Josh Sinton

b.
(FiP)

Josh Sinton opens a portal into the core essence of the baritone saxophone on b., the first of a series of albums the multi-instrumentalist, composer and bandleader plans to release over the coming year. It’s also his first solo album, and in many ways represents a culmination of nearly three decades spent performing, writing and refining his technique as well as listening to his sound mature and evolve on bari and bass clarinet. Akin to the avant-leaning solo saxophone albums recorded by the likes of the late Steve Lacy, Sam Newsome and Jon Irabagon, b. is an exploratory event. Sinton’s unaccompanied improvisations are purposeful and structured, complete compositions made in the moment and documented here using simple alphanumeric titles. The beauty of these pieces lies not so much in melodic lines and implied chord progressions, but in the impressionistic textures and timbres Sinton manipulates with such delicate precision, his use of breath effects and multiphonics, his deeply resonant upper register and his barking low end. Silence between notes and phrases is highly effective in helping the music breathe and in keeping the listener focused and in a state of perpetual anticipation. The 50-year-old Sinton plans three more album releases in 2022, including a trio outing reuniting him with pianist Jed Wilson and drummer Tony Falco (June 3), a solo recording of him performing six advanced-level etudes published by Lacy (Aug. 12) and a visionary project with his Predicate quartet (with trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, cellist Christopher Hoffman and drummer Tom Rainey) titled 4 freedoms (Oct. 28). Gig alert: Sinton will share a twin bill with soprano master Newsome at iBeam in Brooklyn on Feb. 11. Each saxophonist will perform solo, followed by a set of the two performing together. If you find listening to b. a rewarding experience, expect the upcoming iBeam show — where the baby sax meets the big pipe — to be a highly satisfying, memorable event.

John Mayall

The Sun Is Shining Down
(Forty Below)

British bluesman John Mayall has been a major force in the genre going back decades. As is legend, talent he fostered was handed off to huge classic rock acts like Cream, the Rolling Stones and more. What’s remarkable is that the guitarist, singer and songwriter has kept at it, with a discography that stretches into dozens of albums. Next month he returns with The Sun Is Shining Down, which finds Mayall teaming up with a stellar cast to deliver an impressively honest, flat-out blues album. As usual, he has some expertly selected talent on hand, including The Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, roots rocker Marcus King, Americana artist Buddy Miller, Scarlet Rivera (famously a member of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue), Chicago blues guitarist Melvin Taylor and Hawaiian ukulele artist Jake Shimabukuro. The project was recorded at The Doors’ Robby Krieger’s Horse Latitudes studio with Grammy-nominated producer Eric Corne. Right out of the gate, Mayall sounds energized on “Hungry And Ready,” with Taylor proving a perfect fit on lead guitar. You really wouldn’t think this guy is 88 years old. His voice is still strong but even better is his harmonica playing. On that instrument, he’s still on par with Paul Butterfield, another canny bandleader, yet one who left us more than 30 years ago. Elsewhere here, on the fittingly titled “A Quitter Never Wins,” Mayall, for once, goes at it with no special guest, putting his harmonica front and center from the top before essaying the end of a relationship. On “Deep Blue Sea,” Rivera’s fiddle playing is just as festive and rousing as ever — she clearly hasn’t lost a step, either. The whole thing wraps up with “The Sun Is Shining,” a medium-tempo number showcasing some expertly subtle lead guitar from Carolyn Wonderland.

Adam Rudolph

Resonant Bodies
(Meta Records)

Resonant Bodies is the 12th release in master percussionist and world music pioneer Adam Rudolph’s series of recordings with Go: Organic Orchestra, his long-running concept for a new, globally based creative music ensemble. Previous recordings in the series, which Rudolf began developing in 2001, feature a variety of instrumental configurations of varying sizes. But for Resonant Bodies, Rudolph envisioned an entirely new kind of ensemble experience: a nine-piece guitar orchestra consisting of some of New York’s finest and most adventurous players: Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore, Miles Okazaki, Joel Harrison and Kenny Wessel on electric guitars and effects; Marco Cappelli on acoustic guitar and effects; Jerome Harris on electric guitar and electric bass; and Damon Banks on bass. The recording is a document of the group’s final performance from its 2015 tour, the culmination of a perpetually evolving shared experience. Each guitarist brings his own voice and phraseology to this egalitarian effort under strict instructions from conductor Rudolph to “not think like a guitarist.” The leader sought to discourage his virtuosic players from relying on instrumental technique, instead encouraging them to seek soulful and creative sounds. “I asked them … to imagine they were playing an oboe, or were singing, or a Moog or a flock of birds,” he explained. “The idea was to have the music transcend the idea of thinking a certain way that the technique of playing a particular instrument can sometimes encourage. I think we succeeded.” They do indeed succeed, and the result is completely organic music that’s profoundly original, strikingly powerful and dialog-driven. It resonates with electric-acoustic energy and buzzes with aliveness. Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra is a natural evolution for Rudolph’s futuristic orchestral vision. The music asks to be heard on its own terms; its unprecedented sounds and in-the-moment formulations invite the listener to set aside any preconceived ideas and expectations, and the rewards are immense.

Ill Considered

Liminal Space
(New Soil)

Ill Considered has been making a name for itself over the past four years with packed live shows in the U.K. and an ongoing series of nine limited-run, DIY live recordings that sell out to fans as soon as they drop. Liminal Space, the group’s 10th recording and first to be fully produced, loses none of the power of those raw predecessors and gains all the sheen of the studio. Core group members Idris Rahman (saxophone), Liran Donin (bass) and Emre Ramazanoglu (drums) drive furious improvisational invention over fantastically danceable beats. They play a trance-dance, spiritual style of jazz that’s bold, edgy and flat-out awesome. Somewhere, Don Pullen and Sun Ra are smiling. Take, for example, the aptly titled “Dervish,” where the three dig into a sinister, nasty march and spur each other to push harder and go farther. Ramazanouglu’s drums and Donin’s bass rage with rapid-fire angst. So, too, does Raham’s beckoning saxophone, which shifts into stratospheric zeitgeist via digital audio processing. But the music always has a spiritual edge, like the plaintive call of “Pearls,” the hopefulness of “Prayer” or the loping tempos of “Sandstorm.” On Liminal Space, the trio is joined by guests who represent an array of the U.K.’s finest young improvisers: Tamar Osborn, Sarathy Korwar, Ahnanse, Theon Cross, Kaidi Akinnibi, Ralph Wylde, Robin Hopcraft and Ollie Savill. They bring new layers, directions and energy to a production that is already teeming. There is so much to like on Liminal Space, and in Ill Considered, which effortlessly blends wide-ranging influences — from jazz freedom to punkish angst to spiritual mother Africa. This is a group that is looking toward its first tour of the U.S. soon. You’ll find this writer at the front of the line.


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January 2022
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