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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 18, No. 4 December 2012

The Record Round-Up (Take 2)

by Marc Chénard / December 1, 2012

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American Releases

Black RadioIn 2012, pianist Robert Glasper was certainly all the talk. The release of his Black Radio last spring earned him profiles in the most important magazines and very popular concert tours. Encouraged by this popularity, he is attempting a repeat success with a “Remix EP” (Blue Note 04820-26), a matter of squeezing the lemon dry. The promotional material lists all kinds of so-called “urban” music, with jazz relegated to fourth or fifth place. This is confirmed by listening to the disc, to such an extent that it is difficult to find where Lady Jazz is exactly. Rhythmically, it comes down to repetitive and monotone riffs, improvisation barely exists, at least in the sense of instrumental excursions, the pianist barely thumps out more than a few chords, the harmonic language is minimal, all of the above submitted to an editing job worthy of contemporary pop music. That Glasper chooses to commit himself to this approach is entirely his right, but that he and his promoters especially attempt to have us swallow it is nothing other than false representation.
Spirit FictionA musician that doesn’t go unnoticed either, although for a completely different reason, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane has a unique rapport with jazz. Indeed, his patronymic has something to do with it, but we should appreciate him for what he has done and not for his family antecedents, even if he plays the exact same instruments as his father. After having kicked off his career with Elvin Jones (again, another connection) and made many discs with RCA, he joins the ranks of the Blue Note label here, marking his entrance with Spirit Fiction (Blue Note 1893727 3/6). Coltrane son has surrounded himself with two different quartets and special guests like Joe Lovano and Ralph Alessi (trpt.). The conductor only takes credit for three of the album’s eleven tracks, three others being short group improvisations (with two version of the title piece), three others by the trumpeter and two attributed to Ornette Coleman and Paul Motian respectively. A true studio disc, the music is neatly recorded, fairly reflective on the whole, with a pinch of more upbeat moments. In its ensemble, this production has the appearance of a visitor’s card, a matter of building tours and giving the artist the opportunity to explore the material contained in this well....contained disc.

European Releases

Song Song SongFrench pianist Baptiste Trotignon is from all viewpoints a modern jazzman. Little inclined to confine himself to a well-defined gap in the scene, he goes off on another tangent with each new disc. After offering solo studio and live quartet performances, he takes on vocal music here in Song Song Song (naïve 622411 3/6). Surrounding himself with four different singers, among them the much sought-after Melody Gardot, the keyboardist proposes songs from various repertoires, interspersed with instrumental tracks. An interesting fact, he tries to justify his approach by filling four pages of the booklet. If it’s “therefore a song form, but outside of form” (as he puts it), we’ll give it to him, but hope that he turns the page quickly.
Kubic's MonkAlto sax Pierrick Pédron disappointed his listeners last year at the FIJM with a poorly assembled electric project. But in taking on the music of Monk (Kubic’s Monk, Act Records 9536-2 4/6), we need not despair. Eleven of the pianist’s themes are taken here in a reduced formation with bass and drumset, seasoned by trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire over three tracks. We congratulate Pédron for having chosen the repertoire’s most obscure titles, since only two pieces break the five-minute barrier. If only we had heard the music from this disc last summer…

The Netherlands
Bennink & Co.It took drummer Han Bennink nearly 40 years to introduce himself as leader of his band. His trio’s second disc, Benninck & Co. (Ilk Records 4/6) is rounded out by two younger players, a Luxemburg pianist (Simon Toldam) and a German Belgian (Joachim Badenhorst on reeds). The repertoire comprises original compositions from his band mates, collective improvisations, a lovely Billy Strayhorn melody and an obscure standard (Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland). All in all, playful music that is easily accessible, even for novices.
GarboIn 2010, saxophonist and composer William Breuker passed away. At the start of fall, his formation, the Kollektief, said their goodbyes to our public during a final North-American tour. If there is a group ready to carry the torch, saxophonist Bon van de Graff’s ensemble I Compani could be the one. In the past, the frontman dedicated discs to the opera Aida, the film Le dernier tango à Paris (taken up here in a concert version in the second CD of this release), food and to the divas of film here, from Mae West to Maria Schneider (Garbo, ICDISC NL 1202 03 4/6). With seven to eight other extras, this troupe is comparable to Breuker’s in terms of size and the joyous way he stirs things up within his music. And what can be said of the delirious cardboard case that folds out like an accordion?... But they are crazy, these Dutchmen…

Tom TrioPrized by saxophonists, the trio without piano formula is rather rare for trumpeters. The “Tom Trio” (ILK Records 193CD 4/6) is one of them. Tom Dabrowski signs this disc with two good rhythmic accomplices and comes across well in eleven tracks of his raw jazz sound, the lot well bound together in less than 50 minutes.
Granular AlchemyWith three American guests at his sides, Danish pianist Jacob Anderskov conducts a brief session under 40 minutes in Granular Alchemy (ILK Records 195CD 4/6). Blurring the lines between written and improvised, the pianist offers a very organic music, exhaling freedom, without getting too lost in meandering. (These two last titles and Bennink’s are available on the label’s website: www.ilkmusic.com).

[Translation: Catherine Hine]

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