Wildcard - TWIN TALK

TWIN TALK is drummer Andrew Green, saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi, and bassist/vocalist Katie Ernst. TWIN TALK is a Chicago-based band that tours frequently throughout the US.  They have been featured at the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival and the 2014 Hyde Park Jazz Festival.  In Chicago, TWIN TALK has presented music for the ears&eyes series, Gilt Bar’s Trio in Curio, the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s NextGenJazz series, and the Whistler’s RelaxAttack jazz series.

Listen to TWIN TALK's "Skoops" on the Spring 2015 Wing Walker Mixtape!

Katie Ernst:

Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon

My friend and musical accomplice Stu Mindeman introduced me to Laura Mvula a few months ago, and I have listened to this record eight million times since then.  Note that there are two versions -  the original studio album, and a version featuring the Metropole Orkest.  Both are incredible. Get both.  Laura Mvula is a British singer and composer with so much substance.  The lyrics are wise and well-crafted, the melodies haunting and folksy, and the arrangements are rich and expertly designed.  I've looped the song  "I Don't Know What the Weather Will Be" for days on end. You can dance to "Green Garden" and "That's Alright" and weep openly to "Father Father."  I can't express more praise for this album.

In five words: lush, heartbreaking, orchestral, brilliant, sincere

Betty Carter - Droppin' Things

I was late to the game on Betty Carter, but I'm making up for lost time. This record is pure jazz. Recorded live in 1990, "Droppin Things" swings and mourns, laughs, and whispers.  You can feel the intensity of the rhythm section presence in each current moment, and the music flings forward accordingly.  Betty's voice is elastic and playful and uninhibited. Her version of "Stardust/Memories of You" is a highlight.  Throughout the album, Betty Carter is as much a lyrical storyteller as she is part of the instrumental front line.  I particularly love the poetry of her words in"30 Years" and "Droppin Things."  I'm a big fan of the work of the 1920's poet Dorothy Parker, and Betty's lyrics remind me of the poignant 'punch lines' and cynical wit of a Parker poem.  Treat yourself to this album asap if you haven't heard it yet.

In five words: alive, fearless, malleable, momentum, boundless

Dustin Laurenzi:

Jeff Parker - Bright Light In Winter

I moved to Chicago right around the time Jeff was making the transition to LA, but luckily he’s back fairly frequently. Every time I get to hear or play with him it’s so inspiring, and it’s always a learning experience. This record has such a distinctive vibe, the whole thing really feels like an album, rather than just a collection of songs. Jeff, Chris Lopes, and Chad Taylor are really patient musicians, and part of the beauty of this record is in how they’re able to sort of coast on different grooves and still keep you completely engaged. They’re also super adventurous improvisors, and aren’t afraid to go for something and miss it every once in a while. For me, that’s refreshing to hear in a “modern” jazz recording. This album taught me a lot about simplicity and clarity in composing and improvising, and hopefully some of that comes through in my music.

“Mainz”, “Bright Light Black Site”, and “Good Days (for Lee Anne)” are a few of my favorites.

Tune-Yards - WHOKILL

I have a cassette tape of Merrill Garbus’ first album, Bird-Brains, that I bought after hearing her at a coffee shop in Bloomington, IN probably 5 years ago. I was really amazed by her performance, and listened the tape every once in a while. I liked a lot of the songs and the lo-fi presentation, but eventually I kind of forgot about it. Recently I had been hearing more about Tune-Yards, so I decided to buy WHOKILL. I’m always a fan of combining the familiar and the strange, and this record is full of that. There are catchy melodies all over the place, but they’re usually countered with some jarring samples or displaced rhythms that keep everything from feeling too comfortable (I mean this in a good way). Oh, and her voice is incredible! I think I’ll be coming back to this one for a while.

Some highlights: the vocal sample melody on “Bizness”, the bass line and chaos at the end of “Gangsta”, the groove on “You Yes You”.

Andrew Green:

Tigran Hamasyan - Shadow Theater (2013)

A good friend of mine introduced me to Tigran when we were in college.  I found his music to be highly complex and technically challenging but also quite sensitive and emotional.  With influences ranging from Armenian folk to modern jazz to prog-rock, Tigran’s sound is very exciting and engaging.  While I enjoyed his older albums, Shadow Theater is a more recent outing that seems more mature and focused as a whole record.  I remember reading somewhere that Tigran approached it more as a pop record than a jazz record and the production is intense, but very appropriate throughout, creating a unifying sound palette despite many different styles.  The flow of the album is beautiful, pairing fast and disjunct grooves with slow and lyrical counterparts.  Despite all of the rhythmic complexity, there is a heavy overarching folk vibe to the record.  I suspect this one will stay on my “most-played” list for a long time.

Drummer’s perspective - Tigran’s music is some of the most intense and intricate music that I’ve ever heard.  Nate Wood navigates smoothly through the many meter changes, metric modulations, polyrhythms and hyper-complex beats, matching Tigran’s power note for note.  Check out the 3-note groupings in 5 on “The Poet”, the jagged 5/4 grooves on “Erishta”, whatever is going on in “Drip” and pretty much everything about “The Court Jester”.

Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk (2013)

This band is blowing up right now!  And for good reason… They have an unique fresh sound and seem to ignore all convention and tradition wherever it would inhibit their ability to freely express themselves.  The album is technically an EP and is only 30 minutes long - just enough time to become completely enraptured before it ends, leaving you wanting more! Nai Palm’s vocals are soulful, floaty, and mysterious and her melodic choices stand out, soaring above the band without leaving it behind.  The futuristic electronic soundscape is often juxtaposed by lo-fi drum and vocal sounds and the production is extensive and innovative without compromising the music.  I could listen to this album anytime.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!  Be on the lookout for their full length new album, Choose Your Weapon, set to be released on May 5th, 2015.

Drummer Perspective - Perrin Moss’ beats are infectious.  They pop into my head all the time.  His playing is confident and yet understated, always serving the song and group vibe.  Check out the slick groove on “Boom Child”, the Dilla-esque “Sphinx Gate”, the crazy hiccuped “Ocelot”, and the 12/8ish grooves on “Lace Skull”.