Tiny Reviews – Recapping the Best of 2011 (Part 1)

Featuring Tiny Reviews of Best of 2011 Jazz Albums by:  Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Susana Santos Silva, Steven Lugerner, Francis Drake, Jean Lapouge, Omer Avital, and Fabrice Sotton.



So, I’m gonna briefly hit on some of the albums that were standouts for 2011.  There were a lot, and those are just the ones I know about, so this series may not end for awhile.  Tentatively, I’m thinking I’ll keep this series limited to seven tiny reviews per post, an album for every day of the week.

Let’s begin…


Marcin Wasilewski Trio – Faithful

This follow-up to the Marcin Wasilewski Trio’s 2008 release January doesn’t build anything different or wander off in strange new directions.  This is not a bad thing, though, because January was one of the 2008’s best.  Wasilewski’s sound on piano is sometimes introspective, sometimes meditative, and it rarely ever lifts a fist up in anger.  Slawomir Kurkiewicz is mostly a wallflower, but when he does step forward, the sound he attains in the spotlight is quite dramatic while also understated.  Michal Miskiewicz has a consistent pitter patter, like stones skipping over the water.

It’s a fine line between serene and sleepy, and Wasilewski has displayed a talent at keeping things interesting.  Even at its quietest moments, Faithful has a tiny fire lit under the composition that keeps the brain anchored on the tune.

Released on the ECM label.  Over an hour of serene modern piano trio jazz.  Jazz from Poland.

Available at Amazon: CD MP3


Susana Santos Silva – Devil’s Dress

Devil's DressThe debut album for Susana Santos Silva‘s quintet was one of the more exciting developments of 2011.  Devil’s Dress is an exhilarating fusion of jazz and indie rock, replete with twisting melodies, surging guitar licks, percussion that seamlessly alternates between jazz and rock rhythms within the space of one tune, and just a fun vibe that brings out both the joy of jazz and the bop of rock.

Your album personnel:  Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), Zé Pedro Coelho (tenor sax), Andre Fernandes (guitar), Demian Cabaud (bass), and Marcos Cavaleiro (drums).

Santos’s sound on trumpet is so warm, even when she’s warping a melody into some indescribable shape.  I’ve been listening to this album since it came out in April, and I still find it as compelling and fun as the first time.  Fans of Ben Allison and Todd Sickafoose, who also employ inventive compositions to incorporate the sounds of rock and indie music into their tune, should take to Devil’s Dress pretty easily.

Released on the Toap label.

Here’s a link to a free download from the album on the AllAboutJazz site, courtesy of the artist.

Available at Amazon: MP3


Steven Lugerner – Narratives

Steven Lugerner - "Narratives"Outstanding debut album by multi-reedist Steven Lugerner.  Leading a septet with an array of instruments consisting of alto & tenor & soprano sax, clarinet, trumpet, flute, guitar, piano, bass and drums, Lugerner tells a simple story with plenty of depth.  By eloquently stating the melody and returning to it throughout, he’s able to let the instruments loose to develop as much texture as they want, because the tunes keep coming back to that essential melody, like looking at a photo of home when life on the road grows too long.

Your album personnel:  Steven Lugerner (soprano & alto saxes, clarinets), Lucas Pino (tenor sax & flute), Itamar Borochov (trumpet & flugelhorn), Angelo Spagnolo (guitar), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Ross Gallagher (bass), and Michael W. Davis (drums).

It’s an aptly titled album, as the recording has the intimate feel of a good epic novel.  Lots of ebb and flow of emotional intensity.  The layering of sounds is just phenomenal, really keeps my attention wanting to linger on every detail.  Lugerner has a nice light touch on the sax and it serves him well as he binds all the various part of the ensemble together with his notes.  Has sort of a Guillermo Klein meets Brian Blade feel to it.

