Thursday, September 15, 2016

A good night in (aka Lambic Jazz vol.1)

Michael Formanek Ensemble KolosusI decided a post-class relaxing night at home was on the cards. Tonight this was in the form of listening to my friends, vocalist Cheryl Richards, guitarist Adam Caine and alto saxophonist Nick Lyons on Cheryl RichardsIf Not for You (New Artists). I don't mention my friends albums all too often (Hayden Chisholm being the one exception) but this is something I want to change. I find it quite hard writing about friends music and I'm not sure why really. Anyway....the majority of the album features vocal and guitar duos (Nick joins in on 3 of 10 pieces), and Adam's accompaniment really stands out to me. "Willow Weep for Me" in particular always grabs my ears with Adam touching on the blues in ways I haven't heard him play before. His playing on "My Melancholy Baby" is a treat too. Nick is at his relaxed, lyrical best on "Foolin' Myself." And Cheryl's phrasing on "You'd be so nice to come home to" leapt out at me tonight - softly touching down in places unexpected yet completely apt. Although I haven't been playing many standards of late, I still get a kick listening to them being interpreted in a personal way. Nick has album in the works that should be released shortly, so more friends will make and appearance in the near future.

If Not for You was followed up by something that I hadn't really given a decent listen to just yet, Michael Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance (ECM). Although I have heard the majority of the personnel in various settings (both live and on recordings), very few.... if any, were large ensembles. So I didn't know what to expect with this album but that can be a good thing as it let's you sit back and be surprised. The title track kicks things off and is followed by "Exoskeleton" a suite in nine parts. There is plenty of room for soloists and the duties are spread throughout the group with pretty much everyone getting room to move at some stage. Often the ensemble is stripped back to a small group accompanying a soloist or there are sections of collective improvisation with varying numbers of players, rather than an over-reliance on more traditional soloist/rhythm section/backgrounds approach so common with big bands. I enjoyed the way Mary Halvorson's solo emerged from within the ensemble on "Part V - Without Regrets." I hadn't heard the tenor sax of Brian Settles before, but his playing on the title track put me in the right mood for the rest of the album. I found the ending somewhat abrupt and underwhelming but other than that, The Distance went down well this evening and I would recommend it to those of you into big bands. Outside of Kenny Wheeler's Music for Large and Small Ensembles I can't think of too many large ensemble albums on ECM (a Dave Holland album rings a bell too). Are there any others that you would recommend?

Tonight's listening session was accompanied by a bottle of Lindemans Cuvée René Oude Gauze and now I'm going to read a little from Peter Ind's Jazz Visions: Lennie Tristano and his Legacy - definitely not a traditional biography by any means but it is an interesting read that I find myself returning to on a fairly regular basis, even if it's only to read a few pages.

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