Tiny Reviews: Carla Marciano, George Crowley, Espen Eriksen, Dave Stapleton, Sophie Alour, Andy Emler, & Bellbird

Tiny Reviews, featuring Carla Marciano Quartet Stream of Consciousness, George Crowley Quartet Paper Universe, and albums by Espen Eriksen, Dave Stapleton, Sophie Alour, Andy Emler, and Bellbird.



Carla Marciano Quartet – Stream of Consciousness

Saxophonist Carla Marciano is keyed in on the classic John Coltrane sound.  Channeling Coltrane’s early-60s period, when he’d deconstruct songs like “My Favorite Things” and rebuild them into dazzling towers of ferocity and loveliness, Marciano attacks compositions with the same zeal, and offers up a very cool recording.

Your album personnel:  Carla Marciano (alto & sopranino saxes), Alessandro La Corte (piano), Aldo Vigorito (bass), and Gaetano Fasano – drums

No better example of this is in Marciano’s rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which embraces the melody with warmth and respect, while simultaneously pouncing upon the song and turning it into something fiery and dramatic.

It’s a nice development from previous recordings Change of Mood and A Strange Day, nice enough recordings, but Marciano’s sound had a little too much polish and emotional subtlety, which made them, well, nice enough recordings.  For Stream of Consciousness, this is music that makes a statement.

Fans of Nat Birchall’s work on the Gondwana label should be sitting up and taking note here.  This is an album you’ll want to scoop up.

Released on the Alfa Music label.  Jazz from the Salerno, Italy scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


George Crowley Quartet – Paper Universe

A set of straight-ahead jazz from the new generation of UK jazz artists making their mark on the scene.  Decent soloing, decent interplay, solid album.  George Crowley‘s sax always has an edge to it, even in the album’s softer moments.  Kit Downes’ piano always seems to get an extra emotional kick, whether it’s here with Paper Universe‘s typically upbeat vibe or as a member of the far moodier Threads Orchestra.

Your album personnel:  George Crowley (tenor sax), Kit Downes (piano), Calum Gourlay (acoustic bass), and James Maddren (drums).

The thing of it is, this might not be the kind of album that makes a strong first impression, might even seem a bit ordinary at first.  But much like that acquaintance who reveals a dazzling personality over a stretch of time, so this album did with me.  Over the course of a couple months, I’ve gone from viewing this as a solid but unspectacular album to one that I look forward to hearing each time.  The character of the album may reveal itself slowly via the details, like the nifty way title-track “Paper Universe” builds to the grand finale with a rising tide of repetition to hit the final mark with luxuriant swell of waves that bring the tune gliding across the finish line is one of those engaging personality quirks that won me over.  I mention all this by way of cautioning that this is an album that deserves, and rewards, patience.

Released on Whirlwind Recordings.  Jazz from the UK scene.

Available on eMusic. Available on Amazon: CD


Espen Eriksen Trio – What Took You So Long

Sophomore release from moody piano trio.  Two feet solid in the Scandinavian jazz sound, where melodies are like clouds… look solid enough to touch, can never be grasped, and make for the best rainy day jazz.

Artist site Link.  Released on Rune Grammofon.  Available at eMusic.


Dave Stapleton – Flight

Piano quartet that throws a string quartet into the mix.  Album seems to suffer from a lack of identity.  Some straight ahead modern pieces, some that utilize strings for prettiness, others for a more dissonant touch.  Not an ordinary album, the kind that warrants revisiting.

Artist site Link.  Released on Edition Records.  Available at eMusic.


Sophie Alour – La Geographie des Reves

Nifty post-bop release by the French multi-reedist.  Rounds out a quintet with vibes, trumpet, bass, and drums.  Plenty of compositional asymmetry, as if the tunes attempt to swing while briskly walking down a flight of stairs.

Artist site Link.  Released on Naive Records.  Available at eMusic.


Andy Emler – E Total

Emler leads his “mega-octet” through a series of genre-defying compositions.  Strange, yet catchy.  High-tempo pieces are a fun listen, though it’s the quieter interludes that carry the day.

Artist site Link.  Released on La Buissonne.  Available at eMusic.


Bellbird – Transmitter

Nifty little sextet that includes instruments like bass clarinet, banjo, piano and various saxes and rhythm section instruments.  Almost more pop, really, than jazz.  Quirky tunes that are also catchy.  Jazz for the Neutral Milk Hotel fan.

Artist site Link.  Released on Whirlpool Music.  Available at eMusic.



The Carla Marciano and George Crowley reviews are original to Bird is the Worm.  However, portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2012  eMusic.com, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.