Thursday, December 20, 2012

TranceFormation, In Concert, Andrea Wolper, Connie Crothers, Ken Filiano

It takes musicians of real imagination and ability to launch music involving 100% improvisation and have it satisfy the listener on every level. Of course with an artist of the stature of pianist-conceptualist Connie Crothers, you know you are going to get that along with her extraordinary originality and pianism. With contrabassist Ken Filiano, the same applies. I'll admit that vocalist and prose-poetess Andrea Wolper was an unknown factor for me.

So when I opened the package that contained the three artists together on the CD TranceFormation in Concert (New Artists 1054CD) I wasn't quite sure what it would be like.

Now that I've listened a bunch of times I am happy to say that the CD made a Wolper believer out of me. She improvises recitations, creates rhythmic patter that hangs together as content as well as sound pattern, and she sings and does sound color vocalisms that sound right and show a very inventive creative soul at work.

Combine Andrea with Connie and Ken, and something special results. That's In Concert. It's Ms. Wolpers, Ms. Crothers and Mr. Filiano at their creative best. And it shows you in the process that "jazz vocals" can be whatever they might be and be very good, without resorting to the usual standards and scatting formations so prevalent these days.

That's the case, and on top of that you have a very wonderful three-way interaction at work here. Inspiring improvisation at its best!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

M'lumbo, Tuning In To Tomorrow

No doubt there will be "jazz purists" who will dislike this album on the grounds that there are things that don't belong. Collage, voice and other sampling, electricity, hip-hop elements, things that relate to drums n' bass, synthesizers, oh you know, the litany of things.

But Tuning In To Tomorrow (Pursuance 04) by M'lumbo works. It works as a kind of large band multi-voiced paean to retro-futurism.

There's the core band: Robert Jordan Ray Flateau on keys and sampling, Cecil Young on trumpet, Dehran Duckworth on congas and percussion, Jaz Sawyer on drums, Brian O'Neill, guitar and sampling. Sax players Vin Veloso and Paul Alexandre Meurens head up the reed section. Then there are two additional horns that expand the band from time-to-time: special guest Jane Ira Bloom on soprano and Adrian Mira on alto and clarinet.

There are some nice charts for larger band that coexist with the samples. They are retro-future related and so fit in well. There are funk/jazz-rock rhythmic feels, good solos when called for, serious swinging and a kind of psychedelic-electric ambiance and general outness at times. The Dehran-Jaz nexus is something good to hear, too.

It's not quite like anything else out there. The first listen may find you scratching your head. But keep listening. There is a lot to absorb and once you start doing that, you'll start hearing it as a whole.

These folks are into something.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nobuyasu Furuya Quintet, The General (Complete Version)

I reviewed the original LP version of Nobuyasu Furuya's The General last June 5th (see that posting). It turns out that to fit on LP the full version had to be shortened a bit. As good as the LP is, the full CD version is even better. But it's only around as far as I know as a Japanese import. Amazon Japan has it

The Nu Band, Relentlessness, Live at the Sunset, Roy Campbell, Mark Whitecage, Joe Fonda, Lou Grassi

When a very good band in the improvisatory arts achieves a certain comfort level playing together, in some cases that may take years, the music they produce when they are on the mark can be both very together collectively, and individually on a very high level.

That was certainly the case with the Nu Band when they recorded earlier this year at the Sunset in Paris. The resultant CD Relentlessness (Disques Futura et Marge 49) bears this out quite nicely.

For it has a great group dynamic going, loosely swings and speaks poetically and coherently, and gives you some of the best playing of Roy Campbell, Jr., Mark Whitecage, Joe Fonda, and Lou Grassi on record.

There are effective compositions by all the band members, and some sterling improvisations from the trumpet, reeds, contrabass and drums. Each artist is an original stylist of course, and the band has a direct kind of improv immediacy that comes about when all is right. This music, understandably given the players' deep roots in the music and long time immersion in it, is the evolution and extension of the new jazz, the new improv, as it stands today, state-of-the-art.

So naturally I would advise you to hear this one!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Matthew Shipp, Greatest Hits

Late next month, Matthew Shipp will release a Greatest Hits (Thirsty Ear 57205.2) compilation covering some of his best work from 2000 to the present. Eleven albums are represented.

And listening to this compendium makes at least one thing clear (if not many things): Matthew Shipp has been a critical force in the new jazz not by holding steady to the same routines and patterns that have made for new jazz orthodoxy, but by opening up to the sounds around him, by not following trends, but by making trends follow him.

So we have not only Matthew Shipp the masterful, innovative pianist, but also Matthew Shipp the composer, the conceptual innovator.

Listen to "Cohesion," by his trio of the time of William Parker and Gerald Cleaver, plus Khan Jamal on vibes and Flam on synths/programming. The drums have that drums n' bass sound--very funky but also electronically worked over. Yet listening to the piece you do not feel that this is Shipp gone commercial, any more than Trane's quartet sounded that way doing "Chim Chim Cheree." It's Matthew Shipp incorporating new elements into his music--but it's always foremost his music and not anyone else's, by any standards.

So throughout the compilation you get solo piano, trios, and larger configurations, fascinating to hear broken into a more-or-less chronological sequence. It's Shipp the pianist at the top of his conceptual game, the artist free to create with the great players he has surrounded himself with, free to evolve his direction as he sees fit.

That, as the late Sam Rivers defined it, is what "free" is about. The artist is free to follow what path he or she chooses, where the music swings, takes it out into open air, or works within hip-hop/funk/rock rhythmic feels, or records with a large orchestra. Listening to the thirteen years of music making so nicely represented on this disk, you feel that Matthew Shipp has been true to himself, and what that is speaks truth to us all. This is important music, pianistically, group-wise, compositionally and conceptually.

So grab a copy next month if you don't know these sides!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nik Bartsch's Ronin Live

I have been following Nik Bartsch's musical development with interest. He is a kind of minimalist and his ensemble Ronin plays a music that proffers a mesmeric sort of jazz-rock. The current lineup consists of Bartsch on piano and Fender Rhodes, plus bass clarinet/alto sax, one or two electric basses, drums and percussion.

The latest, a 2-CD set entitled Nik Bartsch's Ronin Live (ECM 2302/03), brings us his fullest musical flowering to date.

Imagine the classical minimalism of Steve Reich in his first African-influenced period, with grooved repetition and multi-stranded polyrhythms abounding, then give it Nik's own personal twist and have it performed by a jazz-rock sort of ensemble.

The ensemble has gotten fully into the total effect of this music and each instrumentalist's part within it--and created some really compelling live versions. There doesn't appear to be a lot of improvisation in this music per se, so far as I can tell, at least not in terms of a set solo routine--it's more concerned with realizing the interlocking parts and then allowing for a certain amount of improvisation within the structures realized.

But it is such a fascinating set of grooves that you don't worry so much about expectations, but sit back and let the whole matrix give you a jolt. And yes, this music is very funky in a very advanced sense.

I've been enthralled with almost every minute of this recording, from the first hearing on. If you are into advanced grooves, minimalism you can dance to, I suspect you'll feel the same way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frank Wright Quartet, Blues for Albert Ayler, 1977

Frank Wright may not be a name that has crossed over from avant jazz circles to the general public (and how many have?) but he was a moving force on tenor from nearly the very beginning and the body of recordings he left behind still sound fresh and engaging.

And now ESP has released one we have not known of before, Blues for Albert Ayler, a long set recorded at Ali's Alley in 1977.

The band is into the moment in a good way. Rashied Ali pushes continuously with his open-form, complex freetime. He sounds very motivated. He puts the band in overdrive. James "Blood" Ulmer is in an out groove, inspired. Benny Wilson toils steadily behind the bass, giving the ground base a solid foundation while the others soar. And Frank Wright gets his tenor into the stratosphere and stays there.

This is very high-level free jazz, the recorded sound is decent and it is a very welcome addition to Frank Wright's discography. Quite worth having if you are into the avant roots.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Trio 3D, Remi Alvarez, Joe Fonda, Harvey Sorgen

Tenorist Remi Alvarez is Mexico's secret weapon. No, not in some military sense. If there are such things as cultural wars, then Remi is Mexico's avant jazz equalizer. Well of course avant jazz doesn't have much bearing on international politics, but my point is that Remi Alvarez is a formidable player.

He has a slightly dark tone a la Sam Rivers, and he is very inventive. His work on the recent Trio 3D (Konnex 5286) is some of his very best. He is in excellent company with Joe Fonda at the Bass and Harvey Sorgen on drums. They run through twelve varied three-way collective improvisations in the course of the album, with everybody on top of it and working together very well.

But it's Remi Alvarez that especially shines here. He is a tenor for today and this is one of his very best performances on disk, so you need to catch it if you can. And this trio is a hum-dinger.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jane Monheit & Sara Gazarek, Come Spend Christmas With Me

If you are sick of too much of the same holiday songs and would like something new, there's one just out that's has a nice ring to it, "Come Spend Christmas with Me," (Palmetto) by vocalists Jane Monheit and Sara Gazarek.

All proceeds from this single release will be donated to the ASPCA, in support of animal rights, so that's an added plus.

You can hear the song on soundcloud by pasting the following url into your browser window and hitting enter:

You can purchase it here or on iTunes or amazon:


Mikkel Mark Trio Featuring Luther Thomas, 2007

Freebop is not bebop. That's obvious I suppose. Freebop often uses the bebop repertoire and sometimes the changes. Freebop may reference bebop lines in the course of the improvisations. But freebop takes the music past bebop in ways that would probably have gotten many players kicked off the bandstand if they had played some of those lines/harmonies at Mintons back in the day. And of course the players are not trying to play bebop as much as they are commenting on the form and making something new of it.

This is what runs through my head as I listen to the Mikkel Mark Trio Featuring Luther Thomas (JaZt TAPES CD-028). It's a 2007 live date from Copenhagen featuring Mark on piano, Thomas on alto, Guffi Pallesen, bass, and Kresten Osgood at the drums.

The band runs through some bop and beyond classics, "Straight No Chaser" and "Groovin' High" but also "All Blues" and "Equinox." What we get is a nicely loose blowing session with a solid rhythm section. Luther Thomas is in very good form, coming up with some blazing lines and going at it with conviction. Mikkel Mark comps sparingly and with expansive harmonic sensibilities and solos in a sparse, super-monkish way much of the time.

It may not be a recording that will set the jazz world aflame this year, but it is quite enjoyable and shows all in a nice place. Go to to find out more about this release and the JaZt TAPES series in general.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lou Marini, Starmaker

I never paid much attention to Lou Marini in the past, even though he's been pretty ubiquitous. Listening to his new solo album Starmaker (BluJazz 3394), I hear something that gets my attention. It's a straight-ahead, somewhat commercial, somewhat electric date, with some very competent sidemen and arrangements that are just fine. The tunes are interesting from a compositional standpoint.

But what is the main thing going for this is Lou Marini's playing. He's something else. He has a soulful rasp when he wants it and his lines are not at all typical, having bop-Trane and after in there in unusual ways. He sings a little but that's some band vocal stuff.

It's an album that shows you that Lou Marini is a player with a capital "p". Gil Goldstein, by the way, plays some hip things on piano too.

Now I'd like to hear Lou do an acoustic quartet session and let it all hang out!

Frank Lowe, The Loweski

Frank Lowe's seminal Black Beings (ESP) was what turns out to be only the first part of a concert recorded in 1973. What was initially released on that LP was one of the wildest excursions into the avant jazz of the era, with Frank Lowe and Joseph Jarman breathing fire and the rest of the band stoking the flames for an extended rant that still has the capacity to excite and unsettle.

ESP has recently released The Loweski, which is the rest of that concert, almost 40 minutes worth of unreleased music.

It's the same musicians, of course. Lowe on tenor, Jarman on soprano and alto, Raymond Lee Cheng (The Wizard) on violin, William Parker on bass and Rashid Sinan on drums.

After a short solo intro by Lowe the group launches into another collective onslaught of high energy expression. This mix is different--with Lowe and Jarman coming though at somewhat lower levels and so you hear the rhythm section and Chang's violin at the front of the audio stage for a time. And they are engaged and holding forth in very good ways, so it gives you something very much worth hearing. From there Chang plays some extreme pizzicato electrified, then back to the bow. He is possessed and inspired.

After that the horns get rolling again with just the rhythm section, but again they are low in the mix and not as audible as one might expect. William Parker steps in though with his bow and does some nice things. Towards the end the saxes become more centered for a bit and then the improvisation ends with drums and Parker's bowed dirgy two-chord plus harmonics.

So in the end this is especially interesting for what you hear of Cheng, Parker and Sinan. It is less of a horn showcase. But it is still vital free jazz of the era and will be appreciated as such by those so inclined. I am very glad to have it. Black Beings is the one to start with, however, if you haven't checked that out yet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Marilyn Lerner, Ken Filiano, Lou Grassi, Arms Spread Wide, 2008

I am catching up with a release from 2009 that I am glad to hear repeatedly. It's an avant piano trio date recorded in 2008 for a No Business (NBCD 5) CD, Arms Spread Wide. The band is an excellent one: Marilyn Lerner at the piano, Ken Filiano, contrabass, and Lou Grassi at the drums.

All three players are inextricably intertwined in a very musical dialog. Ms. Lerner is an imaginative improviser who has listened to Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley and made her own way through those stylistic influences. Ken Filiano and Lou Grassi are well known and so need no introduction. They sound especially good here with Ms. Lerner. Lou's freetime is superb and mightily inventive; Ken is rhythmically and melodically alive in the best sense; both work with Marilyn to create long strands of improvised coherence and excitement.

It has connection with the roots of the music and yet it soars far and wide in its collective intelligence. That's a pretty good way to go! This one needs to be heard.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Claudio Scolari, Synthesis

When you aren't sure what to expect, then what you get can be anything and not surprise you, I suppose. But in the case of Claudio Scolari's second offering, Synthesis (Principal 05), I was surprised anyway. One factor that is quite unusual about his Project (as he calls it) is the instrumentation. Claudio is on drums, percussion, electronics (synth/computer) and flute; Daniel Cavalca plays drums, vibes, piano, melodica and bass; and Simone Scolari plays trumpet.

What this means is that there is some very hot drumming, some very hip trumpet wielding, and then somewhere in the middle there is the overlap/center of each piece with electronics and percussive melodic motifs.

They may not be the only group doing this sort of thing (Mazurek etc.) but they do it well; they thoroughly build sound structures for each piece. They go many places in the course of the disk but the groove quotient and free quality consistently come together well to create some memorable moments. It's a testament to the multi-instrumental flexibility of Claudio and Daniele (and the prowess of Simone) that things do not falter. It's all refreshingly DIY, faux casual, but never amateurish. And it gets you listening and liking.

Call it contemporary. Then grab an earful!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Lou Grassi Po Band with Marshall Allen, Live at the Knitting Factory Volume 1, 2000

A couple of years ago Porter Records released a 2000 performance of an all-star configuration of the Lou Grassi Po Band Live at the Knitting Factory Volume 1 (Porter 4051). I am just (happily) catching up with it so I am sharing the experience with you, my much appreciated readers.

Lou is of course on the drums, the always incandescent Marshall Allen makes his presence vibrate on alto and flute, then there's Paul Smoker on the trumpet, Steve Swell on trombone, Perry Robinson, clarinet, and the late Wilber Morris on bass.

Needless to say this was a formidable gathering of avant jazzmen and I am glad to say the results live up to expectations. Three longish segments fill the disk: two collective improvisations and a Paul Smoker piece, "LouRa."

You could just listen to Lou Grassi on the drums and get something out of it. He is inventive rolling thunder personified. But everybody is onto the main stem in classic new thing ways so there is much to hear. The group improvs are sometimes extraordinarily tumultuous in part thanks to Marshall's patently raucous war cries as inspiration, but there are plenty of spaces less dense as well.

It's a very good blow-out that I would have been very happy to have caught live. For all that there is the document disk available as consolation. Avant fans will find this one very stimulating, as I did.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Christmas Time is Here

When it comes to holiday music, I feel strongly that it should be volunteerisitic. If I turn on the TV and they are singing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" on November 22nd with the words changed to emphasize how much you'll save at x store, I find it a most annoying imposition. But when the time is right, I am there, if it is something ancient or tasteful, or, if I am in certain mood, tasteless even.

Today's disk goes under the "tasteful" category. It's the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, a solid big band, doing arrangements of 12 perennials. A chorus makes an appearance on a few numbers, and there is a nice sounding singer for one of the carols, but this is primarily a set of arrangements that are middle-of-the-road mainstream for an outfit that does a fine job making them swing. Soloists Gregory Tardy, Tim Green and Dan Trudell add the nutmeg to the musical eggnog.

It's most definitely something that would go well with get-togethers and such. If it won't change the world, it should add some good cheer, and we all need some of that this year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Noah Howard Quartet, Live at Glenn Miller Cafe

Noah Howard is no more. But his music lives on. An interesting, previously unreleased quartet performance can be had as Live at the Glenn Miller Cafe (JaZt Tapes 030).

It features Noah on alto and tenor in good form from 2000 with the always lively Bobby Few on piano and a game rhythm section of Ulf Akerhjelm on bass and Gilbert Matthews, drums.

It has the late Trane general free feel as far as group dynamic goes much of the time--implied, open pulse at times, all-over chordal piano in Bobby Few's own way, Noah incantatory.

This is not copycatting, though. It extends the music tradition and it's doing so through the creative passion of Noah. And there are musical excursions into other zones in the course of the two sets represented here on disk.

The sound is very decent. It may not be the best thing Noah recorded but it extends what we have of his later period quite nicely and gives you some soulful freedom in the process.

Go to to find out more about the series and how to order a copy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Maya Dunietz, John Edwards, Steve Noble, Cousin It

Cousin It? (Hopscotch 23). No not the hairy character from the TV show. Instead, a trio of Israeli pianist Maya Dunietz with bassist John Edwards and Steve Noble on drums.

Maya has made a name for herself over there, and this trio gives you an idea why. She is extremely plastic in her conception, able and willing at any given moment to dive into inside-the-piano and prepared sounds, then give out with an extension, an original phrasing that shows an absorption of the piano jazz that existed (and exists) in another time. John Edwards and Steve Noble are ideal partners. They respond not by stepping on her lines but by setting up complementary pulsations, phrases, sounds that complete the musical picture.

This is music of freedom, piano trio avantness of distinction. It is very in there and it is very out there! It's something that most definitely adds something to the piano trio scene, and it does so in ways that make you smile and keep digging.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Zen Widow featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Screaming in Daytime (Makes Men Forget)

Wadada Leo Smith has been on a roll lately, there is no doubt. His recordings as leader, composer, trumpet master have been some of the most important releases of the last several years. And now he makes a rare appearance as sideman, in great form, with the group Zen Widow.

Screaming in Daytime (Make Men Forget) (pfMENTUM 069) is a very productive meeting between Wadada and the members of Zen Widow (Gianni Gebbia, alto, Matthew Goodheart, piano and electro-acoustic gongs and cymbals, and Garth Powell, drums and percussion).

It's a varied offering of adventuresome new music-avant jazz that gives plenty of opportunity for all to express themselves freely, yet has a compositional and interactional program that keeps the music moving in the best ways. The members of Zen Widow make their kinetic improvisations speak, as does Wadada, as one comes to expect of course.

This is carefully conjured, serious new music. It works on all levels. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, Live at ABC No Rio, NYC, 2007

The JaZt Tapes series seems to me a very good idea. It is a series of limited-edition releases by mostly avant jazz artists, music they want the music community to hear, as a promotion of their music and as a way of introducing the music to the public in hopes of a larger-scale release in the future.

