Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ensemble Novo, Look to the Sky

I am a slave to circumstance, like most of us these days. I depend on what I am sent for the content of my reviews, and that happenstance can be a good thing, since I cannot predict what I will get and often enough do not always know much about some of that. So I learn. Today's jazz item came to me thanks to the more-or-less dependable auspices of the US Post Office. Ensemble Novo? I did not know of them until now. Their album Look to the Sky (Frosty Cordial Music FC 003) is spinning on my player as I write these lines. This is a chamberish gathering that in some ways reminds me of Chico Hamilton's old groups, yet more firmly within a neo-Brazilian realm.

The fare is an engagingly arranged mix of very familiar and less familiar Brazilian tunes--by Jobim, Gismonti, Nasciemento, etc., plus one original. The band comprises a well selected group of some five instrumentalists, plus guest Tom Lowry on percussion. The regular group is Ryan McNeeley on guitar, Behn Gillece on vibes, Tom Moon on tenor and flute (who also produced the album and gives us the original tune), Mark Przybylowski on acoustic bass, and Jim Hamilton on drums.

The tight-knit ensemble parts swing brightly in a mostly samba framework. They are very well wrought. And the soloing is appropriate and creatively alive.

So if you are a fan of the Brazilian jazz zone like I am, you should find this one like I did, nicely done and very appealing. It's an EP by the way. Kudos!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway, Randall Colbourne, Art Space

The trio of Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway and Randall Colbourne fills the ears with a special kind of three-way freedom that I feel increasingly is one-of-a-kind. This can be heard tellingly in the recent download release Art Space (11th Street Music), which I believe is the third album I have reviewed on these pages (index box above will call up the others).

Cheryl is on flute, alto flute and spoken word; Max Ridgway appears once again on electric guitar; and Randall Colbourne plays the drums. Each has a role to play in the ongoing free sequences and distinguishes our aural space with a closely interlocking three-way interplay that becomes considerably more than the already vital contribution each makes. It is the way the three become one that makes this music stand out. They have played together for quite a while and by so doing have developed a special kind of free rapport one encounters rarely in the free jazz firmament.

It is a sort of naturally relaxed impressionist freedom one encounters throughout. Cheryl is at her best, lyrical, textural and limpidly eloquent. Max rejoins her every phrase with well chosen guitar intelligence. And Randall completes the circle with subtle attack and a ready immediacy that is just right for the chamber ambiance the trio projects so well. Each establishes a very personal style of their own but then alternately gives way and springs forward with three-way line flow. You hear a never ending outpouring of modern melodic and harmonic advance. And that of course is a very good thing.

The music never flags while managing to create a special world one dwells within willingly and happily. If you do not know this threesome, here is the place to start. If you already do, this will no doubt increase your appreciation. Thanks for this, you three!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Loafer's Hollow

Mostly Other People Do The Killing is a one-of-a-kind jazz group. They are brilliant in the ways they take on the entire history of jazz and appropriate it in order to change our focus and hear things differently than we have before. They come at us once again with Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup 161). Oh, did I say they also have a great sense of humor. They do. And that is a most rare thing for players of this caliber. Might I recall the Art Ensemble of Chicago as others with brilliance and that ability to make serious fun of our musical legacy as they broke down barriers? We do not want to compare the two directly because that is probably not to the point, but they have always had that brilliant iconoclasm, too.

Loafer's Hollow is the second MOPDTK to take on early jazz as the building materials for a post-post jazz present. All of the music here has been composed by bassist Moppa Elliott. Each of these pieces takes on one of Elliott's favorite writers, with the cadence of the words forming an underpinning for the rhythmic articulation of the music. We do not need to know this to appreciate the results, but it doesn't hurt, either.

The MOPDTK transformation of early jazz to me is on a par with excellent tributes in such a vein by Charles Mingus (especially "My Jelly Roll Soul") and some more recent jazz compositions by Allen Lowe, a living breathing artist you should also know if you do not.

Founding MOPDTK members Elliott, Kevin (with that snare drum) Shea as the brilliant early jazz drummer parodist, Jon Irabagon as the sax light of our times (one of them), and the Ron Stabinsky open piano stylist and de-stylist of high caliber...they join a perfect choice of stablemates in bass trombonist Dave Taylor (do I need to say?), Steven Bernstein as trumpet and slide-trumpet monster and Brandon Seabrook as the ideal banjologist for this date (also on ectronics!) and that's all...you need!

It is as brilliant as an SCTV episode, as unexpected as a cauldron of boiling water in the middle of a blizzard, a barrel full of monkeys o'serious fun.

Damn, I love these guys. Get this one.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Joachim Kuhn New Trio, Beauty & Truth

I might as well come out and say it. I have admired pianist Joachim Kuhn ever since I first heard his music. What was the first record I listened to? I think the Impulse album with his brother Rolf? Yes. Then the BYG albums and on from there. His pianism is impeccable and he uses his total command over the keyboard to take on various stylistic guises without betraying his originality.  So there is a free component, a Trane-Tyner element, and so forth on to today. When his new album came in the mail I smiled. Then I put it on. And I was not disappointed.

It's Joachim and his "New Trio."  The album is Beauty & Truth (ACT 9816-2). With Joachim is Chris Jennings and drummer Eric Schaeffer, both in every way worthy.

This is an expression of the growth of the artist over the years. You have a great Ornette piece (the title cut "Beauty & Truth"), two perennial and unexpected covers of the Doors ("The End" and "Riders On the Storm"), "Summertime" by Gershwin, a couple of memorable Komeda gems, a Gil Evans classic, and the rest some potent Kuhn originals.

There is a contemporary acoustic jazz and rock plus a free wheeling sort of feel that has something to do with the Jarrett trios at the core but ultimately restates the Kuhn piano trio ethos.

Joachim is in great form, a pianist's pianist. This is pure joy to hear for me! The New Trio rhythm section is right where they need to be, both very much on top of things.

I must say I dig this one profusely! So, what, do I love everything I hear? Absolutely not. But everything I love gets on here sooner or later. This is one. Kuhn is one of the pianists of our time. He still is and you need to hear that on Beauty & Truth.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Angles 9, Disappeared behind the sun

The band Angles 9 shows you immediately that they are taking no prisoners on their album Disappearance Behind the Sun (Clean Feed 405). Martin Kuchen, whose compositions for this nine-tet (a near big band) make for a most refreshing avant jazz offering, takes a tenor solo of a blazingly incandescent kind and then we jump right into the compositional essence of this music.

Martin is on alto and tenor, along with a very committed and effective group: Zethson on piano, Stahl on vibes, Broo on trumpet, Kajfes on cornet, Aleklint on trombone, Hegdal on baritone, Berthling on double bass, and Werlin on drums. The band has great character and plays the compositional elements with a zest and verve that bring the smoking fire of this music in full aural view. Collective improvisation, melodic abstractions and riff underpinning meld together for some wildly ecstatic jazz. Solos are peppered throughout in excellent ways. And as you listen you know that this is the music of right now, modern in its determination to go beyond, filled with soulful exuberance and downright lucid musical outbursts of brilliance.

Five compositions distinguish themselves with a band that steps forward to realize it all with a perfect zeal. Kuchen's music stands out rather unforgettably as a new something, related to what has gone before in the advanced avant echelons. Maybe you recognize a debt to George Russell in its layering of multiple lines and extroverted collectives and solos atop riffs. A debt but absolutely fresh and new for all that.

This is one hell of a set from a talented band and the sure compositional forms and substance of Martin Kuchen's enormous talent.

This album is just terrific and I cannot recommend it more highly. It points I hope to much more from Martin, for this is extraordinary!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Gunter Baby Sommer, Le Piccole Cose, Live at Theater Gutersloh

Every so often I open my mailbox down here in Cape May and find some truly unexpected surprise. In this case it was European free jazz drum master Gunter Baby Sommer and his quartet live at Theater Gutersloh, Germany in 2016.  Le Piccole Cose  (European Jazz Legends 09) is the title of the album.

As much as I have admired Sommer's drumming over the years I have never heard one of his groups, so this got my attention. With him is trumpeter Manfred Schoof, alto sax and alto clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi, and bassist Antonio Borghini. Schoof was part of Sommer's 1979 quartet; the other members are new.

What I had hoped for took place that day when they appeared in concert (though I could not be sure beforehand what that would mean): everyone was in great form and the music covered a wide swath of avant jazz possibilities from classic Ornettian harmolodic swing to that which lies beyond.

Nicely fashioned compositional frameworks by Sommer (4), Schoof (2) and Trovesi (1) set the stage for some very fine improvisations and group interplay. Sommer's drum solos and ensemble work are masterful and incisive. He simply sounds great and very much at his best. Schoof and Trovesi more than keep up the pace. They sound as brilliant as ever. Borghini is a solid backbone to it all.

It is one of those albums that gets your ear-attention immediately and consistently. And it keeps blossoming forth the more you listen.

In short this is a great big happy surprise. 73-year-old Sommers still has it and the band is as exciting and capable as anything in the new jazz realm today. Drummers and their friends will dig this!


Monday, April 3, 2017

Xavi Reija, Reflections

From drummer Xavi Reija we have a thoroughly musical outing of himself and his trio (with Nitai Hershkovits on piano and Pau Lligadas on acoustic bass) doing a set of Reija originals. Reflections (self-released) captures contemporary piano trio jazz in exemplary form. The tunes are harmonically rich, changes oriented and both lyrical and driving, depending.

Hershkovits has a style that is out of Corea, post-Jarrett, Hancockian, and beyond to today. It's up-to-the minute fresh, with excellent technique and a singing projectiveness. Lligadas keeps the forward momentum grounded in the changes and helps keep that horizontal movement nicely structured. Xavi's drumming is driving, rhythmically creative, well conceived and in its own way a very important, critical contribution to the trio's melodic-propulsive brilliance.

And Xavi writes some very nice tunes that are as fresh as the trio's realization of them.

The more I play this one, the better it sounds to me. This is a trio that deserves wider exposure. They are firmly in the "art" realm of piano trio creating. Hear this.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Antonio Adolfo, Hybrido, From Rio to Wayne Shorter

One of the signs of a classic jazz composition standard is its longevity. Wayne Shorter's Blue Note compositions were a product of the mid-sixties yet we find that many of them continue to be played today and sound as fresh as ever. Another good omen is the work's ability to thrive in contrasting versions and still maintain a strong identity. A few months ago I covered Denny Zeitlin's excellent solo piano interpretations of Shorter classics (type Zeitlin's name in the search box for that review). Now we get to appreciate a Brazilian Samba Jazz treatment of some of Shorter's most memorable songs, on pianist Antonio Adolfo's Hybrido, From Rio to Wayne Shorter (AAM D711).

Antonio Adolfo comes through with excellent Brazilian Samba-tinged arrangements of eight Shorter classics, plus his own "Afosamba." The idea of "HYBRIDO" is to find fertile meeting ground between the jazz samba tradition and classic progressive jazz as embodied in Shorter compositions. Adolfo plays piano throughout, very nicely and movingly, something we have happily come to expect of him. And he has selected Brazilian musicians who can and do bridge the stylistic gap with some excellent soloing and ensemble playing. So we have the electric guitar of Lula Galvao, the double bass of Jorge Helder, the drums of Rafael Barata, the percussion of Andre Siqueira, trumpet of Jesse Sadoc, tenor, soprano and flute of Marcelo Martins, and trombone of Serginho Trombone, along with single guest appearances of vocalist Ze Renato and acoustic guitarist Claudio Spiewak.

It is a joy to hear these really fetching arrangements, both classically Brazilian and outreaching into the present and future. Shorter gems like E.S.P., "Deluge," "Footprints," and "Speak No Evil" sound brilliantly fresh in Adolfo's inspired arrangements. And there is time to stretch out and get good soloing from all concerned. Adolpho takes a rewarding share of the soloing and sounds just right, but then so do the others.

From Rio to Wayne Shorter is one of those albums where everything comes together very strongly. Any fan of Shorter's music and/or anyone who loves the Brazilian jazz of today will no doubt find this album much to their liking. It's a winner on all counts!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Trouble Kaze, June, with Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura, etc.

Trouble Kaze is the newly expanded edition of the group Kaze, a cooperative free improv jazz venture that includes pianist Satoko Fujii and her trumpet wielding life partner Natsuki Tamura. For this inaugural effort the band is in effect a double-trio, with two trumpets (Tamura and Christian Pruvost), two pianos (Fujii and Sophie Agnel) and two drummers (Peter Orins and Didier Lasserre).

They distinguish themselves in a sort of utra-focused, carefully considered five-part improvisation recorded live. The album is entitled June (Helix LX009) and it is a good one.

