|Updated: 24/01/13 | © 1999 - 2013 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
Jake Playmo is a modern musician using all the technological tools available in the recording studio to make his music. Ozella Music describe this album as being "jazz/electronic/experimental" and that seems about right. Imagine if Kraftwerk had turned towards funky jazz instead of clinical dance beats and you have some idea of what My Favourite Toys sounds like - then again, Herbie Hancock during his Rockit period is also a fair description, I think. Oh, and the Bonzo Dog Band during their 'Jazz Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold' period. Backed by his band, Das Bose Ding, and other guest musicians, Jake Playmo does take some tracks to the extreme that may deter some listeners - this isn't easy listening music. The music and production does have a playful aspect, the track titles include Matel, Lego, Barbie, + Ken and Revell, all brand names found in your local Toys'R'Us. I have to be honest and say that a little of this album at a time is about all I can listen to, it can become a bit to extreme, but it is invigorating if you like music that pushes the envelope.
Roger Matura is a guitarist and pianist of fine ability, using his latest album to showcase a style equally adept on electric and acoustic guitars and a variety of keyboards. The seventeen tracks on this album feature folk, rock and blues stylings, with all but two tracks original instrumentals. The remaining two tracks are cover versions of Dido's White Flag and the Goffin/King standard Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, both sung in what can only be described as a Tom Waits growl. The rest of the album is very smooth, one could almost say slick, a winning mixture of acoustic folk and jazz guitar stylings mixed with the occasional discreet electric guitar. Favourite titles include Far Beyond The Sun, Notturno For A Moondancin' Lady, Dead Moon and Iraqueiraque. All of this is wrapped up by a variety of world beats and supported by a number of equally impressive musicians playing a wide range of folk, ethnic and jazz instruments. Time Traveller is a lovely album that can be listened to for relaxation or stimulation and it is enjoying a lot of airplay while I work at the computer. I think this could easily become one of my albums of the year this year.
Another highly musical album from Ozella Music, and again it's a winner! Paul Joses is one of those singer/songwriters whose music spans folk, blues and a little country and jazz. Vocally, he reminded of those white blues/soul singers that were the rage back in the 80's - think Jim Diamond with humanity and wit and you'll be there. Plus there's a touch of the Celt to this music...
The thirteen tracks here share a common high standard, from Hello to Mist On The Moor they pretty much all share a low key acoustic backing provided by the largish group of musicians. Mind you, their support is so restrained that you'd be hard pressed to count all nine musicians here. The songs themselves are very spacious and almost all seem to have an underlying wistfulness and chronicle the fragility of relationships. The songwriter as craftsman has been relegated by popular taste to the backwaters in recent years, to be replaced by manufactured boy/girl bands and soloists spewing out the third rate product of profit-concious producers. Thankfully there are still craftsmen like Paul Joses out there plying their trade and [hopefully] surviving. Buy this and you're listening to quality music.
Karl Seglem is a Norwegian jazz musician who plays goat and antelope horns alongside the more usual tenor sax. I say jazz musician but based on listening to his new album, Ossicles [his twenty-seventh], I would say that he also fits neatly into the 'world music' shelf of your friendly local record store [if you still have one]. The music definitely has an ethnic feel to it, a strong draw on African, Pakistani and Reggae stylings and rhythms. It actually makes for an interesting and quite tuneful album, and listening blind I don't think I would have placed the point of origin as Norway. The band of musicians are unusually resourceful in providing these varied backings and sound like far more than the six musicians listed - a case of some studio magic being sprinkled here and there. The track titles are: Gammal Rørsle, Mårbla, Rørsletre, Sognabad, Apal, Din Folketone, The Last Norwegian Troll, Ørken, Last Aus, Ossicles, and The Ornes Song. The music has a haunting charm on most tracks, this mix of Scandinavian wilderness and the exotic sounds of Africa and Asia intrigues, to say the least. While I preferred some of the uptempo tracks the most, I must say some of the slow, haunting pieces also have a stark charm. The jazz is there thanks to the tenor sax, but unlike American jazz music it is restrained and dances with its ethnic partners in a playful way. Ossicles isn't a party album but it has a vibe to it which gives it a uniqueness.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.karlseglem.no
(OZ 033 CD)
Slagr is, apparently, an Old Norse word for tune or melody, Straum means flow or stream and Stille means still, quiet and tranquil. The band Slagr is a trio of Norwegian musicians who play a type of instrumental ambient folk music drawn from the landscape and ambience of Norway - the music could also be considered as contemporary classical music too. Anne Hytta plays the hardinger fiddle and composes most of the music, Sigrun Eng plays cello, and Amund Sjølie Sveen the vibraphone. Straum, Stille is a collection of eight tracks, all instrumental, and while I wouldn't describe them as being funereally slow, most of the tracks exhibit a transcendental stillness. The track listing is: Drifting Out Of Sleep, Solaris, April, Lyngdalen, Still, First Frost, Quiet Rain, and Shimmer. Track three, April, is the nearest the music breaks into a dance-like tempo. Recorded in Sofienberg church, Oslo, the building's acoustics also help the overall sound and its clarity of vision. The cello tends to lay down ethereally slow rhythmic drones which the fiddle and vibraphone float over. There is a huge spaciousness to the music, you can imagine this stuff floating along the fjords during the long Arctic winter night, soundtracking the aurora borealis. I don't think one could categorise Straum, Stille as a party album or for playing in the car, this is music for peaceful meditation and reflection. Indeed it is almost an audio art installation due to its quietude. This is different music and different music always takes some time to come to terms with - if you enjoy having your musical preconceptions challenged then I think you will find Straum, Stille very interesting.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.slagr.no
Sometimes an album and an artist come right out of nowhere and knock your socks off with their sheer musicality and musical invention - and that is the case with Trio Bravo+ and their latest album, Menschen Am Sonntag. This album is actually a new soundtrack for a 1929 German silent movie [the English title is People On A Sunday] that featured the production talents of many names that would soon become the backbone of Hollywood's golden era: Robert & Curt Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann and Edgar G Ulmer.
