Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MoFrancesco Quintetto, Maloca

by Jeff Becker

Well-crafted and swinging, bassist Francesco Valente presents bits of hard bop mixed with contemporary refrains, coupled with musicianship that sparkles with each track.

Maloca has a very western feel arising from its Italian composer. Valente's playing feels like a combination of classic Ray Brown, balanced with a more contemporary Christian McBride.  "Tchap" and "Maloca" both present an effervescent of youthful expressionism.   Lucena and Gaspar have searing exchanges throughout the beginning of the piece, while Valente creates a calm and reserved energy allowing his bandmates the room to stretch out on the proceedings. 

"Maloca" is infused with a hint of Latin flavor, but is not a total cop to the latin vibe, the piece is focused on stretching out with subtle chord changes by Gasper and Moreira with Valente patterning a  groovy and infectious pad, that still carries an air of understated resplendent. 

Valente's re-interpretation of Bela Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances" is a beaming interpretation, a fierce piece to perform with skill within the classical cannon.  The piece originally featuring a violinist who must be in top form to navigate Valente re-interprets the piece into a delicate and wonderfully emotional romantic march.

The closer "Soul" written by trumpeter, Johannes Krieger, is a burning number with excellent individual lines and deeply rooted rhythms; the excitement immediately catches you up in the moment.  Maloca is an invigorating session that holds strong within tradition, while still exploring and creating a new individual sound, a solid debut from Francesco Valente and his MoFrancesco Quintetto. Highly Recommended.

Patrick Battstone and Richard Poole, The Last Taxi

by Jeff Becker

The Last Taxi sports two apt leaders at the helm.  Pianist, Patrick Battstone began performing music professionally at the age of 14, playing in various rock, blues, and R&B bands in South Western Ohio. By the time he was 18, he had received lessons from Stan Kenton and Gary Burton, had been mentored by Oscar Treadwell (Oska T.   In 1973, he attended Berklee College of Music and soon after became a student of both Mme Chaloff and Charlie Banacos. One of his bands, which featured hometown friend Grover Mooney, opened the fabled 1369 Club in Cambridge in 1976. During the 80’s, Patrick studied the works of Scriabin under the renowned Serge Conus. In 1986, he resumed jazz studies with Joanne Brackeen in NYC for a period of six years.

Richard Poole is a composer, collaborator and performing musician.  On this project he command the vibraphone and drum chair.  After attending Berklee in the early 1970’s, Richard moved to Miami, Florida and studied Music Composition (scholarship) at Miami International University, graduating in 1976. As a composer and collaborator, Richard has worked with many of the 20th century’s great jazz artists, including: Paul Bley, Mark Eagen, Don Bradon, Ira Sullivan, Curtis Fuller, George Garzone, Rebecca Parris, Johnny Walker and Jaco Pastorius.

Battstone and Poole have a history of creating deeply moving chemistry with their previous collaborations, Through an Open Door and Mystic Nights were both deeply rooted in a chamber jazz moniker.  On this effort, it was refreshing to see the two did not reinvent the wheel and kept firmly rooted in the essence of their “chamber jazz” while expanding the overall textural sound with the addition of Chris Rathbun on bass and Todd Brunel on bass clarinet.  The result was a cohesive yet invigorating conversation that ebbed and flowed with rich dialogue and enthralling discovery. 

The spontaneity of each improvisation keeps the outing fresh and filled with surprise around every corner.  The Last Taxi is meant to be savored, like the moments you spend with a longtime friend you have not seen in years; enjoy the moments and revel in the memories.  Certainly a must add to any creative improvisational or avant library.  Highly Recommended!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Joe Beck Trio, Get Me Joe Beck

by Icrom Bigrad

Joe Beck Trio, Get Me Joe Beck (Whaling City Sound)

Joe Beck - who passed away 6 years ago at age 63, left us with his final recording Get Me Joe Beck, which was captured at a performance at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley CA on Sept. 14, 2006, featuring locals Peter Barshay on bass and Dave Rokeach on drums, to round out a solid and interactive trio. Beck at the time had failing heath, but not a note would reveal this fact, he truly was shining in true form. Highlights include: “Alone Together,” “You and the Night and the Music” and “Tenderly.” A spoken word track in which Beck describes his approach to his instrument (“The guitar is a six-piece band”) gives us a unique look at the methodology, chalked full of visions about his sparkling mastery.

