Saturday, 17 June 2017

Jazz in Duketown 2-5 June 2017 and Joshua Redman Trio

In my opinion, jazz, both as a genre and a style to perform music, can easily be described as some abstracted outputs of complex sensations and feelings. Celebration should be allocating one of the largest portions there and the performance from Joshua Redman Trio in the festival Jazz in Duketown, here in Den Bosch, showed me one more time that how important this celebration feeling is both for jazz and life in general. For my first time in Jazz in Duketown, my overall evaluation for the festival would be the Dutch word "gezellig", which seems to have a meaning in between cozy and within-family-and-close-friends. Although the festival is known to be an entertainment-fair like event in past mostly with its outdoor style, line-up-wise it is said to be changing roles with its counterpart in Breda, which is another long standing Dutch jazz festival close by. Amongst, Al Di Meola, Ben Williams, Marcus Strickland, Mark Turner, Sons of Kemet, Jasper Hoiby, China Moses, Lucy Woodward and Dinosaur caught my attention immediately on checking the four days festival ending on the national holiday Monday June 5th. The organization has been changing the ambience of the great city Den Bosch entirely into an impressive jazz celebration fair by spreading the stages to almost all main streets and squares of the city for many years.  

Coming back to the Joshua Redman Trio, the musicians managed to captivate the audience starting from the first note and move just like three heavy-weight boxing champions in the ring. Despite the very informal and outdoor ambience in Den Bosch, the saxophonist Joshua Redman, the bassist Reuben Rogers and the drummer Gregory Hutchinson could easily lock all the attentions of concerned listeners to the tunes, which are selected mostly from unique arrangements of jazz standards and/or catchy compositions of Joshua as well as other jazz giants. A very interesting version of one of my all-time favorite tunes Mack The Knife became the first piece of the performance and getting Joshua's nice piece Second Date as the following one was something that makes me happier in my almost forefront seat in the middle of spacious Markt square. Blackwell's Message from Joe Lovano, Limehouse Blues from Django Reinhardt and many others had filled our ears and fed our souls especially thanks to Joshua Redman's really impressive full breath tone and Gregory Hutchinson's endless energy on beating the drum-set.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

She Moves On! Youn Sun Nah and New Yorkers...

Things can change in time. It seems that especially this century -not new anymore- is somehow gifted -or cursed from the other way around- with this wind. Regardless of who is responsible for triggering the initial waves, each and every living thing is somehow meant to be responsible to find its new location and position according to these spontaneous or gradual alterations. Well, humankind can easily be said to have some more proactive roles in this process and some may find the courage to lead the wind or at least stay away the mainstream, where the rest are gone with the flow. This new post will be basically about the "change" itself, because the object I am exposed to lately -in a live performance in Lantaren Venster in Rotterdam, is a new album called "She Moves On" from one of my favorite vocalists, Youn Sun Nah. Before that, starting from the "Voyage" in 2009, she has recorded three very nice albums with the fine European jazz label ACT, each of which are precious pieces of my archive. (you can find one of my previous posts on an album of hers: Although the first album carries the "change" theme inherently within the title -mostly because of her first move from hometown to Paris-, Youn Sun Nah was kind of mentioning that she is living with the naïve South Korean singer with the next album called "Same Girl". The third album Lento was already a big step, increasing the international exposure reflected in the album sales, but we can easily say that the overall sound and style of both her vocal and arrangements were around the same line within these three albums. Now, Youn Sun Nah really moves on with the last album changing not only the way she sings but also the style of the band. The real change indeed is also related to the fact that the impressive New York based band is much more in the generated sound rather than being an accompaniment for our crystal clear voice.

To be honest, having Marc Ribot on guitars, Jamie Saft on keys ranging from piano to Hammond, Brad Jones on double bass and Dan Riesser on drums is already sufficient to create a very warm and cozy sound for a killer album. Adding a curved and a little bit Americanized version of the acrobatic voice of Youn Sun Nah on some catchy and cool arrangements (mostly from Jamie Saft, Vanessa Saft and Youn Sun Nah) with this band seems to have created the biggest step for Youn Sun Nah's singing career - probably opening the US scene for her more than ever. Specifically, I feel myself very lucky to be able to listen to this album firstly from LP record because the successful mastering seems to have very well fit with the timeless ambience and sound of the album.

