Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Sara Schoenbeck, Sara Schoenbeck, Free Improvisational Encounters for Bassoon


Karen Borca in her recordings with Jimmy Lyons and others first impressed me as a world class avant improvisational Jazz bassoonist. I still appreciate her pioneering style. Today there is someone happily new for me, another Free Jazz bassoonist with her own fleet and concentric power, one Sara Schoenbeck. Her self-titled album (Pyroclastic PR16) is recently out and I must say I am impressed.

She is a bassoonist with a robust, full throated tone, with excellent sound color control, limber delivery and inventive line weaving abilities. And with this ambitious album of chamber avant improv she shows herself to be an ideal improv partner who listens and adds just the right interaction to push the music forward, which is saying a great deal. And what an impressive and exciting roster of improv mates.

We are talking about drummer Harris Eisenstadt, flutist Nicole Mitchell, guitarist Nels Cline, saxophonist  Roscoe Mitchell, pianist  Matt Mitchell, bassist Mark Dresser, the keyboards and electronics of Wayne Horovitz, cellist Peggy Lee, and pianist vocalist Robin Holcomb.

I will not try to describe each of the nine duo interactions except to say they are vibrant, happily varied, contrasting and superlative. You come away with a real appreciation for Schoenbeck's artistry, imagination and happy collaborations without fail.

You might not at first blush think this a game changing album. But no, put it on a few times. It is excellent in all ways, whether you are a bassoon aficionado or just a music lover in search of new and good things. Sara makes me want to hear more, lots more. Hurrah!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Ave B Free Jam, 1967, Cook, Coursil, Gale, Robinson, Tintweiss


Surprises can be good. Unless it is a spam call for a car warranty or "you just charged $900 onto some credit card"? Oh? Musical surprises are usually a good thing. Just lately something of that nature came in the mail. It is a CD of a 1967 reel-to-reel tape of some important Free Jazz players jamming in New York. It is entitled aptly Ave B Free Jam or to give it its full title Avenue B Collective Free-Jazz Jam Session (Inky Dot Media IDM 2020 CD 005).  It was one of those special sessions where bassist Steve Tintweiss had a decent Tandberg tape deck and all five players came ready to play as they installed themselves in an apartment in the alphabet section of lower Manhattan. 

This is a happy outcome of those heady New Thing days in New York, where ESP disk was documenting the scene in a series of important releases. This tape might have been released by ESP then--like New York Eye and Ear Control, it has that total spontaneity, a leaderless, five-way collective of closely aligned free group improvisations. with exciting and effective mass sound expressions from the likes of Laurence Cook on drums, Jacques Coursil and Warren Gale on trumpets, Perry Robinson on clarinet and Steve Tintweiss on contrabass. Each contributes a great deal to this continuous wash of fire and energy. The Coursil-Gale trumpet twosome give us a flaming expressionist density that Perry Robinson adds to in his sound-colorful barrages of sound. Tintweiss and Cook give us tintense and continuous freetime that urges the other players onward and ensures that proceedings remain at high energy levels throughout.

Anyone who appreciates the New York New Thing explosion from those days will doubtless find this a substantial and rewarding romp. Each player contributes significantly to the whole while giving us a model of how such open improvs can generate excitement and great energy. Bravo!

Friday, November 5, 2021

Pago Libre & Sooon, Friendship


In the world of music coming out these days, anything goes if you let your mind remain free of rigid preconceptions. And so as I so do, things come to my ears and bring me some happiness if good. For example here today is a group by the name of Pago Libre & Sooon and an album entitled Friendship (Leo CD LR 919). Now whatever one expects in new things we recently have been made available Pago Libre & Sooon might not be what you might ordinarily expect to hear. It is a sextet

To be precise, it consists of Sonja Morgenegg as vocalist and guitarists on a couple of tracks, then there is Arkady Shilkloper on French horn, alphorn and elephant horn, Florian Mayer on violin, John Wolf Brennan on piano, melodica and arrangements (which are always special, interesting), Ratus Flisch on bass, and Tony Majdlani on voice and percussion, specifically on various hand drums.

