Jazz CD roundup: Nuance, unfettered passion and energy

There are stories told here.

Pablo Held Trio (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pablo Held Trio
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Edition Records
The piano-bass-drums trio is probably the definitive classic lineup in the jazz world. That’s not to say there haven’t been some totally far-out threesomes of that instrumental nature over the years.
Keith Jarrett’s 35 year long-andcounting band, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, which ran for 15 hugely successful years until the Swedish pianist’s untimely death in a diving accident, is just one of the fabulous triads that have added handsomely to the ever-expanding jazz oeuvre over the years.
Then again, as with any art form, one sometimes can tire of material that begins to sound ever more formulaic.
Over the past couple of decades or so, seemingly countless young musicians from across the globe have come up with deftly crafted works that, to my sensibilities, appeal far more to the head than the heart.
With his latest release on Edition Records, Pablo Held has managed to avoid that trap with comfort.
Investigations is an intriguing offering that draws you from the start and keeps you engaged throughout.
There are stories told here.
If you are going to go off on all kinds of oblique angles, mix sonic threads with seemingly gay abandon and go with the creative flow, it can help to feel comfortable with your counterparts. As a working band of 12 years standing, this German threesome of Held, bassist Robert Landfermann and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel has certainly paid its dues as a collective force. Investigations is their 10th album to date – produced over the course of just 11 years – and their first on Edition.
Groove follows gossamer lines that seem to hover in the heavens before finding your ear, each player dropping his own color onto the evolving canvas in an almost syncopated fashion. Tenderly plucked bass notes are intermittently underpinned and overlain by piano droplets, while Burgwinkel provides barely sensed seasoning.
Then Held is off and running, but never loses sight of his teammates, who stay with him across his undulating and meandering explorative path. Held has a soft touch on the ivories, even when he’s really going for it, somewhat reminiscent of the approach of British stablemate pianist Kit Downes.
Nuance, unfettered passion and energy, and unexpected turns are the order of the day on Investigations – a thoroughly enjoyable, communicative and compelling outing for this seasoned trio.
The Free Poetics of Henrique Eisenmann
Red Piano Records
It is hard to recall a jazz album tailor- made to get you smiling, almost beatifically, from the word go, but New York-based pianist Henrique Eisenmann’s recent release on Red Piano Records managed that with aplomb. For starters, how about The Free Poetics of Henrique Eisenmann for a record title? And, yes, there is a sense of unfettered, easy flow about all nine tracks, which range from childlike mellifluous melodies to abstract sonics, and much betwixt.
The opener, “Introduction: Niños Peruanos” (Peruvian Children) sets an idyllic tone for the whole outing.
It is an aptly named number that kicks off with a recording of a sixyear- old Peruvian boy reciting a poem in Spanish in the most angelic of tones. Eisenmann nimbly complements the child’s lilting declamation in the most endearing and charming of manners before veering off the musically straight-and-narrow with some keyboard pyrotechnics, although it all comes across as being eminently listener friendly.
“Zurich” is a bouncy number replete with lush tones, augmented by Gustavo D’Amico sonorous lines on soprano sax - staccato, and sometimes a mite frenetic, pattern notwithstanding.
There is more in the way of junior input on “Jeneupti,” this time courtesy of a young Ghanaian girl’s insouciant- sounding singing. Eisenmann and, for that matter, the rest of the crew – Peruvian-born bassist Jorge Roeder and Brazilian percussionist Rogério Boccato – all appear to have at least one ear trained on each other and the children’s contributions.
Eisenmann manages to sustain a delightful melodic core throughout, left-field somewhat acerbic departures included.
Live in Healdsburg
Anzic Records
Bringing stellar performers together can produce exciting results but can also be fraught with ego-related pitfalls. Luckily, the pairing of pianist Fred Hersch and reed player Anat Cohen pertains to the former category.
It is fascinating to follow their meandering efforts. There is an intimate, intriguing, thought-provoking dialogue going on right across the eight tracks. Cohen has become one of the jazz world’s most lauded reed players, particular on clarinet, which is the instrument she uses on Live in Healdsburg.
Hersch and Cohen dovetail their way across the scores, which include four originals – three by the pianist – as well as standards by Billy Strayhorn, Fats Waller, Jimmy Rowles and Duke Ellington. There are solo spots and each consummately supports and complements the other as the lead changes.
As you might expect, both display considerable chops, and the dynamics and energy levels ebb and flow naturally, through such nuggets as “Hersch’s A Lark,” in which the players do, indeed, conjure up birdlike sonority. There is a Gerswhinesque feel to Cohen’s daintily crafted “The Purple Piece,” and their take on Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” is inventive, atmospheric and weighted to perfection.