Tuesday, April 30, 2013

FUSK, Super Kasper

The reasons FUSK are interesting are all the more clear on their new album Super Kasper (Why Play Jazz RS009). It's their sound for one. Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, Philipp Gropper on tenor saxophone play intricate counterpoint with the sound colors and attack of post-Dolphy and post-Simmons. It's a hard sonorous blend made all the better by the quality of the lines they articulate together, both written and improvised. The compositions are pithy and sharply bittersweet, having angular elements worthy of Lacy and Dolphy as lineage mates, with a shifting rhythmic intensity Mingus would have appreciated. There are three group improvisations and the formal compositions are (well) written by drummer Kasper Tom Christiansen.

The rhythm section of Christiansen and bassist Andreas Lang work together with soul and precision, engaging in wondrous rhythmic shadowboxing together. There are continually shifting accents that the two handle with ease while still deftly implying and/or articulating a loping outside swing feeling.

The individual solo work of Mahall and Gropper is challenging and worthwhile, expanding outwards with stay-the-course originality.

Leader Kaspar Tom C. has managed to found a quartet utterly distinguished by the personalities of the players. . . and Kaspar's energetic, rollicking vision of how a band can swing wildly and be filled with outside expressiveness throughout.

This new album is even better than the last. Listen and you will be transported to a Super Kaspar-land, a very good place to be indeed.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Steve Slagle, Evensong

Steve Slagle has paid all the dues and more, and emerged as a saxophone mother! Listen to him on alto and soprano on his new Evensong (Panorama 004). It's there!

Three things are happening that make this album superior to the usual. One: Slagle and Dave Striker's interaction and solo prowess. Striker is some guitarist of course and shows it here. Two: the larger-than-life swing of a great rhythm section of Ed Howard on bass and McClenty Hunter at the drums. Hunter is a kicker! And Howard holds it together with style and heat. Third: a set of very game compositions by Slagle and a few also by Stryker, and then a beautiful version of Strayhorn's "Star-Crossed Lovers" with a moving Hodges tributorial nod.

It's the sort of CD you'll want to pull out to clear out the cobwebs and remind yourself why you were attracted to jazz in the first place. It has that kind of immediacy. Wow.

Chris Massey & the NJP, Whosoever

Mainstream jazz has been at a crossroads for many years now. Some of it is troublesome to me because it does not have the fire, passion or conviction for the forms it takes on. The players in question seemingly have dutifully learned the changes to a bunch of standard jazz and songbook works and simply played over them according to a set of rulebook guidelines, it seems, and in those cases, there is a mannerist tendency that doesn't always make for good listening, or original, good jazz.

Drummer Chris Massey and his NJP do not have that problem. They play a firy later Blue Note era form of mainstream with definite conviction and skill. This is on their album Whosoever (Power Cosmic 8131).

Massey writes very good originals and they form the centerpiece to the disk. The band also tackles standards like "Old Devil Moon," jazz evergreens like "Giant Steps" and things less played these days too, like Roland Kirk's "Pedal Up." And then there are some newer jazz compositions by others, notably one by Jeff "Tain" Watt.

All this works because the band has gotten inside the music and lived it--pianist Willerm Delisfort with a bit of a Tyneresque feel in the left hand and good solo instincts, Chris Taleo with a solid foundational bass anchorage, the one-two punch of front liners Adam Larson on tenor and soprano, with a Trane-and-after sensibility that is evolved without sounding like the flavor of the day, and trumpetist Benny Benack III with a brass-proud exuberance and extroversion that fits the style to perfection.

Chris Massey has a great swinging time-role to fill which he does with distinction. His solo shots will surprise and please you, too.

What's especially important is that the music comes at you as the real thing. There is no feeling that you are eating yesterday's mashed potatoes reheated, so to speak.

And so it makes for great listening.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Daniel Humair, Sweet & Sour

Daniel Humair has been on the scene so long I have become guilty of taking him for granted. That I shouldn't was brought home full-force when I listened to his new album Sweet & Sour (Laborie LJ19).

Daniel of course prevails on the drums, ever the subtle colorist, man of steel, skin and wood. He fields an excellent quartet for the date: Jerome Regard on contrabass, Emile Parisien on saxophones, and Vincent Peirani on accordion.

