Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lyle Mays Quartet, The Ludwigsburg Concert, 1993

Lyle Mays came to international notice as a key member of Pat Metheny's breakout popular group of the late '70s and onwards. He gave the group important compositions and a keyboard style that complemented Pat's virtuoso contemporaneity. Yet as an artist in his own right he has never quite attained the popularity and recognition that Pat has. We get a chance to hear him at some length as the leader of his own quartet in the double-CD appearance from 1993, on the recently issued The Ludwigsburg Concert (SWR Jazzhaus JAH-453).

It is an all-acoustic gathering with Lyle playing the piano, Marc Johnson on bass, Bob Sheppard on tenor and Mark Walker on drums. The compositions are by Lyle ("Au Lait" co-composed with Metheny) and the band embarks on an evening of the sort of music you might expect, contemporary jazz with some jazz-rock overtones, but then also plenty of room for Lyle's piano improvising and Bob Sheppard's extended tenor-soprano stylings. The rhythm section is very solid and foundational, an important part of how things moved forward that night.

This is the only legal recording of the quartet live and they are captured with fine audio, in fine form. If nothing else, and of course there is more than this, it reminds you of Lyle's considerable artistry as pianist and composer, while also showing you what he can do as a bandleader on his own.

Not surprisingly this is a sometimes slightly more heated version of the ECM-ish jazz he was doing with Pat in the prime years. The immediacy and fire of the live date makes you less aware of the considerable length of the two-CD set and gives you a chance to get thoroughly into what the band was capable of that night. So we get both exploratory spacey-mellow but then some burning, blazing stretches to even things out.

After a few listens I was pretty well hooked on this music. It is very good, very nice to hear, very much indicative of Lyle the contemporary jazz artist. It's even refreshing to hear now, these considerable years later. An unexpected pleasure. Give it some ear-time, most definitely.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tord Gustavsen, What was Said, with Simin Tander and Jarie Vespestad

Tord Gustavsen brings us a series of original songs, arranged Norwegian folk tunes and other related material in a haunting trio context on What Was Said (ECM 2465, available as CD or three-sided LP). It is music with a beautiful ambiance, foregrounded by the moody vocals of German-Afghan singer Simin Tander, who interprets the songs in a special way and also functions in the ensemble with supplementary sung parts. Tord does the arrangements, plays an evocative piano with room for improvisatory-atmospheric brilliance, and adds at key points very atmospheric electronics and synth bass. Jarie Vespestad gives us a very well-considered drumming-percussing that adds much to the overall floating introspection of the set.

One must hear this music to grasp fully its whimsical, reflective-gentle power. The arrangements set the scene dramatically with a spacious, unhurried walk through the poetic song material and its ultimate presence and transcendence-appearance into the special arranged-improvised trio world Tord creates.

Simin gives us as well nicely sung improvisational lines that go well with Tord's approach. She at all times phrases beautifully with sotto voce, inner-directed spirit and vocal quietude-dynamics that mark her as original and delightful to hear.

It is a gorgeous album that will have its way with your listening mood if you but let it go its way without imposing a lot of expectations. In the end it is exemplary ECM spacious jazz-folk-ambiance that runs with some of the ambient classics the label has produced but then stamps its vivid personality onto your listening self thanks to the special approach Tord gives it all and he, Simin and Jarie realize with singular success.

This will put you in a special place! Excellent.

The trio is on tour in the US and Canada this June and early July: June 16 in San Francisco, June 17 Minneapolis, June 18 New York, June 20 Philadelphia, June 29 Vancouver Jazz Fest, July 1 Rochester NY Jazz Fest, July 3 Montreal Jazz Fest. Check the net for details.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Ehud Asherie, Shuffle Along, Solo Piano Interpretations from Blake and Sissle's 1921 Broadway Musical

There is a point for those who live when a historical period takes on an otherworldly quality. It becomes a kind of exotic blur because, not only was it before your time on earth, it also no longer has the benefit of a segment of living humanity who can vouch for or comment on it because they were alive then and had some connection with it all. They are gone. Shuffle Along, Solo Piano Interpretations from Blake and Sissle's 1921 Broadway Musical (Blue Heron Records) as played with spirit and aplomb by pianist Ehud Asherie, has that kind of reflections-on-the-unexperienced time for me at least. It was my grandparent's peak era, and so too their peers. My grandmother's cousin played alto sax and somehow was very involved in the music of those days, and that's all I can say because even the idea of who he was or what he did is a blur to me, now. I am missing the facts, mostly.

