On the Record rounds up details about new and pending recordings of interest to the new-music community: contemporary classical music and jazz, electronic and electroacoustic music, and idioms for which no clever genre name has been coined, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, digital-only formats… you name it.
This list of upcoming release dates is culled from press releases, Amazon and other online record stores, social-media posts, and similar resources. Dates cited correspond to U.S. release of physical recordings where applicable, and are subject to change. These listings are not comprehensive—nor could they be! To submit a forthcoming recording for consideration, email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Album of the week
Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet WHENUFINDITUWILLKNOW
Ask any contemporary improvising guitarist, especially in the New York area, to name a fellow player who never got the widespread acclaim they were due, and chances are good the name Michael Gregory Jackson will come up before long. Seriously, the list of admirers Jackson has accrued over the years reads a like a who’s who of guitarists working in jazz-and-just-beyond: Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Marc Ribot, Elliott Sharp, and Mary Halvorson have all at one time or another copped to his influence.
If you’re still reading and haven’t skipped straight to the music, it might be that you’re among the many who’ve not heard of Jackson—a situation that likely has to do with a sharp career detour during the 1980s. The New Haven-born multi-instrumentalist first made waves – working as Michael Gregory, so as to avoid confusion with that other Michael Jackson – in New York’s loft-jazz scene of the 1970s. Working alongside such major innovators as Oliver Lake, David Murray, and Wadada Leo Smith, he quietly laid the groundwork for much of what we take for granted in the contemporary jazz-guitar vocabulary. That imposing triumvirate of bandleaders appears on Jackson’s exquisite 1977 debut LP, Clarity, Circle, Triangle, Square (better known simply as Clarity) initially self-released and then repressed decades later by ESP-Disk.
Clarity established Jackson not just as a resourceful guitarist with a fluid tone, a knack for creative pedal use, and fresh improvisational ideas, but also as an estimable composer whose range encompassed heady chamber jazz, proto-New Age solo pieces, and limpid ballads delivered in a sweet falsetto. Gifts, issued on Arista Novus in 1979, confirmed Jackson’s stature as a player, writer, and bandleader, working with trumpet lion Baikida Carroll and a formidable group of talented peers, including Marty Ehrlich and Jerome Harris.
Jackson also released the expansive, transitional Heart & Centeron Arista Novus in 1979, but then turned sharply toward the commercial-music sphere with his next release, Situation X, issued on Island in 1983. The slick funk session was produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, and featured that band’s Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson on bass and drums, with Steve Winwood making a cameo appearance on keys. What resulted was catchy and proficient – how could it not be, with that lineup? – yet mainstream success eluded Jackson.
After a back-to-basics retreat to New England and acoustic balladry for much of the ’90s and ’00s, Jackson recently began playing jazz dates again, working with Lake and recording with Smith. That he named his new band Clarity Quartet, a clear throwback to his fabled debut, declared his intent to flex muscles and bend boundaries anew. That set the bar high for his three young Danish colleagues – saxophonist Simon Spang-Hanssen, bassist Niels Praestholm, and drummer Matias Wolf Andreasen. But these players, who have worked with the guitarist since 2013, clearly share his wavelength.
The press materials that accompany WHENUFINDITUWILLKNOW, the Clarity Quartet’s second album, suggest outright that the music constitutes a knowing return to Jackson’s loft-jazz roots. This feels like a stretch; Jackson and his players unquestionably share a vital chemistry that comes through in everything they play. But even in its freest moments, the music doesn’t approach the on-the-fly intensity and rawness of Jackson’s early years.
Then again, why should it? Jackson has accrued decades of experience, in life as well as in music, and there’s no reason why his compositions and performances shouldn’t reflect such change—and, in fact, that’s exactly what WHENUFINDITUWILLKNOW does best. Among the album’s nine tracks, six include parenthetical dedications to friends, colleagues, and loved ones, including some now gone.
