OLGA KONKOVA: Open Secret (Losen Records)
Olga Konkova – piano, Fender Rhodes, Per Mathisen – upright bass and Gary Husband – drums. It is an album whose beauty lies in the details and in the fascinating and mysterious musical story. Beautiful and extremely captivating. Somewhere in this music hides a true and undiscovered treasure…. it is really worth searching for it.
PENT JÄRVE TRIO: 3+2 (Sound at Data)
ZK COLLABORATION: Slow Food (Polskie Nagrania)
„Z” stands for Zagórski and „K” for Kądziela. Drummer Adam Zagórski and saxophone player Maciej Kądziela are co-leaders of the fusion group ZK Collaboration. Slow Food is their second album, just released in the venerable Polish Jazz series. Adam and Maciej first met in Denmark as students at a Music Academy in Odense, Denmark. Some seven years ago they coopted a few like-minded young guns to form a quintet, whose current lineup also includes: Mateusz Gawęda on acoustic piano and keyboards, Jakub Mizeracki on various guitars, and Roman Chraniuk on acoustic and electric basses (and bass Moog). In addition to alto and soprano saxes, Kądziela now also took up a bari for extra effect. This newest project was cooked unhurrledly over several years and recorded meticulously, with attention to detail – hence the title Slow Food. Generally speaking, this is a tasteful meal whose ingredients include vintage fusion, jazz-rock, hard rock, and free. Its culinary associations are reflected in the titles of the compositions listed in the album’s sleeve: „Crispy”, „Salty”, „Cheesy”, „Sweety”, „Crusty”, „Spicy”, „Fizzy”… There’s rock energy, jazz finesse, melodic invention and sheer passion.
NIKOLAI MISHCHENKO: Amberflection Vol. 2 (Luch)
Pianist Nikolai Mishchenko is only 23 years old, but this already is his second album as a leader: this time not in a solo setting, like Volume 1, but with his Moscow, Russia-based trio (bassist Nikolai Olshansky and drummer Mikhail „Mike“ Fotchenkov.) On a sublime verge of modern jazz / power trio sound and Russian classical tradition, the pianist is striving to seek his own path, to find it, and not to yield. The results are promising: to follow Nikolai seeking and finding turns out to be quite captivating.
ANDREAS RØYSUM ENSEMBLE: Fredsfanatisme (Motvind Records)
The clarinetist Andreas Røysum is, without a doubt, one of the most socially engaged jazz musicians in Norway today. Not only has he been at the forefront of the fight against the Kongsberg group, which conducts arms exports to countries we would rather not compare ourselves with, and Kongsberg Jazz Festival. He is also a driving force in the entire Motvind organization with record company, publishing house, jazz club and festival. In addition, he is an excellent clarinetist who creates exciting music in the landscape of Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. To a large extent, this is music where community and the collective expression are the most important. But sometimes there are some of the musicians who go hard to the left and deliver brilliant solos, and all the time Henriette Eilertsen’s flute is almost like a mainstay in the music. But if you listen carefully, you discover Røysum’s clarinets in different versions, as the one who controls it all with extremely hard discipline. And if you absolutely want to highlight some highlights, then I choose some of the drum contributions for drummer Ivar Myrset Asheim, flutist Henriette Eilertsen and Røysum himself. But it is not important in this context. The important thing here is the common expression this band creates, and which goes beyond a lot you get today served from younger musicians, both in Norway and in other countries it is natural to compare yourself with. A brilliant recording with an ensemble that will never play at Kongsberg Jazz Festival, if the festival does not make sense, and if this band is not soon on the program of, for example, Klub Primi in Copenhagen, I may react more strongly than maybe I should. And if there is no peace when you hear this fantastic music, then there will never be!
F.S. BLUMM and NILS FRAHM: 2×1=4 (Leiter)
DAVE MEDER: Unamuno Songs and Stories (Outside In)
Social and political turmoils continuously inspire since they don’t ever really expire… Pianist Dave Meder who mixes jazz standards with his originals has used the ideas of Spanish Civil War-era philosopher Miguel de Unamuno as his muse palette to describe the current political spectrum around us. And deep down, we feel the sophisticated romance he exposes as an award-winning jazz pianist of recent years.
VELS TRIO: Celestial Greens (Rhythm Section)
Celestial Greens from London’s Vels Trio proves that bands with great musical ambition keep emerging from the New Wave Of British Jazz. Also bands that go their own musical way and make no concessions and therefore also make an extra impression. Celestial Greens is an overwhelming adventurous flow of jazz, fushion, electonics and hiphop based and funky grooves.
