Take Five: Pensive yet potent new work by Sara Serpa, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jamire Williams, Adam O'Farrill & Dave Meder
Sara Serpa, "Night"
Intimate Strangers — the forthcoming album by singer and composer Sara Serpa, due out on Dec. 3 on Biophilia — contemplates the African continent as both a homeland and a haunting presence, vivid yet unknowable. The album is a collaboration with Nigerian writer Emmanuel Iduma, whose 2018 book A Stranger’s Pose provides a crucial source text. Serpa previously explored themes of colonial oppression in Recognition: Music For a Silent Film, released last year. Here she draws clear sustenance from Iduma's language and vantage; consider "Night," the first available track from the album, which concerns itself with lost love and fraught topography. Hear how Iduma, speaking his own words, leads up to the song's philosophical conclusion: "Every tree is the opposite of wandering."
Sara Serpa performs an album-release concert at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on Dec. 14.
Jamire Williams "For the Youth (feat. Corey King)"
"I'm sinkin'/ I'm sinkin' / I'm sinkin'," sings Corey King at the top of "For the Youth," the latest single from drummer Jamire Williams' album But Only After You Have Suffered. There's an almost blissful surrender in his delivery, as if the act of sinking (and even drowning, as he sings in the following refrain) could be a welcome sensation. Such is the delirium of Williams' art at this juncture — a reverberant, heat-warped, dub-infused admixture of groove and grain. King, who recently contributed so much to Esperanza Spalding's Songwrights Apothecary Lab, is one of myriad collaborators in Williams' circle, alongside everyone from singer Lisa E. Harris to pianist Jason Moran. What this latest track reinforces is a simple conviction that Suffered — due out on Dec. 3 from International Anthem — will be one of the late-breaking revelations of 2021.
Kurt Rosenwinkel, "Heavenly Bodies"
Since the release of his first album 25 years ago, Kurt Rosenwinkel has been a Polaris of modern jazz guitar, and a guru of modern jazz harmony. He isn't exclusively a guitarist, a fact that has long been understood — but rarely foregrounded as plainly it is on Kurt Rosenwinkel Plays Piano, an album due out on his Heartcore label on Dec. 3. "Heavenly Bodies," the first available song from the album, is a waltz that underscores his affinity for floating consonance and flickering colors. It's easy to picture Rosenwinkel playing the tune on guitar, with a band — but that doesn't take anything away from his performance here, which communicates a glowing, steady grace.
Adam O'Farrill, "Blackening Skies"
Trumpeter-composer Adam O'Farrill is still in his mid-20s, but he's been moving fast and making noise. (Perhaps you read his profile in the New York Times earlier this fall.) His quartet, Stranger Days — with saxophonist Xavier Del Castillo, bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Zack O’Farrill — is among the more dynamic working bands of his peer group in New York. And on a new album, Visions of Your Other, O'Farrill also serves notice that he is stretching as a composer, a bandleader and a conceptual artist. "Blackening Skies," for instance, draws on his anxieties in the face of evident climate crisis — capturing not only the foreboding but a spirit of urgent pressure.
Dave Meder, "Exile"
"Faith which does not doubt is dead faith." So wrote Miguel de Unamuno, a Basque philosopher and writer of the late 19th century and early 20th, in his book The Agony of Christianity. But one can also grapple with faith in a native land or a governing principle, as pianist Dave Meder surely understands. His new album on Outside in Music, Unamuno Songs and Stories, adapts some of the ideas Unamuno articulated during the Spanish Civil War to our own present moment of doubt and division, with an underlying note of hope. Its closing track, "Exile," draws inspiration from the years that Unamuno was forced to live outside of Spain, owing to his outspoken criticism of the ruling dictatorship. The video above, by Adrien H. Tillmann, beautifully highlights a stirring solemnity in the song, whose rubato procession yields excellent work from Philip Dizack on trumpet, as well as the composer himself on piano.
Dave Meder performs an album-release concert on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at Soapbox Gallery in Brooklyn.