Less than a decade old, London-based Whirlwind Recordings gives modern jazz a fresh, new face. The label’s inspired roster of talent bridges genres, instruments and generations—a testament to founder Michael Janisch’s insight into not only where jazz has been, but where it’s headed. The following recent releases stand as a portent of the label’s promising outlook.
Slovenia-born Jure Pukl and his wife, Melissa Aldana, both tenor saxophone players, share a common musical vision and vocabulary. The reciprocal exchange between these like-minded players provides the signature sound for Pukl’s quartet with Aldana, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Greg Hutchinson. Their sweetly entangled saxophone lines reach ever upward, grounded by the driving pulse of the chordless rhythm section. On Pukl’s latest, Doubtless (4724; 43:28 ****1⁄2), the saxophone duet tumbles in and around the harmony on tunes like “Doves,” a waltz with an engaging hook and extended solo sections. But on Ornette Coleman’s “Intersong,” the two play in unison, seemingly grudgingly, splintering off into discrete, sometime dissonant reveries at the end of each chorus. These explorations of musical closeness and distance neatly mimic the conversations between friends and partners; the key to the success of this album lies in the natural rapport among these players as they engage and improvise.
Bassist/composer Wojtek Mazolewski, leader of the Polish experimental jazz quartet Pink Freud, offers up a bundled version of some of his works with Polka (Worldwide Deluxe Edition) (4725; 52:42 *****). On the album, Mazolewski swaps three tunes from his critically acclaimed 2014 Polka (Agora S.A.) for the title cuts from his 2017 12-inch, “London/Theme De YoYo” (Lanquidity). This rejiggering leaves Mazolewski with a musical travelogue of sorts—all but
one of the 12 originals on the new collection bear the name of a place. Hearing these city-inspired compositions side by side, listeners can appreciate just how gifted Mazolewski is at capturing place through sound. On “London,” the enervated horn and drum parts recall the noise of a hectic traffic jam, and on “Paris,” a spare melody ripples out like a whistled tune along a sunlit boulevard.
Drummer Gene Jackson has been best known as a sideman for Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, but his debut is set to change that. At the helm of his close-knit ensemble, Trio NuYorx (pianist Gabriel Guerrero and bassist Carlo de Rosa), Jackson maneuvers into the foreground with Power Of Love (4723; 65:18; ***1⁄2), 10 tunes of varying rhythmic textures that showcase each member of the trio as both a composer and player. On Jackson’s “Before Then,” he hews as close as possible to an unwavering, fast-as-a-bullet tempo, challenging the others to keep up. Which they do—this ensemble is nothing if not cohesive.
In another drummer-directed group, Jeff Williams explores evolving improvised forms and shifting emotional terrain on Lifelike (4721; 60:41 ***1⁄2). Recorded live in London last year, the album reprises six of Williams’ original tunes from three previous albums, performed this time with additional personnel and altered arrangements—to intriguing effect. “Borderline,” first heard on 2013’s The Listener, opens this time with a deceptively casual saxophone and percussion improvisation, before the tune’s jaunty horn motif enters almost three minutes in. Guest trumpeter Gonçalo Marquez contributes the only new tune on the recording, his “Canção Do Amolador,” a worthy vehicle for Williams’ thrumming and the horns’ regal, celebratory blowing.
Photo courtesy of Whirlwind Recordings
(Reprinted from the September 2018 issue of Downbeat magazine.)