New Snarky Puppy album

Described as “led Zep meets P-Funk” in a recent review, here’s the flagship video release from Snarky Puppy’s new, live recorded album We like it here. An astonishing level of coherence, fantastic control of dynamics, compositional complexity and damn funkiness characterise this band’s performances, which just get better and better.
They are on tour in Europe again this year, unmissable for anyone with the slightest interest in the funkier side of the musical spectrum.

Grammy for Snarky Puppy

It’s always good to see an independent band getting some long-deserved recognition in a mainstream awards show.

Texas/New York based Snarky Puppy won a Grammy award last night in the category best R&B performance for their collaboration with Lalah Hathaway, Something, from their latest LP Family Dinner vol. 1.  It’s a phenomenal track, for Hathaway’s astounding vocals as much as Snarky Puppy’s trademark compositions which switch seamlessly across dramatically contrasting moods and tempos.

Something will probably be getting considerably more air-play in the coming months so here’s my favourite track from the same album, Gone Under featuring Shayna Steele, a revitalising blast of gospel-drenched soul jazz.

Farewell to Hall

Another remembrance post, this time for jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who died yesterday. Hall was present on an astonishing variety of great jazz albums as well as establishing a quiet but revolutionary set of recordings under his own name.  His accompaniment was always intelligent and nuanced; able to play apparently independent of pulse and harmony if necessary, and with a very modern sounding tone for a jazz guitarist, often more reminiscent of blues or folk than the usual be-bop lines.  Three contrasting tracks- the wonderful folk-jazz The train and the river, recorded with Jimmy Giuffre in 1957; then two duets, firstly the brooding and evocative Romain with pianist Bill Evans from the album Undercurrents; secondly the Sonny Rollins calypso classic St. Thomas, played  with bass player Ron Carter from a live concert recording.

Hail and Farewell

Don’t have time for more than a minimalist post at the moment, but wanted to mark the occasion…

HAIL to Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on his 80th birthday; doyen of the East German free jazz scene, not least because of his role in the wonderful and subversive quartets Synopsis and Zentralquartett. He was looking very frail when I saw them in the summer, but reports of a recent celebration of Frei Jazz Ost suggest that he’s still going strong.

FAREWELL to the amazing Stan Tracey, one of Britain’s finest jazz musicians of the 60s and 70s. Obituary here.

Playlist pairs- 7/4 time

A new album from Juana Molina starts off with a fine, moody, and angular composition in 7/4. Juana is an Argentine multi-instrumentalist with a long career as a musician, comedian and TV star; her latest solo album Wed 21. is a wonderfully offbeat discursion into electronic folk music.  More info from her label.

This music is quite distinctive and it’s hard to find a good matching track; so to pair it I’ve fallen back on my favourite 7/4 composition, Joe Zawinul’s 74 miles away, performed by the Cannonball Adderley sextet.



Playlist pairs- soft autumn

A new release by Polish pianist Leszek Możdżer weaves Chopin and folk themes together in beguiling ways. Here’s the brief Africa, written by bassist Lars Danielsson, a lyrical mixture of sweet and ever-so-slightly-bitter which resonates for my tastes with Peter Erskine’s mid nineties trio version of the Vince Mendoza composition Esperança, featuring John Taylor on piano and another Danielsson, Palle, on bass.

Playlist pairs- quirky indie folk playing quirky indie folk.

A beautiful, restless track from Tigran Hamasyan’s new album Shadow Theatre, featuring the amazing Areni Agbabian on (wordless) vocals. Lots of references came to mind when I heard this, from the piano playing of Bojan Z to the circular routines of Penguin Cafe Orchestra. But in the overall effect of music and video it seems to me this track shares an affinity with The Ruby Suns’ Tane Mahuta- both draw heavily on folk influences, are based on waltz time, build to emotional climaxes, and are accompanied by endearingly off-beat collage-style black and white films.