The accordion gives the band a distinctive flair. Peirani plays it with a harmonic and melodic freedom and intelligent soul that's pretty remarkable to hear. This is one schooled cat! Parisien has a good interactive sense and sounds very strong on soprano and tenor. Regard has fine musical instincts and gets the bottom end moving while working especially well with Humair. And Daniel is a firebrand with brains.

The compositional material is ambitious, filled with substance and rhythmic complexities. They are mostly collective creations. There's also one by Jane Ira Bloom, one by a Thomas Newman, and a pair each by Parisien and Peirani.

This is a sleeper of an album. It will be easy to overlook in the shuffle of continual releases and demands for your ear-time. But it is an excellent go. You should not miss it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daniel Bennett Group, Clockhead Goes to Camp

The Daniel Bennett Group is transforming, but from what to what? The somewhat quirky originality of the band's music, written by Daniel, is the source of the what. Their new one, Clockhead Goes to Camp (Manhattan Daylight Media 010), has almost a Baltic dance feel to it, with the sometimes irregular meters and handclaps emphasizing the irregular beat-centers. Beyond that it is melodically straightforward and appealing. These are tuneful tunes. The band gets into them with zest and a distinctive personality. Bennett himself plays some quite nice alto, flute and clarinet here, jazzed but also working within the modal-diatonic frameworks as appropriate, outside of that when it seems appropriate. Mark Cochea plays a somewhat pure-toned electric guitar with a hint of early-to-mid '60s rock. And he solos with a disarming post-Methany tastefulness.

The rhythm team has a good churning straight-eight variability going, Peter Brender on contrabass playing around the song structures with a nice sound, drummer Tyson Stubelek getting lucid in an almost post-surf village mode.

There's one vocal that has digital pitch robotocizing. And it fits in fine here where elsewhere it might not. For the rest this is original music that has a very likable way about it. It's a kind of folk-jazz if you want a label. And it is well worth some ear-time. The album is out now as a download, shortly as a CD.

For a short video about Daniel, his band and the new CD go to this You Tube address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ub1iDx1O5pY

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, YAD

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut gets a froth whipped up for his avant ensemble on the JaZt Tapes CD-rom YAD (036). Jeffrey has something going on alto in tandem with a fairly large eight-piece ensemble that includes contrabass, electric guitar, bass clarinet, drums, violin, trombone and tuba (doubling on flugelhorn and pocket trumpet). The music is entirely extemporized, so it would seem. This is a creative bunch so it's not according to any formula.

It's a patented Shurdut free blow-out with plenty of room for texture and color. There is a live ambiance that comes out of the Downtown Gallery, NYC, performance (on July, 2012) that this CD documents.

If you like the free zone with the heft of a larger ensemble you will like this.

This, as all JaZt Tapes, is a limited artist's promotional release. Go to http://www.janstrom.se/6.-recordings/6.3.-jazt-tapes-6267605 for more information.

Craig Taborn Trio, Chants

Pianist Craig Taborn is on a roll. He's been really coming into his own of late. Now with a trio recording, Chants (ECM 2326), he puts it all together. Craig brings in Thomas Morgan on acoustic bass and Gerald Cleaver at the drums.

The trio get to it with a set of nicely thought-out originals. Craig uses a variety of pianistic devices all in original ways. In addition to the contemporary post-bop/avant/harmonically sophisticated pallet of techniques there is at times a contrapuntal approach, minimalist repetition and an all-over sense of adventure throughout.

Some gorgeous ballad playing alternates with energetic forays.

The entire album is a model of what a modern piano trio can be all about, and most certainly is here. It bears the stamp of originality and at the same time envelops the listener in sounds to enrich and enliven.

And the ECM sound is fabulous.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sudo Quartet, Live at Banlieue Bleue, Leandre, Zingaro, Tramontana, Lovens

The Sudo Quartet brings the delightful avant virtuosity of bassist Joelle Leandre into a formidable quartet setting with Carlos Zingaro on violin, Sebi Tramontana on trombone, and drummer vet Paul Lovens. They have a nicely performed CD out Live at Banlieue Bleue (No Business NBCD 51) that I have been listening to with interest. The band holds forth in March of 2011, live and extemporaneously inspired.

The sound chemistry is excellent thanks to Leandre's inimitable presence on bass and vocals, the soul and sound dynamics of Tramontana, Zingaro as a multi-stopped and vigorous foil to Leandre, and Lovens with his dynamic sound color tumbling.

