Newvelle Records – Muri Box Set – 2019 – 180 gm gate fold vinyl – ****
Newvelle Records will begin their fifth year of presenting creative, jazz based, audiophile quality vinyl pressings, on a semi-monthly basis, again in 2020. All six records are recorded and mixed at East Side Sound in New York by Marc Urselli and mastered by Alex DeTurk. The vinyl is pressed at the world-renowned Quality Records Pressings in Salinas Kansas. The acoustics are pristine,and the artists are given free rein to explore their musical visions.
In addition, during the past year, Newvelle has also entered the world of live recording, with Newvelle Muri, a special edition vinyl collection recorded live at Musig im Pflegidach in the alpine village of Muri, Switzerland. These new albums are from artists not quite as well known to mainstream jazz fans, but deserving of entering the upper echelon of critical listening audiences. Muri presents music ranging from piano jazz (Gadi Lehavi); solo drum with electronics (Eric Harland); a drum less trio, Zuperoctave, led by Israeli guitarist, Gilad Hekselman; the jazz/rock fusion group, FORQ, made up of members of Snarky Puppy and Rudder; a duo with brilliant Colombian singer, Marta Gomez, and acoustic bass guitarist, Andres Rotmistrovsky; and lastly, a quintet led by trumpeter, Nadje Noordhuis, that covers a range of genres, all deeply intoxicating, both soothing to the soul and hypnotic.
As you can see, Newvelle Records continues to be at the cutting edge of opening ears of listeners eager to explore a wide palette of musical expression, recorded in top grade studio settings, and now live in chamber hall quality acoustics. The box set features original photography from Marilyn Clark and an essay series in six parts by writer Michel Mettler.
I’ll start with the opening LP and work through the set, with highlights from each album. It was a musical journey with themes both familiar to me, and some new musical experiences, both challenging and sublime.
Gilad Hekselman has been working with his trio, Zuperoctave, for some time now. Each member is a leader on their own behalf, and on Eyes of the World, their work together finds a seamless simpatico communication, bearing fruit due to their tenure as a group. Keyboardist, Aaron Parks, seems to show up everywhere lately both as a leader, and a first call pianist. Here, his Fender Rhodes piano, and spacey keyboards, provide needed bass lines, and help with call and response lines to Gilad’s exemplary electric guitar. For good reason, Hekselman, was voted the Top Rising Guitarist in the 2017 Downbeat Poll. Kendrick Scott, is also a major drum talent, and he lays a foundation for his partners to explore both Americana motifs on Jerry Garcia’s “Eyes to the World,” as well as funky jazz/rock on “Tokyo Cookie.” 1970s fusion is covered on “V Blues” and “The Way There” has just the right amount of intensity vs. comfort.
What can I say about Australian trumpeter, Nadje Noordhuis, that can explain the subliminal trance that her quintet provides on Gullfoss. If you can picture the cinematic orchestral jazz of Maria Schneider, coupled with the affect that the best ambient music brings, led by a beyond warm tone on both trumpet and flugelhorn, from Nadje, then you can begin to understand the power of Noordhuis’ vision. When you add soothing harp from Maeve Gilchrist, string accompaniment from bassist Ike Sturm, and guitarist, Jesse Lewis, and stir-the-pot synthesizer and percussion of James Shipp; then it all comes together. It brings deep contentment and a warm glow, both magisterial, yet still challenging. It inspires like a general leading the troops to victory, and yet it can be be disquieting as well as on “Silverpoint,” where its echo effects and synthesizer add some aggression. Generally, though, tracks like “Migration,” “Indian Pacific,” and “Killarney” provide comfort in these chaotic times…
I approached Eric Harland’s “Supa Nova” with some trepidation as solo drum albums are usually not my cup of tea, as I need some melody to add to the rhythm and percussion that drums bring. Harland provides programmed electronics to flesh out his drumming skills on his album. They help to broaden the palette. The opener, “Transparency, provides mood music, while “Leaving” with its heartbeat-like electronics, is a journey to open space. “Stratum” has steel drums meets bells percussion, and a repetitive riff. “Lost Soul” gave me an ethereal, floating with gravity experience.
FORQ, is a jazz fusion band blending jazz/rock/jam band genres to bring their sonic exploration to listeners. It’s guitar heavy vision, balanced by keyboards that both lighten the vibe, but also provide funkiness to ease the presentation. Reverb and back-beat help broaden their tracks. Guitarist, Chris McQueen, and keyboardist, Henry Hey, are the featured musicians. Their skills are highlighted on “South,” “Crush” and “Gerard.”
The duo of vocalist/guitarist, Marta Gomez, and bassist, Andres Rotmistrovsky, was the most challenging to me as the lyrics are all in Spanish. Not familiar with this language, I had to rely on the emotion that Marta brings to her songs. Her voice is glorious, soaring like an eagle in full flight, circling the sky. Andres plays a semi-hollow Lorita bass guitar, and his warm tone adds to the vocals, a warm, sweet patina. For non-Spanish speakers, you will not understand the words, but the emotional depth comes through loud and clear. The song titles, translated, will give you a strong indication of the power within, such as “Esta Linda La Mar- The Sea is Beautiful,” “El Museo Las Distancias Rotas-The Museum of Broken Distances,” and “Cancion en Sol-Song in Sunshine.” The latter tune is enhanced by glass bowl percussion by Stephan Diethelm, the curator, and source of the Muri series.
The final album in the Muri set is from the Israeli piano prodigy, Gadi Lehavi. Gadi began playing piano at a high level while a pre-teen. He is now 23 years old, and a fully evolved pianist. Backed by Portuguese bassist, Romeu Tristao, and Israeli drummer, Daniel Dor, Gadi’s set is the most mainstream of the entire package. He is clearly inspired by Keith Jarrett, and has a sensitive touch. Lehavi can dig in and explore the blues on “Intro” and show a tender side on the anthemic “Wishes.” Tristao’s skills on bass brings to mind Charlie Haden, with deep and vibrant plucking of the bass.
The outstanding fidelity of the recording is evidenced on “From Silence,” where Dor on the tom-toms and bass drums, is eye-popping, as is Gadi’s upper register response on piano, as his fingers fly. Gadi has a talent that will be worth watching on future releases…
The Muri box set is full of musical treasures to cherish. It would make an excellent Christmas gift for friends who appreciate well recorded vinyl, and have open minds to explore new wide ranging musical genres…
Gilad Hekselman & Zuperoctave-Eyes of the World:
Eyes of the World
The Way There
Lullaby to Myself
Eric Harland-Supa Nova
The Challenger (1986)
Marta Gomez & Andres Rotmistrovsky- Un Silencio Que Llego De Lejos
Tengo el Alma Herida
Plegaria Para un Nino Domido
Yo te Espero
El Dia que me Quieras
Cancion en Sol
El Museo de las Distancias Rotas
Esta Linda la Mar
Soy Pan, Soy Paz, Soy Mas
Como un Secreto
No Vowels Allowed
More information at Newvelle Records: