Friday, September 24, 2021

EFG Trio, Transliminal Rites, Eyal Maoz, Frank London, Guy Barach


You can never be sure what is next, be it in music or anything else. But surprise can be good sometimes. That's how I feel about the EFG Trio and their album Transliminal Rites (Orenda  0090). It is some very together outside free improvisational music with Eyal Maoz on guitar, Frank London on trumpet and Guy Barash on live electronics.

Now if you are like me you form in your mind what such an album might sound like. The interesting thing is that you listen and it does NOT easily fit into what you might expect, no Derek Bailey bloops and Evan Parker torrents, nothing in the live electronics you might have heard a few years ago.

It is boldly original in other words. It is very inventive, unexpected in its sonic palette, unusual in what the trio chooses to do. Eyal alters his guitar signal in interesting ways. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are hearing guitar and electronics together, other times Eyal makes the guitar sound more guitar-ish, and that too in ways that keep your interest. What is true of Eyal's work here is true also of London and his trumpet and Barash and his electronics. 

That fact helped me decide to post this review here in the Gapplegate Music Review rather than the Gapplegate Guitar blog, where I have reviewed a fair number of Maoz sides, quite gladly in fact. Here it is the blend of the threesome that prevails and so it will get the attention of guitarists, sure, but also anyone who is up for avant improv electronics.

That this was recorded in New York City makes sense, for it unmistakably seems to fit in with the "hey we do not expect to do anything but scuffle so we play what we hear in spite of all that" school.

The newness of what they are up to makes it a little bit of a challenge to describe. Sound color is at the forefront and they excel at exotic and rewarding mixtures, but it is also true that they play around with tonal centers and get multiple lines going too. It is the sort of thing you need to pay attention to if you hope to understand what is up with it. Once you do, well there you are, right? I think so.

It is a rather stunningly fresh venture into the Avant Improv present. You will doubtless not mistake it for something you've heard before. And so all the better for that. I hope they record some more and keep at it with this lineup. Bravo!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Eunhye Jeong, Nolda


Those who follow advanced Improv/Avant Jazz know that solo piano outings form an important genre within the style. Certainly Cecil Taylor made some of the greatest of all such albums, but then of course there are many others, many excellent ones.

With a new week, a new creative season upon us as I type these words, I accordingly turn  to the very new. This morning it is Korean pianist Eunhye Jeong and her solo album Nolda (ESP-Disk ESP 5068). The title literally means "play," as in "playful activities" and most specifically for Jeong, "a fun, free-flowing action on the piano," as well as the "magic of music making." It is music meant to be heard on a musical as well as a psychological plane. Eunhye's first 20 years coming of age in South Korea is naturally a formative foundation for who she is as an artist today. In particular for this album the traditional painters of the mountainous landscapes of her homeland influence this music, as well as the many hikes she took into those mountains with her father.

Nolda embraces a brilliant inventiveness, a pianism that draws upon creatively open expression to cover a wide embrace of mountain-inspired feelings with no trace of the sort of cliches a lesser artist might rely upon to fill out the aural space. Eunhye Jeong is an original, a pianist with genuine creative thrust, with deeply exploratory expression. Take a listen to this and feel a new immediacy. I look forward to more from her. Meanwhile do not fail to hear this one.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Ros Bandt, Medusa Dreaming


The music world today, perhaps in spite of the economics of it all, is wide open. There are a nearly infinite number of ways to go when it comes to creating some kind of contemporary presence. Although it can be dizzying it also can be rewarding and adventurous. The latter is the case with today's new CD, Ros Bandt's Medusa Dreaming (Neuma Records 145). This comprises a very varied eleven work suite, an ambient  meditation on water and its properties, on a cistern and its resonant acoustics. As the composer puts it, "The space is the thing. It's the key player. Medusa Dreaming is a site-specific water symphony in honor of one of the most beautiful water tanks in the world: heraldic, grand mythic, scintillating." It is all about the Basilica Cistern  that lies beneath Istanbul as it has for many centuries. Each movement deals with its history and personality, acoustically and otherwise.

The music is partly written out, party scored for the Hedusa Ensemble consisting of harp, tarhu (Australian spike fiddle), flutes and air whistles, electric "guitarviol" and live processing, plus percussion.

There are very resonant ambiances, heavy metal guitarviol expressivities, and all kinds of exploratory moods and modes, including some very dramatic and appealing harp parts ringing alongside tuned percussion instruments among other things.

In the end we are surrounded by multi-stylistic contrasts, from quasi-Turkish ethnic to new music to undulating, droning sustains to improvisational immediacies. It's collective sonic summation gives us a distinct set of timeless and spacious sonic narrations.

Strongly recommended for those who look for adventure.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Muhal Richard Abrams, Soundpath, The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound


As I write this composer-pianist AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams has been gone from us some four years. Yet of course his music lives on and sounds as wonderful as ever to me. With the upheaval of the Pandemic I may have gotten to an album of his big band music a few months later than I should have. Nonetheless the Soundpath Big band doing his composition The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound (Clean Feed CF556CD) transcends time and feels as evergreen as anything as I listen again this morning, so "never too late" seems to apply.

