Joey DeFrancesco

Hard on the heels of a high profile 2018 gigging and recording with Van Morrison, Joey DeFrancesco hooks up with another legend Pharoah Sanders on his upcoming album In the Key of the Universe to be released in March.

Selections on the new record include ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ and DeFrancesco also has ex-Pharoah Karma drummer Billy Hart on the record.

Quoted by issuing label Mack Avenue DeFrancesco says: “I pride myself on being a musical chameleon. There’s so much good music that it’s hard to stay in one place, at least for me. I love being able to go in any direction, and lately that’s sent my music in a more free jazz direction – but still with a groove. Pharoah is one of the go-to guys when it comes to that spiritual aspect of the music. A lot of people do that kind of thing, but I like to go directly to the source, and he really is the source.

“As soon as Pharoah picked up his horn and started playing that melody, my hair just stood straight up. Then Billy started doing his thing with the mallets, wide open and free. Once it gets going it’s so hard to stop; you could listen to that vibe forever. It was almost an unexplainable feeling – absolutely a downright spiritual experience.

“The direction in which my life is going always affects what I’m doing musically. As I grow older, I find myself attracted to a more spiritual vibe. It’s always been that way, to some extent – especially playing music and going into the zone, which has to do with being in touch with the universe. It’s not about religion, it’s just a spiritual vibe that respects everything, in music and in life.”

Joey DeFrancesco, top. Photo: Wikipedia

22 February sees the release of this new Northern Spy records out-there experimental album by Oregon-raised Nate Wooley.

The album takes its name from a Rocky Mountains ice field in Canada.

With the trumpeter-composer are Mary Halvorson on guitar, Susan Alcorn on pedal steel, and Ryan Sawyer on drums.

The pre-order track you can listen to above has a stark and agile fluency to it, a plangent mood effortlessly summoned and sustained. 

A huge gathering and a who’s who of jazz musicians paid tribute to Roy Hargrove in Jazz at Lincoln Center. Watch above, and read Natalie Weiner’s Billboard report.

Outliers

If ever there was a candidate for some enterprising major label scout on the look out for a well established band to sign up and add to their roster then Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio are that act. 

On 19 February bassist Crump’s trio return with their fourth album which is titled Outliers to be released on the Papillon Sounds label.

The trio have always stood out, quietly constructing their own approach, and which involves their harnessing of loose and lucid jazz tinged flavours and in the rear view mirror the wide open spaces of rural America aligning it slightly with some of Bill Frisell’s investigations in the area.

And like Frisell Crump is not afraid to take the road less travelled and while accessible there is always something of a puzzle in just how harmonically the group are going to resolve their themes which certainly keeps you listening.

Best known for his work with Vijay Iyer, Crump manages to make his bass seem ever bigger than it is both tonally when exposed and when he hides himself beneath the huddle of guitar textures.

Opening with ‘In Waves’ the trio journey from the melodic to a less certain hinterland, the chord changes becoming testier and the distance between each of the players shrinking to produce even greater intimacy. This album thrives on the up close and personal. ‘Re Eyes’, following, slows things right down and the tune seems to boil down to pure vibration to eventually bounce up the guitar line brightly and confidently when it emerges, a kind of counterpoint ensuing between guitars and bass as the improvising lines intertwine and strand by strand make a sound collage that makes sense out of all the fractured segments the trio create.

Thinking back to an earlier album of theirs like Thwirl this is somehow picking up where their earlier ideas left off, because this is like another chapter rather than some sort of sequel. Those quixotic welcome solos that just seemed to happen, like a remark someone interesting might have made in the course of a conversation, again are the order of the day from Crump and guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox.

Rosetta are certainly more about the pastoral than a big city urban sound and certainly all three know how to channel their emotions say on ‘Middle March’ and the bluesy ‘Dec 5’ pieces written for Crump’s late brother, Patrick, a dedicatee of earlier album Rhombal.

The title track ‘Outliers’ is a tense account that nevertheless thrives on momentum as descending and ascending intervals run against each other in clashing tonalities and invigorate the tiny microscopic differences between individual melody lines for a certain piquancy. This track is closest to the Iyer sound, the clusters and collisions helping to create a post-modern world that fractures and transforms.

‘Synapse’ has a strumming swagger to begin with before Crump sets the mood with a solo bass figure that is then heated up by the other two players in a frazzle of notes, again the woozily tart anti-melody resets your ears and the piece thrives on a battle on the borderlands of melody and conventional tonality.

Liberty Ellman tune ‘Cryoseism’ contains the ache and passion of a Charlie Haden-type sound world and like all the tunes here retains a sense of freedom and experimentation without being too self-conscious about it. ‘Away From, A Way To’ which goes back to a 1997 Crump album called Poems and Other Things gets another run-out and has a freshness to its voicings that would sit well with say the mood summoned by Pat Metheny on Bright Size Life.

‘Esquima Dream’ at the end again sits well with the Metheny comparison, a driving soundscape feel to it that I can easily imagine electrified and scaled up in a jazz-rock setting but its power remains in the understatement as much as its potential. A big strength of the Rosetta trio is the way the trio use unconventional improvisational methods to achieve both strong rhythmic and melodic results. They manage to say things that resound and hit home while speaking in a veritable whisper. And that is so rare and welcome a quality. SG

Lage trio

Keith Jarrett’s rapidfire composition ‘The Wind Up’ seems to be flavour of the month. Not only is Branford Marsalis covering the instrumental that twists and turns in band interplay as reported here on his upcoming The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul but the Jarrett tune which appeared on the classic 1974 album Belonging crops up too on a new trio album by wildly popular and pretty prolific jazz guitarist Julian Lage.   

