Tuesday, December 31, 2013

David Buchbinder, Walk to the Sea

Where else but on Tzadik would you find such effective combinations of the Jewish Tinge and....anything and everything? That's a rhetorical question. The new David Buchbinder album that puts together Jewish and Cuban elements in collaboration with pianist Hilario Duran continues where Odessa/Havana (2007) left off, and yes, it's another Tzadik original. Walk to the Sea (Tzadik 8177) gives us a firey, large band out of Canada, fine singers with a Landino influence, hip soloing from trumpeter Buchbinder, Hilario Duran on piano, and some other heavyweights in the band. The group is tight and on a roll, if it's possible to mix such metaphors. It's the truth.

The charts are really something else and the band nails them. The first album succeeded nicely. This one triumphs! The truth is that a Jewish tonality and a Latin groove work perfectly in tandem--when Buchbinder and Duran put the two together. It's music of a progressive sort, too. The lines are hot, solos supercharged, and new music is made.

This is a hell of a disk!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Brian Settles Trio, Folk

Making a joyfully free noise is a good thing with a trio of tenor, acoustic bass and drums. And you get that very completely with the Brian Settles Trio and their CD Folk (Engine 2013).

Brian is on tenor, Corcoran Holt on bass and Jeremy Carlstedt, drums. There are well-varied compositions that the trio works off of, and they are from the pen of Maestro Settles. They give pacing and set up the varied improvisations well.

This is swinging and loose, ecstatic and boisterous, fired up and committed modern free. Brian sounds terrific with swinging chromatic-centripedal outness. He has a great tone with declamatory depth. You hear the history of the lineage he comes out of, a little Rivers, a little Trane, a little of all sorts of inflections but phrased and noted his own way.

Corcoran and Jeremy really kick it well, matching hardness and drive with Brian's blaze. This is music with heat. It might lower your fuel bills this season. But of course it sounds and that's good for any season.

Mr. Settles sets an inferno of his very own on this set. You gotta love it!

Eri Yamamoto Trio, Firefly

The piano trio in jazz remains one of the constants over the many years of group performances through to today. There can be an intimacy to such conflagrations of course, and especially for the pianist but increasingly for the bassist and drummer, it is a medium to express pure instrumentality, the sound colors available limited by the fixed nature of the instrumentation.

That is put to very good advantage on the Eri Yamamoto Trio's Firefly (AUM Fidelity 079). This one is not her first, but it is her first live recording, from the Klavierhaus, New York.

We have Eri at the piano in a program of all Yamamoto compositions. They and she have lyricism and a sort of restrained yet potent power, in a sound that reminds slightly of Carla and Paul Bley when they combined composition and performance in trio settings. The music is freely articulated, sometimes openly pulsating, other times with a more latent, rubato sort of swing.

David Abrosio on bass and Ikuo Takeuchi on drums work well with Eri in a free driving way. David solos nicely and Ikuo drums with excellent attention to dynamics and detail, so important in the trio mode.

The soloing of Eri has harmonic and melodic definitiveness. She makes excellent use of chromatic and expanded tonal elements to groove in modern ways, but can be diatonically lyrical too when she feels it.

This is a trio to hear. You who appreciate the middle ground between the open intensity of Cecil T. and the lush harmonicity of Bill E. and Herbie H. when in that mode, here it is. It's original and well done. She fits in that middle ground well, but in her own way. So give this one some time and you'll be well-paid by some very good music.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow, Trios

By now I would imagine anybody who knows the music knows that Carla Bley has created an extraordinary body of jazz compositions and arrangements, become an excellent pianist of her own sort, and a bandleader of great imagination. For Trios (ECM 2287) she pairs down to a threesome of note: her partner Steve Swallow on electric bass (and isn't it time we recognize just how wonderful a player he has become on that instrument?) and Andy Sheppard on soprano and tenor.

