LEO ROARS…Aardvark Jazz Orchestra: Passages, Sarah Bernstein Quartet: Still/Free, Goat’s Notes: Cosmic Circus, Kaufman-Gratowski-De Joode: Oblenghts, Sabatov-Dresser-Mahnig: Equal Poise, Nord-Hofmann-Stahel: Tree, Wind & Flowers

UK-based Leo Records just delivered an onslaught of exciting music, with something for just about every jazz taste with an inquisitive mind and open set of ears.

The venerable Aardvark Jazz Orchestra is still a powerful behemoth, boasting of a past which has included Geri Allen, Jaki Byard and Jimmy Giuffre. Here, they are caught in a pair of live concert recordings from April 2014 and 2015. There is a three part “Commemoration” referring to the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, with a sentiment referred to in Psalm 130, “Out of the depths I cry to thee, Oh, Lord.” The music is thick, murky and ominous, slowly developing into anguished cries on Arni Cheatham’s alto sax and Phil Scarff’s tenor. The other three independent pieces include a melodious ‘Saxophrenia” as well as a wild rabbit trail of “Spaceways.” Still crazy after all these years!

Violinist Sarah Bernstein debuts  on this album with her quartet of Kris Davis/p, Stuart Popejoy/b ;and Ches Smith/dr, and it’s a melancholy masterpiece.  There are wondrous mixes of brooding strings imbibed with moments of free interplay as on “Still/Free” and “Jazz Camp” while meldings of space and pin point pizzicatos and snappy bebop live together in advanced harmonies on “4=” and “Cede.” Her tone is rich, dark and gloriously agonizing, with supple support by Davis creating sepia tones and long shadows.

The band Goat’s Notes juxtaposes a rhythm section of Gregory Sandomirsky/p, Vladimir Kudryavtsev/b and Piotr Talalay/dr with a string section of Maria Logofet/v and Sabine Bouthinon/vn along with a horn section of Andrey Bessonov/cl, Ilya Vilkov/tb and Pierre Lambla/as to create what is self described as a “bi-polar band.” The material mixes quick come-and-go ditties between 30” and under 2 minutes as on “Oracle” and “Turbulence” with swinging themes with swirling undercurrents during “Cosmic Villages Rondo” and “No Place Like Home.” Sort of a sonic double exposure of a Bartok string quartet with McCoy Tyner’s Trio.

The trio of Achim Kaufmann/p, Frank Gratkowski/as-bcl-cl and Wilbert de Joode/b have been recording together for 15 years, so they know how to anticipate each other’s moves and sounds. Here, they like to anticipate each other’s thoughts as on the swinging food fight of “No Doubt The Beginning” or toy with a riff and never quite let it go on “Of Time In Pieces.” De Joode has a fall back to pizzicato musings, but also knows how to slide into a rhythm which he delves into on ”Trash Kites” while Graktowski chips, pops and shrieks in acknowledgement. Free range chickens  pecking away!

Simon Nabatov/p, Mark Dresser/b and Dominik Mahnig/dr are able to bop and swing, but, as they say, with “no predictable solos spots, no ego trips, no discernable stylisic dogmas.”  They make the free spirited interplay not only accessible, but at times danceable as on”Full Circles” and “Lithe Moves.” The three wax and wane, coalesce and pull apart and lock together just before taking a triad of directions during “Wind Up and Down.” Nabatov has a rich touch on the piano, and the interaction between Dresser and Mahnig makes for some exciting sounds, harmonies and grooves.

For their fourth album together, Mike Nord/g-el, Georg Hofmann/dr and Andreas Stahel/fl-voc use spontaneous improvisations to create some rich textures and atmospheres. There is one track recorded in concert, “Time Travel,” which mixes exotic drumming with Stahel’s ethereal voicings.  Playful perussion discussions mix with Hofmnann’s electronics and guitar on “Cereal Music” and Stahel’s voice on the title track, whereas the foreboding  and assertive electronic guitar on “To Your Teens” could be an outtake from a Metallica album. Far reaching and wide ranging.


Leo Records


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