Trio Bravo+ were asked to create a new soundtrack for the first public performance of the newly restored movie and this album is the result. Now, it would be easy to pastiche the 'flapper' jazz of the 1920s and leave it at that, but the musicians here have taken that and added contemporary classical and cabaret music influences of the time and mixed everything together into a music that is lively and tuneful.
Trio Bravo+ arse Mark Chaet - violin, Sergej Sweschinskij - bass, Svetoslav Karparov - piano, hammond organ, and Adam Tomaszewski - marimba and percussion. With their roots in the Ukraine, Bulgaria and Poland, the feel for the music of their homelands also comes through on this lovely album.
Of course, listening to this album divorced from the visuals of the movie itself one can only guess how the music fitted the images on the screen, and the live performance itself. But on its own merits this is an album that is very 'up' emotionally, with jaunty and jazzy tunes, enhanced by the spritely and rolling marimba and piano playing here. But the music is also highly emotional and it resonates with the optimism of a 1920's Germany before it fell into the nightmare of the Nazi era. This is also an album to test that new hi-fi system - the sound is crisp and crystal clear, with a warmth you rarely find on most 'pop' albums. An adventurous album well worth seeking out from your local import dealer or order direct from Ozella Music.
Here we have what amounts to a one man band performance - guitarist/vocalist Stephan Scheuss works magic with his acoustic guitar and assorted effects pedals and studio wizardry to produce a novel and entertaining album. One Pure Soul contains ten covers of pop classics and three original songs - a baker's dozen - of pop-jazz easy listening. The covers include Baby You Can Drive My Car, Drowning in the Sea of Love, Everytime, Harvest For The World, Maniac, My One and Only Love, My Funny Valentine, Tears of a Clown, What's Going On and Help The Poor. Mr Scheuss's own songs are Just Go, Reason To Move and No Blues. Thanks to multi-tracking the simple voice/guitar combo becomes something magical here, Mr Scheuss's voice has a pleasant slight falsetto but can also dip into the lower registers while his guitar[s] provide nimble accompaniment - the multi-tracked vocals also offer some interesting accapella and choral effects. He has turned the well-known pop classics into something new, offering a mellow jazz interpretation that sits well with his vocals, giving these songs a new aspect. Altogether One Pure Soul is a fine set of reinterpretations, bringing new insights to these well known classics. It would be a bit unfair to compare his own songs to the acknowledged hits he is covering, suffice to say that he is an interesting songwriter in his own write. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary and unhyped I suggest you give this album a chance to win you over.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.scheuss.de
I've never associated the country of Norway with jazz music, I expected something a bit more sombre from the land of the fjords and the midnight sun. However, jazz is apparently very big in Norway and the Helge Lien Trio are one of the foremost jazz groups there, having recorded five albums and toured Japan. Consisting of Lien on piano, Frode Berg on bass and Knut Aalefjaer on drums, the trio format is arguably the lodestone for many jazz fans. Hello Troll contains nine tracks, all composed by Helge Lien, and as you'd expect from a North European jazz group the underlying foundation of the blues is missing, replaced by roots drawn from the stark and lonely landscapes of Scandinavia. So all the tracks on this album are imbued with the spaciousness and solitude of the region. But the human element is also there, as highlighted on track three, Radio, while Troozee is imbued with a near funky beat that should get many feet tapping. I'm not a huge jazz trio fan, my tastes are more for big band swing, yet I found many of these tracks lyrical and melodic, eschewing the sort of avant-garde impressionistic trappings that I was expecting. If you enjoy piano led jazz trios then I think you check out the Helge Lien Trio and this album - you may be surprised how good the musicians are up in the land of the fjords.
I think this is quite possibly one of the most striking albums I have ever heard. The album title may give the game away descriptively, but the musicianship on this instrumental album just has to be heard to be believed. Streif are a Norwegian four piece band and their music straddles many musical genres - world music, folk, jazz, gypsy, rock. Streif are Georg Reiss, Tom Karlsrud, Torbjørn Økland and Birger Mistereggen and between them they play the following instruments: clarinet, sax, accordion, euphonium, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, trumpet, marimba and percussion. Instrumentation which is far removed from that of a standard rock band but this rich mix of sounds have created nine highly emotive and evocative soundscapes. Nordic Winter obviously brings to mind the stark openness of the arctic wastes and the craggy coastline of a fjord-etched Norway, but there are strong lyrical hints of nearby neighbour Russia and even Jewish Kletzmer music, and yes, even flashes of humour. This is the band's fourth album and on the evidence of Nordic Winter I wish I had the others in my collection too!
The Return Of The Caveman is quite an imposing album to take in on a first hearing. It is, after all, a triple album with lyrics sung in both German and English, and performed in such a variety of styles that finding some sort of cohesive description is something of a problem. At heart Mr Matura is a folk/blues singer and songwriter with a taste for doom-laden harmonium-clad songs of extreme wistfulness. He also has a voice that comes from the same deep vault as Tom Waits, Jonathan Richman and other left-field musicians - where gruff emotion and ‘heart’ means more than note perfect harmonisation. In other words, his hoarse and raspy voice is a very acquired taste. On CD1 most of the songs are sung in German, CD2 is all English language and both CDs contain a liberal selection of the best of his previous albums plus some unreleased tracks. CD3 is a bonus album called Give My Regards To Waterloo Station, seventeen cover versions of songs such as Don’t Be Cruel, A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Not Fade Away, Sunny Afternoon and many other classic pop songs of the 60s - all given the unique Matura treatment. And quite affecting that can be on some of the tracks. Amongst the 56 tracks here there is also a handful of instrumentals that prove that Mr Matura is also an excellent musician. As always, the Ozella design team have done a lovely job with the lyric booklet and CD packaging, this is quite an impressive looking package, impressively good audio engineering throughout. You are really going to need to be a musical explorer to find the rich rewards in this triple CD set, but they are there and they are well worth finding.
Pete Alderton is a new name to me but he is well known across Europe as an acoustic folk/blues singer. His new album is a delightful mix of personal blues and Americana rootsy sounds - some of them quite funky. The overall performance is reminiscent of a musician in the corner of a bar, entertaining those who want to listen while the rest get blattered. There are seventeen tracks, several of which include spoken word interludes, reminding me of some of the Band’s Robbie Robertson’s solo albums. It makes for some very atmospheric moments. Opening dialogue and song It Seems Strange.../Evil Was Her Name is a good example of this, a swampy-feeling blues, oozing a Mississippi swamp vibe, with a film noir-style prologue. In fact, these film noir dialogue extracts give the album a sense of being a musical diary, which is intriguing. Allied to Mr Alderton’s rough hewn voice, this is one very atmospheric album and one that I am returning to again and again.
For more information, audio samples and ordering information please go to www.pete-anthony-alderton.com
This is another one of Ozella Music's series of excellent compilation albums showcasing a wide range of European musicians mostly unknown here in the UK. Subtitled "pure downtempo magic" on the cover and paraphrased by a sticker "Downtempo lounge tracks in the style of Air, Zero 7 and Portishead", it is safe to say that the music on this CD is for chilling to - aka relaxing, easy listening instrumentals with an edge. The artists include Stardelay, Reinmar Henschke, a very Pete Alderton, Gerold Kukulenz, Natural Frequencies, Henschkeschlott, Shan Qi, and Ozella's own Dagobert Bohm. Style moves from electronica to smooth jazz, world music to light rock. There is really no downside to this album, virtually every track is excellent and I can't think of any tracks that I would skip on future playing. All the tracks are taken from the artist's albums on Ozella so if you like what you hear you can easily order the full albums in the future.
Guido Ponzini is a virtuoso instrumentalist, playing an instrument called the Chapman Stick - this is a somewhat strange looking thing, part guitar, part bass, played vertically. A Chapman Stick has no body as such, it looks like an elongated fret board, which means the player can access a wider octave range - I think. Anyway, the fourteen tracks of music here are a combination of world/new age and progressive elements - mostly instrumental and backed by a small group of multi-instrumentalists, Guido Ponzini has created a suite of music that showcases his instrument and his skills. Many of the tracks are quite short, which gives them the sketch-like ambience of works in progress, and many are little vignettes that would be suitable for use as movie soundtrack music. Twilight Town smacks of being a showcase rather than an album of cohesive music - for me the longer, more reflective tracks such as Snow Temple - April work best.
The title of Karl Seglem's album is rather apt as he is a Norwegian sax player carving out a distinctly unique form of 'cool' jazz that certainly reflects the isolated beauty of Scandinavia. I have called it jazz [there is a very definite Miles Davis vibe on many of the tracks], but it is fused with elements of Norwegian traditional music and instruments [goat horns, hardinger fiddle, the plaintive but ethereal vocals of Berit Opheim], and the sensibility of new age and world music. Above all else it is a stark music, casting up visions of lonely fjords, glaciers and the midnight sun. In other words, this isn't easy listening! It is challenging music and it won't appeal to everyone, but this album has its moments and conjures up the arctic magic of the Northern Lights.
Slow Time features the music and musical philosophy of Japanese bassist Shunsuke Mizuno, which as far as I understand it is simply to take the time out to relax and recharge one's spirit. A simple idea which in our high-charged lifestyles we tend to neglect. So Mr Mizuno has created an album of evocative and restful melodies based around his double bass and a twenty-two string koto played by Miwa Inaba - along with a few other instruments such as the harmonica, the shakuhachi, guitar and tabla. The results are indeed relaxing - with titles such as Rain in the Distance, A Starry Night in Shanghai, Beech Forest and Midnight Sarasvati we are in exotic locales, listening to world music or new age type music. But this is very sophisticated music, it evokes moods and feelings that most modern music barely touches on - there are hidden depths to the music of Shunsuke Mizuno, layers hat only unfold if you take the time to listen properly. Highly recommended.
Maximilian Geller is a Swiss jazz saxophonist and composer who likes to bring different influences into his music. In the case of his new album Alpenglühen it was to add the traditional folk music of his native country. So instead of the blues of the deep south of the USA you have the jaunty waltzes, the jodlers and Austrian landlers. And I have to say it makes for a vibrantly good humoured album of music redolent of Central Europe. For the discerning ear you may also catch a touch of Kletzmer and those Eastern European wedding band music as well. There is a small band of excellent musicians working with Mr Geller, folk musicians who weren't afraid to turn their traditional music into something jazzier. The band on this album are: Herbert Pixner - accordion, Walter Lang - piano, Thomas Stabenow - bass, Hajo von Hadeln - drums, Marco Lobo - percussion, and Maximilian Geller - soprano/alto sax. The thirteen tracks are: Southeast, Alpenglühen, Der Wasserfall, Auf Geht's, Sur Les Rives, Noch Ein Weilchen, E Bitz Grantig, Alpenrosen, How Many Days, Bam, Bergfex, From Above, Mei Bua. Roots Music is usually the definition for a wide range of American non-rock musics, yet this is central European roots music, the source of which can be heard across the Austrian and Swiss Alps and valleys. It is a very bewitching sound, guaranteed to make feet twitch and legs fly. The result of this super mix of influences is highly successful, Alpenglühen is definitely an album that will leave you feeling happy and wanting more. Recommended.
