Guitar duets and trios are a relatively rare occurrence in the world of jazz and one immediately thinks of the seminal ‘One night in San Francisco’ that John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola and Paco de Lucia recorded back in 1981 as a fine example of what can be achieved. It is all the more welcome, then, to hear a new guitar duet on the scene, though individually both musicians will be familiar to those in the know. Recorded live on tour in November 2011, Swiss guitarist Nicolas Meier and fellow guitar maestro Peter Oxley present an evening’s worth of music with a distinct Latin flavour that takes in the music of Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and Milton Nascimento with three original compositions apiece between the co-leaders. A gorgeous rendition of Corea’s ‘Spain’ remains faithful to the original with a brief introduction leading straight into some intricate interplay while Nascimento’s ‘Vera Cruz’ is an ideal vehicle for the duo in which to excel. Metheny’s ‘Travels’ title track has long been a favourite of quality music lovers and the duo do this piece justice with an expansive interpretation that is in keeping with the album’s overall theme of musical journeys as does the appropriately named ‘Breeze’ which does exactly what is says on the proverbial tin. Of the originals, ‘Lodder leapin” stands out as a fine dialogue between the two guitarists with presumably the title being a homage of sorts to the bop era. The sheer joy of performing together comes shining through on this number. Eastern and possibly Indian flavours are conjured up on Meier’s composition ‘Yemin’ which develops into an increasingly fast-paced number with Meier taking the lead and Oxley offering up some excellent support. In general it was a good decision on the part of the guitarists to mix some well known and easy to follow standards with their own repertoire which requires more intense listening. The Latin theme is continued with a second Corea composition ‘Armando’s Rhumba’. What really comes across here is that while both guitarists are extremely well versed in contemporary jazz and indeed guitar influences beyond, they never allow this to get in the way of the music itself or allow their virtuosity to become subservient to the overall sound. A jazz guitarist’s nirvana is guaranteed on this fine new release.(http://www.mpgrecords.com/) Tim Stenhouse
Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson has, incredibly, been a staple musician at ECM since 1971 and now deserves pride of place alongside the cream of European jazz pianists of the calibre of Joachim Kühn, Enrico Pieranunzi and John Taylor. In fact the Swede is not in his mid-sixties, though one would not think so by his youthful appearance and renewed appetite for life. He has graced several important formations including Jan Garbarek’s group (1973-1979), the Charles Lloyd quartet and also the Tomasz Stanko band. Since the 1990s Stenson has become more prolific in his trio recordings and these include the wonderful ‘War Orphans’ from 1997 and his 2008 trio outing ‘Cantado’. His latest trio comprises Anders Jormin on bass and Jon Fält on drums. As always with Bob Stenson the judicious selection of pieces is as fascinating as the music itself and there is once more a Latin American contribution with the Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez’s ‘La peregrinación’, that most lyrical of pieces with an instant hook in the main theme, in tandem with some choice Scandinavian numbers. Stenson’s love of Bill Evans’ work is no great secret and indeed stylistically the Swede comes across as an in-between of Evans and McCoy Tyner. His admiration for the former is paid tribute to on the opener ‘Your story’ with a sense of sophistication that is entirely in keeping with Evans’ own approach. Another fine interpretation is that of Walf Biermann’s protest song ‘Ermutigung’ with the trio in full, expansive flow here while the title track is the gentlest of pieces. A feature of this latest album is the deliberate showcasing of Scandinavian music with Dane Carl Nielsen being referenced on ‘Tit er jeg glad’, a Norwegian traditional version of Ave Maria and some Norewgian folk from composer Oli Gjeilo on ‘Ubi caritas’. In particular the rhythm section of Jormin and Fält is a well moulded one and little wonder, then, that they performed together on Jormin’s ‘Ad Lucem’ CD from earlier in the year. As is normally the case with ECM studio recordings, the sound quality is flawless and picks up the slightest nuance of timbre. Tim Stenhouse
