Take Five: Gary Bartz, Vijay Iyer Trio, Lina Allemano Four, Jim Snidero, Pasquale Grasso
Gary Bartz, "The Message"
The Jazz Is Dead series, an ongoing project of producers Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge, has honored a steady succession of veteran groove warriors, beginning last year with Roy Ayers. It feels inevitable, but no less inspired, that they'd devote a full album to alto saxophonist and composer Gary Bartz.
Bartz, who turned 80 last September, has long exemplified the balance between rooted connection and searching exploration — as much on his recent work as on classic albums like Harlem Bush Music. (A few years ago, he was the revelatory force in a 50th anniversary celebration of Charles Tolliver's Paper Man, presented in Harlem by the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.) He fits right into the crate-digging soul matrix of "The Message," starting out in a light staccato and gradually loosening his flow.
Gary Bartz JID006 releases on Friday; preorder here.
Vijay Iyer Trio, "Entrustment"
We've already noted here that Uneasy — the new ECM album by pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Tyshawn Sorey — is cause for celebration. In advance of its release this Friday, it's worth spending time with the album's contemplative closing track, which you could almost characterize as a prayer.
The droning resonance in the song, which Iyer wrote as part of a suite for A Far Cry and members of Silk Road Ensemble, carries a specific allusion. "Around that time I was invited by the theater director Peter Sellars to visit Dunhuang, the site of a spectacular assemblage of several hundred Buddhist cave temples in the Gobi Desert created over several centuries from ~500-1200 A.C.E.," Iyer writes. "I made this piece in tribute to this staggering intercultural monument to human spirituality. This theme is a processional that closes that suite, imagining an approach to enlightenment."
Uneasy will release on Friday on ECM; preorder here.
Lina Allemano Four, "Onions"
An adventurous trumpeter on the Toronto scene, and also a part-time resident of Berlin, Lina Allemano has established an impressive body of work over the last decade — simultaneously juggling several divergent projects, in a way that calls Dave Douglas to mind. She's releasing two albums through Lumo Records on April 11: Proof, by her electroacoustic duo BLOOP, and Vegetables, by the Lina Allemano Four.
As its title suggests, Vegetables is a deadpan celebration of the vegetal: its song titles include "Oh Avocado" and "Brussels Sprouts, Maybe Cabbage." The opening track, "Onions," sets a jousting mood, featuring Allemano in active dialogue with her longtime band mates: Brodie West on alto saxophone, Andrew Downing on bass and Nick Fraser on drums. (Allemano's command of extended techniques on the horn is a trademark; note what she does alongside Downing around 2:30.)
Vegetables will be released on Lumo Records on April 11; preorder here.
Jim Snidero, "Yesterdays"
Last fall, as most of the country was largely in lockdown, The Deer Head Inn — a fabled jazz room in the Poconos — was presenting live music for a limited audience. Among those who accepted this challenge was alto saxophonist Jim Snidero, leading a quartet with Orrin Evans on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums.
The resulting live album, out now on Savant, is an affirmation of resilience and a celebration of common purpose. Snidero called a handful of jazz standards — Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time" and Grant Green's "Idle Moments" among them — and urged the band to put its own stamp on them. You hear this mandate clearly in their take on "Yesterdays," which interpolates the bass vamp Miles Davis used on "Joshua." It's a brisk, swinging performance, with Evans in particular sounding a note of defiance, as if to say: We're still here.
Live at the Deer Head Inn is available now on Savant Records.
Pasquale Grasso, "When I Fall In Love"
Two years ago, Sony Masterworks began rolling out a series of digital EPs by Pasquale Grasso, a virtuoso guitarist originally from Ariano Irpino, Italy. Solo Standards Vol. 1 was followed by Solo Ballads Vol. 1, and finally Solo Monk, which we covered at WBGO.
Now an expanded version of Solo Ballads is due this Friday, with five tracks not previously released. Among them is this beautifully understated reading of "When I Fall In Love," which recalls Joe Pass in its soft-spoken assurance, while articulating a courtly eloquence that is all Grasso's own. Along with the album drop comes some welcome news: Pasquale Plays Duke will be released this summer, with five Duke Ellington pieces for solo guitar, supplemented by several tracks recorded in trio.
Solo Ballads will be released on Friday; preorder here.