As I may have mentioned a time or two, keeping up is impossible. We can only try. Here we go with observations on a few of the dozens (hundreds?) of recent jazz releases.
Roni Ben-Hur, Harvie S: Introspection (Jazzheads)
Compatibility, mutual responsiveness and subtle interactivity characterize this album from guitarist Ben-Hur and bassist Harvie S. It might have just as appropriately been titled “Interaction.” With drummer Tim Horner as a third partner, the trio moves through a ten-track collection encompassing several rarely-recorded pieces. Among them are Thelonious Monk’s title tune; the Brazilian master Ary Barroso’s “Prá Machucar Meu Coração;” an intricate take on George Shearing’s “Conception; Harvie S mournfully bowing the melody of Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count;” and welcome explorations of Jerome Kern’s “Nobody Else But Me,” Neil Hefti’s “Repetition”, Baden Powell’s “Deixa,” Tadd Dameron’s “Focus” and Kenny Dorham’s “Asiatic Raes.” The album is an attractive amalgam of standard songs, Latin classics and neglected jazz tunes integrated with uncommon sensitivity.
Eliane Elias, Music from Man of La Mancha (Concord Jazz)
Pianist Eliane Elias interprets nine pieces from composer Mitch Leigh’s score of the Broadway musical theatre success based on Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. As she advances in her career, Elias’s playing seems to gain harmonic and sonic depth. Alternating between all-star rhythm sections with bassists Eddie Gomez and Mark Johnson and drummers Jack DeJohnette and Satoshi Takeishi, she is captivating from “To Each His Dulcinea” through the playfully rich chord-play of the concluding “A Little Gossip.” Elias alternates between all-star rhythm sections, one with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, the other with bassist Marc Johnson and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. Throughout, Manolo Baderna enlivens the rhythmic atmosphere with rich percussion touches. This is a captivating collection.
Ivo Perelman, Philosopher’s Stone (Leo Records)
If it is possible to find enough listening time to keep up with the tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman’s prodigious output, I haven’t discovered the secret. I can report only that when I encounter Perelman, however daring and experimental he may be, I find intriguing elements in his work. Elemental his work is, whether Perelman is collaborating with his frequent piano partner Matthew Shipp or bringing into his orbit a fellow adventurer like trumpeter Nate Wooley. Perelman, Shipp and Wooley joust entertainingly, lyrically, puzzlingly, occasionally gratingly, in Philosopher’s Stone. The album comes in ten parts not named but called “Part 1,” “Part 2,”—and so on. If you believe that the spirit of music allows it to be made in freedom from rules and still be music, I suggest that you open your mind to Perelman. Philosopher’s Stone is a good place make his acquaintance. Neil Tesser’s articulate album liner notes are helpful to understanding this demanding music.
Yelena Eckemoff, Desert (L&H Productions)
This is an interesting quartet, to say the least, a Russian pianist, a Norwegian bassist, an Oregon reed player and a bebop drummer—Yelena Eckemoff; piano; Paul McCandless, oboe, English horn, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Arild Anderson, bass; Peter Erskine, drums and percussion. As she prepared this latest in her impressive succession of themed L&H albums, Ms. Eckemoff chose musicians who could picture and feel the desert she conceived. The vision extends to the short-short story and descriptive poems she wrote in the liner notes and her atmospheric painting that makes the cover of the booklet. The music visualizes the unnamed desert to which she gives sonic life. McCandless’s oboe is notably evocative in that regard. Ms. Eckemoff’s own playing leads the way, harmonically and in depth of keyboard tone, as she establishes the album’s feeling of mystery and languor. Eckemoff’s concept is akin to that of many albums released on the ECM label over the years, making it a natural setting for bassist Anderson, often a leader of ECM sessions. Erskine’s percussion array allows him to generate colors beyond his customary mainstream palette.
The Maguire Twins, Seeking Higher Ground (Three Tree Records)
21 years old at the time of this 2017 recording, the identical Maguire twins—bassist Carl and drummer Alan—were born in Tokyo and raised in Hong Kong. In a dramatic change of scenery and culture, they moved with their parents to Memphis, Tennessee, in 2011. The brothers enrolled at the Stax Music Academy and came under the influence of bassist John Hamar, pianist Donald Brown and saxophonists Greg Tardy and Kirk Whalum. Brown is heard only on electric piano on one track. All of those musicians but Whalum and Hamar are on the twins’ debut album on their family’s label, as are pianist Aaron Goldberg and trumpeter Bill Mobley. The twins manage extremely well in that heavy company. Carl’s responsive drumming is impressive behind Goldberg on Brown’s “An Island, A Piano, and Keith,” dedicated to his son, also a pianist. Carl Maguire contributes two original compositions to the playlist, Alan one. Alan’s bass introduction is important to the success of his abstract arrangement of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” It will be interesting to follow this pair of promising rhythm players as they develop further.