Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Roscoe Mitchell, Sandy Ewen, Damon Smith, Weasel Walter, A Railroad Spike Forms the Voice


Jimmie Lunceford and his band long ago hipped us to the idea that "it ain't what you do it's the way that you do it." This is no more true than in the realm of Free Improvisation / Free Jazz. Nearly everything centers around how freedom transpires, how anything goes does go. I've been happily reminded of this on a new free quartet date entitled A Railroad Spike Forms the Voice (uG EXPLODE uG82 Balance Point AcousticsBPALTD13013). It is a particularly striking four-way venture-adventure.

The quartet grouping on this one turns out to be especially good for creative chemistry. On soprano sax is the always bracing, ever inventive Rosco Mitchell, central initial member of the AACM and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, jazz conceptualist, composer, free improviser of great stature, doing for us his stylistic abstraction thing that he has consistently developed over the years, with a special turning marked especially after mastering circular breathing.

On electric guitar is Sandy Ewen, a very much rising star of free and experimental guitar improvisations, here turning in some especially excellent noise-centered sound-colored expressions.

On acoustic bass is a master of outside bass freedom, magician of extended technique and sound sensibility, as head of Balance Point Acoustics the creator of interesting and challenging free ensemble possibilities and a great player in any right. 

Finally on drums is the very personal stylist of free drumming, a keen eared creator of free-drum outpourings that are often enough neither quite in an abstraction of timekeeping nor in a sort of drum solo mode, but in a kind of third place that greatly helps this quartet defy gravity and go deeply into a cosmic space.

What is remarkable about this music is how specially together and consistently forward moving is this quartet over the continuous 72 minute uninterrupted performance. There are arcs of pointed staccato eruptions rather thrilling to hear coupled with long-toned washes mostly inside the staccato envelopes. Than there are climactic swoops of energy that command your attention in winning ways. It is a stunning example of the art of Free-Modern improvisations by four exceptional exponents in a togetherness that is most rare to hear on this high a level.

Taken altogether this is an exhilarating and exemplary example of open improvisations at this point some sixty-odd years into the history of avant freedom. This has all the markings of a milestone recording of the very contemporary. By all means check it out.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Robbe Gloaguen Quartet, International Free Dance Music Orchestra, Gardez Votre Sang Froid, Compositions de Francois Tusques

There are albums in the review cycle that take a while to digest, that I at first do not quite know what I have in front of me. That has been true of the volume at hand today. It is a two-CD set, the first disk recently recorded by the Robbe Gloaguen Quartet playing the compositions of French Avant Jazz pianist-composer Francois Tusques. The second volume is by Tusques himself in a live 1984 recording with the International Free Dance Music Orchestra (Mazeto Square 3770005705244 2-CD).

What we come to appreciate (at least I do) is an emphasis on the compositional collectivity of Tusques in various moods and modes, more emphasis on this than merely a constant focus on improvisational continuity, which is secondary though important of course in keeping with a "Jazz" actuality.

The first disk, Gardez Votre Sang Froid  ("Keep Your Cool") fields a very together quartet of Eric Leroux on saxophone, Fabien Robbe on piano, Tanguy le Dore on bass and Jerome Gloaguen on drums. Ten compositions get vibrant and free-going treatment in a very convincing loose-free ensemble setting. As you listen repeatedly you begin to lock into the frame of mind of each piece and in the process also get locked into the "testificatory" soulfulness of the totality. It is music to in time appreciate increasingly. The melodic element is strong and not exactly predictable either. Perhaps it might qualify as one of the best albums made by people you probably never heard of? Seriously this CD alone grows on you more and more. But then so does the second. If you are reading this you no doubt already know of Tusques? If not all the more reason to check it out.

The Theatre de Jazet 1984 live disk gives us a kind of Avant Free dance suite played by an eleven member big band with some eccentrically "ethnic" vocals and a forward moving dance continuity that is infectious as well as being offered with a sense of humor. It's as if we experience some music from an unknown local folk world. The audio sounds good in part thanks to Julien Palomo's restoration of the original sound of the set. The improvisations at hand here are consistent with a folkish openness and a loose conjoining that brings a smile. The composed tutti parts have a kind of Modern-Avant quality that belie in interesting ways the sort of ethnicity that hangs together as a premise. 

I come away from this set very glad to have it, to hear it. I will doubtless be listening again many times. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Denny Zeitlin, George Marsh, Telepathy, Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations


Music can heal. It can be a personal thing, depending on your musical profile sometimes. 

Pianist-electroacoustician Denny Zeitlin and drummer George Marsh have made some incredible music together for many years, so much so and so productively so that they have developed a Telepathy together. It is fittingly the title of their latest collaboration (Sunnyside CD). This as the third Electroacoustic duo outing for the two since 2015. I've covered the others and many of his additional projects as well on these pages. Look him up in the search box above for the other reviews.

It is music so improvisationally limber that it gives off a kind of healing vibe, at least to me. There is a joy of duo closeness and a making the electroacoustics sound spontaneously in performance space. And the continual open-form brilliance of Denny's adroit key realizations and George's swinging and inventive drumming, it just emits a kind of soul healing vividness.

Sometimes Denny's keyboard programming choices sound nearly orchestral, other times it has that club duo reaching-out thing happening, but always it works and George is right there responding with lots of great drumming. And needless to say it is also a matter of the free improv prowess of Maestro Zeitlin, his vivid harmonic-melodic-rhythmic inventiveness that makes this music exceptional.

This one is no afterthought. It is essential. Nobody mixes up the synth and piano like Denny. And George is the perfect foil, a master drummer at the top of his game, totally attuned to what Denny is doing. Very recommended.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Joel Futterman, Intervals, Solo Piano Improvisations


Joel Futterman has over the years proven himself to be one of the most consistently interesting and innovative post-Cecil-Taylorian Free pianists, yet he seems to get less recognition than he deserves. There is a nice album of solo piano from him that has been out for a little while and it has attracted my ears to it just lately. It is entitled Intervals (Fundacia SLUCHAJ FSR 15/2020).

On the CD jacket it is noted that the three-part improvisation was recorded all in one take in the order presented, and needless to say the spontaneity is at the forefront. There is a theme that recurs from time to time, setting up the mostly free passages as a contrast. Joel sounds especially convincing in his scatter velocities but also the pedal chord tremolo patternings. No need to attempt a blow-by-blow description of the musical happenings. What matters is that Futterman makes it all count. Not a note is wasted. It has all the expressive impact of "Jazz" freedom with an inner connectivity the spurs everything forward and creates excitement.

There is a nice asymmetry and polyrhythmic fluidity at times between left and right hands. Each improvisational avenue flows out of the last so that all has a kind of narrative sense to it.

If you know Joel Futterman's music well or if you know it not at all, either way this is a good one to experience. It is Avant Progress, so to speak, a worthwhile step ahead and you should hear it, have it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Sylvie Courvoisier, Ned Rothenberg, Julian Sartorius, Lockdown


All of us who have experienced the recent year or so (as I write these lines) will no doubt look back upon it all as a definite trial. Our artists, musical or otherwise, like all of us have not remained untouched, but reacted to the time--with creative output if they could remain in their productive zone. So today for instance there is the recent trio open form Jazz album Lockdown (Clean Feed CF560CD) as recorded this past October 2020 in the thick of the Pandemic, by Sylvie Courvoisier, Ned Rothenberg and Julian Sartorius. Many readers will no doubt be familiar with at least some of these artists, but if not then here is a chance to get to know them.

Sylvie Courvoisier is the pianist, Ned Rothenberg plays alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet and shakuhachi, and Julian Sartorius in on drums and percussion. By virtue of the album title Lockdown we understand that the music responds with immediacy to the Pandemic circumstances. And for sure the music has a somewhat more contemplative attitude than perhaps a live club date in a pre-Pandemic time might have had.

Of the eight segments that make up the album, three were composed by Ms. Courvoisier, one is by Ned Rothenberg and the remaining four were jointly composed and/or collectively improvised by the trio as a whole. As a whole there are composed lines that form a group melody-harmony-rhythmic ringing out, then there are at times some ostinato-riff figures that underpin things, then as we might expect there are telepathic and telekinetic three-way improvisations.

Remarkable as you listen are the sorts of reflective smarts this music conveys, and not surprisingly a seriousness that comes with the lived experience, as seconded with such titles as "Deep Rabbit Hole," and "Quarantina."

Julian Sartorius's drumming is inventive, sonically well developed and free while also commenting on the piano-reed soloing that sets apart the drumming and allows it to have an avant discursive rather than a time-keeping role per se.

Both Courvoisier and Rothenberg are limber, lucid, inspired, free-wheeling and expressive on many levels. 