The opener, “Theme X,” is a relaxed, melancholy tribute to the late pianist Geri Allen; “Clarity 6” follows with deep, yawning bass and skittering percussion, its knotty theme honoring the great bassist Fred Hopkins. Listening to Jackson warble, wobble, and sting throughout this freewheeling performance, you hear exactly what it was that appealed to Bill Frisell. Baikida Carroll is the dedicatee of the taut, bouncy “Spin,” while the joyously swinging “Blue Blue,” with its brief bursts of harmonica and tightly intertwined guitar and saxophone lines, memorializes Bruce Kevin Jackson, the guitarist’s late brother.
Some of the fiercest playing from Jackson and Spang-Hanssen comes in Ornette-ish off-kilter funk of “Clarity 3,” followed immediately by the airy samba strains “Ah Yay” with its breezy vocal refrains and beautifully patient climactic guitar solo. Jackson and Spang-Hanssen tangle again memorably in the pensive “Collectors of Social Dismay,” responding to one another’s gestures instantly to memorable effect.
Two more tributes close the album. The brash, darting “Souvenirs” is addressed to the playwright, author, and performance artist Jessica Hagedorn, with whom Jackson collaborated at New York’s Public Theater in 1978. And “Meditation in E,” dedicated simply to Karen, his partner, ends this album – so rich in lived experience and so infused with fresh energy – in a tone of gracious, ethereal repose.
New This Week
Bearthoven – American Dream – compositions by Scott Wollschleger (Cantaloupe Music)
☆ Celer – Celer Plays Godflesh (Avalanche) Edmund Finnis – The Air, Turning – performances by Benjamin Beilman, Eloisa-Fleur Thom, Mark Simpson, Víkingur Ólafsson, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, London Contemporary Orchestra, and Britten Sinfonia (NMC) ☆ Hauschka – A Different Forest (Sony Classical) Miho Hazama m_unit – Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside) ☆ Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet – WHENUFINDITUWILLKNOW (Golden) ☆ Eric Laska – Presets & Studies (Marginal Frequency) Emmanuel Nunes – Minnesang|Musivus – SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Emilio Pomàrico (Wergo) Bernard Rands – Chains Like the Sea – Johannes Moser, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Clark Rundell (NMC) ☆ Gregory Spears – Paul’s Case – UrbanArias, American Modern Ensemble/Robert Woods (National Sawdust Tracks)
Melia Watras – Schumann Resonances – compositions by Melia Watras, Robert Schumann, Cuong Vu, and Richard Karpen (Planet M)
Casey Anderson – ghostses – Bent Duo (a wave press)
Lisa Bielawa– Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser – performers include Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Girls Chorus, Magik*Magik Orchestra, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, PARTCH, and others (Orange Mountain Music)
Ryuichi Sakamoto – BTTB – 20th Anniversary Edition (Milan) David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith – Sun of Goldfinger (ECM)
Sam Ashley & Werner Durand – I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good (Unseen Worlds) ☆ Caleb Burhans – Past Lives – performances by Simon Jermyn, JACK Quartet, and Duo Harpverk (Cantaloupe Music) Yevgeny Kutik – Meditations on Family – compositions by Timo Andres, Kinan Azmeh, Christopher Cerrone, Andreia Pinto Correia, Paola Prestini, Gity Razaz, Joseph Schwantner, and Gregory Vajda (Marquis Classics) Joe Martin – Étoilée (Sunnyside) ☆ NbN – trios (self-released) Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir – Vernacular – compositions by Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Halldór Smárason, and Hafliði Hallgrímsson (Sono Luminus)
This week in On the Record, The Necks defy expectation and categorization on 'Three,' their 21st album, new on Northern Spy. Plus dozens of listings for forthcoming releases.
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This week in On the Record: Bandcamp has responded to the current COVID-19 pandemic by waiving its fees for 24 hours, directing more money to artists and labels—here are some new and recent releases to buy today.