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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Jason Robinson & Eric Hofbauer, Duo Music of Ken Aldcroft, Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late

For those who require a good bit of substance in their music, there is Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late: The Duo Music of Ken Aldcroft (Accretions ALP071), featuring the tenor saxophone of Jason Robinson and the electric guitar of Eric Hofbauer. Aldcroft and Robinson had planned on doing this music together, but sadly Aldcroft was felled by a fatal heart attack in 2016, and so subsequently the project saw a continuation via Robinson and Hofbauer--which is realized beautifully in the present recording.
There are 12 segments centered around Ken Aldcroft compositions played through and improvised upon by the duo. Some have a kind of New Music totality about them at times, whether contrapuntal, through composed, or otherwise finely crafted and inspired. Others have a more definite jazz swinging implied. Clearly all have plenty of room for improvising and Jason and Eric rise and meet the challenge of putting their personal stamp on their parts in ways memorable and well done.
There is a rhythm-chord guitar and lead line tenor division of labor implied in some of this and it is opened out in innovative ways. The guitar may also adopt an ostinato line for the tenor to soar over too, not surprisingly. But then the tenor returns the favor at times as well.
"Two Hours Early" is a fascinating counterpoint that evokes a broadness realized in improvisations that ring out and evoke. The duo gives us an opening version and another to close. In the process they show what high art sort of things the compositional and improvisational nexus can produce in the hands of the creators involved.
There is space along the way for solo moments of brilliance from both, and double solos, too. A beautiful thing is the way it ever straddles from the compositional to the improvisational without settling in for the most part to head-solo-head formations. In the process we are reminded just how soulfully proficient and resourceful both players are and how they get on famously together as a duo. There is almost nothing that sounds tentative or preparatory. It is all happily significant and artful. 
If on the way we are sometimes reminded a little compositionally of Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy and Monk-like arabesques, it is only mostly as precursors than as something imitated. It is a program that sounds wonderful the more you listen. It marks off Aldcroft, Robinson and Hofbauer as innovators, artists of the highest caliber. Most highly recommended.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Jean-Marc Foussat, Daunik Lazro, Evan Parker, Cafe Oto, Wed 22 Jan

Jean-Marc Foussat to me makes some of the most provocative and interesting Electroacoustic (live) compositional-improvisational music today. The recordings he has made in the last decade bear this out, not the least of which is a new one, Cafe Oto Wed 22 Jan (Fou Records FR-CD 38/39 2-CD) a live recording from the beginning of this year.

The first disk is Foussat doing a solo set on synth, voice and electronics; the second CD adds Daunik Lazro on baritone sax and voice and Evan Parker on soprano sax. It is music of a pronounced expression, playing upon the repetitive and sustaining layering quality of "digital delay." Unlike electronics in the earlier days, the possibility of echo-repeat-layer never appears for its own sake but rather as a means to a thicker and more hefty series of explorations.

As I review this in the thick of the pandemic I feel a renewed sense of how precious live spontaneous Improv of such a high caliber is. The health of this fragile form of creation of course depends upon the non-contagious situational possibility, on a healthy world.

Evan Parker often comes at us in endless phrases thanks in part to delay but also breath control. He is often undisguised and riding atop the near-orchestral wash of layered vocal-choral actions, synth colors and whole tones, and Lazro's baritone viscosities of rich timbral emanations.

There are long complex passages all the more impressive and exciting by virtue of their real-time live qualities. Repeat listening to this two-set wonder underscores just how inventive and mutually attuned a level this threesome (and solo) consistently attains. It is a testament to the flexible and imaginative outlook of each of these artists that one can listen and catch the strong musical personalities of each artist yet they are most definitely NOT repeating some formulaic success that unfortunately some other improvisers might fall into. Not here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Luis Lopes, Humanization 4tet, Believe, Believe, with Rodrigo Amado, Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez

Portuguese electric guitarist Luis Lopes joins together once again with fellow Portuguese tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado and the Texas brother rhythm team of Aaron Gonzalez on double bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums in the group they call the Humanization 4tet. Their new album has recently come out. Believe, Believe (Clean Feed CF549CD) is the title and it continues the fine series of recordings they have put out in the last decade (some I have reviewed here, type their name in the search box above for those.)

The new one bubbles over with the sort of high spirited, energetic state-of-the-art free-wheeling contemporary Jazz that the 4tet has become known for. There are song structures or melodic kernels and a rhythmic looseness that still tends to pulsate forward, often free but directional, swinging indirectly or directly as fits the mood, ever freely loose in the best ways.  Six compositional-improvisational segments (one in two versions) make up the whole.

When such a talented and sensitively attuned group plays together intensively and extensively for a good while as the Humanization 4tet has, there is one hopes a continual growth and a resiliency to the sureness of the free expressions as they project into aural space. Believe, Believe happily shows the fruits of that sort of hands-on, mutual improvisational opening out.

Aaron and Stefan have played music together for as long as two brothers who grew up together might and with their father Dennis Gonzalez on trumpet have long been playing as the excellent and acclaimed Yells at Eels group. When you listen to the prodigious rhythm team work on this album you hear the results of talent and experience, for they are strong and sure, and form a crucial bedrock for how this band moves strikingly forward.

It is true also that the double-front line of Luis Lopes on guitar and Rodrigo Amado on tenor sax show the natural aging of togetherness, like a fine wine. So Luis springs forth with very energized abstractions on guitar that fit in well with Rodrigo's tenor effusions and the rhythm team's assertions. He does some of his best playing on disk here. And it serves notice to all who hear that Luis is happening. He is a guitarist of the highest caliber, always ready-to-hand with creative fire and poetic tone.

Rodrigo continues to shine forth as one of the very best and original avant tenors playing today. He is of course an indispensable component of the 4tet and sounds fabulous throughout.

So we have a band with all the talent and seasoning one could ask for, creating some of their most compelling and ravishing best on this CD album. Believe, Believe has all you could ask for, all you might hope for to make you a believer in this 4tet and all they do. One of their very best. Get this one and believe!