Monday, January 16, 2017

Augustin Brousseloux, Jean-Marc Foussat, Quentin Rollet, Oui A Vu Ce Mystere. . .

What is a soundscape? Like a landscape, it is something with a horizontal continuity, an expanse of music land and sky if you will, a series of event markings that draw out the particularities of that landscape, along with the continuity of horizontal sustains. More or less. The world of free jazz-new music has embraced soundscaping increasingly, it seems to me, over the last decades.

Qui a Ve Ce Mystere. . . (Improvising Beings ib54) is such  a soundscape and a good one it is. The music is crafted freely but with care and sensitivity by a threesome of Augustin Brousseloux on electric guitar, Jean-Marc Foussat on live electronics, and Quentin Rollet on alto sax.

Each falls into his specific role and there is a good deal of dramatics and space-time cosmetics to be heard in the 40-minute live number and the 20-minute studio follow-up.

It is all about creating a vibrant and vital collective sonance than it is not so much about impressing a stamp of individual personalities times three, although each musician does have a personal musical fingerprint that we find all over the music.

But in the end it is about the unique scapeside aural view that is created over time, in this case two contrasting ones.

It is the sort of music Improvising Beings has had the nerve to put out over the past few years. It is an example of how the formulas of freedom and what is orthodoxy in free-new music is not necessarily the only way to go. 

This music transfixes if you listen closely and repeatedly. It is unfashionably electric, which means it is beyond fashion, or rather the fashion-of-fashion-rejection.

It takes some living with over time. And then, ideally, you get it.

Does this have anything to do with "Ascension" or "Hymnen"? Yes, undoubtedly there are roots there, but it furthers avant "traditions" in a disarming, non-traditional way.

I like that. Years from now, this music will either be entirely forgotten or considered an important new path. That in part is up to us, the community of listeners. Which is it?

Listen for yourself.

But listen.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sound Underground, Quiet Spaces

If you have a similar background to me, the first thing that hits you in listening to the trio Sound Underground and their album Quiet Spaces is their apparent rootedness in the classic later-'50s Jimmy Giuffre with Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer. There is a chamber jazz approach in common. The instrumentation of Jonah Udall on electric guitar, David Leon on alto sax, and Alec Aldred on trumpet involves a similar openness of execution, with Jonah pivoting between chordal work and a third voice.

The compositions (by all three trio members) have a kind of genetic relation to the Giuffre classical-folk-jazz nexus. They are notable for their structural bent and memorability.

And the improvising schemas are well thought out like the Giuffre three-some's were.

But foremost in this is despite the genetic relationship the music does not really sound at all like Giuffre's did in those days. That's because it is so many years later and also because all three follow their own muses.

Put all that together and you have something very nice indeed. Check this out!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Giovanni Guidi, Ida Lupino

An album of exceptional merit is always an event in my world. Giovanni Guidi's Ida Lupino (ECM 2462) is one such. It reunites pianist Guidi with his former bandmate from a classic edition of Enrico Rava's group, namely trombonist Gianluca Petrella.  Added to this pairing is clarinetist Louis Sclava and drummer Gerald Cleaver for a most potent foursome.

The program is made up of a number of collective improvisations, some memorable compositional collaborations between Guidi and Petrella, and the iconic Carla Bley piece "Ida Lupino," the latter a dual tribute to Carla Bley on her 80th birthday and to the lifework of her former partner, pianist Paul Bley, who introduced the song to us and made it a classic.

The what of the album is on an equal footing with the how. All four turn in beautiful performances that make this a quartet of genuine distinction. The rapport between Guidi and Petrella is exceptional, but then the four-way of Guidi-Petrella-Sclava-Cleaver is no less so.

It is one of those albums that hangs together from first-to-last, a landmark release of the 2016 season, much deserving of your undivided attention.

This is music of the ages, and of course music of our current age par excellence.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Matt Wilson's Happy Family, Beginning of a Memory

2017 it is and we catch up to a good one on this first post of the year. Drummer-composer-bandleader Matt Wilson puts together his big band Matt Wilson's Happy Family in a recent album Beginning of a Memory (Palmetto). It is a powerhouse of an ensemble that includes Terell Stafford, Kirk Knoufke, Jeff Lederer, Andrew D'Angelo, Gary Versace, Larry Goldings, Chris Lightcap and others, all dedicated to a big sound, avant but rootsy.

