Stretching Out in Take Five: Tedeschi Trucks Band, SuperBigmouth, Emma Frank & More

Sep 16, 2019

New music that falls just outside the jazz sphere, in one way or another.

Tedeschi Trucks Band, “High & Mighty”

Earlier this year, the eponymous band fronted by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks released its fourth studio album, Signs. Well received by critics and fans, it radiates soulful affirmation and blues resilience, tempered only by the understanding that these songs were clearly built for the stage.

Now Tedeschi Trucks Band is poised to release a four-song EP, High & Mighty, most of which was recorded during the sessions for Signs. (It was previously made available as a Record Store Day vinyl exclusive.) The EP’s title track, written by Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II, was just released with a video consisting of footage from the band’s run of shows in Tokyo this past spring.

Tedeschi’s searchlight vocals are naturally the core feature of the tune, but Trucks provides his usual insight on lead guitar, and there’s a lean, Muscle Shoals-ish arrangement for the horn section. (Listen, too, for some nice improvised flourishes from trumpeter Ephraim Owens.) The EP is due out on Fantasy Records on Sept. 27 — the same day that Tedeschi Trucks Band begins a six-night residency at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan. (See their tour schedule for details.)

Chris Lightcap’s SuperBigmouth, “Deep River”

Bassist-composer Chris Lightcap has long had a good thing in Bigmouth, a smart, rollicking band with keyboardist Craig Taborn, drummer Gerald Cleaver and two tenor saxophonists, Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby. (Their album Epicenter was on my Top 10 of 2015.) Now Lightcap has expanded the roster for a group he’s named SuperBigmouth, adding two electric guitarists, Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring, and a second drummer, Dan Rieser; an album, also titled SuperBigmouth, will be released on Pyroclastic Records on Oct. 4.

“Deep River” is the first single from the album, featured here in an exclusive premiere. As the title implies, this is a tune that harnesses rhythm in layered currents, with a melody that wafts and a rhythmic undertow that churns. “I love listening to Gerald and Dan’s playing on this,” says Lightcap, “particularly the way they evolve over the course of the track and how they feed and play off of each other.” The solos are by Cheek and Taborn, each commanding and right at home, before the tune imperceptibly shifts into an Afrobeat zone.

Emma Frank, “I Thought”

The songs on Come Back, the enchanting fourth album by Emma Frank, don’t show many outward jazz affinities; they reside in the literate folk-rockish realm you’d associate with someone like Laura Marling, or the Beck of Morning Phase. But it’s meaningful that the album prominently features pianist Aaron Parks, whose “Lilac” is among the album’s few covers (with new lyrics). You can also hear the erudite restraint in their rapport — backed by bassist Zack Lober and drummer Tommy Crane — on the opening track, “I Thought.” (Video directed by artist Ayo Tsalithaba.)

Frank is a soft-spoken but surefooted vocalist originally from the Boston area; she now resides in Brooklyn after a stretch in Montreal, the home of her current label, Justin Time. (Perhaps you remember her from an episode of The Checkout this time last year.) She’s now on tour in Europe, but will be in Cambridge, Mass. on Oct. 6 and Burlington, Vt. on Oct. 8. For more information, visit her website.

J. Pavone String Ensemble, “Hurtle and Hurdle”

An improvising violist known for her work with Mary Halvorson and Anthony Braxton, Jessica Pavone has composed music for string quartet, along with many solo pieces. Her current outlet, the J. Pavone String Ensemble — herself and Joanna Mattrey on violas, Erica Dicker and Angela Morris on violins — will release its new album, Brick and Mortar, on the Birdwatcher label on Oct. 4. This video features “Hurtle and Hurdle,” the album’s opening track.

Pavone composed “Hurtle and Hurdle” with the movements of nature in mind: oceanic waves, air currents, cycles both circadian and orbital. The video, directed by Neil 'cloaca' Young, responds to that idea with footages of and around the Connecticut River in Western Mass. The meditative quality of both music and image are intentional, even as both resist tidy resolution.

Emmaline, “Effortless”

The Chicago-based vocalist known as Emmaline had a brush with internet fame last year, when the Postmodern Jukebox posted her slinky lounge-jazz version of a Jessie J pop-R&B smash. Now, at 21, Emmaline is about to release her debut EP, All My Sweetest Dreams — a less throwback statement, which she coproduced with industry veterans like Seth Abramson and Jason Olaine.

“Effortless,” the latest single from the EP, is an acoustic R&B tune with a you-done-me-wrong premise. But there are no barbs in Emmaline’s delivery, nor in her tasteful backing — by guitarist Ryan Mondak, several alumni of Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, and a string quartet. (She handled the first violin part herself.) The title of the track could easily be said to describe the impression it leaves, though Emmaline and her crew have clearly put in a lot of work to make it so.

Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (Featuring Sharon Van Etten)

And now, a bonus pick: The latest material evidence of Jeff Goldblum’s side gig as a jazz pianist. This is his cover of an Irving Berlin standard, featuring the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra and guest vocals by Sharon Van Etten. It’s the first single from Goldblum’s I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, which Decca will release on Nov. 1.

Jazz piano is, of course, more of a hobby than a calling for Goldblum — though he has garnered a lot of applause on the bandstand, especially since releasing Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra-The Capitol Studios Sessions last year. As for Van Etten, she’s responsible for one of this year’s standout indie-rock albums. Her treatment of the Berlin tune is haunted and direct, a reminder of the foreboding that lurks in the lyrics. I Shouldn't Be Telling You This features an array of other guest singers, including Fiona Apple and Inara George. Apparently two more cameos, even starrier, have yet to be announced. (Any guesses? I nominate Bill Murray.)