Rant ‘N’ Roll: Eight Eccentric Records to Discover

Kosmos, from Italy, redefine the age-old piano-bass-drums jazz trio wherein the piano is the key component. On their new Averno, equal emphasis is key to their unique sound which melds Euro classical with trad jazz. They like to deconstruct genre, only to rebuild the mix as a “living organism,” as they like to say. The seven originals bespeak a quietude that’s rather mysterious; no wonder as “averno,” in ancient times, is a lake which was said to be the entrance to hell itself.

Then there’s the 3D Jazz Trio – another piano-bass-drums project made up of three ladies from The Diva Jazz Orchestra – whose 9 to 5 swings incessantly, be it in Afro-Cuban mode or on the Dolly Parton-written title track. From the 1936 Isham Jones chestnut, “There Is No Greater Love,” to the 1944 “Some Other Time” by Leonard Bernstein, this 2022 gem deserves to be rediscovered.

Live @ The Side Door, by the Vince Ector Organatomy Trio+, is actually a drums/sax/guitar/organ quartet that opens with the funky “South Philly Groove.” Drummer-composer Ector’s originals contrast nicely with material by Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, and Burt Bacharach.

Finally Friday (MCG Jazz), by tenor saxophonist-composer Jason Kush, ably backed by piano/bass/drums, is an all-original eight-track trip where Kush rambles on in esoteric style and substance to the point of wondrous exhilaration.

On that most rare occasion when a piano-bass-drums trio transcends its instrumental limitations, magic can, indeed, ensue. Such is the case for Carnival Celestial (Intakt Records, Switzerland), by the Alexander Hawkins Trio (all three add percussion) wherein composer Hawkins adds synthesizer and samples to his mellifluous piano.

I tend to shy away from projects with no rhythm section but as a longtime fan of piano-playing, 15-fingered monster Gonzalo Rubalcaba (or so it seems), anything he ever does I will wait in line for. Now comes his duo project with French sax man Pierrick Pedron – and it’s a doozy. Pedron Rubalcaba (Gazebo Records, Switzerland) has them reinventing timeless material from Jerome Kern, Carla Bley, Sydney Bechet, Henry Mancini, Billy Strayhorn, and Jackie McLean. I was wrong. Who needs a rhythm section when you have two accomplished innovators like this?

In our toxic political climate, immigrants have been caught in a vise. Now comes Felipe Salles celebrating the immigrant experience by casting his wide net over musicians from Cuba, Argentina, Guadeloupe, Australia, Mexico, Chile, and his own Brazil. Home Is Here  (Tapestry Records) has 19 players on originals with World music leaning toward tango, South American chorinho music, Afro-Cuban, classical Baroque, and post-bop.  

You have got to hear Henceforth (SteepleChase Records) by guitarist-composer Max Light. His quartet with tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger is, in a word, exquisite. Preminger is an equally impressive leader in his own right, with a stunning string of albums under his own name. Bassist Kim Cass and drummer Dan Weiss perfectly accentuate this über-talented frontline. Just like Light’s 2020 trio CD Herplusme and his 2022 duo CD with Preminger Songs We Love, this 2023 quartet record captures his artistry beautifully. His “Half Marathon” is a rewrite of John Coltrane’s “26-2” in the oddest time signature of all: 13/4. Traces of alt-rock, video game music, folkloric West African rhythms, Ornette Coleman, Ellingtonia, and Mingus rear their heads. Leonard Cohen once wrote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” It’s a perfect metaphor for the music of Max Light.