The personalities and color-tones of the artists and their somewhat unusual instrumentation puts it all together. Any aspiring bassist should listen closely to Joelle. Everyone interested in avant jazz should give this one a spin!

Albert Mangelsdorff Quintett, Legends Live, Audimax Freiburg, 1964

Albert Mangelsdorff's Quintet of 1964 was a beautiful thing. The band played new jazz versions of Asian pieces and original compositions reflecting the melodic feel of Asian music, from Ravi Shankar to Indonesia to Japan.

The quintet was a well healed outfit with Mangelsdorff of course on trombone, Heinz Sauer on tenor and soprano sax, Gunter Kronberg on alto sax, Gunter Lenz on contrabass and Ralf Hubner on drums. They released several excellent LPs that did not get much distribution in the States (to my knowledge) at the time. It was only in the later '80s that I caught up with them.

The band used the pianoless format that Ornette had made so critical an element of new thing jazz and the rhythm section had something of the force and drive of the Haden plus Blackwell or Higgins lineup of Ornette's classic group. Mangelsdorff played in a pre-multiple tone fashion that showed already that he was in his own class. In Sauer and Kronberg he had stylistically sympathetic and quite good soloists and of course the makings of a three-horn frontline that were especially prominent in working through the head structures of the pieces in the band's repertoire.

On June 22, 1964 they played a concert at Audimax Freiburg which happily was recorded in excellent sound. The master tapes have been transferred to digital format and are now available as a Jazzhaus CD (101 706), Legends Live, Audimax Freiburg.

It is I must say a thrill to hear the band in such beautiful audio quality, live and in their prime. They run through their "world jazz" repertoire in 70 minutes of inspired soloing, hard driving swing and beautifully performed arrangements.

Whether or not you have the original record releases you will find this CD enthralling I suspect, a revelation perhaps, and otherwise a fantastic go for the Quintet. It's indispensable listening.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Guy Klucevsek, Polka From the Fringe

Avant polka, new thing polka, dada polka, minimalist polka, punk-skronk polka, tongue-in-polka, metal polka, polka polka, who would put all that together better than Guy Klucevsek, accordion master and conceptual audio-artist (aka musician on the fringe)? And so we have this to ponder, dance and live to on a two-CD set, Polka From the Fringe (Starkland ST-218).

Guy, his accordion, his iconoclastic take on tradition and various musician-composers of like mind take the aural stage for 29 polkas inside-out, inside and outside. There are folks contributing from the cream of the new music and avant jazz scene, for example Elliott Sharp, Peter Garland, Bobby Previte, Mary Ellen Childs, Anthony Coleman, Tom Cora, Fred Frith, Phillip Johnston, just to name a few.

They run through a madcap array of Polka-induced creativity segments. Anything goes, with the constant of Guy's accordion centering it all. It's a funny-serious launching pad of all kinds of antics that will fascinate, satisfy, tickle and give contentual flesh to all manner of downtown and out-of-town polka rebirthing.

It's just the thing if you want something different and Guy is the one to pull it all together. Lawrence Welk never sounded like this!

Patty Waters, College Tour, 1966

Patty Waters was ahead of her time, a vocalist in the free jazz, new thing zone, a whisperer, a screamer, a poet of the vocal chords. She and Abbey Lincoln, then also Jeannie Lee, set in motion a tidal wave of vocal stylists, perhaps slow to crest but steadily surging forward, even today.

Go back to 1966 and that spring, when a number of ESP disk new thing artists went on a college tour which was recorded and produced a number of fine disks. One was Patty Waters' second album, aptly titled College Tour (ESP 1055CD). A new edition remastered is out now as a DL and at the end of the month on CD.

It features Patty with three pianists--Ran Blake, Burton Greene and Dave Burrell, who looking back were about as fantastic a three as one might hope for in those days in the free zone (missing of course Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley, but one cannot have everything. They were no doubt working elsewhere at the time). Giuseppi Logan has some nice but all-too-brief time on the flute. A rhythm section of Perry Lind on bass and Shelly Rusten and/or Scobe Stroman on drums add the final touches.

Her version of "It Never Entered My Mind," with what sounds like Ran Blake on piano, was and is a paradigm for the free recomposing of standards we hear even today. It is a high point of the disk.