Rik Wright, Fundamental Forces: Blue

by Jeff Becker

With influences ranging from Jim Hall to Jeff Beck to John Abercrombie, it is only natural that Rik Wright Fundamental Forces, Blue would be the driving tonality of his latest endeavour, but one has to take this one step further and recognize that compositionally elements of Charles Mingus are present.  Like Mingus, Wright’s compositions retain the hot and soulful feel of hard bop, while sometimes drawing on elements of third stream and/or fusion. Almost a fused tradition with unique and unexplored realms of jazz; keeping one foot in tradition, while the other foot is stepping into the future.

Wright’s style of writing though very modern and forward in style, still captures a melodic yet catchy sensitivity.  “Mood Ring” highlights a sixteen note pulse, which finds Wrights guitar in unison with DeJoie’s reed instrument for the first statement of the melody, giving the cut a dark, yet provocative impression. James DeJoie a major influence as well in the tonality of the proceedings plays clarinet with agility and clarity. On “The Butterfly Effect,” DeJoie’s alto solo soars.  The combination of Wright and DeJoie as soloists on this outing elevates the overall effect.  On “Nonchalant” DeJoie is featured on bass clarinet, again adding to the uniqueness of the cut. On “Parting Ways” he plays a flute intro with a distinctive Asian overtone.  Wright’s guitar is a fantastic foil and complements the reeds on each cut with crisp gentle chords, all the while with Geoff Harper (bass), and Greg Campbell (drums, percussion), creating a solid and forward rhythmic foundation for both Wright and DeJoie to expand their ideas upon. The final track “Miss Thing” takes it a bit more avant/third stream with spacious guitar, chiming sounds sparsely colouring and relaxed drum colours, add a raspy alto solo from DeJoie that builds to a frenetic pace and an almost Jimmy Paige affected rock guitar solo from Wright, it is a fitting emotional release to the overall picture.  Rik Wrights Fundamental Forces, Blue is a highly recommended listen, especially for a jazzer that enjoys grit.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Larry Corban, The Circle Starts Here

by Icrom Bigrad

New York City based guitarist Larry Corban along with upright bassist Harvie S and drummer Steve Williams teamed up to form a jazz trio. Though Larry Corban is less known on the jazz scene and his band mates have plenty of playing experience with Steve Williams having played the drums for more than 20 years with Shirley Horn, it does not lessen his ability to create an equal partner musically on his endeavor, The Circle Starts Here.

Corban is a talented songwriter as well as a gifted guitarist and both are on full display in his trio’s debut entitled The Circle Starts Here. The album contains 13 original songs written by Larry Corban and one was a contributed by Bowman Brooks. 

Like so many musicians, Larry Corban draws inspiration from other musicians and composers in all of his music. As a matter of fact he has a picture one of those artists named Django Reinhardt in the room where he practices. 

The Circle Starts Here opens with “Sideswiped” which you can immediately hear his distinct style with very clean lines and smooth chords, they all come together to get the album off to a burning start. As the songs continue you can definitely hear the inspiration he says he draws from Django Reinhardt who was a Belgian guitarist and pioneer of the swing guitar style.

Throughout the album it is obvious that the combination of the bass and drums from band mates Harvie S (upright bassist) and Steve Williams (drummer) was well thought out by Corban. Each element seems to feed off each other and create the perfect mix of sound.

Despite being a debut recoding, Corban plays with a much more old soul style which came out in several songs. He also shows a bit of a darker side to go along with the faster up-tempo selections on the album.

With the final selection of “East of the Sun,” the trio finishes the album with their take on an old jazz song written by Bowman Brooks. The final result is a fantastic jazz guitar album that you have to check out for yourself, a listen worth adding to any collection – and certainly if you are a jazz guitar enthusiast.

Album Tracks: Sideswiped; Bossa Barb; Enjoy the Ride; Seventh Dimension; The Second She Leaves On the Sly; Blink of an Eye; 3 Hours Late; Roll the Dice; Story Inside My Head; Dreamwheel; Wolf’s Den Hmm; East of the Sun.

Players: Harvie S (Bassist) and Steve Williams (Drummer)

Record Label: Nabroc Label