Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Swiss Jazz Minimalism: First There Was Nik, Now There's Mik

A few years back, I posted about a wonderful band I'd come across called Nik Bärtsch's Ronin. Bärtsch is a Swiss pianist and composer who refers to his creations as "ritual groove music"--a type of modern jazz that's heavily infused with minimalism. His past three releases have been on ECM Records, and anyone familiar with that label's output would likely agree that Bärtsch has found a good home there.

While looking through the new releases on eMusic the other night, I ran across something interesting: a group called Mik Keusen's Blau. The name was certainly similar to Bärtsch's group; the artists' first names differ by a single letter, one off in the alphabet; and while the album was released on an indie label, the cover looked very ECM-ish.

A little exploring revealed that the two groups have even more in common than was originally evident: Both Nik and Mik are Swiss pianists and composers; Keusen's music is also best described as minimalist jazz; both composers name their pieces with numbers (though Keusen doesn't call them "moduls" like Bärtsch does); the two groups share a member in the reedman who goes by the, well, minimalist name of Sha; and Ronin's percussionist Andi Pupato collaborated on the mixing and mastering of Blau's first album.

Here's a tune from Blau's second recording, Nalu, released earlier this year:

And here's something from Ronin's newest recording, Llyria:

I've also listened to clips from Sha's first recording as a leader (which includes Keusen on piano and keyboards), and, while there are certainly some similarities there as well, each of the three bands is slightly different. But all three are really good in my book, so it was nice to discover that there was a third member of this loosely-knit "society" who was unfamiliar to me until now.

IN THE COMMENTS: A reader points out that both Nik and Mik have been influenced by another Swiss jazz minimalist, Don Li, whose music is also quite enjoyable (and guess what--he names his tunes with numbers as well!).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mik linked to this post on his Facebook page. Welcome to any and all who might be visiting from there!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

Once again, the weekly rundown of (mostly new) stuff that's graced my automotive airwaves this week:
  • MONDAY: Marco Benevento, "Between the Needles & Nightfall." Latest release from pianist known for stylistic versatility and his use of "circuit-bent toys."

  • TUESDAY: Meadow, "Blissful Ignorance." 2009 release from acclaimed Norwegian/British trio of piano, sax and drums.

  • WEDNESDAY: Jacob Karlzon, "Big 5." Quintet effort (of course) from the Swedish pianist whom I only discovered a few days ago.

  • THURSDAY: John Escreet, "The Age We Live In." New release from up-and-coming pianist/composer mixes electric/acoustic.

  • FRIDAY: Dave Holland Quintet, "Critical Mass." Newest album from the bassist/composer's wonderful fivesome (though he's had sextet and octet releases since then).

  • SATURDAY: Freddie Hubbard, "On the Real Side." Final studio album from trumpet giant, accompanied by the New Jazz Composers Octet.

  • SUNDAY: The Flashbulb, "Soundtrack to a Vacant Life." Another fine release from multi-instrumentalist Benn Jordan.
As always, come back next Sunday for more!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Next Esbjörn?

It had been a few months since I'd surfed the new releases section of eMusic; since they'd added a whole bunch of big labels, I figured that the sheer volume of new stuff would be overwhelming and it would take hours upon hours to get through even a single week. But it's summer, and I decided to jump in and see what was new.

As always, a lot of the stuff I discover on eMusic is music from foreign artists who don't get a lot of press over here--bands like Brandt Brauer Frick, Böhm-Halle-Sell and solo artists such as Rainer Tempel come to mind. I'll admit that, sometimes, I'll preview an artist with a Euro-sounding name more readily than, say, a Joe Smith, and a lot of times that pays off.

It was this curiosity that led me to preview a recording by someone named Jacob Karlzon. The album wss called Big 5, and it's a very engaging quintet effort full of compositions that jump right out of the speakers at you, so I snagged it almost immediately. A bit more exploring led me to the pianist's trio work; the title track from the Jacob Karlzon 3's newest recording, The Big Picture can be found here.