The expanded unit allows a series of double duets and six-way confluences. And so to begin we hear twin prepared pianos, twin trumpets in breathy expressions, and twin drums creating distinctive barrages. As the set proceeds we get the intermingling of the pairs and their recombinations in various foreground-background-bothground possibilities.

All six play with a sureness, an impressive authority that at no point sounds tentative, always intricately definitive, sure in their choice of timbral color, periodistic presence and note-sound nowness.

It is free music in no hurry to state it all at once, but rather to open and develop with a gradual inevitableness that is continually rewarding in what it chooses to include (and of course by that to also leave out in any given segment).

With a collective sense of instrumentation-orchestration there are dramatic event arcs, coming to a quiet peak in the two-piano expressions of part four, which we have been prepared for by definitive journeys into this clearing. It is brilliant and by a period of quietude and then the end of part five we are pleasantly satiated and satisfied, appreciative that not ALL has been said, but all that is necessary to give us Trouble Kaze's June.

It leaves me wanting more in the end, but happy also that this glimpse feels complete in itself. meted out inspiration and sound design of a high nature, a thoughtful forwardness.

June gives to us itself, the six instrumental voices interacting singularly, the group asserting its collectivity in self-less yet self-ful completeness-incompleteness.

This is a prime example of the innovative presence of Fujii, Tamura, and four extraordinarily receptive countervoices. Trouble Kaze is a kind of miracle of listening and acting, both by the performers and by you, the listener.

High improvisational inspiration, this is. Be sure and hear it repeatedly if you can. Kaze and now Trouble Kaze are a seminal group in the new improvisational fold today!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In Layers, Onno Govaert, Marcelo dos Reis, Luis Vicente, Kristjan Martinsson

On the front cover of the new improv release In Layers (FMR 2016) is a reproduction of a beautifully omni-dimensional painting by Chris Ripkin, from which the album takes its title. Inside the jacket is a Ripkin quote which serves as the defining aesthetic statement for the process envisioned in his artwork and, by extension, the music on the album. "Each layer," he states, "[calls] for a new layer more transparent, until it gets silent."

The very creative and capable quartet holds forth on this freely improvised set of six segments in ways which translate freely that visual activity into pure sound.

This is a potent get-together of Onno Govaert on drums, Marcelo dos Reis on acoustic guitar, Luis Vicente on trumpet, and Kristjan Martinsson on piano. They work together to realize varying degrees of transparency and denseness, sound and silence.

Readers of this blog will no doubt recognize several of the names and may indeed be familiar with their improvising. This particular foursome is new to me as a unit, and so perhaps also to many of my readers. They are united in their directional zeal, each a layer in the whole and each segment also a layer.

What impresses on this set is the care with which each member contributes his/her part: the trumpet riding generally above in space, the guitar and piano in a sort of centering mode, the drums contributing texture and periodicity with a pronounced flourish much of the time.

Surely,  this is collective improvisation of a rarified sort, something FMR has been presenting to us so consistently, here yet further removed from anything expected but nonetheless directly communicating a sort of synesthesiatic analog of Ripkin's painting, spread out in time as much as space.

It is music made to contemplate, to run one's mental fingers over its aural surface, to experience a musically deep listen inside of. This is music an improv connoisseur will be instinctively drawn towards for its unrelenting eloquence. Those new or fairly new to ultra-modern improvisational music will doubtless find that patience and persistence will open up this music for you.

Explore this, by all means.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Julia Hulsmann Trio, Sooner And Later

Here we are with pianist Julia Hulsmann and her sixth ECM album to date, the trio in a stunning offering Sooner and Later (ECM 2547). You'd be hard pressed today to find a more beautiful piano trio set for the harmonic-melodic advancement of Julia's playing (in a post-Evans manner and very individually so) and her trio's very subtle and moving togetherness.

The regular trio appears here, now burnished down to a very fine three-way sonance. Marc Muellbauer has a beautiful tone on contrabass and a very eloquent approach to match. Heinrich Kobberling drums with drive and subtlety, in ways the trio profits greatly from but in the end requires for a full flowering.

The music played on this set includes many moving Hulsmann originals which have gotten the seasoning of being played for some time in the trio's live performances. One welcomes "Thatpujai," a tribute to the late pianist Jutta Hipp, who left our planet in 2003. The thematic materials are nicely culled from some of Jutta's recorded solos. But there is much to appreciate here with all five Hulsmann pieces. Then there are two tunes apiece by Muellbauer and Kobberling, interesting and worthy, plus an adaptation of a Kyrgyztanian violin piece played by a 12-year-old musican the band heard when on tour, and finally a Radiohead cover, unexpected but fully consistent with what the trio is doing today and their way of working inside harmonic-melodic material transformatively.

In the end this is a delicately ravishing album that marks the excellence of the pianist and her trio.

This is exultant listening, ecstatic music of calm and fire from some of Europe's most talented musicians and a pianist of world-class brilliance. Hear this!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rich Halley, Carson Halley, The Wild

Tenorman Rich Halley has been making great strides forward in modern, avant contemporary jazz for quite some time now. His albums are consistently focused on the highest standards of the music, on the heightened peaks of expression that make new jazz one of the joys of modern existence.

He returns with a near-perfect expression in the duo zone, just Rich, his tenor (and a little wooden flute) accompanied by his son Carson on drums. Carson keeps sounding better and better. He is an ideal partner and co-equal on this set.

The Wild (Pine Eagle 810) has a series of ten improvisations, some with added compositional elements, others untrammeled forays into ecstatically charged open space. An obvious genetic relationship with John Coltrane and Rashid Ali's duo recordings of the last phase of Trane's career exists here. But that is probably a given on ANY sax-drum outing in the free zone these days. It is a touchpoint, a springboard from which arises tabula rasa expression. Similarly you might hear a bit of the influence of Ornette Coleman's harmolodic openness. But that also might be appropriately seen as the bedrock from which the art form has developed since Ornette's celebrated first recordings and onwards.

Fact is, though, that Rich is his own person on tenor and continues to grow and excel on his own terms. He has by now created a complex personal voice and a rich personal vocabulary that you can hear at peak levels on The Wild.

From the brash and energetically lucid to the free equivalent of balladic pastoral emanations, all form an important part of this set. It is tour de force saxophony. And Carson is much more than a mere foil to Rich's exhilarating effusions. His drumming drives the music with power and poise.

Like the sound of the ocean, there is near infinite variability and mood. Rich has attained a pure improvisational level that only the most accomplished in the art ever get to. He makes use of the full pallet of notes and tone colors available to him and does so with the innate wisdom of somebody who phrases in the best and most varied ways, the sound of a master.

