Some [brief] thoughts on a few 2011 jazz releases
Kit Downes Trio - Quiet Tiger
Kit Downes is still young but seems to have been around a long time working in many bands. He came to most people's attention with his last album which was nominated for the Mercury Prize. It was a great album; this one is even better. It is broader, more complex and more accomplished. Brass and cello allow the band to expand their sound. Highly recommended.
Brad Mehldau - Live in Mariac
I like Mehldau but have never really loved him. This is a double album solo live album. The recording is excellent, his technique faultless. It contains Mehldau's normal mix of originals, standards and pop/rock covers (Lithium, Martha My Dear, Exit Music, Lilac Wine). But despite all its qualities there is something missing. I find myself bored quite quickly and it all feels a little cold.
Gwilym Simcock - Good Days at Schloss Elmau
Another live solo album, this one by the young welsh pianist. This shares the same qualities as the Mehldau - technically brilliant, beautifully recorded. But for a reason I can't identify I warm to this a lot more. Simcock is one of the most talented and interesting pianists around at the moment.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing - The Coimbra Concert
And this is one of the most interesting jazz groups around. More than 2 hours of brilliant jazz, sometimes frantically played and dense, at other time spacious. There is humour throughout including the cover - there isn't even a pianist in the group. One line from a review captures the album "The band switches between a New Orleans' marching band on "Round Bottom, Square Top" to a piano-less Miles Davis/Coltrane ensemble on "Factoryville," that morphs a blues into an Indian raga with a ringing telephone". The interplay between Peter Evans on trumpet and Jon Irabagon on sax is superb. Sometimes verges on being a bit too free for me but this is probably my album of the year so far.
Joe Lovano - Bird Songs
Lovano feels like the busiest man in jazz over the last few years and has released lots of very fine albums. His latest is a tribute to Charlie Parker and is a mixture of reasonably straight ahead interpretations and more dramatic reinventions. Like the Mehldau I can hear that this is a great album but I haven't really warmed to it yet.
Aethenor - En Form for Blå
Finally an album that is on the edge of jazz. It reminds me of Supersilent and Miles Davis - On the Corner. It has drones, distortion (one of the members is in Sunn O)))), krautrock grooves and more ambient passages. Hard to define but very impressive.