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Jure Pukl - Doubtless Rating: 4 out of 5 Another strong offering from Pukl. Straddling the cusp between composition and improvisation the album is consistently engaging and the playing is excellent throughout.

Jure Pukl

“Doubtless”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4724)

Jure Pukl is a tenor saxophonist, composer, improviser and band leader from Slovenia who is now based in New York City.

He studied both jazz and classical saxophone in Austria (at the universities of Vienna and Graz) and in the US (the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston).

I first encountered Pukl’s playing in 2010 when he brought his Slavic Soul Trio featuring bassist (and Whirlwind label owner) Michael Janisch and Austrian drummer Klemens Marktl to the much missed Dempsey’s in Cardiff. I’ve kept an eye on his career, and that of Marktl too, ever since and later that year reviewed Pukl’s début album “EARchitecture”, which was recorded in Brooklyn and featured a New York based band including pianist Aruan Ortiz, bassist Rahsaan Carter and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Guests included trumpeter Jason Palmer, another Janisch associate, and rapper Raydar Ellis.

Like Janisch Pukl is a musician who leads something of a ‘Trans-Atlantic’ existence,  frequently collaborating with musicians from both Europe and the Americas. His 2017 Whirlwind release “Hybrid” featured pianist Matija Dedic, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Johnathan Blake. It was a recording that saw Pukl expanding his instrumental palette to include soprano saxophone and bass clarinet and was also notable for a guest appearance on tenor saxophone by Pukl’s wife, the Chilean born musician Melissa Aldana. “Hybrid” was another strong album but slipped through the Jazzmann’s reviewing net, apologies to Jure for the omission.

Hot on the heels of “Hybrid” comes “Doubtless”, Pukl’s second offering for Whirlwind, which sees him specialising on tenor sax once more. He’s joined in a two tenor front line by Aldana and the album features a stellar American rhythm section comprised of Joe Sanders on upright bass and Gregory Hutchinson at the drums. The album was recorded in Slovenia and mixed and mastered in New York, making it a true Trans-Atlantic project.

The daughter of a professional jazz saxophonist Aldana is a band leader in her own right. Born in Santiago she, too, studied at Berklee before settling in New York but still retaining links with her homeland. As a leader Aldana has released four albums under her own name, making her début in 2010. The last two releases have featured her Crash Trio with Chilean bassist Pablo Menares, with the drum chair occupied first by the Cuban Francisco Mela and later by the German born Jochen Rueckert. Aldana has visited the UK to play a headline show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Pukl says of this collaboration with his wife;
“It’s very improvised, and every number sounds different at every gig. Joe can change things so much, including time signatures, so we have to react in the moment. But it’s great to switch the vibe, we go for it and the audience feels it. Once we’ve checked out the pieces we then purposely let them go, and I’ve found so much freedom in this – we all become transformers for where the music wants to take us. I don’t know many saxophone couples who like to perform together, but with me and Melissa it feels natural, we have a similar tenor vocabulary and that energy unites us. So in this quartet we create harmony, counterpoint…and Joe has an amazing harmonic ability too, alongside his and Greg’s deep sense of rhythm. The sound is incredibly full.”

The album title reflects Pukl’s faith in this musical alliance as he explains;
“I have realised how important it is to play with people you love and respect. They love you back and it takes the music to a higher level. It’s magic being on the road with these guys. What we create is something that people,  and not just jazz audiences, connect with. This band brings together everything that we are, and it works. It’s kinda amazing!”

Indeed there’s no denying the power of the album which kicks off with the title track, this commencing with a spirited discussion between the two tenors before Sanders and Hutchinson join the party. As Pukl states the music is free-wheeling with plenty of opportunities for freedom and self expression. In person performances are indeed likely to be very different from those documented on disc. Sanders and Hutchinson make a powerful but supple and responsive rhythm team who create an excellent framework for Pukl and Aldana to create their improvisations around. Here the two tenors engage in an ongoing conversation rather than trading solos as in the ‘cutting contests’ of the past but both individually and collectively they have much to say.