Narratives is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

A free track from the album is available at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Available to stream, and purchase, at the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at Amazon: CD


Francis Drake – Stories

Francis Drake is the trio name for musicians Max Frankl (classical, acoustic, and electric guitars), Max von Mosch (tenor & soprano sax, clarinet), Henning Sieverts (bass & cello).  On Stories, they’ve created an ambiance of intermittent sharp busts of sound in a quiet setting.  Like the wild chirping of birds just before dawn, Mosch’s reeds cry out in the darkness while Frankl’s guitar is a flash of motion seen between the trees and bushes nearby.  Sieverts is the darkness, especially when he lays thick cello lines over the sound of everything else.

Fans of modern releases on the ECM label will probably like this, as would fans of Christope Pays album Ellipse.  On the Double Moon Records label, fifty two minutes of modern jazz trio. Jazz from Germany.

Here’s where you can stream three songs from the album on Max’s site.

Available at Amazon: CD MP3


Jean Lapouge – Temporare

Some music just sounds pretty when all evidence indicates that it shouldn’t.  Jean Lapouge’s Temporare makes for an excellent Exhibit A.  Lapouge’s trio consists of his guitar, the trombone of Christiane Bopp, and the vibes of Christian Paboeuf (who also double on oboe on a couple tracks); not a typical jazz trio.  And the compositions don’t exactly bring it back wholly in the jazz tent.

There is a palpable tension in the harsh calls of Lapouge’s guitar against the skittering vibes, and against the backdrop of blaring trombone notes.  But then guitar grows gentle and the trombone is a friendly word in the ear and the vibes are bright and warm, and an odd serenity sets in.  As dreams can be both serene and terrifying, Temporare shows no inclination to draw a dividing line between the varied emotions this album evokes.

Lapouge, a founding member of the Noetra Collective (would fit right in with early ECM world-jazz like Oregon and Terje Rypdal), may not have seen much commercial success from his music, but the development of his sound has resulted in a genuinely unique voice.  Tempoare, a 2011 release on the Musea Records label, is gonna appeal to fans of Bill Frisell’s Quartet.  It is an album of eerie music that happens to also be quite beautiful.

A free download from the album is available on the AllAboutJazz site, courtesy of the artist.

Available at Amazon: CD MP3


Omer Avital – Free Forever

An outstanding quintet date album from one of the great composers and bassists on the jazz scene.  Straight-ahead jazz with Omer’s unique modern voice.  An album so powerful at times it can make the listener sit and shout, not unlike Ellington’s masterful performance at Newport. Recorded live in Italy, with Omer Avital (bass, composer), Joel Frahm (soprano & tenor sax), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Jason Lindner (piano), and Ferenc Nemeth (drums)… all jazz heavyweights.

I’m still amazed to be reminded that it’s only a quintet date; the sound is rich that at times I’d guess there were twice that many musicians on the bandstand.  I’m gonna stop there, since I plan to write a more detailed review in the very near future.  But let me leave it that this was truly a top album of the year.

Released on the Smalls Records label, approximately 70 minutes of pure unadulterated jazz.

Here’s a link to Omer’s site, where you can stream a few songs from the album and a whole lot of other music he’s involved with.

Available at Amazon: CD MP3


Fabrice Sotton – L’attente

A very engaging release from pianist Fabrice Sotton.  Fabrice switches from traditional to electronic piano with zero drop-off in quality.  Compositions have mysterious strings slicing through the interludes.  Fabrice’s sound has the introspection of an Abdullah Ibrahim solo piece with transitions to the playful bounciness of a Vince Guarldi tune.

Just a series of fun and pretty tunes.  A few solo pieces, some duo with percussion, flourishes of South African style jazz, a bit of neo-classical and a little bit of funk.  Sotton mixes the sounds up without ever losing the albums center; or said differently, it doesn’t sound like a compilation of songs from various albums.

Self-Produced, fifty minutes of piano jazz.  Jazz from France.

Here’s a link to Fabrice Sotton’s site, which seems to be hosted on a french music site platform.  Basically, if you give them an email, you can stream all his stuff.

Available at Amazon: MP3