New(ish) recordings of note:
Eric Revis In Memory of Things Yet Seen Wow, a really fun listen! Great tunes and a beautifully mysterious line-up: Darius Jones, Bill McHenry, and Chad Taylor, with Branford Marsalis on two tracks. Frequently the reference is the kind of blistering avant-garde music from the 60's Leroi Jones dubbed "New Black Music." But I haven't enjoyed a record made in that style so much as this one in years. Truthfully the compositional element trumps freedom, and on some tracks the horns don't even improvise. Revis's provocative and groovy bass is recorded well; the production overall is excellent. Branford sounds great in this context. It's more standard turf for Darius and Bill, and when they intertwine both pay attention to building a statement, not just blowing their brains out. Chad Taylor is a relatively new name for me; I'm paying attention as of now.
Bill's group with Eric, Orrin Evans, and Andrew Cyrille is at the Village Vanguard starting tonight. Cut and pasted from the website:
June 24 – June 29
Bill McHenry-sax, Andrew Cyrille-d,
Orrin Evans-p, Eric Revis-b (Tuesday, Wednesday)
Duo: Bill McHenry & Andrew Cyrille (Thursday)
Ben Monder-gtr, Reid Anderson-b (Friday & Saturday)
David Bryant-p, Jonathan Michel-b (Sunday)
Johnathan Blake Gone, But Not Forgotten Another seriously entertaining date. Who doesn't want to hear Mark Turner and Chris Potter try to cut each other in a bare bones situation? Actually the superb repertoire choices ensure that the testosterone stays at a managable level: Johnathan has selected pieces by recently departed masters Charles Fambrough, Trudy Pitts, Sid Simmons, Cedar Walton, Jim Hall, Mulgrew Miller, Paul Motian, Frank Foster, Frank Wess and Eddie Harris. Nifty arrangements with a very full sound despite the absence of piano. In this case I have to fault the production a bit, for Ben Street's bass really should be louder. Very swinging drumming and nice notes by David Adler, though. The standout track for me so far is "Firm Roots," I'm tempted to transcribe both Mark and Chris burning through this famous steeplechase.
Hiroko Sasaki Debussy Preludes The most unusual thing about Hiroko's recording – which is technically and musically excellent by any standard – is the instrument, a 1873 Pleyel. The sonority is grainier and more intimate than usual, and makes these familiar works sound new. "Historically informed performance practice" is one of the most exciting areas of classical music, and naturally sonority is one of the most important elements in that voyage of discovery.
That said, if you don't know the Debussy Preludes, than this wonderful recording is still a good place to start. (That's not true of all historical instrument recordings I've heard.)
When Sarah Deming interviewed Hiroko a few years ago for Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, I especially enjoyed this exchange:
Sarah: What does classical music have to teach us in the 21st century?
Hiroko: You tell me! Actually, I think about this quite a bit. Sometimes it feels so silly to me, everyone playing the same old repertoire that has already been played by millions of people. It’s not like the old days, when recordings were not readily available, and people had to go to a concert to hear music, and the performers were closer, culturally, to the composers. Or the really old days, when the performers were the composers. Having said that, these are great works of art that have survived the test of time. We can always go back to them and be nourished. I often notice that my impressions of a certain historical time and place are quite vivid, though they are informed almost entirely by music. Classical music takes people to different places in space and in time.