And that makes him one of the West Coast's greatest living jazzmen, to my mind.

I recommend this one highly. You will have much to appreciate here, so go ahead and order it! It's at the apex of new jazz today.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mount Meander, Kartis Auzins, Lucas Leidinger, Tomo Jacobson, Thomas Sauerborn

Today, a bit of a sleeper. The best music out there requires multiple listens before you get the full impact of it. And Mount Meander (Clean Feed 3750 is surely in that category. This is avant jazz that captures a series of moods that are more introspective than the full-flush assault that is sometimes the norm. All four players take pains to capture a complex, free-wheeling, but at times more reflective mood. Tenor-soprano man Kartis Auzins, pianist Lucas Leidinger, upright bassist Tomo Jacobson and drummer Thomas Sauerborn establish the tone in the three-part "Sunsail." It is all about a flow around a key center and some well realized lyric hardness, if that makes any sense. There are ostinatos and hypnotic outcomes, and a considerable range of group improvs.

Sometimes these folks remind me a little of the classic Jarrett group that included Dewey, Haden and Motian--for the sort of kinetically open and unpredictable approach they espouse.

And the more you hear this, the more it jumps out at you. Recommended!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Paul Kikuchi, Autonomic

A Paul Kikuchi album is nearly always something special. I have had the pleasure over the years of discussing a number of them on these pages as well as on the Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review blog.

Today is no exception--here the composer-percussionist presents to us the fascinating work Autonomic (Prefecture 015). As we have come to expect, Paul shows us a heightened sensitivity to aural timbre and a pronounced ambiance that conveys a spiritual cosmos and a strong sense of direction. We hear the composition/suite "Autonomic" in this light, surely.

The work is comprised of four movements that feature three winds, cello, contrabass and percussion (the latter played by Kikuchi).

There is a composed-performative immediacy to the work, apparently based on specific motivic-interval cells that structure each movement, which in turn portrays an inner experience of each successive event-aspect of a deep breathing moment.

The total effect of the music is a pronounced timbral mysticism, an encompassment of movement and stasis in the bodily cycle of respiration, a musical analogue of an inner state, suggesting in aural terms its inner workings.

It is very meditative, very beautiful, very strongly evocative music that expands Kikuchi's universe of possibilities and at the same time is a fully immersive, stunning work.

Strongly recommended!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Whit Dickey, Kirk Knuffke, Fierce Silence

A duo of just cornet or trumpet and drums? We might recall Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell's iconic Mu duets from 1969. Now we have something altogether different, less wide-ranging but more strictly focused on free jazz per se. I speak of drummer Whit Dickey and cornet player Kirk Knuffke's Fierce Silence (Clean Feed 376).

Complete freedom and vivid aural imagination are the rules of the day on this set of ten segments. Whit made his name as the creative drummer with David W. Ware's ensemble and then Matt Shipp's trio, as well as lively dates as a leader. He is back and sounds as good as ever here. Kirk Knuffke has come to the forefront of the avant jazz world, especially in the last decade, making beautiful music with bassist-bandleader Michael Bisio among many others.

I've said this before on these pages but it bears repeating: Kirk manages to channel the history of jazz in his playing through a very classic tone, the poise of immaculately idiomatic phrasing and a creative ability that means he can be counted upon to come up with ever fresh, good ideas. That's very true on Fierce Silence.

Whit is a drummer and musical dynamo that takes the early freedom of Milford Graves and Sunny Murray and applies his own personal way to it all, building out of New York free school drum ideas and going beyond.

This album marks a very fruitful frisson of two well seasoned avant vets. There is not a note wasted. Every one counts. And the sum total of every note is some free music of the highest caliber.

Very recommended!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Frank Kimbrough, Solstice

Contemporary jazz pianist Frank Kimbrough has appeared on these pages a number of times (see blog index window above) as a thinking person's artist. A new one from Frank gives us a wondrously vivid set of tunes by the likes of Carla Bley, Annette Peacock, Gershwin, Paul Motian, Andrew Hill, Maria Schneider and one by Frank himself.

Kimbrough is a studied and brilliant exponent of the jazz piano school that loosely groups around Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett. He for a long time has taken control of his artistic destiny to be solidly on original turf and indeed, this trio finds him take on each tune with a brilliantly introspective presence.

Bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirschfield are open and inventive counterparts to Frank's improvisational extensions. They do all the right things to bring out the implications of the leader and what he is doing, adding their completely apposite selves.

This is a landmark in Frank's recorded output to date. It is ravishing  All modern piano trio fans will find this one hard to resist, I'll warrant!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Reunion Project, Varanda

Bouncing out of my speakers is a sturdy, well played set of originals (and one standard) from The Reunion Project album named Varanda (Tapestry 76027-2). A quintet they are: Felipe Salles on tenor, soprano, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet; Chico Pinheiro on guitar; Tiago Costa on piano; Bruno Migotto on bass; and Edu Ribeiro on drums.

They are game players and the originals by Chico, Tiago, Edu. Bruno, and Felipe have a well constructed presence that sets the band apart as a formidable vehicle for modern contemporary jazz.

Chico, Felipe and Tiago give us a front line that contributes very good solos. The rhythm section cooks with excellent Latin and straight-ahead grooves.

This is seriously good modern jazz!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Mark Masters Ensemble, Blue Skylight

When something is as well done as the Mark Masters Ensemble's Blue Skylight (Capri 74143-2) it sticks with you. Now that I have deeply explored what is inside this album, just one look at the cover happily reminds me of it all once again, and I find the urge to put it on one more time.

It is a program of known and slightly lesser-known compositions by Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligen, both of course known for their brilliance in scoring their own work for various sized ensembles and so a challenge to someone who seeks to do contrasting arrangements. That Mark Masters succeeds admirably is a testament to his considerable talent.

The band is a very capable 7-tet. Gary Foster is a most welcome presence on alto, especially since he does not appear on as many sessions these days as one would like. But then we get some beautiful players in Jerry Pinter on tenor and soprano and either Gene Cipriano on tenor and Adam Schroeder on baritone or Ron Stout on trumpet and Les Benedict on trombone--the aforementioned alternate presences is divided more or less evenly on the program. Then there is Ed Czach on piano, Putter Smith on a very out-front bass, and Kendall Kay on drums.

There is a tight clean sound that seems a present-day rethinking of "Birth of the Cool" or perhaps a little of the "Four Brothers" sound. And that totally fits in with the outlook of these compositional gems.

