Monday, February 16, 2009

2008 Round Up Pt. 4

More worthy releases from last year that we missed.

Mary Halvorson/Jessica Pavone/Devin Hoff/Ches Smith
Calling All Portraits
(2008, Skykap)

Calling All Portraits is worthy of much more than I am able to say in this little space. In fact, the album is probably the instigator to the writers block I’ve had for the past couple weeks. Consisting of a veritable who’s who of the Brooklyn improve/free jazz scene, Calling All Portraits is a nimble, engaging whirlwind of a record that could only come from talent such as this. The instrumentation is as follows: Halvorson on guitar, Pavone on viola (I think), Hoff on bass and Smith on drums. Each band member takes turns leading the rest of the crew for thick ride that is equal parts composed and improvised, dealing in both free jazz and chamber classical, and all without any of fatty, unlistenable chunks that usually accompany such music. A real tour de force and probably my favourite jazz album of last year.

The Versailles Sessions
(12.2008, Leaf)

Culled from compositions prepared specifically for a festival in Versailles in 2007, Murcof makes a bit of a departure from his patented electronics with six tracks composed solely with 17th century baroque instruments. Pitched as unique project to be consumed in-between ‘proper’ releases, The Versailles Sessions certainly holds its own as another monument to Murcof’s eclectic, powerful musicianship. Dark and brooding with a sense of an ancient world twisted into the present, The Versailles Sessions morph with a fluid ease that can only be attributed to inspiration. A beautifully dynamic disc with surprising replay value.

Arve Henriksen
(10.2008, ECM Records)

Rune Grammofon mainstay and Supersilent co-founder, has wandered from his home label for his fourth solo release with ECM. I don’t have any background on the label change, but it doesn’t really seem to matter since the already highly esteemed Norwegian trumpeter has created such a devastatingly gorgeous release with Cartography. Extremely measured and soulful with the kind of soul that seem to only be available to the trumpet, Henriksen builds on the shoulders of his prior work with heartbreaking trumpet lines that are often accompanied by vocal specters that float and intertwine with the instrumentation. Cartography is simply gorgeous and worthy of a much better equipped write up. Probably tied with Calling All Portraits as jazz album of 2008.

-Mr. Thistle

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