RENEE ROSNES Beloved of the Sky (Smoke Sessions Records)

The title track on this new album by pianist Renee Rosnes was named for a 1935 environmentally themed Emily Carr painting, Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky. On the rubato and pensive intro, Chris Potter is plaintive, sometimes even heraldic, on soprano sax. There is a sense of plodding determination but also simple beauty. “Elephant Dust” opens with deep, slow piano and peppery tenor-sax notes; the music develops quickly into a heady group effort on an interesting, almost splintered, rhythmic progression. Potter is nicely feral and Rosnes engages in breakneck tumbling and climbing arpeggios and frenetic thumb-pinky hammerings. Steve Nelson’s vibes provide a mellower voice, and drummer Lenny White and bassist Peter Washington are expressively engaged throughout. Rosnes wrote “Mirror Image” for Bobby Hutcherson when they were both founding members of the SFJAZZ Collective. The mix here is alternatively dense and minimal, exhibiting both melody and polyphony. “Rosie,” which was written by Hutcherson, is straight-ahead jazz, full of the leader’s beautiful and distinctive piano work. “Black Holes,” dynamic and fast, starts with a suspenseful hook, Potter and Rosnes in unison, then builds with the leader’s relentless piano and an audacious tenor solo. The vivacious and too-short “Rhythm of the River” is a showcase for Potter, here eloquent on flute. The action on this splendid album ends with “Let the Wild Rumpus Start” (a title borrowed from a Maurice Sendak quote), a real toe-tapper, with solo spots for every member of the quintet. — Paul Weideman 

WOODEN SHJIPS V. (Thrill Jockey Records) Psychedelic-rock quartet Wooden Shjips is a band with a formula. Drummer Omar Ahsanuddin and bassist Dusty Jermier lock into a groove, they layer in some keyboards and rhythm guitar, and frontman Ripley Johnson splashes a squiggly lead guitar all over it. He sings, too, in a laid-back, nasally mumble similar to the War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel. It’s incredibly difficult to parse the lyrics, but you get the gist; the songs don’t convey a message so much as create a mood. Indeed, the best way to even tell the songs apart is by the drum beat, whether it’s fast and accompanied by a saxophone skronk on “Eclipse” or trotting along at a gallop on “Red Line.” On “Staring at the Sun,” it ambles along with an easy gait, in no hurry to get anywhere. This is the longest song on the album, and, perhaps for that reason, it is also the best. Johnson waits a few minutes before dipping his lead-guitarist toe in the water and when he finally dives in, he doesn’t solo so much as adds brilliant brushstrokes, taking time in between each one as if stopping to admire his work. It is this patience that pays off in the band’s best moments, as they settle into a sun-dappled groove. When you’ve dialed into a feeling this blissful, you’re better off just letting it ride. — Robert Ker

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