We get Mingus's "Monk. Bunk and Vice Versa," "So Long Eric," "Peggy's Blue Skylight," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," and "Eclipse," all well worth a fresh set of arrangements, to say the least.

Mulligen comes to the fore with new arrangements of "Out Back of the Barn," "Wallflower," "Strayhorn 2," "Apple Core," "Birds of a Feather," and "Motel."

The combination of arrangements and solos is well balanced. The compositions sing to us again with Mark Masters' singular ways.

This is music that makes ME happy. I do strongly suggest you hear this one. You'll be happy with it too, I would bet.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Jean-Brice Godet, Lignes De Cretes

The convergence of new music and avant jazz continues, with labels like Clean Feed giving us a wealth of music that manages successfully and engagingly to bridge a divide that once seemed hard to surmount. (But of course we should not forget the exceptional work of AACM artists in this zone.) Today we have another very effective example from Jean-Brice Godet on clarinets, radio and dictaphone. He heads a trio for a wide-ranging breach of everyday categories. The album is called Lignes De Cretes (Clean Feed CF406CD).

Pascal Niggenkemper joins Godet on doublebass and objects; the trio is made complete with the presence of Sylvain Darrifourcq on drums, percussion and zither.

There is movement and development going on throughout, beginning with "No Border," with concrete and enhanced sounds that begin sparsely and ambiantly, then traverse gradually into expressively free territory with some wailing clarinet, arco bass and a wash of tone-noise of unspecified provenence. Sylvain enters with a series of irregular tatoos and we are off to parts unknown. The segment continues on with the periodistic insistence and regular-irregularity of free jazz, then segues into "No Logo" with a three-way contrapuntal dialog of clarinet, bass and drums which has even more jazz-speech inflections than what we have heard in the opening.

"No God" opens up the space further with some ruminating drum statements and ambient noises--jagged stutters that open another sound world that tumbles forward into our listening minds. Godet's incantatory clarinet emerges with some performative testifying while Niggenkemper's prepared bowing and Sylvain's drumming fall into the expressive zone once again. It continues in free roll while the bass punctuates more emphatically with pizzicato pluck-shouting. Clarinet and drums respond with their own soul calls, earthy epithets and emotive figurations. Things eventually grow quiet and end in some bluesy phrasings.

"No Fear" begins in silence, then creates a ritualized series of overlapping sequences on an altered zither, bass clarnet long tones, and arpeggiating pizzo-harmonics. It channels yet another intriguing aural space into our listening selves.

And so it goes, a fascinating set on an inspired night. This is music you  need to allow into your head. It needs you to actively collaborate with it in order to make its expression clear. But then it rewards with something worthwhile, border-crossings that we do not want to prevent by building a wall. No wall!!

Recommended.













Friday, March 3, 2017

Patrick Shiroishi's Black Sun Sutra, Anfinsen's Landmark



What may come into your life as an obscurity sometimes establishes itself as a familiar in short order. That's true of Patrick Shiroishi's Black Sun Sutra and their EP album Anfinsen's Landmark (Creative Sources CS 363). 

What I especially like about this free-avant quintet is how they set up a compositional matrix around which their free jazz spins. Patrick Shiroishi and Robert Magill form a two-horn reed section on baritone-alto and tenor. respectively. They establish a mood with a sort of repeating dirge at the beginning of the album that then explodes into frenetic freedom. Noah Guevara's guitar ripens the group sound with post-Sharrockian shreds and jabs. The rhythm team of Ken Moore on double bass and Sergio Sanchez on drums catapult the band outwards, but also give a jazz-rock-free underpinning to "Athialowi."

There is rawness and power to this band, along with an effective collective frontline in the two-horn-and-guitar open-endedness. It is the opposite of slick and as such reminds me of earlier free dates that did not establish themselves as product. The same surely is true of this set (and of course there are others out there today who bypass the merely sale-able and go for some kind of essence).

But this quintet has a disarming unpretentiousness about it that speaks to me directly. It could have been a BYG record, but of course it is not and most naturally has a present-ness that goes beyond.

The drummer has a few moments to bash wildly and well. Again, you do not hear that so often these days.

The program ends with an interesting unaccompanied alto sojourn from Shiroishi. More? 

This may not always show an extraordinary technical prowess-polish as a whole so much as a good feel and a "to hell with it we're going to pound and cajole ourselves to outer space" freshness.

What will they do for an encore? We'll see, but in the meantime I am caught off-guard and find myself liking it almost in spite of myself. Honest and out.





Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sidney Jacobs, First Man

Lou Rawls and Gil Scott-Heron? Maybe a little Leon Thomas?  I hear roots in this, soul jazz vocalist Sidney Jacobs' First Man (Babychubs), his first album and a good one. He carves his own contemporary path with a tip of the hat to those that came before. Fact is, though, that he is on his own turf. He sings with lots of soul and finesse, his songs are memorably strong and nicely arranged. He covers a few others well, too, notably "My Favorite Things."

I like what he's done for a full band with horns and rhythm. And with a smaller band as well.

And he can sing!

This is what a debut album should be. It introduces to us Sidney's wide world of jazz and soul infused hipness.

Check this one out!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Satoko Fujii, Invisible Hand, Solo Piano

By now anyone who listens to contemporary avant jazz knows and doubtless appreciates pianist-composer-arranger-bandleader Satoko Fujii and her music. We may sometimes become so captivated with her composing-bandleading acumen that we do not listen as carefully as we might to her piano playing per se. To remind us what an important stylist-improviser she is there is the new release of two CDs of her solo piano with Invisible Hand (Cortez Sound 2-CD 0001/0002).

If we divide the avant jazz piano universe roughly into the Paul Bley harmonic extensions of advanced soloing and the Cecil Taylor percussive-textural abstract approach, Satoko perhaps fits more into the Bley side than the Taylor one. Such is an oversimplification however, since Satoko spans both worlds and gives her pianistic view a spin that moves away in the end from either. She has a lyrical composer's piano side, an exploratory chromatic-diatonic mix all her own, and an important extended technique side, applying inside-the-piano hands when she feels the need.

Hearing two complete CDs of Ms. Fujii alone with the piano gives us an inner look at her fertile musical mind, her complete avoidance of cliche and well-worn phrases in the vernacular while evoking jazz strengths in the feel and manner of expression.

Invisible Hand broadens our appreciation of Ms. Fujii's original stance. Her solo piano musings expose a more intimate side of her mastery. It is a pleasure to hear and a must-listen to all who want to get a full view of the art of the solo piano in jazz today. It's a revelatory volume and beautiful to experience!

CP Unit (Chris Pitsiokos Unit), Before the Heat Death

My ongoing adventures in musical blogdom are not just about recommending good new music for my readers; it is equally about my personal growth as a lifelong listener and musical being. Music that makes me grow in terms of what I know to be possible I especially appreciate--and so my recommendations also come with the idea that you, too, may find in a particular CD an experience of personal musical growth.

Certainly listening to the new album by the CP (Chris Pitsiokos) Unit, Before the Heat Death (Clean Feed 408) has been such a growth experience for me. The appearance of Weasel Walter on drums is no mere serendipity, as his presence in ensembles with Ken Vandermark and others as the Flying Luttenbachers in the '90s and beyond established a punkish electric avant jazz attitude that most surely influences the music to be heard here.

Alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos heads up the ensemble with his scorching heat and uncompromising frenetics. Brandon Seabrook, who first came to my attention and made the scene as a banjo player of great fire and technical chops, shows us that his guitar work here is no less important. Tim Dahl gives us on electric bass a rock steady presence that can let loose with torrents of notes along with the others or alternately providing bass bedrock to hold it all together. And Weasel is as always a great catalyst and creative force who goes far beyond playing time into participating with the ensemble in making rhythmic-melodic confluences and contrasts as much drum-oriented as bass-, sax- or guitar-centered.

The seven track EP gives us plenty of composed and improvised electric-organic anarchy that flirts with the most avant of rock ensembles while keeping in the end to the avant jazz path. The categories in the end are but rough indicators of what you might expect to hear. There are composed riffs and frenetic ensemble passages and there are solos of definite note.

What impresses especially is the rigor of concept and its all-fired application.

A bit of a monumental blow-out, this.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Noah Preminger, Meditations on Freedom

Noah Preminger and his excellent quartet follow in the footsteps of some of jazz's most luminary masters and their fearless endeavors to express in music the social protests they felt deeply in the troubled times they dwelt within. Nowadays the trouble has not only returned but for those that look carefully at recent trends threatened en masse our very freedoms and put our democratic institutions at great risk. We heard, those who were following jazz decades ago, beautifully expressed protest jazz from Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane.

Now of all times we need this again. The advent of new levels of racism,  populist demagoguery, a disregard for facts and jeopardization of free speech and basic human rights, not to mention the constitution itself, all have been seriously brought or bought off. An unprecedented sense of danger permeates our world thanks to the rise and elective victories of the far right, expressed in shocking speech and policy making, and sometimes disguised as its opposite.  Perhaps never has our country faced a greater threat to its existence.

So enter Noah Preminger and his heartfelt cry of dissent, Meditations on Freedom (Dry Bridge Records 005). He is a tenor sax jazzman who has truly come into his own in recent times, and a bandleader with the current quartet having at us nicely with a third album after two excellent ones (type his name in index box above for recent reviews). This is a quartet with lots of fire and finesse, Noah leading it with a respect for the history of the music from the blues through Ornette and beyond, featuring the excellent trumpet acrobatics of Jason Palmer, along with a terrific rhythm section in the presence of bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman.

Five Preminger originals alternately reflect upon and cry out against our presnt condition. Some classic protest songs adorn the program--from Dylan's "Only A Pawn in Their Game," Sam Cook's iconic "A Change is Gonna Come," Harrison's "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)," etc.

The pianoless instrumentation and the approach owes something to the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet, and that foundation serves to give the quartet a springboard to their own original take on the ultramodern free-directed jazz of today. Everyone comes across superbly as individuals and as a collective.

This is heartening, bracing jazz, another wonderful set from this extraordinarily important foursome.

You should not miss it!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Iro Haarla, Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet

The world of jazz today, even when subtracting the smooth commercial element, is wonderfully full and varied. We are as of now about 100 years into the recorded documentation of the music, and as a mostly untranscribed, improvisational form we of course have to subtract all the live music never recorded, but even then there is so much wonderful music that every so often I am astonished.

The form of jazz that combines a small jazz group with a symphony orchestra remains somewhat extraordinary, somewhat rare. The expense of successfully putting together a good performance and recording of this sort of jazz is partly responsible for the rarity of it. Jazz has mostly existed without the sort of charitable or grant oriented support that, for example, opera demands these days to continue.

But in spite of such obstacles we do get some good examples of jazz plus symphony now and again. I wont rehearse the pertinent totality here. Instead I would like to recommend a recent venture by Iro Haarla, Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet (ECM 2457).

It is the sort of project that  ECM excels in producing--resonant lyrically haunting post-romantic orchestral sprawls (courtesy of Norrland Operans Symfoniorkester under Jukka Lisakkila) and a jazz quintet of largely Northern European artists: Iro herself on piano and harp,  Hayden Powell on trumpet, Trygve Seim on soprano and tenor sax, Ulf Krokfors on double bass, and Mike Kallio on drums and percussion. Fine players, all.

The accent is on a luxuriant, penetrating depiction of winter and the time before dawn, an overcoming of darkness by light, combined with a reflection on the Passion and a remembrance of the composer's opera singing mother, who passed away sometime before this music was completed.

All is certainly not pastoral. There is darkness, struggle, cosmic disturbance as well as peace and transcendence.

It unwinds in sonically memorable ways, the quintet and its soloists expressing concerted-like helmsmanship along with chamber togetherness, all of which contrasts with the full breadth of the symphony orchestra.

It is not outgoingly modernistic as a whole but more a lyrical mode that contrasts with a basically modern viewpoint. It is music that alernatingly challenges and transports. It is neither jazz in the most obvious sense (so much as ECM jazz in the evocative mode) nor is it strictly symphonic (of course). Yet the orchestra plays a key role in the sonic result, just as the jazz combo has a critical role to play.

To appreciate this recording to the max you may need to take down your guard and relax, to let go of the set of expectations you might have about this kind of hybrid. Just let yourself go and let the music speak to you. Then I expect like me you will become increasingly enchanted with this singular totality.

Well done! Different! Unexpected!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Francois Carrier, Freedom is Space for the Spirit, with Michel Lambert, Alexey Lapin

Over the years I have greeted each new Francois Carrier album with an increasing sense of expectation. I have never been disappointed. And so it was when his Freedom is Space for the Spirit (FMR 425) arrived in my mailbox recently. Once again I am intrigued.

