Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Sarah Weaver, Synthesis Series, Music of Sarah Weaver and Collaborations


Composer and sound artist/improviser Sarah Weaver is one of those vital creative forces at work today in the New Jazz and Improvisation realms that makes the new, very new. There is a double album out digitally this summer but soon as a two CD-set that I've been listening to with interest. It is called Synthesis Series, Music of Sarah Weaver and Collaborations (Sync Source).

The music came naturally out of a COVID era social distancing as music meant to be performed live by members from widely disparate locations. The first most noticeable trait to this music is the appealing continuance of a long, spanning rhapsodic flow that gets its identity from composer-performer interfaces. All that is seen strongly from the beginning and the 46+ minute bird-like conference on "Integral Infinity."

Then the second part has a great inter-collaborative composition and performative thing for Gerry Hemingway and Sarah Weaver. What stands out right away is the striking blast of percussive color freely yet magnetically sounding a tattoo for our listening selves like a New Guinea slit gong sounding from an adjoining mountaintop.

Track one of album two,  "Isomorphic Now"  develops even further the long interactive song warbling as played beautifully by each of the melodically situated instruments.

The fourth and final soundblock begins with low notes from the  lower horns and then others wing into an interlocking intervallic lengthening.

The performers play a key role as color brushes, as improvisers, as artfully situated in Ms. Weaver's compositional matrix. They in so doing help make the music a sublime success, thanks especially to the overall directive,  completely sympatico retation to her and what sound and pronounced ambience she looks for. So kudos to Jun Sung Choi (vocals), Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax), Marty Ehrlich (clarinete woodwinds), Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, woodwinds), Ray Anderson (trombone), Dave Taylor (bass trombone), Mark Helias (contrabass), Gerry Hemingway (percussion, co-composer on piece #2), Sarah Weaver (composer, conductor, improviser, computer music), and Robert Dick (flute, contrabass flute).

All this takes place with a kind of classic New Music certitude. Ms, Weaver clearly occupies an comfortable perch among the prevailing avant winds folks. She does not follow a predictable path as far as what generally gets forward in some typical stylistic byways and cross currents. So I do recommend you pay serious attention to this. Bravo.

Hear related works played live at this link:

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Owen Broder, Hodges: Front and Center, Volume 1


There is a truism in the idea that a tribute album can be progressive or regressive, in that returning to a specific artist or genre can help redefine the present or merely recycle it all like heartburn. Here is an album I immediately took to on first hearing but then hesitated, wondering whether we go forward or back with it. I did not know the artist before hearing this, but in the end I kept hearing a fresh newness as I listened so I resort happily to posting on it. Alto and baritone saxman Owen Broder shows himself a real fan of Johnny Hodges and his alto but then takes the swing influence and updates it all in a way that feels good to hear repeatedly. That on this first volume of the digital album Hodges: Front and Center  (Outside in Music, Bandcamp Digital Release).

The band is together and motivated to reach backwards and forwards at once, in a lively Quintet of Broder plus Riley Mulherkar on trumpet, Carmen Staaf on piano, Barry Stephenson on bass and Bryan Carter on drums. They go their own way within a kind of Rabbit and Duke in a swing stew that sounds all the clarion feeling of the best of that period without slavishly imitating anything.

The repertoire includes a couple of Swing and pre-Swing classics like "Royal Garden Blues" and "Take the A Train," then a few things, sides Rabbit did on his own, and then others that give us the essence but I do not readily recognize them. Good things all, played with a conviction and steadfast resiliency one does not often hear in such retrospectives. Bravo, bravo. Listen to this on the Bandcamp site and order it there if like me it gets you smiling.

M'lumbo, The Summer of Endless Levitation


M'lumbo has been a band I always seem to gravitate towards. I've covered a good number of their albums on these pages. Now here is a new one and it is different, spacy with a kind of Neo-African soundscape that rolls a little differently than the heavier Neo-Psychedelic Jazz-Rock of some of the earlier efforts. To me here listening  it is a cool thing, all of it. So you note I start logically with the title of the album, The Summer of Endless Levitation (Hell Yeah, LP or Digital).

So where to begin? If you go over to the BandCamp page that is devoted to the new album you will read that M'lumbo is a "New York multimedia band that crosses the boundaries of Rock, Electronic, Psychedelic, Jazz, and World Music with over 14 recordings.... 'It's Mickey Mouse, The Stanford University marching band, Santana and Syd Barrett rolled into one...borders on genius'-- Baltimore City Paper."

To get more specific this one is a majestic soundscape evoking the wonderful summers of our youths maybe, of Africa in classic days, of our deepest dreams and complex weaves of associations. Sometimes you might find there is almost a Beatles-in-summer resonance, other times a sunny acoustic-electric back porch dream. It all feels like a pitcher of fresh ice tea and lemon, to me at the moment. It is music most carefully and effectively orchestrated for a heady mix of acoustic and electric instruments and vocals. And it in the end is itself, delectably so.

It is a fruitful excursion into the symphonic realms of acoustic-electronica nowadays, a beautiful tapestry of synthetic and organic dream weaves. To go or to stay is up to you. One thing is certain. This is music in itself, of itself at the highest caliber. So get your ears on it if you can.

Take a walk to the album site to listen.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

ANNA, Intentions, Progressive and Cosmic Ambient Electronics for the Soul


ANNA is a DJ from Portugal, born in Brazil. Her new (second) album Intentions (Mercury CD) provides you with a sort of progressive avant ambience that lets one float inside a universe one would love to call one's own. And indeed the artist provides us with a meditation technique by which to hear this music which ultimately gives you a way to take this album unto yourself. It is a mesmerizing Post-Minimal Radical Tonality that may be totally laid back but is never the least bit banal in a New Age flatulence, not at all, in fact quite the opposite. The cosmic wrap envelopes you but then when you interrogate the music itself it is not found wanting or pandering.