The first -the smooth introduction- track Traveller reminded me of the previous album's locomotive piece Lament mostly for its lyrics and cool voice of Youn Sun Nah. The standalone performance of the band is an abstract statement for the following blast. The second number is a very interesting arrangement for Lou Reed's Teach The Gifted Children and it really sounds like the blues and/or gospel connection of the album especially thanks to hot and impressive tones carried out by Marc Ribot. Consistent to the shuffling energy level throughout the album, Too Late -in contrast to the title and lyrics- invites you directly to hold your lover's hands and pull her/him to a sentimental cheek-to-cheek dance with its touchy fender tones and triplet rhythm sections from Brad Jones and Dan Riesser. The title track is an energetic arrangement of Paul Simon's well known piece giving the clues of the inspiration behind the album and Youn Sun Nah's definitive vocal is very well blended with the impressive acoustic performance of Marc Ribot and funky Wurlitzer tone. No Other Name (a Noel Paul Stookey song) is a great acoustic duo of vocal and guitar, which once again shows what a great vocalist Youn Sun Nah is. A nice cover for Joni Mitchell's amazing song The Dawntreader is very well achieved by a very organic accompaniment between the band and Youn Sun Nah. Drifting (of Jimi Hendrix for sure) is especially impressive with again the nice guitar touches and nicely/softly reverberated vocal. The way the performance evolves into a nice guitar solo accompanied by a deep and back vocal finished by a chaotic ending is really something new for a Youn Sun Nah album. Started with amazing three notes from Kalimba played by Youn Sun Nah, Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair somehow connected to the singer's previous albums not only for this well known sound but also for the lyrics and the way she sings. Please give attention to the nice performance by Brad Jones. Like two pieces for the romantic soundtrack album of the same movie, Fools Rush In (Rube Bloom / Johnny Mercer) -especially thanks to the touchy vocal and hammond tone-and Evening Star -mostly thanks again to the warm accompaniment from Marc Ribbot- are the closing themes of this great album.

Recorded by Vin Cin, mixed by Vin Cin & Jamie Saft in Sear Sound NY and mastered by Scott Huli at Masterdisk NY, the album is very successful sound design-wise. The seperation of different instruments and the locations on the stage can easily be heard. The album is produced by Jamie Saft who is also behind the nice arrangements. The executive producer is Hub Music. 

Monday, 8 May 2017

ADHD6, ADHD, May 2017

Missing their jazzahead performance back in 2015 - among most-liked ones of my jazz professional friends in there at that time - I know I would not make the same mistake when I first saw two months ago that Icelandic jazz band ADHD is visiting Cloud Nine of Tivoli Vredenburg in Utrecht for a live performance on March. A single seamless set of almost 90 minutes, which is full of tensional swinging between too many different textures both in electronic and acoustic world and improvisational patterns sourcing both from jazz and rock genres, pushed me directly to the sales corner after the performance and I could not help myself buying as much as I can from their rare -pressed and released in Iceland previously- albums. Luckily, I had also the last album ADHD6, which includes most of the tunes played in the performance and is being released now in May. So, here is what I have to say after listening to the ADHD6 several times following that night.

Even though it is presented in eight individual tracks, this album can be described as a single (or two set at most) performance of around 45 minutes, where certain differences in rhythms and main themes create the boundaries of separate pieces. Even just with this organic structure, one can easily notice that the roots of the musical and social relationship between band members is a long established one.

