I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 450 new releases so far this year. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. So every week, I’ll offer hot takes on the releases of the preceding seven days. it’s a great writing exercise, and a lot of fun, too.
Lately, a lot of music from Argentina has been finding it’s way to me via the ears&eyes Records label documenting what seems to be a vibrant improvised music scene. Earlier this year I reviewed Camilla Nebbia’s “Aura,” which fell just outside my ten favorite releases of 2020. Unilke Nebbia, whose name was completely new to me, pianist Leo Genovese, formerly the pianist in Esperanza Spalding’s band, is a known quantity.
For about 35 years I prowled various dark corners of the advertising/PR/marketing world, a place that’s governed by deadlines. To maintain my sanity, and to feel that I might contribute something to the world, I started writing cultural journalism as a newspaper freelancer. Both of those paths have come to an end (though I’m keeping my fingers crossed about my newspaper gig returning), but I still crave the adrenaline rush of a deadline. Like caffeine, a deadline is a stressor I simply can’t seem to live without.
To be sure, I’m still writing. That much can be confirmed by scrolling through this blog, but somehow, blogging didn’t satisfy the way bylines did. So I went looking for some, and I found Rob Shepherd, publisher of PostGenre Media, through my membership in the Jazz Journalists Association. Through Rob’s kindness, I’ve published three reviews there with more on the way. You can read them here.
All About Jazz has been around a long time, but I never thought of asking to write for it. A few weeks ago, with the encouragement of Mark Corotto, an AAJ contributor whose Xeroxed newsletter published my first jazz writing a very long time ago, I joined the AAJ staff. My first review for the site, of Dafnis Prieto’s “Transparency,” can be read here.
I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to publish in places that are not, well, this place. No, I’m not going to give up the blog. And who knows, these new writing assignments might unleash a flood of creativity that will spill over to let’s call this. That’s the kind of motivation a bunch of deadlines can provide.
Last December, a million years ago, my wife and I went to Cleveland’s Bop Stop to hear vocalist LaTanya Hall, who was touring to support her new CD (I reviewed concert and CD here and here respectively). As wonderful as her performance was, it was hard not to be mesmerized by the A-list trio assembled by pianist Andy Milne, Hall’s husband.
After the show, Milne told me that the trio, bassist John Hèbert and drummer Clarence Penn, had just finished a recording for Sunnyside for release in the spring. Well, it’s here and it’s something special.
“Resolution,” the second track on “The reMission,” opens with an ominous bass note and measured taps on a drum. When you know that “The reMission” was inspired by Milne’s recovery from a 2017 cancer diagnosis, those drum taps seem to mark the rhythm of an IV drip. The slow, haunted melody that emerges as though from a mist, unavoidably evokes the blurry sensations of someone just regaining consciousness.
There’s no sense of triumph here; “The reMission” has all the seriousness, deep focus and banked-fire emotion of an ECM date, and I mean that as a compliment. Beautifully recorded (by Mike Marciano and Max Ross at Brooklyn’s Systems Two), it also has a fair amount of the German label’s characteristic reverb.