Here is some brand-new music with the lift we all need.
Several weeks ago, before it was considered a rare privilege to experience live music in a club, I caught a dynamic, absorbing set by Gilfema. A collective trio with a history that goes back some 20 years — to a time when guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth all met at the Berklee College of Music — Gilfema has always been a marvel of shifting rhythm and near-telepathic group intuition.
The set I saw, at Jazz Standard, had Eric Harland in place of Nemeth on drums: a more-than-acceptable substitution that produced a new alchemy. But Harland took care not to disrupt the unique mechanics of the trio, so it still felt recognizably like Gilfema, with Biolcati’s spidery bass lines and Loueke’s restive, radiant guitar work met with a web of African-inspired polyrhythm.
The set featured music from a new album, Three, which will be released this Friday on the Sounderscore label. And along with a hypnotic arrangement of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing,” one of the highlights was an original called “Têkê,” in bubbling 13/8 meter. That track premieres here; Three can be purchased at Gilfema’s Bandcamp page.
Luciana Souza, “Matita Perê”
Storytellers, a resplendent new album by Luciana Souza, feels like the realization of a long-held dream. It’s a program of beloved Brazilian songs that Souza has probably been singing all her life, though not often in such extravagant luxury — with the WDR Big Band Cologne, conducted and arranged by Vince Mendoza.
The heart of the album is this song by Antônio Carlos Jobim, named after a mystical, cuckoolike bird of the Brazilian rainforest. “It is Jobim’s tribute to the vast and relentless presence of nature in Brazil,” Souza observes in the album liner notes. She’d probably be the first to acknowledge the extent to which this version pays homage to the original recording, which Jobim made with orchestrator Claus Ogerman in the early 1970s. (The fine soprano saxophone solo is by Johan Hörlen.)
Purchase Storytellers at her Bandcamp page.
Jimmy Greene, “Overreaction”
Let’s get this out of the way first: when he decided to title this piece “Overreaction,” saxophonist Jimmy Greene wasn’t referring to public response to the spread of coronavirus. The track was recorded one year ago for Greene’s 11th album, While Looking Up, which Mack Avenue will release on Friday.
“Overreaction” is a post-bop tune that simmers at a low boil, highlighting not only Greene’s rhythmically assured improvising on tenor but also the intelligent aplomb of a top-shelf rhythm section: pianist Aaron Goldberg, guitarist Lage Lund, bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Kendrick Scott. Note how the band balances intensity and restraint throughout this performance — articulating a sense of explosive energies kept under tenuous control.
Preorder While Looking Up from Mack Avenue Records.
Kurt Elling Featuring Danilo Pérez, “Overjoyed”
Back in January, WBGO helped spread the news that Kurt Elling had made a collaborative album with Danilo Pérez. That album, Secrets Are the Best Stories, will be released this Friday on Edition Records. Last Friday, in a friendly nudge, the label dropped a surprise bonus single: a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.”
Their arrangement, set in gentle 7/4 time, capitalizes on Elling’s gift for expressive precision; hear how he works with the subtle shift in dynamics during the first iteration of the bridge. On alto saxophone, first playing obbligato and then an effective 16-bar solo, is Miguel Zenón.
Purchase Secrets Are the Best Stories at Kurt Elling’s Bandcamp page.
Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio, “Everything I Love”
I began this week’s Take Five by remembering a guitar trio gig at Jazz Standard, and I’ll end by lamenting another one. The Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel was scheduled to appear at the club in a couple of weeks with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, in celebration of their excellent new album on ECM, titled Angular Blues. That engagement, like most of the April calendar, has been canceled; one hopes that it will be rescheduled for a saner time.
Until then, at least we have Angular Blues, a worthy addition to an ECM lineage that includes classic albums by John Abercrombie and Terje Rypdal. Consider the pristine melodic clarity and buoyant feel that Muthspiel brings to Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love,” and the way that his band mates subtly turn up the output as his solo moves along. (Blade switches from brushes to sticks just before 1:30, and I think the swinging 4/4 section that ensues could be considered non-prescription medicine for the soul.) Angular Blues is available on ECM Records.