Take Five: Terrace Martin drops an opus, Artifacts deepens an inquiry, & Mareike Wiening delivers on an idea
Terrace Martin, "Griots of the Crenshaw District (feat. Hit-Boy, Kamasi Washington & Robert Glasper)"
Drones, the new album by Terrace Martin, arrived last Friday on a wave of acclaim, based in part on a stacked guest list: Kendrick Lamar, Cordae, Snoop Dogg and Leon Bridges are among more than a dozen collaborators who show up to grace a track. So too are a couple of noted artists from Martin's contemporary jazz circle, tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington and keyboardist Robert Glasper. On a track titled "Griots of the Crenshaw District," they share the spotlight with Chauncey Hollis, the rapper and producer who goes by Hit-Boy; Martin plays alto and soprano saxophones as well as keyboards on the track, joined by Marlon M. Williams on guitar. The song itself combines a heavy-tread, head-nod beat with a melody that saunters right to the edge of smooth — though Washington's solo imports a welcome pinch of grit.
Flutist Nicole Mitchell, drummer Mike Reed and cellist Tomeka Reid shared a commonality of purpose, and more than a few personal connections, before their debut as Artifacts Trio in 2015. That album, an inspired AACM repertory project, bore the simple title Artifacts, which is now the name of the band. On their second album — ...and then there's this, available from Astral Spirits Records — these multidimensional musicians continue to honor their heroes, but with more of their own compositions, and a greater openness to groove. Consider "Blessed," a Mitchell tune that relies on the buoyant straight-eighth propulsion of her partners, and especially Reid, whose pizzicato solo is a brief but considerable delight.
Mareike Wiening, "An Idea Is Unpredictable"
Mareike Wiening, a resourceful young German drummer and composer, released her debut album, Metropolis Paradise in 2019. (At the time, it was featured in Take Five.) That release actually featured a substitute pianist, Dan Tepfer, who was filling in for an injured Glenn Zaleski. Future Memories, Wiening's new album, puts Zaleski back in the rotation, alongside Rich Perry on tenor saxophone, Alex Goodman on guitar and Johannes Felscher on bass — the same personnel that coalesced around her masters recital at NYU in 2014. Fittingly, this music suggests a view on the New York jazz scene with a faint European spin; this composition, "An Idea is Unpredictable," even has trasatlanticism built into the framework, in its toggling between one idea and the next.
Dan Weiss and Miles Okazaki, "Middlegame, Part II"
Music For Drums and Guitar is the austerely titled new release from Dan Weiss and Miles Okazaki, who happen to be composer-improvisers of absurdly expansive imaginative resources. The album consists of one suite from each musician, composed for a Stone Commissioning Series in 2019: "The Memory Palace," by Okazaki, and "Middlegame," by Weiss. Both pieces feel intricately designed yet wide open to possibility, and to the whims of a nearly telepathic rapport. Above all, they speak to a sense of play — albeit play of a highly evolved sort. As Weiss puts it, "each part of 'Middlegame' requires a different strategy. For example, during 'Part II' I am thinking about playing positionally rather than using a lot of tactics. Like in a chess game, if the position is solid, improvisations can come to life."
Helen Sung, "Feed the Fire"
Pianist-composer Helen Sung named her new album Quartet+, but she could just as easily have swapped out the plus sign for "x2," given that her acoustic post-bop foursome appears alongside the Harlem Quartet. In any case, the album is a sharp, ambitious statement from an artist who never seems to be caught off balance. And it opens, meaningfully, with an explosive version of "Feed the Fire," a calling card for the late Geri Allen. Last week, Sung shared this solo version of the song, proving that she can summon the same crackling intensity with no additional personnel. Don't miss the quicksilver run that she plays with her right hand, spanning almost the full range of the keyboard — and crossing over her left hand, which is busy maintaining the ostinato (feeding the fire, as it were) that defines the tune.