Friday, November 27, 2015

Mike Pride, Listening Party

Mike Pride, as many readers will know, is one of the leading, innovative drummers on the contemporary jazz scene. He's made a first solo album, Listening Party (Akord/Subkulturni Azil) that conceptually has more to it than one might expect from a solo drum album. Sure, it shows us a very inventive approach to the drum set as free music, but it extends outward to sound poetry via various means--electronics, glockenspiel, practice pads, natural sounds, vocalizing and so forth.

Making the drums eminently is not easy to do. Of course Max Roach and Andrew Cyrille (and Baby Dodds) pioneered such things in the recorded realm as well as live. This is Mike's own take on what can be done.

He succeeds in creating music-sound event worlds that keep you expectant through the sheer spectrum of events, making a contemporary new-music-improvisatory series of gestures that provoke and satisfy.

This is music that you can appreciate even if you are not a drummer, though drummers of course will find this fascinating as well.

Mike Pride is a creative cat, for sure, and he shows us just how imaginative, creative, and innovative he is on Listening Party. It's serious but it is fun to hear, too!

Bravo, Mike!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ozere, Finding Anyplace

This blog covers jazz as anybody reading it will know. But from time to time it covers other genres of interest, as yesterday's and today's post will attest.

Today, the band Ozere and their Finding Anyplace (self-released). It is a Canadian outfit that starts with the premise of a string-band instrumentation for a folk-country orientation. There is Jessica Deutsch on violin and vocals, Emily Rockarts on vocals, Adrian Gross on mandolin and acoustic and electric guitars, Lydia Munchinsky is on cello and background vocals, and Bret Higgins plays acoustic bass.

There are modern singer-songwriter string band songs to be heard here. They are quite good and the vocals are excellent. Then there are instrumental adventures that take folk fiddling and otherwise folk-country styles and make something modern of them. Ms. Deutsch plays violin in a convincingly post-fiddle fashion, but the rest of the band is excellent as well. There are also world music elements to be heard with guests on darbuka and bandir, etc., and that keeps you guessing for what is coming next in the best ways.

The memorable songs, the excellent folk vocalizing, and the band's very interesting arrangements carry the day.

I find after repeated listenings that Ozere has something very much of their own going. If you like a hybrid modern folk sound that retains a modern version of authenticity yet a contemporary knack for winsome songstering, this one will give you some very satisfying music.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Komitas, The Gurdjieff Ensemble, Levon Eskenian

The Gurdjeiff Ensemble of folk instruments under Levon Eskenian received a good deal of acclaim back in 2012 with their ECM release Music of G. I. Gurdjieff. They return with Komitas (ECM 2451), an album of "ethnographically authentic" versions of the music of Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935), considered a father figure of contemporary Armenian music.

The instrumentation of the ensemble is very much indigenous to traditional Armenia and its surrounds, with santur, folk oboe, oud, and such.

Komitas's music is very much appropriate for the treatment, as well as being ravishingly beautiful in itself. We get 18 brief pieces, played with care, zeal and striking sonance.

This is essential for its arrangements and its core Komitas repertoire. It is a must for those who love things Armenian and those who would in any case welcome a musical adventure of lasting value.

Highest recommendations for this one!

Monday, November 23, 2015

William Parker, Raining on the Moon, Great Spirit

The music of Great Spirit (AUM Fidelity 098) was recorded in 2007 (except for one song, recorded in 2012) by William Parker and the Raining on the Moon ensemble at the same time as the music of the earlier album Corn Meal Dance. I have yet to hear that one but this companion volume has a completeness and togetherness so that one feels no lack whatsoever.

It is a perfect congress of songs, vocals and instrumental brightness. Leena Conquest does the vocals and she sounds wonderful, soulful and swinging, committed and just right for the song lines. William Parker is on bass of course and sounds as ever busily foundational, a titan, a force on the contrabass in the ranks of the very best. Hamid Drake, as you can imagine, locks in with William to make a formidable tandem that moves the music into that undescribable nether zone where the music not only swings but also torques forward springingly.

Rob Brown on alto, Lewis Barnes, trumpet, and Eri Yamamoto on piano drive into the great spirit of the music with real musicality and soul. They accompany and solo exceptionally well.

And the songs, the songs, they have great memorability, depth and a lyric-poetic directness. It is about the pain, resolve and spirit-ecstasy of being black in an America that is ever-changing yet at times tragically never-changing.

It is all very beautiful, a monumental set for all involved. Surely this is some of the best vocal-song oriented jazz sets I have heard since the Millennium. It is superb.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blaise Siwula, Luciano Troja, John Murchison, Beneath the Ritual

Today, the final volume of three recent releases by Blaise Siwula, this time a trio of reeds, piano and bass, Blaise, Luciano Troja and John Murchison, respectively. Twelve improvisational segments grace Beneath the Ritual (No Frills 0009).

