Roger Thomas casts his ears over this month’s im­por­tant new jazz re­leases

BBC Music Magazine - - Jazz -

Novem­ber round-up

The pi­ano trio is some­thing of a theme in this month’s se­lec­tion of discs. Phrone­sis (see Jazz Choice) is cer­tainly a dis­tinc­tive and unique ex­am­ple, but there are many other in­stances of this tra­di­tional work­horse be­ing re­pur­posed as some­thing other than a show­case. The Tord Gustavson Trio comes to mind. Tord Gustavson’s sub­tle pi­ano grooves con­tinue to demon­strate his gen­tly provoca­tive ap­proach, art­fully jux­ta­pos­ing elas­ti­cated treat­ments of Bach and a few tra­di­tional tunes with a se­lec­tion of the pi­anist’s orig­i­nals on The Other Side. The group makes all the mu­sic their own, but an­other no­table at­trac­tion of this disc is ac­tu­ally the pro­gram­ming se­quence; this feels un­usu­ally cen­tral to the over­all pack­age, so prod the shuf­fle but­ton at your peril. (ECM 2608 ★★★★)

Pi­ano trios are also a go-to re­source for ac­com­pa­ny­ing singers, but that’s not to say that this is ex­clu­sively the ter­ri­tory of jour­ney­men/women. Diana Krall is, of course, a pi­anist and leader in her own right, but on Love is

Here to Stay she con­fines her con­tri­bu­tion to shar­ing vo­cal du­ties with none other than Tony Ben­nett, hand­ing their ac­com­pa­ni­ment over to Bill Char­lap and his fine trio. A high-end team all round, then, for this se­lec­tion of Gersh­win classics, but much of the joy is in the de­tail. Ben­nett, as­ton­ish­ingly, is now 92 but he knows ex­actly which as­pects of his voice still work, such as his imag­i­na­tive yet im­pec­ca­ble phras­ing, and which may not, such as his pro­jec­tion, so both singers opt for an af­fec­tion­ate in­ti­macy.

The hint of gravel that comes with age adds a bluesy edge to Ben­nett’s de­liv­ery, so with Krall’s smoky con­tralto nudg­ing against his vo­cal range it some­times seems as if they share a sin­gle voice, which is de­light­ful.

(Verve 6778129 ★★★★)

On her de­but al­bum Changes, singer Ari­anna Neikrug sim­i­larly works with Lau­rence Hob­good’s trio to good ef­fect. Hers is a dis­tinc­tive voice which can oc­ca­sion­ally lapse from an in­ci­sive, an­i­mated pres­ence into an odd ade­noidal honk, but much seems to de­pend on her choice of ma­te­rial. She sounds like a bal­ladeer at heart; in par­tic­u­lar, her take on ‘Spring Can Re­ally Hang You Up the Most’ is wickedly mem­o­rable. (Con­cord CJA 00103 ★★★)

The re­verse of the above ap­plies to Wayne Shorter ’s Emanon,a sprawl­ing three-disc set (which ap­par­ently has a graphic novel tie-in) in which Shorter’s com­mand­ing, full-toned sax­o­phone tran­scends the ac­tual ma­te­rial, much of which com­prises lumpen, clunky or­ches­tra­tion rem­i­nis­cent of Or­nette Cole­man’s Skies of Amer­ica. Worth hear­ing for the for­mer when the sax­o­phon­ist gets a note in edge­ways, but per­haps a tad over­am­bi­tious over­all.

(Blue Note 6714396 ★★★)

Wayne Shorter’s epic does at least re­mind us of the breadth of the jazz church, in that any mu­sic that can ac­com­mo­date both the above and the work of trum­peter Arve Hen­rik­sen must have some­thing go­ing for it. The Height of the Reeds fea­tures var­i­ous col­lab­o­ra­tors on gui­tar, elec­tron­ics and field record­ings, and was orig­i­nally com­mis­sioned by the city of

Full, the UK’S 2017 cultural cap­i­tal. Es­sen­tially a piece of sonic art de­signed to be heard on head­phones while travers­ing the Num­ber Bridge, it sold a re­mark­able 15,000 tick­ets. An at­mo­spheric sound­track to the city’s par­tic­u­lar history and ge­og­ra­phy, it trans­lates sur­pris­ingly well onto CD. (Rune Gram­mo­fon RCD 2201 ★★★★)

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