Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Albums of 2011: Kris Davis

JazzWrap revisits a great year of discoveries in 2011.

Kris Davis (piano)
Aeriol Piano (Clean Feed; 2011)

A solo performance from Kris Davis is something not to be missed. On Aeriol Piano, Davis deploys various themes and imagery that are both spellbinding and invigorating. She improvises and moves with dense angles that lead you on a complicated journey but its one that will surprise you.

The complexity of Davis' compositions are sometimes reminiscent of Keith Jarrett or Friedrich Gulda. High praise but Kris Davis is the real deal. Just as John Escreet is creating modern ideas that are moving jazz forward; Kris Davis is moving the idea of free-jazz and minimalism is can go either further.

Check out our original piece on Aeriol Piano.

Best Albums of 2011: Kevin Brow

JazzWarp revisit a great year of discoveries in 2011.

Kevin Brow (drums)
Dolls & Guns (Blackout Music;2011)
With various collaborators

Drummer, composer, Kevin Brow released his third album, Dolls & Guns (his first two were with his group Koptor) this year and it didn't disappoint.

A unique mixture of improvisation, minimalism and classic themes, Dolls & Guns is an album that demands repeated listens. Featuring 13 collaborators, Brow has managed to make each piece highly rewarding and different. You get the feeling that each piece could be developed into its own full length album.

Kevin Brow's main outfit, Koptor, is more a modern jazz quartet. As a solo artist, Brow has presented a beautiful work in Dolls & Guns that demonstrates his stature as leader and composer are growing rapidly. Definitely an artist to look out for in 2012. Check out our extended piece on Dolls & Guns.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Albums of 2011: A Giraffe

JazzWrap revisits a great year of discoveries in 2011.

A Giraffe (group)

Under A Table (self produced; 2011)
Joe Santa Maria (sax)
Mike Lockwood (drums)
Steve Blum (piano)
Emilio Terranova (bass)

Hailing from California, A Giraffe was a pleasant surprise when I first gave it a spin. They are contemporary but with just enough young bite that it standouts from a crowded field. The band's debut, Under A Table features some fine performances circling around some complex structures. Tracks like "You Shouldn'tven't" and "Crucial Present" demonstrate the quartet's flare for excitement. But at its heart, A Giraffe are a modern group with some fascinating ideas rolled into the mindset of four excellent musicians.

The opening track "A Ranger" has multiple counterpoints and is driven by some great improvising by Blum and Santa Maria.  Lockwoods drums cut across the plan is crisp, sharp fashion; along with Terranova's pounding drone-like bassline. Check out our full discussion of Under A Table as well as the interview we conducted a few months ago.

Best Albums of 2011: ASA Trio

JazzWrap revisits a great year of discoveries in 2011.

ASA Trio (group)
Plays the music of Thelonious Monk (self produced; 2011)
Scott McLemore (drums)
Anders Thor (guitar)
Agnar Mar Magnusson (organ)

When I first heard ASA Trio I was blown away. Now almost 12 months later, I'm still stunned by the unity and excitement this trio can generate. Their debut full length, Plays The Music Of Thelonious Monk is fueled by leader, Agnar Mar Magnusson's driving organ. A challenging mixture of John Patton and Larry Young, Magnusson knows when to swing and when to pull back. Both McLemore and Thor add the colourful force around that help the trio's drastically different selections on Plays Monk. The trio move from bluesy rhythms of "Raise Four" to the resounding version of "Straight No Chaser."

ASA Trio was a refreshing discovery earlier this year and I've been trying to spread the news to as many friends as possible. You don't get trios like this very often. Especially a trio led by the organ. Plays The Music Of Thelonious Monk is and album that let's everyone know ASA Trio is a group that must be heard!