THREE new recordings -- two vastly different trios and a quintet augmented by four string players -- illustrate the versatility and ingenuity of jazz and help explain, yet again, why it is such a vibrant music.
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The Fred Hersch Trio, led by the acclaimed New York pianist, blurs the lines between live and studio recording on Floating (Palmetto).
Hersch has had a run with live recordings in the past few years: Alone at the Vanguard (2011); Alive at the Vanguard (2012) with his trio of bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson; and a duo with bright, young guitarist Julian Lage on Free Flying (2013).
Floating is the trio's first time back in the studio since Hersch's Whirl (2010), a comeback album after being in an AIDS-related coma, and it has the feel of a club date.
The three musicians had just come off a week at the Vanguard, and a working band just off the stage of a top club changes the dynamic in the studio.
Floating opens with the chestnut You & The Night & The Music, transformed by a Latin feel, while the title track floats along as the title suggests.
The CD tracking replicates a live show in that standards and originals are mixed. Hersch likes to dedicate songs to people, and Arcata, with its Cuban rhythm, is for bassist Esperanza Spalding. Home Fries, with some New Orleans swing, is for Hébert, and Far Away is dedicated to the late, young pianist Shimrit Shoshan, McPherson's wife.
The closer, Monk's Let's Cool One, is a gem from a sympatico band of musicians.
(Guess where the trio is booked for a week starting tomorrow.)
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Saxophonist Joshua Redman's Trios Live (Nonesuch) is a bluesy, extroverted romp through three originals and four covers ranging from Monk to Led Zeppelin.
Redman offers a hint of Sonny Rollins in style and repertoire choice with the opener, Moritat (Mack the Knife), ranging from beautiful solo reflections to crowd-pleasing squawks and groans.
Redman whirls through Monk's Trinkle, Tinkle and chases through Zeppelin's The Ocean. Soul Dance, one of two tunes where he switches from tenor to soprano sax, is a real groover.
Drummer Gregory Hutchinson appears on all tracks, while bassist Matt Penman appears on the four tracks recorded in 2009 in New York and bassist Reuben Rogers appears on three from a 2013 club date in Washington, D.C.
Each trio is a formidable lineup, and the lack of a chordal instrument such as piano or guitar lets Redman range freely, and that is always a good thing.
The saxophonist dedicates the recording to everyone who comes out to support live music: "You are here. You were there. You made it possible."
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Danish bassist Anne Mette Iversen divides her time between Berlin and New York, where she is a member of the musician collective Brooklyn Jazz Underground.
Her latest, So Many Roads (BJU Records), is a six-piece suite performed by her Double Life collective: her jazz quintet with John Ellis (saxophones), Peter Dahlgren (trombone), Danny Grissett (piano) and Otis Brown III (drums), along with 4Corners, a string quartet of players from the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The jazz and classical elements are right in sync, which is not always the case in hybrid music projects, in this 36-minute suite that highlights Iversen's performance and compositional skills.
The recording opens with the 31/2-minute solo bass Prologue before mixing strings and bop rhythms over the six sections, which are really a single work.
The writing for the strings and the improvisatory nature of a jazz quintet go a long way to breaking down perceived barriers between the two.
Ellis and Grissett shine on the improvisation side for a disc that takes you away from jazz mainstream for a wonderful, if short, time.