What – a new album of the famous E.S.T.? Well, obviously not a NEW album by the trio after Svensson passed away way to early in 2008 in a diving accident.
But at least a not yet released album, from a live concert at the Barbican Theatre in London, recorded in 2005, was just released on ACT.
I’ve written previously about their album Live in Hamburg , giving it a 5 star rating. To me, E.S.T. was one of the founding fathers of the modern piano jazz trio, picking up from the tradition of a Bill Evans, that was picked up again by Keith Jarrett, but bringing it into the 21st century. Many of today’s trios (GoGoPengiun, etc.) wouldn’t sound the same without E.S.T.
Live in London (ACT 2018)
So, we obviously feature the Esbjörn Svensson Trio here, with Svensson himself on piano, as usual quite clearly in charge, Dan Berglund on bass, and Magnus Öström on drums.
Did I say Svensson dominates? Well, this is clearly quite piano driven, with Svensson getting a lot of solo time, but E.S.T. wouldn’t be E.S.T. without the complex rhythms driven by Öström.
And this being E.S.T. at their best time, you’re getting the usual dose of electronic effects, electro-inspired rhythms, and quite long tracks (the longest goes on for 17:32, making this a nice double album for those who still buy CDs) that are characteristic for the trio.
My favourite song probably is Eighty-Eight Days In My Veins from Viaticum, but there really isn’t a single bad track on this album.
While to me, this album doesn’t have the amazing power and refinement of Live In Hamburg that was recorded about two years later, this album is still highly recommended. If you’re into E.S.T. this is a must have, if you like piano trio in general, you should really check it out as well.
Having Keith Jarrett in the sub-title of my blog, I obviously had to get excited.
Wow, a new recording of the legendary Keith Jarrett Trio?
Well, “new” is relative, we’re actually talking about a live recording from 1998 in New Jersey, that slept in some drawer for now about 20 years.
1998 wasn’t a bad time for Jarrett’s legendary combo, with Gary Peacock on bass and Jack De Johnette on drums. Standards in Norway, one of my favorite live albums ever, was recorded just a year later, so, musically, my expectations were high.
This was also an important moment for Jarrett himself, as he just recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which stopped him from playing for nearly two years in 1996-1998. In the liner notes, Jarrett calls this concert a “scary experiment”, as it was his first live appearance since the Italian solo concerts (that were also just recently released as A Multitude Of Angels, see my review here).
Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette – After The Fall (ECM 2018)
And to make it clear, musically, this album is all you could ask for. The tracks on average 8-9 min longs, which is very enjoyable, as the musicians really get to develop the material and interplay.
This is a “double album” (a term that feels a bit silly in the days of downloads and streaming, but in reality it means you get a total of 1h45 of music and pay about the price of two regular albums should you decide to purchase it, so still has some form of meaning).
To mention some individual songs, Scrapple from the Apple is a very groovy bop track. Old Folks is beautiful ballad. And we get standards like Autumn Leaves with very enjoyable solos (unfortunately, like in so many concerts, Jarrett cannot stop himself from “singing” along. If any digital company could ever invent the AI-driven Keith Jarrett/Glenn Gould humming filter, i’d be extremely grateful).
So, where is the but?
Well, very similar to his recently released solo album A Multitude Of Angels, this album wasn’t professionally recorded, but was basically using Jarretts own DAT (Digital Audio Tape recorder).
And as much as I didn’t mind the shoe-box sound created by this recording set-up for Angels, for a trio where you need to better capture the nuances and interplay of three instruments, I find the sound quality a bit off-putting (and this in spite of the fact that this was remastered at the legendary Rainbow Studios in Oslo).
So, in conclusion, as a hard-core Jarrett fan, this is a must have. If you don’t mind the poor sound quality, I can recommend it as well.
However, if you don’t yet own most of his catalogue, there are many other live albums that benefit from the outstanding sound quality that ECM normally is famous for, like Standards in Norway, or Live At Blue Note from 1994 (one of my 25 Essential Jazz Albums), that you may want to check out first.
My rating: 4 stars (1 star taken off for sound quality)
You can find it here (Qobuz) or here (Highresaudio)
The question of what actually constitutes Jazz is as old as the music itself. In the 1970s, Jazz tried to cross-over into rock creating subgenera such as Jazz-rock and Fusion, and also some singer-songwriter pop music in the style of Norah Jones or Katie Melua could often be found in the “Jazz” boxes of your average record store.
And obviously, one of the most important movements of the last 3 decades, electronic music in all its ways, has had an influence on Jazz as well. The late Esbjörn Svensson was one of the first to bring electronic elements into the Jazz trio, and many have followed since, blurring the lines even further.
