Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Defunkt, Live at Channel Zero

Defunkt has long been one of the first among progressive funk outfits, but also a sort of thinking-feeling man-woman's band. Trombonist-bandleader and legend Joseph Bowie has been holding funk court for years now and I am happy so say we are all once again...BUSTED for getting with it all.

There's a new one out and I've been appreciating it this week. Defunkt Live at Channel Zero (ESP 5008) gives us seven gems from Ljubjana, Slovenia last year plus a 2007 encore from Dortmund.

It's a potent lineup with Joseph torridly manning his bone and doing the lead vocals, John Mulkerin blasting off on post-Milesian trumpet, and Bill Bickford and Ronny Drayton giving us some kicking funk chording and solid screaming soloing on guitars. And the rhythm section burns with Kim Clarke on bass and Kenny Martin on drums.

The band is in top form, keeping the funk alive and fired up, ignoring or jettisoning anything that doesn't cook like the devil. They remain at the center of the avant funk fringe and keep it fresh with total funking friction.

You don't want that, leave it alone. But for all who can groove still, this one is for you. Oh, yes.

Dominique Pifarely Quartet, Trace Provisoire

Violinist Dominique Pifarely squares a round hole musically by conflating the improvised with the composed. You could say that jazz has always done that, and you'd be right. But of course there have always been greater or lesser degrees. On the Pifarely Quartet album Trace provisoire (ECM 2481) the distinction is not always very obvious and with the very vigorous interactions between Pifarely on violin, Antonin Rayon, piano, Bruno Chevillon on contrabass and Francois Merville on drums it makes for virtually endlessly engaging sounds.

This is a modern jazz composer's quartet, but it is also a player's quartet. For there is plenty going on no matter where you turn your ears. Head and solos? Sometimes that form is present, but never exactly in any formulaic way. The improvs often enough stem out from the compositions, for sure, extending a motif and developing the compositional seed into a full grown plant, so to speak. There are times when the principal "melody" or improv line is passed from player to player with very musically stimulating results. And there are various roles required of all four players.

This is deep and deeply atmospheric music that puts Dominique's violin often enough at the center of the sound, but then also allows for heightened interactivity between all four artists.

It's an album that never fails to connect audience, players and music. It is a modern quartet music that is exemplary and ever engaging. Bravo, then. Give this one your full attention and you will be rewarded in kind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Masabumi Kikuchi, Black Orpheus

Masabumi Kikuchi's posthumous release of a solo piano concert in Tokyo, Black Orpheus (ECM 2459) is in many ways a thing of wonder. It takes a long meandering, brilliantly wandering route through his own inimitable thickets to the song "Black Orpheus" and follows up with a short and very poignant version of his "Little Abi."

This recording is a culmination of his life (1939-2015) in music, one might say. It is fabulously immediate, expressive in volcanic waves of feeling, tonality and chromaticism. There is a deep involvement in swirling lines that go beyond the jazz vocabulary into a personal one.

His long association with Paul Motion ended with the great drummer's death and according to the liners to this album, he fell into a period where he felt cast adrift. But by the time he returned to Tokyo for this triumphant recital, his creative abilities were at a new peak, aside from whether he was satisfied with the existence left to him.

Ultimately that concert was pure revelation. And we have it here as glorious sound in all its exceptionality. Personally, the music stuns me with its searching perfection. This is solo piano improvisation at its highest peak. Brilliant. You must hear this.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Forward Music Fest Kickstarter Campaign Needs Your Help!

The Forward Experimental Music Festival, Three Days of the very new in Brooklyn, NY, is in the closing days of its Kickstarter Campaign. They need to raise $1,693 by Sunday or they will lose all the contribution funds raised so far. Check the details at the link below and then give something if you can! Thanks.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wolfert Brederode Trio, Black Ice

Wolfert Brederode is a pianist-composer whose intimate and dynamic musings seem tailor-made for the ECM Label sound. Black Ice (ECM 2476) brings to us his new trio, which integrates very nicely Gulli Gudmundsson's articulate double bass and Jasper van Hutten's orchestrally conceived drums in a beautiful program of 12 Brederode originals plus one by Gudmundsson.

