JAZZ

Tom Harrell Quintet with Strings, performing at 2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, June 21, 2013. Pictured: Tom Harrell

Tom Harrell Quintet with Strings, performing at 2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, June 21, 2013. Pictured: Tom Harrell

Tom Harrell

Moving Picture

American trumpet/flugelhorn Player and Composer Tom Harrell keeps a very active career with high levels of quality on each work released. “Apple House” has distinguished features when compared to his other pieces. During its first minutes, it sounds like an electronic-influenced piece delineated by an almost puerile melodic line. Instead of any crazy beat, the song progresses with Cruz’s subtle brushed drumming gradually procuring a docile bossa-nova feeling. “Montego Bay” wrings multiple rhythmic accentuations while elegantly integrating post-bop dialects and a sultry Caribbean pulse.

Latin American flavors also permeate “Time Passage,” whose initial impulse is given by geometric tom-tom figures and hi-hat triplets on the drum kit. Harrell unleashes transparent yet vibrant ideas throughout by having brisk harmonic movements developing underneath. Both “Different Clouds” and “Gee, A. Bee” are easy listening exercises. The former carries a breezy vibe and singable melody, while the latter opens the door to an elated jazz funk hinged to a perennial harmonic cycle.

As a jazzified Brazilian pop song, “Happy Ring” invites you to chill out. It would have given Michael Franks another vocal hit. Also with a Brazilian soul, “Sea” triggers lush harmonies delivered at 4/4 tempo, regardless of the ternary folk dance as the starting point.

Flaunting a solo piano introduction that could fit in Jobim’s lyrical repertoire, “Vibrer” is a riveting trumpet and piano duet influenced by Olivier Messiaen and the music of New Orleans. It includes nice melodic lines over waltzing cadences and harmonic gestures typical of the rock genre.

Encircled by affable warmness, bold color combinations, and a soaring optimism, this is another recommended title from a trumpeter that gets you recurrently hooked on his musical creations.


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João Paulo Esteves da Silva, Mário Franco, and Samuel Rohrer

Brightbird

Immersed in a shimmering sea of creative beauty, Brightbird feels disciplined and free at the same time. The album results from a triangular interaction between the open-minded Swiss drummer Samuel Rohrer and two Portuguese explorers, pianist João Paulo Esteves da Silva and bassist Mário Franco.

The 13 original pieces oscillate between the static exploration and the minimalism, passing through erratic and contemplative ballads that sometimes are turned into classical-tinged laments.

With an enchanting tranquility, “The Fireplace” opens the album as a surreptitious expression of the soul, ending with Silva’s ruminative solo articulacy.

After a wayward introductory section, “Sun” becomes suavely propelled with a nice groove laid down by Franco and Rohrer, who provides the rhythmic stability for Silva’s prayerful utterances in an appreciative and contagious heliolatry.


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David Lopato

Gendhig for a Spirit Rising

World fusion is in good hands with pianist, composer, and bandleader David Lopato, who hired an eclectic A-list band for his two-CD set outing, Gendhing for a Spirit Rising. Moving with ease between Javanese gamelan, Contemporary Jazz, and other South Asian sounds, Lopato’s music benefits the experienced and the emerging jazz artists that followed him in this adventure.

Due to the palpitating rhythmic structure and the presence of an Eberton-Friedlander virtual violin, “Landrang” and “Jalan Jiwa” made me recall Billy Bang’s Vietnam Reflections.

The folk-steeped “This Life” features saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, who first outlines the free chant like theme on alto and then improvises on soprano. He is handsomely backed up by Mark Feldman’s melodicism on violin. Before this stage, the bandleader had shown rhythmic inventiveness and strong sense of resolution during his statement.

Disc one comes to a conclusion with the 20-minute “Gendhing,” a ruminative, grateful, and feathery instrumental that keeps shifting without altering the musing spirit.


 

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Wadada Leo Smith

Najwa

Trumpeter and Composer Wadada Leo Smith owns an inimitable avant-jazz voice and an out-of-the-box creativity that is patented throughout a prolific career. Last year he delighted me twice with A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (duo record with pianist Vijay Iyer) and America’s National Park, this year he strikes again with powerful albums, Solo Reflections and Meditations on Monk and the object of this review, Najwa, a bow to major American jazz artists.

The album’s acute bite comes not only from Wadada’s limpid sequence of notes, but also from quirky textures weaved by the four Guitarists in service: Brandon Ross, Michael Gregory Jackson, Henry Kaiser, and Lamar Smith, plus the constantly ominous bass presence of Bill Laswell and the impressive and ever-adaptable percussive flow by Drummer Pheeroan akLaff. The rhythms are magnified by the actions of percussionist Adam Rudolph.


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Kamasi Washington

Harmony of Difference

“Humility” is a demonstrative spiritual exaltation suffused with plenty of joy and excitement and featuring fervent if succinct improvisations from piano, trumpet, and tenor. While “Knowledge” is a seductive, danceable manifestation of the spirit, propelled by sweet-tempered funky bass lines and a fulfilling patterned rhythm. The improvisations belong to Ryan Porter and the bandleader.

“Perspective” boasts an outlandish, hypnotic intro before settling in a zone dominated by R&B and retro funk. It will make you clap your hands! As usual, the melody in the chorus is simple and attractive, a procedure also followed on “Integrity,” an unanticipated 100 percent Brazilian samba song with cuíca sounds and a hard-driving groove.

Kamasi Washington, whose music remains passionate and poignant, exteriorizes his musicality with feeling and manages to attract followers from opposite sides of the jazz spectrum. He does this with a deep understanding of the past and an eye in the future.