Take Five: Intrepid New Music by Jeremy Pelt, Thumbscrew, Mark Feldman & Benoit Delbecq
Along with a fresh new remix of a track by Nubya Garcia.
Jeremy Pelt, “Solidarity”
Trumpeter-composer Jeremy Pelt titled his new album Griot: This is Important! — a poetic invocation, followed by an emphatic prompt. His concept for the album draws on the West African tradition of the griot, or storytelling troubadour, who encodes the history and lineage of a community in song. “You know, I’ve always had a particular reverence towards my elders,” Pelt says in the album’s introduction, making clear that this will be a celebration of that wisdom. And true to that spirit, he intersperses spoken commentary from musicians he looks up to, like singer René Marie, as well as peers like his fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.
One of the elders that Pelt consults is pianist Harold Maborn, who talks about the sense of solidarity that used to exist on the scene: “So little backstabbing you didn’t even notice it!” he says, in his Memphis drawl. Mabern, who died in 2019, presides as the guiding spirit of the following piece, “Solidarity.” It begins with a chiming ostinato by vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu, joined shortly by the full rhythm section in a cruising straight-eighth groove: Victor Gould on piano, Vicente Archer on bass, Ismel Wignall on percussion, Allan Mednard on drums.
Griot: This is Important! will be released on Friday; preorder on Amazon.
Thumbscrew, “Through an Open Window”
The improvising collective known as Thumbscrew — bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Tomas Fujiwara, guitarist Mary Halvorson — devoted its most recent album to the music of a mutual hero, Anthony Braxton. We should have known that this exercise would yield some additional creative output. Never Is Enough, out on Cuneiform Records on Feb. 26, features original music recorded during the same sessions as The Anthony Braxton Project, and in some ways informed by its spirit.
“Through an Open Window” is a piece by Fujiwara, who drew inspiration from a hotel-room view in Sarajevo: “a cityscape skyline, rain falling, mountains, a lot of visual inspiration with people, clouds, and cars subtly moving and shifting.” That sense of movement at different timescales, as executed by the members of Thumbscrew, feels faintly Braxtonian — but also unmistakably like the distinctive work of Halvorson, Formanek and Fujiwara as a trio. Their ensemble language is undeniable, and they speak it with hyperfluency.
Never Is Enough will be released on Feb. 26 on Cuneiform Records; preorder here.
Benoît Delbecq, “The Loop of Chicago”
Speaking of hyperfluency in an invented language, take a moment to consider what Benoît Delbecq does at the piano on his new album, The Weight of Light. His first solo release since Circles and Calligrams, from 2010, it’s a reminder of how much expressive potential can be found within the mechanics of the instrument — the play of those hammers and dampers on the strings, which can always be tweaked.
“The Loop of Chicago” is the opening track on the album, with a title that evokes both the central business district of downtown Chicago and the ostinato that Delbecq sets up with his left hand. It’s a textbook illustration of the percussive depth in his prepared-piano approach, as well as the inspiration he draws from sculptural mobiles (like those associated with Alexander Calder). “When I’m composing, it’s exactly like I’m looking at inventing the future shape of an object,” says Delbecq in a statement, “so I look at it from different places. It’s like a 3-D way of conceiving things that has to do with optical phenomena. If I move around it, it will reveal shapes that are hidden at other angles.”
The Weight of Light will be released on Pyroclastic Records on Friday; preorder here.
Mark Feldman, “Peace Warriors”
Here’s another solo recital that explodes the usual framework. Mark Feldman is a brilliant violinist who can often be heard in improvising chamber settings — with pianist-composer Sylvia Courvoisier; in bands led by trumpeter Dave Douglas or the late guitarist John Abercrombie; in one or another setting conceived by John Zorn. Sounding Point is Feldman’s first solo violin album in more than 25 years, and it doesn’t suggest subtraction but rather an expansion.
The album mostly consists of Feldman compositions, including a closer with a timely title, “New Normal.” Courvoisier wrote the opening track, “As We Are,” and the only other nonoriginal is “Peace Warriors,” which Ornette Coleman introduced on his Prime Time album In All Languages in 1987. (Zorn covered it the following year, on Spy vs. Spy.) Feldman turns the theme into a folk dance, using strategic overdubs to give the impression of a dialogue. His technique is impeccable, and as usual he brings a crying dimension to his sound — something Ornette used to do, on violin as on alto saxophone.
Sounding Point will be released on Friday on Intakt; preorder here.
Nubya Garcia, “The Message Continues” (Mark de Clive-Lowe Remix)
Source, the major-label debut of British-born saxophonist Nubya Garcia, has continued to yield welcome surprises since its release last summer. If you haven’t heard the Makaya McCraven remix of the title track, start there. Then tune in to another remix, by keyboardist Mark de Clive-Lowe — this time it’s of a piece aptly titled “The Message Continues.”
In the album version, “The Message Continues” draws on club rhythm from the foundation of a jazz rhythm section. The remix proposes one step further: what if this track sounded like actual house music? And yet Garcia’s tenor remains a focal point, suggesting a human form on the dance floor.
“The Message Continues” (Mark de Clive-Lowe remix) is available now.