Friday, October 30, 2015

Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk

Mostly Other People Do the Killing is the potent mix of the now quartet format: Jon Irabagon on sax, Ron Stabinsky, piano, Moppa Elliot on bass and Kevin Shea on drums, doing music that evokes the heritage of jazz from a contemporary viewpoint, often with outright humor or tongue-in-cheek subtlety.

For their latest outing they do not add guests as they sometimes do, but stick with a new quartet format for a program of hard bop, classic Blue-Note oriented music. Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup 153) refers to a small town in Pennsylvania once a part of the thriving local coal industry, now fallen on hard times and renamed Jim Thorpe in honor of the sports hero and with the hopes of attracting tourism.

There are seven Moppa Elliot numbers to be heard here, all fitting in with the hard bop way but played with some outside avant tendencies that come in at times rather brilliantly in ways that may make you smile and even laugh. In my case it is the laughter of appreciation of their adept and seemless multi-language jazz attack. Irabagon's alto and Ron Stabinsky's piano often as not are the instigators of the bad-boy transgressions that no doubt would result in detention for all four if this was music high school.

Yet the music is dead serious at the same time, like Don Pullen could be when he gravitated out of changes-oriented soloing to expressively free outness.

There is enough brilliance from Irabagon and Stabinsky here to keep you listening intently, yet the compositions have the stylistic authenticity and contributory advancement that makes the band convincing on more than one level.

No, this isn't going to raise a furor like "Blue" did. It is no rote restating of the literal past but a serious interaction with it, a forwarding of it, a renewal of older forms for today and a confrontation of today with yesterday.

For that it is a must-hear. This is seriously ahead jazz with the ability to laugh. It's another feather in the caps of the players and the pen of Moppa Elliot. So I suggest you dig into it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ochion Jewell Quartet, Volk

Ochion Jewell takes a personal encounter with police brutality in New York City and makes some excellent music that exorcises it, or at least goes a ways in doing that. In a case of apparently mistaken identity, in 2011 Ochion was accosted in a train station by plainsclothesmen, strangled into unconsciousness, then held on phony charges that included planting evidence on him. The case was dismissed, ultimately, but the effects on Ochion's psyche were lasting. From all this comes his excellent second album, Volk (Self Released), based on various world folk musics. By affirming the humanity of music Jewell reaffirms the birthright of peaceful existence, or at least that's my take.

Ochion holds forth on tenor sax in original and very soulful ways. He brings to the session his quartet of long-standing status: Amino Belyamani, a pianist from Morocco, Sam Minale, Persian-American bassist, and Qasim Naqvi, drummer of Parkistani-American heritage. They are joined by guest Lionel Loueke (born in Benin) on guitar.

This is music that jumps out at you as outstanding from the first. Ochion is simultaneously gruff and lyrical, soulful and cerebral, and the folk music resituated gives the band an avant but rootsy and tonal matrix that all the band members take advantage of to give us some really fine modern jazz. It's freewheeling but not always in the realm of super-edgy, which of course is fine, though Ochion lets loose at times in ways that are nothing short of great. The noteful charms of Ochion, Amino and Sam mix with freetime and rhythmically stop-and-go routines initiated mostly by Benyamini. Altogether in this way everything comes across as fascinatingly dramatic and very musical.

Ochion has all the makings of a tenor master and his band is something to hear. Anybody who wants to get with some new sounds must hear this, no kidding! Music hath charms that may not change injustices, in itself, but it sure goes a long ways to counter it all with a life-affirming presence. That's very true here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rob Mazurek, Exploding Star Orchestra, Galactic Parables, Volume 1

Rob Mazurek, cornet master, composer, bandleader, has gone about his way in the past decade making some of the most interesting, provocative and forward-moving avant jazz recordings of all, with or without his Exploding Star Orchestra. Now we have a 2-CD set with that orchestra in some of his most ambitious and successful music yet, the Galactic Parables, Volume 1 (Cuneiform).

It comprises two overlapping versions of the multiform work, for recitation, large band and electronics. The first disk was recorded live in Sardegna, Italy; the second in Chicago. The band differs somewhat in personnel on the two sets, but we hear from some of the best either way. Rob appears throughout on cornet and electronics as does Jeff Parker on guitar, Damon Locks does text recitations and electronics, Matthew Bauder is on tenor and clarinet, Angelica Sanchez is on piano, John Herndon, drums, and Matthew Lux on bass. The Italian set includes Mauricio Takara on percussion and electronics, Guilherme Granado on sampler and synth, and Chad Taylor on drums. The Chicago set includes Nicole Mitchell on flutes and voice. I list the personnel in full because the music has much to do with them, their open improvisatory acumen and their well-healed performance of the compositional elements. And they are some heavies!