It goes back as far as "Vashkar" (which is a thrill to hear again) and then forward to new things. This is one of those intent yet slowly unwinding sets that Carla and Company do live. But with Manfred Eicher's production touch it is an acoustically stunning setting as well.

There is Sheppard's sometimes post-Garbarekian tone and his own musical sense, a thing of real sonance and very smart note choice, Carla's ever-evolving introspection in extroversion internal-external piano style and the so-musical electric bass of Steve. He never lets you forget that this is a bass GUITAR, both in his ensemble playing and especially in his solo moments.

All three work together to make this more than "just" jazz composition, though of course it is that.

The music hums along like an infinite top, never needing rewinding (at least not by anyone listening). The hard work playing, writing, getting a threesome that sounds just right. All that was long accomplished before the studio date. This is not effortless music; it just sounds that way.

And it rewards! Thank you Carla, Steve, Andy!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin

When I was a Sophomore in High School I was assigned a rookie English teacher who began the first class with "I am so-and-so, I graduated from so-and-so university and I like girls!" Now of all the things to start with, that probably wasn't it. We took it the wrong way and he may well have meant it the wrong way but either way he was off to a bad start. So when I say I like something I sometimes remember that teacher and how what you like may be best repressed or at best may be irrelevant.

However when I say "I like Latin jazz", I feel it is entirely appropriate. It's the truth. And because I do, I immediately responded to the album Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin (Patois 014) by the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet. The title is the right one, because Maestro Wallace and the band lead us through some jazz standards done Latin style and then through some Latin material done with a good Latin jazz feeling.

Wayne Wallace plays in a hot, extroverted trombone style that is virtually indispensable for this music. He is especially good at it, too. There are plenty of solo opportunities for the band members and the special guests and that is as you'd hope. The arrangements are very hip, exciting, hot. It's Bay Area Latin--which as we saw a few weeks ago with Salsa de la Bahia, has had more of a jazz component than not over the years. But Wayne is tops there, virtually speaking. And this album gives you the why. There's his quintet, who are absorbed equally in modern jazz expression and Latin groove. Along with Wayne we have Murray Lowe doing the Latin and the jazz thing on piano, David Belove, a very nimble and hip electric bassist, and the rhythm team of Colin Douglas on drums and Michael Spiro on percussion, doing what is key and doing it with fire.

Add to that a bit of overdubbing and a set of guest artists that build the sound up to large-band size when needed. More bones from Wayne, trumpets, Pete Escovedo on timbales, plus for Cuban traditional authenticity, violins and flutes. Then there are four singers to give that vocal thing the punch it needs, when needed.

Maybe 20 years ago if somebody told you they were going to do a Latin jazz version of "Giant Steps", you would not think it could be done. Wayne does it here and it's ultra-hip, which only goes to show you how well-endowed the band is, but also how what once was considered impossible, even dangerous, now has entered our playing and listening beings as what we can do and hear in the normative sense. Wayne does not do it any humdrum everyday way, far from it, but you get the idea, I hope.

The whole set is filled with Latin and jazz goodies executed with heat, passion and soul.

If you, like I, "like" Latin jazz this is your album. It's as hip as anybody and it has that total groove going! Get in and ring in the new year with killer tracks.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra, I Go Humble

I can think of examples where a cross-fertilization of musical genres goes flat. It used to be more common, when the musical-cultural world was changing and there were odd overlaps. Andy Williams sings the "Fish Cheer"? Nothing quite that bad. "The Hollyridge Strings Play the Beatles" was one project that probably never should have happened, although it would no doubt be funny to hear now.

Because of all that I will admit I had misgivings when I put on Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra's I Go Humble (Zoho 201312). It's the songs of Bjork arranged for big band and vocalist. I expected the worst. I was wrong.