There is humor in the seriousness, a sort of Mingus-like forward-backward sensibility, and some great playing from everybody.

The charts are smart and soulful. One is by Andrew D'Angelo and there are a couple of unexpected standards but the rest show off Matt's idea of a big ensemble hitting it for our times.

It is a hell of a nice outing, sounding better every time you put it on.

Dig you should.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band Directed by Brent Fischer, Intenso!

Since the passing of jazz composer, arranger, pianist Clare Fischer his son Brent has been putting together various releases that offer us new views of his work in a vast spectrum of styles. Now he turns to the Latin-oriented Fischer on Intenso! (Clavo 201609), featuring the Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band under the direction of Brent.

Clare's son does a fine job putting together and completing tracks where Clare laid down the keyboard parts (for the most part) of numbers he wrote and/or arranged. Brent and several collegues orchestrated the numbers where needed and Brent comes through with items he co-arranged with Clare or realized on his own for some of the numbers.

The result is a full ten-song program of big band Latin jazz in the Clare Fischer mode, which insists on the Latin groove being at the forefront and then adds plenty of sophisticated big band flourishes.

Clare's "Gaviota" sounds great here with Roberto Gambarini on vocals. There is Clare's hip abstracted Latin version of Duke's "Rockin' in Rhythm," and lots more besides.

This is a crack big band in full flourish. Anyone who digs Latin Jazz in general and/or Clare Fischer in particular will take to this, I would bet.

It's a moving tribute to the Latin side of the Maestro!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Enoch Smith Jr., The Quest, Live at APC

When music conjoins with religious practice, my guiding view is first and foremost the quality of the music, in jazz as in any style. So hearing Enoch Smith Jr.'s fourth album The Quest, Live at APC (MisFitMe Music) I at first took no notice that the two piano trios represented here (Smith on piano for both) and the two vocalists who preside over several of the songs are making music for the Jazz Vespers service at the Allentown (NJ) Presbyterian Church, where Smith's music alternates with readings from the scriptures once a month.

No, the music first hit me and put a smile on my face. Only then did I recognize what the music addressed.

Enoch Smith Jr. is a fine pianist with a contemporary mainstream flourish, someone who can come up with very together compositional frameworks and arranged folk hymns.

This is hip music by any standard. The trio and vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles give us a stunning version of Chick Corea's "Open Your Eyes You Can Fly," and the Smith original "With Me." Emily Braden is no less convincing on "Creator," "Home" and the old "Jesus Loves Me."

This is good, excellent jazz that speaks with a modern day voice. I like it a great deal!

Jerome Jennings, The Beast

Jerome Jennings, fine post-Blakey drummer and bandleader, holds forth with a good band and compelling tunes on The Beast (IOLA). The stylistic spectrum from Hard Bop to very contemporary jazz is the order of the day. An underlying message is solidarity with Black Lives Matter, not made explicit in the music itself but present in the concluding words of the leader.

Nine numbers grace the album--"You Don't Know What Love Is" is the standard, nicely sung by Jazzmeia Horn. The rest are rousing instrumentals with Jennings ever-present as a drummer of swinging stature. Joining him are five adept jazzmasters in Sean Jones on trumpet and flugelhorn, Howard Wiley on tenor, Dion Tucker on trombone, Christian Sands on piano, and Christian McBride on bass. The rhythm section superbly sets up the drive of the music and everyone solos in world-class fashion.

Bassist Jon Burr contributes a Hard Bop gem in "Love the Drums," written especially for Jennings. It's off to the races thereafter, with four effective Jennings vehicles, Ben Webster's "Did You Call Her Today," Freddie Hubbard's "The Core" and a sparkling "Cool It Now" by Brantley and Timas.

The fit between tunes, ensemble, swing and solo work is near-perfect. It is one of the finest contemporary jazz mainstream sets I've heard in a while. Everybody deserves a brisk round of applause, leader Jennings especially.

Get into this one and you'll be hearing some of  the best today.