The trio convinces with sure-handed confidence and musicality without trying to engage in virtuosic showboating and it all works. The trio here functions as a fountainhead of interesting musical ideas. This is one of the most musically expressive free trio dates I've heard yet this year. Get this if you want to keep up with what is happening out there. Very recommended.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Special Edition Box


Over the past decade the various duet recordings between Ivo Perelman (tenor sax) and Matthew Shipp (piano) have unquestionably been some of the most advanced and together new Jazz-Free recordings of our time, a duet for the ages. Happily they continue to play together. Most rewardingly there is a Special Edition Box (SMP Records 2020) with more excellent music from the two. 

The box contains a studio CD of the duet entitled Procedural Language, a Blu-Ray of the duo Live in Sao Paulo at SESC, a video capturing them at said event on July 11, 2019. Then there is an informative booklet, Embrace of Souls by Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg.

I no longer have the capability to view Blu-Ray disks on any of my devices so I was not able to watch the DVD. I am sure it is worthy but I have not been able to check it out.

The booklet has an appreciation and chronology that puts the music in perspective, followed by an annotated discography of interest to any collector-enthusiast.

The whole package is quite handsome but it is the CD Procedural Language that grabs my attention especially and attracts my ears with each listen. There are twelve improvisational segments for Ivo's tenor and Matt's piano, every one a significant improvisational utterance, freely articulate and ever filled with a Jazz joyfulness. Ivo testifies, declares, while Matt responds with free structuring towers of pianism that beautifully open up the moment with great ideas that spur Ivo on all the more.

It is some of the most remarkable of their duets, which is saying a lot since we have been blessed with some real gem sessions from the two in the last five years. Tumbling, driving, contemplating, exclaiming, decrying, balladizing, harmo-melodic stratosphering, they spontaneously travel the musical spaceways in ways that ring true always. If you need rejuvenation (and nowadays who doesn't?) this music appears as an oasis in sometimes an all-too-arid wasteland of the everyday. Here are Ivo and Matt in the full maturity of where they are right now, savoring each moment of music filling the air, letting the interlocking ideas flow unhindered. for optimum constancy of "telling it."

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Francois Carrier, Alexander Hawkins, Nirguna, John Edwards, Michel Lambert

There are days when life intervenes, when it gets in the way of a set routine. If ever one might get distracted, that would be the case in the last year with the Pandemic and etc. So at some point, today's two-CD set arrived in the mail, I noted it with interest, set it aside and...well here we are and it is later. Never too late, though. I now with close listening realize how interesting, important, good, etc. is this album named Nirguna (ColYaKoo Music). It is a live date from the Vortex Jazz Club in London from June 2017. 

It is a very auspicious gathering of Francois Carrier on alto saxophone, Alexander Hawkins on piano, John Edwards, bass, and Michel Lambert on drums. This is the primo Free Jazz we have come to expect from Francois Carrier, with a most remarkable continuity of total freedom flow, of endlessly inventive lining by the full quartet, tumbling outwards, inspired and without a set pulse, so that the four can take off and soar without the least restriction. 

Nirguna in Hindu religious practice means without form or without qualities. That is quite appropriate in the sense that this music is virtually that, though playing with intention does indeed have some kinds of spontaneous form and qualities, yet here we think in terms of no set form or quality. Just like is implicated in post-Freudian psychoanalytic parlance, where a human utterance "means" sometimes in some possibly unconscious way, so this music also means without setting out overtly to intend, though too it may defy some easy set of words to describe it.

The two CDs carry two long improvisations each. The overflowing four-way output can be torrentially heated, pointillistically jagged, fluidly mercurial and/or percussively insistent. Never for a moment does this music flag. And clearly one feels the instantaneousness of it and it exhilarates in the doing!

The Carrier plus Hawkins, Edwards, and Lambert quartet combination is one of Francois' most productive groups to my mind, most inspired, and the live London club setting seems to add to it so that everyone is set into a freedom that has no end in terms of good spontaneous ideas and interlocking power. Carrier, Hawkins, Edwards and Lambert each turn in remarkable performances in both their intrinsic worth and their ability to respond creatively and intelligently each to the other. And never for a moment do you forget that "this is Jazz" for whatever that means ultimately. Never for a moment is there not a central stream of driving expression.

It is a triumphant performance from first-to-last. If you wonder about Carrier or Free Jazz here is a great place to start, If you already know it is a must nonetheless! Hoorah!