Monday, December 19, 2005

citizen jazz update

Fay Claassen - Two Portraits of Chet Baker
The Dutch singer does what the double-album says on the tin, with former Baker accompanists like bassist Hein Van De Geyn and drummer John Engels lending credibility. The first CD doubles as a Portrait of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet ft. Chet Baker, with Claassen wordlessly filling Baker's role. The second CD finds her singing standards in a somewhat expanded setting (add trumpet and piano). The first CD focuses tightly on its subject, the second, if heard blind, is just a nice and elegant, yet unremarkable, vocal standards session.

Ben Sluijs - True Nature
Up until two years ago, saxophonist Sluijs was synonymous with lyricism and a beautiful, light alto tone and his quartet with melodic West Coast-derived jazz. His new quartet is an altogether different proposition, the transformation amazing. The two saxophone line-up now mostly takes after the Ornette Coleman Quartet's openness and some of its peculiar brand of loose-fitting melody, with a little Coltrane thrown in, as well as Sluijs's abiding interest in African sounds. There is one strong link to his previous work, though: an incredibly fine-grained control of timbre. The Manolo Cabras-Marek Patrman rhythm section is fascinating, too.

Maak's Spirit - Al Majmaa
The Belgian sextet teams up with a group of Gnawas and a Malian string player, which allows me to essay some political commentary. I'm not sure how wise that is. Anyway, fantastic music in which Gnawa chants blend with Western horns, n'goni engages electric guitar, myriad percussion beefs up the drums/electric bass groove.

I bestowed Citizen Jazz's coveted "ELU" ("Chosen") distinction upon the last two CDs, ie. they're highly recommended, but may be lost in the shuffle, as three other discs got the same treatment...