Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Devin Gray & Gerald Cleaver, 27 Licks

Albums for one or more solo drummers in new and Avant Jazz are pretty rare. Some stand out. There's Milford Graves' ESP Disk, Andrew Cyrille's BYG, Cleve Pozar's Solo, Bruce Ditmas' "Yellow" and now there is one by Devin Gray & Gerald Cleaver, 27 Licks (Rataplan). It comes from two of the most inventive drummers out there today.

They do not let us down, either. The opening groove is irresistible. It is followed by different drum snapshots--busy virtuosity, sound color washes, bowed cymbals and rubbed drum heads, other things, too.

It flows nicely and disarms with its matter-of-fact inventiveness. Bandcamp has it if you are interested.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Francois Lana Trio, Cathedrale


Pianist Francois Lana and his trio are happy discoveries for me, via their recent album Cathedrale (Leo Records CD 884). This is in the Free-but-swinging Jazz zone, a nicely together threesome that includes bassist Fabien Iannone and drummer Phelan Burgoyne. There are compositional highs like Lana's "Nocturne" with its haunting reflection and pulsation, it's additive synth melodic qualities that enhance then subtract in a most economic way. Or "Der Turm," equally memorable but in a different way.

The rhythm team can tumble on or loosely lock into a swing but they are ever complementary to Lana for each piece. The mood can have a bit of a Paul Bley/earlier Cecil Taylor buoyancy or at times cut through to the stratosphere for a time. 

What is so nice about it all is Lana's obvious savoring of the Early Free tradition and his significant contribution to it as a present-day originality. There is a shifting mélange of creative paths, patches, ways to make us experience a spectrum of avant piano trio moods. It is in the end an impressive offering that one increasingly appreciates. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

George Lewis Rainbow Family, IRCAM, May 1984


George Lewis Rainbow Family's live 1984 IRCAM (Carrier 051) CD recaptures the excitement and adventure of avant improv then. This program was one of the first live electronic IRCAM performances and engages George Lewis on a specially programmed set of laptops in tandem with some of the finest avant improvisers of our times.

So we get some wonderfully lively and adventurous duets of George's computer generated improvs and Joelle Leandre on bass, with Derek Bailey on electric guitar, with Douglas Ewart on bass clarinet, and with Steve Lacy on soprano. All that is followed by a trio of Lewis, Bailey and Ewart and then the finale with all five voices.

The electronics are nicely clangorous, open and very exploratory vehicles to challenge improvisors. As George Lewis says in the press sheet that accompanied this CD, it was probably the first commission from IRCAM for "so-called improvising computer programs" where musical input from the improvisors involved were transformed into pitch and "envelope-following hardware." Three microcomputers created their own responses to the music and in turn were related to by the improvisors.

Each movement has its magic and that becomes more apparent the more one listens. This is music fully worth the wait. It deftly spans the interstices between Jazz Improv brilliance and new music pioneering. Bravo!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Adam Simmons, Jean Poole. Zatoczka, Tribute to Komeda


Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969) was a remarkable composer, pianist and bandleader who made his mark in film scores for Rosemary's Baby and other Polanski titles. But for those who know he was also an influential jazz presence in Poland in the '60s, a pioneer in Eruo-Jazz Modernity. If you ever heard his jazz albums recorded for Muza you know what I mean. But regardless whether you know those are not there is now a nice tribute album out entitled  Zatoczka (Creek)  (Fat Rain FAT021) by the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble, aka Jean Poole.

The album was arranged by Simmons, who plays tenor and soprano in the ensemble, which in turn consists of Simmons and six instrumentalists plus for the project the guest wordless vocals of Deborah Kayser and the piano of Tony Gould.

The program features some 11 Komeda classics, plus three short interludes by Simmons that serve to connect the dots in terms of musical mood. 

Komeda's pieces here as in general feature original, stunning Polish-rooted melodies with harmonic subtleties. The arrangements bring out the ringing or softening clarity of each very well. 

The ensemble handles all quite readily and shows off the sophisticated, sympathetic arrangements nicely. The rhythm section of Howard Cairns on bass and Niko Schauble on drums consistently and freely swing the music with a good feeling. Simmons' sax work and Nat Grant on vibes are quite worth hearing as they invent well within the Komedan style set. Gavin Cornish on trumpet also has some nice solo moments.

If you do not have Komeda's 1966 album on Muza, Astigmatic, you no doubt might want to find it if you can. In any event this tribute covers a lot of excellent music and does it full justice so good for that. I recommend this one as a good bead on Komeda and so also an aspect of Euro-Jazz that deserves more attention than it has been getting lately. Listen!

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Mark Harvey Group, A Rite for All Souls, Aural Theatre

Trumpeter, bandleader, composer and Jazz activist Mark Harvey has been a founding presence on the Boston Avant Jazz scene for more than 50 years. I first discovered his playing in Boston when he was a member of Baird Hersey's potent Year of the Ear big band. But of course that was but one tip of the iceberg of his music making. His Aardvark Orchestra big band has been a critically acclaimed local force since 1973 in both concert and recordings over the years.