It is some more music from the set of live appearances Francois, drummer Michel Lambert, and pianist Alexey Lapin made in Russia in 2014. This one captures the trio at the Experimental Sound Gallery in St. Petersburg on May 29th.

There are five sequences in all, each a completely improvised collective composition by the trio. There is a good deal of density to be had at times on this session. All three have much to say, and say it they do, mostly in a simultaneous fashion.

Francois is in his usual excellent form, spinning long and inventive lines with that special alto tone, covering ground that pushes the envelop on the key center and its expansion, its polysemic-polytonal presence that gives pianist Alexey Lapin something substantial and ever flowering to push back against. The push-pull harmo-melodic vicissitudes are heightened by a three-way wash of timbral mixes that makes of the drums in Lambert's hands a part of the sound spectrum of the whole, something that is much more than the sum of his sound-silent rhythmic choices, though of course that too is a key to the three-way outcome. In other words Michel creates endless permutations of plus-minus possibilities that in turn are dialogued and contrasted by Francois and Alexey.

This is state-of-the-art free trio music. And though there are new music vocabulary influences, it nevertheless remains firmly and expressively within the evolved avant jazz orbit as feeling-nuanced open musical speech.

If that makes sense to you then depend on this set to present its all in inspired form. If you do not get me think of the flow of Trane-Alice-Ali in the later period and imagine an original string of note chord rhythmic and timbral innovations that comes out of the dialogic possibilities as they developed in the mid-to-late sixties. In other words, this is superior Carrier-Lambert-Lapin music that owes a debt to the history of free jazz yet creates highly original sets of total substitutions, inspired variations on near infinite possibility itself.

Or forget the words and just listen. It's some more of the important and beautiful expressions of this potent trio and another welcome feather in the Carrier cap.

All kudos for this one!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Andrew Downing, Otterville

Canadian cellist Andrew Downing scores with a euphonious 2-CD set of his compositions and arrangements for octet, Otterville (self-released AD00105). It features some very well put-together charts for cello (Andrew), alto saxophone (Tara Davidson), vibes (Michael Davidson), lap steel guitar (Christine Bougie), bass guitar (Paul Mathew), drums (Nick Fraser), trumpet (Rebecca Hennessy) and trombone (William Carn).

Start with his treatment of Duke's "Take the 'A' Train" to hear what new breadth he brings to the familiar classic, adding interesting harmonic touches and stretching out the melody in striking ways. And altogether he gives us a very contemporary modern take on the jazz of today, with the scoring at times really ravishing.

He is a musical mind that has chosen his instrumentation with a clear idea of the roles he wishes to assign each instrument and a singularity of multiple lining inventions that work exceptionally well together.

This is jazz that has an accessible naturalness yet satisfies critical ears as well. Excellent job!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sergio Krakowski, Passaros, The Foundation of the Island

Today's offering is a bit unusual, an ethnic-flavored jazz trio headed by pandeiro (tambourine) virtuoso Sergio Krakowski, on a CD entitled Passaros, The Foundation of the Island (Ruhweh 002). It unites Krakowski with electric guitarist Todd Neufeld and pianist Vitor Goncalves for a continuous take, 45 minute program of mostly Krakowski originals.

The music is tonal, free-flowing with a melodic base and often a group collective improv approach. Krakowski plays pulsating, intricate figures that remind somewhat of South Indian carnatic drumming for the refined complexities involved.

Todd Neufeld has a knack to inject rhythmic and flowing lines in interlocking tandem with Vitor Goncalves' biting rhythmic piano statements.

If you recall some of the middle period ECM ethnic jazz releases by Codona and the like, this may seem reminiscent though an original take on such things.

It may be a sleeper but with concentrated, repeated listens it is impressive and committed, authentic and moving.

Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Naked Wolf, Ahum

We enter into new territory again today with a jazz-rock-alt-avant group from Europe, recorded in Amsterdam. They are Naked Wolf; the album is Ahum (Clean Feed 383). It's an eclectically electric outfit, a quintet  with Luc Ex on electric bass, Yedo Gibson on reeds, Gerri Jager on drums, Felicity Provan on trumpet and lead vocals, and Mikael Szafirowski on electric guitar and alternate lead vocals.

The order of the day is intricately crafted ensemble interlocks, riffs and post-psychedelic post-new wave songs. They have roots in avant rock bands from the '80s-'90s perhaps, but they attain their own sound via the unique syntheses, the songs that go into the mix, written by various members of the band for the most part.

Drums and bass lay down an advanced jazz-rock matrix that the guitar parts accentuate in polycounter style while the horns have parts to realize as well as out solo spaces, especially from Yedo.

Felicity's vocals have an iconoclastic jolt that put a present sprechstimme post-punk cap on it all. Mikael's vocals do so as well in their own way.

Those who like a rock-foundationed avant music or like the idea of that in any event will find this to their liking, I do think. I am digging it myself.

Listen!

Monday, February 6, 2017

punkt 3, Ordnung herrscht

As we crawl into the future willy nilly we who have been here awhile and who tend to reflect on things may indeed wonder how it is we have come to this pass. Meanwhile music may have less mass impact than it has in some years, unless you consider Lady Gaga's SuperBowl appearance something of paradigmatic merit. I don't.

And yet good and great music flourishes more or less underground. An example of that is today's album by punkt 3, Ordnung herrscht (Clean Feed 384). It is a Swiss trio from what I gather, devoted to an advanced acoustic avant jazz-rock made electric solely by Noah Punkt's fine electric bass playing (and compositions), made thick and most cohesive with the addition of Tobias Pfister's alto sax and Ramon Oliveras' drums.

This is music with a fleshing out of prominent composed frameworks, rhythmic-riffed bass and drum foundations or trio-wide, or sax and drums, unfolding routines that ground the sax melodics and thoughtful solo flights.

What perhaps is most striking is the unit's consistent and very musical unity. There is an element of freedom but also a good deal of thinking and preparation that went into this music, part conception that somehow makes this seem more than a trio, but it is because everything manages to mutually reinforce each the other.

It is decidedly different, an avant trio that has integrated itself into a totality that has newness deep within but does not advertise it as much as embody it.

I find it a very intriguing listen, musically significant and utterly selfless in its determination to sound. It is very likable and so very recommended.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Michel Lambert, Alom Mola

Michel Lambert is best known as the energetic and innovative drummer who often plays with Canadian alto master Francois Carrier. But as we hear on today's disk he is also a bandleader and jazz composer very worthy of our attention. That is, on his solo album Alom Mola (Jazz From Rant).