This is, to tell the truth, my first exposure to Wolfert's artistry, so I have missed some quartet work and earlier trio sides. I am impressed, very impressed with him and the trio on this album. The music has a calm and lucidly gentle side, but also can kick up some dust. The idea of black ice has connotations of beauty but also of course danger. Wolfert had this in mind by so naming the album.

So the music is quite accessibly beautiful but contains a good deal that is quite musically sophisticated and has lurking beneath the surface some elements to challenge. a hint of danger.

In the end one grows into the music via a number of hearings. His ballad writing and playing is nothing short of ravishing, pianistically alive, and in all cases the trio works fully as a unit, a well-oiled responsive musical mechanism that is far from mechanical, but spontaneous and inspired throughout.

I am so glad to have the chance to hear this one. It will certainly be a fabulous and distinguished part of my stacks, but then it may well find itself getting many replays as a regular pull-out choice. Brederode is a startlingly total musical phenomenon, a true artist! Bravo!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Abrazo, The Havana Sessions

The historic easing of political tensions between the United States and Cuba in recent years, notably the end of trade and travel embargoes, no doubt will lead to a renewed level of exchange on cultural fronts. And indeed, we see an immediate, exciting result in the new 2-CD set Abrazo, The Havana Sessions (Ansonica AR0001).

It is the result of a trip carefully planned by the Parma Records group to Havana. With them came compositions and musical artists, who teamed up with some fine Cuban musicians and arrangers (notably Juan Manuel Ceruto) to create what one hopes is but the first in a long ongoing series of exchanges. With it all is the birth of a new label, Ansonica.

The first disk concentrates on some nicely written, nicely played Afro-Cuban jazz, written by Timothy Lee Miller, Don Bowyer, Bunny Beck, and fine arrangements by Juan Manuel Ceruto. This is cutting edge Latin Jazz and exciting to hear at that.

The second volume interjects modern classical elements in a series of vocal and instrumental compositions where the Cuban "tinge" is ever-present to greater or lesser degrees and performances are at a very high level. Roger Bourland, John A. Carollo (whose music we have covered and appreciated via a number of recordings on the Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review Blog), Margaret Brandman, Mel Mobley and Michael Murray provide the works. The music is invariably worthwhile and points to even more ambitious further possibilities.

And so we have in a first installment a Cuban-US collaboration that shows great promise as it also realizes it in an inaugurational offering. I highly recommend this one for numerous reasons. Most of all it is an undiluted musical pleasure! Hear, hear!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bruno Parrinha, Luis Lopes, Ricardo Jacinto, Garden

Garden (Clean Feed 369) pits three uncompromising yet most accomplished artists in the new improv from Europe into a three-way series of seven collective endeavors. The sensitive interplay between the sound-and-tone spectrums of Bruno Parrinha (alto, soprano, clarinet), Luis Lopes (electric guitar) and Ricardo Jacinto (cello and electronics) is paramount and acerbically poetic.

The creative choices in tone combinations and textural contrasts make this a trio soundscape of striking avant beauty. Close listening reveals this over time. The first hearing may not be entirely comprehensible. It is not easy-going music for all that, but rather music of courageous conviction if you will. The beauty is there but it is up to the listener to find it after first willing the ears to adjust to the broad spectrum of timbral possibilities that the group realizes.

There are magical moments where you forget which instruments are involved and revel in the sometimes thick but ever evolving layers of sound color.

Perhaps we have come such a distance in new music improvisation on the continent in recent decades that some important examples of the avant scene there cannot as easily be directly referenced back to the improv of US generated free jazz as perhaps much of it has in the past. Now that does not mean that one thing is better than another, or that one is more legitimate! It is all a part of what is going on now and deserves our attention and respect.

If I imply that this trio disk is a seminal example of Euro-avant improv as it has evolved, I do that intentionally, for it is.

We who have grown up in the consumer-oriented, everything-must-be-rapidly-replaced-by-something-better world sometimes let that mentality carry over into artistic spheres. We should not. This does not replace or supplant other forms of the avant garde. It exists and flourishes parallel to the other possibilities. For this we should be happy. For sure, Garden is a most happy result of three musician-creators hitting their collective stride.

And for that you owe it to yourself to hear this. I mean that.