Take Five: Daring New Music by Brad Mehldau, Flying Lotus, Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller
Along with the latest by Kneebody and Sarathy Korwar.
Brad Mehldau, “O Ephraim”
The often-senseless chaos of our present age has inspired every form of new artistic expression, from television dramas to realist novels. For pianist and composer Brad Mehldau, it yielded a striking and unorthodox album, Finding Gabriel, which Nonesuch will release on May 17.
The album comes out of a few recent preoccupations, including the Biblical Old Testament, and in particular the prophetic works of Daniel and Hosea. “The Bible felt like a corollary and perhaps a guide to the present day — one long nightmare or a signpost leading to potential gnosis, depending on how you read it,” Mehldau reflects in an album statement.
“O Ephraim,” which has its premiere here, borrows its title from Hosea 6:4, a passage of admonition. (“O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”)
Another contributing factor on Finding Gabriel is the OB-6 synthesizer, which Mehldau has added to his arsenal. On “O Ephraim” he features that instrument along with Fender Rhodes and acoustic pianos, Musser Ampli-Celeste, Morfbeats gamelan strips, drums and vocals. It’s a multilayered solo performance — one of several on the album, which elsewhere features the likes of vocalist Becca Stevens, drummer Mark Guiliana and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.
Finding Gabriel will be released on Nonesuch Records on May 17; preorder here.
Flying Lotus, “Takashi”
Producer, beatmaker, filmmaker and indie mogul Flying Lotus hasn’t released a new album since You’re Dead! in 2014. He’s aiming to make up for lost time with Flamagra, due out on May 24. Featuring a slew of notable guests (like George Clinton, Anderson .Paak and the album’s spirit animal, David Lynch), it’s an Afrofuturist opus that explores the jazzier side of hip-hop and electronic music.
“Takashi” is one of the early singles from the album, a dreamy soul-glitch instrumental featuring the musicianship of Brandon Coleman on keyboards, Thundercat on electric bass and Ronald Bruner on drums. (There’s also a writing credit by Syunsuke Ono, a multi-instrumentalist and producer.) The title of the track is a nod to Takashi Kudo of the artist collective teamLAB, whose installations provided some of the inspiration for the album.
Flamagra will release on Warp on May 24; preorder here.
Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller’s Parlour Game, “The Right Fit”
Parlour Game — due out on the Royal Potato Family label on Aug. 2 — is the self-titled album by a band that violinist Jenny Scheinman formed last year with drummer Allison Miller. An unaffectedly roots-minded endeavor, it also features Carmen Staaf on piano and Tony Scherr on bass — musicians who, like Scheinman, have the capacity to imbue a simple gesture with many shades of meaning. You can hear this process at work in “The Right Fit,” premiering here.
“The Right Fit” was the first song Scheinman wrote for Parlour Game, after spending a month on the road with her band mates. “I wanted to write something that would keep them with me; a sexy interlocking medium-tempo feel and a melody that would linger after the song was over,” she explains. “In jazz we place a high value on complexity, virtuosity and innovation. It is a good thing — it keeps our culture curious and alive! This song, however, is about big love, a sticky melody, and the sustaining power of a groove when it fits just right.”
Sarathy Korwar, “Mumbay”
The percussionist and producer Sarathy Korwar — born and raised in India, based in London — made his frst big splash in 2016, with Day to Day (Ninja Tune). That album established Korwar as part of a cosmopolitan wave on the new London scene, alongside sometime-collaborators like Shabaka Hutchings and Yusef Kamaal. We now have a lot more context for that scene, and so an eager audience awaits Korwar’s second album, More Arriving, due out on the Leaf Label in July.
The first single, “Mumbay,” serves notice that this is an album with a point to make. A reflection on the hustle of Mumbai — formerly known by its British colonial name, Bombay — it features a rapper from that city, MC Mawali, spitting his verses over a 7/4 groove. “Kuch mare sahke / Kush lade kehke / Kuch rehte beheka,” he raps; “Some die enduring / Some fight speaking out / Some stay elusive.” In the chorus, he affirms that this metropolis is the same by any name: “Call it what you want / You still live on the street.”
More Arriving will release on the Leaf Label on July 26; preorder here.
Kneebody Featuring Michael Mayo, “By Fire”
Kneebody long ago distinguished itself as a band that plays well with others. On a new EP, By Fire, the group takes that idea to its logical extreme: each of its five tracks is a cover, with a different featured guest. The opener and title track is a Hiatus Kaiyote tune, with vocals by Michael Mayo.
Because there’s so much dynamic modernity in Hiatus Kaiyote’s https://youtu.be/Jfupbt1t9Gc">original version of the song, you wouldn’t describe this as a reinvention. Instead, Kneebody seems to be acknowledging kindred spirits, with Mayo given a platform on which to shine. He does just that, before clearing space for a tenor saxophone solo by Ben Wendel. Less obvious but just as notable is the fact that By Fire marks the first Kneebody release as a quartet: bassist Kaveh Rastegar has decamped, leaving Nate Wood to handle both bass and drums. (Thankfully, that’s just the sort of multitasking he has been honing in recent months.)
By Fire is available now in digital form, on Edition Records.