Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Daniel Blacksberg Trio, Perilous Architecture

Today, a refreshing return to No Business and their limited edition vinyl releases. Only 300 copies of trombonist Daniel Blacksberg's Trio doing Perilous Architecture (NBLP 76) have been pressed. Yet the quality of the music belies what will be its scarcity. I don't know much about Daniel save that he sounds very good here, burred and blazing, ranged out and acrobatic, free and idiomatically trombon-esque. He is joined by Matt Engle on contrabass and Mike Szekely on drums and they do well in a modern equivalent of "new thing" aero-sweeping.

Daniel supplies the compositional motival head structures and they fit what follows nicely, and vice-versa. This is unpretentious free blowing that comes at you like a palette cleanser, wiping out the residue of whatever you were listening to before and freshening you with something honest and real.

Now I could say more, but why? This is good blowing. No need to spell it out. Blacksberg and trio do it right. Bone lovers will grok! If you aren't a bone lover, you should be...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Post on Smithsonian Website for UNESCO Reissue Series

My UNESCO-Smithsonian review article just posted--on the music of the Kurds and of West Futuna. Paste the url in your browser to read. Thanks!

Robin Williamson, Trusting in the Rising Light

There is music that defies expectations. Music that presents itself beyond the categories one has internalized. Robin Williamson is like that. His is a kind of art song, at once folkishly Celtic (he is Scottish, actually), yet with sophisticated, very poetic lyrics and a singer-songwriter thrust. His fourth ECM album Trusting in the Rising Light (B0022100-02) brings all that home to me. I have missed the earlier ones. This one features Robin on Celtic harp, guitar, Hardanger fiddle and vocals. Mat Maneri adds his patented smarts on viola. Ches Smith appears on vibes, drums and percussion. So we have two avant prog jazz luminaries contributing their own ethos to the mix. The results are, after a period of acclimation, very rewarding.

Could I say that Robin Williamson is a folk-Scottish sort of Leonard Cohen? Not quite but in a way. A modern troubadour? That's a part of it. An avant folk bard? Yes. He was a founding member of the Incredible String Band. Perhaps that explains much once you recall. Yes, the quirky folkiness of psychedelic Zen madness is still there, much burnished over time, experimental yet elemental, rooted yet spiralling outwards into today and the future.

So that's it in a nutshell. This is an album to light your imagination. Song and poetics, earthy roots and avant reaching forward, all combine in ways that grow stronger the more you listen.

It is a happy program of song gems performed without pretense yet with great impact. A joy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP, Return the Tides

Rob Mazurek, cornetist, composer, bandleader, has increasingly introduced electronics into his music, to excellent effect (for those who dig that--and I am one). He lost his mother tragically in eleven days earlier this year, a victim of the cancer that takes a person unawares and devastates quickly. It was a profound shock to his sensibilities, as these things are. The music on his new album reflects the aftermath of loss in profound and overwhelmingly intense ways. This is Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP, the Sao-Paulo based outfit with Rob on cornet and electronics, Mauricio Takara on drums and cavaquinho, Guilherme Granado on keys, synths and sampler, Thomas Rohrer on rabeca, electronics and soprano sax, Rogerio Martins on percussion, Rodrigo Brandao on voice and everyone else contributing their voices as well.

The album is Return the Tides (Cuneiform). It is a hugely despairing cry on one hand, an outburst of collaged grief, very thick and electronic, recorded very hot almost to the level of distortion. And yet as music and gesture it attempts a transcendance, a beyond state. Whether it quite gets there is no doubt a very personal matter with Rob and his loss. I cannot say.

It is very heavy, even for Rob, filled with an avant metal force that goes out to the universe. Rob is playing with searing heat and the band most definitely keeps up with him.

It is in a way a disturbing album. A cry. But an artwork that by transforming the intense feelings gets us to feel its representation in sound and understand. Perhaps it's Rob's most extreme statement to date. If I had engineered this date I am not sure that I would have mixed the outcome at these levels, but then that's part of the expression here. It's a distorted kind of anguish, and as expressive as anything I've heard recently. So for Rob it must be saying what he felt. Amen to that.

