Søren Kjærgaard / Ben Street / Andrew Cyrille, Syvmileskridt (ILK Music) [Bandcamp link]
The Danish pianist deserves his top billing - Kjærgaard has assembled this American rhythm section four times for methodical explorations of silence and open-ended patterns. But empty spaces seem less important this time out, even if “Ballad No. 4” and “Beryllic Bell” conjure the austerity of nocturnes. More plentiful are cuts like the title track, surging freebop swing that finds the pianist splashing chords across forceful bass/drums before dropping jittery melodic lines, or the rubato clatter of Taylor-esque “Intersection No. 7”. Those titles suggest utilitarian workouts, and I’m not claiming every number will keep you perched on seat’s edge. But how about “Tripple Skip,” which may or may not deliberately echo “Skippy” but certainly pops Monkian, right down to Kjærgaard’s octave-spanning keyboard march. And then consider the circular motif that both opens and closes the album, master Cyrille dropping a bone-dry beat nearly old-school hip-hop in its serenity before the piano crawls along. Suggesting the drummer may well be this project’s engine and soul, a distinction Søren himself would no doubt be the first to note.
Brian Groder Trio, Reflexology (Latham Records)
New York-based trumpeter/flugelhornist comfortable in free ensembles yet committed to song form convenes trio for a tribute to Sam Rivers and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen’s 1981 Looking At Bird duet outing. But give Groder credit for acknowledging that no mere flugelhorn could fill the mighty roar left by Rivers - the vital addition of percussionist Jay Rosen allows both leader and bassist Michael Bisio to relax a little. It helps that all three collaborators are melodists (Joe McPhee-associate Rosen coaxes trills from his cymbals), which means even decidedly abstract lines dart out with the quick fragmentary logic of Anthony Braxton at his most direct. And for those who find the spartan interplay too, well, spartan, Groder’s old composition teacher Joanne Brackeen offers some relief in the guise of lone non-original “Haiti-B”: first a Strata-East bass vamp, than the drummer giving what for.
Bobby Hutcherson, Enjoy The View (Blue Note)
The vibraphonist’s heralded return to Blue Note after nearly forty years astray doesn’t exactly pick up where his mid-60s avant-inside run left off. Nor is this the itchy modernism of Hutcherson the Eric Dolphy sideman (Out To Lunch!) or the cool modality of Hutcherson the Grant Green sideman (Idle Moments). It’s closer to the bluesy soul jazz of Hutcherson the Grassella Oliphant sideman (um, The Grass Roots), vibes-driven neo-bop employing Joey DeFrancesco’s generous Hammond organ chords and Billy Hart’s good-humored syncopation to surround both the leader and pickup alto saxist David Sanborn, who sounds pretty happy to be here and also sounds pretty ok. Blue Note’s tasteful production continually douses every fire the participants set. But proto-fusion drum funk will have its say (“Hey Harold”), as will straight ahead-swing (“Teddy”) and pure melodic engagement (Sanborn’s opener “Delia”).