World of Jazz 489

Guitar maestro Bill Frisell features on two albums this week. Firstly a 2015 release from Michael Gibbs & The NDR Big Band who perform a Frisell set-list. Secondly on the new album from Ches Smith. There are also new album releases from Out To Dinner, Jane Ira Bloom & Mark Helias, Ariane Racicot, and, the trio of Mario Salvador, Marcos Morales, & Yasel Muñoz. In addition there’s a brand new single from the Igor Willcox Quartet.

  • Show Intro 00:00
  • Out To Dinner “The Last Corner” from Episodes of Grace (Posi-tone) 00:55
  • Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband featuring Bill Frisell “Las Vegas Tango” from Play a Bill Frisell Set List (Cuneiform) 06:59
  • Jane Ira Bloom & Mark Helias “See Our Way” from See Our Way (Radiolegs Records) 14:53
  • Ariane Racicot “Vertige” from Envolée (Multiple Chord Music) 19:45
  • Ches Smith “Interpret It Well” from Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic) 27:13
  • Igor Willcox Quartet “North City” from North City (Room 73 Records) 41:17
  • Out To Dinner “Episodes of Grace” from Episodes of Grace (Posi-tone) 49:38
  • Jane Ira Bloom & Mark Helias “Laser Plane” from See Our Way (Radiolegs Records) 55:01
  • Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband featuring Bill Frisell “Misterioso” from Play a Bill Frisell Set List (Cuneiform) 1:00:00
  • Mario Salvador, Marcos Morales, Yasel Muñoz “Parte A” from Masintin (Orbit577) 1:05:43
  • Ches Smith “Clear Major” from Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic) 1:21:00
  • Ariane Racicot “A ciel ouvert” from Envolée (Multiple Chord Music) 1:36:14
  • Out To Dinner “Hollow Men” from Episodes of Grace (Posi-tone) 1:42:53
  • Jane Ira Bloom & Mark Helias “Detectives” from See Our Way (Radiolegs Records) 1:50:15
  • Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband featuring Bill Frisell “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” from Play a Bill Frisell Set List (Cuneiform) 1:53:43

Out To Dinner

The latest release in the exciting “Out To Dinner” series continues along an ambitious course. These volumes seek to enlist the ears of a new group of PosiTone listeners, while expanding the aesthetic sensibilities of their traditional audience. “Episodes of Grace,” which came together out of the label’s pandemic lockdown sessions in 2020, is an engaging and enjoyable album featuring the collective efforts of five capable composer bandleader virtuosos. This full menu of auditory delights is a movable feast featuring vibraphonist Behn Gillece, trombonist Ryan Keberle and saxophonist Patrick Cornelius moving freely over the solid harmonic foundation of bassist Boris Kozlov and the explosive metrics of drummer Rudy Royston. These focused and adventurous performances are sweet and savory enough to encourage jazz fans of all ages to “play on” with us, and increase their musical tastes for more of these “different flavors.”

Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband featuring Bill Frisell

As a dauntingly prolific artist, Bill Frisell has recorded in a vast array of settings, but he’s never made an album like ‘Play A Bill Frisell Set List’. Captured live in concert with the superb NDR Bigband, the guitarist delivers a tour de force performance on a program of ingenious arrangements designed specifically for him and the NDR by Michael Gibbs.

Recorded at the Überjazz Festival with the NDR Bigband on Oct 26, 2013, ‘Play A Bill Frisell Set List’ captures Frisell interacting with one of the world’s great jazz orchestras, exploring sleek, spacious, vividly expressive arrangements of compositions drawn from throughout his career. Gibbs didn’t plan the concert as a recording session, but after many years of trying to bring Frisell and the NDR together he felt the results were too good to keep under wraps. “Jeff Ballard playing drums for this concert was a dream, and the band really enjoyed playing it, so the music was magical,” Gibbs says. “I couldn’t resist the opportunity to release it.”

It’s difficult to overstate Gibbs’ impact on the trajectory of Frisell’s music and career. As a Denver teenager, Frisell convinced his father to take him to a touring Newport Jazz Festival show at Red Rocks in the summer of 1968 and the experience radically opened his ears. “It was an amazing program, with Gary Burton with Bob Moses, Coryell, and Steve Swallow, and they blew my brains out,” Frisell recalls. “I’d never heard anything like it. So I started getting those records, and there’s some guy named Mike Gibbs who wrote half the songs on these records. He had so much to do with that sound, making a world for that group to inhabit.”

Frisell started following Gibbs’ music, and was thrilled to discover that he was composer-in-residence at Berklee when he enrolled in 1975. He took all of the classes that Gibbs offered and was tremendously encouraged when Gibbs complimented his playing after catching Frisell’s group at a gig.

By 1978 Frisell had relocated to Belgium to focus on his music, which meant he was well placed to step in when Gibbs needed a guitarist for a tour of the UK. The group included the German bassist Eberhard Weber, with whom Frisell would play a duo at every concert. The connection he forged with the bassist on this tour led to Frisell’s participation on Weber’s 1979 album Fluid Rustle, the first of the dozens of recordings that Frisell would do on ECM as a sideman and leader, and where his career truly started!

‘Play A Bill Frisell Set List’ is Bill Frisell’s first-ever appearance as the featured soloist on a big band session, and with Gibbs’ melodically verdant, harmonically suggestive arrangements, he’s not likely to find a better set list than ‘Set List’. Released June 9, 2015

  • Las Vegas Tango (Gil Evans) soloists: Vladyslav Sendecki (piano), Klaus Heidenreich (trombone), Bill Frisell (guitar)
  • Misterioso (Thelonious Monk) duet: Bill Frisell (guitar), Jeff Ballard (drums)
  • You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) soloists: Bill Frisell (guitar), Fiete Felsch (soprano sax)

Jane Ira Bloom & Mark Helias

The sax/ bass duo of soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and bassist Mark Helias has deepened on their latest digital release See Our Way now available on Bandcamp on Radiolegs Records (RL023). Thirteen mind-bending improvised duets performed by two masterful jazz improvisers who know how to coax composition out of the air and then some. From breathtaking ballads like “Folks Sing” and “As Close As It Gets, to hard driving tempos like “Cut to the Chase” and “Hard Science,” to the space chasing adventures of “Laser Plane” and “Time Shear,” these musicians have no boundaries to their multi-dimensional creativity. The beauty and adventure of their acoustic sound together is mesmerizing from the start of each song. Their sound is both warm and electric with a depth that is hard to describe. The tracks were recorded from February 2021 through January 2022 and exquisitely mixed and mastered by Helias. Following on the heels of their critically acclaimed 2021 release Some Kind of Tomorrow, Bloom & Helias have brought their listeners ever deeper into their musical universe. Sound and silence are equal partners in their music so they have divided their setlist into three “Multiverses” for listeners to savor in short sections with space in between for breath and reflection. Listen in your own time and enjoy these duo tracks from two seasoned improvisors who love to play music by jumping off the high board. It’s magical, it’s exhilarating, and out of this world. Hear and See Our Way.

Ariane Racicot

Envolée is the debut album by Montreal pianist and composer Ariane Racicot. This audacious new modern jazz recording consists of five original compositions that fuse a range of styles together: from latin jazz to fusion, and from modal jazz to progressive rock. Her rock bonafides are tested and true: many listeners may already be familiar with her from her 22,000 subscriber-strong YouTube presence, where her cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody has racked up 18 million views. With Envolée, Racicot has established herself as an exciting new pianist to watch. This recording is the result of years of studying many of jazz music’s most progressive, genre-bending jazz pianists, including the likes of Hiromi Uehara, Tigran Hamasyan, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett. You can also hear the influence of the metal bands Racicot listened to in her youth, particularly on À ciel ouvert, where she calls on a second drummer to help turn up the heat. This album is a deeply personal project, recounting several years worth of musical and personal experiences. The title – ‘Takeoff’ – evokes her passion for music, her need for expression, her intensity, her perseverance, and her strength. Envolée will be released on all digital platforms on Friday, May 6, 2022 via the Montreal label Multiple Chord Music. The release will be celebrated with a concert at Dièse Onze in Montreal on May 6th.

Ariane Racicot – Piano
Antoine Rochefort – Electric Bass
Guillaume Picard – Drums

Additional drums from Martin Plante on “a ciel ouvert”

Ches Smith

“Interpret it well,” reads the script text in Raymond Pettibon’s mysteriously evocative drawing. A few thick black ink strokes describe an enigmatic landscape – the telephone poles, the railroad track and the building in the distance seem obvious enough as markers of desolation, but the swirl of lines on the horizon are more ambiguous. The steam from an approaching train? An oncoming tornado? Hope or dread, connection or destruction, all depend on interpretation.

It’s a fitting choice of cover art for drummer/vibraphonist/composer Ches Smith, whose entrancing new album Interpret It Well borrows Pettibon’s three-word prompt as both title and instruction, for bandmates and listeners alike. The album, due out May 6, 2022 from Pyroclastic Records, is his second with keyboardist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri, the much-anticipated follow-up to the trio’s acclaimed 2016 ECM release The Bell. This time out the band becomes a quartet with the addition of master guitarist Bill Frisell, whose contributions bring additional depth, space and texture to a group already rich in all three qualities.

It was that sense of openness and exploration, in fact, which intrigued Frisell in the first place. The guitarist attended a Ches Smith Trio concert in late 2018, following which he contacted the drummer with questions about the compositions. “Bill was very nice about the gig – effusive, actually,” Smith recalls. “He told me that he felt the tunes were accessible but challenging at the same time. There’s something about the way Craig and Mat and I play together, where we extrapolate to the max but the music feels like the pieces. So I thought Bill might be interested in playing them with us.”

It took more than a year for schedules to align, but Frisell was finally able to join the trio for a performance in early 2020. The combination gelled immediately – “Bill felt like a natural part of the band,” Smith writes in his liner notes – but the demands on everyone’s time meant that a recording with all four would prove next to impossible to book.

Everyone knows what comes next – the pandemic happened, and suddenly time was all anyone had. Smith reworked his compositions with the newly forged quartet in mind, and the band went into the studio that October when life began to resume some semblance of normalcy (for the first time, at least).

The results are absolutely striking. As he did for the trio incarnation on The Bell, Smith writes compositions that are minimal but indelible; skeletal enough to allow these remarkable improvisers space to roam far afield yet so vivid that the core image is never lost amidst the daring embellishments.

Which brings us back to the Pettibon drawing – what Smith’s music shares with the artist’s work is that idea of a distinctive landscape evoked with a few sketchy lines, with vast stretches of the mysterious left in the spaces between. “There are definitely maximal moments on this record,” Smith says. “But when I think of the music in my head, it’s fairly minimal. I like a lot of music where nothing seems to be happening.”

That may be true of the music on Interpret It Well in broad terms, but listen closely and a great deal is happening just beneath the misleadingly placid surface. The album is bookended by “Trapped” and “Deppart” (“Trapped” spelled backwards), two alternate versions of the same brief piece, a haunting, repetitive melody that slowly accrues power one voice at a time. “That’s one of the most minimal things I’ve ever written,” Smith says. “It’s simultaneously a bar, a melody and a chord, and people can approach it however they want.”

The title track begins with Smith’s tentative, querying vibraphone, with the other voices gradually gathering around him like a deepening fog. The picture eventually comes into focus only to give way to Taborn’s stuttering, agitated solo, which ushers in the urgent, ferocious final section. The piece has been inspiring to artists outside of the band as well – artist/filmmaker Frank Heath, whose works have been described as “poetic interventions into systems of communication, information and understanding,” has created a new film to accompany “Interpret It Well.” The piece will be available May 6 via the Ches Smith and Pyroclastic websites.

Frisell contributes a high lonesome intro to “Mixed Metaphor,” soon matched by Maneri’s forlorn bowing. Smith (on vibes) and Taborn then take over for a labyrinthine duet, ultimately leading into a spiraling vamp. The sparse “Morbid” is a ballad of sorts, an elegy unfurling at an achingly slow pace, luxuriating in the evanescent sound while all four take care not to shatter the exquisitely delicate atmosphere. “Clear Major” takes on a more forceful tone, beginning with Taborn’s insistent patterns. The piece is a three-part suite, the volleying first section followed by the lurching rhythms of the middle and the intricately woven lines of the final – each movement separated by clamorous improvisations that deconstruct the composition in order to rebuild again. The complex “I Need More” proceeds at a brisk pace rife with tension, finally exploding into Frisell’s razor-sharp, searing solo.

Interpretation is central to Ches Smith’s compositional approach, and here it yields absolutely breathtaking results. “Bill, Mat and Craig can all turn the ensemble in a new direction on a dime by playing one phrase,” Smith says. “What I love about this band is the way that over time, they’ll all change their parts – Craig adding harmony or Mat embellishing the written material to keep it fresh. I’ve played with the two of them a lot over the years, but the music turns out different every time. And I know Bill’s playing very well, but he constantly surprised me. Interpret It Well is really my way of encouraging them – it could be the unspoken credo of the band.”

Igor Willcox Quartet

A new single from Igor

Igor Willcox (drums) , Vini Morales (keyboards), Wagner Barbosa (Sax), Glecio Nascimento (bass)

Mario Salvador, Marcos Morales, Yasel Muñoz

Inspired by the collective energy of a group that transcends the individual, Masintin, celebrates the union of energy in people and in art. As the first collaborative project from the three young Cuban musicians, the album illustrates haunting and dreamlike landscapes, delivered with sultry, hypnotic and assured performances. Together, Mario Salvador (Tres – The tres is a three-course chordophone of Cuban origin. The most widespread variety of the instrument is the original Cuban tres with six strings. Its sound has become a defining characteristic of the Cuban son and it is commonly played in a variety of Afro-Cuban genres.), Yasel Muñoz (Flute), and Marcos Morales (Drums) explore the expressive possibilities of their instrumentation, intent on mixing acoustic and electro-acoustic effects. The emphasis on electronic manipulation on the Tres is especially notable for the Cuban Folklore Cordófono, without precedents in this genre. This project reflects the young musicians’ enthusiasm for encountering the world, searching for an earnest connection with their spirituality and the heritage that’s shaped their lives. Having played together for many years, Masintin, is a natural product of their improvisational styles but represents their first release together. It will be available digitally on Orbit577 in June 2022.

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