The roots of flamenco music has become an increasingly attractive source for many jazz guitarists in recent years. It seems to offer a framework where musicians can add elements from other styles of music and something wonderful almost always happens. That is the case here with El Niño Muchaca and his new album on Ozella, Searching Your South/Buscando Tu Sur. In this instance, jazz has been mixed with the flamenco root along with some latin rhythms. It makes for a very infectious mix, I can tell you, and one that brought frequent smiles of joy from this listener. Paco 'El Niño' Muchaca is the man behind the lead guitar here and he composed or arranged all the music. He is a very impressive guitarist, his fingers drawing out liquid gold from the strings. There are five musicians performing on this album, but their contributions are so subtle that at times you really have to seek them out in the mix. For much of the time it seems to be simply guitar, bass, handclaps and vocal murmurings. Anyway, here are the musicians: Paco 'El Niño' Machuca - guitar/percussion, Neil Doyle - bass/flugelhorn, Pablo Nuñez - cajón/claps, Javi Ceballos - Spanish guitar, Raúl Regateiro and Fran Cortez - jaleos/claps. The album contains fourteen tracks, all very listenable, and they are: La Leyeda Del Tiempo, La Primavera, Soy Gitano, Buscando Tu Sur, Cortijo De Cuarto, Caminadome, Volando Voy, Como El Agua, Tu Me Camelas, Rosa Maria, Medioda, Rosetta, Cactus, Cuartus. Searching Your South/Buscando Tu Sur is simply a joy to listen to and the album and these musicians will truly lighten your day. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.ozellamusic.com
This is the second album by Randi Tytingvåg received here at The Borderland and I think that Grounding is a significant progression on Let Go, which I gave a highly recommended rating. Once again the Norwegian singer-songwriter has whipped up eleven new songs with a jazz-pop feel, though opening track Impatience has a sultry blues vibe that is very appealing. I say jazz-pop, but to my ears the music is more pop-and smooth-rock orientated this time, with a strong push on melody and rhythm. She has a smaller band on this album and they are incredibly tight, setting up a groove on each track that adds muscle to each song. Think Peggy Lee's version of Fever and you'll have some idea of what I am hearing. The musicians are: Ivar Grydeland - guitars/banjo/piano, Jo Berger Myhre - bass/guitars/synths, Pål Hausken - percussion/drums/backing vocals. For a trio these musicians create a hugely lush sound. And then there is Ms Tytingvåg's voice - it is sensual, joyous, and a slight hint of the Norwegian fjords and glaciers. It is an intriguing mixture and one that has made me play Grounding several times and not be tired of its charms. The track titles are: Impatience, Inside, Tytingvåg, Paper Tiger, Your Way, Sit Yourself Down, All That Is Not Free, Relay, Starbuck, Heads Up, Future Song. The theme of love, finding and losing it, run throughout the album, with the slower songs being incredibly dramatic thanks the Ivar Grydeland's moody guitar work. Grounding is a strong album in every way and should be heard by a wider audience than it will probably find. Ms Tytingvåg is a eloquent talent and this album is also highly recommended.
The Scandinavian region is increasingly becoming a hotbed of music activity open to the rest of the world. And I'm not talking about the Eurovision song contest... Elin Furubotn hails from Norway and her songs are anything but twee and about fjords - she mixes pop, folk and a dash of jazz together and actually sounds a bit like Ricky Lee Jones while singing in her native tongue. Heilt Nye Vei is a collection of thirteen songs, all written by Ms Furubotn, sung mostly in Norwegian but English translations are provided in the enclosed booklet. Ms Furubotn has one of those slightly husky, winsome voices that half whispers much of the time. Wrapped around her sweet-sounding voice are light washes of mostly acoustic instruments, with a bit of electric guitar and synth here and there. Ms Furubotn plays acoustic guitar and cello alongside her vocals, the other musicians are: Karl Seglem - sax/vocals, Helge Andreas Norbakken - percussion, Gjermund Silset - bass, Morten Mølster - electric guitar, David Wallumrod - piano, Truls Birkeland - accordion/synth, Mads Urdahl-Aasen - horns, Gunhild Seim - trumpet/flugelhorn. The track titles are: Akkurat Det Som Er Nå, Heilt Nye Vei, Eg Ser Du Leite, Slepp Tvilen Fri, Tankane Har Fargar, Treet, Ei Stille Nå, Malt Dagen Din, En Drøm, Du Vett Godt Ka Eg E Sure For, Stillheten, New Path, I See You Looking. Heilt Nye Vei is a very fine pop album, and well worth investigating despite the language barrier. Ms Furubotn has a way with a melody and her voice is something to cherish. Recommended to those with an adventurous ear and mind.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.ozellamusic.com
Since the 70s/80s heyday of ABBA Scandinavia has become a hotbed of pop and rock talent, with Roxette and The Cardigans being the most notable. However, now we have Wilfred - Wilfred are a rock trio from Norway - well, I say trio, but many of the eleven tracks on this, their debut album, actually feature several more musicians. But the essential trio is Jan Terje Sager - vocals/guitars, Ingar Blix Aaeng - bass/vocals, and Alf Magne Hillestad - drums/percussion/vocals. Jan Terje Sager is the main songwriter. Wilfred have a big chunky sound, undeniably rock but with lots of different strands running through their music. To my ears they brought to mind Neil Young-era Crazy Horse, the Icicle Works, REM, and perhaps a bit of the pop sensibility of the Cars. With the lyrics all in English and the vocalists' accents so clear and well, English, Wilfred sound global and rock mightily on many of the tracks. The sound is big and brash, but the more ballad-like songs are equally affecting and good. The eleven tracks are: The Queen, Land of the Blind, Love Is Not Enough, Blue-Eyed Angel, Slide A Little Closer, Time After Time, Your Walls, Searching, New Girl, No Good, Mountain Fairytale. Overall, this album reminds me of that period in the early eighties when power pop, new wave and what mutated into grunge mixed together into a dirtier sound than before but was still easy on the ear. I thoroughly enjoyed Wilfred and their eponymous album - it rocks and had tunes on there that both stay in your mind and are hummable. You can't do that to Muse! I hope someone will send a copy of this album to BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, where the more aware DJ's on these radio stations may showcase the album. Highly recommended, and I hope Wilfred get the chance to record another album again in the near future.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.wilfredmusic.no