Remind you of anybody? Maybe it's the highly melodic, Metheny-ish vibe of the whole thing, or the doubling of the bass with the piano's left hand at certain times, but it sounded to me as if Esbjörn Svensson had more than a little influence on his younger fellow Swede. And look--Karlzon even has a shaved head!

I'm always amazed by the wonderful jazz that's being produced outside of the United States, and I'll do my little bit here (as well as on Twitter and Facebook) to publicize it as best I can. Thanks, eMusic, for making this stuff readily accessible over here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

He Hasn't Recorded in a While, But New Songs are Coming in Droves Groves

My onetime saxophone student Shaun Groves (whose second album was reviewed in the earliest days of this blog) has made a name for himself as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His forthcoming release, "Third World Symphony," drops in late August and is available for preview on Soundcloud. Check out the whole thing; I really like it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kids Play the Darnedest Things

From a lesson earlier today...

ME: OK, I want to start out with some scales. Let's hear your G.
KID: (plays a G and holds it for about 10 beats)
ME: Umm, I did say we were playing scales, not just the G itself.

"One Time, Back at Band Camp..."

As I noted on Facebook, if a trombonist in any big band in which I play were to decide to use one of these things, I would demand that the sax section be moved...preferably to an entirely different big band.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

Once again, a rundown of the weekly car-tunes:
  • MONDAY: Stoner Forss Borg, "The Lektor Tapes." Jazz quartet The Stoner and electronic duo Forss, all from Sweden, join forces (Forss-es?) for an enjoyable mix of styles.

  • TUESDAY: RTB Crew, "Meet the Beat." Debut release from the group featured in last week's "crazy tuba video."

  • WEDNESDAY: David Charrier/Sylvain Paslier, "Keona: the hang cousins' duet." Beautiful music from a most unusual instrument--the hang.

  • THURSDAY: The debut CD from James Farm. Great collective comprised of Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, and Eric Harland.

  • FRIDAY: Forss, "Soulhack." Engaging set of jazz-tinged electronic music from Sweden's Eric Wahlforss. (This is also the "Forss" portion of Stoner Forss Borg from Monday's entry, and the whole CD can be streamed at the link.)

  • SATURDAY: Greg Osby, "Nine Levels." 2008 release from innovative altoist, accompanied by a sextet of young up-and-comers.

  • SUNDAY: Mats-Up, "5." Swiss trumpeter Matthias Spillmann leads quintet in his original compositions. (Website is in German but will translate pretty well in the Babelfish and similar engines.)
Despite my less-frequent summer driving, I'm still managing to keep up with the different-album-a-day standard. Come back next week for more!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Can Defiintely Hang with This Sound

Courtesy of my buddy Cameron, here's a video of two guys playing on a type of instrument I'd never heard of before:

The instrument is called a Hang, and you can learn all about it here. Two key facts that really amuse me:
  • The one company that manufactures the instrument pretty much only makes them "when they feel like it" at the moment.

  • The plural of Hang is Hanghang.
It's a pretty relaxing sound--maybe not long roadtrip music, but definitely something to chill to when you get home at the end of the day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Music History

Moat kids will answer the question below with "Bach and Beethoven," or maybe "Bach and Mozart"--but this kid was a bit off:

ME: OK, name me the first two classical composers you can think of.
KID: Mozart and Shakespeare.

(After much laughter ensued, I had him try again, and his second guess--Mozart and Wolfgang Amadeus--was only a little better. And at least he pronounced "Mozart" correctly; I've even heard some college students say MOE-zart.)

A Celebration of True Teamwork

To say that I'm happy about the Dallas Mavericks' victory in the NBA Finals last night would be an understatement. But I'm happy on so many levels...