But as it turned out my first listening experiences as a kid centered around stride piano, which I loved to no end. My dad had a few LPs and I insisted he play them again and again. Who was who or what it was I only came to understand as I grew older. But certainly Eubie Blake was a central figure to the music, destined to be important in the jazz heritage sense but also along with Noble Sissle, mainstream stars of a magnitude we perhaps forget. Their "Shuffle Along" was a big success on Broadway in 1921-22, featuring an all-black cast in 484 performances initially, then touring the States triumphantly for three years after its NY run.

What remains for someone of my generation is a very strong familiarity of the song from the musical, "I'm Just Wild About Harry," which growing up I heard frequently enough, though was it on old movies or what I do not remember. The other songs remained only vaguely familiar or unknown to the likes of us.

So when Ehud Asherie sets about to play some beautiful stride-and-after piano versions of the songs, it turns out that there is much to really appreciate in the music at large. Ehud himself devotes loving care to bringing the songs alive again with plenty of respect for the melody-harmony of the songs, but then shows us some excellent jazz piano creative abilities.

Had Eubie Blake not lived so long, paradoxically, he might be better remembered for his ways in his peak period? I do not know that though I appreciated what he was doing when I chanced upon his records made late in life. No matter. What does count is that this is some really worthwhile music and Ehud plays it with a great artistry!

My grandparents, my grand-uncle, all those grands up in the sky must be smiling when they hear this? It erases some good bit of the blur and brings some important sounds into wonderful focus. It shines! Hear it if you want to dig something worthwhile.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Didier Lasserre, Ceremony's A Name for the Rich Horn

No Business Records clocks in with a decidedly different 20-minute EP of trumpet master Jean-Luc Cappozzo and drum virtuoso Didier Lasserre live at la Maison Peinte on the occasion of the 10th anniversary--of what I assume is their mutual collaboration--in December of 2014.

Ceremony's A Name for the Rich Horn (No Business NBEP 3) gives us the title improvisation, an almost ritually constructed, gradually building, instrumentally distinct free improvisation. Didier initially plays space-surrounding rhythmic tattoos that almost remind one of the role of the cymbals in a Tibetan Buddhist chant, with silence surrounding the sparse but insistent pulsations and Jean-Luc gradually appearing in a series of rather brilliant expressions on trumpet and flugelhorn. The entire piece accumulates its sound fingerprinting around the freely developed "ceremonial" articulation of this simple premise, giving us dramatic silences and pungent sound blocks, meditative, reflective, introspective and then at times bursting forth.

It is a most uncanny performance, neither expected nor formulaic. It is singular. It is focused. It is almost spooky. All of that in a space of 20 minutes.

Hugues Vincent, Cello Pieces

Hugues Vincent is one of the prime cello exponents in the avant garde worlds today. He makes of extended techniques a natural wholeness of outlook that has great syntactic logic but also a heightened expressionist impact. I have covered him in various contexts on these pages and today I am back with a special new one, Cello Pieces: Hugues Vincent plays the music of Vincent Laubeuf and Kuni Iwase (Zpoluras Archives ZACD 1502).

It is a series of tour de force performances of three open-ended compositions: Laubeuf's  "Telle une illusion qui s'enfuit au reveil" and Iwase's "Trois pieces pour un violoncelle solo" and "Le tumulte du sanctuaire."

The outer works include electroacoustic prerecorded audio that augments and accompanies Vincent's complex parts. "Telle un illusion" also adds distortion pedals to the cello sound at times.

Iwase's three solo pieces give us a beautifully extended series of reflective and reflexive moods, with Vincent moving from phrase to phrase with ever-varying color techniques, in essence posing a particular sound world and then answering that with a very contrastive response, which in turn sets up a question-event that is answered with yet another response. It is no doubt difficult music to play properly and thanks to Vincent's extraordinary technical and expressive control it comes off beautifully well.

The outer works bring in prerecorded concrete sounds that engage in dialogic relations with Vincent's role. "Telle" sets up various cello sound-event motifs which recur in various ways along with more singular color-tone events, all getting an ambiance with the ins-and-outs of the almost world-window-heard-from-a-distance recorded audio quality.