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Over Time, The Music of Bob Brookmeyer

Bob Brookmeyer, simply put, has been underrated for too long. It's not just as a valve trombonist, either. He wrote music that sounds as fresh now as it did then. If I am not mistaken my first brush with Bob as composer came via the charts he did as member of Gerry Mulligen's Concert Jazz Band, which in many ways was the precursor to the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis big band that began holding forth at the Village Vanguard on Monday nights with Brookmeyer a charter member. He left the band to do studio work on the West Coast but returned to the band as its musical director after Thad Jones passed.

Some of his compositions-charts were an important part of that band's repertoire in the '80s. Time went on and I lost track of what he was doing. But a new albums puts it all together for us, past and present. I speak of a special Vanguard Jazz Orchestra album devoted to the music of Brookmeyer--Over Time (Planet Arts 101413).

First off the band sounds phenomenal. Oatts, Smulyan, LaLama and Jim McNeely are all there and a host of others whose names perhaps I should recognize but I don't. Nevertheless the band is in crack form. They take on eight of Brookmeyer's arrangements ("Skylark") and compositions (the rest), some from a while ago, others so advanced and modern they could have been written yesterday.

There are times when Bob combines new music techniques with his completely idiomatic feel for big band; other times they are boppish and post-boppish. Always they have a flare.

It's all so good that I am slightly stunned. The combination of the completely fresh musicality of these works and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's heated and superlative execution of same are such that I can only say, "listen to this one without fail!"

It's a corker and should remind us all of Maestro Brookmeyer's impeccable originality. I'll stop there.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Variable Density Sound Orchestra, Evolving Strategies

Guitarist-composer Garrison Fewell's Variable Density Sound Orchestra has made some excellent music in the past. The smaller ensemble heard in the album Evolving Strategies (Not Two MW911-2) has a particular resonance, in part because of the beauty of the compositions and their improvisational fulfillment, and in part because they are some of the last recordings made by the avant titans John Tchicai and Roy Campbell, Jr., both of whom were tragically taken from us not so very long after.

The band as a whole is every bit as good as the illustrious nature of the names. OK, perhaps bassist Dmitry Ishenku is not very well known, still he is very good. But then there is trombone master Steve Swell, who graces the session with his rangy expressions and a composition that stays long in the mind, "Mystical Realities," with a very groovy ostinato and a head melody that matches it. John Tchicai is on tenor and gives us two of his compositions and some beautiful improvisations. Roy Campbell reminds us why he is so missed on trumpet, flugel and flute. Reggie Nicholson turns in as always the right performance, with an impeccable feel and touch on drums. And then there is the leader, Garrison Fewell, with his very smart guitar freedom and exemplary compositions.

These are players at the peak of modern avant jazz and they perform accordingly. Whether collectively or singly they come through with sterling utterances that could serve as models for what the state-of-the-free-art is all about today. The compositional frameworks are both sophisticated and down-home at the same time, reminding at times of what was so exciting about the work of AACM artists in the first years of their blossoming (and after, surely).

It's an album you grow into each time you hear it, so that by now it is a recent favorite for me. It is that good and so much worth hearing and having. Get it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fred Hersch, My Coma Dreams, Jazz Theatre, DVD

The true artist is one who can take all the experiences life has to offer, the peaks and the lowest traumatic events, and transform them into pure poetry. Jazz pianist-composer Fred Hersch shows us how artistic expression can turn darkness into light, adversity into transcendence. His jazz theater work My Coma Dreams gives us in no uncertain terms the triumph of the human spirit over life-threatening illness.

The entire multi-media jazz theater work is now available on DVD (Palmetto 2175) and it is a profoundly moving experience to see and hear it. The story centers around Fred's bout with HIV /AIDS and a life-threatening septic infection he contracted in the course of his struggles. The condition necessitated a medically induced coma which he endured in a near-death state for a long period of time while hospitalized. That he survived to regain his full self-hood personally and musically is nothing short of a miracle and the story brings it all to you in no uncertain terms.

The jazz theater work involves of course music--Fred at the piano with a largish chamber ensemble of jazz players and a string quartet, with vocals and a master narrative by Michael Winther. There are visuals key to the drama projected onto a backdrop behind the musicians and narrator. The theater work comes together as a total media experience.

Essentially the work combines the narrative of the events leading up to hospitalization, the coma trauma as experienced by Fred's partner, by Fred himself in his moments as a conscious being and then the series of dreams he had while unconscious. The dreams are singular and strange, involving imagery and events of a surreal nature. Except for the opening dream of the weavers, they are played out instrumentally with text and imagery on the projected backdrop filling in the context. The weavers dream sequence involves a beautiful song sung by Winther, accompanied by the ensemble.