It turns out that the good sense of Travis Sullivan in the way he arranged the songs carries the day, along with the fine musicianship involved. We have singer Becca Stevens doing the vocals. That's one key element. She sings with the sort of feeling and power that makes her voice Bjork-like without being a straight copy. She is very good. Then the big band is a well-rehearsed and talented bunch. And the arrangements somehow manage to keep the music faithful to Bjork while adding a straight-ahead contemporary big band flourish that works completely.

Partially perhaps it's because Bjork's vocal parts set up a tonality that is potentially wide-open. And there is always space over, under, around or between the melody line, so that Sullivan can do things with her music that might not have been possible with a less innovative melodist. Nevertheless it is to Sullivan's credit that it all comes together so well.

There are some Bjork chestnuts of course. All the songs Sullivan chose to arrange keep a balance between band and original melody line. They do it so well that I was surprised to be completely taken with it all. It is excellent!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gapplegate Music Review Records of the Year, 2013

I decided it was time to start picking my records of the year for the majority of genres I cover. I did not in the past, except to name Wadada Leo Smith's major album set last year, partially because the genres were mixed up higgledy-piggledy in the various blogsites and partially because everything that makes it into a review here is a winner, or else I would not review it. That latter is still true, but with the maturation of my blog pages it's more clear than ever what goes where, as much as that can be. So I am picking this year for nine categories. See the other blogsites for the rest of my choices. Here are three that all fit one way or another into the "jazz" category.

Best Jazz Album, New Release: KAZE, Tornado, with Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura (Circum Libra) See review, October 17, 2013.

Best Jazz Album, Reissue: Oscar Pettiford Modern Quintet, 1955 EP (Bethlehem) See review, November 13, 2013.

Best Wild Card Album, Beyond Category: Dawn of Midi, Dysnomia (Thirsty Ear) See review, July 17, 2013. http://www.gapplegateguitar.blogspot.com/2013/07/dawn-of-midi-dysnomia.html

New Language Collaborative, Retreat

We should never forget that there are players out there very deserving of attention, who for whatever reason don't always get the attention they deserve, just as there are some who may get more attention than they merit. And I don't want to dis anybody, to say who, but if you want a name in the too much attention category, how about Al Hirt, RIP?

The group known as New Language Collaborative has some of those unduly neglected folks, and you can hear them carry themselves forward on their album Retreat (JaZt Tapes 039). The group for this outing includes Ted Daniel on trumpet, Eric Zinman, piano and keys, Glynis Lomon on cello, voice and aquasonic, and Syd Smart on drums and electronic percussion.

This is a free date, a collectively improvised set of definite merit. They let lose in three segments with some excellent interactive dynamics. Ted Daniel may not always be in the limelight these days but he is sounding very fit and eloquent here. Eric Zinman is an all-over pianist that has energy and the ears to match. To hear the two together playing off of each other is very much a something you should hear.

But Syd Smart is right there with them in very creative ways. Glynis Lomon uses her cello in part as a bass would function in such an ensemble, and in part as a soloists making good use of the sound color available to her. The range of color further extends by her vocals, the aquasonic, and the electronic sounds available to Syd and Eric.

Those who don't understand free playing sometimes think that it's just a matter of any and everybody doing anything. Good free playing hangs together in many ways, whether completely intuitive or mapped out to lesser or greater degree, with the ability of the players to make a statement, something in ways communicatively coherent, both in what each member plays and the totality of that effort.

New Language Collaborative make their statement. These are players well-schooled in what they do. And what they do here should be heard.

JaZtapes are limited edition CD-ROM disks put out by the musicians themselves. Go to the url http://www.janstrom.se/6.-recordings/6.3.-jazt-tapes-6267605 to find out more about the series. And you can order this release via the email address studio234@ericzinman.com.

Lorraine Feather, Attachments

Some bloggers only do certain music, just chamber classical, for example, or just free jazz. Not to toot my own horn but my blogs reflect the scope of what I listen to when left to my own resources, which generally is not EVERYTHING, but there is an interlocking set of musics that all come together for me as "music". Well, duh, what else would it be?