“Doves” is dedicated to Pukl’s mother, who was seriously ill at the time of the recording but has now, happily, recovered. Once again the two tenors open the piece, this time working in unison, their joint statement of the theme underpinned by bass and vaguely martial drums. This time round the initial theme statement gives way to individual solos with those of the two saxophonists bisected by a feature for Sanders on double bass. Hutchinson’s dynamic drumming gives the entire performance a tightly focussed energy.

“InterSong” finds the foursome exploring an old Ornette Coleman composition. The free jazz pioneer is surely a touchstone for all the members of this chordless quartet. The piece begins with an intimate but animated conversation between the two tenors, subsequently joined by Sanders and Hutchinson in the Haden/Blackwell roles as the two saxophonists continue to spar with each other in this gritty homage to Coleman.

It’s the turn of the rhythm section to introduce Sanders’  “Eliote”, a piece written by the bassist in honour of his young son. The sparky opening section features the composer’s huge tone and dexterous finger work in lively dialogue with Hutchinson’s bright, restlessly inventive, sharply detailed drumming. The mood is celebratory while the style harks back to Africa thanks to the vibrant rhythms and arresting saxophone melodies. Sanders takes the first solo, his playing vigorous and supremely agile before handing over to Pukl and Aladana who engage in vivid dialogue, their short, interlocking phrases fuelled by an irresistible bass and drum groove.

“Compassion” slims the group down to a trio, so no difficulties identifying the tenor soloist here. As other commentators have noted some indication of the soloing order on the CD packaging would have been useful as an aid to identification, and the apportioning of credit accordingly. As Pukl has noted he and Aldana share a similar musical vocabulary and it’s not always easy to be definitive as to who is playing at any specific time. But enough of the cavils, this is a supremely atmospheric saxophone trio performance with Pukl’s brooding tenor sensitively supported by Sanders’ deeply resonant bass and Hutchinson’s understated but empathic drums and percussion. The drummer’s role here is that of colourist rather than powerhouse.

The supple grooves of the Aldana composed “Elsewhere” underpin one of the most accessible pieces on the album, the darting sax melodies combining with Sander’s buoyant bass and Hutchinson’s restlessly inventive drumming. Sanders takes the first solo before the two saxophonists take it in turns to stretch out. On an album that was recorded in a single day the whoops of joy heard at various moments during the performance suggest that the piece was largely improvised, there’s certainly a vibrant spontaneity about the playing here.

The title of “The Mind And The Soul” might suggest a debt to Coleman Hawkins but the style of the playing is firmly rooted in the style of Ornette Coleman. Acerbic, slightly slurred sax incantations are underpinned by muscular but melodic bass with Sanders taking the only real solo of the piece. Hutchinson’s drumming is colourful and inventive but never imposing as it wanders around the periphery of the music.

The brief “Where Are You Coming From?” is a duet between Pukl and Sanders that is introduced by the latter’s bass. The piece is a reprise of a lengthier full band track on the “Hybrid” album and features Pukl’s folk/Latin tinged melodicism in an alternative pared down format. It’s a delightfully intimate duo performance than more than justifies its inclusion here.

The album ends on an upbeat note with the energising “Bad Year – Good Year”, another piece to embrace something of a Latin feel, a nod, perhaps, to Aldana’s origins. The fluid grooves generated by Sanders and Hutchinson inspire solos from both saxophonists and there’s also an engaging dialogue between the members of the rhythm team.

“Doubtless” represents another strong offering from Pukl. Straddling the cusp between composition and improvisation the album is consistently engaging and the playing is excellent throughout. Pukl and Aldana combine well and have the kind of intuitive chemistry that one would expect from a married couple, That said Sanders and Hutchinson are equally brilliant as a team, this supremely adaptable and versatile rhythm section seems to act like a single entity, providing the two saxophonists with exemplary support. Sanders and Hutchinson are both superb technicians and every nuance of their playing is captured on a typically excellent Whirlwind Recordings production.  Even more crucially they have a great rapport as a unit and it’s something that they are able to share with the husband and wife team of Pukl and Aldana, the two halves of the quartet combining to create a dynamic and convincing single entity.

The lack of conventional, straight-ahead swing may deter some listeners but all fans of adventurous contemporary jazz should find much to enjoy here. One suspects that the quartet’s live performances would prove to be even more exciting.

Incidentally, the cover artwork is a painting by the celebrated jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant.