The album starts with a track called MAGNÚS TRYGVASON ELIASSEN, which is also the name of the drummer of the band. The main line seems to be constructed on the keyboarder DAVÍÐ ÞÓR JÓNSSON's dark bass lines and carried by the modest theme delivered by the saxophonist ÓSKAR GUÐJÓNSSON. The rise and fall of the tension is successfully controlled by the drummer throughout the piece and the soft guitar touches by ÓMAR GUÐJÓNSSON seems like the last ingredient in this minimal, yet very sophisticated, sonar stew. The last distortions of this first piece sounds like turning into the first random sparks of the creation in the second number, LEVON. The cool bass line from Omar's bass guitar brings the scattered pieces together down to the ground and is accompanied by the shuffles of the keyboards. The sax is kind of a free format poem over this top notch rhythm line. Some high pitch feedback tones carried from this piece turns into the third track SPESSI, which sounds like carrying two very separated themes using stage one by one. The first one feels as if we are in a cool-lounge performance while the other one plays like a Nordic ballad with some naïve melodies from the saxophone. The bass line getting mushy and the drum-line turns into psychedelic patterns with the keyboard through the end of this third track. REBROFF is born as an amazingly touchy ballad-like sax partition connected to this crowded end. All the accompaniment made by the other instruments are consistent with this ambience. The solo part from the guitar and its tone in general are two very impressive highlights not only for this piece but for the whole album.

ALLI KRILLI looks like the first piece of the second set and carry some very catchy lines especially performed by saxophone. The band somehow manages to decrease the bpm of the whole performance gradually and keeps on playing the same tune - for me it is like zooming into a great landscape from Iceland. The electrical content from the keyboard and guitar, which almost sounds like a natural sound from underneath the earth, is really impressive in this piece. FYRIR RÚNA is the pure Nordic number in the album especially with its melancholic keyboard lines and spacious saxophone performance carrying lots of air inside - very successfully recorded indeed. TVÖFALDUR VİKINGUR increases the energy a little bit and moves us back into an interesting psychedelic-lounge genre based on continuous drum and deep bass riffs surrounded by an electric ambient and propelled by a naïve saxophone, which I am sure sounds strange as a genre description. MED İVARI closes the album with a gradually slowed-down and dignified tempo. It somehow sounds like a conclusion for the whole album carrying familiar textures from some of the other pieces.

The recording, mixing and mastering of the album seem like to be achieved well - although the complex sound palette is distributed over several layers and the dynamic range is very high, the instruments can be easily located in individual places within a wide stage. Plus, being able to hear the saxophone this much detailed and natural in an album, which is heavily allocated with electronic-based rhythms, is giving a certain feeling of reliance about the quality in general to the listener .

Even though there are now 6 albums from ADHD, I strongly recommend you listen them live because these guys were really born to play live. What you can get from the album is at most half of what's really going on with the concerts. Here is their tour program from their own website:

...and here is a sample from one of their latest live performances:

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Blog Turns Back to Its Roots, Chris Potter Quartet in Bimhuis May 3rd 2017

Bimhuis has always been in my must-see-list. To be honest, I found it strange and a little bit pity for myself that I had not been there since last night - although I have been in Amsterdam several times before and I started to live in Netherlands two months ago... We can all blame the incredible North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam for this since it had basically been the main reason for my travels before, saturating my appetite for jazz and preventing me from asking for more during my one-day-sightseeing-visits around the Dam. Well, it seems that the Jazz God was waiting for the right time in order to make a memorial night for me.