Winther excels in his role as dramatic enactor of Fred and his partner's heartfelt, loving anxiousness during the external and internal sequences of events. The music is quite beautiful and just to have Fred up on stage playing wonderfully gives the entire drama a consoling aspect. Yes, he survives and listen, he is playing very beautifully, as well as he ever has.

In the end the totality of the drama leaves you with hope, though through it all are the moments of despair that you experience yourself with harrowing realism. Yet the dreams and the music counter the trauma with genuine poetic beauty.

It is a landmark work, a Fred Hersch masterpiece that conjoins with Herschel Garfein's excellent "libretto" and staging to create gripping drama and a feeling for the mysteries of life and death.

To say it is a tour de force is to understate. The DVD is out this November 25th. You must experience this! Sales of this DVD will in part go to benefit the work of Treatment Action Group, an independent organization concerned with the treatment and cure of the AIDS affliction. You can order it directly from (copy and paste this URL into your browser).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Miles Davis Quintet Featuring John Coltrane, All of You: The Last Tour, 1960, 4-CD Set

There are magic moments in jazz that are so good they can give you the chills. You can certainly say that of the classic Miles Davis small groups in the mid-to-late '50s with John Coltrane. There was a progression to the group of course, from superlative bop and onto the modality of the last phase and Kind of Blue. Appearing live however, Miles' band in the later phase mixed the two styles as a matter of course.

By 1960 Trane had left the band briefly to play with Monk, was securely back in the fold but he had by then made up his mind to leave Davis and form his own group. The spring tour of Europe was made reluctantly by Trane. He already had recorded and released quite a few albums under his own name, but the Atlantic association and the release of Giant Steps put his solo career on firm footing. He was eager to continue to grow as a bandleader. Nonetheless he agreed to the tour. It was a lengthy and somewhat grueling series of gigs all across Europe. The regular band was put through a hectic pace of concerts, most of which fortunately were recorded and broadcast over local radio, a few were recorded privately. Nonetheless a substantial documentation of the tour remains.

Some of the concerts have been issued over the years. Now we have nearly all of it together in a nice four-CD set All of You: The Last Tour 1960 (MCPS). It's Miles, of course, Trane, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers, bass, and Jimmy Cobb, drums. The recorded quality is generally excellent, though one date under-miked Kelly and a private recording also has less sterling qualities. But what counts is the music.

The band plays consistently cuts from Kind of Blue ("So What," "All Blues," etc.) along with "Walkin'" but they also at times turn to other chestnuts from earlier days, "Round Midnight," "If I Were A Bell," and "All of You."

The audiences generally did not know the Kind of Blue music and Trane's new explorations so sometimes they did not get it. But the music is excellent in the most consistent way in spite of that and a certain tension within the band because it was clear that this was Trane's last go round as a member of the group.

Miles turns in some breathtaking solos, the band is in excellent form for the most part, but it is John Coltrane on these sets that most consistently astounds. He takes long solos often, experimenting with the ultra-sheets of sound that he takes to the limits here. Then too he repeats motives at times, works on harmonics and generally uses his solo time to hammer out ideas that ultimately blossomed forth in his later style(s). There are some incredible moments, some torrents of notes now and then that have overwhelming power. But at all times what he is doing is foundational. A transition period for him? In a way, yes (after all, "So What" turns to "Impressions" in his own band). In other ways this is Trane that you don't hear in quite the same way before or after. He is inspired.

Needless to say, this is an essential set. You may already have some of it. But to hear the concerts collected and sequenced chronologically is a revelation.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

François Carrier, The Russian Concerts Volume 2, with Michel Lambert and Alexey Lapin

François Carrier has been pretty extraordinarily productive in the number and quality of his releases of late. I've covered many here over the last several years (type his name in the search box above for those posts). Now there is another very good one. It's Volume 2 of The Russian Concerts (FMR CD381), continuing the live recordings made on location in Moscow and St. Petersburg in 2013.

As before Carrier is on alto, joined by long-time drummer associate Michel Lambert and Russian pianist Alexey Lapin for a full set of open-form free jazz, avant jazz, free improvisation with the emphasis on complete spontaneity. François Carrier has become one of the guiding lights on the international saxophonic scene and he comes through once again here with some vibrantly stirring improvisations.