It is on both disks an apocalyptic, cosmic, beautifully out confluence of recitation and large band sound, electronics and instrumental textures. The texts are poetic and at times altered electronically. This is free big band as lively and innovative in its own way as Sun Ra's classic assemblages, both out and nicely structured, compositional and alternately super-free.

And these are some very together players, too. They do not flag but turn in great work.

It is a Mazurek triumph! So, what, would you expect me to tell you to buy it? Yes! Rob, the artists and the label deserve your support! And the music is excellent. Buy it. Go see them, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

William Schimmel, Theater of the Accordion

Accordionist William Schimmel is a master of his instrument and a master of the quirky adoption of all kinds of musical source material to his own specific ends. We hear this readily and rather delightfully on his Theater of the Accordion (Roven Records 51115).

What strikes one first off is the sheer breadth of his reach. W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" (with Wynton Marsalis nicely guesting on trumpet), reworkings of music from Mahler's Ninth and Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier," Schoenberg, Bluegrass, and more besides.

It all becomes pointedly accordionesque in Schimmel's hands. He is a consummate master of the instrument, somewhat offhandedly spontaneous and carefully re-presentative in one moment to the next.

"Wozzeck, the Winner" takes the classic loser of Berg and Herzog fame and makes of him the opposite, in a rather hilarious sort of radio play.

And then the "Carnival of Venice," that mouldy old potboiler, becomes something other in his hands.

It's all quite impressively accordionistic and yes, quirkily so. And it is high artistry audio-fied, for sure. Anyone with a sense of adventure and fun who wants to hear some contentful accordionizing will be very pleased with this. I certainly was.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Willem Breuker Kollektief, Algouleme 18 Mai 1980

The late Willem Breuker (1944-2010) started out years back as one of the founders of the Amsterdam-based ICP (Instant Composers Pool) Orchestra with Mischa Mengelberg and others. (He was also an early, important member of the Gunter Hampel Group and the Global Unity Orchestra.) It rapidly got attention for its extraordinary eclectic mix of avant jazz, historic jazz and you-name it, of compositional fearlessness and improvisational prowess. Breuker was one of its prolific composers and a reedman of larger-than-life brilliance.

Around 1974-75 he formed his own mini-big band, the Willem Breuker Kollektief, and created an even more eclectic mix of unpredictable sounds. We cut ahead to May 18th, 1980, and a live performance of the then nine-member band at Angouleme (FOU 09 & 10), which happily was well-recorded and sees the light of day on the 2-CD set (one full length and one an EP) at hand today.

It is in many ways typical of the Kollektief in full-bloom. Hoary old pop tunes rub shoulders with folk, jazz, classical and arcane elements of all sorts, with an avant jazz superstructure that incorporates it all in a stream-of-consciousness, contrastive totality and a brash sense of humor.

The six-horn front line (including Breuker on clarinet, soprano, alto and tenor) and pianist Henk de Jonge bear much of the thematic and improvisational heft of the ensemble, while the rhythm section has much to do with initiating the sometimes abrupt stylistic segues from genre to genre.

It was a band that had the herculean task of realizing the compositional parts with precision yet also keeping the spontaneously loose avant exuberance alive at all times. Where else would you hear a spoof on the Goodman-Krupa drum-clarinet doings of "Sing, Sing, Sing," a rabid pastiche centering around a somewhat obscure Weill number, a take-off on Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley" hambone rhythm, torrid Tango burlesques and romantic piano potboilers, all done with a forkyew sort of faux insouciance? The answer might be the ICP Orchestra. But the Kollektief takes all that even further than ICP usually did and does today. And throughout it all there is some excellent big little band moments, where you realize they are quite serious after all, or no, not entirely! "Marche & Sax Solo with Vacuum Cleaner" gives you a good sampling of the "here, no there" multiplicity of the music.

This is the Dutch Jazz revolution gone wild. For that there is nothing quite like it. The Kollektief sounds as great as they ever did on this recording. And partly that's because they thrived in a live setting. But in all ways they have a little something even more bold here, even bolder than usual.

For all these reasons this is an album to get if you don't know Breuker's Kollektief, or one to add to your collection if you already know Willem's music at its peak. Listen up if you will!

