Myra Melford
MYRA MELFORD / Photo: Bryan Murray / Courtesy of Fully Altered Media

JazzMatters: Best New Jazz and Creative Music – April 2022

Jazz critic Will Layman has been listening to classical piano and Afro-Cuban music in various forms. The best new jazz this month is also strong and extensive.

FRESH WAX

 

Roxy Coss – Disparate Parts (Outside in Music)

Roxy Coss - Disparate Parts

Roxy Coss has been recording with her quintet, usually featuring guitarist Alex Wintz, for about a decade. The band cooks, with Coss’ tenor having the aggressive heft and bright, slippery ease of Michael Brecker, but not without the woody roundness of Joe Lovano. Wintz and pianist Miki Yamanaka can play with some distortion as the compositions request it. “Part I: The Body”, for example, rocks like 1970s fusion in places but also swings like mad, with acoustic bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Jimmy Macbride making the date sound like high-1960s post-bop. Coss has recorded for the Posi-Tone label, where the bright and melodic/inside-the-lines qualities were nurtured.

This is that kind of date as well, but there are some tracks that are—pleasingly!—a bit more wide open, including the four short takes of Yamanaka’s theme “February”. Wintz contributes the lovely “Ely, MN” and Macbride wrote “Warm One”, a minor ballad that helps to balance the program.


Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, and Bill Stewart – Perpetual Pendulum (Smoke Session)

Perpetual Pendulum

Speaking of bands that have been together for a long time and cook, this trio is rare and wonderful: jazz organ, guitar, and drums. There was a time in the 1950s and ’60s when this configuration implied a certain greasy appeal, but Goldings’s organ sound has a cool, modern sheen that comes from Larry Young’s sound and that found a fusion-ish ideal in Jan Hammer’s playing on John Abercrombie’s ECM classic, Timeless. Bernstein is an ideal partner in creating that sound, making drummer Bill Stewart the hottest member of the band.

The balance works. The reworking of Gershwin on “Prelude” is sly, and the band’s take on “Come Rain or Come Shine” also manages to avoid almost every “jazz” cliche. They are best on more modern original tunes or on the adaptation of Wayne Shorter’s “United”, which cooks but with a hip sense of remove. My favorite track, maybe ironically, is the angular boogaloo “Lurkers”, where Stewart is a full rhythm section unto himself, surrounding the trio with lush cymbals and toms. Every solo throughout Perpetual Pendulum is tasty and smart.


Gerald Clayton – Bells on Sand (Blue Note)

Gerald Clayton - Bells on Sand

This, Gerald Clayton’s first studio recording for Blue Note, is a contrast to his Live at the Village Vanguard debut. I found it to be a grower: slow, impressionistic, and reflecting both Clayton’s classical training and the “European” shimmering ECM aesthetic we recently associate with Clayton’s mentor, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who appears on one exceptional track. More often, we hear Clayton with a trio (with his father, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Justin Brown) or solo.

Clayton the elder has a lovely moment featuring his lush arco bass on the opening “Water’s Edge”, and the leader’s two solo versions of the standard “My Ideal” are both wonders. The first reflects a couple of his influences (I hear both Monk and Kenny Barron). Meanwhile, the second is utterly different, incorporating electric and acoustic piano to create a lovely harmonic density that acts as a prelude to Lloyd’s feature on “Peace Invocation”. The young Portuguese singer MARO is featured with the trio on a floating “Damunt de tu Només les Flors,” by Spanish composer Federico Momoou, and also “Just a Dream” in duet with Clayton. Is this album beautiful to a fault, unrelieved by much contrast? No. It’s just beautiful.


Stephan CrumpRocket Love (Papillion Sounds)

Stephan Crump - Rocket Love

Stephan Crump has been, sneakily perhaps, one of the most important musicians on the scene for 20 years. His work in Vijay Iyer’s trio, alone, makes him one of the architects of the complex New Jazz that manages to use influences from post-bop jazz, classical New Music, and hip-hop and its soul forebears. His own recordings have often been more intimate, particularly in duets with guitarist Mary Halvorson, pianist James Carney, and alto saxophonist Steve Lehman.

This, however, is his first solo bass collection, culled from many hours of work he released for patrons during the pandemic, although the idea was in place before lockdown. Crump generates wonderful variety in a genre that can seem ponderous or tedious in lesser hands. The title track is a Stevie Wonder tune, full of rich, singing bottom that bursts into melody. Rodgers and Hart’s “It Never Entered My Mind” is a pure ballad, yet it helps you to realize that Wonder’s work is remarkably similar.

Monk’s “Pannonica” incorporates percussive hits on the wood of the instrument with the plucking of the strings (sometimes hard to distinguish). The Ellington/Strayhorn classic “Isfahan” makes generous use of double stops to create harmonic interest. Crump’s bowed bass is orchestral on “Lament”, which is split into two pieces at the start and (almost) end of the set. My favorite track, however, is “Whoof”, a playful groove piece that, well, barks at you and scampers too. I am tempted to call Rocket Love my favorite solo bass recording of all time. At a minimum, it is the most varied and fun.


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