The rest is vintage Patty. Anyone with an interest in the roots of avant vocalisms in improvisational music should hear it (and the first record) and those who have heard it for years (like me) will appreciate the remastering.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nouveau Stride, Fourteen, Lorraine Feather and Stephanie Trick

Nouveau Stride, aka Lorraine Feather and Stephanie Trick, had a great idea and they've made it work. Without a stitch of pretentiousness, they've taken some stride classics as written and played by the masters-- James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and combined enthusiastic, swinging stride piano recreations with vocals that sport creative home-made, present-day lyrics.

Their CD Fourteen (ReLarian 1414) puts it all together and it's a joyous album indeed. Here's this slip of a young lady, Ms. Trick, playing stride with the swing and heft of the original masters. And here's Lorraine Feather writing mostly funny, always appropriate lyrics and singing with dead-on musicality, perfect feel, great swing, pitch ever-right, rhythmic and otherwise phrasing impeccability, and a very appealing voice quality.

I grew up on stride from a very early age on, thanks to my father's record collection, and it has always occupied a special place in my heart. So in me Nouveau Stride perhaps has an ideal audience. Since I know the music though I suppose I am also rather critical. In both senses Fourteen won me over almost immediately.

There are a few originals and they are fine. And they stomp out on a boogie-woogie like they were THERE. With their good humor and directed abandon the duo could probably take on the Teddy Bear's Picnic and stride the heck out of it. I suppose it's better that they didn't but you get the idea.

As it is, it is a thrill to hear great Johnson and Waller extended in ways that will I hope keep the music alive for a long time. Ms. Trick is a piano dynamo; Ms. Feather is a warbling songbird with great humor and a real feel for the period. Put the two together and give them fourteen chances to get you rolling, they not only succeed...they triumph. Bravo! Huzzah! If I had a rent party they would be the only choice, if they would deign to come. Yes, sir!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nicole Mitchell's Ice Crystal, Aquarius

Nicole Mitchell has rapidly assumed a position of stature as one of the finest jazz flautists active today. Her string of varied albums in the past few years shows an artist who can lead ensembles of strength and originality and put together compositions that stand out, all the time hitting us with great flutework.

For her latest she takes a kind of look back with an ensemble and sound that has a relationship to the classic Eric Dolphy-Bobby Hutcherson Blue Note sides of years ago. The band is Ice Crystal and the album is Aquarius (Delmark 5004).

It's a fabulous gathering of Nicole, the increasingly central vibist Jason Adasiewicz, Joshua Abrams on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums.

Ten Mitchell originals push the band into some great zones, all swinging and smart. Nicole sounds ravishing and the Adasiewicz comping-soloing style sets her off perfectly. Abrams and Rosaly do all they might be expected to do--subtle swinging, hard and inventive. You can listen to Abrams doing some very hips things in there and Rosaly is a cat anybody would welcome on a gig.

This is another very solid, totally enjoyable building stone in the Nicole N. edifice. It will give her a wider audience, I suspect, and at the same time will not disappoint those of us who have been digging from the beginning.

New York Voices Live, with the WDR Cologne Big Band

The New York Voices are a tastefully tuneful vocal quartet in the tradition of such groups as the Manhattan Transfer. They sing well together and do not revert to the cliches you can hear elsewhere. They team up with a hot WDR Big Band Cologne for a night of very good music on New York Voices Live (Palmetto 2160).

The arrangements are very nicely done, there are some very good soloists in the band, the latter are quite tight and full, and the program gives a solid mix of classics redone and new material. Nelson's "Stolen Moments" sounds glorious with lyrics, and there are nice approaches to some American songbook standards, a Paul Simon tune, and some worthy new fare.

What impresses throughout is the musicianship of all concerned. The WDR bands, thanks to government support, gig and rehearse extensively as I understand, and you can hear that here.

It's something of a hoot. If you like the idea, you are half the way there. They fulfill their end of the deal with a thoroughly enjoyable set.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Group Live, 1986

The Group was a smartly aggregated new jazz avant improv outfit of great distinction. After all, it was Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet, Marion Brown, alto, Billy Bang, violin, Sirone, bass, Fred Hopkins, bass, and Andrew Cyrille on drums. Nice. That so many of them have now passed is a warning to those who think they will live forever. Get your projects in order, leave something behind you'll be proud of.

This band had/has every reason to be proud of what they were doing live in New York, September 1986. The tapes were running and The Group Live (No Business NBCD 50) is the result, a fine slice of this ensemble in fine form, doing various originals, A Butch Morris (RIP) composition and Mingus's perennial Pork Pie.