So today I present to you a recording that the free folks may not expect, or the high boppers. Of course that matters little at the moment because I REALLY like this album. Now who could it be? Well you probably already glanced at the headline to this post so you know already. It's singer Lorraine Feather and her latest, Attachments (Jazzed Media 1063). You may recall that last April 18th I covered her with Stephanie Trick and their Nouveau Stride duo, which floored me.

So Lorraine is back in her solo guise. This isn't her first in that zone. I have not heard the others. Attachments needs no "before" however to motivate. It's a collection of songs to which she contributed the lyrics, some in collaboration with contemporary musicsmiths, others, like Bach, not. Ms. Feather sings very well, very very well, and so let's get that out of the way, though that is the point in many ways. She has dead-on pitch, great phrasing, and a charming individual sound to those pipes. OK?

But there's more here. Her lyrics are especially concerned with relationships and their complex ups and downs, loneliness and togetherness, sometimes combined in the same moment, and they are stunning. Somehow she combines the sensibilities of Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks and Joni Mitchell. Sad, funny, all kinds of poetic expressions come into play here, and they are combined with some beautiful musical song forms.

It's mostly a small combo, good players. Some of it is jazz in the up sense, sometimes its balladry, always there are twists and turns. "159," the title cut "Attachments," most all of it. These are definitive versions of really great songs. There are definite standard possibilities in many of the songs going forward, but they are so Lorraine that you feel you know her inner being after hearing it all.

I don't want to overstate it, but I am mightily impressed with this record. Great songs are very hard to come by today, as any listen to the Top 40 stations or even many Broadway shows will remind you forcibly. Attachments has real song crafting in the way it used to be and still can be. And Lorraine Feather sings them all with a musicality that cannot be ignored.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Duduka Da Fonseca Trio, New Samba Jazz Directions

Samba Jazz in a piano trio context goes back. The Zimbo Trio were one of the very exceptional exponents in the last half of the last decade. But time moves on. For what's happening right now a good place to turn is on the Duduka Da Fonseca Trio album New Samba Jazz Directions (Zoho 201310).

Of course Duduka is the drummer on this one and he sounds fabulous. He finds some very simpatico and vibrant compatriots in spirit with David Feldman on piano and Guto Wirtti on bass. They run the gauntlet of sophisticated samba grooves with a LOT of excellent piano, hip bass and the excellent, subtle yet devastating samba swing style of drummer Fonseca.

As you might expect there are compositional-changed based numbers that put everything in line. Feldman writes four, Duduka two, Guto one and there are others by others. All set things up and have memorable qualities.

This one has that supercharged samba piano trio thing happening--and if you know what that is, you KNOW this is a very good thing. Time doesn't stand still so there's development and movement happening here. It has many levels. You could spend an entire listen on what Duduka is doing alone--and all three lock together so that it all kicks up plenty of dust and has some balladic breathing space, too.


Pandelis Karayorgis Trio, Cocoon

Of course one of the litmus tests for a modern jazz pianist is the trio configuration. It gives the player a group context that implies some connection with the tradition (at least in the instrumentation of piano, bass and drums) yet exposes his or her way with the pianoforte in a more radical fashion than if horns were involved.

The pianism of Pandelis Karayorgis first got my attention when I was writing for Cadence. Since then I have covered a fair number of his albums. I find him one of the more important and more interesting piano voices out there today.

He recently recorded a new trio outing which we finally get a chance to talk about, namely Cocoon (Driff 1302). I am happy to say that this is another very good one. It involves a three-way confluence between Karayorgis, Jef Charland on bass, and Luther Gray on drums. Karayorgis pens six of the numbers, Gray and Garland each contribute two. They are fine vehicles for the extensive improvisations that follow.

Luther Gray is a great drummer for this kind of date--because he can swing mightily, creatively accentuate any compositional aspects and come up with effective interplay with the other two whatever the context. Jef Charland can walk in ambiguous tonal territory with flair; he solos and interacts with taste and force.

