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What’s in the Mailbag?

What’s in the Mailbag?

I get more music in the mail than I can possibly get to while still working a full-time day job. I’m not complaining. A lot of this is really interesting stuff that deserves some ink, so every now and then I’ll revert to punk zine mode and just knock out a bunch of short reviews of music that almost got away. This time, we’re focused on some jazz records from all over the world.

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Gabriela Martina: Homage to Gramlis

Homage to Gramlis is Gabriela Martina’s love letter to her childhood home on a farm in Switzerland. Martina has spent the past 13 years in the United States singing jazz and learning all that the country can offer. As exciting as gigging around New York City can be, a girl gets homesick. Homage to Gramlis has songs about farming, family, and nature. Martina uses gospel, soul, jazz, rock, and folk styles to tell her tales. It took me by surprise when a song was developing like something by Ella Fitzgerald, only to have Gabriela break out the yodels.

Javon Jackson: “With Peter Bradley” Soundtrack and Original Score

(Solid Jackson)

This is the soundtrack to a documentary about the abstract artist Peter Bradley. Javon first met Bradley when he was playing with Art Blakey. Being a soundtrack, the compositions are focused and concise, with the aim of accentuating the personalities and situations in the film. It really makes for a likable jazz record. Jackson says what needs to be said, and then gets out of the way. There are nods to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Art Blakey along the way.

Kaze & Ikue Mori: Crustal Movements

(Libra Records)

Crustal Movements is another project that has its roots in the Covid lockdown. During the lockdown, the members of Kaze, who describe themselves as a “cooperative quartet,” traded sound files between themselves and pioneering laptop and electronics maestro Ikue Mori. When they were finally able to convene for recording, the group blended the sound files they’d been sharing with live improvisations. The sound is mostly out there, which is to be expected when Mori is collaborating with pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura (French trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins round out the group).

Crustal Movements features a lot of sounds being thrown together. At one point, it felt like Fujii’s piano was playing a duet with a howling teakettle. Pruvost and Tamura often take off on flights, playing every sound a trumpet can make except notes. Throughout the disc, Ikue Mori supplies a variety of sounds and textures of indeterminate origins. It’s far out there, and it’s fun.

Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles.

(One Trick Dog Records)

Ben Rosenblum is a composer, pianist, and jazz accordion player based out of New York. The Nebula Project is Rosenblum’s vehicle for exploring interconnection and possibilities. Like an astronomical nebula, the band has the potential to develop and coalesce in any number of ways. The compositions have a broad, cinemascope feel. “The Bell of Europe” gives off a majestic hero’s progress vibe. “Bulgarde,” although based on Bulgarian folk music, gives me a spaghetti western feel. “The Village Steps” is a swinging showcase for Ben’s accordion.

The centerpiece of the album is the four-part “A Thousand Pebbles” suite. The piece begins with a hymn-like introduction inspired by Ben’s memories of going to synagogue on the high holidays. “Road to Recollection” takes off on a journey of discovery in what Ben describes as a “prog-rock hard bop” style. “The Gathering” is inspired by everything Wayne Shorter. “The Living Streams” returns us to the trumpet-forward meditation of the intro.

Brian McCarthy Nonet: _After Life_

(Truth Revolution)

Nebulas also play a role in Brian McCarthy’s new record, _After Life_ Rather than the metaphorical nebula, actual nebulas inspire McCarthy; the compositions on this disc are base on the life cycle of the universe. You don’t often hear songs based on Johannes Kepler’s law of planetary motion (“Kepler’s Law”). The “After Life Suite” forms the centerpiece of the album and thematically takes on the creation, destruction, and recreation of the planet we live on.

The Nonet is essentially a big band on a budget. The sound is full and rich, with plenty of room for the soloists to step up and show their stuff.

Bruno Råberg: Solo Bass Look Inside

Finally, we’ll end with some introspective, solo bass work from Bruno Råberg. Råberg imagined these pieces as being a kind of dialog with the listener. With the idea of dialog, Råberg felt free to leave space in the music and allow the musical improvisation to play him. Bruno’s playing is a dance between the composed and improvised. Some of the pieces are straight improvisation, some are straight readings of compositions, with most being some kind of combination of the two. He pays tribute to some of his heroes by including “Nardis” (Miles Davis) and “Prelude to a Kiss” (Duke Ellington). www.

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Featured photo by Eckhart Derschmidt.

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