What is striking is how nicely the group dynamic flowed. It all lays well, relaxed, freely expressive, by all-stars more concerned with playing the music than getting jolts of ego boost. Every one of them were/are more concerned about the music than some sort of cheap aggrandizement. And it shows in the quality of what they did.

And so you get a goodly set of The Group at its best. The recording is clear, balance good and they are on top of it. What was I doing that night that I couldn't be there? Who remembers. Thank No Business for getting this out to us. It gives you something any of us would have been glad to leave behind before we headed for the stars and the great beyond!

Arborea, Fortress of the Sun

Anybody who reveled in folk-psych sounds by artists like Tim Buckley, Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine, Nico, and anon, or even if you have not, Arborea gives you a modern day equivalent and extension, and a very satisfying listening experience. Their latest album, out as DL now, CD at end of month, and vinyl May 28th, Fortress of the Sun (ESP 5002CD), gives you an outstandingly spooky sampling of the cold-passion vocals of Shanti Curran and Buck Curran, plus the nicely weld string playing of both, electric and acoustic guitar, banjo, dulcimer and what have you, plus some backing rhythm as needed.

The songs are top drawer, reveling in the mists of a distant past or folk music of another planet. There are moments of deja vu familiarity--a remelodizing of the Cherry Tree Carol, a melody that reminds of Scarborough Fair, and a general aura of medieval hippie music.

It's simply haunting in the best sort of way. Shanti has an Ophelia-like fragility that has timeless appeal and the acoustic and sometimes band arrangements heighten the mood perfectly.

This album gives me shivers! What can I say? I now would like to hear the rest of their albums; that's what the experience does to me. But this one has a kind of perfection in and of itself. Revel in it!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Willie Buck, Cell Phone Man

Leave it to Delmark Records to keep reminding us that Chicago is far from over as the blues capitol of the world. If you don't know Willie Buck (and I am afraid I didn't) you are in for something nice. He's a singer in the full tradition of the soulful cats like Bland and Muddy and he sings with power on the first album he's made in years, Cell Phone Man (Delmark DE 825).

He's backed significantly by guitarist Rockin' Johnny's band, a hip real-thing aggregate that gives us a tight old-school stomping and some really impressive Rockin' Johnny guitar. You'll recognize some of the tunes--like "Two Trains Running"--and some are new at least to me but they all have that Chicago 1958 raw-tight hipness that is hard to resist.

Yeah Willie Buck! Yeah Rockin' Johnny! Yeah band!

Thomas Borgmann, Wilber Morris, Reggie Nicholson, Nasty & Sweet

The double LP Nasty & Sweet (No Business NBLP 57/58) is a bit of a find, the weighty hard-blowing trio of Euro reedist Thomas Borgmann, bass legend Wilber Morris, and always on high throttle drummer Reggie Nicholson live and in the studio in 1998 and 1999.

It's beautiful to hear these cats going at it on some choice vinyl slabs and that's how I've been feeling listening closely to the sides for the past couple of weeks.

I am not as familiar with Borgmann as I should be, but he impresses me with his hard energy and big tenor sound, his snakish soprano, his wealth of ideas, his ability to sound right in the company of two monster players.

The program of band originals do the right thing--set up the free-wheeling dynamic between all three.

The recording is quite nice sounding and you get plenty of music. I am sorry I didn't get a chance to hear this trio in person, but the next best thing is an expansive recording such as this, freebopping its way into your inner musical mind. It's a big pleasant surprise that will renew your faith that good music is all around, even some we never heard from 15 years ago!

Ron Oswanski, December's Moon

Ron Oswanski is a post-Young B-3 exponent with a fruitful record of associations (from the Maynard Ferguson Big Band to Milt Hinton and Maria Schneider) and a decided stylistic difference. In his formative musical years he became enamored with the ECM sound, especially Jarrett and Garbarek.

So his music has a contemporary post-bop bent that is harmonically full and compositionally lyrical. His playing is far out of the Jimmy Smith grits and gravy thing and more toward a modernity that lets the organ speak a newer vocabulary, and very eloquently at that.

You can hear this happening on his long-in-coming debut album as a leader, December's Moon (Tames Palmetto TR002). With few exceptions it's an album of Oswanski originals, some balladically rhapsodic, some drivingly jazz-rockish and contemporary, and a nuveau Baltic polka (with Oswanski prolific at the accordion).

