William Parker, Enrico Rava and Andrew Cyrille honor Cecil Taylor, among other new delights in Take Five
Andrew Cyrille, William Parker and Enrico Rava, "Ballerina"
Cecil Taylor is often remembered as a world unto himself, but creative music is littered with reigning heavyweights who developed at his side. Consider the all-star personnel on 2 Blues For Cecil, a mesmerizing new TUM release: drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist William Parker, and trumpeter Enrico Rava. All three improvisers spent important stretches playing with Taylor, though at different times. And their approach with this putative tribute is less about emulation than acknowledgment; they're honoring a common touchstone by being most fully themselves. The album includes some blues and ballads (notably a rubato stroll through "My Funny Valentine") — and a bristling take on "Ballerina," which Rava composed more than 30 years ago. Listen to the way these musicians effervesce through the tune, and the Cecil connection should be clear.
Pete Malinverni, "Cool"
Confession: I have yet to see the new West Side Story. But based on everything I've heard about it, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner managed an incredible reinvention of the iconic musical; it's high on my list. Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying a related reinvention of another sort: On the Town – Pete Malinverni plays Leonard Bernstein, just out on Planet Arts. Featuring Malinverni on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums, it's an impeccable songbook salute to the Maestro, including a couple of selections from West Side Story. Among them is "Cool," the classic set piece shot through with jazz harmony; in the studio footage above, watch Malinverni and his partners work the motif over a cruising swing tempo, true to the title.
Youn Sun Nah, "Don't Get Me Wrong"
South Korean singer Youn Sun Nah has established her international jazz-pop career largely on the basis of interpretation — applying her considerable poise and polish to material ranging from French chansons to Nine Inch Nails. (I won't soon forget the steel composure she brought to a performance of "Besame Mucho" in a theater full of Cuban artists and dignitaries.) All of which is to say that the new Youn Sun Nah album — Waking World, due out this Friday on Arts Music / Warner — marks a welcome new ambition in her work, consisting as it does of all-new original songs. Among them is "Don't Get Me Wrong," which addresses our toxic politics, fake news and, though it's more implied than said, xenophobic racism. As she levels her calm accusations, her musical arrangement shifts behind her — from a mournful ballad verse to a percolating chorus, with light annotation from trumpeter Airelle Besson.
John Hébert, "Remember Rockefeller at Attica"
Sounds of Love, the bold new Sunnyside release by bassist and composer John Hébert, documents the adventures of an all-star ensemble he first assembled a decade ago — with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, alto saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Fred Hersch and drummer Ches Smith. Loosely arranged as a tribute to Charles Mingus, the group toured Europe in 2013; the album was recorded at Jazz in Bess in Lugano, Switzerland that March. Rather than a by-the-book Mingus repertory project, it's a gesture in spirit. Consult this version of "Remember Rockefeller at Attica," which opens in pure textural abstraction (a Bynum specialty), proceeds through some free rhythmic exploration (via Smith) and locks into its bright, swinging tempo at 3:20. The feeling of release in that shift carries over into the solos, by Berne, Bynum and Hersch, who brings it home.
Geri Allen, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, "Dance of the Infidels"
Finally, we couldn't close this edition of Take Five without acknowledging a windfall. Late last week, we learned of a brand-new release on the Japanese label Somethin' Cool: Unissued Tracks, by the late pianist Geri Allen, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian. Recorded during the same 1990 engagement that yielded their essential Live at the Village Vanguard, this is still more evidence of the rare alignment these three musicians expressed together. The track list includes alternate takes on Allen's "Obtuse Angles," Motian's "Mumbo Jumbo" and Haden's "Song For the Whales," along with songbook standards like "Dancing in the Dark." For our purposes here, pay particular attention to the easy authority they bring to one of Bud Powell's signature themes, harnessing the bebop language in the service of a developing story.