Gogo Penguin is a young Jazz trio from Manchester, that, while using the traditional piano / bass / drums combination, is influenced very heavily by electronic music in the style of Massive Attack, especially on the rythmic side, but at the same time clearly draws inspiration from the minimalist movement.
I’ve praised their previous album, Man Made Object (their first release on BlueNote), here, even naming it as one of my top 5 Jazz albums of 2016, after having seen them live at Moods Zurich in 2016.
So I had really high expectations when they recently released their latest album.
A Humdrum Star (BlueNote 2018)
I purchased A Humdrum Star blindly the moment it came out, and was expecting to write a review pretty soon afterwards. However, its now been out for 2 weeks and I still hadn’t written the review.
Basically, I wasn’t very impressed after the first couple of listening sessions, but was really hoping this album would grow on me. Now I can unfortunately safely report, it didn’t. Let me make it clear, this is very good music from very talented musicians.
However, it simply doesn’t work for me. Is it the even increasing influence of minimalism, or electronica? Is it maybe a decreasing focus on the melodic vs. the rhythmic elements? Some songs feel a bit more stuck in loops and patterns than before.
So in a nutshell, this is not my album of choice from them. I recently revisited their earlier albums Fanfares and v2.0, just to double check, and A Humdrum Star is personally my least favorite of their discography.
I still very much suggest you check this out, your conclusion may be very much different to mine.
I´ll make sure revisit this occasionally, and maybe it will grow on me over a longer period, but so far I´ll rather go back to Man Made Object.
My rating: 3 stars (objectively and musically speaking, this is at least 4 stars, but as mentioned, it doesn’t “stick” for me, hence this more neutral rating)
She is a fantastic talent, with an amazing voice, and a very versatile style, from her early vocal jazz/singer-songwriter style albums Some Lessons, Worrisome Heart, and My One And Only Thrill,via the latin Swing of The Absence, to the much more soul-oriented Currency Of Man.
However, so far I haven’t yet seen her live (what a miss), so I was very excited when this latest live album was announced in late 2017.
Now it’s out, and I must admit it exceeded even my high expectations.
Live in Europe (Decca 2018)
So, what’s so great about this album?
First of all, the length, 1h45, so the band can really take the time to develop the songs, with the longest example, Morning Sun taking more than 12 minutes. Not one too many by the way, as this is one of the true highlights of the album.
The other great thing is that this in many places is a very minimalistic, “unplugged” style album, just Melody’s fantastic voice with very little instrumentation, which makes this even more special, and a very intimate experience. One example is the opening track, Our Love Is Easy, which over quite a while has her together with only a double bass. Outstanding!
This is a mix of several concerts in Europe, and you get the full bandwidth of styles. Lisboa (nicely enough taken from a concert in Lisbon)is an excellent example that the band can do a true latin samba-style swing, you get her “classics” like My One And Only Thrill, but even the more soul-type songs like Morning Sun get a very special, fresh treatment.
Melody Gardot is clearly surrounded by outstanding musicians here, as witnessed in the nearly 4 minutes instrumental intro of The Rain.
Another highlight of the album is March For Mingus, as it is really swinging and groving like crazy. The “original” of this song was a short 1:02 fragment on Currency of Man, which finally gets the 11:03 that it truly deserves.
Get this album as fast as you can! This is an instant classic.
My rating: 5 stars
You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters)
He recommended Omer Klein´s latest album Sleepwalkers. I must admit I had never heard the name before. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad sign, given how much I care about this kind of music, but probably it just speaks to the fact that we’re truly living in the Golden Age of the Piano Trio with so many fantastic artists out there.
Omer Klein is yet another pianist coming out of Israel, like so many other excellent Jazz musicians (how does such a small country do that?).
Anyhow when I noticed that Klein was scheduled for last Sunday and I happened to be in Switzerland that weekend, I knew what I had to do.
Omer Klein Trio Live At Moods – January 18, 2018
Moods remains my favorite Jazz club in Switzerland. Just the right size, good acoustics, nice drinks, and an excellent program.
So, what did we get?
Let me start by say that what I thought from my original listening to Sleepwalkers confirmed itself. As you know if you read my blog on a regular basis, I’m a sucker for melodies. Omer Klein´s trio is much more focused on rhythms and modal changes than on melodies.
So initially, for the first moments, I was a bit skeptical.
However, I was very quickly won over by the sheer musical power this trio had to offer. The technical abilities of all three musicians, including Haggai Cohen Milo on bass, were just outstanding. Nothing ever seemed complicated to them, they played with so much ease and fun the most complex passages, I was just blown away.
But let’s be clear, this was never technical ability for the sake of it, this was always just driven by the music. All three musicians are clearly passionate about what they are doing, and were visibly having fun during the concert.
