Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Owls, Etc

I've been checking out drummer Jeff Cosgrove's new trio record of improvised pieces and standards, Conversations With Owls. The most striking piece on the record is a sort of reverie on "My Favorite Things", a wholly successful approach to the familiar tune that's miles away from both Julie Andrews and John Coltrane. Cosgrove and bassist Martin Wind lay a perfect foundation for pianist Frank Kimbrough as he allows the melody to slowly emerge, as if rising up out of a dream. The set's other standard, "I Loves You Porgy", has a similar dreamy quality and is beautifully played by all, though it represents a more familiar approach for this tune than the reinvention of "My Favorite Things". Of the free pieces, "Stacks of Stars" is exemplary. It begins with solo bass, then the drums enter, Kimbrough appearing about two minutes in with some off-kilter music-box sounds, eventually finding a groove before the trio lets things fall apart. "The Shimmer", effectively sequenced after "My Favorite Things", brings the album to a strong conclusion with a brief but memorably thematic improvisation. Conversations With Owls is a rewarding listen start to finish, and it has me wanting to investigate Frank Kimbrough's music further. I tried to come up with some reference points for his sound on this album - Paul Bley, Russ Lossing, Ran Blake, Craig Taborn - but none of those were really right.

Prior to this album, Cosgrove recorded a number of compositions by Paul Motian, whose music I've been listening to lately in podcast form. Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet, hosted (appropriately) by the great drummer's niece, is a community radio show out of Maine that features a wide range of Motian-related recordings, including some real rarities. More info is available here and you can listen here. I thought I knew a lot about Motian's career, but I'm learning and hearing new things every episode. Here's an intriguing album I learned about from listening to the show: it's got a stellar lineup and a very similar title to the one discussed above.

A couple new and upcoming albums I'm looking forward to are Mikal Cronin's MCIII (if III is as much of a leap forward from II as II was from the self-titled debut, it'll be a mind-blower, and the two tracks I've heard so far suggest it might be) and another third album, You've Been Watching Me, from Tim Berne's Snakeoil, this time with the addition of Ryan Ferreira on guitar. I've seen Ferreira play with Berne on a few occasions, as well as in a John Adams concert at BAM, and I'm excited to hear him on record as part of what seems to be Berne's flagship band these days.

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