It was more than 5 years ago when I decided to start to write a jazz blog and even I am not good at designing catchy blog lay-outs, I was aware of the fact that I needed a meaningful photo that carry some memories for me within itself. My long time followers were expecting to see a snapshot from my all time favourite trio E.S.T at that time, but I chose a concert from London Jazz Festival 2011 instead. It was a concert dedicated to 50 years of Impulse! records and the legendary McCoy Tyner was on piano. Chris Potter was the special selection of that night on the saxophone, carrying this well-deserved honor at the spacious performance hall in the amazing Barbican Center. I should confess that I had not heard a lot on him till that night but I was lucky enough to join the interview of BBC Radio 3 with him just before the concert. One thing I will never forget about that concert is the long standing-ovation for McCoy Tyner, which started right after his entrance to the stage and lasted for minutes. I think that was the time that I am impressed a lot by the enthusiasm within the idea of jazz and its not-so-many supporters both from performers and listeners side. That was the time – as far as I remember – that I decided to share what I feel about the music I love listening to. It was without any purpose and I wasn’t expecting anything in return. It was the first artistic feeling I get – a deep and priceless satisfaction with no pragmatic prejudgments.
Thus, it started like that and with so many peaks and deeps I kept on writing within this blog. I feel so lucky and humble that I have been able to join so many performances and listened to so many jazz albums – all around the world. Now, while writing these lines on the last train from Amsterdam to my home in Eindhoven, I feel the same satisfaction. Once again, thanks to the great performance of Chris Potter Quartet in Bimhuis, Amsterdam last night, I feel complete and full enough to keep on sharing. It is hard to give a single reason why I am so impressed and got emotional. The elegant and modest tone of Chris Potter both from tenor and soprano sax, his great compositions in the last album from ECM, Dreamer is the Dream, the amazing Nasheet Waits on drums, the great solo performances of pianist David Virelles and bassist Joe Martin, heavenly acoustic conditions of Bimhuis right next to the Amsterdam Port and -last but not least- the unique view of wide glass background of the stage letting you see the busy Dutch trains landing on and off to the Central Station... They, all together, pushed me to write these lines which can be defined as the ones connecting the blog back to the roots that I have been feeding from for a long time. It is this connection and idea indeed what make me to keep on writing – who knows, maybe for forever.

Stay connected for following posts which will be on some very good jazz albums that I have listened to lately.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

My Best Jazz Albums of 2016 List

1. In Movement - Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Matthew Garrison, ECM

2. Blues and Ballads - Brad Mehldau Trio, Nonesuch Records

3. The Ystad Concert, A Tribute to Jan Johansson - Jan Lundgren, ACT 

4. Black Ice - Wolfert Brederode Trio, ECM

5. How Long is Now? - Iiro 
Rantala, Lars Danielsson, Peter Erskine,  ACT

6. A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke - Vijay Iyer, Wadada Leo Smith, ECM

7. Beyond Now - Donny McCaslin, Motema

8. Upward Spiral - Branford Marsalis Quartet, OKeh Records 

9. E.S.T. Symphony, ACT

10. Parallax - Phronesis, Edition Records

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Jan Lundgren, The Ystad Concert, A Tribute to Jan Johansson - ACT, 2016

This will be the first review after a very long break of almost four months. A long break caused by unbelievably stressful times we have been through this summer as Turkish people... I'm checking my notes on when I listened to this great album and I see 17th of June there. Music, especially jazz, has always been a very great healing effect on me and I want to leave the bad parts of past in the dust bin with this album and with these words that I have chosen in order to try to express my feelings against its excellency. Let's forget bad people doing bad things for this world and endorse beautiful people of art and music!

The first obvious demonstration of Swedish jazz concept goes back to 60's when Jan Johansson's legendary album Jazz på Svenska was released. Although there is no certain boundaries for this sub-genre and it is indeed in its definition to remove boundaries for jazz, we can easily say it is improvisational music based on Swedish folk themes and diversified with classical music mostly on piano in past and currently with several electronics adds and rock influences. Although Swedish jazz seems to be a sub-genre of Nordic jazz, I need to mention that the concept, which Jan Johansson introduced and proved to be an internationally acclaimed one, is the real inspiration for the whole Scandinavian jazz sound. The pianist Jan Lundgren is among prominent musicians in Swedish jazz scene now and we can say that he is in the acoustic side of the genre which is very close to what it was like in Johansson's time. He is very active with several collaborations as well as with his own trio. His trio albums Swedish Standards & European Standards and Mare Nostrum series with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano have been internationally well known albums from the label ACT, which has more than 100 Swedish jazz albums in its 20 years history. Jan Lundgren has also been the artistic director of a very young but iconic jazz festival in south of Sweden called Ystad Jazz Festival.