But in many ways this is an ideal showcase for Pandelis and what he is up to. There is still the Monk-like foundation of his touch and an extension of the dissonant advanced comping and percussiveness to a point well on and self-developed. There is the presence of tradition in other ways too. Listen to "You Took My Coffee and Left," a blues, and you'll hear the old and the very new interacting--it's still very much a blues in structure but it takes it all further.

You can hear a bit of the Bley out-in-in harmonic openness, only it's fully Karayorgisized. There are well-placed out block chords, right-handed horn explorations and the split chord-horn left-right mix that you expect in the tradition, but the timing and the choice of notes is impeccable. His rich inventiveness comes through very well here--and that is something to ear-in on! Every solo is a lucid story that doesn't repeat as much as flows with thickly percussive rhythmic thrust and melodic-harmonic inspiration.

Well so this one is what anybody interested in piano trio freedom within the jazz tradition should hear. It is a major addition to the Karayorgis discography, which to me is a fine thing indeed.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stefano Bollani, Hamilton de Holanda, O que sera

When I put on my reviewer cap I open myself up to all kinds of music that I might not have gotten to otherwise. And sometimes that is an excellent thing indeed. Take the album up today, a duet album by the phenomenal Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and a Brazilian master of the bandolin (a 10-string mandolin), Hamilton de Holanda. O que sera (ECM B0018881-02) brings the two together in an extraordinarily vibrant duet live at the Jazz Middelheim festival in Antwerp last year.

The result is some extraordinary virtuoso duo playing. There are a number of Brazilian standards, something by Piazzolla, a couple of originals and other things. What stands out very strongly is the exceptional musicianship of the two. They take samba, bossa, and other forms and make them vehicles for their own madcap flight into sonic space.

Chops there are a' plenty between the two. But this goes considerably beyond mere chops into expressive territory virtually uncharted. The two create a surge of energy and sublimity so infectious that you are carried along into a meta-South-American musical paradise that you never knew was there but somehow was all along, lurking in the possibilities two exceptional players could realize. They do.

I am otherwise speechless, of course in the best way. Hear these two!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sonny Simmons, Beyond the Planets

With all the hectic qualities of the Holiday Season in effect I nevertheless keep on plugging with the music blogs. Today I especially wanted to highlight the latest album by legend Sonny Simmons. It's a two-CD set called Beyond the Planets (Improvising Beings 20). As I understand it, this may well be the last release for the label Improvising Beings. They've been doing important work documenting the avant jazz scene but it appears that there is no longer the funding there to put out new ones. So get the existing ones now while you can. And thanks Improvising Beings for all the music.

At any rate this Sonny Simmons album has very solid cosmic dimensions. It's the Sonny in his Eastern influenced mode, which from the time of Manhattan Egos on has been a part of his music. Don't expect a lot of notes from Sonny this time out. He's paired down his soloing to an expressive but succinct essence. On both disks he plays alto and English horn.

The first disk is with Delphine Latil on harp, with whom Sonny collaborated in an earlier effort for the label (see search window index for the review on these pages). She plays the first four numbers solo, and it's extemporaneous, open-formed cosmic music with a bit of a "new music" corner to it. Then Sonny joins here for a 20-minute number that really evokes a mood.

The second disk pits Sonny on his two winds with electric guitarist Thomas Bellier. This is more in a psychedelic zone, raga-rockish. Bellier plays the right things and Sonny is right there with him.

As long as you aren't expecting the more explosive Sonny, you'll get into this one. It's a valuable addition to the Simmons discography and makes for very transcendent cosmic listening.

Thank you, Sonny. And thank you Improvising Beings.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy, Vol. 2

I believe I noted this in my review of Volume One, but it bears repeating. That is, that the Whammies do for the music of Steve Lacy what Lacy himself (along with Roswell Rudd) did for the music of Thelonious Monk. They recontextualize it by taking the compositions and playing them in the spirit of the author, but then also make it fresh by adding the chemistry and personalities of the new set of players involved.

