Denver jazz station KUVO has had constant turmoil and staff turnover since management decided Generation Z must like “lite jazz.” Now, no one denies the need for younger blood, but lite ain’t young — pop-jazz is! The jazz realm is experiencing new mixes of free-jazz and pop thanks to ensembles like The Comet Is Coming and the recent collaboration between Vieux Farka Toure and Khruangbin. Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings treats the Comet ensemble as his project closest to EDM, relying on the trio of synthesizers played by Danalogue, Sub Phatty and Betamax. In the new release, Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse!), the group combines skronk with deep funk, most successfully in “Atomic Wave Dance.”
Khruangbin specializes in more soul-chill, but the inspired teaming with Toure on the album Ali (Dead Oceans) produces a delightful mix of Malian freestyle and R&B. Named for Vieux’s deceased father Ali Farka Toure, these eight hypnotic tracks play to the strengths of both the group and of Toure.
Also New & Noteworthy
Beth Orton, Weather Alive (Partisan) – Orton’s most memorable sessions with producers like William Orbit occurred just as she faced debilitating Crohn’s disease. After her 2016 Kidsticks album, seizure symptoms made her doubt returning to music. Luckily, bringing a piano into her home studio pushed Orton into writing eight simple but heartbreaking tracks addressing her journey. Imagine a work like P.J. Harvey’s White Chalk, but with layered guitar and synth treatment from Shahzad Ismaily. Orton’s voice may waver occasionally, but the best tracks, like “Fractals,” are enchanting.
The Cowsills, Rhythm of the World (Omnivore) – The first videos for their 1998 Global album snuck out in the early 1990s, surprising fans with how the former ’70s family band had evolved into mature indie musicians. That gap was a mere 20 years. It’s now been another 30 years since those videos. Two Cowsills brothers have passed from the scene, while kid sister Susan often does the heavy lifting. Some tracks like “Nuclear Winter” and the title track carry some stressed social awareness, but the overall feel is that the remaining trio of the family have aged with more grace than anyone might have expected.