Iwase's "Le tumulte" dialogs electroacoustic sounds as independent synchronous and asynchronous architectural sound structures that interact obliquely with Hugues' radically extended sound contrasts.

All of this music benefits from the compositional directionality of the works themselves, helping to contextualize and interconnect the dots of virtuoso cello sonic extensions and make of it all a presentational whole.

This is avant music on the very nether of the cutting edge, with incredible motility and multi-voiced loquaciousness from Hugues Vincent and provocative contrasting directedness from the composers.

It is no doubt not for everybody out there, but it IS a beautiful recital, a series of very outside engagements in sound color that will hearten and intrigue lovers of the avant and virtuoso avant cello alike.

Here-here! Hear-hear!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Louis Heriveaux, Triadic Episode

From the Atlanta jazz scene bursts forth pianist Louis Heriveaux and his first album as a leader, Triadic Episode (Hot Shoe Records 110). He's spent some time working with others, paying dues, and clearly his day has come, right now. The album features covers and originals, all given a Heriveaux touch and the extremely able and willing musical hipness of Curtis Lundy on bass, Terreon Gully on drums.

Louis opens the set with a good Mulgrew Miller piece. He cites Mulgrew as an influence and that you can hear--along with bop-and-after piano roots of folks like Hancock, the hard boppers, the modern swingers, maybe a hint of Corea, but all put into the immediacy and original outlook of the Louis Heriveaux improvisational stance.

It's a sophisticated view that is harmonically informed and has line-hip linearity. "Body and Soul" gives you his thoughtful ballad style and then you also have a chance to swing along to the originals and other worthy standards fare.

Lundy and Gully make the entire set push forward with the subtle and the seething in the right mix, setting up the Louis earthy-modern soulful strutting and magically lilting contrasts of Louis the mainstream stylist, the new original.

If you love the piano modern tradition this one will give you a good deal to smile about, to tap your foot, to revel in unexpected and expected bright moments, all working together to an impressive debut result. Heriveaux is here...to dig, to stay I would surely think. Wrap your ears around this one without fail!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Starlite Motel, Awosting Falls, with Jamie Saft, etc.

I am no doubt no different than any other musically-minded listener who plays close attention to certain sub-styles of music in formative periods. There was a synchronicity I experienced sometime around 1972 as I had assimilated at least the basic classic free jazz of the preceding era, which when combined with things like Miles Davis's most ambitious electric music beginning with Bitches Brew and onward to his other groups of the time, plus what was going on with Tony Williams Lifetime especially in the interaction of Tony with organist Larry Young and guitarist Tony Williams, and the best moments of the psychedelic bands of the classic sort, well all of that came together in my head and I expected the future to hold much more in the way of a continuing synthesis and development of these strands. Then something happened. A conservative backlash called into question anything electric and/or most everything "outside" and the promise of the future had to wait.

Thankfully the future eventually made space for the electric outness that had all but ceased to be recognized in the darker times. Needless to say, acoustic improv has come a long ways from then to now as well.

But with something like the album before me, Awosting Falls (Clean Feed 364) by Starlight Motel, I feel like that long delayed synthesis is finally making very excellent progress. It is a very electric quartet with four of just the right people, Kristoffer Berre Alberts on alto and tenor, Jamie Saft on organ, Moog and lapsteel guitar, Ingebrigt Haken Flaten on electric basses (including a Univox Hi-Flyer bass, hey!) and Gard Nilssen on drums, percussion and electronics.

This is not the only band to be making the out-electric jump these days but it is an especially good one. Jamie Saft is a key to all this, taking the implications of what Larry Young was doing and taking it some steps further. Ingebrigt I know more for his contrabass acoustic excellence but he is firmly in the cat-bird seat as a heavy hitting electrician. Kristoffer has the big, brash outside sound that is perfect for all of this. And Gard plays some spiky blasts and tumbling excellence on a rock-weighted drum set, all to great effect.

In the end I cannot tell you what to hear. That will be up to you. But this one has a tremendous energy and iconoclasm that opens up a clearing, scuds over the safe and leafy outcrops and plants with something both new and old-still-dangerous. What Jamie does on organ is a must-hear, but then everybody is totally on top of it.

This is the sort of music some people will hate. That is a good thing. If everybody loves it, there is probably not enough head clearing going on? It sends me anyway. Suit yourself but the future may well be here after all, just delayed a while. Starlite Motel may well be part of it. Listen if you dare!