Harriet Tubman, the trio of guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer J.T. Lewis, have been weird for twenty years now. Their free jazz essence is certainly an acquired taste, however it's also a free jazz rooted in soul that makes their music so memorable. In the latest album, Araminta, out this Friday on Sunnyside, the band brings along trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith for a raucous collection of songs full of fiery energy, even when the burners are on low. Really, Araminta is truly great.
I had a slight agenda this week. I wanted to make sure to play the new Christian Scott song that's out in the world right now. I wanted to note how I did eventually review the Extended album. I wanted to make known my love of the latest Jeremy Pelt album and the new Harriet Tubman album. There were some things I really wanted to play this week and I'm glad I got to do so.
The Line-Up for 17 February 2017
A piano trio, a good one, can come from anywhere. The cleverness, the connecting, the perfect sense of anchoring, the snappiness that makes the piano-bass-drums trio such a classic sound even when it moves forward, it all comes from signature, and there are signatures everywhere. New Orleans signature sounds have a ragtag sense to them, rough around the edges from centuries of lovingly performing the act of loving. That kind of signature can make for a pretty good piano-bass-drums trio. Extended -- Oscar Rossignoli on piano, Matt Booth on bass, and Brad Webb on drums -- have all the attributes of a clever New Orleans piano-bass-drums trio. (And it's part of my signature that I'm a sucker for those.)
Mandolinist Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau have been playing together for a little while now. I got to see them play together in Austin back in 2013 and was certainly impressed, wondering why this hadn't happened before. To steal from my exposition of almost four years ago, "The master piano player, known worldwide as a game changer in the jazz genre, seemed the perfect fit for the man recognized by the nebulous MacArthur Foundation [in 2012] for stretching the boundaries of bluegrass music. Thile always had a jazz sound to his frenetic, mellifluous style of plucking and Mehldau always had a little bit of everything else." This same rationale still applies now with the release of their double album out now on Nonesuch.
I am extraordinarily excited about bassist Linda Oh. I still keep her last album, 2013's Sun Pictures, in steady rotation. I feel genuine guilt that I didn't love it more in its time and semi-regularly sing that album's praises to this day on assorted social networking entirely unprovoked, wondering if this shouting into the void is changing any minds at all about how utterly brilliant Oh is, how her band is, how that collection of songs is, and how it should stand throughout time as one of the finest jazz albums of this modern era. It made my honorable mentions in that year's Season of Lists. I was a damned fool back then. (I mean, seriously, I had Stephan Crump's Thwirl and Gilad Hekselman's This Just In, which I both still rock, hanging out back there with her; what the hell was I thinking?) Linda May Han Oh is an astoundingly impressive musician with as much soul as a bassist as she is as a composer. She never fails to disappoint and I'll keep telling people that forever.