And as with the first volume, the threesome make inspired sounds together. Alexey is spikey and all-over present on piano; Michel punctuates and cracks the percussive sky with responsive free-time sensibility.

As is the case with the last volume, the trio have their quieter moments but much is about an on-the-edge expressivity, as much concerned with the notes as horizontally panned and fanned out as about the vertical concern with aural texture.

If you liked the first, this one continues the immediacy. If you know neither or for some reason have missed Carrier and his music, you probably should start with the first volume. Either way this is excellent free expression, confirming the threesome and their significant encounters in those days in Russia.

Very recommended.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Jorrit Dijkstra, New Crosscurrents

We are back today on a rather gloomy November Monday morning with a recording to cheer you up. I speak of a download-only album by saxophonist-composer Jorrit Dijkstra and a fine Dutch sextet from 2003, New Crosscurrents (Driff). The band is Jorrit Dijkstra, alto saxophone, David Kweksilber, tenor and alto saxophone, Wiek Hijmans, guitar, Guus Janssen, piano, Raoul van der Weide, bass, and Wim Janssen, drums. It was a expansion and extension of the quartet "Sound-Lee!" whose purpose was to celebrate the music of Lee Konitz, the Tristano school's most illustrious and celebrated graduate.

The band plays music from Tristano's famed 1949 recording Intuition, George Russell's "Ezz-thetic," plus cool-school influenced works by Guus.

It's a live date with decent sound. The band takes the compositions and opens them up to lively improvised-laden interpretations that make full use of the band's blowing prowess. Much of the improvisations are collective and contrapuntal, which makes perfect sense given the compositional slant of the music.

This one may well be a sleeper but it deserves your attention, especially if you dig the school of music that the band extends. Guus is a new jazz composer for me but he fits in well with Tristano and Russell as a part of what was happening then. The freedom inherent in the music as performed is in keeping with the avant nature of the originals but also updates it into our era. That's an excellent idea and it works very well indeed.

Good one! You can purchase this download by going to Bandcamp.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Roadsides

Some albums are so unique one has to think for a minute before one tries to describe what you will hear. That is very true of Israeli singer-songwriter Ayelet Rose Gottlieb and her recent Roadsides (Arogole Music 021). Ayelet composed a series of 12 songs based on the work of Palestinian and Israeli poets, a gesture of solidarity with the people of the entire region one has to appreciate.

She does the singing and it has nuance and an expressive beauty. The songs are what one might call Mid-Eastern jazz with an emphasis on song form, some songs being squarely in a very modern-ish ECM-like or otherwise jazz zone, with the Mid-Eastern tonal minor element coming to the fore or receding a bit depending on the song. The ensemble that accompanies her reinforces that two-world (or is it three?) sound via an eclectic mix of oud and violin, guitar, piano, acoustic bass and drums, with the addition of traditional percussionists, etc., from time to time. Some songs have a jazz-rock underpinning, some not, but all are quite interesting in their arrangements, in their song-ful-ness and in their vocal presence.

The result is a modern pan-Israeli-Palestinian music that has much charm and substance if one opens up to it. Fascinating and rewarding listening!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Fat Babies, 18th & Racine

Classical jazz repertoire projects, as most of us well know, are a growing segment of the current-day jazz field. I have a mixed view of it all but when it comes to early jazz projects I am inclined to be more receptive than not, if they are done well. Why? Because for one thing the recording technology of those early days gives us less of a feel for how ensembles actually sounded in real-time. And if the band gives us a good performance of the material we find ourselves transported back in time to what a live experience of the music was really like.

The Chicago outfit known as the Fat Babies do that for us, very nicely in fact. 18th & Racine (Delmark 255) I believe is their second album. (See the March 19, 2013 posting on their first, Chicago Hot.) It is a seven-piece band who have done their homework, more than that even, in that they have internalized the early jazz style so that both in the ensemble and in the solos an authentic and fully alive feeling surrounds you as you listen. These cats can play and they do. They do it right.

The repertoire is what you might have heard if you caught some of the Chicago School musicians on a live date, for the most part. They uncover some gems only a specialist in the period may know well--"Liza," "King Kong Stomp," "Blueberry Rhyme," as well as the familiar "Stardust" done Chicago style. They also throw in an original, the title cut. The seven piece band of leader Beau Sample on bass, Andy Schumm, cornet and arrangements, plus some hot cats on trombone, clarinet and sax, piano, guitar or banjo, and drums make it all work.