For me, titled as a tribute to Jan Johansson, released in memory of recently deceased Bengt-Arne Wallin, recorded live in Ystad Jazz Festival, performed with his long time collaboration Mattias Svensson and colourized by a string quartet, this album of Jan Lundgren is a brief story of what the pianist has been doing and feeling about the roots and the future of Swedish jazz. Jan Lundgren is holding our hands in this story while we are walking through Jan Johansson's foot prints in Swedish snow which is garnished by Russian and Hungarian folks, namely Jazz på Svenska (1964), Jazz på Ryska (1967) and Jazz på Ungerska (1967) setting the basis of tracks and arrangements in the album. 


As mentioned in George Riedel's liner notes for the album, the unique sound of Jan Lundgren's style is recognizable just from first few notes of the first track Emigrantvisa - a modest but shiny technique and controlled sound with a very well balanced reverberation of the Ystad Teater. Gånglek från Älvdalen is probably the most jazzy arrangement and performance of the album thanks to many dialogues between Lundgren and Svensson connecting main melody supplied by strings accompaniment. 

The performance of a very well known and catchy tune of Swedish Folk, Polska från Medelpad is a good example of how the string arrangements of Martin Berggren suited very well with the piano partitions. Mattias Svensson's solo parts in continually following Polska efter Höök Olle, which is full of pull-offs in ultra-low frequencies shaking my living room, is really impressive. Berg-Kirstis Polska is connected to previous piece with a bass introduction and continues with interesting metronome changes triggered by the piano. The ever evolving structure carrying jazzy hints suddenly stops and fades into a short magic piano part in the end.  

The first track of Russian series, Bandura dives as a duo performance into minors of mostly melancholics feelings and it is followed by string accompanied Kvällar i Moskvas förstäder, which lifts the feeling into a more hopeful state.

På ängen stod en björk is certainly my favourite performance from the album especially with its introduction with groovy double bass and the following both naive and energetic piano fueled by Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet with a gradually increasing intensity. The rise and fall of the tension in this performance is amazingly inspirational pushing you to run in green fields.   
Det går en kosack is like a classical intermission in the middle of the album with its almost complete string performance, whose last part is skillfully transformed by Jan Lundgren into the one of the most famous Russian melodies, Stepp min stepp. An epic solo piano introduction for an epic theme is then accompanied by the double bass. The string quartet adds another layer of excellency to this great performance.  

Hungarian part starts with a touchy duo performance, Det snöar. Mattias Svensson is the MVP of this dialogue with his great solo travelling easily between high and low registers. Det vore synd att dö än is introduced by Lundgren and Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet (Claudia Bonfiglioli / violin Daniela Bonfiglioli / violin Karolina Weber Ekdahl / viola Charlotta Weber Widerström / cello) and continued by the whole team. It sounds like classical music dancing with jazz swing. 

Then there comes probably the most well known Swedish folk tune of Jan Johansson's Jazz på Svenska, Visa från Utanmyra. The piano is certainly played by a pianist whose first name is Jan. One hand belongs to the one with the second name Johansson and the other belongs to the other Jan: Jan Lundgren. Closing your eyes you can see them both on the piano.  

Lycklig resa is the only Jan Lundgren composition in the album and this is reflected in its modern style nourished with a wide influence of an overall European sound and American groove. The way our pianist plays the main theme and the locations of other instruments in the performance give some ideas to us about the contribution of Jan Lundgren to Jan Johansson's music throughout the album.   

Slängpolska efter Byss-Kalle is another Scandinavian folk tune which is very well arranged and performed so that it sounds both jazz and classical. The dialogues between strings and piano are longer compared to previous performances in this long track.

The last number Här kommer Pippi Långstrump is a very famous Jan Johansson's tune, which also triggers the audience to keep up with the rhythm for a while. Its hopeful and joyful energy seems to have spread through the performance hall giving a very good end to this amazing concert.

The album was recorded by P2 Swedish Radio (Bertil Karlsson and Berngt Pettersson) on July 30th 2015 in Ystad Teater during Ystad Jazz Festival. The mastering is made by Arne Schumann.

This is certainly one of the best jazz albums came from European jazz scene in 2016 and it will find a high number in my best jazz albums 2016 list.