Saturday, 7 January 2017

This Week's Playlist - a lot of jazz, a bit of Prog

The first week of a new year has seen me at a bit of a loose end. As some of you may be aware early in December I was knocked down crossing the street, and consequently have been somewhat incapacitated. One thing I've managed to do, though, is listen to some music, and I thought I would let you know what I've been listening to (just in case you're interested!)

Much of my listening has been catching up with pre-Christmas purchases, though I did indulge myself a little the other day with some classics from the collection. Quite a bit of my music discovery comes through the medium of Bandcamp, a wonderful way to meet, listen to and even purchase a wide selection of sometimes great music! One band that I came across during last year was the Seattle Jazz combo of the Jason Parker Quartet, initially through a tribute album they released to the work of the late Nick Drake in 2011, which is well worth checking out. More recently I've gone back to their self-titled debut, a wonderful example of the best of modern bebop in the tradition of the classics.

Still in a jazzy vein are first the Oakland, CA trio of The Once and Future Band, who bring a fusion and proggy sound, with echoes for me of Yes and BJH without being derivative. Well worth checking out their Brian EP! Second is the Canterbury-based quintet The Thirteen Club, whose album So Yeah is jazzier and brings a wonderful late-night fusion feel to its lush instrumental melodies. This is good modern jazz rock, which stays with you. Thirdly is an album released towards the end of 2016 on the (for me) increasingly influential Edition Records label. Through exploring their catalogue I have enjoyed the work of Jason Rebello, Tim Garland, Jasper Høiby, Phronesis and Dinosaur, but this particular item came from the guitar-playing hands of Stuart McCullum and Mike Walker. The album The Space Between creates some beautiful soundscapes and textures using acoustic and electric guitars, and is a quiet, thoughtful album that puts me in mind on many occasions of Pat Metheny.

At the more progressive end of my musical diet are a couple of albums that ring a whole lot of musical bells, both by musicians who might be considered on the slightly eccentric side of life! Both of them are also presenters on Progzilla Radio, too: coincidence? The first takes me back to the autumn and to the Summer's End Festival in Chepstow, as it is a recording of one of the sets from this year - that of the multi-talented Peter Jones, aka Tiger Moth Tales. In an exceptional weekend for music, theirs was one of the stand-out sets of the festival, and thankfully it was recorded for posterity, and it is impossible to isolate a stand-out track: they're all fantastic! The second is the final release of many for 2016 from the wonderfully eclectic Bad Elephant Music label, this time a second volume of archive songs from the delightful Simon Godfrey: the Black Bag Archive volume 2. This is a collection of re-worked songs dating from 1999 - 2016, showing a tremendous range of song-writing from Simon and leaving me eager for the new Shineback and Valdez material that should be due shortly. Finally in the new music is an album that's not actually out yet, but which I've got an early copy of: the latest album from Blackfield - Blackfield V. The work of Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen, this is a wonderful collection of short, thoughtful songs that draw on Wilson's solo work and even his work with Porcupine Tree, but with Geffen's voice it seems to remove the gravitas without removing the earnestness. The band's earlier work is not that well-known to me, but this seems to stand out from what I do know (Welcome to My DNA) as an album to return to many times.

The 'classics' from my collection that I mentioned earlier again look quite jazzy. (No links, as these are CDs) The Impossible Gentlemen's third album, Let's Get Deluxe has a great collection of modern jazz tunes (written by the aforementioned Mike Walker). Miles Davis has always featured highly on my all-time greats list, and last year Don Cheatle did a biopic of the great man, Miles Ahead. The OST gives a wonderful feel for the film (still to be seen!), and even features Cheatle himself on trumpet, as well as playing the man. I've also always had a soft spot for the cool jazzy stylings of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen in Steely Dan, and the other day I gave possibly their best two albums a spin: their debut, Can't Buy A Thrill and the beautiful Aja - both offering music of the highest order. Finally, and a little more proggy, was Motivation Radio by Steve Hillage: maybe not the best thing he's recorded (of his solo work, that's probably a toss-up between Fish Rising & L), but an evocative album that has its moments.

So that's how that last week has panned out musically (along with various podcasts!). I hope, if you're not familiar with them, that you'll find the music interesting. Let me know!