This is early jazz with all the fervor and heat of the era presented to us in sterling modern digital fidelity. The Fat Babies are onto something. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Whammies, The Music of Steve Lacy 3, Live

The Whammies continue to regale our senses with innovative and exciting reinterpretations of Steve Lacy compositions. What seemed on the first release to be a one-off project in fact continues quite productively, so that we now have a third volume in the series, The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3 Live (Driff 1401). Type "Whammies" in the search box above for my reviews of the first two volumes.

The band remains much the same. Jason Roebke replaces Nate McBride on bass here; otherwise there is the familiar excellent lineup of Jorrit Dijkstra on alto and lyricon, Pandelis Karayorgis on piano, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Mary Oliver on violin and viola, and Han Bennink on drums. In many ways the ensemble combines the best of Chicago, Boston and Northern European avant jazzmen, sharing among themselves their love of freely stretching composed material. And so like the two others in the series the Lacy compositions are refit to the ensemble's creative needs, much like Lacy himself did with the music of Thelonious Monk. That they end the set with Monk's "Hornin' In" underscores this sort of round robin unfolding.

Nine Lacy tunes are given the Whammies treatment. With Lacy's compositional wealth there are plenty to cover and these are excellent vehicles once more. Taking Lacy's soprano out of the equation and handing the music over to these very sympathetic and rather brilliant instrumentalists give us a new sense of the extraordinary angularity of the Lacy approach.

The hour-long program has some beautiful spaces for improvisations by band members. Everyone most definitely hits their spots and the collectively loose openness also hits home wonderfully well.

Volume Three is in no way a let-down. It is every bit as good, perhaps even better than the first two. The band gels as a unit as much as ever. The experience of playing together over time unsurprisingly gives the ensemble in essence an even more homogenized blend without sacrificing the very out-front individuality of every member.

Another winner! Very much recommended.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Danny Fox Trio, Wide Eyed

Last March 27, 2012 I covered the Danny Fox Trio and their album The One Constant. They are back with a new one, Wide Eyed (Hot Cup 133) and it continues where the last left off. Once again Danny is at the piano, Chris Van Voorst Van Beest is on acoustic bass, and Max Goldman is at the drums.

Like The One Constant, Wide Eyed has a contemporary new jazz feel to it with rock influences and intricate compositional structures, a sort of Bad Plus in categorical terms via how much group structure is called for, but nonetheless with their own original compositional and improvising stance.

Danny composed the 11 pieces you hear; the entire trio had a hand in how they arranged the performances.

As with the last album there is space for open freedom and structure surrounding it. The music hearkens less to Paul Bley or Cecil Taylor new thing approaches and more, if you will, to "progressive" (even I dare say Brubeckian) and "new-music influenced" tendencies.

The compositions are well done and the trio makes a lively sound out of it all.

I recommend you hear these three. This album delivers its own sort of punch. Well done.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sylvain Rifflet and Jon Irabagon, Perpetual Motion (A Celebration of Moondog)

When an album wakes you up, and you play it maybe three times before you start getting the hang of where it is coming from, that certainly bodes well for the ahead qualities of the music. I experienced that with the album by Sylvain Rifflet and Jon Irabagon, namely Perpetual Motion (A Celebration of Moondog) (Jazz Village 570047D).

Moondog, as many will know, was a fixture of non-conformity, a hobo who crafted his own music well outside the mainstream of anything going on in the United States at the time, save perhaps Harry Partch, but even then more a parallel than a matching force. Moondog was a fixture of New York outsider art, performing on the street and creating a number of albums in his day that mostly puzzled the world but influenced those open to its iconoclasm. His was a folk avant music, if you will...more out of time than ahead of it.

So French reedist Sylvain Rifflet amassed his tenor, clarinet and electronics gear and melded with American new light Jon Irabagon (perhaps best known as a member of MOPDTK) on alto and tenor, adding to it all with an unusual group and recreating Moondog anew with some striking rearrangements of his music. Sylvain conceived carefully of a reworking of the music, utilizng a children's choir, Irabagon's glowing sax work, adding Bejamin Flament on percussion, Phil Gordiani on guitars, Joce Mienniel on flutes and MS 20, and Eve Risser on piano. It all was recorded and video'd live at the 30th Banlieues Bleues Festival.

