Jazz (January 2019)

hfnalbum.pngChristian Sands
Facing Dragons
Mack Avenue MAC 1143

Once a key sideman with Christian McBride, this dazzling young pianist made his debut as leader with Reach in 2017. More recently he co-produced the Nightconcert album of an historic Erroll Garner performance, and here he gives a hint of Garner in his captivatingly jovial take on McCartney's 'Yesterday'. But before that, he hits the ground running with his 'Rebel Music' opener, only to top it with the irresistible force of 'Fight For Freedom', guest trumpeter Keyon Harrold and saxophonist Marcus Strickland seeming to supercharge the sound of Blakey's Messengers for the 21st century. South American explorations follow, percussionist Cristian Rivera and guitarist Caio Afune to the fore. Stirring and exciting stuff. SH


Lionel Loueke
The Journey
Aparte Music AP184

Loueke's guitar has added something special to many jazz groups, while his own projects have boldly mixed the flavours of many cultures. Here, with brilliant producer Robert Sadin, he's pulled in musicians ranging from classical clarinettist Patrick Messina to sometime-The Who bassist Pino Palladino, as well as faithful collaborators from previous albums and labels. Gone are the raw 'live' electric sounds of Loueke's last Blue Note album Gaia, though 'Dark Lightning' shows just what he can do with just his own voice and multiple guitars. And from the depths of 'Vi Gnin', a tribute to migrants who've met their deaths, The Journey eventually brings us 'Hope'. SH


Shai Maestro
The Dream Thief
ECM 6771112

Israeli/American pianist Shai Maestro played on vocalist Theo Bleckmann's 2017 album Elegy, but The Dream Thief marks his ECM label debut as leader. It's also the first album to feature his current trio, including Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder and Israeli drummer Ofri Nehemya, and together these three can really play as one. With a close-up and intimate quality yet with real space, this is one of those recordings that sounds so impressive that you could begin to feel that the music might be there to serve the sonics, rather than the other way round. But what you're really hearing is a pianist with unique sensibilities as well as a magical touch. Amazing. SH


Massimiliano Coclite 4tet
Strange People
Odradek ODRCD521

Despite its title, and an opening track called 'The Gloom', this is an accessible, warm and welcoming release. Conservatory-trained Italian pianist Coclite spent 20 years as a skilled demonstrator for Roland keyboards while also working as a singer/pianist and vocal coach. But at last he's put together a jazz quartet album, his own engaging compositions all telling a story or catching a mood. 'A Rainy Day', for example, is pretty, wistful and atmospheric but never too predictable. There are no vocals here, but Coclite's fresh and melodic piano is well complemented by the fluid and personable soprano and tenor sax of Stefano 'Cocco' Cantini. It's an unexpected treat. SH