For the rhythm section he is most ably served by the formidable John Patitucci on acoustic and electric basses and a somewhat less-known but very appropriate Ian Froman on drums.

Jay Azzolina plays some sparkling acoustic and electric guitar, the still great John Abercrombie has things to say on guitar for about half the numbers and Tim Ries plays beautiful tenor and even hipper soprano.

It's progressive jazz that has plenty of compositional and improvisational meat on the musical bone. Everybody comes off sounding great, especially Abercrombie, but it is Oswanski's day in the light, so we get to appreciate his playing and hear a different organ force out there, one most welcome and singularly endowed.

Plus as an album it all hangs together well. It's a great listen, which is a reason we turn on music, right? So turn this one on a few times and you'll get it and it will get to you, I think.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

William Hooker Quintet, Channels of Consciousness

If you wonder what drummer-composer-bandleader William Hooker has been doing lately you can find out with the noteworthy new album Channels of Consciousness (No Business NBCD 52). A well-rounded, speak-to-me avant quintet prevails, live at NYC's famed Roulette venue.

Adam Lane is on acoustic bass, and he's his usual excellent self; Chris DeMeglio puts a distinctive voice to the trumpet chair; Dave Ross adds lots of color and chops on acoustic guitar; Sanga plays some hot percussion, sounds like mostly congas; and of course Maestro Hooker leads and creates from the drums.

This is a band with no shortage of ideas, where the front liners of trumpet and guitar meld most productively with the solo frontage abilities of the rhythm section.

The compositions (by Hooker) set the tone. The band catches a wave of fire and keeps riding until the CD ends. Hooker has that structured freedom drumming of his very own and shows it here in an excellent setting, and everybody gets on it!

Excellent session. It's Hooker at his very best with one band I hope we hear more of. Get it!

Manhattan Vibes, Blue November

If you've found yourself liking Gary Burton's vibes-centered version of contemporary jazz/jazz-rock over the years, you'll like that Blue November (Emarel 003) by Manhattan Vibes extends that tradition into the '10s. Christos Rafalides prevails on vibes and marimba and has the harmonic, chord-spelling sophistication of Burton with some of the two-mallet direct soulfulness of Milt "Bags" Jackson.

We have a quartet doing Christos originals, which are worthy blowing frameworks with finesse, plus a couple of standards. Joining Rafalides is pianist Sergio Salvatore, acoustic bassist Mike Pope and drummer Vince Cherico.

It's a welcome emergence of a real-deal vibesman and a very cohesive group doing some nice music. Fair enough?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mike Wheeler, Self Made Man

Time for Mike Wheeler, soul blues bandleader, guitarist and strong singer. Self Made Man (Delmark 824) gives us the updated old-school of a hot, small combo (organ, bass, drums, a little harp and Wheeler's hip blues guitar) going through some good tunes written by the guys and a version of "Let Me Love You" of Willie Dixon provenance.

It will take you to the era when blues had soul--and it still does here, when Chicago was the place to be for the blues--and it still is.

Mike is strong in every way. There's nothing not to like. Is that clear enough? Listen to this one and you'll get there.

The O'Farrill Brothers Band, Sensing Flight

There are CDs that come along that are too involved and ambitious to be considered "mainstream" yet do not have the typical trappings of free or avant jazz. You might call them progressive? Such an album is that by the O'Farrill Brothers, Sensing Flight (Zoho 201301).

It's filled with the smart compositions of trumpetissmo Adam O'Farrill, along with a Strayhorn perennial, a classic by Carla Bley and one by the tenor saxist in the band, Livio Almeida. These are substantial tunes, arranged nicely for the six-member band: Adam, Livio, Zach O'Farrill at the drums, Gabe Schnider, guitar, Adam Kromelow, piano, and Raviv Markovitz, acoustic bass.

These are good players soloing very respectively in the well arranged backdrop matrix. There a little subtle funk-rock, a little odd-metered or rhythmically pronounced ensemble pieces, a touch of Latin and international influence as you might expect.

It's a thorough pleasure hearing it. This is their second. . . . Something fans of later Blue Note recordings will appreciate. . . but updated. Check it out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Matt Turner, Greg Pagel, The Sweet Volcano

We are alive today. In spite of obstacles to artists and even to audiences that seem nigh insurmountable at times, when it comes to where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, in contemporary music, all continues on. The human spirit ultimately will triumph and does so beyond the sometimes extreme hardships that socio-industrial change has wrought on our civilization.