(Songways SW 509 CD)
Singer/songwriter Roger Matura is no stranger to The Borderland, I have reviewed several of his previous albums released on the Ozella offshoot label Songways. Mr Matura is a prolific writer and multi-instrumentalist and some of his previous albums have been completely instrumental, here on World Gone Wrong he has returned to writing songs, and only a few of the twenty-one tracks are instrumental. The rest feature what I can only describe as Mr Matura's unique vocal qualities. Trying to describe his vocal style is difficult, it has to be heard to be believed - to say it is somewhere between a rusty sounding croak and a rasp is about as near as I'd like to go. Having said that, once you grow accustomed to the voice his songs are intensely personal and touching, veering between folk-blues and something a bit rockier. The musical style is more Americana than European, and there is some impressive musicianship on show. There is a shifting pool of musicians spread across the album and here are the main participants: Ean Gidman - saxes & arrangements, Norbert Gottschalk - trumpet/flugelhorn, Thomas Kagermann - violin, Michael Küttner - drums/percussion, Dane Roberts - violin, Helena Ruegg - bandoneon, Roger Matura - guitars/harmonica/keys/vocals. The tracklisting is as follows: World Gone Wrong, Vision Of You, Stranded, Clown In The Moon, Down We Go, Song For Nick, Trapped, Rock Me Into Heaven, Soulful, Weirdo, Still Makes Me Wonder, Ooh La La Loo, How Could It Be, Ferryman Ferryman, The Way We Were, Limestone Road, Poor Soul Waltz, It's All right I'm Doin' Fine, If Only, Back Beat, Back Beat (Reprise/instrumental). If you are fans of Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits' distinctive voices then you will find Mr Matura's voice equally beguiling.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.ozellamusic.com
(OZ 037 CD)
Trio Bravo+ have a unique sound, it starts off as a chamber quartet plus friends performing music with a chamber group feeling, but then it mixes Jazz, Kletzmer, Balkan and Gypsy influences, all mixed together with a David Lynch-style sensibility of plain weirdness. And after all that the music still sounds an invigorating mixture that leaves one thinking that they are listening to the soundtrack to a long lost eastern European silent movie. Trio Bravo+ have always had an idiosyncratic sound uniquely their own, and it is also a pan-European sound as well, the music holds little American influences - if any. The band have existed for fifteen years and this album, part retrospective and part new material, is the final one by the line-up listed here. Band leader and main composer Mark Chaet has decided to seek a different musical direction. Trio Bravo+ consists of Mark Chaet - violin, Giorgio Radoja - piano, Sergej Sweschinkij - double bass, Adam Tomaszewski - marimbas/drums, and guest musicians on various tracks: Zsolt Dombovari - cello, Bartek Miejnek - Kontrabass, Michael Joch - percussion, Maria Schneider - marimba, Sascha Gutmann - piano. The album contains nineteen tracks, many reworked from tracks on previous albums. They are: Hommage An Shanghai Nr 1, Darf Ich Bitten, Wiener Würstchen, Rondo Ukraine, Panzerkreuzer Potemkin, Paramela, Kiga, Ta-Ra-Ra, Troika, Montag, Trauriger Clown, Chanson Triste, Liebesleid, Fernes Irland, Punk, Hommage An Shanghai Nr 2, Pizzicato, September, Wolga-Flüsschen. And so this looks to be the final Trio Bravo+ album, at least sounding like this. A sad moment but also an intriguing one as we wait to see what the future brings. Still, this new album reflects the best of the band as it was, and it isn't too late for new listeners to tune into the marvellously inventive music of Trio Bravo+. Recommended to world music tourists.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.ozellamusic.com
The four musicians of Fattigfolket hail from Norway and Sweden, with the band being based in Norway. The album title Park actually refers to those areas of green in cities that are often ignored or taken for granted until they are under threat from budget cuts. I have a sneaky suspicion that we British don't value green parks as much as our European neighbours - public funding for them is being reduced all the time here. So, eleven tracks inspired by community parks the band have visited during during their downtime on tours across Europe. Essentially the album is a collection of jazz-inspired tone poems to the much threatened green spaces in our cities. As you would expect the music on the album is post-bop jazz, some of it more upbeat than the rest, which is on the whole quite reflective music. Fattigfolket are: Gunnar Halle - trumpet, Hallvard Godal - sax/clarinet, Putte Johander - bass, Ole Morten Sommer - drums. The eleven track titles are: Pfaueninsel Park, Brentenopark, Barnim Park, Hesperides Park, Lohrpark, Mauerpark, Tierpark, Innocentia Park, Marienberg Park, Grunewald Agra Park. The tracks are written by various members of Fattigfolket. Overall, the music is quite downbeat, not exactly sad but extremely reflective and dreamlike. The performances are quite precise and logical, there is little exuberance on show - the music is quite methodical in its approach. I guess you would call this chamber jazz, it certainly has the air of a chamber group. A little bit too solemn for my tastes but if you like your jazz serious and thoughtful then Park is the album for you.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.fattigfolket.com
