For the next couple of Rifftides sessions, let’s try to catch up with the ceaseless incoming flow of jazz recordings. Catching up can’t be done, of course, but why not enjoy attempting the impossible? The first installment considers a few relatively recent releases.
Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct Of Jazz (Thirsty Ear)
Pianist Matthew Shipp’s solo, duo, trio and quartet CDs appear so frequently that the only way to keep up with them would be to leave little time for other listening. Following last year’s tribute to Ellington, To Duke, the pianist applies his imagination, risk-taking and formidable technique to seven of his own compositions. The mainstream jazz current that has flowed through his music even at its most daring is strong here, notably so in “Blue Abyss” and “Primary Form.” Michael Bisio is again the pianist’s bassist, joined at the hip with Shipp. The veteran Newman Taylor Baker is in for Shipp’s longtime drummer Whit Dickey. The setup riff for the title tune might serve as an introduction to Bernstein’s “Something’s Coming.” Shipp incorporates a dancing feeling that would be compatible with an avant garde Broadway musical, if there were such a thing. Baker has thoughtful drum breaks in the piece that speak of his bebop and post-bop leanings. Shipp’s unaccompanied solo piece, “Stream of Light,” seems to be sheer invention, with no apparent compositional reference points. Yet, it hangs together as a high point of the album.
For Rifftides reviews of previous Matthew Shipp albums, enter his name in the search box at the top right of the page.
Harry Allen, Jan Lundgren, Quietly There (Stunt Records)
American tenor saxophonist Allen and Swedish pianist Lundgren play nine of Johnny Mandel’s best-known compositions. Bassist Hans Backenroth (Swedish) and drummer Kristian Leth (Danish) add to the spirit of international cooperation. For the most part, Allen avoids the blandness that has sometimes encouraged naps during his solos. More than that, he all but explodes with energy in “Cinnamon and Clove,” which has an equally stirring Lundgren solo. Allen ends the piece with a saxophone sigh of satisfaction. In “Suicide is Painless,” the theme from M*A*S*H, both dig into stirring double-time passages. Backenroth’s bass line and Leth’s brushes on his snare drum work hand-in-hand to give “Quietly There” propulsion that makes the piece at once relaxed and compelling. The quartet performs loving versions of two classic Mandel ballads, “A Time For Love” and “Just A Child.” This 2014 album got lost in the shuffle and worked its way back to the top of the logjam. I’m glad that it did.
Rebecca Kilgore, Moonshadow Dance (Cherry Pie Music)
The press release that came with Rebecca Kilgore’s new album quotes Johnny Mandel:
When Rebecca sings, the sun comes out.
She is not only sunny here, as usual, but sings with diction, lyric interpretation and time feeling that since her early career have kept her in the front rank of jazz singers. She performs songs mostly written by fellow Portlanders Ellen Vanderslice and Mike Horsfall. Some have her own words and music. Ms. Kilgore imparts meaning even to spoofy lyrics like those of her “Happy Birthday, Generic.” Her colleagues from the Pacific Northwest’s pool of world-class musicians include vibraharpist Horsfall, pianist Randy Porter, bassist Tom Wakeling, drummer Todd Strait, guitarist Dan Balmer and trumpeter Dick Titterington. The promotional video features Rachel Lidskog-Lim and Jack Lim of Dance With Joy Studios, dancing to the title song.
The original material is a departure from Ms. Kilgore’s customary repertoire from the Great American Songbook. Her musicianship and that of the accompanying musicians make it a success. The album is available here as a CD or an MP3 download.