On it we are treated to free fare and compositional subtleties for strings, winds, piano, bass and drums, a piece for carillon and some small group numbers.

His excellent drumming is on display and the compositions are quite interesting, inventively spanning the gap between avant jazz and new music. Michel Cote is a real force on winds, but then everybody sounds good.

It's a genuine surprise and substantial fare that will get the attention and I think approval of avant jazz adepts around the globe.

Bravo!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Carol Liebowitz, Nick Lyons, First Set

In the wake of Connie Crothers' untimely passing we have a reminder that the Tristano-Crothers tradition lives on with the Carol Liebowitz/Nick Lyons album First Set (Line Art Records LA1002CD). We have Carol and Nick playing two of Connie's pieces, "Carol's Dream" and "Roy's Joy" and we otherwise have a fine set in the freeform mode that Lennie helped pioneer and Connie perfected in her piano art.

Carol's piano and Nick's alto bear witness to what the two have brought to their playing styles and also give us their own original take on where a complex, soulful freedom can go today.

As the title suggests it is a live set, well recorded in 2012 in what was a part of Connie's loft series in Brooklyn back then.

The two have a bracing spontaneity and creative drive that is exciting to hear. It reminds us nicely that New York is still NOW, that it remains the vital center for the new jazz. And it gives us an exciting earful of two master practitioners of the art in fine form.

RIP, Connie. Long live Carol and Nick. Recommended!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Klezmatics, Apikorsim, Heretics

The Klezmatics are by now a central institution of the Klezmer revival, celebrated for their irreverent attitude but vibrantly idiomatic take on the tradition. Their new album, Apikorsim, Heretics (World Village 450031) gives us more spirited music with songs that are new to me, irreverent as ever, most frankly espousing an enjoyment of life in spite of troubles, others wearing the mantle of tradition lightly, with the unorthodox freely mingling with the orthodox.

The instrumental and vocal excellence of the band is paramount, and again they take on Klezmer tradition seriously but playfully, sometimes straying adventurously into modern jazz territory and other non-traditional realms, widening what Klezmer can be without losing sight of the roots.

It is music to savor, an album that will remind you that the musical world we inhabit is a remarkably
fluid one, that the river of world heritage is wide so long as we have creative musicians like the Klezmatics to renew our immersion in living form, in tradition as interjected into our polyglot present, just as past Klezmer was a melding of disparate influences.

Kudos!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song

Since my move to Cape May I have been struggling to re-establish the bio-rhythms I had absorbed up north as a matter of course. I am getting there, thanks in part to the infinitely helpful presence of some very worthwhile releases, especially one up today.

It is a new one from the ever seminal Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song (Thirsty Ear TH157212.2). The latest edition of the trio has had a little time to season and ripen and certainly with this one they stride forward in an ever more confident way and an interplay of great depth and strong horizontal motion.

In short, they swing loosely and freely to raise the bar on what a contemporary piano trio direction consists of, how it can get beyond the accumulated tradition of more than 100 years of recorded jazz piano in an organic way, musico-naturally.

Matthew sounds inspired and relaxed, presenting 12 originals that serve as exemplary pianistic springboards for his three-way dialogues with bassist Michael Bisio and the newest trio member, Newman Taylor Baker on drums.

Bisio remains as always a spontaneously acute second melodic voice in the trio, a bassist with something original to say and the means to say it. His interactions with Matthew's smart-soulful piano declamations make this outing something special and further evolved. Newman Taylor Baker takes in all that his bandmates are doing and replies with both what may be called for and the unexpected, sometimes both at the same time.

And Matthew sounds as authoritative as ever, becoming what he in fact is, a prime carrier of the piano jazz legacy, a great synthesizer and innovator, a critically important voice in the new jazz of today.

This album simmers it all so that what is left is pure essence. No covers, no minimum, just music at a highest pitch, whether introspecting or clambering for the stars.

The Matthew Shipp trio these days is like a train that is ever arriving as it ever departs for destinations not yet known. The three in tandem exemplify what the improvisatory arts are all about when they are in their purest state. There can be no final destination because the track extends outwards into infinity.

Perhaps their very best, this is! So far.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mississippi Heat, Cab Driving Man

On the playlist for me right now is the new album by the blues outfit Mississippi Heat, Cab Driving Man (Delmark 848). It's a 16 tune extravaganza of Chicago and beyond blues headed up by the exceptional harp of Pierre Lacocqoue. Inetta Visor is the main vocalist and she can dish it out. She is seconded in the voice department by Michael Doton, who is also the fine guitarist soloing on half the cuts, then there is a vocal appearance by Giles Corey, who is the other main guitarist in the mix.

To such a solid core of singers and instruments we add sax, keys, drums and bass and get a soul-blues spectrum of genuine syntheses between classic past and very alive present.

They run the gamut on the album from hard popping funk blues to boogie, slithering steam to down-on-it heaviness.

They manage to get the grooves going on true-to-self numbers one through sixteen, inclusive. It's one of those albums that looses none of the power of the classic forms yet finds ways to avoid a simple clone. Fresh is the word!

An excellent band in a terrific new album. I cannot imagine you would be disappointed with  this one. Not, that is, if you expect the real blues, something that measures up to the greats yet speaks to today.

Oh, yes it does.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tan Bucher & Countryman, Acceptance.Resistance

If you respond to the "classic" form of free jazz as practiced in the later sixties by the likes of Coltrane and Sonny Simmons, the recent album by the trio Bucher Tan Countryman Acceptance.Resistance (Improvising Beings 53) may well give you a new jolt by returning to yet forging ahead in this mode.

The Philippines-based trio has power and creativity at its fingertips with Simon Tan on bass, Christian Bucher on drums and Rick Countryman on alto sax.The band gives us a full set of free and swinging-propulsing sounds that sound fresh and contemporary while hearkening back to the masters of the idiom.

Countryman has a vibrant soaring tone that he puts to good use with onslaughts of post-bop free continuity and poise. There is excellent fluidity to his horn lines that make things grow as they go.

Simon Tan has plenty of ideas and a woody sound that may well remind you of Silva, Grimes, Garrison and other past masters.

Christian Bucher takes advantage of the trio space with a busy, churning time/spacetime that has creative invention as well as drive.

Put the three together and set them loose. The result is an engaging album that keeps the flames kindled and creates a musical fullness that thrives on openness.

Here is a trio that knows what it is about and provides direction and soulful fire consistently.

Kudos!

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 more about creating a vibrant and vital collective sonance than it is 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.