And as can be the case in a good situation they are more than just the sum of their parts. Sonja is an outstanding vocalist. She and the band take us through a  Jazz inflected Folk mélange ranging from Norwegian (to my ears) through to Eastern Europe, Baltic and even a touch of Mideastern.

The arrangements along with the instrumentation set everything up and Sonja's lead vocals bring it all home. Listen to their 5/4 version of the Beatles' "For No One" or even "Hey Bulldog" and you will get it. But there is lots of good music, some apparently original but all bearing the stamp of original and authentic rootedness.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

PAN Project, Korean, Japanese and Chinese Stylistic Interactions and Traditional Music Heritage


Taking on the present-day musical world in all its vastness can be exhilarating, yet too it can be a humbling thing. We must always be open to the new and the not-yet-intimately known. We should not be afraid to grow, to understand more. Today's volume seems especially relevant to that idea, as it is an adventure in considering from a new perspective the traditional music realms of Korea, Japan and China. The ensemble and the album both are dubbed  Pan Project (Neuma 148). The Pan is taken from the Korean Pansori musical form, the "Pan" being a gathering together, in this case of the cross-cultural and intercultural elements, the rich intercultural East Asian in instrumental performance, in ritual and in vocal, in theatre.

What I will readily admit is my "outsider" knowledge of such things. I hear a primary influence of Korean Pansori, some elements from Chinese opera and Japanese shakuhachi and other stylistic elements, some of which go back to Gagaku, or at least my ears pick up on that possibility here. All this I loosely hear and appreciate without a kind of detailed expertise. The musicianship is very much first rate, the music endlessly fascinating to me. So it is a happy confluence of musical elements to me regardless of a blow-by-blow tracing of roots. There is the general gestalt of a wide confluence on this program and it is rewarding to hear.

The artists come together with great elan and interactive brilliance. Jeff Rogers gives us a finely played guqin, a Chinese seven-string plucked instrument, Ned Rothenberg appears on the Japanese shakuhachi and bass clarinet (many readers will doubtless know his seminal Avant Jazz work), Ying-Chieh Wang plays the Chinese bowed erhu, Woonjung Sim gives us some exciting rhythmic thrusts on Korean percussion, and Sae-Yuon Jeong gives us dramatic vocals with a definite Pansori flair at times. Last but not least there is Gamin Kang on the Korean double-reed piri, the sheng-like mouth organ called in Korea the saenghwang and the double reed Korean taepyeongso.

So even if I do not have a definitive bead on the exact provenance of each musical utterance, I get it and the more I listen the more I hear those cross-fertilizations. It gets your ear involved either way.

An album you East Asian traditional music enthusiasts will no doubt savor and appreciate as I have. If you simply have open ears and do not know much about these traditions, listen anyway and you will no doubt grow with  your exposure.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Simon Nabatov, Loves

Jazz composer-pianist Simon Nabatov impresses with an eleven member band doing a series of eight interrelated compositions on Loves (Leo CD LR 818). The overarching theme is romantic relationships and the two vocalists Rebekka Ziegler and Tobias Christie alternately  sound as vocalese "instruments," sing in song oriented phrasings or as vocalists holding to a spoken-sung part, or for that matter reciting text poetics and evocative word interjections, all of which help further the theme and add an important component to the total group sound.

The remaining nine artists have three-fold importance--as part sounding compositional exponents, as collectively free improvisors and as individual soloists in an attractive, open-ended framework.

Simon has created an ever changing textural abundance of avant jazz that favorably reminds of some of the JCOA gems and perhaps Bley-Haden large band collaborations, yet holds its own as freely original.

Each band member contributes to the whole, each a flexible artist to work in compositional realization and free improv spontaneity that Nabatov requires for such music. He of course is the pianist throughout. There is a dramatic cadenza-solo spot for him towards the end and it adds to it all greatly. But there is so much going on throughout that one opens up to it all happily--if one is like me, anyway. There is continually a regeneration of furtherance that makes it all a very absorbing listen.

So the band is nicely rounded out by Leonhard Huhn on saxes and clarinet, Sebastian Gille on tenor sax, Udo Moli on trumpet, Janning Trumann on trombone, Axel Porath on viola, Nathan Bontrager on cello, Stefan Schonegg on bass and Dominik Mahnig on drums. A goodly gathering of players comfortable with free playing or following a chart with a complimenting loose freedom.

It all works together remarkably well. In fact I must say it ranks among the best of such things these days. Simon Nabatov shines as composer, pianist, as bandleader. It is a kind of Avant Jazz triumph, memorable with its melodic surety, ensemble power and contrasting tender sort of poetics, too. This is an album to savor. Check it out without fail if you appreciate a wall-to-wall exceptional New Thing experience today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Jean-Pierre Jullian Sextet, Ma y Ma


What this posting is about is the newly released 2012 recording of the Jean-Pierre Jullian Sextet. The album is entitled Ma y Ma (Mazeto Square CD 3770005705398). It is one of those albums that jumps out and hits you as exceptional. Or it does that to me, anyway.

There are cycles of circularity-repetition that extend throughout the compositional aspect that remind me of and extend nicely the sort of things that Circle, Braxton, Holland, Mitchell (e.g. Nonaah) have done. It is made something personal and flowing into through-parts and quasi-sequential and quasi-contrapuntal aspects that the Sextet handle well. And when rhythmic displacement is involved there is an absorbing rhythm vibrancy that gives you another level of musical expansion to mind and appreciate.

So we have Jean-Pierre at the drums, Tom Pablo Gareil on the vibraphone, Lionel Garcia  on alto sax, Adrien Bennefeld on cello, Aurelieu Besnard on bass clarinet, Guillaume Seguron on upright bass. This is a good reading and good improvising outfit--and of course that is critical for Jazz Composition charts that actively seek maximum instrumentalist interactions. The sextet has an improvisatory originality that goes well with Jean-Pierre's compositional flourishes. Everybody is good to hear including Jean-Pierre with his subtle and swinging drumming.

I am telling you this is no joke. Julian and Sextet are primed and the music is revelatory! Do not miss this one if you are serious about New Jazz and Jazz Composition. A huge hoorah for this album!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Falkner Evans, Invisible Worlds, Solo Piano


When listening to new music we all have some set of expectations. Sometimes when it is something we did not expect, we can get hung up on that and maybe neglect to value what it IS. I think those thoughts as I listen to Jazz pianist Falkner Evans and his album Invisible Worlds (CAP 1070). It is a solo piano set played as a kind of tribute to his late wife who passed in tragic circumstances in May of 2020. It is a kind of working through of his sense of loss but also a kind of snapshot of who she was for him. warmly so.

It is music with a compositional but also an improvisational aspect, so it seems to me. It thrives on the sort of basic Jazz, Bop-and-after  assumption of a chordal left hand and a right hand for melodic passages and runs. The album begins and ends with versions of the title cut, which ravishes and stands out while it sets up the listener for the six other sequences we hear with interest.

While I was searching for a cover JPEG on line for this review I stumbled on some critical commentary on him and on this album. He is like Bill Evans, somebody says. Well, yes he shares with Bill a highly evolved harmonic sense, and the sort of poetic stance of "Peace Piece."

But if you expect to hear technically demanding soloing you might put that aside and just listen. It is not a matter of a right hand that comes across as horn-like in a post-Bud way. The compositional and improvisational elements are very musical and beautifully wrought but not a vehicle for virtuoso intensity. There is rather a mood that is balladic and introspective all the way through. Now what matters here is that he sculpts it all with care, with musical intelligence and feeling, something richly inventive as a whole.

It is a moving portrait of his wife and some of the most harmonically brilliant music I've heard lately. Approach it on its own terms and think of a twilight world of remembrance and you will doubtless get the feeling of a pointedly articulate harmonic expression that one does not often hear in such a context. Brilliant!