Taking its inspiration from "The Old German Songbook" and teutonic folk music in general Good Morning Lilofee is a collection of eight German folk songs re-imagined and given a makeover of jazz and world music influences. Not knowing the original source material means that I am listening to this music as having been written by pianist Edgar Knecht, and it does make for a very lively experience. Mr Knecht's piano style is a little like Dave Brubeck, but with added muscle and Afro-latin juice - so it is full of good humour and eye-watering virtuosity. The trio playing with him are: Rolf Denecke - bass, Stephan Emig - Drums, Tobias Schulte - drums, with Wolfram Geiss - cello on Maria. The tracks are: Heisses Katherinerle, Nachts Um ¾, Thule, Maria, Valse Bleu, Simsala, Froh, and Schlaff. Unlike Brubeck's music which tended to be dry and mathematical, Mr Knecht takes these elements and gives them a healthy dose of swing, adds an Afro or Latin rhythm to it and plays hell for leather. Good Morning Lilofee is a lot more fun than you would expect it to be and even if you are on the verge of liking jazz I think you would find enough in this album to open your ears to the fact that jazz can be a lot of fun at times and well worth exploring. The utilisation of a vocoder on Simsala also adds a funky edge to the track. Altogether I think Good Morning Lilofee is a marvellous album and I highly recommend it.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.edgarnecht.com
Natsukashii is a Japanese term that describes how intense memories can be triggered by trivial items [probably similar to Deja Vu] - it is also the title of the latest album by this Norwegian jazz trio. The Helge Lien Trio is Helge Lien on piano/composer, Frode Berg on bass and Knut Aalefjær on drums. Natsukashii took three days to record, and the ten tracks are musical narratives between the pianist and his musicians. Mr Lien is one of those pianists who can be lightning fast on the keyboard, producing a blistering number of notes in a small amount of time, and yet when it is called for there is always space between the notes to make the music that much more effective. The music is jazz and while the music is original the style is similar to that of late Oscar Peterson - intricate yet always melodic. The tracks are: Natsukashii, Afrikapolka, Bon Tempi, E, Seadu, Meles Meles, Hymne (Til Jari Åsvik), Umbigada, Small No Need, and Living In Different Times. The music on this album carries some weight of expectations after the trio's previous album, Hello Troll, and I think it lives up to those expectations most highly. Recorded in audiophile hi-res 24bit/192 khz form, the album is available in the usual CD format as well as an audiophile vinyl LP version available for those who dislike CDs.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.helgelientrio.com
As far as I understand it Let Go | Instrumentals is a reissue of a previous album by the Tytingvåg Ensemble but this time without the original vocals. I guess in the pop world this would be classified as a 'remix' but in the more rarefied jazz world this is a 're-imagining' of the original album. Having got that out of the way we can look at the music in more depth. The Tytingvåg Ensemble hail from Norway, a country that seems to have a rich musical heritage little known beyond its borders. The album contains eleven tracks, all composed by Randi Tytingvåg who, while not performing on the CD, directs and produces the musicians. There are five musicians performing on the album, but not necessarily on all the tracks. They are: Anders Aarum - piano and glockenspiel, Espen Leite - accordion, Jens Fossum - double bass, Ola Kvernberg - violin, and Morton Michelsen - clarinet. Strangely, the music sounds more reminiscent of La Belle Paris, Django Rheinhart and Stephane Grappelli - with the accordion replacing the guitar - and perhaps a dash of Argentinean tango and Jewish Kletzmer to stir things up. However, there is also a bit of that Nordic stoicism mixed into the music - a hint of the Northern Lights to chill things down. A lot of the music is quite upbeat and bustles along at a fair rate, the slower pieces are very atmospheric. The tracks are: Rat Race, Let There Be You And me, Ghost, War, Playful, Between Us, Interlude, So Long, Let Go, Every Day Monsters, and Beautiful. Let Go | Instrumentals may be jazz but I think it is also world music and a fine example of fusing different elements together. The jazz isn't too cerebral and the music is very appealing to the ear. So recommended to those with adventurous ears.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.tytingvaag.no
Taking two years to produce, this collaboration of German and Indian musicians is well worth the wait. An exhilarating mix of East meets West, Sixth Sense is one of those albums where the cross-fertilisation of cultures works very well indeed. I have always been a bit of a 'world' music fan and this collection of mostly upbeat tracks certainly hits the spot for me. Led by renowned Indian musician Tanmoy Bose on tablas and vocals - he was the catalyst for this project - there are up to sixteen musicians playing together on this music. It is a rich mix of Indian percussion and traditional instruments and vocals to which are added electric guitars, bass, saxes, flutes and trumpets - provided by the German element. I think one of the best examples of this cross-cultural synergy is the twelve minute long It's Been A Long Way - it continuously weaves the traditional Indian elements with more ambient sections, street recordings, and jazz vibes. It really is the album's showpiece. But that doesn't reduce the rest of the album, there simply is not a bad track on this album. You can smell the rich spices in the market, hear the chaos of the traffic systems, and feel the overwhelming crush of the subcontinent's huge population. This is a Thomas Cooke package tour to the country from the safety of your armchair. The remaining tracks are: Khandem, Bhairabi, What We Need, Between The Worlds, Rikshaws On Rash Bihari, Trip To Kolkata, The Cobra, Puri and Howra Bridge. There are really far too many musicians to list here but I can say that Tanmoy Bose is more than matched by the assorted Indian and German musicians, and their commitment is tangible throughout this album. I loved Sixth Sense and hope the Taal Tantra Experience will record again, but please don't let it take two years next time... Highly recommended and most definitely one of my albums of 2010 [and any other year, come to that].