This is an album that has a haunting excellence of sound color and an absolute wealth of invention that makes it all quite special. That I am happily covering the album should make you see that it is not the pablum that some minimalist, trance, smooth or ambient music can  be. I would say it is a masterpiece of this sort of thing, so do not miss it. Bravo, bravo.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Denny Zeitlin, Solo Piano, Crazy Rhythm: Exploring George Gershwin

Ever since the early '60s pianist Denny Zeitlin has excelled as an original improvisational voice that has all the harmonic nuance of a Bill Evans but too all of a later tonality and line abstraction of the New Thing dispensation beyond what is exemplified in Paul Bley, etc., along with an electric acumen that is as orchestral as it is all-encompassing. Today's offering has nothing to do with that third and all to do with his pianoforte prowess and identity, his original stance in regards to a set of standards by Gershwin, namely his solo piano adventure Crazy Rhythm: Exploring George Gershwin (Sunnyside SSC 1693). The concentrated set is from the live concert as part of the annual Zeitlin solo spot in the Oakland Piedmont Piano Concerts.

Many of the must-include Gershwin songs are a go here, so "Fascinating Rhythm," "Summertime, " "My Man is Gone Now," etc. There are also some lesser known ones here, nicely done, like "I Was Doing Alright," and "I've Got a Crush on You."

The rapid modulation possibilities come into play at choice moments, and as expected, there are exceptional voicings and substitutions. At the same time it all swings well when appropriate and goes in a forward momentum to paraphrase and invent inventive alternative phrases throughout, in a sublime Piano Jazz sort of way.

This is the 2018 concert and no surprise but it sounds as timeless as when it was made, the proverbial day before yesterday. Inspiration is abundant and it all makes for an excellent go round, affirming Zeitlin as a true master of the Jazz arts, up there with the heavies no matter how you want to stack it. He gives us some thrilling line weaving in the process and it is a ride of exhilaration and satisfaction. We get the aromatic spice of Modernism with an overarching sense of totality that just works.  Nice work, and what a command!

To get a free sample stream of the album and find out how to order go to BandCamp at

The set has so much to like I expect it will appeal to confirmed Jazz ears as well as musically inclined newcomers. Wonderful album. Top ratings!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Yumi Ito, YSLA


Singer-Songwriter Yumi Ito happily sent me her new album and hey, it sounds so good. It is called YSLA  (ENJA yeb7831). I am taken by her intonationally impressive, gifted, stylistically rangy and ultra-musical voice, which may remind you slightly and nicely of Byork or Imogen Heap or sometimes even Edie Brickell only more sophisticated but not in any obvious way. She can scat wonderfully well in a contemporary zone, What else? The Milk Eyed Mender, that artist, Joanna Newsom? Maybe, but just as an affine so to speak, perhaps not a sister per se, but most emphatically herself. Her new album has seven very tunefully advanced songs bursting over with originality, with a feelingful content and lyrically bracing presence one does not encounter the likes of often, but even so this is very much her own way about it, arrangements, compositions and artistry Zazzy Jazzy-ish in ways that will perhaps floor you like it did me. Ah, Madame Zazz, as Duke might have exclaimed!

Throughout she plays a nicely conceived set of piano and Rhodes parts, she is also well accompanied by a tastefully wrought set of accompanists that she arranges deftly for, and she produces it all with impressive sonic results. So what don't I like about the album? Nothing! The lyrics are often personal, poetically acute and amorously situated, which is cool. I will not say she is a new Joni Mitchell but she has a kind of vastness about her music here which does not diminish her in any way, and there is something there that you will probably like if you like Joni. Either way this is substantial fare.

She is Japanese-Polish if you wonder, and her music is her way through the world we live in today. The music is very contemporary, sometimes a bit riffy, with progression expression, and tangy, soundscape-y growths of musical sound. The vocals ride atop it all with a yodel and a yip, a nuance of phrasing that is a beauty to hear and a triumph of the wonderfully rangy perfection that makes you perk up and listen. Bravo.

To do a free stream of the album, to find out more details about the album,  and to order a copy go to and to find out about the ongoing world tour this year go to her general site

Devin Gray, Most Definitely, Solo Drum Album


An unaccompanied solo drum album was a rare thing when I was growing up, so I especially appreciated a Max Roach album that had select solo gems that came out back then,  and then Milford Graves' solo percussion ensemble (with Sonny Morgan) followed by another essential,  Andrew Cyrille's BYG solo album from 1969. There have been others since but those three examples still stay in my musical memory as the most influential and iconic to me in formative years.

Today we have a new one that deserves our attention, namely Devin Gray's Most Definitely  (Rataplan 40). This is a thoroughgoing exploration of the drum set improv space that virtually converges today in a sort of New Music percussion ensemble view with a Free Jazz extended techniques articulation of it all. There are also a few moments here where the drum audio is altered by electronic transformations and it works fine and widens the aural possibilities as it comes and goes from the program. But otherwise it is a tour de force of sound color in miniature and sometimes in a maximum torrential wash of drumming, impressive and original. This is one of the most interesting and creative solo drum albums I have heard in recent years. You give it a couple of close listens and if you are like me you will start to appreciate the subtle, nuanced and often powerful expressions that put Devin in the "thinker's drummer" category. The musical trip throughout has dramatic pacing and an ending that will stir you up for sure, I suspect. Bravo!

Stream the album and check out digital, CD, or LP ordering options at Bandcamp: