.  And thank you.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

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LYRICALLY ALIVE: AI MURAKAMI QUARTET: “CONCEPTION”

For the moment, the usual media sources have tired of telling us that jazz is dead, but some anonymous blogger launches heavy satire that it is “the worst,” while another source reports that jazz is the least popular music on the planet.  I find it difficult to care about such blurts . . . because beautiful performances and many new discs prove those slighting words untrue.

aimurakami

Today’s delight is drummer Ai Murakami’s CONCEPTION (Gut String Records) where she leads Zaid Nasser, alto saxophone; Tardo Hammer, piano; Hassan Shakur, string bass, through eight lyrically swinging performances: ON A MISTY NIGHT / CONCEPTION / SWEET LORRAINE / OLD DEVIL MOON / WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME / SAUCER EYES / WE’LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN / RAY’S IDEA.

I had never encountered Ai, but when I had the opportunity to hear her music, I was very pleased.  (I must point out that my apartment, rather like the late Ed Beach’s, is primarily furnished in music — a wall of CDs, boxes of cassettes, and a collection of what is now called fashionably “vinyl,” so that I turn down offerings of most CDs, thinking that I will never live to hear one-fourth of what I now own. For me to eagerly ask for a CD is in itself an enthusiastic endorsement of the music it contains.)

First off, although this is a drummer-led quartet, Ai is a percussionist more interested in propelling the group than in soloing.  The two extended solos she takes, on SAUCER EYES and RAY’S IDEA, are each slightly more than a minute long, and are deliciously melodic displays of accents, rolls, and rimshots — compositionally deep, as one motif naturally builds into the next.  Throughout this session, she plays “for the comfort of the band, ” creating a flowing swing tapestry for the quartet.  She moves quietly around her set as the context changes, and her work is full of subtle colorations of sound that show how deeply and lovingly she listens to her colleagues.  Pianist Hammer is one of the great lyrical players of this era, his work simultaneously definite and airy; bassist Shakur is a melodic player who keeps beautiful time and has a deep resonant tone; altoist Nasser is a post-Parker songbird with a citrusy tone, moving easily from one great lyrical paean to the next.

This recording is “old-fashioned” in beautiful ways, which I write as a great compliment: it shows their respect for song offered in swinging ways.  Melodies are caressed rather than demolished, and the result is gratifying mainstream jazz played in this century.  It isn’t an attempt to reproduce great performances or familiar solos in better fidelity, but one could pass it off as a lovely unissued Prestige session and the collectors would be racing to buy copies.

I asked Ai for her thoughts, and they are candid and modest.

“First of all, I love each one of these players as a great musician.  They have their own unique sound and their phrasing is so musical.  I have worked with each member in different band situations and always enjoyed it.  But when we played together for the first time, it was very different. I felt full of joy while I was playing as the band was so swinging. After several gigs together, I felt even better! Then I started thinking that I should do a recording with this band. I wanted more people to hear our music and feel like I do.

The most significant tune for me on this recording is Conception, which is why I named my album after it! I always love this tune, but I don’t hear many musicians play it nowadays. So I wanted to try it on our recording.  I guess it is a tough tune, but I’m happy about the way we sound on the recording.  The drum trading was a bit complicated, but we nailed it! I really like the ending too.

On our recording, I selected tunes the way I do for the gig.  I wanted our recording to be like a good set, with various tempos, different feels, a mix of standards and bebop tunes… so that we enjoy our playing and hopefully our listeners do too.  I’m quite happy about the way it came out.

I also wanted to feature all the members on my recording. I asked Tardo and Hassan to pick their own featured tunes.  Tardo picked When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Hassan picked We’ll Be Together Again.  Tardo and Hassan played great in general, but I think they especially sounded wonderful on their tunes.”

Here you can find out more. And here are two complete performances from the disc itself:

SWEET LORRAINE:

WE’LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN:

CONCEPTION is both an idea and a giving birth — here it is deeply satisfying lyrical music, a living embodiment of sophisticated swinging improvisations . . . the kind of rich music the media tells is finished.  How wrong they are.