It has always been a strange conundrum that while being part of Europe Great Britain has always taken it's musical cues from America and has almost totally ignored the wonderfully rich sources of popular music from across the European mainland. The occasional pop act breaks through - ABBA, A-Ha and Roxette come to mind, of course, and that's about it. So finding an unknown [in the UK] jazz-pop vocalist worth investigating is an interesting proposition. Randi Tytingvåg comes from Norway and is already a star over there. She is a singer-songwriter in the Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos vein, writing jazz-flecked pop songs sung in a breathless, intimate style. Set amongst a bed of acoustic instruments, her gentle voice whispers directly into the listener's ears. It is a refreshing change to listen to songs set in European musical styles [Chanson, Kletzmer, Tango, Classical etc.] rather than the usual American sludge of r'n'b-hip hop trash. Ms Tytingvåg has written eleven songs of varying enchantment, all of them never less than listenable and full of classy charm. There is a sort of smokey jazz club vibe to the performances, and the songs deserve to be heard in a more personal setting than the usual stadium/theatre settings that most pop/rock requires. The recordings are elegantly set - devoid of studio trickery, just her band of six musicians and a jewel of a voice. Let Go is like a fine wine, it should be listened to in moderation, savouring its charms one by one. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.Tytingvaag.no
Ozella Music always seem to come up with interesting musicians and albums that defy commercial requirements and end up on my regular playlist simply on their playability value alone. And here we are again with another album that caresses the ears and soothes stressed sensibilities. Andreas Leifield is another new name to me but impresses with his apparent musical talents on this self-produced and self-performed album of dreamy electronica music. Utilising a range of instruments - acoustic and electronic - he has created seven lengthy soundscapes that drift and soar, evoking tantalising flavours of the Far East, India in particular, amongst the atmospheric synth and looped sampled backdrops. The result is a collection of effortless and wonderfully restful tracks that nudge you just far enough to listen intently, rather than drift into sleep like most new age recordings do to me. This is an album that allows you to invoke your own imagination and create mind pictures [old holidays, perhaps], and with titles such as Dreaming, Inside, Time Waves, Zephyr etc., it would be so easy to use this album to soundtrack your own happy experiences as a traveller. Sadly, Andreas Leifield died in 2006, which is a great shame as I would love to hear more of this musician's music - it has a heart and a soul sadly missing from much of the current commercial music.
As always with the new releases from Germany's Ozella Music the sheer eclectic variety of the music they issue is always interesting - and very appealing.
Of the four albums reviewed here, Gerold Kukulenz - Miles High [OZL22003CD] is probably the most immediately enjoyable - a collection of sixteen instrumentals performed in the 'lounge' style, with every instrument played by Kukulenz. The music is mostly upbeat and bouncy, uplifting music with a resolute beat and most definitely not new age. If you like the early albums by Air then you should like this a lot, it has the same multi-textured and multi-layered sound - gentle drum and bass percussion rhythms allied to slinky and supple electric piano figures, all wrapped in a sympathetic layer of electronica. If there's a theme to these tracks then I think must be travel, titles such as Space Walk, On The Night Train, Arrival, Rollin', Walk On The Cool Side etc., all evoke a sense of movement or moving on either physically or mentally. None of these tracks outstays its welcome, short or long, they don't ultimately bore, and all contain a sense of detached coolness and sophistication. This album is on heavy rotation at the Borderland CD deck and it will be on yours too! Highly recommended.
The second album from Ozella Music is Offroad by Hands On Strings [OZL012CD], which is a collection of acoustic guitar (and ocassional electric guitar) duets by Stephan Bormann and Thomas Fellow. The style is jazz/World with latin American influences, mostly upbeat, happy music and but the slower numbers have loads of atmosphere. The playing by these guys is exceptionally fine and I recommend anyone learning to play the guitar to hear this album to see just what is possible. While Hands On Strings have composed half of the eleven tracks, the rest are composed by South Americans, including the great Argentinian tango master Astor Piazolla. If you've bought albums by the lat lamented Acoustic Alchemy then I really think you will find Hands On Strings very much to your taste - this is a very pleasant, relaxing and invigorating album to enjoy.
Michel Sajrawy - Yathrib [OZ010 CD] is an album of hybrid Arabic fusion jazz - as the pr sheet describes it, and it works for me. Yathrib is another name for the city of Medina, a melting pot of arabs, jews and christians, and if the musical description on this album is anything to go by then it is a hectic, chaotic place to be! Michel Sajrawy's band come from all over the middle east, bringing their musical traditions together into something hugely evocative of the region. Sajrawy himself is a very nimble fingered guitarist who plays furious one moment and slowly melodic the next. The music brings to mind a curious almalgam of Django Rheinhardt's Hot Club de France and Robert Fripp and King Crimson. I enjoyed this album but I don't think it will appeal to all - if you like jazz rock with the exotic spiciness of the arabic middle east then you'll love it.
The final album is Roadstories by Paul Joses [SW501CD], a collection of songs and instrumentals drawn from Joses touring across Europe over the last thirty years. These fifteen tracks cover most emotional benchmarks in their melodic honesty. Joses fits into that now much maligned [by the music press] genre of singer/songwriter for the folk-rock-tinged bedroom sect that would suck up everything that Cat Stevens and Nick Drake would produce. And after years of larger than life music the more reflective and insular song is becoming popular again, which means that Joses deserves to be heard and considered. Thirty years on the road means a hell of a lot of life experiences to filter through to make up a decent album, and it works well here.
There are some albums that grab your attention from the first second after you press the play button - that happened with this album, and especially the opening track Marrakesh Sunrise, a jaunty mix of worldbeats, samples, Arabic chants and guitar, sitar and sax. Great track and a good introduction to the music and musicianship of Dagobert 'Dago' Böhm. Track two is simply called Ozella and is a lovely melodic homage to his record label. Stay Awake follows and this smooth ballad with vocals by Angua Crash is one of those songs that has 'late night smooch' written all over it. Next is Cafe Au Lait, a sax-led tune that reminds me mightily of the late lamented Spyra Gyra, another band who could spin magic from their instruments. So four tracks in and the album is already appearing to be a classic. I don't really care how you classifiy it: world music, rock, jazz - this is an album that is NOT going to be removed from the player easily. Dago has put together a bewitching mix of world music influences, acoustic instruments [with a dash of electricity here and there] and real honest to God tunes that you end up humming. And believe you me, when you've heard as many albums as I have that is a rarity! The musicianship of Dago and his band is impressive, to say the least, and the overriding feeling is of smoothness and confidence. This is an album you'll never regret buying - it just gets better with each play!
