99-cent jazz & new classical (on eMusic & Bandcamp)
Turn that spare greenback in your pocket into interesting, challenging music.
ESP-DISK continues to deserve special attention for having a whole lot of critically important and classic titles at bargain basement prices.
1. “The Modernist” - Gianluca Di Ienno, Hana Shybayeva, Pianologues (2020). Dual, if not duel, pianos make for a refreshing and serious EP of five instrumental pieces of about four or five minutes in length. Each is very carefully structured with passages that vary a lot in tone. I’m no good at knowing when musicians are improvising, but I’d guess these are compositions and this is new classical rather than jazz, excepting the last two tracks. “Shiftmospheric” adds some electronics and is the outlier, going for more of an atmospheric effect as suggested by the title. In stark contrast, one could call the closing track “rousing.” An actual pianist would undoubtedly describe them better, but I find each distinctly interesting and enjoyable w/out understanding any of the technicalities. 99-cent EPs from the current year don’t come better than this one.
2. “Berlin Sessions” - Luca Sguera (2020). The first track here is a bit of a downer, but the next two pick things up nicely. “ARP” has a slow sax or other reed instrument over frenetic rhythm and piano and then becomes choppy in a good way with added vibes, my favorite track and the one to sample. An altogether nicely varied EP. https://lucasguera.bandcamp.com/
3. “Double Expression” - Sam Gendel (2017) Three album-length tracks that didn’t reveal what they’d sound like as whole pieces upon sampling. I wasn’t sure if they’d really be jazz, more ambient or experimental, and upon listening in full the sound shifts between them so seamlessly I don’t feel bad for including a $3 album on a 99-cent list. I’d recommend taking a break between tracks rather than listening to the full 2.25 hours in one sitting. This manages to be both mellow and interesting.
4. “Lago o Laguna” - Alan Zimmerman (2018). Maybe not a name that screams “Latin Jazz,” but this is really just nice, mellow jazz that happens to have names en español rather than any major influence on the overall sound. Like a mellower Bad Plus (which will always be my go-to comparison for this kind of jazz) w/ brass.
5. “La Jaula Se Ha Vuelto Pájaro y Se Ha Volado (En Vivo)” - Mujeres Improvisando feat. Melina Moguilevsky, Catu Hardoy, Florencia Otero & Tatiana Castro Mejía (2020). This probably fits better under experimental, but I just did a list of that and won’t again for a while. Sound bites fit nicely on these long tracks that emphasize either strings or voices. I wouldn’t say it ever gets into noisy obnoxious territory, but you might disagree. Is it a bridge between improvised jazz and composed new classical? In any case, at over an hour long, this is quite a bargain for some most unusual sounds. https://camilanebbia.bandcamp.com/album/la-jaula-se-ha-vuelto-p-jaro-y-se-ha-volado-mujeres-improvisando
6. “Além” - Kiai (2018). Guitar, piano, and drums jazz, nearly 90 minutes, with several tracks over ten minutes long. Given its obscurity, I can’t imagine it’s anywhere near the best example of this instrumental combo, but it’s not going to offend anyone and it pretty nice to put on for most occasions. “Smile Black,” one of the shorter numbers at just under eight minutes, adds a male voice that’s fairly subtle. Generally pretty uptempo and even exciting at times, with songs long enough to contain several distinct sections and let their ideas play out fully.
7. “II Kwartet smyczkowy "Przestrzenie"“ - Wojciech Klon (2014). Quite serious, and on the second track, quite urgent chamber music. Each has passages which could be called dark or a little on the somber side. Unsettling at times, but never unpleasant.
8. “The Space Between the Fish and the Moon” - Yazz Ahmed (2017). This is the only of several recommended jazz artists’ works that’s available on eMusic from a list intended to (and did) show me the wondrous jazz I was missing out on by not using Bandcamp. I wasn’t ready to take the plunge on a full album from her; this nicely varied EP will tide me over. I’m not usually a fan of trumpets, so all the other instruments and unidentifiable sounds here, some electronic, go a long way to help me ease into good, serious jazz. This one’s mellow and even kind of spacey, but it’s over all too quickly. https://yazzahmed.bandcamp.com/album/the-space-between-the-fish-the-moon-la-saboteuse-chapter-one
9. “minimaLIST ENsemble: In C” - Alexander Campkin (2016). The first track by the named artist is only five minutes long, a rather nervous, percussive orchestral piece that makes the Surprise Symphony sound tame or soporific by comparison. The second, conducted by the same, was my introduction to the renowned Terry Riley, clocking in at a typical album’s length. They make a nice pair, especially for a dollar.
10. “Arvo Pärt.Piano and Chamber Music” - Lluís Claret-Pedro Piquero-Gerard Claret (2017). Probably not the most famous, I wouldn’t know if it’s the best, but it might be the most inexpensive rendition of these mainstays of film soundtracks. “Spiegel im spiegel” might as well be the soundtrack to maintaining a quiet dignity in the sadness of 2020, and we get two subtly different versions of it.
11. “Pocho al Piano (Vol. 2)” - Juan Sabogal (2020). As with most of the many solo piano EPs on eMu, calling this one either jazz or new classical is a stretch. Better, perhaps, to say this is the second collection of two and three-minute melodies. Harmless.
12. “Rag” - George Cartwright & Davu Seru (2010). Sax and drums ain’t rock and roll. Free the live duets on Roaratorio for 99 cents and leave all constraining structures behind. The volume never gets too high, and the 18-minute heart of the album is a fine meandering.
Rather than reposting repeatedly, here’s my lists of what’s left on eMusic: http://www.omnifoo.info/pages/eMuReddit.html
& by my evaluation http://www.omnifoo.info/pages/eMusic%20Labels.html