A positive, very enriching example of carrying on can be heard in the duet recording of improvisations by Matt Turner (cello) and Greg Pagel (piano), The Sweet Volcano (Icker 001).

The two artists show in exemplary fashion how the improvisation-new music nexus can be arced together in a welding of white-hot creativity. This set of music is not avant jazz exactly, nor is it avant classical, but something in between.

The flow of musical ideas is continual and the technical assuredness of the player-instant-composers is such that there is a near one-to-one idea to execution ratio, all in real time.

That, at least, is the impression I get after having listened to the disk in depth. Turner soars, Pagel broods and asserts, and it comes across with exceptional success.

If you might imagine some of the titan composers of yesterday in the throes of spontaneous improvisatory musical speech, some of it might have sounded something like this--except of course no doubt not so modern. This is how the music impresses me.

Now if they could do this with an exceptional drummer-percussionist and perhaps an equally limber and idea-generating bassist, that would be something! It already is something, however. If you like categories creatively colliding in your listening here is an excellent example. I look forward to more of it!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Electric NHIC, Ground Waves

Electric NHIC is a more polished avant electric offshoot of Bob Gorry's New Haven Improvisers Collective. It consists of Gorry (on electric guitar) and seven hand-picked instrumentalists who can thrive in a highly free-improvised DIY avant jazz-rock-funk setting.

With some compositional signposts along the way, they set off on a great adventure in their Ground Waves (NHIC 007). This is local music, a modern territory band with a DIY sense of anything goes. The collective ensembles that come out of their interactions together give the listener a kind of Americana psychedelic jam ethnicity.

This is music you yourself might have played in garages across the east coast if you and your running buddies were of the adventurous sort years back--spontaneous and matter-of-fact, mindless of professional demands from club owners or unsuspecting, uncomprehending audiences who are not there to be uplifted but more to be besotted and debauched. That ethic is taken seriously and developed into cohesive-anti-cohesive ensemble music of real consistency-aconsistency.

So it's free music that is refreshingly free of the need to impress paying audiences with slick showband presentations. Quite the opposite.

And with the years the NHIC, particularly in the electric incarnation, have evolved a DIY garage art that just keeps getting better while remaining unpretentiously unschooled. There is a highly contrapuntal collective mayhem going on here that no one else quite does. Is it good? Is it art? Yes, but not in the usual ways.

This is a great set of it. It will bring some smiles to your face, I think, as well as get you grooving on its avant-for-the-people (in the band) approach!

Christian Lillinger's Grund, Second Reason

If brilliantly composed, excellently performed mid-sized ensemble avant jazz is to your liking, Christian Lillinger's Grund and their Second Reason (Clean Feed 265) offer you a good deal of it.

The Grund is a seven-piece outfit of Achim Kaufmann on piano, Christopher Dell on vibes, Pierre Borel on alto, Tobias Delius on tenor, the double basses of Jonas Westergaard and Robert Landferman, and Christian at the drums.

It is a band that has a controlled but energetic outness in the improvisations and a new-music styled ensemble sound. Lillinger's compositional hand gives the music a sophisticated yet outside edge, from the highly figurative post-bop avant heads to ensemble lines sounded in tandem with the solo sequences.

The ensemble is well-rehearsed, exacting, cohesive and powerful. Christian's drums flow freely, the horns, keys and vibes have solo strength and the music is a superb outcome of the considerable thought and effort that went into it.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rabih Abou-Khalil, Hungry People

I've been listening to the music of oud player, composer, bandleader Rabih Abou-Khalil with interest for quite a few years. He has absorbed the oud tradition as practiced in the mid-east and created a modern sound that is as much mid-eastern as it is influenced by jazz fusion.

He has a new one, Hungry People (World Village), and it's good. He is joined by his "Mediterranean Quintet" of accordion, drums-percussion, contrabass/tuba, and soprano sax.

The band straddles eastern Mediterranean ethno-folk styles and traditional oud taqsim. Rabih is an excellent player and his bandmates have harnessed their considerable musicianship to a very spirited compositional amalgam that has rhythmic excitement and melodic substance.

A nice one! Get on your dancing shoes!