In a way, the real driving force behind most songs was the spectacular Amir Bresler on drums. His drive and groove was just fantastics (hence the slightly cheesy title of this blog post borrowed from Austin Powers).
Very interestingly, this trio didn’t follow the typical format of Jazz concerts, where after the intro the musicians get to solo. They played constantly in a very intertwined way (only in the very last song, Bressler got to show off a bit). Songs typically lasted 8-10 minutes and more, and were never boring in any way. Also, there wasn’t´a single standard in the entire concert, only originals.
Overall, an excellent concert. The audience was amazed, and so was I.
If you get a chance to see them live, please do. They are exceptional musicians.
And if they don’t play near you, luckily this concert was recorded and will be put onto the Moods.digital streaming website. This is a subscription well worth having, as you can access all concerts since early 2017 at Moods, recorded in excellent audio and video. I´ll publish a link later when it becomes available.
Let me start by wishing all of my readers an excellent and successful 2018!
Oscar Peterson has been one of my earliest Jazz influences, actually, he was on the first Jazz CD I ever bought around the age of 18 (The Oscar Peterson Trio Plays, from 1964, note that the first jazz album I ever bought was on vinyl just some weeks earlier, Keith Jarrett´s My Song). Before that, I thought that Jazz was annoying and chaotic, how wrong I was!
So you can see, my love of the piano trio format dates back many years.
I’ve written about Oscar Peterson three times previously, about two albums from his legendary trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen (Night Train and Plays The Cole Porter Songbook), but have also already mentioned his later work in Germany (Exclusively For My Friends) in my 25 Essential Jazz albums with several different bassist and drummers.
Walking The Line (MPS 1970)
Walking The Line is another album from the collaboration with MPS and the German producer Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer.
With Peterson, we have George Mraz on bass and Ray Price on drums here. The change in personnel really doesn’t impact this album in any way, this is pure Peterson Swing!
Like with many Peterson albums, we do get some standards. The most famous songs here are Teach Me Tonight and All Of You, but the albums starting song from Cole Porter, Love, you’ll probably also have heard before.
What you may not have heard as much (unless you are from France or you are big fan of the original Thomas Crown Affair) is Michel Legrand´s song The Windmills Of Your Mind.
Overall, this is not a must have album, but if you like Peterson, you really won’t regret the purchase. To quote another famous song title, it don’t mean a thing if it ain´t got that swing. Well this album clearly does!
My rating: 4 stars
You’ll find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters)
2017 hasn’t been particularly impressive for me in terms of quantity of new Jazz albums that I really loved. I found myself more and more writing about classical music, or older recordings.
Not sure if this reflects a general slowdown of new Jazz releases or simply that my taste is rather particular. In any case, I also checked for reference some of the other top 2017 lists for Jazz, and didn’t find anything particularly exciting that I had missed.
But maybe you disagree? Let me know?
So here we go, here is my list for 2017. Note that while my Top 5 Classical list only had 5 star ratings, I also had to include two 4 star albums in here, just to make the numbers.
If you’ve been following my blog for a bit, you won’t be surprised to see a large number of piano trio albums here, my favorite genre.
You’ll find download links to each album in the original reviews of the albums that are linked.
Cecile McLorin Salvant: Dreams and Daggers
Well, let’s start strong anyhow: I’ve already postulated early on that Cécile McLorin Salvant could be the THE Jazz singer of the 21st century. It didn’t take rocket science nor a truffle dog to find this, in spite of her young age, she’s received praise from all over the world, including a Grammy nomination in 2014.
Dreams and Daggers is another masterpiece, with a nice mix of standards and originals, and a must have for any Jazz lover.
I’ve been a great fan of Helge Lien for years, since I discovered Hello Troll. Guzuguzu really confirms that he’s one of the most talented Jazz trio artists out there. As I wrote in my review, it combines “Scandinavian lyricism combined with often extremely complex rhythms”. I think there´s nothing much to add here.
Don’t get deterred by the cover art. Germany´s Triosence is one of the stars of Jazz trio based heavily on beautiful melodies and harmonies. Some would argue this is not Jazz, I don’t even bother to argue, as I simply like it very much.
But for once, you don’t have to take my word for it. Moods has recently installed what they call Moods.digital, basically a platform video streaming and archiving all concerts at Moods.
And I was really lucky, the technology just went live shortly before this concert. So with a subscription fee (you can cancel anytime if you don’t like it) you can now watch the entire back catalog of recorded concerts at moods with outstanding video and very good audio quality. Check out my article about it here. And no, I’m not getting sponsored for writing this.
What do you think?
My list is obviously very biased, very personal, but such is my entire blog.
Did I miss anything? I´d very much like to hear about your personal favorites for 2017.