Here’s a quick look at a few new releases to cross the CirdecSongs. Some are not the newest records, merely “new to me” and worthy of a word or two. This is what happens when you try to hear everything. Sooner or later, something gets missed. Enjoy them, nevertheless.
BRAIN SALAD, Brain Salad (2020). A young quartet from Nashville, Tennessee, Brain Salad’s self-titled debut is a bold step into the world of fusion a la Jazz is Dead or Snarky Puppy. The band shows not only its sizable chops, but the ability to present them with pleasant hooks that won’t alienate neophytes to the genre. The band offers respect to jazz’s past while bringing forth their own modern voicing (as witnessed on their cover of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”), which one can only imagine continues to develop by the day. This is a band worthy of attention, destined to be seen at prog- and jazz-driven festivals once they return.
DEZRON DOUGLAS, Black Lion (2018). There’s nothing easy about being dubbed a prodigy in music. Before anyone hears a note, the musician of interest is already burdened with the expectation of sound created by his predecessors. Bassist Dezron Douglas has no doubt suffered the slings and arrows of being associated with Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke, and Christian McBride, among who-knows how many others. Which is why its refreshing to answer the question, “Whom does he sound most like?” on his album Black Lion with, “NONE of them!” Douglas has managed to walk the tightrope of respecting jazz tradition without replicating it. The songs may have an old-school feel, but they are full of youthful exuberance Douglas even manages to swing his way into reggae (with an electric bass) in completely carefree fashion. The only thing I don’t like about this album is I found it some 18 months after its release.
MICHAEL JANISCH, Worlds Collide (2019). Speaking of bassists, the U.K.’s Michael Janisch has offered up a tasty bit of 21st century jazz by way of his latest album, released last fall. Worlds Collide is jazz without the blues, a la many of the artists on England’s Gondwana label. Janisch is a tasteful player, more than capable of leading from the side as well as from the front. He offers up tasteful, straight-forward grooves with the occasional twists a Bill Bruford might offer, as well as a splash of the avant-garde. Tunes like “Frocklebot” keep listeners delightfully off-balance, while songs like “Another London” allow the band to swing along in “new school” fashion. And then there’s “Pop,” which offers tastes of post-rock and Joe Pass. A most diverse album from a wonderfully eclectic musician.
AURORA CLARA, Transformation (2019). Hailing from Madrid, Spain, Aurora Clara is a band firmly in touch with its inner Mahavishnu Orchestra. For the briefest of moments, Transformation sounds like an update of The Inner Mounting Flame. But it doesn’t take long for the quintet to step out into its own musical direction, even as they bring Mahavishnu alum Jerry Goodman (violin) along for the ride on the album’s opener, “Aktur.” There’s a fine line between being influenced and being derivative. Fortunately, the band stays on the right side of said line. The album draws inspiration from nearly every corner of music, be it jazz, flamenco, progressive rock, blues, or other genres. And while it would be easy to turn this record into a self-indulgent shred-fest, the musical lead is tastefully passed between guitarist Raul Mannola, flutist Juan Carlos Aracil, and keyboardist Stanislov Borisov, while bassist Nill Oliveria and drummer Marco Anderson lock down rock-solid grooves. Those seeking the future of jazz fusion need look no further than this band. They are a force to be reckoned with.
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Good stuff. I particularly liked the Aurora Clara album.