Friday, October 23, 2015

John Wojciechowski, Focus

Chicago tenors? Gene Ammons, Von Freeman, John Gilmore immediately come to mind. But they have passed and so must the torch. There has been no shortage of new voices on the tenor from Chicagoland, of course. Today another, one I have not been exposed to previously. John Wojciechowski plays tenor, alto and soprano on his second album, Focus (Origin 82699), but the tenor work is perhaps the most striking.

He fronts an excellent band for this outing, with three musicians he has worked with a good bit. The togetherness of hours on the bandstand comes through well. Ryan Cohan joins him on piano and Rhodes, Dennis Carroll on bass and Dana Hall on drums. They form a tightly together, loosely fluid nucleus for the seven Wojciechowski originals, the one by Dana Hall, and Monk and Brubeck gems.

The music is in the advanced-edge mainstream, post-mid-Trane, post-Blue Note, changes oriented and noteful, swinging in the detailed open way. Everybody sounds great, Cohan solos with power, and the rhythm team is impeccable.

Understandably this is Wojciechowski's day in the sun, though, and he especially stands out. The soprano and alto work is excellent, but his tenor reminds us that there are edge-mainstream cats coming out now who do not sound like they are under the spell of Lovano and some of the Boston cats, that there is another way through. Wojciechowski finds a way by embracing the roots and making them personal. He has the sort of solo style that has a building, a beginning, middle and end, an overall arc that keeps you interested and earful.

I listen one more time as I write this, and I am saying to myself, "yeah!" This is a complete statement, from heads to rhythm to solo. It sings forth nicely. It may well be accessible to everyday folks out there but it does NOT pander. There is integrity and there is talent.

I say yeah! John is a player to watch. To listen to.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Blaise Siwula, Shiro Onuma, Songs for Albert

The sax-drums duo recording from 2009 available now dives right in with four energetic and inventive forays into improvisational freedom. It's Blaise Siwula on tenor and alto sax and Shiro Onuma on drums holding forth on Songs for Albert (No Frills Music 0007).

And so understandably Blaise channels, resituates and extends the over-the-top heritage of freedom that Albert Ayler left to us. Shiro is busy and dynamic in an onslaught of open time, less perhaps akin to Sunny Murray as perhaps to Rashied Ali. The point of it is to go with the heritage of new thingness and make something of it all over again.

Blaise once again impresses with his full sound and fresh ideas. On tenor he is in overdrive, no less on alto. The throaty and soulful take pride of place in an extravaganza of well-turned and sonically beautiful crafted outbursts that of course suggest the homage to Ayler, the continuation of the expressive explosiveness of the master in an extended and original way.

Shiro Onuma bursts forth as a percussive combustion, with continual energy and creative smarts.

There are moments of relative repose, too, as is fitting for a long set.

This is untrammeled avant improv excellence, a showcase for Blaise Siwula served up without interruption and the fine seconding of Shiro Onuma.

Those who don't know Siwula's freeway saxophone inventiveness and finely burnished sound could well start here. It gives you a fine introduction to his improvisatory arts. But even if you know his music it satisfies with a concentric burst of pure zone-dwelling. Bravo!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Biggi Vinkeloe, Cheryl Pyle, etc., Flute Duo/ Raw Sound Sweden, Live at Downtown Music Gallery

Last March 15th avant jazz improv reed master Biggi Vinkeloe was visiting New York to touch bases and do some playing. On that night she carried her music to the Downtown Music Gallery in Manhattan for two segments. The results are available as a download album entitled Flute Duo/Raw Sound Sweden, Live at Downtown Music Gallery (11th Street Music). This is a prime "women in the new jazz" showcase with some very lively music.

The main part of the night is the Raw Sound Sweden segment, with Biggi on alto sax, Elsa Bergman, bass, Anna Hogberg, alto sax, Malin Wattring, tenor sax, Signe Dahlgreen, tenor sax, Anna Lund, drums, and two important resident New Yorkers--bassist Shayna Dulberger and flautist Cheryl Pyle guesting. It is primo open-ended avant jazz with lots of saxophonics in the new and newer zone and a very structured sense of freedom.

The second half is devoted to Biggi and Cheryl in a "Sonata for Two Flutes," a duet with a significant meeting of Cheryl and her patented flute ways and Biggi in her own zone.

It is music of a special sort, Biggi carrying forward her own linear sensitivity with some very choice co-musicians. This is a good one for those (and hey, that should be everybody) who want to keep abreast of the women in jazz movement. Nice sounds, bravo!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Henry Herteman, Roule ta Salive

I know nothing much about trombonist Henry Herteman save what I hear on the recent solo album Roule ta Salive (Improvising Beings 34). But the album tells me all I need to know for now. This is a full album of trombone, sometimes double tracked to afford the feeling of two trombonists, with occasional audio enhancement effects. Then there is one of the 13 tracks where Henry plays melodica nicely enough.

It's a matter of free avant trombone improvisations with the accent on expression. He phrases well, gives each note timbre and color or veers off into sonic extensions, depending on the moment. He comes through as a player with both soul and a very sensitive feeling for the sounds he can get to further his musical being.

Maybe this sounds like it could be dreary? It isn't. Sure there is an awful lot of trombone on this album, but time passes quickly given Herteman's ability to come up with jazzed and new-modern extensions of himself.

He is very much ace, a trombonist of great diversity of sounds. The music fascinates. He no doubt sounds great in a group context, but you do not feel the lack when the improvs are at this level.

Great trombone!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct of Jazz

The trouble I sometimes have about writing a review of an artist-group I consider seminal and have pretty much covered in a long sequence of releases is to convey something of what makes the album different yet still talk about the general importance of that artist without just repeating.

The Matthew Shipp Trio is one such artist/group. Here we are with a new one, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear THI 57211.2). It is worthy and moving in ways that the Shipp Trio has been for a long time. Yet it is not entirely business-as-usual, not an eternal resurrection of the something that makes Shipp Trios exceptional. Yet there is continuity, yes.

One thing that stands out is the new addition to the personnel. Sure of course there is Matthew and the titan strength of Michael Bisio on bass. But this is the first recording with drummer Newman Taylor Baker. Using one drummer in place of another can sometimes change the thrust of the band dramatically. Think of the classic Trane Quartet with Elvin Jones, then with Roy Haynes on some of those dates when Elvin was unavailable. The band is playing in much the same mode, often enough the same pieces, but the result is influenced greatly by the change in percussive approach.

I would not go so far to say that replacing Whit Dickey with Newman leads to such radical change, but then that classic Trane quartet is so internalized for me and many of us that the presence of Haynes seems like a very different animal and is easily heard.

Newman Taylor Baker adds a very different drumming personality to the threesome. He plays time in his own very swinging way and his "free" and solo playing have an almost orchestral sense of drum sound possibilities, not to mention impeccable timing and sense of dialog. And the way he does all that shifts the trio's emphasis a bit.

Another thing maybe is the classical logic of Matthew's compositions. The whole album remains in the advanced trio zone, for sure, yet the compositional elements both make use of repetition in increasingly emphatic ways but also show roots going as far back as Duke, which is not surprising given the trio over time yet it nonetheless is a prime foundational element. The playing of the trio, Matt holding forth beautifully but Michael and Newman forming an integral lock to the three-tiered sound, is ever fresh, maybe also quite readily grasped by the listener perhaps not as much up on the "new new thing" jazz today as may be the case with other ears.

And there is lots of variety--an out rocking number, abstractions with razor sharp clarity and a nod to those greats that came before, transposed uniquely to the Shipp way of going about things.

Put all that together and you get a set that holds your ears in concentrated interest. And yes, it is smoking, always.

Is this the album that defines Matt Shipp and the Trio today? Sure, in part, though what is to come will continue to do that.

It is an album that should get attention for how it communicates vividly without compromising the spirit-essence of the Shipp way. He is one of the most important pianists on the scene now and this trio is essential in no lesser sense.

Don't miss out on the future of the present. It is here. It is very present on The Conduct of Jazz. Do not pass this one by!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day IV

Harris Eisenstadt turned 40 last month. To celebrate it he held forth for a week at the iconic NY new jazz venue The Stone. I had planned to cover a mention of it in tandem with this new album, for it sounded quite ambitious and varied. Unfortunately the past several months have embroiled me in logistical and economic traumas that needed much of my attention (and still do) so that I somehow missed the timing of this posting by a mile. Unlike some music review institutions that operate with an abundance of reviewers, the Gapplegate "empire" consists of only me, so hardly an empire, and it involves at times a considerable amount of work just to closely listen to and schedule all the reviews. So I am most sorry to have missed the boat on the Harris birthday festivities.

But I come to you now as an enthused reviewer of this music, this new album, Canada Day IV (Songlines 16142). The Canada Day series gives us Harris Eistenstadt's primary ensemble and forms an important platform for his chamber jazz compositions. Volume IV shows an ever-growing, organic mastery of compositional structuring within an improvisational setting.