It's not just that the team that I've been cheering for since Day 1 won the championship...though that's cool. And it's not just that Dirk will finally get his ring...though that's cool too. What it really comes down to is that this championship was won by a true team that developed over a period of time, rather than the best collection of superstars that (they thought) money could buy.

So congrats to Dirk and company. You've made our city proud!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

As always, my weekly collection of tunes--many from people you might not have heard of before, and are thus encouraged to check out...
  • MONDAY: Imogen Heap, "Ellipse." Most recent full album from English singer/instrumentalist.

  • TUESDAY: Justin Vasquez, "Triptych." Debut effort from altoist/UT-Austin grad/Kenny Garrett devotee. (I actually saw Justin trade choruses with Kenny while the former was in college and the latter was the guest artist at the Longhorn Jazz Festival--review here).

  • WEDNESDAY: Lars Danielsson, "Mélange Bleu." Norwegian bassist is joined by fellow countrymen Nils Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft and others.

  • THURSDAY: Loren Stillman Quartet, "How Sweet It Is." Excellent 2003 release from emerging altoist.

  • FRIDAY: Joshua Redman, "Elastic." Yeah, it's a rerun, but it's one of my all-time favorites.

  • SATURDAY: Josh Moshier & Mike Lebrun, "Joy Not Jaded." Pianist and saxophonist showcase their own compositions.

  • SUNDAY: Nikolaj Hess, "Global Motion." Danish pianist/composer leads multi-national group including Americans Jeff Ballard and Ben Monder.
As I said a while back, I don't drive as much during the summer, but it's my goal to have at least five CDs posted every week...but so far, I've hit my goal of every day! Check in again next Sunday for more (and any other day you want for other stuff).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Is Mah Birfday...

...where are caek?. (I love this lolcat picture, and it was even more amusing to me when it was first posted at the day before "mah birfday" in '07.

One thing about being on Facebook is the sheer amount of greetings you tend to receive. It's not quite noon, and I've already gotten wishes from nearly 100 people. Thanks to all who have sent things my way!

Monday, June 06, 2011

This Is Almost Tuba Good to Be True

Amazing video here, courtesy of a tuba-playing fraternity brother:

The group is called RTB Crew, and it consists of Roland Szentpali on the otherworldly tuba playing, along with Aron Romhanyi on the (very Chick Corea-ish) keyboard and DJ Revolution doing the beatboxing.

I was very happy to just discover that this group's album, Meet the Beat, is available on eMusic; I'll be getting it the second my credits refresh this month.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

Once again, here's my weekly roundup o'tunes (I can say it that way because I'm part Irish):
  • MONDAY: John Hollenbeck and Jazz Bigband Graz, "Joys & Desires." Austrian big band joins New York-based composer/percussionist in a set of his originals. Noted vocalist Theo Bleckmann is also on board.

  • TUESDAY: Boards of Canada, "The Campfire Headphase." 2005 release from Scottish electronic duo (who also happen to be brothers) known for cool videos.

  • WEDNESDAY: The Carla Bley Band, "Carla Bley Live." 1981 live set from renowned keyboardist/composer and her band, who received a lot of airplay on my radio show in college.

  • THURSDAY: The Eric Daino Ensemble, "Live at Lab East." Brand-new EP from energetic, genre-bending Denton dodectet that includes a number of my Sinfonia brothers.

  • FRIDAY: Jon Hassell, "Maarifa Street." Trumpeter presents tunes based on Persian poetry, named after at Iraqi street that he discovered while reading the news.

  • SATURDAY: Christoph Merki Music.01, "Circles." Swiss saxophonist/composer mixes jazz with ambient music, featuring some of the best use of marimba that I've seen in a long time.

  • SUNDAY: Imogen Heap, "Ellipse." Most recent full album from English singer/instrumentalist whose work I've been exploring extensively for the past several days.
As I said earlier, my driving will lessen a bit during the summer, but I still have errands to run and trips to the college to make, so I'll hopefully be able to post at least five new CDs a week during the next few months.