Take Five, All-Star Edition: Bold New Music by Crosscurrents Trio, Kris Davis, Tim Ries & More

Aug 12, 2019

Crosscurrents Trio, “Good Hope”

The English jazz bassist Dave Holland and the Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain have worked extensively under the auspices of a project they call Crosscurrents; their collaboration was recently featured on Jazz Night in America.

Now they’re moving forward with a third equal partner: the estimable American saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist Chris Potter, who had previously been a sideman in the band. The Crosscurrents Trio, as it’s now known, releases its debut, Good Hope, on Edition Records on Oct. 11.

As a measure of how fully Holland and Hussain have welcomed Potter into the executive fold, consider that the album’s title track — and now, its first single — is one of the saxophonist’s compositions. 


“Good Hope” opens with a preamble by Potter, sounding hale on tenor saxophone, backed only by Hussain. When Holland joins in with a rhythmic bass line, it effectively throws up a framework for the tune. This is a riff-oriented sketch of the sort that used to be Potter’s specialty as a member of the Dave Holland Quintet.

Kris Davis, “Certain Cells” (Featuring Esperanza Spalding)

Last year around this time, I was knocked out by a trio set at the Detroit Jazz Festival, in tribute to the late Geri Allen. Two-thirds of the group were Allen’s former partners in the ACS Trio, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding. On piano was an inspired, inspiring choice: Kris Davis, who has an inside-out / outside-in profile not unlike the one Allen helped define.

This moment springs to mind because there’s a new Kris Davis album on the near horizon, made in collaboration with Carrington and electronic artist Val Jeanty. Diatom Ribbons will be released on Pyroclastic Records on Oct. 4; here is a video for “Certain Cells,” which features Spalding on spoken-word vocals.

Spalding’s words here come from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, “To Prisoners.” (This poem has always been potent; it has rarely been more so.) In the video, by Bulgarian-American documentary filmmaker Mimi Chakarova, a succession of faces peer into the camera, followed by a series of dancers popping moves; all of these subjects were filmed in Oakland, Calif., their points-of-view left intriguingly opaque.

In addition to Spalding, Diatom Ribbons features a prominent array of artists from Davis’ circle: Marc Ribot and Nels Cline on guitars, J.D. Allen and Tony Malaby on tenor saxophones, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Ches Smith on vibraphone. And courtesy of Jeanty’s sampling, a couple of other meaningful voices float into the mix: Cecil Taylor and Olivier Messiaen, each one a keystone to Davis’ music.

Tim Ries, “Hearing Around Corners”

The last time saxophonist Tim Ries put out a studio album, Barack Obama had yet to be elected president. That was Stones World: Rolling Stones Project Vol. 2, which landed in Oct. 2008, furthering a series far more musically ambitious than its hook might suggest. Ries, who still tours with the Stones (perhaps you caught him at MetLife Stadium this month?) just released his latest, Life Changes (Ropeadope).

The album’s title alludes to some unusual circumstances: Ries recorded this session back in 2005, when his mother was seriously ill. She died soon after the recording was done, and he shelved the project. Fourteen years later, this A-list summit — with Jack DeJohnette on drums, Bill Frisell on guitar, Larry Goldings on organ and Grégoire Maret on harmonica — sounds as fresh as it must have then.

“Hearing Around Corners” is a tune Ries composed with DeJohnette in mind. The rolling undulations in its 5/4 groove (abetted by bassist James Genus and two percussionists, Mauro Refosco and Gonzalo Grau) support a beautiful solo by Frisell. Then comes Ries, imploring and restrained, followed by Goldings, as soulful as ever. The whole performance is an illustration of selfless convergence; “better late than never” has rarely felt more apropos.

Chase Baird, “Wait and See”

Tenor saxophonist Chase Baird has been most widely heard in a pair of dynamic bands: Migration, led by drummer and composer Antonio Sánchez; and Venture, formed by vibraphonist Mark Sherman and drummer Mike Clark. But with the release of A Life Between, the second album under his name, Baird seems likely to strengthen his profile as a solo artist.

The album, just out on Soundsabound Records, features Sánchez on drums, Brad Mehldau on piano, Nir Felder on guitar, and Dan Chmielinski on bass. All but one of the tunes is a Baird original, and the exception comes from Schumann’s Dichterliebe.

“Wait and See” is an uptempo blues that begins with just saxophone and drums, in a mode that brings vintage Michael Brecker to mind. This heroic exertion is a preamble to the song’s melody, which arrives about two-and-a-half minutes in, along with the rest of the band.

The OGJB Quartet, “Listen to Dr. Cornel West”

Finally, some catching up to do. This week, Take Five has been about all-star summits, which presents a perfect opportunity to talk about Bamako, by The OGJB Quartet, which consists of saxophonist Oliver Lake, cornetist Graham Haynes, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Barry Altschul. The album was released on TUM Records back in May; for one reason or another, it hasn’t made an appearance here, until now. That’s no reflection on its merits, which are bountiful, and well represented by the opening track, “Listen to Dr. Cornel West.”

The tune was composed by Fonda, whose bright, bounding ostinato is its most radiant feature. But first there’s an annunciatory fanfare in free tempo, with Lake and Haynes advancing a contrapuntal dialogue. Then Fonda’s riveting bass solo, which begins just after the four-minute mark, leads inexorably into that groove; the Haynes solo that ensues is a beaut, with a sly nod in the direction of Don Cherry with the Charlie Haden/Ed Blackwell rhythm team.

In his notes, Fonda writes: “The music on this recording sings and strolls down the street, it swings, it dances, it swirls around your body like water and it grooves with a deep sense of its musical history.” The man knows of which he speaks.