You can learn more about Ai and her bands here.

May your happiness increase! 

YOUNGBLOODS AND ELDER STATESMEN JOIN IN TO SWING OUT

In jazz, the Infant Prodigies become the Youngbloods, Established Heroes, and Elder Statespersons in what seems like sixty-four bars. Tempus fugit rapidly in 4 / 4!

Here are two CDs by young fellows — with the gracious assistance of a Senior Sage — that I commend to you.  The first features American brothers Peter and Will Anderson; the second UK pals Jamie Brownfield and Liam Byrne.

1373312651_peter-will-anderson-music-of-the-soprano-masters-2013

Most often, Will and Pete, superb players, have been found in situations I would call lovingly retrospective — recreating the music of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, sitting in the reed section of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks.  But they aren’t repeater pencils; their range is both broad and deep. Their latest CD, MUSIC OF THE SOPRANO MASTERS, (Gut String Records), shows how easily and comfortably they move in expansive musical worlds. There is a great deal of swinging brotherly love on this CD (no fraternal head-cutting), and each selection seems like its own small improvised orchestral cosmos.

Another delight of this disc is the way in which the Andersons have dug into the repertoire to offer us beauties not so often played, by reedmen not always known as composers — Lucky Thompson, Roland Kirk, and the ever-energetic Bob Wilber, who is represented here by his compositions and his vibrant playing. The rhythm section of Ehud Asherie, Mike Karn, and Phil Stewart couldn’t be nicer or more attentive, and the recorded sound is a treat. Sweetly sculpted liner notes by Robert Levin complete this package . . . a present ready for any occasion.

The songs are Home Comin’ (Lucky Thompson) / A Sack Full of Soul (Roland Kirk) / Vampin’ Miss Georgia (Bob Wilber) / Caressable (Thompson) / Jazzdagen Jump (Wilber) / Bechet’s Fantasy (Sidney Bechet) / My Delight (Kirk) / Warm Inside / Haunted Melody (Thompson/Kirk) / Lou’s Blues (Wilber). It’s available in the usual places, but the best way to get it (if you can’t come to the gig) is here.

Some months ago, a friend passed along a YouTube video of youthful trumpeter Jamie Brownfield and saxophonist Liam Byrne, and I was delighted. They, too, didn’t exactly copy the past, but they swung mightily in an idiom I would call post-Lestorian with dashes of Tony Fruscella, Harry Edison, George Auld.  With the addition of guitarist Andrew Hulme, Nick Blacka, string bass, Marek Dorcik, drums, and Tom Kincaid, a special guest pianist, they sound wonderful — as if the Kansas City Six had time-traveled forward to meet Barney Kessel and Jimmy Rowles in the ether.

Their new CD is appropriately called B. B. Q. for the Brownfield // Byrne Quintet, and although they don’t perform the Hot Five classic, there is a good deal of unaffected joyous strutting on this disc.

BBQ

Here is a selection of videos (posted on trumpeter Jamie Brownfield’s blog), and here is the band’s Facebook page. The repertoire on the CD might make it seem to some listeners that the band is looking in the rear-view mirror, but their performances are fresh, personal, and lively — on Wynton’s HAPPY FEET BLUES, Liam’s own IVEY-DIVEY, and a variety of classics, each with its own sweet deep associations: TICKLE-TOE, SINGIN’ THE BLUES, BOUNCE OF THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY, NOSTALGIA / CASBAH, WEST END BLUES, JOAO, WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS, 9:20 SPECIAL.

Jazz isn’t dead, dear readers; its hair isn’t even graying.

May your happiness increase!

WARM-HEARTED EXPLORATION: DAVID SILLS / MICHAEL KANAN: “SWEET AND LOVELY”

From David Sills’ “The Sweetest Melody” CD on Gut String Records.  Sills and pianist Michael Kanan create beauty — searching and generous music that lives up to the song’s title.