The quintet is a very accomplished combination of exceptional musicians that do full justice to the music. Most readers of this blog will recognize the names and I hope know something of the musical abilities of the group. There is Nate Wooley on trumpet, Matt Bauder on tenor, Chris Dingman on vibes, Pascal Niggencamper on bass, and of course Harris on drums.

They are put through their paces in a series of seven substantial Eisenstadt compositions. The musicians get good space for improvisations and make the most of it. The compositions have a way of permeating the improvisational segments either overtly or in terms of a specific rhythmic-harmonic-melodic mood.

What strikes me about the ensemble and Harris's helmsmanship is the continual presentation of unusually quirky, unexpected or otherwise asymmetric forms that lend themselves especially well to creative presence in the band and the personal stylistic idiosyncracies of the players. The compositions are complex enough that you as a listener grow into them over time. They are not fully grasped, at least for me, at first hearing but instead unfold their riches as you listen again. And the soloing too has a depth that becomes more and more apparent the more one hears the album.

To me that is the best sort of music, the sort of thing one continually gains from as one lives with the tracks for a while.

Harris Eisenstadt may not at this point get a huge amount of accolades out there. But to my mind he is an outstanding voice in the new jazz, a formidable talent that needs to be heard. And this is one of his very best albums. Hear it by all means. And listen more than once! Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

MarsaFouty, Concerts

Jean-Marc Foussat is one of the most inventive and important electroacousticians on the European avant-improv scene today. Fred Marty is a double bassist of distinction. MarsaFouty is the combination of the two together. Concerts (FOU CD 011) consists of two long live performances of the duo at the beginning of this year.

It is a explorative program of subtlety and wide sonic expanse. Foussat generates a soundscape of altered acoustic and electronic events via analogue synth and other devices. Marty responds with bowed and pizzicato bass improvisations that extend the panorama and create independent lines and textures. The result is live new music in the advanced realm, more so than "jazz" per se.

These two performances bring us two contrasting essays in timbre and flow, "psychoactive" two-way interactions that give the listener a sort of narrative in abstractions, a story of a non-verbal situational sort.

As such this is an excellent contribution to the now decades-old tradition of spontaneous new music compositions that we can trace back to MEV, AMM, Il Gruppo, and perhaps some of Stockhausen's group electro-improvisations from the '70s. MarsaFouty go their own way with this "tradition" and give us a satisfying and fascinating narrative panorama.

If you are not familiar with this sort of new music, this may startle you, as any of it would. But it is well inspired and effective, poetic and dynamic whether you are an experienced listener in this realm or a beginner. It gives you a good start if you are new to it all; it provides you with a fine addition if you are an acolyte.

Happy listening!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

earnear, Joao Camoes, Rodrigo Pinheiro, Miguel Mira

Where does music stop? Is there some end-point where listeners can permanently rest, never having to hear new music again? Well, in spite of the behavior of some listeners, it can never happen, as long as we are here on this planet (or other planets, that's a thought).

Giving the continual change or evolution in music, we all should try to keep our ears open, to listen to what's new, to patronize our living artists as well as those masters that have gone before.

With that in mind I introduce to you a new album in the advanced improvisational realm. It's a trio of Portuguese new music/avant jazz artists. The album is entitled earnear (tour de bras 9012). You may be familiar with some or all of them. Joao Camoes is on viola, Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, and Miguel Mira on cello. They hold forth very inventively in eight segments that have contrasts both subtle and/or overt.

It is very much a trio effort, with inspired three-way improvisations that sound in the end a bit more new music oriented than jazz-like. Extended techniques, moody tripartite sound staging, a sense of textural, timbral innovative flow all prevail.

There are no solos in the conventional sense. All create a pointedly punctuated, interwoven carpet that is often radically unconcerned with a key center, though one might with some effort locate one at such times. Other times the center is primally present. The point is in the interaction of widely variable sound collages born of the moment and continued over time.

The sensitivity of each musician towards the others is what makes this set stand out. Each are virtuosos in sound production and they prevail beautifully. This is music that is sometimes more meditative, other times extrovertedly gestural.

It succeeds consistently thanks to the spontaneous intelligence of the triple utterance. Oh, and yes there is spirit here in the performances, too. Plenty of it.

What you get in the end is some very cohesive improvised new music from three musicians of rather brilliant inventiveness. It is a great example of new European chamber improvisation. It has a coherence of moods and a sureness of gesture.