Dagobert Böhm is a German guitarist of rare skill and sensitivity, mixing many styles of fingerpicking to create his own unique one. Morning Flight is a beautiful collection of instrumentals that could be taken as folk or jazz, or in our wider appreciation of things now, world music. But on an intimate scale this is music that sounds as if it is being performed exclusively for you in your lounge. If you want points of reference then I suggest the mellower side of Weather Report and more consistently, Pat Metheny. One thing it isn't is bland 'new world' pap. The album begins with what seems to be Dagobert's signature tune, Morning Flight - a lovely piece that draws all the elements into nearly four minutes of perfection. And if you want to overdose there is also a six minute version... With tracks such as One Day I'll Follow The Birds, Pacific Sundown, and Novemberland one is presented with music that is highly visual and I can't help wonder why some of this excellent music hasn't been picked up for enhancing tv programmes such as wildlife documentaries. With a soundscape utilising acoustic instruments such as saxes, cellos, drums and guitars mixed with muted electric fretless bass and keyboards this album works on so many levels - a source of relaxation, spirit rejuvinator and of course, the sheer exhileration of fine music.
Circle Around is the debut album on Dagobert's own record label, Ozella Music. I'm happy to say that it follows very much in the musical steps of Morning Flight - thirteen more scintillating instrumental tracks that carefully and entertainingly showcase the guitarist's ample skills. Unlike the previous album Circle Around is a true solo album, only two tracks feature other musicians, so much of the accompaniment is multitrack magic. The album opens with Open Air, a jaunty number that aptly offers a spacious sound for the acoustic guitar to fill - a lovely tune that should have guitar fans straining for every note. Opus 71 follows, a denser, more lyrical piece, both folky and jazzy at the same time. Other highlight tracks on the album include Jorien, the bluesy Bigfoot, the Spanish-style Cadenza, and the haunting From Up Above - with its subtly uplifting fretless bass by Manfred Zepf. In reality though there are no sub-standard tracks on this album, one can confidently pop this cd into the player and be relaxed and stimulated at the same time.
Guitarist Dagobert Böhm teams up with Markus Reuter on touch guitar and ambient guitar loops and Zoltan Lantos on violin to form String Unit, a more cutting edge and experimental outlet for acoustic music. The opening track, Indiaspara, incorporates an eastern ethnic feel and swing to a very atmospheric piece. Indeed there's a strong ethnic feel to almost all the music on this ten track album, whether from Eastern Europe, Asia or the Far East. Tau carried the feel on with tabla and violin over guitars drones - yet still retains a jazzy feel to the structure. Circle has a, you guessed it, circular guitar riff over which the violin swoops and drones in something of a cross between Indian and Japanese styles - very atmospheric. The River literally flows, a fast rivulet of rich notes. Most of the remaining tracks use a similar template. This album is beautifully recorded, the sound is spacious and alive, each instrument clearly positioned and crystal clear. It also occurs to me that this is an album for chilling out to - it isn't soporific but it is clearly not for dancing either - its resolute slow-to-mid tempo format stimulates the brain rather than the feet. This is an ideal album if the noise of the world is too loud in your head.
The album Acoustic Unit features Dagobert Böhm on guitars, Tony Lakatos on flute and sax, Bela Lattmann on bass and Kornel Horvath on percussion. Unsurprisingly this album continues Dagobert's explorations into acoustic music and weaves together elements of ethnic, jazz and folk music into something new. Unlike the other albums reviewed here this album is a band collaboration and the addition of sax, flute, bass and percussion opens out the sound into new avenues of musical adventure. It's also fair to say that this album is also more uptempo than most of the previous material, with the bass and percussion pushing things along into something far more rhythmic. The album opens with La Via, a spritely latin/gypsy riff led by Tony Lakatos' soprano sax. Big Moon - Small Town follows, a slightly Django-esque jazz number, followed by You Do, a faster-paced sax-led workout. Spirits And Butterflies is a more latin influenced number with some nice mixing of flute and guitar. The rest of the tracks on this album also follow this latin/jazz theme, with very cool [and ultra-tight!] playing by all four members of the band. Again, this is the sort of album to give you that mellow mood. The musicianship is very high and the melodies of most of the self-composed tracks stay in the head for some time. Another great album from Dagobert!
There are times when you need some music in your life that is solely there to rest and restore your energy levels. Well, I think I just might have the albums here that will do that for you. These four compilation CDs from Ozella Music bring together an amazing collection of virtuosic musicians from across Europe, but mostly Germany, I think. But the bottom line is that each album captures the mood of a time of day with a wide range of styles and instrumentation. Mostly acoustic and with just the merest hint of electricity at times, these musicians conjure up some extremely relaxing moods spread across the four albums.
The musicians on these CDs include Dagobert Böhm, String Unit, Trio Bravo, Angua Crash Trio, Acoustic Unit, Paul Joses and a whole raft of names unknown to me but who are all equally as good. The music by these people doesn't strike me as being what you would call 'New Age', it isn't that bland, it is rooted in jazz, folk and some artists draw on their ethnic roots to impressive effect. The term 'Easy Listening' has almost become an insult in some music circles and yet this is the nearest that I can come to describing the music here - it is extremely easy on the ear, and yet it has definite roots in the real people making playing on these CDs. Each of these albums has an average of twenty tracks or more, so picking out favourites is pretty impossible - I can honestly say that there is nothing on any of the CDs that forced me to use the skip control on... And much that demanded to be replayed again immediately. I haven't come across many compilations CDs that have made me do that - so all four albums are highly recommended.