LP REVIEW: Various - 2nd Season of Newvelle (Aruán Ortiz, Kevin Hays /Lionel Loueke, John Patitucci Trio, Chris Tordini, Jon Cowherd Quartet, Rufus Reid)

Various - 2nd Season of Newvelle
(Newvelle Records. 6 LP set. Review by Geoff Winston)

Newvelle Record's second series of six limited edition, subscription-only vinyl releases (previewed here) carries the stamp of quality that made their first series so special. Delights await discovery by the discerning audiophile listener.

It's quality all the way through, as with the first series (reviewed here). The invited musicians are world class, some are high profile, amongst the most respected in the field - bassists John Patitucci and Rufus Reid and, accompanying John Cowherd, drummer Brian Blade, while others are more low-key, yet no less exceptional, with the recording, production, pressing and packaging to match.

I played a couple of sides to a musician/composer and, unprompted, he commented on the incredible audio quality nurtured by Marc Urselli at New York's East Side Sound - you don't get a bass sounding like that with digital!

The solo piano album, Cuban Nocturne, from Aruán Ortiz, follows in the footsteps of Jack de Johnette's outstanding Return (reviewed here). In the sleeve notes producer Elan Mehler describes a fascinating background to this repertoire, "a reflection on the music that saturated Aruán's childhood". Everybody to whom I've played this LP falls in love with it!

Hope from the piano-guitar duo Kevin Hays and Lionel Loueke is magical. Their meditative excursions interweave sparkly, trickling interplay with bluesy spells and latin undercurrents, utilising percussive taps and low-level vocals to add to the album's lightly carried, spiritual vein. Hays talks of "the discovery of the wealth of spiritual truth that's always there, but often gets obscured by our involvement in things of the material world".

John Patitucci's trio on Irmãos De Fé, reviewed on this site, with guitar and percussion from Yotam Silberstein and Rogério Boccato, visits the Brazilian songbook with reverential devotion, hitting an upbeat, lilting bounce in Desvairada contrasting with the dreamlike melancholy of Jobim's Olha Maria where the bowed bass is something of a metaphor for the heartstrings.

Chris Tordini's Midnight Sun album featuring vocalist Becca Stevens, with whom he has worked for over ten years, and the guitar of Greg Ruggiero, is topped and tailed with songs from Ornette Coleman, and takes in Mingus's Portrait and an unabashedly moving My Funny Valentine, with a touching back story linked to Stevens' childhood. Beautifully interlocking play from bass and guitar complement Stevens' unembellished vocal delicacy in her carefully wrought, fuss-free interpretations which throw fresh light on well-travelled paths. I was intrigued sufficiently to catch Stevens at Ronnie's recently.

Pianist Jon Cowherd's quartet on Gateway pulls in Brian Blade, a like-minded collaborator on several projects since 1988, with master guitarist Steve Cardenas and multi-talented Tony Scherr on bass to produce an album of warmth and finesse. Mehler quotes Blade on playing with Cowherd, who says: "There is always the feeling that we could go any place without having a destination." Cardenas's guitar glides and floats above the tightly meshed bass-drum partnership, articulating and complementing Cowherd's melodic initiatives, while Cowherd's three solo piano improvisations, executed with panache and sensitivity, add a natural sense of pace to the album's structure.

And, finally, the wild card in the series, Rufus Reid's Terrestrial Dance brings together the Sirius String Quartet and his trio with pianist Steve Allee and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, to bring alive his own adventures in composition. Reid cleverly insinuates the strings at just the times he needs them to flesh out a theme, primarily in neo-classical mode, as a foil to the trio's ebullient flow, and on one occasion the violin lets rip, Grappelli-style! Reid himself regrets the demise of listening. "I think most people don't do much listening to anything now. They have stuff on. They don't listen." Close listening is rewarded as Reid's mini-masterpiece exudes the warm glow that characterises the whole Newvelle series.

The forthcoming third season has been announced with a mouth-watering listing that includes albums by Bill Frisell with Skúli Sverrisson, Steve Cardenas, Andrew Zimmerman with Dave Douglas, and Lionel Loueke with Eric Harland and Reuben Rogers. (LINK)

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