Very recommended if you seek an experimental chamber nowness!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Loop 2.4.3, Time-Machine Music

Loop 2.4.3 is the name of the "entity" devoted to performing the music of Thomas Kozumplik. Time-Machine Music (Music Starts from Silence 06) is the latest album. It is an electro-acoustic reconfiguring of a percussion ensemble of Chinese tom-toms, Indian bells, crotales, log drums, tambourim, bass drum, percussion sample pad, tape echo, delay, marimba, vibraphone, Thai gongs, piano, Wurlitzer, steel drum, kalimba and vocals. The composer plays all of these instruments and uses samples to extend the sounds, and then there is a reworking via digital means.

The music takes advantage of looping to create rhythmic cycles that mesmerize in a quasi-minimalist way while maintaining a linear rhythmic thrust that allows for continued development and variation. There are parts that use samples to sound akin to contemporary tracking in hip-hop worlds, though different in kind. Other parts seem more percussion-ensemble oriented.

All of it retains your interest and does not follow any typical road map. What do you call it? Loop 2.4.3. It will appeal to those who like contemporary sounds with percussive grooves and to the generally adventurous. Give this one a listen!

Monday, October 12, 2015

David Berkman, Old Friends and New Friends

This post is about a new album made by contemporary jazz pianist songsmith David Berkman, Old Friends and New Friends (Palmetto 2177). He is no new kid on the block and this is not his first album by any means. So we aren't about heralding a rookie here, but rather recognizing the plentiful musicianship of an original and his band, in a reunion of artist Berkman and label-owner Matt Balitsaris after a number of years going separate ways. And it's also about connecting with old musician friends and new ones, the old being drummer Brian Blade, the new soprano-tenorist Dayna Stephens, among others.

When you hook up with new friends-associates and at the same time reunite with older ones it can have a sort of creative frisson, in my experience, and that quality comes out on this album. There is excitement, the creative juices flow, there are some excellent compositions and a high level of improvisational attainment. That's what I hear.

Who is the band? It is a sextet of David of course on piano, the aforementioned Brian Blade and Dayna Stephens, then Billy Drewes on alto and soprano, Adam Kolker on soprano, alto, tenor, clarinet and bass clarinet, and Linda Oh on contrabass.

Nine numbers grace the program, changes-oriented contemporary compositions with a flair. There is a wealth of soloists that David generously gives space to, so we do get his very together piano playing in solo but also lots of sax-reed solo space and some room for Linda Oh as a real soloist. Yes, and Brian takes a fine drum solo, too. The rhythm team of Berkman-Oh-Blade has torque and a presence that puts everything in place. Listen to them alone and you get a good deal to hear. Then the three sax tandem allows for a very full sound in the head arrangements as well as some very hip three-way improvising and then distinguished individual soloing styles as well.

The beauty and fine craftsmanship of the compositions-arrangements put this music in a zone where you know you are hearing new, exemplary jazz. They have enough of a quirkiness and contemporary quality that it all feels fresh. But then everybody in the sextet has plenty of chances to shine individually and collectively.

Berkman's lyrically post-bop piano playing is there at all times, and that too makes of this a special thing, perhaps definitively so.

Put all that together and you get one very fine album. Something to come back to often with increasing understanding. It has of it a potential classic in the mainstream zone, a classic of our time. That would need a decade or so to confirm. In the meantime it is a listen that will have no shortage of inspiration. Yes, do try and hear it. Buy it! Play it for your friends. It has that sort of infectiousness about it that one feels like spreading the word!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Blaise Siwula, Carsten Radtke, Joe Hertenstein, Past the Future

I have been listening to and appreciating saxophonist Blaise Siwula for a pretty long time now. He is a central figure in the avant free jazz realm in New York City. I don't recall hearing him more inspired in recordings as he is on the new disk Past the Future (No Frills Music NFM 0008).

It is a three-way cooperative improvisational meeting of Blaise on alto, tenor and soprano, the electric guitar of Carsten Radtke, and the drums of Joe Hertenstein. And a fine confluence is made out of the excellent chemistry the three generate together.

Joe Hertenstein is a drummer of great sound color and smarts. He unleashes his timbre-ally diverse kit and puts it to the service of creating cohesive and moving panoramas of percussive logic. His playing lays an important foundation for what the trio freely creates.

Carsten Radtke gives us some very inventive guitar work that is as unpredictable as it is diversely astute. Chordal inventiveness goes with single-lining dexterity and sound manipulation for an impressive voice in the proceedings. And what he does stays in the mind and catapults the others to overtop the norm, launch into creative overdrive.