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, My Mother is My Spaceship

Those familiar with the avant jazz of Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut know him as a bandleader who finds the right combination of people to create music of consistent free advancement, as a pianist and guitarist, but perhaps not as a saxophonist. I hadn't until having the pleasure to hear his CD-ROM My Mother is My Spaceship (JaZt Tapes CD-033), a relatively new one in the Artist's Promotion Release series.

Jeffrey takes up the alto for the course of a trio set. He is joined by Gene Janas on contrabass and Matt Luczak on drums.

There are 14 relatively brief segments, all in a free zone. The recording quality is decent. What counts is that the three are motored into energetically avant territory, that the trio sounds just right and that Shurdut is convincing on alto. He has a post-Aylerian, strident attack and comes through with heat and sound vibrancy.

There is music of this sort that simply works well in what it sets out to do. This is one of them.

As with the other releases in this series, it is available in a limited edition. To find out more about the release and the series paste the following URL into your browser: http://www.janstrom.se/6.-recordings/6.3.-jazt-tapes-6267605 and hit enter.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Antonio Zambujo, Quinto

Portuguese fado when done properly conveys the melancholic sophistication of saudade, which is the sort of sadness that comes to grips with something or someone that has gone from your life, that you can't have or cannot return to, yet you have a deep longing for.

Antonio Zambujo strikes me as one of the best modern-day fado artists I have heard. He manages to combine the traditional string ensemble sound and saudade-enriched vocals with memorable melodies and innovative arranging touches--like the use of a bass clarinet for part of the record. And his voice is strong, matter-of-fact yet moving.

What record? Quinto (World Village). It's a beautiful recital. Whether you know fado intimately or are new to it, you will find Quinto a thing of beauty. Really.

Giuseppi Logan, The Giuseppi Logan Project

Giuseppi Logan made some very interesting albums for ESP in the mid-'60s and then dropped out of sight, at least in my experience. This many years later he has been back and in 2011 got together with Cooper Moore (piano), Larry Roland (acoustic bass), Ed Pettersen (guitar) and Tracy Silverman (electric violin) to record The Giuseppi Logan Project (Mad King Edmund SRR 12002-CD).

They run through outside, free versions of songs like "Lover", "Cherokee", and "Sweet Georgia Brown". The band kicks up some dust and is very much an active dynamic force. Giuseppi's alto sounds best when he gets into some free runs. On the heads his tone sounds a little less strong, a little feeble at times.

The band carries it to interesting places and Giuseppi has moments of the old fire. There's another, later new one which I'll be covering shortly and I hope he continues to regain his form there and for a long time to come!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Myriad 3, Tell

Myriad 3 is a jazz piano trio in line with the Bad Plus sort of configuration of "progressive" acoustic piano trios. That is, they move away from hard bop or Evans-Jarrett harmonic-linear style camps in favor of a kind of post-Brubeck, complexly compositional stance.

Chris Donnelly is at the piano, Dan Fortin on acoustic bass, and Ernesto Cervini is on drums. They work very much together to get a sometimes elaborately arranged three-way sound.

On their recent CD Tell (Alma 13112) the Toronto-based trio comes at us with a well-wrought set of originals. The only cover involves a very different approach to the classic "C-Jam Blues"--with a madly shifting series of tempos and breaks.

It's all about the threesome in tandem, not as much about piano virtuosity with accompaniment (with a few exceptions)--and so the music tends to avoid a standard head-solos-head routining in favor of a through-composed, through-arranged approach. And so the compositions take on added weight, a more exclusively central importance to the listening experience.

Donnelly hits the block chord and rhythmically charged figurations route in his improvisations more than the long bop-hornline approach. Fortin plays motifs and reinforces melody-harmony in a coordinated rhythmic tandem of piano and bass more than he walks. His solo spots are nicely proportioned too. And Cervini has multiple hits, fills and rocked syncopations to execute in addition to timekeeping functions. In that way he resembles more a big-band drummer than a typical loose small-ensemble player. It works and as a result he is a key to the trio's success.

For all that to come through the pieces must be very good, of course. And thankfully they are. And of course all three players must be independent voices that can carry their part of the musical burden with conviction and musicality. And thankfully they do.

It's music that has a newness to it and is less inclined to show roots than much mainstream jazz today. And so what is wrong with that? The past does not disappear if we don't continually reference it. It still is there to appreciate and enjoy. Meanwhile Myriad 3 is about part of the goings on today, 2013 and beyond. It's a great example of one tendency in a very impressive CD program.

Take a listen for something different.