KANSAS SMITTY: Plunderphonia (7K!)
The wonderfully expressive and focused drumming of Jas Kayser brings a wholly new dimension to Kansas Smitty’s. Kayser is Berklee-trained, where she learned from Neil Smith, Ralph Peterson and Terri Lyne Carrington, and all those influences are combined: she is a revelation. A great example is the track „Water Games“ where Ravel’s „Jeux d’Eau“ from pianist Joe Webb is contrasted with her complex yet crafted sound. Also check out the rolling groove she brings to „Mamanita“. Saxophonist Giacomo Smith often talks about the joy of „throwing yourself into a new environment“ and he certainly defies expectation here. People who know him as a player in the more traditional mould will certainly be surprised. The album has been very well recorded on vintage equipment in Durham Sound Studios in Camden Town.
JAZZMEIA HORN AND HER NOBLE FORCE: Dear Love (Empress Legacy)
American singer Jazzmeia Horn took the jazz world by storm after the 2017 acclaimed and Grammy-nominated debut album A Social Call (Prestige). She won the hearts of both audiences and critics with her Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter-inspired voice. Jazzmeia Horn is a singer who takes on the jazz tradition with an open mind, she has learned the idiom by listening to the great jazz singers, but is at the same time clearly influenced by both gospel and R&B artists such as neo-soul singer Erykah Badu. On the debut album, Jazzmeia Horn’s ambition was to increase awareness of social injustices through her music. The songs consisted exclusively of the singer’s absolute favorite songs in jazz, soul and spirituals. At the 2019 Love and Liberation (Concord Jazz), she was instead completely alone as the songwriter for most of the album’s songs where love and liberation was a recurring theme. This concept also appears on her third album as a bandleader with the apt title Dear Love. Jazzmeia Horn has tried to find songs that best describe her reality as a black woman but which people who are not part of her culture can still relate to. She went through lots of songs and looked for those that really describe love in many ways – the love for her surroundings, culture, partner, children and for her love for herself. The selected songs are love letters to all of us.
ANNE METTE IVERSEN: Round Trip (Brooklyn Jazz Underground)
JOHN COLTRANE: A Love Supreme Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
AYUMI TANAKA TRIO: Subaqueous Silence (ECM)
Simply powerful. A lesson of dramaturgy with no discord and sense of filling space and dancing with silence only with the right perfect sound. Ayumi Tanaka has been presented as an up-and-coming piano talent in Norway for 10 years, and today she can clearly claim to be one of the best. It is the second release of her trio (formed with bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen) and it is on ECM. The music is stripped down to the elementary and still, once you have seen them on stage, you can use no other word than “captivating”.
MARC JOHNSON: Overpass (ECM)
GHOST HORSE: Live at Area Sismica (HORA Records)
ESKINA: We Were the Moon (Challenge)
Young, talented, …
EVE BEUVENS: Inner Geography / Piano solo (Igloo)
“Here she is solo, an introspective approach that allows her to best probe her personality, her sensitivity. This project saw the daylight in 2019, thanks to a carte blanche offered by Jean-Pierre Bissot at the Gaume Jazz Festival. She decided to continue this solitary approach for Igloo.” (Claude Loxhay)
HORSE ORCHESTRA: The Milkman Cometh (self-released)
The Milkman Cometh by the pan-Nordic ensemble Horse Orchestra could be named the anthology – recordings from different performances from 2018 collected under one cover and represent an essential mood of that bright and forward-thinking band. Chaos, playfulness combined with a great technique and advanced compositional forms – it is the main trait, which is immediately audible. Having control over the musical chaos, Horse Orchestra slightly oscillate between original compositions of members, – the pianist Jeppe Zeeberg, the trombonist Petter Hängsel and the bassist Nicolai Kaas Claesson – and arrangements of George Gershwin’s and David Whittaker’s compositions. There is a lot of fun – we can hear the laugh of the audience, quizzical melodies from musicians, unpredictable changes in dynamics. As it should be on a good live recording. The only sad thing is that we can’t notice their behaviour and style through the recording.
BARNEY WILEN: French Ballads (Elemental Music)
This is a reissue of the Album of 1987 remastered by Hervé Le Guil who recorded the original sessions, including four previously unissued alternate takes and with new Liner Notes by Ashley Kahn.