Love Hurts will be released in February on the Mack Avenue label. Lage says: “The connection we were trying to draw was between this effusive era of Keith Jarrett’s music and all the tributaries that go away from or lead to it.” Dave King of The Bad Plus and bassist Jorge Roeder complete his trio. Love Hurts tracks include the Boudleaux Bryant title track recorded by the Everly Brothers and also known in a famous version by Roy Orbison, the big O, dating back to the beginning of the 1960s. Full track listing is: 1. In Heaven 2. Tomorrow Is The Question 3. The Wind Up 4. Love Hurts 5. In Circles 6. Encore (A) 7. Lullaby 8. Trudgin' 9. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, and, 10. Crying (while a Don McLean song, another Orbison connection).

Dave King, above left, Julian Lage, and Jorge Roeder. Photo: Nathan West/Mack Avenue

Next month will see the release of a new trio album called Everything in Between to be released by Italian label CAM Jazz the work of a trio led by the great Welsh jazz pianist and composer Huw Warren. Listen to a clip above, the initial melody at the beginning of this very lush and beautiful treatment you’d swear is a deconstruction of ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ it struck me, with a direction then darting off into fresh tributaries known only to the trio and captured very much in the moment. With Warren is his son Zoot on drums and Dudley Phillips alternating bass guitar with double bass. The Warren trio will be launching the album at the Vortex jazz club in London on 8 February.

It is fitting that the first notes you hear on Black Lion are from the bass. Dezron Douglas you will know from a lot of records. Recently he was on one of 2018’s best albums Universal Beings by Makaya McCraven. The tune ‘Black Lion’ that lends its name to the title of this brand new album stole the show on that release as I wrote at the time but does not feature on this one. The name however resonates especially if you recall the impact of the McCraven record. 

Douglas chooses both acoustic bass and electric bass here, the latter only on a few tracks and it is the double bass you hear first. When Willerm Delisfort comes in it is pretty clear what sort of style ‘Soulris’ is setting up: you might like me immediately think that you have landed in a McCoy Tyner-type situation or simply feel and buy into the breezy ratcheting up of chord progressions with that undertow of spiritual organ, the horns of Stacy Dillard on tenor saxophone and Lummie Spann on alto saxophone, a little trumpet poking through, proceeding along lines The Cookers have been championing in recent years.

This is pretty old school stuff and not as modern sounding as the McCraven approach but does not pall at all or sound corny. Jeremy “Bean” Clemons on drums is very much in control. If he wasn’t this would fall in a heap.

‘Negroidius Maximum’ started off by Douglas more in a Mingus feel here has an off kilter toe-tapping nature to it, plenty of soul filtering up through the alleyways of metre, think the kind of effect Lee Morgan and ‘The Sidewinder’ has on you and you will not go far wrong here. Lummie Spann who hails from Hartford in Connecticut channels his inner Eddie Harris highly infectiously.

‘Bottoms Out’ is different beginning from the drums but again that Cookers comparison holds, and this is gutsy stuff and drives along. Dezron holds back at first but walks the bass into quite a stride and it is saxophone time galore as the tune reveals itself thriving on his beat.

Recorded in New Jersey there is a lot of love here backed up by nuance and ability and no more so than on the warm ‘Alexis’ where trumpeter Josh Evans hitherto not that evident in the sound gets his chance to shine and shine he does, a woozy ache to the melody but there is plenty of interesting development going on behind him as Douglas free-forms his solo on bass guitar underneath and a real feeling of freedom within the deliberate mess of sound throughout is created.

There is a reggae feel on the ‘Great Provider’ again Douglas choosing bass guitar. And while this is not the best track it is certainly one of the more enjoyable selections. ‘Uhuru Vibration’ at the end is the real treat of the whole affair when you can really get an obvious inkling of how much a master Douglas is on bass when he opens with a hugely woody feature that will make you hit the repeat button again and again and I guess will be sampled by plenty of DJs if they get to hear it. SG

Douglas is over in the UK this month playing with Trevor Watkis and Byron Wallen in their Dizzy Reece tribute. Catch them for instance at Band on the Wall in Manchester on 30 January.

Taken from Dancer in Nowhere to be released by Sunnyside in February the focus here is on imaginative arranging, a big strength on the lush ‘Today Not Today.’

Composer and bandleader Miho Hazama steers her 13-piece orchestra the m_unit who include guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer Nate Wood in a direction that has a stop-start hazy sheen and positivity to it. Passing such stations along the way as intimations of Mike Gibbs, or the Gil Evans-like inspirations of Maria Schneider, the transformative effect is an inspiring beat displacing idiosyncratic blend that draws the ear in.

From an EP which shares the band’s name to be released by Brownswood in March ‘Uman’ is our track of the day on marlbank today. Kokoroko are an Afrobeat immersed eight-piece led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey.

Singer, pianist, songwriter Kandace Springs is to return to Ronnie Scott’s club in London for a three-night residency in May.

This will be her second appearance in the club following a debut in August 2017 when she appeared with Sam Vicary on bass and Luke Flowers on drums.

Paul Pace, music bookings co-ordinator at Ronnie’s told marlbank that what appealed most about booking Kandace was: “Her music, musicianship, warm stage persona and the way that she was able to engage the audience. We had seen her live at the Jazz FM awards in 2016 and her public profile was such that we felt confident in selling the shows at Ronnie’s a year later.”

Paul says the line-up of the Springs band for the May appearances is still to be confirmed. Dates are 2-4 May. Club website. Further reading: interview.