Jazz CDs reviewed – late October 2012

October 25, 2012

Sara Serpa & Ran Blake

Many times during his long career, radical jazz pianist Ran Blake has teamed up with singers, notably Jeanne Lee. Importantly, he has often worked with young singers, still at the start of their careers and with many routes beckoning, often confusingly so. With Ran’s sophisticated guidance, the results have been very rewarding. An outstanding example of this musical relationship is his mentoring of Dominique Eade. (See review of Ran & Dominique’s Whirlpool in the mid-August 2012 post.)

Sara Serpa is another young singer working productively with the pianist. Sara’s debut album came in 2008 and she also recorded with Ran (Camera Obscura). This time, on Aurora (Clean Feed CF264CD), the pair explore a wide selection of material, offering intriguing, sometimes captivating, andAurora-cover always rewarding treatments of songs such as Margo Guryan’s Moonride, Charles B. Ward and John F. Palmer’s 19th century-favorite, The Band Played On, and there are two songs by R.B. Lynch, originally written for Abbey Lincoln, When Autumn Sings and Love Lament. Although Sara sings unaccompanied on the Abel Meeropol-Billie Holiday classic, Strange Fruit, the pervading influence of Ran’s iconoclastic approach to music is evident as she explores the shadowed musical byway of this haunting tale. The album closes with an evocative take on Last Night When We Were Young, a Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg gem, with motion picture origins. This last point is fitting, as much of the music heard on this album has connections with the world of films, especially those on the darker side of that vast array and reinforces the pianist’s ongoing admiration for film noir that has resulted in several albums and concerts through the years. Ran Blake’s contribution to the world of music, and to the New England Conservatory in particular was rewarded in October 2012 with the NEC’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


Danny Green

Based in San Diego, jazz pianist-composer Danny Green comfortably embraces Latin and classical touches, drawing them effortlessly into his jazz work. On his second album, A Thousand Ways Home (Tapestry 70018-2), danny-green coverhe presents music that is melodically engaging, sprightly, and filled with invention. He is joined here by saxophonist Tripp Sprague, bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm, as well as guests mandolinist Eva Scow, guitarists Peter Sprague, Chico Pinehiro and Dusty Brough, and singer Claudia Villela.On several tracks, Danny displays his particular affection for the music of Brazil, notably on Quintal Da Solidão. Throughout this very pleasing set, it is plain to hear that Danny is a virtuoso pianist, yet he keeps this aspect of his talent tightly wrapped, thus providing strong undercurrents that add immeasurably to the experience of hearing him play.


Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo

Among the most consistent of contemporary creative musicians are trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and percussionist Louis Moholo-Moholo. Given their prominence in this particular jazz arena, it is surprising that this is their first collaboration on record. ancestors coverOn this collection of duets, both men vividly display the reasons why they are held in such high regard. On Ancestors (TUM CD 029), their playing is inventive, imaginative and inspirational; the manner in which they play off one another is at times breathtaking in its audacity. These are musicians of the highest caliber and the Finnish record company is to be congratulated on bringing together these leading figures of the American and African improvised music scenes.


Kalle Kalima & K-18

A key figure in the European improvised music scene, electric guitarist Kalle Kalima has a deep and abiding affection for movies, especially those with edginess. out to lynch coverHere, on Out To Lynch (TUM CD 030), Kalima has chosen to mine ground first explored by writers of scores for films of David Lynch.  This director’s films are sometimes disturbing, always thought-provoking, and Kalima’s aural reflections of them are similarly multi-faceted. The leader’s key collaborator here is saxophonist-flautist Mikko Innanen, the pair being ably supported by quarter-tone accordionist Veli Kujala and bassist Teppo Hauta-aho. Not only do these musicians spark ideas from one another, they also create musical tapestries that prompt the listener to see the films again, preferably with this music echoing in the background.


If you want to know more about any of these albums, take a look at the websites of the artists or the record companies.

If you want to buy any of them, Amazon is a good place to look. 



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