This is most certainly again the case with The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy, Vol, 2 (Driff 1303), perhaps even more so. It's an excellent group of players: Jorrit Dijkstra on alto and lyricon, Pandelis Karayorgis, piano, Jeb Bishop, trombone, Mary Oliver, violin and viola, Nate McBride, bass, and Han Bennink, drums.

Some heavy players for sure, then. And what they do with Lacy is make him new by their own singularities as players. Everybody is attuned to the Lacy abstractness and takes on the music in their own right. Fittingly the volume ends with "Shuffle Boil", a Monk composition to brings things full circle.

This is important music both for the Lacy works and for the players' way with it all. It's music that in no way sounds dated--and of course there would be no reason why it should. It's music as modern as today, yet of course with roots in the lineage of avant jazz.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Javier Vercher, Ferenc Nemeth, Imaginary Realm

It should come as no surprise to those that follow the contemporary jazz world that there are talented players out there who one has not heard before, that there are continual discovery situations one comes up against. The sound of surprise is also the sound of previously undiscovered sound-makers, some of them really quite good.

That pretty much sizes up my reaction to the new album by Javier Vercher and Ferenc Nemeth, Imaginary Realm (Dreamers Collective 1003). These are two players, tenor saxist and drummer, respectively, who have been paying dues in New York and playing together for some time in the process. Their first album came out in 2007. This is their second, for this outing teaming up at key points on the album with pianist David Kikoski.

The set played on this disk is evocative, free-wheeling and free but also at times with implied harmonic reference points in a tonal-pivotal realm. These are open-form compositions, originals, with Vercher sometimes following a chromatic path similar in direction to such post-Trane luminaries as Liebman and Bergonzi but taking it to his own personal space. Kikoski grounds much of the proceedings in his own harmonically sophisticated world, which goes well with Vercher's outlook. Ferenc Nemeth plays some actively freebased and also implicitly or explicitly swinging drums throughout, with skill and big ears. There are moments of quiet ambience, especially when Javier and Ferenc go it alone. But the open-air sound of those moments contrast nicely with more earthy explorations.

This is a talented threesome that makes a modern free-edged music you would do well to hear. If they signed to ECM they'd be getting famous by now. But then that may be true of any number of players. Nonetheless these artists are well worth hearing. A most pleasing record!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Salsa de la Bahia Vol. One, A Collection of SF Bay Area Salsa and Latin Jazz

Salsa and Latin jazz from San Francisco? I'll admit that up until now, I've known nothing about it. With the two-CD set Salsa de la Bahia (Patois 015) I now know. I now know what a vibrant thing that is.

Ever since my older brother moved to Puerto Rico and began sending me some records when I was a young adolescent I have been a huge admirer of Salsa. A later visit to Puerto Rico only confirmed it. And of course living around New York City meant that I could find more records and keep my interest alive. But of the SF scene I have not had the opportunity to know the first thing.

This anthology convinces me that there is great music going on there. There are 22 cuts by people I don't know. It all began in a club in SF called Cesar's Latin Palace, opened in 1968 by pianist Cesar Ascarrunz, who for ten years lead a heavily jazz inflected Salsa outfit there. It included the likes of Joe Henderson, Luis Gasca and Julian Preister! From there the scene burgeoned.

The anthology surveys the scene today with some beautiful music that has a healthy jazz as well as Salsa component. It's music of pure pleasure, with everything you come to the music for--including great horn sections, kicking Latin percussion, soloists and vocals of distinction! Yeah!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gregorio/Swell/ Karayorgis, Window and Doorway

Part of where free-avant improvisation has been going has something to do with "New Music", that is it draws freely upon non-jazz concert elements at times but still has the expressivity and immediacy of jazz. We can hear this in a vivid way from three masters of free music who improvise and compose in equal measure. I refer to the trio of Guillermo Gregorio (clarinet), Steve Swell (trombone) and Pandelis Karayorgis (piano) in their live performance at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, released on CD with the title Window and Doorway (Driff 1301).