Happily there has been a release lately of something slightly earlier, an October 1971 in-concert recording of a quartet, the Mark Harvey Group and their Aural Theatre work, A Rite for All Souls (Americas Musicworks AM CD 1596 1596 2-CDs). It is a long, freely conceived improvisational work punctuated by recitations of poetic epigramatic texts by Gary Snyder, William Butler Yeats, Jack Spicer and MHG percussionist Craig Ellis, poems which serve as prompts and reference points for the improvisations that form the principal body of the music.

The quartet consisted of Ellis and Michael Standish on percussion, Peter H. Bloom on woodwinds, and of course Mark Harvey on trumpet and other brasswinds.

The music has a kind of spirit-feel in part inspired by its performance in Boston's Old West Church. The overall trajectory of the performance is thoughtful, deliberate and freely open. It has a cohesive earnestness that Mark Harvey's improvisations have as a rule. All four improvisors clearly are listening to one another and respond somewhat introspectively with an inner fire that burns steadily and spaciously.

It is a fully absorbing and captivating concert well-captured in vibrant audio. There is a multitude of sound shades coming out of the various combinations and a marked sense of the long arc of sound developing unhurriedly. It might take a few listens before you fall in with the open subtlety of it all, but then there is a point where you I hope click into it like I did, and, well there you go. Very recommended. An important aspect of the Boston scene nicely captured.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Vijay Anderson's Silverscreen Sextet, Live at the Angel City Jazz Festival


Drummer-composer-bandleader Vijay Anderson has over the years established himself as a New Jazz presence with such luminaries as Adam Lane, Vinny Golia, Lisa Mezzacappa, Marco Eneidi and many others. He established himself as a major creative force in the Bay Area and more recently has been based in New York.

His Silverscreen Sextet started up in 2017 as a significant cohesion of LA-based and Northern Californians, known and lesser known improv talents. They happily were well recorded in an especially proto-charged gig in 2018, namely on the recent CD Live at the Angel City Jazz Festival in 2018 (self published).

The sextet rollicks through six nicely turned Anderson compositions and one number that is an entirely free collective improv. The band stands out as a very congenial gathering. There of course is Vijay on drums, a smartly soulful presence that swings like mad and presses the sextet ever onward both freely and in structured ways. His main solo on the disk is a post Eddie Blackwell octopus of polyrhythmically thrusting drum orchestration. And it is not that there is a Blackwell imitation so much as they share a propulsive essence and musically noteful sonance. The beautifully alive, barbeque strutting Bobby Bradford is just right. In part due to him and as whole regardless the music if you listen carefully shows some deep roots in the John Carter-Ornette Coleman nexus. That of course is a very good thing.

The rest of the horns each add a distinctive set of personal qualities to the mix, most nicely familiar with Vinnie Golia's b-flat clarinet, his g mezzo soprano and his baritone sax. He sounds as articulate and engaged as one would hope, a key member of the ensemble as he so often is when called upon.

Not as well known to many of us but nevertheless significant are the other two horns, that is Hafez Modirzadeh on alto and tenor and William Roper on tuba and a couple of archaic horns. Both players add an original voice and made the four-person front line a thing of distinction.

Finally there is the very busy and expressive Robert Miranda on bass, who meshes with Vijay for dependable anchorage in the best ways throughout.

The compositions  are edgy and current, the solo space varied and communicative. The pre-planned structures can veer to the bluesy or to advanced outness, giving the sextet a sense of purpose and directional impetus and a rootedness as well as an immediacy for our present-day and the sound of how it feels.

In the end we have a very nice blowing date that has pacing and outstanding compositional touches. It is a worthy listen that captures the very moment of the now of New Jazz. It is a nicely singular feather in the Vijay Anderson cap but also a step forward in free-swinging free-currency. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Free Radicals, White Power Outage Vol. 1


We live through an era of upheaval, as you no doubt well know. Just in time to reflect on the apocalyptic now we have a stirring musico-street-poetic Hip-Hop Rap-meets-Roots and Jazzish project five years in the making. Free Radicals is the name of the many artist collaboration and I happily hear their very later Black Lives Matter era collection of prescient and committed expressions on the turbulent today in White Power Outage, Volume One (self-published download and CD). 

It's all about the White Power grab out there, the conglomerate of malevolent forces we encounter, from fossil fuel hegemonizers to reactionary ideologues and their espousers, and their would-be militias. The words in this offering are pointed and lucid--and rhythmically hip. The music coves a lot of ground from Surf to Reggae to Avant Bluegrass Rock, R&B today and of course the word-ful. It is music of civil protest today, harrowing, funny, serious and mindful.

The arrangements are good. I especially like the horn lines.

It is music that drives as it also describes and criticizes. It is just what you need if you've had it with White Power threats and life on the downswing. The swirling abundance of artistry and insight makes all seem right. Go on Bandcamp and listen to "Chariot Rock" and you'll get an idea of what's up here.

It's not something I'd usually post on but then we live in times that are not the usual so you should hear this, I think. It is very well done. It hits home.