The audio has a sort of assertive iconoclasm in keeping with Moondog's outsider stance. It goes in many different directions in a new jazz-meets-new-new diversity. Rifflet and Irabagon do some great improvising together and separately, and the rest comes together with a sort of anything goes and the devil take the hindmost boldness.

This is music better heard than minutely described. What's nice is it goes the distance in its own way so that even if you know Moondog inside-out this adds to his legacy and gives us contemporary jazz that fits no mold at the same time.

Get with this one. No, I am not going to mention Blue. This recording gives you reasons to move on, very good ones.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Louis Sclavis Quartet, Silk and Salt Melodies

I have not been hipped to French clarinetist-composer Louis Sclavis all that much until now. I did like his work with the Eldorado Trio (see review from back on November 10, 2010). His new album Silk and Salt Melodies (ECM 2402) has been on my player and I appreciate what I hear.

The music has a general ECM vibe, meaning in part it is melodious and spacious. But there is also an active element, a noteful, partially folk-inspired aspect that sets his music in a larger context than just a lyric melodiousness would imply. (And of course ECM music is more than that anyway most of the time.)

As a player he is well worth hearing. How many clarinetists are active today? Not enough but he qualifies as one to hear. And the band on this date has a kind of singularity. The sound colors of the band make for something that stands out. Gilles Coronado on guitar is widely eclectic. Benjamin Moussay on piano and keyboard has prowess and a very pianistic modernity. Keyvan Chemirani brings out a key ensemble trait with his finely executed traditional Persian hand drumming on the zarb (tumbek).

Together they match up with some serious compositional contributions from Sclavis. The results stand out as chamber jazz of a very worthwhile sort. It's all different enough that having this to hear repeatedly is very recommended.

Jean-Marc Foussat & Ramón López, Ça barbare, là!

The jagged linearity of synthesizer and electronics soundscaped and interspersed with brief loops combines with freely imaginative drumming on the hard-hitting album Ça barbare, là! (Fou CD 04), by Jean-Marc Foussat & Ramón López. We have covered some of Foussat's inventive work in past months (type his name in the search box for those). This one has an especially spontaneous dynamic with the open-field experimental improvisations of Foussat manning the electronic array of sounds and Ramón López coming through with very appropriate free drumming via a full arsenal of percussive sound colors that he uses appropriately and creatively.

The music has a DIY immediacy that does not hearken to jazz roots or what typically comes out of the new music area. It is neither as much as it is itself.

And what that is perhaps is better heard than described. Or perhaps I should say that it is difficult to describe. There are music-noise events spontaneously generated with varying degrees of energy and intensity. The electronics give us widely differing sound poetry with continuous and discontinuous sequences that López counters with an assured sense of gesture. It is music that is experimental, yes, but not at all tentative. It is not at all formal sounding as much as it is human.

And in the end it is the panorama of colors that beguiles and attracts. It has a more expressively direct than overtly abstract demeanor, meaning this feels like soloing, improvising in a personally idiosynchratic way. And for that is more akin to "jazz" than new music audio lab kinds of electronics (and I am thinking more of the electronics of the '60s composers when I say what it is not).

After a few listens I found the entire album convincing. It is "out there" in the orbital sense and it is very much a mutually exploration of two like-minded pioneers out to discover themselves.

So if you like uncharted experimental improv territory, this covers it well! Even with originality, as far as that word applies here (and it does). So listen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yom, Le Silence de l'Exode

If this blog goes further afield than some to cover the world in its widest sense, it is in part because I believe firmly in the interconnectedness of "serious" music today. There is much in the way of cross-fertilization of styles to be heard on the contemporary music scene.

A very good example of this can be found with the clarinetist-composer Yom and his Klezmer-meets-the-world approach. Le Silence de l'Exode (Buda) is an integrated compositional suite that addresses the Jewish Exodus and the diaspora as a musical state of mind. Yom is joined by a contrabassist, a cellist, a Persian traditional percussionist and at times an oud player to create a hauntingly eclectic fusion of Jewish and mid-eastern elements.

The virtuoso clarinet of Yom takes center stage for the most part. He is a formidable player with a fabulous tone that is both Klezmer-like and also suggests the ornate, noteful cross-roots of the style through what sounds like Greek, Turkish, Baltic and mid-eastern ornate clarinet sub-styles. His very engaging, spectacular playing has a beautiful complement in the bass, cello and percussion with their composed-improvised parts. And the cellist especially, but the others too get the chance to show virtuosity as the suite unfolds.

