Monday, December 30, 2013

Buffalo and Flint Hills

I managed to tour a buffalo ranch on the Flint Hills during the summer. It was a particularly hot and hazy day, and the buffalo sought out a hill where the wind cooled their bodies.

The rancher was happy to announce that his ranch, unlike the one next to his, had its own source of water. He also disclosed that he uses chemicals to kill unwanted trees and weeds, perhaps not realizing that the chemical spray he uses will eventually end up in the water that he uses for his buffalo.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jazz Selections for 2013

My favorite jazz selections for 2013 appear below in no particular order. This year is one in which I have supported the independent artist. Five of these selections can be found on Bandcamp. These selections also represent a range of locations--the Pacific Northwest, Canada, Brooklyn, Germany, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, proving how jazz remains international and how the Internet has made it easier to appreciate music from other parts of the world.

Soren Dahl Jeppesen, Pipe Dreams

Soren Dahl Jeppesen on his third recording has expanded his quartet into a quintet with the addition of Simon Toldam on piano. The piano is an essential ingredient of the opening track, “Insomnia,” as it serves as a counterbalance to the opening strains of the guitar and helps to establish the melody, which is repeated at various times during the song. Backed by Klaus Norgaard on bass and Jakob Hoyer on drums, Soren Dahl Jeppesen, accompanied by Oskar Gudjonsson on saxophone, has created an excellent addition to his Red Sky and Route One.

Nashaz, Nashaz

Initially started as a Kickstarter project in 2012, this debut album combines Arabic music with jazz. Brian Prunka on oud, Kenny Warren on trumpet, and Nathan Herrera on saxophone, flute, and bass clarinet make up the front line of this sextet, which is backed by a strong rhythm section, composed of Apostolos Sideris on bass, Vin Scialla, on riq, and George Mel on percussion. “Khartoum" features a call and response between the oud and the trumpet, with the trumpet establishing the melody, which is repeated by the oud, before the oud plays with the melody, extending and embellishing it, which leads to an exchange occurring between the trumpet and the oud. A strong debut recording, this album foretells good things to come.

Tunnel Six, Alive

This second full-length release by Tunnel Six exhibits considerable growth in the two years since their previous recording. The arrangements reveal how skilled the sextet has become at working together. Creating these complex arrangements in a live setting over a period of three days shows the quality of musicianship and how these musicians have evolved into a unified whole.

Jakob Bro, December Song (Loveland Records)

Jakob Bro’s December Song is one of the triptych of recordings featuring Lee Konitz and Bill Frisell, with Balladeering (2009) and Time (2011) making up the remaining panels. Presumably out of respect for Paul Motion, who appeared on Balladeering and died in 2011, this recording continues to be without a drummer and now features Craig Taborn on piano. Thomas Morgan fills the bass chair, having been present on Time as well. Often melancholic, this album requires time to fully appreciate the contributions of each musician. It’s perfect for a quiet morning, afternoon, or evening.

Sunna Gunnlaug, Distilled (Sunny Sky)

This second recording by Gunnlaugs’ trio differs from Long Pair Bond in that it is more of a collaborative effort, with more attention given to Thorgrimur Jonsson on bass and Scott McLemore on drums. McLemore opens “Momento,” “Gallop,” and “The New Now” while Jonsson opens “24H Trip” and “Things You Should Know,” for example. It’s another excellent example of jazz from Iceland.

Alexi Tuomarila Trio, Seven Hills (Edition)

This second recording by the Alexi Tuomarila trio, with Mats Eilertsen on bass and Olavi Louhivuori on drums, and with Andre Fernandes on guitar on two of the nine selections, was recorded in 2011 and not released until this year. The writing on Seven Hills reveals more complexity than what is found on Constellation (2006), the initial recording by the trio. “Seven Hills,” “Cyan,” “Jibeinia,” “Skuld,” and “Miss” are particularly strong and noteworthy.

Julia Hulsman Quartet, In Full View (ECM)

Julia Hulsman has expanded her trio, composed of Marc Muellbauer on bass and Heinrich Kobberling, into a quartet with the addition of Tom Arthurs on trumpet and flugelhorn. “Quicksilver,” “Gleim,” “Forever Old,” “The Water,” “Dedication,” “Snow, Melting,” and “Nana” are particularly strong.