Records in heavy rotation the past week, simply because they are awfully good and highly recommended:
Noah Preminger: Haymaker – this has been out since the spring, and the impression on first listen is that it’s a solid but not particularly notable jazz group session. After catching a rousing live set from Preminger and band at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, I began to spin it more and more, and each listen reveals compelling depth. This is a quintessential and excellent example of contemporary jazz: harmonically involving vehicles for improvisation, a rhythmic identity that ranges from post-Elvin Jones modern swing to rock, and a dip into the contemporary popular songbook with “Tomorrow” and Dave Matthews’ “Don’t’ Drink the Water.” Preminger is a quietly intense, expressive player, with a physical solidity supporting an appreciable tenderness. The only thing missing is the disc can’t capture his charming wise-assery onstage. I can’t stop listening to it.
- Rose Hips ‘n’ Ships: The Seafarer – the debut album for local musician Katherine Perkins and band. A winning and satisfyingly mature set of songs that express some of the beauty and romance of the America that mostly exists in our imagination. The music is a unique blend of modern roots and sea shanties, with a touch of jazz, and Perkins sings with a sweet, throaty lilt.
- Painkiller: The Prophecy – what a find! Live playing from 2004-2005 from one of John Zorn’s finest bands, this time a trio configuration with Zorn, Bill Laswell on bass and Yoshida Tatsuya on drums. Short “Prelude” and “Postlude” bookend the title track, sixty-four minutes of driving, vital improvisation. It is completely gripping. Zorn plays with remarkable power and playful ease, Tatsuya is supportive, propulsive and keeps the textures open, and this is by far the finest playing I’ve ever heard from Laswell; he’s inventive, self-effacing and never sacrifices ideas and clarity for effect. This is at the top rank of Zorn’s entire discography, amazing and essential.
- Hush Point – another winning band led by trumpeter John McNeil, with Jeremy Udden on sax, Aryhe Kobrinsky on bass and Vinnie Sperazza on drums. McNeil is the foremost proponent of the West Coast school of jazz. This has long been disparaged as overly-cool and overly-white (how then to explain Lester Young, Miles Davis, Art Pepper and Charlie Mariano?), but that’s an excuse not to listen. The standard model of jazz is extroverted, songs as launching points for egocentric improvisation, with the rhythm section comping. This style is introverted in the sense that the musicians are in a constant close musical dialogue with each other, it’s call and response with a lyrical basis, not bound by roles, and is a precursor to Ornette Coleman’s revolution. Listen, and you’ll hear brilliant musicians talking to you, they’re just not shouting.