One of the most difficult things to achieve in the art of musical performance is simplicity. The balance between technical skills and the spirit of the music is an elusive goal. I am very pleased to hear that Anat Cohen, Dudu Maia, Douglas Lora and Alexandre Lora have brilliantly achieved that goal in Alegria da Casa, the recording that I am listening to right now.
The seventh album from Israeli-born saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen, 2015's Luminosa showcases the N.Y.C.-based artist's eclectic mix of acoustic post-bop and Brazilian choro-influenced jazz. The album follows up her similarly inclined 2012 effort, Claroscuro, and provides a further showcase for her adroit improvisational skills and layered, sophisticated arrangements. Joining Cohen here is a bevy of equally gifted musicians, including keyboardist Jason Linder, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Daniel Freedman. Luminosa also features a handful of guest artists including guitarist Romero Lubambo, percussionist Gilmar Gomes, and accordion player Vitor Goncalves. As with most of Cohen's recordings, Luminosa is a highly engaging, sophisticated, and romantic album.
From the brooding opening title track to the closing Chet Baker homage, "I Fall in Love Too Easily," Dark Nights unapologetically embraces the heart of jazz. Every aspect of the album—from the cover photo, to Cohen's precise trumpet inflections, to the trio's dedication to immediacy and collective improvisation (and even the album's forays into electronic affects)—is saturated with the emblematic textures, rhythms, and imagery of jazz. This is achieved with professionalism, creativity, and skill, without a wit of irony or cliche, while avoiding both navel-gazing insularity and crowd-pleasing revivalism.
It might strike as a paradox, but sometimes the brilliance of certain inventions can be measured by how obvious, how commonplace they seem. The music of Venezuelan pianist Silvano Monasterios is so easy-on-the-ear, so elegantly structured, and has such a casual, lived-in feel that it takes a bit to catch on to how sophisticated his work truly is. It's only after awhile that one notices the harmonic turns, the storytelling soloing, or his rhythmic vocabulary, especially his discreet use of traditional Venezuelan styles. Partly Sunny is Monasterios' second album for Savant, and his choices suggest that he feels no need to accommodate any conventional expectations about how Latin jazz should sound.