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!