This impressive trio of musiciams recorded two memorable albums for ECM in 1979 and individually were at the peak of their powers when performing live in Munich in 1981, from which this previously unreleased concert is taken. Immaculate sound quality and a reverential silence from the audience during the performance make for a thrilling experience at just under two hours with a finely balanced selection of compositions including Norwegian folk tunes, Brazilian-influenced pieces and spicy Spanish flavours contributed by Charlie Haden no less. This writer was especially taken by the Norwegian folk songs of which the simply titled ‘Folk song’ is an irresistable piece on which Garbarek in particular is in his element on soprano saxophone and Gismonti’s acoustic guitar strumming and Haden’s rambling basslines all contribute to a fine concert highlight. Another album of such material, following on from 1981’s ‘Folk songs’ album would be a welcome addition to the trio’s repertoire. Virtuoso playing by Gismonti is a feature of ‘Cego aderaldo’ which is fast-paced in parts and it should be remembered that it was during the mid-late 1970s that he cut some of his finest albums of which the trio of ‘Dança das cabecas (1976), ‘Sol de meio dia’ (1977) and ‘Solo’ (1978) are among the very best of his career thus far. Introspective and reflective hues are present on ‘Don Quixote’ with a lovely bass solo from Haden and some sensitive piano accompaniment from Gismonti. Garbarek contributes a soaring solo of his own. The second CD continues in a melodic vein with ‘Branquinho’ essentially a vehicle for Gismonti to shine while the lengthy fifteen minute ‘All that is beautiful’, penned by Haden, is in many ways a precursor to his later work fronting Quartet West and here Gismonti performs on piano. Haden’s near twenty minute piece ‘La pasionara’ receives an appropriately impassioned interpretation. The album ends on a lovely and ultimately gentle note with a reprise of the title track. Tim Stenhouse
Here is a new discovery in French jazz singer Virginie Techeyné whose previous two albums to her new one are presented here as an introduction. She sings almost exclusively in English without a hint of an accent and possesses a distinctive soulful voice with the odd Brazilian classic and even French chanson to add some variety to proceedings. The second album is the slightly stronger of the two with a more confident performance and an interesting, and, in places, unusual selection of lesser known standards. Her take on the lyrics added by Abbey Lincoln to Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Up jumped spring’ impresses as a lovely floating waltz while she reworks the Rogers and Hammerstein piece ‘It might as well be spring’ as a French language version retitled ‘C’est le printemps’. A duo of Brazilian songs are successfully attempted and sound authentic with the Vinicius de Moraes and Carlos Lyra composition ‘Voce e eu’ the most effective of the two. With greater assurance comes maturity in the songwriting department and Techeyné offers ‘Just a song’. Back on the Great American songbook track, she delivers a fine ‘Lester leapin’. The first album does nonetheless contain some fine singing with adventurous interpretations of Mingus’ ‘Portrait’ and Eddie Jefferson’s ‘I just got back in town’ with a trio of Billy Strayhorn numbers of which ‘Take the ‘A’ train’ is the most impressive, another duo of Brazilian songs with an English language version of Jobim’s ‘Double rainbow’ and the original Portugese of ‘Zingaro’. The jazz standard ‘The good life’ is actually the Jack Reardon English version rather than Sacha Distel’s French lyrics and is taken at a much slower pace than other versions, notably that of Betty Carter. Informative bilingual sleeve notes from Félix Sportis, formerly editor of the prestigious and oldest French jazz magazine Jazz Hot, is an indication of the high esteem in which Virginie Techeyné is held by the jazz cognoscenti in her native country. Techeyné’s new album, ‘Bright and sweet’ is already out and promises to be a real treat. Tim Stenhouse
Tenorist Houston Person is one of jazz’s elder statesmen and can back this up with no less than seventy-five recorded albums and is a regular on the label.
A top line up of Cedar Walton on piano, Ray Drummond on bass and Lewis Nash on drums makes for entertaining listening and, while not groundbreaking, this is quality bop with a soulful and, in places, gospel-tinged touch. This is exemplified on Ellington’s ‘It shouldn’t happen to a dream’ and equally on the gospel sounding ‘Red sails in the sunset’. Person excels on the slower material and has something of Coleman Hawkins in his tone on ‘Don’ cha go way mad’ with deft drum work from Nash. A tribute to the late Bill Evans on ‘My foolish heart’ breathes newl ife into the piece wth lovely piano accompaniment from Walton while thre is fine all round playing on the emotive ballad ‘That’s all’. In a more uptempo groove, Milt Jackson’s ‘Bag’s groove’ receives a soulful treatment and the album ends on a bright ands breezy note with the mid-tempo ‘Sunday’.