The Best Jazz on Bandcamp: March 2019

Jazz

Well, hell. February’s deluge of excellent new music has carried right on into March, which means your wishlist is just gonna keep getting longer. That’s not a complaint; there’s no such thing as too much good stuff. If there’s one quality that all of this month’s selections have in common, it’s the idea of statement—saying something sonically that transcends the music theory behind it.

View the Best Jazz on Bandcamp Archives.

KOKOROKO
KOKOROKO

The debut from KOKOROKO turns joy into a method of locomotion. This octet’s fusion of modern jazz and Afrobeat inspires dance, but it also has such a strong melodic force that makes you stop in place and bask in its beauty. KOKOROKO’s meditative groove “Abusey Junction” kicked up some dust on 2018’s Brownwood Recordings’ We Out Here, a compilation of music from the London scene. Their self-titled EP shows that their ability to groove is no less effective at greater speeds.

Elder Ones
From Untruth

Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones debut was a protest album that came at just the right time. With a new administration that seemed to celebrate the worst humanity had to offer, Holy Science was a fist in the air. With an opening track titled “Eat the Rich,” the ensemble makes it apparent right from get-go that their sophomore release isn’t backing down. As before, avant-garde is the guiding force of expression, and intonations, both vocal and instrumental, make their home in the place where raw intensity transforms into a cathartic release.

Goran Kajfeš
Tropiques

The sound of Goran Kajfeš is constantly traveling. His aesthetic is a fascinating collision of modern avant-garde and old-school psychedelic jazz—which, in and of itself, is pretty damn intriguing. But that approach is just the foundation for the influence of folk musics of Turkey, Africa, Sweden, and the Balkans (to name just a few), which infuses the music with brilliant textures and vibrant imagery. The trumpeter’s sophomore release with his Tropiques ensemble (featuring pianist Alexander Zethson, bassist Johan Berthling, drummer Johan Homegard, and bass clarinetist Christer Bothén) is more of the good stuff, and yet more evidentiary material on why Goran Kajfeš is one of the most exciting musicians on the scene.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Ancestral Recall

There are a great many things to appreciate about the music of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. It is both forward-thinking and tethered to the past. It is embraceable as a pop tune, yet it’s also a puzzle asking to be solved. It’s sonic fuel for a night out on the town, and perfectly suited for drifting away into daydreams. And, always, there’s a musicianship that is a marvel to experience. But perhaps what distinguishes the trumpeter as one of the giants of the modern scene is that his music makes a statement. There’s a visionary nature to each of his albums that behaves almost as a proclamation of what is and what could be, and music is the vehicle Adjuah utilizes to advance those thoughts and feelings into action. The result is an abounding joyousness, making this LP a must-buy.

Colunia
Zéphyr

There’s an addictive quality to the sound of Emilie Chevillard’s chromatic harp, especially when it suddenly emerges in the center of Colunia’s songs. The effect is potent; it works when the quartet of Chevillard, drummer Florian Chaigne, saxophonist Gweltaz Hervé, and bassist Emeric Chevalier (plus guests on guitar, trumpet, sitar, and vocals) patiently nurture a melody to full bloom, and it’s even more intoxicating when they hit the gas pedal and speed things along. But it’s not just about the harp; the quartet’s knack for dramatic lyricism leads to all kinds of fireworks and surprises.

Liisi Salumaa
Edi

Of the vast array of instrumental combinations, none have quite the same “fire and ice” feel as the pairing of guitar and vibraphone. Together, the instruments combine beckoning heat with sharp, crisp melodic phrasing, creating a hypnotic effect that’s tough to shake. Bassist Liisi Salumaa amplifies this quality by adding her vocals to the mix. This is an album that demands total immersion in every note and every phrase, and just getting lost in the sound.

Maurice Louca
Elephantine

Elephantine is rooted in Arabic, Yemeni, and African musics, and it’s shot through with the influence of spiritual and cosmic jazz, ambient minimalism, improvisational divergences, and lush large ensemble orchestrations. That itemized list still doesn’t encapsulate the kaleidoscopic explosion of textures and sounds on Maurice Louca’s fascinating new release. Sometimes, it’s best to just call a work “experimental,” because to list out its ingredients individually is to lose sight of its stunning majesty when taken as a whole. On Elephantine, Louca is a visionary.

Typical Sisters
Hungry Ghost

The contrasting natures of the different types of music on display in Hungry Ghost is its most compelling aspect. The Typical Sisters trio of guitarist Gregory Uhlmann, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Matt Carroll have a succinct melodic perspective, but they express it in volleys. Sometimes, they let a phrase slowly fade into obscurity just before another volley is unleashed. That this music is both immediate and lingering creates a sensation of elasticity that gives the music a quality bordering on ethereal.

Marker
New Industries

New Industries is a fascinating conversation of dissonance and groove, appealing to both the listener who wants something catchy and the listener who wants to burn it all down. The quintet of multi-reedist Ken Vandermark, drummer Phil Sudderberg, keyboardist-violinist Macie Stewart, and guitarists Andrew Clinkman and Steve Marquette walk the fine line between these opposite forms of expression. Additional intrigue is generated by a double-disc comprised of studio and live versions of new material, which provide an opportunity to compare side-by-side how the quintet approaches the material in two very different settings.

Hvalfugl
Som En Faldskærm

Much like waves crashing on the shore, the music of the trio Hvalfugl is both powerful and calming. Guitarist Jeppe Lavsen, pianist Jonathan Fjord Bredholt, and double bassist Anders Juel Bomholt don’t rely solely on tranquility. Sometimes their music erupts with volatility; sometimes it growls. But just like those ocean tides, the spikes of intensity seem to accentuate the soothing nature of the music rather than contradict it. Their newest release sticks to the same mix of modern jazz, ambient pop, and Nordic folk that marked the trio’s excellent 2017 debut By—and thank God for that. Their follow-up doesn’t fall off, even slightly.

Robert Stillman
Reality

It’s best to simply call this “roots music,” because you can veer off in any number of directions when attempting to describe the music of Robert Stillman. To get at the heart of what makes an album like Reality special is the way all of those ingredients exert influence upon one another. It’s the type of cross-pollination that effects change through the song in the soil, and the melody carried upon the breeze. The multi-instrumentalist crafts a sound that hints strongly at folk musics past and long forgotten, even while channeling it through expressions that are thoroughly modern. His excellent John Fahey tribute project provides some insight into what makes his music tick.

-Dave Sumner

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