Today we take a look at one such release by Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, Live at ABC No Rio, NYC (JaZt Tapes CD-029). It is a 2007 performance with a shifting set of improvisers that includes Shurdut on piano along with Chris Welcome, Robyn Siwula, Ken Silverman, Blaise Siwula, Marcus Cummins, Raymond Todd, Shayna Dulberger and Scott May.

It is nice sort of free-energy anarchy that gets going on this set, put in to orbit with Shurdut's all-over density at the piano, with Silverman's guitar and Blaise Siwula's alto and clarinet some of the other more outstanding voices in the general tumult.

It's music that does not compromise. It is music that should fascinate those into the "new thing" because the mix is very dynamic, ever-changing and sonically diverse. It's worth the effort to track this one down. Some Shurdut is no doubt essential to any free improv collection and this is a good one.

Go to to find out more about the series and how to order a copy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Trespass Trio, Bruder Beda, Kuchen-Zanussi-Strid

Today, a look at an attractive release from the Trespass Trio, Bruder Beda (Clean Feed 251). It is named after (and centers around) the Jewish WWI hero, priest and minister who was persecuted and martyred by the Nazis.

Fittingly the music has a serious, sober, commemorative cast. Other than one collective improvisation, these are Martin Kuchen compositions, who plays alto and baritone. Per Zanussi is on double bass, Raymond Strid on drums.

The music is free, compositional, structured, passionate, anguished, moving. Much of the music in in a minor tonality, in keeping with the theme. On alto and baritone Martin is quite convincing and the rhythm team brings an intensity of focus to the session in keeping with Kuchen's own musical commitment.

It is one of the most distinctively alive avant trio disks to come out this year to my mind. This is music of intensity, of tenderness, rage and transcendence.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Guerino Mazzola, Joomi Park, Passionate Message

A most interesting and unusual project stands before us today. Pianists Guerino Mazzola and Joomi Park joined together to produce the recording Passionate Message: 12 New Works for Piano Duo (Silkheart 159).

The idea behind the meeting was a good one. The two artists have very different approaches, Mazzola favoring a free jazz improvisational stance, Park in the new music, contemporary avant classical composition-performance-improvisation zone. The idea was to both underscore the differences and to find a common ground in a series of improvisations.

And so there resulted four "series" of interchanges, involving statements of theme and improvisation by Park alone, then Mazzola alone, then the two together. The material ranges from more or less fully realized compositions ("Black Summer") to harmonic-melodic takes on standards (the Beatles' "Yesterday").

It is music that catapults back and forth between the two stylistic zones, then finds various forms and degrees of improvisational syntheses in the two-piano meetings.

It's frankly experimental and creative rather than some polished end-product, but that does not mean that the music is a throw-off or merely some gestural act. The results are fascinating, varied, vitally alive. It is music to explore on as deep a level as you wish, for there is much there and yet it is easily appreciated on the immediate level as well. What emerges is a complex double-portrait of two artists and two styles caught in the process of motion. You should hear it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Szilard Mezei Ensemble, BOT, 2004

After a bit of a break it's time today to look at the last in the batch of Szilard Mezei recordings on Not Two Records that I have been covering of the past few months. It is BOT (Not Two 818-2), one of Szilard's most ambitious offerings. Here we are treated to two full CDs of music recorded live in 2004.

It's a 10-member ensemble playing Mezei compositions and freely improvising around them. The band has a vibrant color, partly due to Mezei's writing/arranging, partly due to the instrumentation: oboe, bass clarinet/clarinet/alto, two trumpets, trombone, tuba, viola (Mezei), cello, doublebass and drums. So there is a potential contrast between and confluence of winds, brass, strings and percussion that Mezei makes use of in various creative ways as well as breaking out parts of sections to work together during solos and elsewise.

There is a lot of music to be heard, all of it worthwhile. The compositional/improvisational elements balance well throughout and the rhythmic feels vary from free to swinging and things in between.

This is/was a band that could and did make a statement via Mezei's compositional brilliance. It is a set filled with originality and excitement. I most certainly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pao, Pedro Sousa, Tiago Sousa, Travassos

The Portuguese creative music-improv scene today gets a new label to showcase some of the more adventurous sides of what is going on. It's called Shhpuma. It's a division of the seminal contemporary label Clean Feed. And I have their second release, Pao (Shhpuma 002), on my player as I write these lines.

Pao is a trio effort featuring Pedro Sousa on tenor sax, Tiago Sousa on keys, harmonium and percussion, and Travassos on live electronics. It's a heady sort of new music-free improv sound they get, with layers of electronic texture and drone, sometimes aided by harmonium and other keyboard effects, for a tripartite series of soundscapes that places Pedro Sousa's tenor overtop of the wash playing long notes, subtones, harmonics, unconventional soundings and breaking at certain points into a flurry of avant expression which stands out as significant contrast and musical event.

This is music of adventure, not exactly something to groove out on in some conventional jazzy sense. It is music of sound color, well done for what it is doing, moody, atmospheric. It is not music of a self-assuming sort. No one is trying to amaze you with prowess. It's all about the sounds. That is fully legitimate (in the sense that it has as much right to exist as bebop or symphonic music) and they leave an impression that is both positive and memorable.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Alex Wyatt, There's Always Something

Thanks to Kickstarter, we have Alex Wyatt's There's Always Something (NOWT Records NOWT 006) to appreciate. It's a sextet playing Wyatt's compositions, Alex on drums, Kyle Wilson on tenor, Masahiro Yamamoto, alto and soprano, Greg Ruggiero on guitar, Danny Fox, piano, and Christopher Tordini, bass.

It's a set of players that have the subtle finesse and style to fit the pieces, which are new jazz mainstream--or in other words, the music is progressive-acoustic, well put-together, and the players know what to do. Alex's rhythmic sensibilities come into play in the compositions and in the grooves that weave around them. There are kicks and other rhythmic devices that give the music a jolt and show off Wyatt's fine drumming. But the melodic-harmonic content of the numbers is also compelling, with some nice twists.

I like Wilson's stylistically encompassing tenor. It compliments Yamamoto's contemporary stance nicely. Both Ruggiero and Fox weave some very attractive lines. Tordini's bass playing is distinctive enough that you can listen to what he's doing directly and get something out of it on its own, but of course what he's doing also fits in well with the music at hand.

Everybody sounds good and the tunes are quite interesting and unpredictable. It's an album you need to listen to a few times to get how nice it all is. Then you are there. I was. Thank you Alex.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hairybones, Snakelust (for Kenji Nakagami), Toshinori Kondo, Massimo Pupillo, Peter Broetzmann, Paal Nilssen-Love

Some music drives with such a singular force that it totally occupies the space it is in. There is nothing but the music at that moment and you either surrender to it and let it wash over you like a kind of baptism or you leave the space and go it alone.

That's the kind of music to be had in Hairybones' single 53-minute rout Snakelust (Clean Feed 252). It's the band live at Jazz em Agosto, Lisbon, last year and they are most definitely cranked for this set. Hairybones is the irrepressable Peter Broetzman on tenor, alto, etc.; Toshinori Kondo on trumpet; Massimo Pupillo on electric bass; and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Now that's a formidable lineup.

The effects and volume element of Massimo's bass and the electronics-trumpet of Toshinori gives the band an electricity that seems to bring out some harder playing from everybody. Paal is demonic, Peter, never the shy violet, is strongly possessed by the free-energy spirit here, Massimo does some very effective bass thundering, and Toshinori screams, wails and plunges into an aesthetic abyss for some of his best playing on disk.

There are times when the intensity reaches the level of Ascension and even beyond. Other times they explore less dense territory. They never flag nor do they play a single unfelt note, so far as I can hear.

I wont lie to you and say that this CD will convert those who dislike the free-energy-maelstrom sort of onslaught. I doubt that it will. It is a good one for somebody who knows nothing of this kind of music and wants to be blown away. Broetzmann fans and those who seek out the heat of out music will revel in it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fred Hersch Trio, Alive at the Vanguard

The Fred Hersch Trio is without a doubt one of the finest groups working in what you might call the post-Bill-Evans tradition today. The recent double CD Alive at the Vanguard (Palmetto 2159) affirms that with some great improvising-tunesmithing.

The Evans trio legacy includes the idea of the trio as a fully integrated entity, not piano solos with bass and drums relegated to mere accompaniment. The former is most certainly the case here with John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. They play an important part in the outcome, with solo and group interactions the order of the day.

Fred of course is a fully developed, finessed artist-pianist with good harmonic and melodic ideas continually flowing from his fingers. He can be impressionistic on the ballads and he is robust and individual on the more up swingers.

The program of originals benefits from a sprinkling of standards done with some care and attention for getting to the essential core of things. The originals have plenty of variety and cut across the contemporary scene with style and a thoughtful quality.

Alive at the Vanguard captures the trio at their very best. The double CD gives listeners a bird's eye earful of what they were doing at the club last February. It's essential listening for what the piano trio is today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Fish, Moon Fish (Guionnet-Duboc-Perraud)

In many ways at many times so-called "free jazz" depends for its success on inspiration and inventive commitment on the part of the musicians involved. If they are without a certain amount of "juice" and a certain level of ideas, it can be a little like the cartoon image of a hippopotamus taking a high dive into a much-too-small tub of water. Ouch!

I bring this up because today's CD is just the opposite of this kind of lack. We have the trio known as the Fish doing a three-part improvisation on their recent CD Moon Fish (Clean Feed 254). They are filled with the inspiration of the muses for this one, tumbling their way through some kicking free space.

This is a well-matched European outfit of Jean-Luc Guionnet, alto, Benjamin Duboc on contrabass (who we've encountered rather often in good settings both here and on the guitar-bass blog), and Edward Perraud on drums.

They are supercharged and wail their way through this set, Guionnet sometimes worrying a phrase a la "Sunship," more often proceeding in a linear way through phrases that blaze; Duboc creating forceful counter-onslaughts and digging in for a continuously thrumming energy foundation; Perraud feeling the spirit and busily pushing his kit to the barrage limits.

It's the wild and crazy kind of freedom we have on this one, continuous, energized, on fire and beautifully frenetic. Nice one.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Natsuki Tamura, Satoko Fujii, Muku

I had no idea when I posted here a week ago that Hurricane Sandy would make it impossible to do so again until now. After a brutal buffeting by winds we lost power until Saturday, so no internet until then. I am safe and thankful for it.

Today a suitably reflective album by trumpeter Natsuki Tamuka and his pianist partner Satoko Fujii entitled Muku (Libra 102-301). It is their fifth duo recording. Natsuki wrote the music for the set in a way that required the two of them to supply the creative improvisational spark to set things alight. That happens throughout.

The music was originally written for their quartet Gato Libre (see my review of their latest disk on these pages several weeks ago) but performed as a duo here for a more open sound. The music has elements that remind one of Japanese folk strains, some that have a new music feel to them, others that might be more easily comprehended as new jazz.

It's music of reflection and introspection much of the time. Natsuki and Satoko dig into the material and give us dramatic, compassionate yet structured performances.

Nicely done and a pleasure to hear.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Byard Lancaster Quartet, Ancestral Link Hotel, 2005

It's only been a couple of months since Philly-based saxophonist Byard Lancaster left this earth. We will not forget him. He walked tall when he was with us, a continuinly innovative force for the new jazz, with deep roots.

And that's the Byard you hear to good advantage on his 2005 outing Ancestral Link Hotel (CIMP 340). It's a date that sports a lineup especially conducive for showcasing Byard the improvisor and multi-reed man. In addition to an Afro-flute and some "small instruments" he holds forth on soprano, alto and tenor sax. He is the sole horn on the date. Joining him are two acoustic bassists, Ed Crockett and Bert Harris, and the drum support of Harold E. Smith.

Byard seems intent on covering the roots that came together to help form his musical identity. And he does so with grace, fire and Lancastrian style.

So we get a nicely Afro-tribal hommage on "Ancestral Link Hotel", an Ayleresque gospel revival that gets him speaking in tongues on "Holy Buddy," the down and gritty "Slow Blues in G," some hard bop and beyond classics in "Milestones" and "Killer Joe", a free scorcher in "Searching" and lastly, a beautifully wrought unaccompanied soprano sax closer with "You Decide."

It's a portrait of a fine jazz artist on a fine session with a fine band. There is truly no timely way to leave this earth, ultimately, but there are surely timely things to leave behind for those who remain. Ancestral Link Hotel is an appropriate testament to Byard Lancaster, the beautiful soul, the expressive master of music. RIP.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gato Libre, Forever, with Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii

When jazz doesn't seem like most jazz, is it still jazz? The answer that comes to mind is "Who Cares, Talk About Something that Matters!" The truth is, "jazz musicians" make MUSIC. That is their primary concern. Whether or not what they do at any point sounds like jazz is supposed to sound or not should not overly concern us.

Turning to the new CD by Gato Libre, Forever (Libra 104-030), we find music that relates to the above. It's trumpetist Natsuki Tamura and his running partner Satoko Fujii (for this occasion on accordion), along with Kazuhiko Tsumura (guitar) and Norikatsu Koreyasu (acoustic bass). They engage a series of compositions by Natsuki that sound rather folk-like (not necessarily specifically Japanese folk, but folk in a wider sense) and sometimes with a touch of minimalist mesmeric repetition.

Now it's not that there isn't improvisation involved on these performances. There is. And what of it there is is quite fitting and interesting. There is not as much of it as on a typical "blowing date," and the emphasis is on the music as music so to say. It doesn't come across as readily identifiable "jazz," free, avant, or otherwise.

But it does come across as ensemble music of interest. It's an unusual sort of folksy sound that grows on you as you listen repeatedly. And it is well done. So hurrah for it. I am glad Maestro Tamura gave us this to enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Platform 1 Takes Off, with Ken Vandermark and Steve Swell

Platform 1? The name of a very lively "free jazz" quintet. Platform 1 Takes Off (Clean Feed 255) is the name of what I take to be their first CD as a unit.

It's Magnus Broo on trumpet, Steve Swell on trombone, Ken Vandermark on tenor and clarinet, Michael Vatcher, drums, and Joe Williamson on bass. All but Vatcher contribute compositions for the outing, and they have a memorable head blast off quality.

The rhythm section is loose and first-rate. The front line gives us extroverted improvisational joy and collective madness of the best sort. Swell and Vandermark come though as expected with their well-developed artistry. Magnus Broo holds his own among them.

It's a beautifully performed set of modern, cutting edge avant improv. Those who know these folks from past haunts will not be disappointed; those coming to this music for the first time, with a little patience, will find themselves digging in and digging the sounds, I certainly think. Yes!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mark Masters Ensemble, American Jazz Institute Presents Ellington Saxophone Encounters

Duke. We return to his music time and again to refresh ourselves at the fountain of brilliance. Of course there is the enormous body of recordings he left us. But there is also the furtherence of his compositions through present-day creations, re-creations and re-arrangements, live and in recorded form. There have been ups and down in this latter aspect of Ellingtonia in the past decades. Not everything done of course is brilliant, classic, or even necessary, and yet all homage to the master does him credit on one or more levels. So be it. While tributes to the Duke are commonplace, tributes to the music of his sidemen decidedly are not.

Happily today we have a modern encounter of the latter sort, both unusual and strongly musical in its final form. It is a collaboration between bandleader-arranger-composer Mark Masters and baritone master Gary Smulyan. The music is not that of Ellington per se but some worthy compositions by some of the seminal members of his sax/reed section over the years: Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Hamilton, Ben Webster and Harry Carney.

Masters arranged the numbers for what turns out to be a rather stellar cast of musicians: a sax section of Gary Smulyan, Pete Christlieb, Gary Foster, Don Shelton and Gene Cipriano, plus a great rhythm section: Bill Cunliffe, Tom Warrington and Joe LaBarbara.

Gary Smulyan in the principal soloist throughout and gives us another look at his essential baritonisms. But other soloists enter the fray with success as well. It's a repertoire of pieces both quite familiar ("Jeep's Blues," "Rockin' in Rhythm") and those less so.

Everything sparkles in the sax-rich arrangements and the musicians pull together to give you a full program of great sounds. This is something different and special in its own way. It will certainly be appreciated by all Ellingtonians out there. Good show.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ezra Weiss, Our Path to This Moment

Big band music by ambitious composer-arrangers wil never die. Financing the roll-out and continued existence of a big band devoted to original music becomes increasingly difficult however in these economically uncertain times.

So when a good project comes along we should try and patronize it all we can. Such a good thing is at hand with the Rob Scheps Big Band playing the music of Ezra Weiss, on a CD entitled Our Path to This Moment (Roark Records).

This is a fully decked-out organization, with good players, soloists and rehearsal time well spent. Ezra Weiss' charts have very modern mainstream depth. His charts sometimes remind just a little of Kenny Wheeler's venture into large ensemble territory. There is a bright, full sound in the horns with distinctive voicings that project nicely.

The originals have weight, the rearrangements of "It's You or No One" and the folk strain "Wayfaring Stranger" show imagination and creativity.

In a word, "worthwhile."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Angles 8, By Way of Deception, Live in Ljubljana

Today, the second of two Clean Feed Live at Ljubljana Jazz Festival disks covered this week (Monday I covered one by Igor Lumpert's Trio). The Swedish large ensemble Angles 8 steps forward for their lively set Angles of Deception (Clean Feed 256).

Martin Kuchen's compositions, direction, and alto sax are what is primarily motoring this band, and they come across especially here with a kind of joyful Afro-riffing that shows the positive influence of Ornette, Sun Ra, the "ethnic" side of Don Cherry and the buoyancy of Pierre Dorge's New Jungle Orchestra.

It's Martin and seven other well-healed musicians from Europe (trombone, trumpet, baritone-soprano, alto, vibes, piano, bass and drums) igniting five of Kuchen's pieces in a very lively manner.

All the front liners can solo and do so freely and sometimes collectively, while riffs and counterlines take off and rock the house.

It's a first-rate band doing first-rate music. Afro-free jazz on fire! Be sure and get an earful of this one. It's quite excellent, really. Encore!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Joe McPhee, Joe Giardullo, Michael Bisio, Dominic Duval, No Greater Love, 1999

A lengthy, freely expressed, chamber jazz outing by two reeds and two basses could end up being a snore-inducing bore in the wrong hands. A muddy tangle. When the four musicians are Joe McPhee (soprano), Joe Giardullo (bass clarinet and soprano), Michael Bisio (bass) and Dominic Duval (bass), the results are not going to be anything like that. This you know if you know these players. Plus in 1999 this was a working aggregate, so they were not getting together for the first time. That is on the CD No Greater Love (CIMP 209), which I happen to be listening to lately as part of my extra-curricular enjoyment.

It's the Joe McPhee Bluette of the era, at Cadence studios in upstate New York to record an album of music of the spiritual-soul side of things. They did that. It came out as In the Spirit (CIMP 199). They in the course of making that album recorded more than they had intended, including music that was outside the concept of that album.

The other, spontaneous expressions, one spiritual, one standard and sequences of rather brilliant collective improvisations, were captured and put out as the album at hand.

Here we have inspired music making by four masters of the improvisatory arts. All four come through with improvisations worthy of their reputation. In the course of the session advantage was taken of the various combinations possible--reed solo, reed duet, reed and bass duet, one or more basses alone, all four, etc.

There is subtlety and there is excitement, structure and spontaneous freedom, tradition and innovation, things we have come to expect from the four artists and are in full abundance here. The expectations one has when two of jazz's most accomplished bassists and two of the most original and creative reedists pair together are met fully on this disk.

One for the ages? A remarkable gathering in any event.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Szilard Mezei Vocal Ensemble, Fujj szel, Zenta, visszhangozz szel!, 2011

Today in our rough-and-tumble survey of the Not Two label releases by jazz composer-violist-bandleader Szilard Mezei, we come to an ambitious offering by the Szilard Mezei Vocal Ensemble entitled Fujj szel, Zenta, visszhangozz szel! (Not Two 883-2).

It's a full disk of Szilard's large ensemble doing five of his pieces. Kinga Mezei presides as vocalist and she has a hearty, earthy voice that carries nicely over the ensemble and sounds quite lovely as well. The ensemble for this outing is Szilard on viola plus Rankovic on alto sax and bass clarinet, Bede on tenor sax and clarinet, Burany on baritone and soprano, Aksin on trombone, Aleksic on piano, Papista on tuba, Malina on doublebass and Csik on drums.

It is a lively blend of musical colors that Szilard makes full use of, and there are solid avant improvisers to take the spotlight and carry the day when needed.

The disk stands out for its very intriguing, substantial large ensemble new jazz compositions, the distinctive sound of the band, Szilard's working of traditional Hungarian, eastern European folk elements into the mix here and there, and the improvisational heft of the band as a whole.

It is music that is very original, and as such difficult to describe in words. It's very beautiful, and this is an excellent album. If you are looking for something different on the new jazz scene, here it is!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Igor Lumpert Trio, Innertextures Live

Igor Lumpert's well-conceived tenor improvisations, Christhopher Tordini's virtuoso bass anchorage and Nasheet Wait's fire-y and accomplished drum statements are on full display for their live at the 52nd Ljubljana Jazz Festival set in 2011, recorded and released as Innertextures Live (Clean Feed 257).

It's first-rate post-bop, seven Lumpert blowing vehicles that give the set a very contemporary slant. The three are most definitely inspired to do their best, a swinging, forward lurching six-legged improvisational creature of delight.

Tordini and Waits meld into classic tight-loose propulsiveness and stay there throughout. Igor lets loose with inspired improvisations that show influences as diverse as Rollins and Rivers, yet grounded in pure Lumpert.

It's a hell of a nice go. Happy surprise! Good listening.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vlatkovich Tryyo, Pershing Woman

Trombone avantist Michael Vlatkovich comes through with a sterling live trio set on the recent Pershing Woman (pfMentum 071). Michael teams up with two game players for lots of kinetic fireworks on this one. Jonathan Golove's electric cello gives the band a lighter-than-air foundation that seems to free the band for a lofty flight path. He can bow with Michael's bone in heads for an interesting sound or of course pizz away like a tenor bassist. He forms a good part of the melodic-harmonic motion of the band and does it well. Damon Short swings along quite nicely throughout on drums. He engages Jonathan for rhythm propulsion and spurs on Michael and Jonathan for their forward moving solo spots.

And Michael Vlatkovich! Through his well-positioned outbopping compositions and rough and tumble trombone anarchy he maintains his stature on Pershing Woman as one of the outstanding trombonists and bandleaders active today in the new jazz.

It's an album that captures a lively gig and shows the trio in full flower. Lend an ear.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fred Londberg-Holm's Fast Citizens, Gather

The latest CD from Fred Lonberg-Holm's Fast Citizens is a corker. It's called Gather (Delmark 2017). This is a coterie of Chicago jazzmen who can play, led by Fred who can also write. All but two of the numbers were written and arranged by Londberg-Holm and they work very well with the players at hand. The front line is a potent mix of Aram Shelton, alto sax and clarinet, Keefe Jackson at the tenor and bass clarinet, Josh Berman, cornet, and Fred, cello and tenor guitar. When backed up by the one-two thrust of Anton Hatwich and Frank Rosaly (bass and drums, respectively) this is one heady mix. There are group improvisations of an exhilarating kind, very good individual solo spots and arrangements/comps showing lots of imaginative creativity.

The group has character--every player is a fully developed improviser with a sound, and Fred uses that and their abilities to build impressive performances that are out and structured at the same time.

There is point in the final cut, "Roses" where it sounds as if everyone is on trumpet and that is pretty funny!! But otherwise this is seriously good avant jazz from strong players (and writers). It gets down to business carving out seven niches of exciting avant jazz, showing you why Chicago is still a major center for the music. Get this one by all means.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

John Clark, Song of Light, 1978

John Clark, master French hornist, sideman with such titan outfits as the big bands of Carla Bley, Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner and Charlie Mingus, did an album of his own in 1978. I am sad to say I missed it that time around but glad to say I am catching it as a new reissue. Song of Light is available again as a CD on Composers Concordance (009).

It's John on (sometimes multi-dubbed) French horn, Michael Cochrane on piano, Ron McClure on bass and Victor Lewis on drums.

Clark and company attack seven of his compositions, which turns out have some definite bite and substance to them (he studied with George Russell as a student). They are in a kind of funk-rock zone especially current at the time, but the melodic-harmonic architecture Clark builds around the beat is significant and worthwhile and of course his horn playing is exemplary as well as soulful.

It's a good listen, even after all these years.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Josh Berman and His Gang, There Now

Cornetist Josh Berman gets good ideas. Then he does something good with them. For There Now (Delmark 2016) he's gathered together some of his heaviest Chicago running buddies: Jeb Bishop, Guillermo Gregorio, Jason Stein, Keefe Jackson, Jason Adasiewicz, Joshua Abrams and Frank Rosaly...then gone and rethought some classic Chicago jazz and built some new pieces around those re-thinks.

So we have tunes mostly associated with Austin High Gang members, especially some Eddie Condon recordings from the late twenties, and new Berman pieces. All take on the possibilities of the old meeting the free-out-arranged music that Berman and his cohorts favor.

The result is music that rollicks, rolls, and generally exuberates musical joy of a most extroverted sort. The old-new conjunction works well with the caliber of players here and the arrangements are loose and conducive of collective and individual excellence.

Check out their versions of "Sugar," "Jada" and "I've Found A New Baby" and you'll hear all kinds of elements in play, an out soulfulness that makes "avant old" make perfectly good sense.

It's a damned fine album. One of the best of the year, I think. You should hear it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sonny Simmons, Francois Tusques, Near the Oasis, Live at Vision Festival 16, 2011

The best album that Sonny Simmons and/or Francois Tusques ever made? Near the Oasis (Improvising Beings ib10) may not be that. It is a kinetically charged meeting of the two at the 2011 Vision Fest in New York.

It starts with a kind of cosmic thing with Sonny on English Horn, Francois at the piano, and that's the finest moment of the set because it puts them both in a place they've never quite been, together or alone.

From there a remarkable look backwards with four bop standards: Monk's "Round Midnight" and "Bolivar Blues" plus the old standbys "Theme for Ernie" and "Night in Tunisia".

Bird, Monk, blues and bop, Sonny and Francois show their roots in convincing ways here. When traditionally out players tackle the older material, it can be quite interesting to hear. Sonny and Francois do most certainly NOT play rulebook bop here. It's the notes they want in there, what they hear, not just those that Bud and Bird would have played. So it has the exhilarating moments where they expand the tonality and widen the channel, so to speak.

It's a worthwhile performance, sure to appeal to Simmons and Tusques fans as something different, a one-off that may never be repeated and has its many charms.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Greg Lewis Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black

Greg Lewis and his Organ Monk project/ensemble return for more with Uwo in the Black (self-released). It's the music of Thelonious Monk...for Greg Lewis' organ quartet, you dig? And in the process Lewis puts in some of his own numbers, which works. "In the Black--My Nephew" is a rather touching ballad, for example.

So the band is Lewis of course on organ, Ronald Jackson on guitar, Reginald R. Woods on tenor and Nasheet Waits on drums. They are loose and up for it on this session, filled with the spirit and letting loose. And they tackle some of the less traveled Monk-ways with "Skippy," "Teo," "Bright Mississippi" and "Ugly Beauty."

Everyone is on the bean and Nasheet kicks it up a couple of notches for Lewis to soar over. So we can bask in the radiating heat. This is Organ Monk at its best. And that's really something to hear!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Szilard Mezei Trio; Barmikor, Most (Anytime, Now), 2006

Szilard Mezei's Barmikor, Most (Anytime, Now) (Not Two 794-2) provides listeners with an up-close earful of Szilard's original viola style in a lively trio setting. Ervin Malina's bass playing is a key part of the mix, as his arco playing matches Szilard's for ostinatos and such, and he is otherwise quite pleasingly articulate. Istvan Csik drums through the set with a freewheeling exuberance that fits the music.

Szilard Mezei shows us here why he is a violist in the free realm that needs to be taken seriously as an innovator, a composer of stature, and a bandleader that brings out the best in his well-chosen cohorts.

Another good one!

Monday, October 1, 2012

David Bixler, The Nearest Exit May Be Inside Your Head

David Bixler, alto saxophonist, writer of music, bandleader, steps forward on his The Nearest Exit May Be Inside Your Head (Zoho 201206). It's thoughtful mainstream by a quintet--Bixler, John Hart, guitar, Scott Wendholdt, trumpet, Ugonna Okegwo, bass, and Andy Watson, drums. They wrap themselves in 10 Dixler originals, in the process getting a good group interplay and worthwhile soloing.

Bixler has a Bird-through-McLean-Cannonball-and-Woods feel to his playing without copping licks. And of course that's rare. He gets good wood on the ball, so to speak, throughout. Wendholdt holds his own on trumpet with hip articulation and nice sound. John Hart comps and solos with facility. The rhythm team of Okegwo and Watson come out with solid strutting and get a momentum going in fine fashion.

Hard bop and beyond is where this goes. It's a twist on what's been done before. It avoids the cliches of the genre and showcases some serious players, Bixler at the front of them. Give it an ear.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Donato Bourassa Lozano Tanguay, Autour de Bill Evans

Autour de Bill Evans (Effendi Records) brings together four of Montreal's accomplished jazz musicians in a homage and reworking of the music and musical conception of the late Bill Evans. Unlike some tribute albums, this music stands on its own as top-tier jazz in its own right.

First, the players: Frank Lozano, tenor saxophone, Francois Bourassa, piano, Michel Donato, acoustic bass, and Pierre Tanguay, drums. All have quite obviously listened closely to and absorbed the impact of the Bill Evans style. There are notable Evans compositions, things Bill played in his career, a Bourassa original, and something called "Sno Peas" by Phil Markowitz.

The music consists of wholly integral improvisations/group forays into the advanced harmo-melodic mode that Evans made so much out of. The quartet format expands the Evans style and thanks to Lozano's limber facility, expands the sound and gives it a furtherance that a trio might not. But all the players sound great.

This is music of definite impact, improvisation of a very high order, and music Bill Evans would have dug.

Hear it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sylvain Guerineau, Didier Lasserre, Jean Rougier, Ligne

Sylvain Guerineau (tenor), Didier Lasserre (drums) and Jean Rougier (bass) have done something on their album Ligne (Improvising Beings ib12) that isn't done too much these days: make a free-avant jazz album in a ballad mode. Of course Paul Bley did some masterful examples long ago, and Ayler and Shepp could be devastating in this mode, but lately there hasn't been that much, has there?

And of course the bare fact that these three players have done it wouldn't matter if they didn't come through with some invigorating improvisations. But they do.

The three are not well-known in the States. Perhaps this will help. Sylvain Guerineau is much the star of this session. He has ideas, a lithe, slinky approach and a rich tone that goes well with the music. Lasserre and Rougier add much in the three-way dialog that continues throughout. But Sylvain stands out as the lead voice most of the time.

It's an album you might not expect coming out on the Improvising Beings label. But then the label is showing itself to take a refreshing "why not?" stance on what releases I've heard of theirs so far. So unexpected is not completely unexpected.

This is very listenable, very enjoyable trio music. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Richard Sussman Quintet, Continuum

What is mainstream jazz today? Well not Zoot and Al. It's absorbed that. It's absorbed what Trane and Miles were doing. It has listened to Jarrett, Metheny, Hancock, and what's been going on in general and does something with it. It has a lot of hard bop roots. It swings. And the soloists, if it's done right, take a tradition and extend it in personal ways.

The Richard Sussman Quintet's Continuum (Origin 82618) serves as a very good example. Richard Sussman's accomplished piano, synth and compositions are joined by an impressive lineup of Randy Brecker, Jerry Bergonzi, Mike Richmond, Jeff Williams and a guest spot for Mike Stern.

They do what they do, and they do it well, of course. The compositions give it a kind of substance that goes beyond a blowing date and into an original contribution.

Now if they would take it out a little...well they do a hair now and again...but no that's not really what this is. It's very good though.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Construction Party, Instruments of Change

Today, a quartet recording in the avant vein by four formidable exponents of the new jazz who, as it turns out, work very well together. They call the quartet Construction Party. The album is dubbed Instruments of Change (Not Two 852-2)

It's Forbes Graham on trumpet, Dave Rempis, alto, Pandelis Karayorgis, piano, and Luther Gray, drums. Now that works out well. Graham has good melodic improv ideas that range over the whole horn. Dave Rempis, as followers or the music know, is his own man on alto. Pandelis Karayorgis is one of the important pianists out there now with a percussive attack and, important for this bass-less group, an ability to play inventive, innovative lines with both hands independently. So he sometimes has a kind of pianistic bass line going that complements the drumming. The latter is handled adeptly by Luther Gray, who has power and a very effective time-freetime sense.

There are eight numbers; each bandmember composes two. They are of the abstracted avant head sort and work well in setting up the blowing. There are moments where Rempis and Karayorgis solo together that got my attention, but everybody has a chance to intermingle collectively and individually in good ways.

It's top-notch new avant jazz. So of course I recommend it.