Doubtless

Jure Pukl

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Doubtless

Another strong offering from Pukl. Straddling the cusp between composition and improvisation the album is consistently engaging and the playing is excellent throughout.

Jure Pukl

“Doubtless”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4724)

Jure Pukl is a tenor saxophonist, composer, improviser and band leader from Slovenia who is now based in New York City.

He studied both jazz and classical saxophone in Austria (at the universities of Vienna and Graz) and in the US (the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston).

I first encountered Pukl’s playing in 2010 when he brought his Slavic Soul Trio featuring bassist (and Whirlwind label owner) Michael Janisch and Austrian drummer Klemens Marktl to the much missed Dempsey’s in Cardiff. I’ve kept an eye on his career, and that of Marktl too, ever since and later that year reviewed Pukl’s début album “EARchitecture”, which was recorded in Brooklyn and featured a New York based band including pianist Aruan Ortiz, bassist Rahsaan Carter and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Guests included trumpeter Jason Palmer, another Janisch associate, and rapper Raydar Ellis.

Like Janisch Pukl is a musician who leads something of a ‘Trans-Atlantic’ existence,  frequently collaborating with musicians from both Europe and the Americas. His 2017 Whirlwind release “Hybrid” featured pianist Matija Dedic, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Johnathan Blake. It was a recording that saw Pukl expanding his instrumental palette to include soprano saxophone and bass clarinet and was also notable for a guest appearance on tenor saxophone by Pukl’s wife, the Chilean born musician Melissa Aldana. “Hybrid” was another strong album but slipped through the Jazzmann’s reviewing net, apologies to Jure for the omission.

Hot on the heels of “Hybrid” comes “Doubtless”, Pukl’s second offering for Whirlwind, which sees him specialising on tenor sax once more. He’s joined in a two tenor front line by Aldana and the album features a stellar American rhythm section comprised of Joe Sanders on upright bass and Gregory Hutchinson at the drums. The album was recorded in Slovenia and mixed and mastered in New York, making it a true Trans-Atlantic project.

The daughter of a professional jazz saxophonist Aldana is a band leader in her own right. Born in Santiago she, too, studied at Berklee before settling in New York but still retaining links with her homeland. As a leader Aldana has released four albums under her own name, making her début in 2010. The last two releases have featured her Crash Trio with Chilean bassist Pablo Menares, with the drum chair occupied first by the Cuban Francisco Mela and later by the German born Jochen Rueckert. Aldana has visited the UK to play a headline show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Pukl says of this collaboration with his wife;
“It’s very improvised, and every number sounds different at every gig. Joe can change things so much, including time signatures, so we have to react in the moment. But it’s great to switch the vibe, we go for it and the audience feels it. Once we’ve checked out the pieces we then purposely let them go, and I’ve found so much freedom in this – we all become transformers for where the music wants to take us. I don’t know many saxophone couples who like to perform together, but with me and Melissa it feels natural, we have a similar tenor vocabulary and that energy unites us. So in this quartet we create harmony, counterpoint…and Joe has an amazing harmonic ability too, alongside his and Greg’s deep sense of rhythm. The sound is incredibly full.”

The album title reflects Pukl’s faith in this musical alliance as he explains;
“I have realised how important it is to play with people you love and respect. They love you back and it takes the music to a higher level. It’s magic being on the road with these guys. What we create is something that people,  and not just jazz audiences, connect with. This band brings together everything that we are, and it works. It’s kinda amazing!”

Indeed there’s no denying the power of the album which kicks off with the title track, this commencing with a spirited discussion between the two tenors before Sanders and Hutchinson join the party. As Pukl states the music is free-wheeling with plenty of opportunities for freedom and self expression. In person performances are indeed likely to be very different from those documented on disc. Sanders and Hutchinson make a powerful but supple and responsive rhythm team who create an excellent framework for Pukl and Aldana to create their improvisations around. Here the two tenors engage in an ongoing conversation rather than trading solos as in the ‘cutting contests’ of the past but both individually and collectively they have much to say.

