“Artic Riff” is the sixth album by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio released on ECM over the past 15 years or so. Making a special guest appearance is the American sax master Joe Lovano. It is their first ever joint recording (they previously met only once, playing together a suprise concert in Poland 13 years ago). Lovano was flown from New York for this spontaneous encounter last August in the French Studio La Buissonne. Producer Manfred Eicher was on hand to personally supervise the recording. The music on this superb album is replete with subtle lyricism as well as intense energy – loose sketches, filled with spontaneous improvisations and some inspired solo outings by all four musicians. In addition to several pieces by Marcin Wasilewski, there is also one composition penned by Lovano (“On the Other Side”) and two different renditions of Carla Bley’s famous “Vashakar”. The Marcin Wasilewski Trio includes, of courses, the leader on piano, Sławomir Kurkiewicz on bass and Michał Miśkiewicz on drums.
Drummer Sasha Mashin’s sophomore effort on St. Petersburg-based Rainy Days label comes in two parts, rather for the comfort of the listener as both parts are heavily laden with the most modern creative mainstream jazz ideas. The heavyweight improvisers team includes the likes of Rosario Giuliani on alto, Benito Gonzalez on piano, and Josh Evans on the trumpet, but it’s the muscular tandem of drummer Mashin and bassist Makar Novikov who not only keep the whole thing afloat, but also propulse its rhythmic drive with a remarkable determination on the verge of self-abandon.
Jan Granlie, Salt-peanuts.eu (Pan-Scandinavian)
KULLHAMMAR / HEIKINHEIMO / MEAAS SVENDSEN / AALTONEN: The Father, The Sons and The Junnu (Moserobie)
Finnish saxophonist and flute player Juhani Aaltonen turns 85 on December 12 this year. He was born in Kouvola, Finland, but have been living outside Helsinki in recent years. He was educated from both the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and Berklee in Boston, and he started playing jazz professionally in the 50s and has been a prominent figure in the Finnish jazz community ever since. He has done records with, among others, Arild Andersen and Edvard Vesala, Graham Collier, Iro Haarla, Henrik Otto Donner, Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille, the Umo Jazz Orchestra, his own trio and many, many others. The last time we heard him at a concert was during last year’s Tampere Jazz Happening, where he played in a quintet with Joe McPhee, and they gave us the best concert of the festival this cold evening in Telaka. Now he has toured Sweden and Finland with a bunch of young Nordic musicians, which resulted in a recording at the Arabia studio in Helsinki on May 5 last year. And through the 6 compositions we get, all four of them prove their strength in excellent ways, ending up with one of this year’s best recordings. And when they round off this fantastic record with Kullhammar’s “Suomaleinen Maailmanmestari” (The Finnish World Champion), which is guaranteed to Juhani “Junnu” Aaltonen, who has always been one of Kullhammar’s leading stars in the Nordic jazz. This is a slightly heavy ballad, in which Kullhammar exudes the typical in Aaltonen’s tenor saxophone, and sets an unusually worthy punctuation for a brilliant record, which is entirely in Aaltonen’s spirit, and which should not be placed under K for Kullhammar, or T for The Father, The sons & the Junnu in the record shelves, but under A for Aaltonen. Or not really, the record will not be placed in the shelves at all, at least not the first year. It should be easy to find and be played when I’m in good mood, when I’m having a bad day, or when the day is perfect. Gorgeous!
Among the numerous attempts of adapting folk music sources this album stands for a new quality. The music stands out by its high energy, deep apprehension and its ingenious, imaginative and engaging re-building creation of the source material Bela Bartók collected and prepared a century ago in Transylvania. Nothing sweet here but rather a wild outbreak of deeper interconnected energies of nature and human communities of that region. No finely weighted outpouring of emulated folk sonorities nor collaged torn shreds of sound immediacy we get but rather the best from both, infused throughout in highly sophisticated ways. Lucian Ban (piano), Mat Maneri (viola) and John Surman (saxophones) are deeply connected to and anchored in the essence of their source from their respective roots and musical personalities. Them joining forces here can be considered as a stroke of luck that led into an extraordinary vivid hour of great music.
Patrik Sandberg, Orkester Journalen (Sweden)
GARY BARTZ AND MAISHA: Nightdreamer Direct -To-Disc Sessions (Nightdreamer)
Former Miles Davis sideman saxofonist Gary Bartz teams up with the young british spritiual jazzensemble Maisha led by drummer Jake Long. This vibrating recordingsession was made in Harleem, Nederlands last year Bartz became a important , leading figure of the early-to-mid 70s spiritual jazz movement, releasing aground-breaking albums on Prestige Records with his formation NTU Troop, featuring classics such as “Celestial Blues” and “I’ve Known Rivers”. Bartz definetly brings that vibe he created on those recordings into Nightdreamer.