This is open-ended free spontaneity in the "jazz" realm. It is a measured, subtle shifting of moods that throws light on the productive possibilities that these three together realize fruitfully.

Pianist Luciano Troja has internalized the history of the music to give out with his own freewheeling exploratory style somewhere in between the absolute iconoclasm of a Cecil Taylor and the more thorough structuralism of the inner-outness of someone like Chick Corea in his adventurous days. He straddles the jazz piano tradition and finds a way to be himself here.

Bassist John Murchison brings strength of purpose and anchorage to the ensemble. He is open-endedly lucid in response to the others when that seems the way and propulsively forward-moving at other times.

Blaise brings on his arsenal of alto, tenor, soprano and clarinet. If you sometimes hear traces of Barney Bigard or Jimmy Hamilton or even Sidney Bechet in the clarinet and soprano segments, it is because Blaise embodies the tradition at the same time as he subverts it and/or converts it to his own personal expressive style. In the end you hear a perpetual motion of inventiveness here with Blaise filled with great ideas and a mastery of tone and timbre as well as his own idiosyncratic notefulness. This is another great example of the mature Siwula at his best.

But needless to say the whole totality of three way outcomes are critical to this session. If, as been famously noted by Whitney Balliett, jazz is the "sound of surprise," it is also the sound of affirmation. The ideal consists of a kind of dialectic of the two melding together and continually mutating if you are to recognize the music as being within itself, first, and innovative outside of the typical combinations, second.

That we get that exceptionally well in Beneath the Ritual it is because Blaise, Luciano and John are attuned to a foundation as a place to spring forward from and transform endlessly so that in the end it is a new place to dwell within musically. It is Blaise Siwula once again in excellent form and a place where Troja and Murchison have equal say in where the inventiveness can go and does. It's a tribute to all three and a fine set! Recommended!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Zingaro" Mitzlaff Viegas Rosso 4tet, Day One

More new avant improvisation from Portugal today. It is the 4tet of Carlos "Zingaro" (violin), Ulrich Mitzlaff (cello), Joao Pedro Viegas (bass clarinet, clarinet) and Alvaro Rosso (doublebass). The album is called Day One (JACC Records).

The first thing that struck me was how the three strings interplay with the bass clarinet or clarinet. This is busy round-robin improvisations with each player staking a claim to the whole but nearly always in a contrapuntal multi-voice setting. It is strikingly situated in a new music context with less of an obvious "jazz" element. But you can find some of that if you listen carefully.

The string trio plus reeds sound is what comes straight at you. Zingaro, Mitzlaff and Rosso give us a cohesive whole most inventive and impressive. Viegas adds his considerable ears and reed-voice to put it all together.

Zingaro comes across as the monster player he is; but then everybody seems to do exactly the right thing at the right time in such profusion that there seem to be endless possibilities. The album gives us eight events. As you listen you feel they could event productively for a great deal longer, into "Day Two," "Day Three," and so forth.

Day One is one of those sessions where everything comes together. The four are truly as one, a four-headed behemoth who takes the music in definite directions in time, consistently, variably and eloquently.

I am certainly not here to tell you what to think or what to like. But this is one I would definitely point to when asked about the current state of affairs in new music improvisation. There are no hindrances. Everyone flies in an instinctive formation, a kind of musical "V"! Hear this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Shelton / Lonberg-Holm / Rosaly, Resounder

Three members of the Chicago sextet Fast Citizens come together in a trio setting with some bracing avant improvisations that incorporate electro-acoustic elements to extend and enhance the music experience. These started out as a series of inventive free improvisations that were later subjected to electro-acoustic processing by Aram Shelton, the alto saxophonist in the group. Joined with him are Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, guitar and live electronics and Frank Rosaly on drums. The album is entitled Resounder (Singlespeed Music SSM-015).

These are cutting-edge avant improvisers and what they do live here is exceptional in itself. Shelton's processing is selective and alters one track at a time, not continuously, but periodically. It broadens the sound-palette rather than obscures the initial live signal. One can always tell what the source sound is and how it fits with its momentary enhancement.

This sort of thing is an evolution of some of what Stockhausen did with his chamber ensembles in the later mid-period. Only the language is more firmly and expressively in the "free jazz" realm.

The music is most certainly not transformed due to a lack. Everybody is on the mark with some exceptional out confluences. The added processing gives the trio a fourth voice, I suppose you could say, that is born of the interactions yet colors a part of the sound and thus stretches the possibilities further and gives us a cosmically advanced texture overall.

If the musicians were not rolling forward with some peak interactions the electro-acoustic transformations would not make a difference. Here they put the music a notch forward and ultimately fit the sound design seamlessly. Purists may balk at such interventions, but then purists are free to go their own way and not be any the lesser for it.

What counts is the music in the end. This is first-chair Chicago avant. The three artists are making some exhilaratingly expressive music here. You should give it your ears and take some time to explore its complexities, its abstract coherence, its smart and soulful dialoging.