Soundpath is a talented gathering of Avant Jazz all-stars, a choice selection of improvisers and readers, all with the proper grasp and brilliance to make this 40 minute score come alive nicely and swingingly. Marty Ehrlich sounds great on alto and he conducts the whole as well. Bobby Zankel also gives us significant altoing and puts together the whole as the Musical Director. Steve Swell comes through as always with some wonderful trombone, Graham Haynes does his cornet-ing with excellence and you cannot beat the rhythm team of Tom Lawton on piano, Michael Formanek on bass and Chad Taylor at the drums.

The whole band is well rehearsed and on top of it all. The many-faceted score gives us the bite of Modern harmonies and multilayered contrapuntal Jazz in the open zone.

It is a marvelous example of the Abrams ultra-musical stance, his detailed approach to large group music along with a goodly space for improvisations that send the music forward.

This one is a must have for all Abrams enthusiasts, Modern big band appreciators, Art Jazz proponents etc. You cannot go wrong with it, in my opinion. Bravo!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Rodrigo Amado, This is Our Language Quartet, Let the Free Be Men


Over the years I cannot remember a bad Rodrigo Amado album. They are all worthwhile. His tenor is always on top of things, animated, inspired and articulate. His bands are well chosen and committed. The freedom of expression is always to the point and focused. And the sequence is ever flowing, exciting.

There is a new one with Rodrigo and the "This is Our Language Quartet," an all-star gathering of Rodrigo with Joe McPhee on trumpet and soprano, Kent Kessler on double bass and Chris Corsano at the drums. The album is titled Let the Free Be Men (Trost Records TR208). It paces nicely between barn burners and more slowly unwinding trajectories. The tenor-soprano, Amado-McPhee collective improvs have a beautifully energetic two-way dynamic, or rather of course four-way when it is rhythm and front line charging forward together.

Amado's full throated, gritty and edgy tenor sound is a wonderful thing to hear and Joe McPhee of course brings his own edge to his playing, whether soprano or trumpet. Kent Kessler sometimes joins the two with a harmonics laden bowing that sounds just right. His pizzicato punctuates everything well as always. And then of course Chris Corsano brings his full spectrum of drum sounds and velocities to keep things stoked. He kicks the music up several notches when it seems right. So it all grabs onto your ears and one goes away happy.

The album carves out a stylistic drift for a kind of state-of-the-art freedom we come to expect from Rodrigo.

If you are new to the Amado art or an old appreciator, either way this album fills your ears with good things from start to finish. You do not want to miss it. Yes indeed!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Wadada Leo Smith with Milford Graves and Bill Laswell, Sacred Ceremonies


An artist of stature grows in time if he or she has the time, the opportunity and of course the vision. Trumpet master and composer Wadada Leo Smith is an excellent example. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since those early Anthony Braxton Trio recordings with Leroy Jenkins. Wadada grew into a formidable band leader and composer, then there was the electric Davis tribute Yo Miles! that saw him encompassing and going beyond that initial open electric field.

And after all that great music Wadada has apparently been synthesizing where he has been and now we hear a kind of wrapping of it together in a substantial three-CD improvisational box titled Sacred Ceremonies (TUM Box 003). 

Each CD maps out a series of free improvs. On CD1 Wadada Leo Smith's trumpet melds with edgy, rolling and  tumbling drumming from the late Milford Graves. CD 2 features Wadada and Bill Laswell on electric bass. Then CD3 brings all of them together in a climactic set of three way expressions.

Wadada maintains top form here, quite apparently inspired in turn by Milford and then Bill, then all three. Graves gives us a prime slab of his open stance rolling freetime, often divided into cymbal-bass drum washes that contrast in advanced terms with Graves' special independent and poly-complicated trap drum lines. Put it all together and it gives Wadada and Bill a multidirectional urging forward where there are a great variety of things that can and do work atop the drums. with a vast array of possibilities that Wadada and Bill can react to. And react they do with some beautifully open phraseology.

For all the successful dates and appearances he's made on electric bass, we sometimes might forget that there is a good reason why he fits into a great many possible combinations--because he is ever inventive, forward flowing and always somehow right with what he fashions via-a-vis the musical now.

Wadada plays some of his strongest lines here. It is as if he has had the time after Yo Miles! to incorporate and synthesize that aspect  of his playing into the wider Wadada model of free playing.

Given the sad loss of Milford this past February, the set becomes that much more precious in how it gives us a long listen to the Graves drumming way near the very end of it all. But this is regardless crucial for the three-way dialog that gradually and luxuriously unfolds across the three disks.

It is a session to linger over, something to appreciate in its unrushed focus on the evolving moment, in its way a masterpiece of free invention. Wadada continues to be serious business, a master among masters. Check this one out for sure. And RIP Milford Graves.

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.