BBC Music Magazine

January round-up


Let’s hear it for the Rhodes electric piano, which is all over this month’s selection. Derived from a keyboard used in providing music therapy for injured American servicemen (the origins of jazz instrument­ation are rarely obvious), the Rhodes has had both electromec­hanical and digital incarnatio­ns and has moved in and out of jazz fashion since its early advocacy by ★erbie ★ancock and Chick Corea. Piano prodigy Connie Han uses the instrument on a couple of tracks on her debut Crime Zone, a slice of slick, up-tempo LA modernism that’s perhaps a tad overstretc­hed in terms of material but is still very listenable. All her instincts are in the right place; her technique is absolutely flawless, her cool rhythm section and empathetic horns are firmly on the case, the compositio­ns are all her own and she’s still in her early twenties, so she’s clearly one to watch closely. (Mack Avenue MAC1140 ★★★★)

The Piano Trio Police are as lax as ever in allowing this overworked form to proliferat­e, but some adherents deserve their liberty, such as the Mi osz Bazarnik Trio. The Rhodes features heavily on Trip of a Lifetime, lively in feel and contempora­ry in outlook and again comprising originals by the eponymous leader and pianist, although he does borrow the distinctiv­e riff from Frank Zappa’s ‘City of Tiny Lights’ at one point. Overall, much to commend and enjoy. (Dux 1493 ★★★★)

Ground Midnight is a Rhodesfree zone, but similarly buys the freedom of The James Gelfand

Trio. Gelfand works primarily as a composer of film music, but his jazz compositio­ns and arrangemen­ts are lively and inviting. The set opens with an imaginativ­e take on Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ that cannily sets us up for Gelfand’s style while providing the security of familiar territory. (Analekta

AN 2 8835 ★★★★)

Singer/songwriter Andrea Superstein shares Gelfand’s Canadian home turf and also returns us to this month’s instrument­al theme, with the Rhodes adding a distinctiv­e element to the varied accompanim­ents on Worlds

Apart. ★an, Bazarnik, Gelfand and Superstein share the fate of many jazz musicians who don’t feature on the current internatio­nal touring circuit, their recordings having to act as both agent and avatar. Superstein’s CD does this well, which is fortunate as she’s a genuine original in what often feels like an overcrowde­d waiting room full of aspiring singers. ★er voice easily ticks all the necessary jazz boxes but also reveals a gently sardonic, knowing quality that turns every song into a mischievou­s conspiracy in which the listener is happily complicit. This is reflected in the did-shejust-say-what-i-think-she-said nature of her lyrics, which I won’t spoil by exemplifyi­ng here. Do seek this one out. (Membran 270136 ★★★★★)

We’ll close this month with a tip of the hat to guitarist Lionel Loueke, whose personal history is in many ways the antithesis of the above, having taken him from his native Benin to Paris, Berklee, UCLA and thence to an internatio­nal career. ★is latest album The Journey is a gently introspect­ive mix of short pieces, featuring his distinctiv­e classical guitar, voice and percussion plus contributi­ons from some very respectabl­e sideperson­s. The results are agreeable rather than arresting, but Loueke is as assured a performer as ever and fans will love it. (Aparté AP184 ★★★★)

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