And Blaise Siwula? He is extraordinarily articulate, blazing with a big sound on tenor, plying equally well his agilely inventive alto and his puckish soprano. This trio gathering seems to especially inspire him to go beyond to the highest realm of creative saxophony. He invokes all of his avant chops for an expressive tour de force on this one. And you can hear in his playing here as elsewhere the entire history of jazz and avant as sonic reference points on the way to his own considerable immediacy and originality. If you want to know what Blaise is about, why he is an important stylist and innovator, seek no further. You can hear it in concentrated and explosive form on this, Past the Future. His tenor playing is not often in the limelight. He sounds very much at home on it here! So that is a welcome added bonus to it all.

Ultimately the point of it all is the threesomeness that is achieved in all glory on this session. Each member carves out of his creative and preparatory actions over the years a special trio sonance, an interactive virtuosity that really puts a burn in the retro-rockets to propel them to the musical heavens.

For a jazz-rooted avant freedom this is one of the finest sessions I've heard this year. Needless to say I do strongly recommend that you grab this album.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dre Hocevar Trio, Coding of Evidentiality

Slovenian-born drummer Dre Hocevar, 26 years of age at the time of the current recording, has sat at the feet of the masters, Michael Carvin, Ralph Peterson, and Marcus Gilmore as well as Reggie Workman, Hal Galper, Joe Morris and Steve Lehman. He has absorbed some of their spirit and gives us more than a little something of himself on this album of the Dre Hocevar Trio, Coding of Evidentiality (Clean Feed 325).

It is not at all typical as a "drummer's album," but maybe that is true much of the time these days. In this case it is very much a group effort, with trio mates pianist Bram de Looze and cellist Lester St. Louis forming with Dre an interlocking wholeness, aided for one cut by the electronics of Sam Pluta.

It is music firmly in the realm of new music/"free jazz" sonics, with some compositional frameworks as jumping off points apparently, though it all comes across as spontaneous as it definitely is.

What we get on this program is an intricate series of improvisations in three-way dialog (or four) that show very much a fluid sense of line and texture, a virtuosity of intent and a mastery of "free" vocabulary. It all gels in seven very focused pieces.

It is exemplary trio ensemble work today. There is an ease of expression and a fundamental sense of gesture and suchness (if you will pardon the term) that sets this trio apart from just good avant. They seem to project a clarity of purpose as you listen, and once you hear it all several times that clarity remains and becomes something you can almost physically grasp.

And so maybe that's enough to say for now. If you dig the piano trio in an advanced modern realm this is an excellent example of what it can be today.

Listen to this! And not once. . . a few times. Then see what you think. Very recommended.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nick Finzer, The Chase

The trombone in jazz has a rich legacy. Time does not stand still for either the instrument or the music, of course. Nick Finzer is a vibrant new trombonist on the scene. We can hear what he is up to on his recent second album, The Chase (Origin 82695).

The album gives plenty of space to Finzer's noteful-soulful approach, ten of his originals and the fine band assembled for the date. Nick brings in five associates for this sextet, all who have had a close association with the bandleader and work very well together. They are Lucas Pino on tenor and bass clarinet, Alex Wintz on electric guitar, Glenn Zaleski on piano, Dave Baron, bass, and Jimmy MacBride on drums.

The frontline all have something to say as soloists, the rhythm section swings mightily, and the Finzer originals and arrangements have that sort of Blue Note bop-and-after inflection but cover new ground and set the stage well. It's a testament to Finzer's bandleading acumen and his prowess as a soloist.

Nick studied with Wycliffe Gordon, got advanced degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Julliard, and played in Truesdale's Gil Evans Project, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Frank Wess, Lew Tabackin, Frank Kimbrough and others.

He is an excellent exponent of the bop-and-after trombone, with an acuity, a sense of sound and noting that put him among the elite of mainstream trombonists and an emerging original voice in his own light.

The music to be heard on the album is, as they used to say, a solid gas. It is serious business, serious changes-based music with excellent trombonista flourish. And the band is something else, too. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Casa Futuro, Pedro Sousa, Johan Berthling, Gabriel Ferrandini

Casa Futuro (Clean Feed 334)? Well, yes indeed. All of us old enough lived through the promise of a future that would somehow be utopian, modular, modern in the fullest sense of the word. And then the future came, almost as a parody of that future, with zombies walking the earth staring at their cell phones for what? The ad that reminds them to stop at a burger place who paid for the recommendation? One of my friends the last time I saw him before he died interrupted his what turned out to be last meeting by finding on his cell phone a suggestion to go to a burger place down the street. Eat one before you die. You must fulfill your destiny on planet earth. Leave your friends now and go consume!

