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.  

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Markus Stockhausen & Florian Weber, Inside Out at Ankara Jazz Festival, May 6th 2016

Ankara Jazz Festival is far from being exciting for me especially in last three years. As someone taking flights for just one night concerts even to abroad, I, most of the time, do not want to join a single performance in my own city's festival. Poor and recursive line-up's are one side of this long story. The usage of shopping-malls as performance halls is on the other side and frankly it has nothing to discuss on, for me. So, to keep it short, I should say I can understand that the festival directors has not much to do since they do not have a main sponsor - at least this is what they say in general.

However, this time, I could not believe my eyes when I saw Markus Stockhausen in the line-up. As a long time European Jazz follower, ECM collector and a fan of the album "Karta", I was really excited to see his name with his latest musical partner Florian Weber with whom we saw in one of the latest ECM albums, Alba. Having played for almost 6 years as a duo, they released this album on April 2016.     

The introduction piece of the concert started with no musician on the stage. We heard Markus Stockhausen's well known clean and touchy trumpet tone from outside the small performance hall of the museum whose two doors were looking to a large display room. Florian Weber came silently and started to play his part while Stockhausen was still performing. Then his sound gets louder after the first 2-3 minutes as Markus Stockhausen enters the door at the back and passes through the stage. I was thinking during the concert that this introduction was about the concept of "Inside Out" but on talking with Markus Stockhausen after the concert, I realized that he had chosen to play some part outside, since his instrument needs a larger space than the hall supplies, considering frequency responses especially in high registers.   

They played some pieces from Alba such as Die Weise Zauberin, Befreiung, Emilio (a piece from Weber for his son - it is among highlights of the album with its naive aura), Better World (dedicated by Stockhausen to latest turmoil all around the world during the concert), Emergenzen and Mondtraum. Being consecutively located through the end of the set list, Emergenzen and Mondtraum were two impressive performances for me, especially with their catchy main themes and lyrical styles. Nicht Umsonst and Our father (from Stockhausen's 2004 album Joyosa) were among the other pieces performed. The last piece, Yahoo (a composition of Markus Stockhausen from 1998), ended as the first piece and Markus Stockhausen left the stage to the outside part of the hall to play the last. 

It was great to have experienced Stockhausen's classical music impressed spirit on jazzy and improvisational pieces in a live performance and I think Weber's collaboration on piano sounds very organic. The perfect timing and harmony between musicians even during the long pauses in some of the performances were really noteworthy. It was my first time with the pieces in Alba and frankly the compositions were very touchy and the way the duo play them is very much on the well-known ECM-style. I am sure it will take its well-deserved place in the legendary collection of the label among distinguished ones.     

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Lou Tavano, For You, 2016

Deep stories told impressively inside beautifully composed jazzy music... I would describe For You, Lou Tavano's debut album in ACT, with these words if you asked me to make it short. However, these stories, impressive vocal and unique sound deserve more, even if it is hard to define music with sentences. Lou Tavano's unique way of singing is the first thing that hit me in the album. She has a style of almost flowing-words. It feels like she can sing every lyrics within every composition just by tuning the pronunciations a little bit. On the other hand, her expressions are clear and definite too. She uses her vocal as an equal partner of other instruments rather than being the main character above all. The instrumental performances are also extraordinarily remarkable compared to a vocal album - some of them can be shown as stand alone pieces even if you mask the vocals virtually. The pianist Alexey Asantcheeff seems to be the hero of the album with his name visible in almost all compositions, arrangements and lyrics. The dedicated "thank you" in the liner notes from Lou Tavano to him is another solid evidence of that. They have been working together for a long time (released the previous album together) and you can feel it also in the organic harmony between piano and the vocal in this album.

Quiet Enlightenment starts with "wake up" whispering repeated within the song from time to time. Full of touchy words possibly of a children for a passed away dad, lyrics are far away from being part of an ordinary song carrying chorus-like structures. Actually, this is more or less the general characters of lyrics, which are written mostly by Alexey Asantcheeff and Lou Tavano. 

Emotional Riot starts with a dark ambiance followed by some increase in tension through the middle - consistent with the title. Lou Tavano tries some high registers and becomes successful both in tone and speed. The contribution of the woodwinds to the overall energy and Ariel Tessier's groovy performance on the drum-set are highlights. The Letter is a short and hopeful piece with naive piano partitions from Alexey Asantcheeff and nice accompaniment from Alexandre Perrot (bass) and Maxime Berton (saxophones).  

Rest Assured is among pop-smelling pieces of the album with dance-rhythms pushing you to hands-up state. L'Artiste makes me very happy as someone fond of French speaking vocals. Different than well-known jazz divas from France, Lou Tavano's French style is more crispy and sounds more like the streets of France - I almost feel like listening to first times of Edith Piaf. 

The title track is an impressive one with vocals travelling beautifully between highs and lows both in octaves & emotions, minors from the piano and muted trumpet of Arno de CasanoveIt's A Girl is about a new baby and the parents. So the music carry its energy. Attack-full drum partitions and lively solo of flugelhorn are all results of this energy. Lou Tavano supports her vocal with her own scats. 

The Call is like the serious brother of the album and its lyrics (from Arno De Casanove) sounds like they are written for a lost friend. Especially the poem-like part with energetic rhythms in the middle are impressive. Bavoushka is just a Russian dialogue connected to the next piece. Petite Pomme is another French piece including also Russian poem-like parts. All Together is like a message to whole world - wishing for a border-less, fearless, war-less life on earth. The vocal is supported with children's performances. How essential it sounds in these hard times! 

Afro Blue (Bali Hues) is one of the most impressive covers I have heard for this amazing, time-less composition. It all starts with a hard-to-recognize texture and with first naive words from Lou Tavano, I decide that she turns into a successful black singer in this performance. Percussive movements and backvocals give a very groovy overall feeling and the tensional changes in the performance results in a very catchy, dance-able and moving ambiance. The last track Through A Nightmare's energetic trio piano performance between quiet vocal parts shows how successful the instrumental structure of the album is too.

The album is recorded at Studio de Meudon, July 2015 by Philippe Teissier Du Cros (assisted by Clement Gariel). Mixing is achieved at Studio Boxson by Philippe Teissier Du Cros too. Raphael Jonin mastered the album at Jraphing. The album is produced by Sebastien Vidal and the executive producer is Onde Libre. The record quality is fairly good for the crowded setting for most of the time. 

They will be performing for the release party of the album in Duc Des Lombards in Paris for 3 days starting from tomorrow - March 31st.

Here is the youtube link from ACT's making of From You video: 

Here is a sample from the album again from youtube: