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.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Aram Shelton Quartet, Everything for Somebody

There's a loose confederation of Chicago jazz performer-composers at work making exciting music these days in various combinations and altoist Aram Shelton is one of them, though he is Californian much of the time chronologically. He steps forward with a quartet offering (the second album with this lineup) on Everything for Somebody (Singlespeedmusic SSM-011).

It's a well-meshed, energized band of Aram, Keefe Jackson on tenor, Anton Hatwich, acoustic bass, and Tim Daisy on drums.

The music on a number of levels takes the legacy of the early Ornette quartets and puts it in an original place. The rhythm section swings with gusto, the Shelton compositions framework the band well and have a kind of mental staying power, and both he and Keefe solo with their own ears wide open.

It's one of those albums that gives me lots of joy to hear. And it combines old-new-thing and new-new-thing for maximum torque.

Give this one a hearing, by all means.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mario Rechtern, Eric Zinman, Zorn

Saxophonist Mario Rechtern I have not heard that often. Eric Zinman I have. On Zorn (Improvising Beings ib07) they set sail into free territory in a series of duets dedicated to singer Linda Sharrock. Mario digs in with swirling and earthy soprano, alto and baritone; Eric responds with maelstroms of cascading piano.

This is music of the energy sort much of the time. It comes off sincerely, effectively and committedly. Rechtern has a sound and an energy level that one might describe as post-Ayler. There's a little of a vibrato and a wealth of overblown sounds and rapid passagework. Zinman has it covered with post-Taylor all-overness, an outness that is by no means easy to put forward on this high level.

Together they work some free-form magic. Will this win a Grammy any time soon? No. But of course music like this doesn't get consideration in those circles. Nonetheless there's plenty of good free blowing to be had here. Mario's baritone, especially, gets an edge that Eric responds to dynamically. But it all gets in your face in marvelous ways. Now I'd love to hear these two with a rhythm section.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Arts & Sciences, New You

From out of Oakland, California comes the ensemble Arts & Sciences and their CD New You (Singlespeed Music SSM-0010). It's eclectic and electric with keys (Michael Coleman) tenor sax and effects (Matt Nelson), alto sax and flute (Jacob Zimmerman) and drums (Jordan Glenn) comprising the ensemble.

This is composition-centered prog jazz. The press sheet cites Sun Ra, Tim Berne and the Curtains as influences, but one might also detect a sound that reminds a little of later Soft Machine as well as perhaps a little Zappa.

There are some nice odd-time-meter riffs, contrapuntal line weaving, freebop linings, a little of the heft of rock and overall a genuinely creative approach. It's less directed toward solo than ensemble, but that works given the ambitious compositional content.

This is seriously good music that's worth your time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Zusaan Kali Fasteau (Kali. Z. Fasteau), Worlds Beyond Words, 1987-89

In our continuing look at Kali. Z. Fasteau's music we have today what appears to be the first CD release on her Flying Note label (9001), Worlds Beyond Words from 1987-89.

It is one of the finest of her albums from a solo perspective, she contributes very characteristic cosmic tones on sanza, soprano, vocals, piano, ney, shakuhachi, kaval, mizmar and berimbau.
She is most notably and effectively joined by the great Rashied Ali on drums, Bob Cunningham on contrabass, Elizabeth Panzer, harp, James C. Jamison, guitar, David Cornick, percussion, and Paul Leake on tabla. The group members come in and out as needed, with Kali being the primary focus.

Rashied sounds great, all members contribute effectively, but this is Kali in a more front-and-center context than is sometimes the case. She comes through with individuality, conviction and free, yet focused energy. And it presents a free-world ethos in the tradition of John Coltrane's and Don Cherry's pace-setting music. There are memorable moments throughout--beautifully atmospheric flute, Trane-dedicated soprano, nice piano spotlights and vocals that project well and open up a sound world to us.

If you want to know where Kali is musically, this may be the best place to begin. It's a goodie.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chemical Clock EP

Chemical Clock is the name of the EP that fills the digital grooves of a recent Table and Chairs disk (004). It's electric (principally via the effects sometimes coming from Cameron Sharif's keys), avant, a little free and tightly packed with arranged barrages--in a manner one might dub post-prog jazz.

With Sharif are Ray Larsen, trumpet, who adds a distinctive personality to the sound, along with the rhythm team of Mark Hunter on bass and Evan WoodLe, drums. Together they make for a convincing ensemble.

There's plenty of well constructed music to be heard in the 20-something minutes playing time on offer here. It's not fluff, not commercial pap. It's serious about itself and with consistency comes through nicely.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jeff Shurdut, Gene Janas, Marc Edwards, Bound and Gagged

Jeff Shurdut has been very profilic in the past decade or so, mingling and co-projecting with many of avant jazz's finest. This one, Bound and Gagged (Improvising Beings ib 11) with bassist Gene Janas and drummer Marc Edwards, is one of his most unusual and innovative.

What strikes you about the album on repeated listenings is how tightly sequenced it is. There is a great variety of musically out combinations, skronk guitar, contrabass, and thrashing drums, vocal outburst, sax and drums, drum soliloquies, bowed tones, and more, all coming at you in a rather exciting series of quickly moving segments. It has a bit of a punk attitude, something of the Flying Luttenbachers about it yet more devoted to the free zone.

Jeff is impressive on guitar and sax without sounding schooled, Gene has an all-over bass throb that fits perfectly and he gives us some nice moments of arco color too, and Marc's drumming is advanced and very impassioned.

It's a devilishly progressive free sort of program that's not out to impress you so much with how hot the players are as with what kind of sound-art they can pull together with spontaneity, depth and contrast. Whooo!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jimmy Mulidore and His New York City Jazz Band, Featuring Richie Cole and Randy Brecker, DVD

Jimmy Mulidore, multi-reed man, presents his New York City Jazz Band (self-released) in a DVD of a lengthy live set.

Jimmy plays alto, tenor, soprano, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet with fluidity. He is joined by ringers Richie Cole on alto and Randy Brecker, trumpet, in an octet rounded out with good players.

It's a night of jazz and jazz-associated standards, from "Lush Life" to "A Love Supreme" and lots of blowing. Mulidore acquits himself in fine fashion. He's a bit more modern than Richie Cole, but he doesn't have as much of the fleet Bird-Woods bopping presence. Randy Brecker is in top form and makes this date especially worth hearing.

The sound is decent, visuals quite acceptable and the set digs in with live jazz of the long blowing sort. Nice to hear, even if it may not change jazz history.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sumi Tonooka, Now, Live at the Howland Cultural Center

Sumi Tonooka is a pianist that to me demonstrates how one can have a certain eclecticism and yet stand apart from the imitators. She is in every way a modern left-of-mainstream player, but her imagination and keen ear for the interesting line, the interesting chordal spelling puts her in a place apart.

This she shows with some brilliance on the 2-CD set Now, Solo Live at the Howland Cultural Center (ARC 2369). The first disk concentrates on standards and it is fine music. But the second disk, devoted in the main to her own compositions, shines the brightest.

Sumi Toonoka studied with Boston legends Madam Chaloff and Charlie Banacos before embarking on her career. She has a sure pianism at her fingertips which in part indicates she benefited from the tutelage. But there's of course more to it. Sumi shows us on this set that she has absorbed the classic-modern tradition and made it her own.

This is a beautiful recital, captured in full sound. All who enjoy a fully spontaneous solo piano set will appreciate her mastery, which is quite nicely on display for the release.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Virginia Mayhew Quartet, Mary Lou Williams--The Next 100 Years

The next 100 years. . . where will we be? Chances are pretty solid that I and anybody reading this will be gone from this earth under the best of circumstances. What about the music we call jazz? I am pretty certain that Mary Lou Williams will still be remembered, maybe more so than she is right now. And so it is fitting that she be honored, and she is, on Virginia Mayhew's Mary Lou Williams--The Next 100 Years (Renma 6402).

It is in celebration of Mary Lou William's 100th birthday. Virginia has put together a program of Williams compositions, both well-known and obscure, plus two pieces by Mayhew herself in dedication.

It's Virginia on tenor, Ed Cherry on electric guitar, Harvie S on the upright and Andy Watson on drums, joined on several cuts by special guest trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. They are in excellent form throughout. I don't know Mayhew's work very well but I am impressed with her here. She plays a pure-toned tenor with bop/postbop imagination and the rest of the band cooks right along superbly.

The Williams compositions are arranged straightforwardly to bring out the essence of her music, Virgina's originals fit in well and sound well as well, and the solos have conviction and weight.

It's a fine recording. It made a Virginia Mayhew believer out of me. So quite obviously I recommend it to you!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Jonah Parzen-Johnson, Michiana

As much as there are ever multiplying performances of new jazz from solo instruments to quartets and the largest ensembles, the music does not stand still. Like with its cousin "classical" music, every type of grouping develops a body of music and performers that carve out a vocabulary/vocabularies in a never-ending series of works and cross-fertilizations. Classical music has its string quartet, for example; avant jazz has the unaccompanied sax performance.

And so we turn today to the latter in the solo baritone sax CD of Jonah Parzen-Johnson, Michiana (Primary PR 005). I do not know very much about Parzen-Johnson save that he appears to be Philadelphia-based. The music is another issue altogether.

Michiana takes some time to absorb. There is for much of the performance time a long and winding melodic presentation in a kind of easy lope. At first hearing it seems almost random; subsequent hearings bring out a connectedness you may not hear at first. There's a little of Roscoe Mitchell in that, but mostly in occasional phrasings that have a certain irony, a humorously direct way.

Jonah gets a rich multi-toned depth to his bari sound, with overtones and multiphonics combining with the more pure tones in ways that expand the music gradually and effectively. Eventually a rather rapidly deployed riff enters the picture and Jonah solos/comments overtop it after a time via digital delay.

The final two pieces use multi-layering for a larger, electronically altered sound, one a soundscape, the other an out-funk fragment. Both work off of motifs developed in the earlier sections and both serve to cap off the CD with directions proposed in a tantalizing post-ludian sort of way.

This is an original foray into solo territory. It manages to be thematically significant as it is also spontaneous and sonically diverse. It may not be for everybody but should be heard by anyone interested in the unaccompanied saxophone improvisation as an art form.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Szilard Mezei Szabad Quintet, Singing Elephant

There are artists active today whose music unfolds before our eyes, whose every new release shows development and growth. Szilard Mezei, violist, composer and bandleader, is such an artist.

His latest focuses on his Szabad Quintet and is entitled Singing Elephant (Not Two 893-2). It's Szilard along with Peter Bede on tenor, Adam Meggyes on trumpet, Erno Hock on double bass, and Hunor G. Szabo, drums. It's a generous set of six Mezei compositions, played with concentrated verve by the quintet.

This is avant jazz to be sure, new-thing-like in the often freely articulated compositional renderings and in the collective/individual solos. Yet it has the distinctive mark of the Mezei approach. It is original. And it is a very good listen.

Each member of the quintet brings something to the music, Mezei's sometimes dark, sometimes astringent viola, Bede's full-bodied, full-ranged tenor, Meggyes' puckish horn work, Hock's expressively noteful bass foundations, and Szabo's intelligently free drumming. This is a band with a sound. And that is typical of Szilard's approach--he chooses players who work well as a sound-unit as much as they solo with individuality. And Szilard's arrangements pit various combinations of players together in contrasting and variable ways. The band manages to evoke some of the classical free jazz outfits of the '60s (NY Contemporary Five, for example) while forging ahead with where we are right now. Needless to say that makes for music I like to hear.

This is some very fine music. It's avant jazz with brains and edge. And it showcases Szilard Mezei's ever evolving approach. Very much recommended.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bad Luck, Two, 2011

Bad Luck, as I noted a few days ago in my review of their recent EP (see earlier posting), is Neil Welch on reeds (here tenor, soprano, and bass clarinet) and loops and effects; plus Chris Icasiano on drums (and on this set, Glockenspiel). The two CD set for this morning, Two (Table and Chairs 006), brings us to their most ambitious outing to date.

The first disk, "Bats," concentrates on the acoustic-free aspect of the duo and it comes off well. The second, "Josephine," combines more compositional and effects-oriented sounds with the freedom approach and is especially original.

Neil gets a wide range of sounds out of his reeds, from "the big sound" to highly evolved varieties of harmonics and overtone/multi-tone timbres. Christopher is a drummer of dramatic a-temporal figures that suit the reed work well and can abstract effectively in union with Neil in compositional passages.

"Josephine" builds sounds, parses them, loops them and brings effective contrasts. Both disks are lively and filled with content. "Josephine" is the more original and innovative.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sonny Simmons, Delphine Latil, Symphony of the Peacocks, 2011

This is not your typical Sonny Simmons album. It's him on cor anglais and alto, Delphine Latil on harp, a little studio manipulation of the sound at the beginning, and a cosmic approach in general. Symphony of the Peacocks (Improvising Beings ib04) is so well done that you don't miss the "other" Sonny of fire and heat.

And after all, he's done similar excursions on Manhattan Egos and Burning Spirits, just not in such concentrated form as here.

Latil's harp and the kind of quasi-eastern sound of the whole at first brings to mind classic Alice Coltrane. And such comparisons are not out of place. But ultimately there is a LOT of pure Sonny here, and Delphine Latil has her own, somewhat more linear melodic approach on harp.

Symphony of the Peacocks occupies a singular place, so far as I know, in Sonny Simmons' output. It is quite beautiful and there is much to explore here. Go to a new world with this one and stay for a while. You'll come back refreshed and rejuvenated, I will be willing to bet.