Just about everybody I run into on the street, they are madly texting god-knows-what to god-knows-who as they traverse through a world that no longer is here-and-now, but rather there-in-then? But hey, there's water on Mars so everything may be coming about after all, our long dead Martian brethren may speak to us out of the remains of their civilization, who can say? Meanwhile everybody goes somewhere in order to capture their selfie with the "there" as backdrop. So where ARE we, really?

Casa Futuro reminds us that the future has been here for many years, even though most people do not recognize its existence. The avant garde in architecture, art and music has ever posited that future. And the trio whose album we contemplate today is firmly attached to the tradition of that future in the "jazz" realm, as first experienced so shockingly (for those who listened) in the '60s free jazz, new thing movement.

Pedro Sousa (tenor sax, etc.), Johan Berthling (double bass) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums) give us some worthwhile free sounds from across the pond (for those reading this in the States), from Portugal, where things are still hopping, a center for modernity as is New York, Chicago, Berlin and a good deal of other places, though ironically most folks out there don't know a thing about it much.

Anyway as we press forward this is a trio that comes out of the "new jazz" convincingly and movingly. It's all about the three-way improvisations that make of the trio a weighted, multi-beinged entity. Pedro shouts out incantations and epithets that follow and expand the footprints of the multi-timbred saxophonists like Ayler and Shepp, Trane and Pharoah, all those initiatory cats that heard Ornette's cry and responded with cries of their own. Pedro Sousa has that in him and he brings out his own version nicely. It is a language of sorts after all, and he speaks it well.

Key to the sound of the music is Pedro's multi-phonic approach and its interactions with multiphonic and wooden toned bass excursions by Johan. Johan too builds from the free roots of the tradition--of Silva, Grimes, Parker, and all the pioneering avant bassists who have given us the sounds and the possibility of new sounds to come. Johan has heard them, internalized them and made something of his own from them.

Drummer Gabriel works out of the new thing tradition too, with the open stance Murray, Graves, Ali, Altschul and the others put forward in the first period of freetime playing. He too has carved a domain of his own out of the tradition of the future.

So there are three improvised segments to be heard on this album, with plenty of nicely imaginative freeplay to be heard from three instrumentalists any avant player of notes would be happy, I'd imagine. to join together with. As it is the trio fills our sonic airspace quite effectively without the assistance of others. They are a casa futuro unto themselves.

The Beats were sometimes obsessed with the need to be instantaneously in the now. The New Thing wanted to create the same in terms of sound. Our cell phone texting brethren may think they are also virtually present in "nowness," but it is not direct. This music IS.

And so this is a fine album, I am saying in so many words. The future may indeed be coming, but in the meantime we have good examples of its intimations in music such as this. Hear it if you can!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin, Ichigo Ichie

From composer-pianist Satoko Fujii comes the initial recording of her first European-based big band, Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin. Ichigo Ichie (Libra 212-037) features the band giving us high spirited readings of the long title piece (in four parts) and a 15-minute rendering of "ABCD." The orchestra is a logical outgrowth of Satoko and husband Matsuki Tamura's move to Berlin in 2011.

Satoko on piano is joined by 11 musicians, including Matsuki Tamura and two others on trumpets, Matthias Schubert and Gebhard Ullmann on tenor saxes, plus baritone, trombone, guitar, bass and two drummers (Michael Griener and Peter Orins).

"Ichigo Ichie" means "once in a lifetime." Satoko composed it for the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013 and it receives an excellent performance here for the recorded premiere. It is filled with rousing tutti passages and improvised interludes for various instruments alone or in varying combinations.

"ABCD" continues Satoko's special avant jazz approach. The parts were written and numbered. On the day of performance each member selects at will one of the numbered parts, so that each performance will have a maximal spontaneity and freshness, as one can readily hear in the version recorded for this album.

If you already know Fujii's large-ensemble music, this music very much is a continuation of it. It is excellent at any rate, filled with energy and zest, good conceptual thinking and very spirited playing from all concerned.

It is one of her very best. So if you cannot go for the complete set of 70-plus albums she has recorded (!), certainly include this one in your library. It moves along well and has the special total wash of sound that Satoko's large band recordings have in abundance. A great band, too!