Each of the trio contributes two or more compositions as springboards for the improvisations and there are also three collective works.

Steve Swell should be known to all as at the top of avant trombone player-jazz composer-bandleaders. Pandelis Karayorgis may not be as well-known out there but has built a considerable reputation (deservedly) as one of the brightest new voices. Guillermo Gregorio I do not know all that well, but on the basis of this recording he certainly is right up there with the other two.

The music is abstract without being arid. It has soul and brains, too. It is doubtless one of those sleeper disks--something of great impact and avant beauty but not as well heard as it should be. The performers come through with a group synchronicity born of compatible, fertile musical imaginations and sensitive improvisational reflexes. The compositions set the mood and provide rough maps of the musical terrain which the trio covers with agility and creative thrust.

It's a disk to be heard and appreciated. Gregorio, Swell and Karayorgis are dwelling in advanced, frontier musical settlements and they stake out the territory with authority.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tiger Hatchery, Sun Worship

ESP Records made its mark in part as the label that dared cover free-jazz artists (circa 1965) on the fringe when almost nobody else was doing so. Their catalog of releases in that decade reads nearly like a who-is-who of the genre. In their 50th year they remind us that free music is by no means only a thing of the past with a release by Chicago trio Tiger Hatchery, Sun Worship (ESP 5003).

The press sheet mentions Peter Brotzmann and Albert Ayler as precursors to what the trio is doing, and I would most certainly concur. It's outside intensity all the way, for sure, and so that fits. Mike Forbes incants on various members of the sax family with an in-your-face insouciance that you will want to pay attention to, since this is no background music. Ben Billington on drums is a dynamo in the way you might expect. He adds considerably to the level of power here. But it is bassist Andrew Scott Young who puts it over the top and gives this trio an almost rock push. He is all over the place, kicking the living H out of the proceedings in ways that make me listen to what he's doing. He has a kind of traditional arco ESP bag which you can hear, but the pizzicato is devastatingly strong. He is either close miked or plugged in, and at times sounds like he is playing an electric, but either way he brings up the bottom with fire.

Well, so this is impressive free mayhem. Certainly one of the stronger, most mayhemishian free jazz release this year. So if that motors you you will not go wrong here! You won't need to have a dental hygienist clean your teeth if you play this one a couple of times at full volume. But your neighbors might give you some odd looks later, too. That's a given.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Art Hodes, I Remember Bessie, 1976

Chicago-based pianist Art Hodes (1904-1993) may not be remembered as much today as he deserves but he left behind a legacy of traditional jazz on disk for labels like Blue Note and Delmark that bear hearing again and again. One that most of us missed was recorded in 1976 and came out on the obscure Euphonic Records at the time. Most fittingly Delmark has re-released it. I Remember Bessie (Delmark 254) is with us again and it is a beautiful set of solo piano renditions of songs associated with the great Bessie Smith.

If you've listened to Bessie in any depth, along with her contemporaries Ida Cox and Ma Rainey for example, you'll note a style of piano playing in the accompaniment which is not so much filled with the oom-pah of stride as something else, syncopated and melodious, an early jazz-blues style. Such artists as Fletcher Henderson and Clarence Williams played differently in the blues vocal setting. And Art Hodes was there, too.

What I Remember Bessie gives us is 17 slabs of pure Art as blues accompanist--but in this case accompanying himself, instrumental inside of instrumental. There's much to love here, especially if you dig Bessie. "Cake Walkin' Babies from Home," "You've Been A Good Ole Wagon," "After You've Gone," those tunes that Bessie nailed once and for all. They are here.

But more than that it's a tribute to Art and his way with that style. He still had it in 1976 and gives us a focused look at what it was all about.

Essential listening for the history of piano in jazz. And lots of fun!