The video was recorded in December 2011 at the Drawing Room, Brooklyn, New York.  To listen to and view more music from David Sills’ The Sweetest Melody session, and other Gut String Records releases, visit here.

The man behind the camera, string bassist / composer Neal Miner, is also someone you should know.  And in a few days — on Friday, September 7, from 7:30 to 10 PM at Smalls (183 West Tenth Street, Greenwich Village, New York City), Neal will be leading a small group featuring saxophonist Alex Hoffman and drummer Phil Stewart — music for the mind and heart.  Click  here  for the schedule at Smalls.

May your happiness increase.

CHRIS BERGSON / NEAL MINER: THE MAKING OF “PLAY DATE”

Neal Miner is one of the quiet heroes of this music — an eloquent yet understated, subtle player who’s also a fine composer and a superb videographer.  Here he’s teamed with Boston guitarist / singer Chris Bergson for a mix of casual reminiscence, THESE FOOLISH THINGS, and more.  Think Pettiford meets Boston blues, sweet acoustic swing visits Ray Charles.  I admire the little video here and can’t wait for the actual CD to come out — it promises to be great music:

What beautiful sounds!

SWEET TOOTH / HAPPY HOUR: NEAL MINER’S MUSICAL WORLDS

Neal Miner doesn’t look anything like Oscar Pettiford, but the connections between the two men, jazz bassists and composers, are profound.  Like Pettiford, Neal is instantly recognizable — his large yet focused woody sound, his heartbeat pulse, his way of playing both in and around the beat, his innate musicality in the simplest melodic statement.  As an ensemble player, he is the person who always instinctively knows the right thing to say — as well as knowing when to keep still.  And he shares with Pettiford an instinctive ability to make friends with Time: Neal’s music seems comfortable, spacious, each composition or performance its own large room where a listener take a deep easy breath. 

It’s no surprise that Neal is the first-choice bassist for artists as diverse as Jane Monheit, Warren Vache, Jr., Annie Ross, Chris Byars, Ehud Asherie, and two dozen others.

He also thinks beyond playing four supportive beats to the bar and creating arching solos.  Neal isn’t waiting impatiently for his solo; he doesn’t ache for the limelight.  But he has large visions.  Many improvising artists imagine themselves composers as well, but their work seems self-conscious or derivative.  Neal’s originals have the startling flavor of great melodic writing: they surprise us but seem just right.  He also assembles neat small bands of people who like one another — a sweet respect that comes out in the music.

Here’s a sample of Neal’s musical and cinematic worlds on the same path.  Oh, yes, he’s an inspiring videographer.  That, too!  Here’s SWEET TOOTH, from his most recent CD, with Peter Bernstein, guitar; Chris Byars, sax; Joe Strasser, drums:

and I REMEMBER YOU, with Michael Kanan, piano; Rick Montalbano, drums:

I knew and admired Neal from his work with Michael Kanan and his appearances at The Ear Inn and Smalls, but I first got the opportunity to hear him in different ways through his recordings — most notably the trio of Neal, Michael, and Joe Strasser on HAPPY HOUR, which quickly became one of my favorite discs — with standards and originals treated respectfully but with animation and wit.  Now, Neal has issued SWEET TOOTH (he has a knack for allying his music to titles that sound appealing!) on his own Gut String Records — a session of six originals that stick in the mind when the disc is through. 

Neal’s also released a slice-of-life DVD documentary — beautifully photographed and revealing — about the making of SWEET TOOTH.  Here’s a sample:

I know that some of my readers can’t get to The Ear Inn or Smalls to hear Neal live (although they might very well get to enjoy his work as a member of Jane Monheit’s group) . . . but all is not lost.  Neal’s website is a delight: with information about his recordings and videos — well worth a visit.  He is, as they used to say back in the last century, someone to watch.  And listen to.  And be inspired by.

http://nealminer.com/recordings/