Perhaps nowhere is it more clear how contemporary fusion jazz and mid-eastern music are natural allies in sound. I would not hesitate to call this one a kind of tour de force for the Klezmer clarinetist and his band. It journeys virtually to a time when the music of the Israelites may indeed have sounded something like this, but in any event Yom shows how his own Klezmer affiliations benefit from a widening of the perspective. It is a musical presentation that has great power by virtue of its strongly integrated inspiration and haunting melodic qualities.

Everyone fits together to fashion a music that convinces with its compositional-virtuoso way of looking at the musical roots of the region and the diaspora as a whole.

Bravo! A spectacular record. Peace.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Phil Haynes, No Fast Food, In Concert, with David Liebman and Drew Gress

With a trio of sax, bass and drums in modern advanced jazz these days we expect to have a good amount of interplay between the three artists. Drummer Phil Haynes and his No Fast Food trio has that and maybe even more than is the norm. Haynes has supremely capable improvisers in David Liebman on tenor, soprano and flute and Drew Gress on bass. No one needs to tell you that if you follow the music, yet Phil's compositions and the sequenced dynamic that is on display between Haynes and cohorts make this band explosively triple.

Often enough these days if a band is drummer-led you may not be able to tell. He or she may not always be out front. Not so with No Fast Food. Phil Haynes gives us lots of excellent drumming, though he is in no way out to steal the show. It is a naturally organic triple-sound.

You can hear this plainly and to good advantage on the 2-CD In Concert (CornerStoreJazz) out fairly recently.

The music is culled from two small jazz venue appearances. Both find the band in top form. Liebman seems to be grateful for the hard swinging, open approach of the trio, for he sounds his very best. He is a living master, of course, and does not hang back. Drew Gress has paid dues and played with all kinds of folks, gaining in poise and stature cumulatively as time goes by, so that now he is doing some of his best work. He may not come off the tip of your tongue if someone asks you to name three of the top modern jazz bass players today, but there is no doubt he is one of the very finest for sheer musical imagination and deeply rich tone. And Phil Haynes! He swings hard like Elvin, has an acute sense of set sound and inventive figuration like Tony, and he plays with the others, not especially against them (and not to take away from the latter strategy when it works). He shines forth as an especially well-integrated musical drum master in this trio. A player who has soaked up the tradition and gives out with himself.

That's what you hear in these two full disks, the sound of a very together trio that can play a blues with a soulful contemporary stance, take it out, and at the same time work within varying compositional structures for a program that never tires.

It is perhaps a sleeper? There is so much coming out these days that you might miss it if you are not paying attention. But you should not because it is some great new jazz!

Get it if you can. For Liebman. For Gress. And for Phil Haynes.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Frank Lowe Quartet, Outloud, 1974

After his first album Black Beings came out (see February 2010 review at for my take on that), Frank Lowe went back into the studios, this time with Joseph Bowie on trombone, William Parker on bass, and Steve Reid at the drums. It was May 1, 1974 and "loft jazz" was at a peak in New York. The tracks recorded then were intended as Lowe's second but instead his label at the time had him return to the studios to record what became Fresh, a different sort of album altogether.

Happily for us the real second album, Outloud (Triple Point 209), is now available in a state-of-the-art 2-LP set that includes the welcome bonus of the group at Rivbea for the second LP.

After the two-tenor (Lowe and Joseph Jarman) onslaught of Black Beings this was a slightly less dense outing. Outloud gives us Lowe as the sole tenor. He is inspired to create a mix of testifying outbursts and some passages of more openly melodic improvisations that show a slight influence of Archie Shepp but as an inspiration, not as a copy. It is all Lowe. William Parker is truly on fire on bass. His playing is exemplary in every sense. Steve Reid stokes the fire with driving drums. Joseph Bowie is at his raucous and inventive best. The Frank Lowe compositions are excellent vehicles and set the table for a great improvisatory meal of sound, so to speak.

This is a heretofore unknown new thing loft era avant jazz classic. The Rivbea session, captured sometime soon after with Rashied Ali as engineer-recordist adds to our full appreciation of that band. The music is just slightly more dense. Trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah joins the group for the final side and gives us all that makes him the great improviser he is.

The accompanying booklet is excellent. This is what a (new) reissue should be: beautiful pressings, great graphics and superior music in all senses. Very much recommended.