Monday Dec 17

A few Trance-porting CDs

My recent [2000] recommendation of Sandra Collins's Tranceport 3 CD may have been a mistake.  Oh, I'm still enjoying the disc's cutting edge creativity, but as a result of my positive comments, I've started getting in the mail large packs of CDs full of trance, techno, house, and other assorted genres.

Most of them don't stay long in my CD player.  Rarely do any survive the rapid weeding out process.  One from the last batch did and I'm going to mention it at the risk of increasing the flood of noisy, offensive, and all but unlistenable CDs into my mailbox.

After all, if an occasional gem turns up in the muck, it's all worth it, right?

The gem here is Bassland (E-Magine EMA 61042-2) which appears to be the brainchild of one Alex Xenophon who produces, composes, plays guitar, mixes, and even sings a little.  I don't really know what words the folks who review this stuff for a living would use to describe the amazing mix of electronics, voice, guitar, and something called "ambience."  All I can tell you is that this unregenerate jazz fan enjoys listening to it.

Of course I enjoy CDs like The David Leonhardt Trio Plays Gershwin (Big Bang Records BBR 9569) and Hey, It's Me by Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge (Left Coast Clave Records LCC001) even more.

Pianist Leonhardt's group sheds new light on a lineup of usual suspects from the Gershwin canon.  For instance, a rather sprightly "Summertime" evokes that season's sunny afternoons of fun rather than the quiet warm evenings of its original lullaby setting. Nancy Reed's bright vocalization does a lot to put it over.

The group adds up to a quintet (piano, sax, voice, bass, and drums) but on any track you might hear a piano trio, quartet with the sax, quartet with the voice, all five, or just piano and voice.  No matter what the combination, the performances have a "just right" feel and of course the songs are absolute classics of American popular composition.

Mark Levine's group uses traditional jazz piano trio instrumentation with the addition of a Latin percussionist.  But this is very different from the trio plus conga dates that were common in the '60s.  Here the percussion is more integrated into the performances and Levine's personal credentials includes a solid vein of Latin jazz.

Hey, It's Me presents the quieter side of Latin jazz in spite of the shout out title.  No trumpet volleys or punchy sax riffs or multiple member percussion sections here.  It's indeed jazz with a tinge.  It's beautifully recorded, too.  I particularly appreciate the depth of the soundstage that the engineers achieved without adding excessive echo.