“Doves” is dedicated to Pukl’s mother, who was seriously ill at the time of the recording but has now, happily, recovered. Once again the two tenors open the piece, this time working in unison, their joint statement of the theme underpinned by bass and vaguely martial drums. This time round the initial theme statement gives way to individual solos with those of the two saxophonists bisected by a feature for Sanders on double bass. Hutchinson’s dynamic drumming gives the entire performance a tightly focussed energy.

“InterSong” finds the foursome exploring an old Ornette Coleman composition. The free jazz pioneer is surely a touchstone for all the members of this chordless quartet. The piece begins with an intimate but animated conversation between the two tenors, subsequently joined by Sanders and Hutchinson in the Haden/Blackwell roles as the two saxophonists continue to spar with each other in this gritty homage to Coleman.

It’s the turn of the rhythm section to introduce Sanders’  “Eliote”, a piece written by the bassist in honour of his young son. The sparky opening section features the composer’s huge tone and dexterous finger work in lively dialogue with Hutchinson’s bright, restlessly inventive, sharply detailed drumming. The mood is celebratory while the style harks back to Africa thanks to the vibrant rhythms and arresting saxophone melodies. Sanders takes the first solo, his playing vigorous and supremely agile before handing over to Pukl and Aladana who engage in vivid dialogue, their short, interlocking phrases fuelled by an irresistible bass and drum groove.

“Compassion” slims the group down to a trio, so no difficulties identifying the tenor soloist here. As other commentators have noted some indication of the soloing order on the CD packaging would have been useful as an aid to identification, and the apportioning of credit accordingly. As Pukl has noted he and Aldana share a similar musical vocabulary and it’s not always easy to be definitive as to who is playing at any specific time. But enough of the cavils, this is a supremely atmospheric saxophone trio performance with Pukl’s brooding tenor sensitively supported by Sanders’ deeply resonant bass and Hutchinson’s understated but empathic drums and percussion. The drummer’s role here is that of colourist rather than powerhouse.

The supple grooves of the Aldana composed “Elsewhere” underpin one of the most accessible pieces on the album, the darting sax melodies combining with Sander’s buoyant bass and Hutchinson’s restlessly inventive drumming. Sanders takes the first solo before the two saxophonists take it in turns to stretch out. On an album that was recorded in a single day the whoops of joy heard at various moments during the performance suggest that the piece was largely improvised, there’s certainly a vibrant spontaneity about the playing here.

The title of “The Mind And The Soul” might suggest a debt to Coleman Hawkins but the style of the playing is firmly rooted in the style of Ornette Coleman. Acerbic, slightly slurred sax incantations are underpinned by muscular but melodic bass with Sanders taking the only real solo of the piece. Hutchinson’s drumming is colourful and inventive but never imposing as it wanders around the periphery of the music.

The brief “Where Are You Coming From?” is a duet between Pukl and Sanders that is introduced by the latter’s bass. The piece is a reprise of a lengthier full band track on the “Hybrid” album and features Pukl’s folk/Latin tinged melodicism in an alternative pared down format. It’s a delightfully intimate duo performance than more than justifies its inclusion here.

The album ends on an upbeat note with the energising “Bad Year – Good Year”, another piece to embrace something of a Latin feel, a nod, perhaps, to Aldana’s origins. The fluid grooves generated by Sanders and Hutchinson inspire solos from both saxophonists and there’s also an engaging dialogue between the members of the rhythm team.

“Doubtless” represents another strong offering from Pukl. Straddling the cusp between composition and improvisation the album is consistently engaging and the playing is excellent throughout. Pukl and Aldana combine well and have the kind of intuitive chemistry that one would expect from a married couple, That said Sanders and Hutchinson are equally brilliant as a team, this supremely adaptable and versatile rhythm section seems to act like a single entity, providing the two saxophonists with exemplary support. Sanders and Hutchinson are both superb technicians and every nuance of their playing is captured on a typically excellent Whirlwind Recordings production.  Even more crucially they have a great rapport as a unit and it’s something that they are able to share with the husband and wife team of Pukl and Aldana, the two halves of the quartet combining to create a dynamic and convincing single entity.

The lack of conventional, straight-ahead swing may deter some listeners but all fans of adventurous contemporary jazz should find much to enjoy here. One suspects that the quartet’s live performances would prove to be even more exciting.

Incidentally, the cover artwork is a painting by the celebrated jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant.



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