Monday, June 27, 2016

Chat Noir, Nine Thoughts for One Word

Chat Noir is an ambitious trio that for 12 years has incorporated ambiance, electronics, chamber and jazz into their own special blend. Their latest, Nine Thoughts for One Word (RareNoise Records RNR 064 available as LP, CD and download), continues the journey with an evocative set that makes the most out of the compositional and soundscaped possibilities.

Original Chat Noir founding members piano-keyboardist Michele Cavallari and bassist Luca Fogagnolo are for this album joined by electronics composer-producer Jan Peter Schwalm on electronics, beats, keys and acoustic guitar. Daniel Calvi guest appears on guitars for three numbers; vocalist Alessandro Tomaselli adds his vocals and lyrics for one number.

It is music with definite soundscaped ambiance, some drive and a wide gamut of electronic timbres. It is an album of substance and sophistication, yet an effective cosmic flow and saturation.

Anyone who is a fan of such things done well, as I am, will find the album to their liking, I surely think. Give it your ears!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Twenty One 4Tet, Live at Zaal 100

Who are the Twenty-One 4Tet? If you have to ask, you are probably like me, Stateside, needing to fill out your knowledge of Euro-Avant jazz today. They are the nicely aggregated foursome of Luis Vicente on trumpet, John Dikeman on tenor sax, Wilbert De Joode on double bass and Onno Govaert on drums. I've been listening with great interest to their recent CD Live at Zaal 100 (Clean Feed 366).

It is free-wheeling dynamic avant jazz that holds its own by advancing into the future while also showing new thing roots in paying respects to Ornette, Cherry, Shepp, Ayler and other classic free jazz pioneers.

Trumpeter Luis Vicente is the more familiar artist in the quartet, at least for those of us in the US. He sounds wonderful throughout: articulate, fire-y, filled with great ideas and the chops to make them ring out.

John Dikeman is a tenor man with that big extended sound, massive slurs and swoops, harmonics and a hugely soulful sound.

Wilbert De Joode is the complete bassist, whether in arco or pizzicato mode, an anchor and a prime mover in the forward motion of the 4Tet. And Onno Govaert plays in the advanced free style with imagination and catalytic drive. He has that abruptly contrapuntal extended sound range that somehow marks many of the Euro-free percussionists, and he does it quite well. It stimulates the 4Tet to advance timbrally and pontillistically.

It's the way the four work as a whole that makes this especially good. Their collective layering takes on many moods and colors. It marks the extended imaginations of the best collectives out there. They are one of them, as this recording evidences.

If you are on the outside track in free listening this one will satisfy you completely. It's a definite keeper. I recommend that you hear it, by all means.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cecile & Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Soul Eyes

Some avant jazz artists make a point of looking back from time to time to the rich history and roots of the music. Anthony Braxton of course is one, and then so is trumpetmaster Jean-Luc Cappozzo. He with his pianist partner Cecile Cappozzo take a lovingly lingering look at some Charles Mingus and Mal Waldron gems on the recent Soul Eyes (Fou Records FR-CD15). Mingus gets his due in versions of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Nostalgia in Times Square" and "Pithecathropus Erectus"; Waldron is remember with "No More Tears," "The Seagulls of Kristiansund" and perhaps his best known composition-song, the title cut "Soul Eyes."

Cecile puts forth a lean-to-lush, crisply modern piano style that evokes everyone from Monk to Ran Blake (and of course a gesture towards the pianisms of Mingus and Waldron) but does it in her own way. Jean-Luc brings in some of his special avant timbrality but then can be touchingly straightforward, as in his articulation of the "Pork Pie" melody line. Both are very much on their game.

The duo format allows plenty of loose flexibility which the two realize with a oneness that communicates readily and happily. And in the process the artistry of Cecile and Jean-Luc comes through with dedication and a sort of reverence to the masters that projects outwards with nice forays into the outer realms now and again, but can and does stay nicely within the changes of the songs as the spirit moves.

It is a beautiful set that manages to remind you how central these songs still are--and also how much improvisational room there still remains for the right artists to refresh the music.

These are some magical performances that just about any jazz enthusiast should respond to like I have. Bravo!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jeff Denson Quartet, Concentric Circles

Jeff Denson is a bassist, composer and bandleader to watch, or rather to listen to. His latest effort is a quartet made up of members of his trio and Electreo, an album entitled Concentric Circles (Ridgeway Records RRCD003). This is acoustic, progressive jazz marked by Jeff's involved contemporary compositions (plus Duke's "I Got it Bad") and the decidedly forward leaning improvisations of bassoonist Paul Hanson, pianist Dan Zemelman, Jeff on bass in arco or pizzicato modes, plus the very alive rhythm team of Jeff and drummer Alan Hall.

The music is carefully and nicely arranged and the swinging nature of the band is in no way impeded by the intricacies of the music.

Jeff sings on this too and he's very good, rangy and impeccably phrased.

One should listen closely to what Jeff is up to on bass, both in ensemble and solo contexts. The bassoon work of Hansen and piano of Zemelman most definitely add to it all as well.

This is contemporary jazz that is very well wrought and expressive without exactly falling into the avant camp. But neither is it the least bit cliche, but always thoroughly musical and modern.

I must suggest this release for anyone looking for something new and unusual. It is a great listen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Andre Goncalves, Current & Riptides

We as open listeners should be ready for anything when surveying the new music scene. The Andre Goncalves album Currents & Riptides (Shh Puma 019CD) is an excellent example. It is a studio-oriented series of two very evocative soundscapes composed and executed by Andre on synthesizer, laptop guitar and Fender Rhodes with the help of Pedro Boavida on Rhodes for the first work; Rodrigo Dias on bass and Goncalo Silva on guitar for the second.

Both pieces have a kind of uniquely expressive approach, soundscaped, sustained, developed in time, the near absence but intuitively implied presence of a drone or alternately, the presence and ambient timbral transformation of the drone (in the second piece),  and radically tonal expanses. The music concentrates on the endless variations and continually shifting intermingling of a series of motifs that grow and shrink organically and have a sort of processual feel like perhaps the patterns you perceive in natural soundscapes--raindrops, wind, the rippling gurgle of water on a small stream. They have a consistency and an infinitely variable trajectory. And like the natural world there can be the intrusion of singular events that may recur now and again against the ambiently sustained continuities and an organic processual sense of very gradual change.

It's the kind of music that lays out a tapestry of sound color that creates an open, cosmic sort of mood in the listener. And though there are others of course that have done this, the ultimate universe of tone-timbre is quite original with Goncalves.

This is music of great beauty. It is essential listening!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ingrid Laubrock, Tom Rainey, Buoyancy

Today, another fine free-avant jazz duo, this time from soprano-tenorist Ingrid Laubrock and drummer Tom Rainey, Buoyancy (Relative Pitch RPR 1048).

It consists of four freely improvised segments that show us why Ingrid is at the top of her game as a saxophonist of marked talent and facility. Whether it is an open-form exuberance and dark-toned soulfulness on tenor or a nicely burnished torrent of soprano effusions, she shows us an artistry and imaginative way that puts her at the forefront.

Tom Rainey you expect much from in a context like this, and you surely get it. He maintains a near perfect balance of sonic contrast and dialogic drive that goes very far in making this set striking and beautifully expressive.

This is essential listening for avant enthusiasts. Ingrid gets full aural exposure which she uses to great advantage and shows us a major artist in full bloom. Tom provides us with exemplary drumming that reminds us how key he is. The two together create considerable magic.

Very recommended!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Julie Kjaer 3, Dobbeltgaenger, with John Edwards, Steve Noble

If anyone doubts that we are in a kind of renaissance for women jazz artists today, one is not paying attention to the full force of the many fine recordings out there now. I give you another example on this posting in the Julie Kjaer 3 and her CD Dobbeltgaenger (Clean Feed 361). There is one collective improv; the rest are Julie Kjaer compositions. Put on the first track, "Out of Sight" with its puckish Monk-through-Lacy wryness and you know something good is up.

Julie plays alto, John Edwards double bass and Steve Noble drums. It is a tight-knit yet feely loose avant jazz affair with all playing key roles in the totality. Julie's compositions set the table for each segment and her alto has humor, brashness fingerprint tone individuality and facility.

This is music with a swinging pulse much of the time, but then a free openness that expands it all outward. The Julie-John-Steve nexus has a plastic fluidity and a soulful charge that makes for a great listen. There is a parsing segmentality to the tunes that measures things out before the solo cutting takes place, so to speak. And in so approaching the music in this way the trio hearkens back a bit to some of the new thing Simmons-NY Contemporary Five-Shepp outfits in their classic phases, but not in any way a sound cloning so much as a state-of-mind. This is a trio with its own sound but a nod to avant tradition too.

There are plenty of high points and a wholeness to the date that will bring you back to it repeatedly.

Julie Kjaer is yet another original out there that deserves a hearing.

Get this one on your ear-food menu!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Joelle Leandre 10, Can You Hear Me?

Joelle Leandre has more than one musical dimension to offer us. If we didn't know that already her recent album with the Joelle Leandre 10, Can You Hear Me? (Ayler Records 146), will alert us to this happy situation.

Joelle is one of the most important and creative, most original avant improvisational contrabassists active today. I've covered a fair number of her bass albums over on the Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog and they are most invigorating. (Click on the cross link on this page for those.) She is also an extraordinary vocalist--mostly in tandem with her bass excursions.

And she is a jazz composer-bandleader of exceptional stature. Can You Hear Me? gives us some extraordinary music from her 10-member band. It shows us her mastery of new avant compositional openness and originality.

The band is well-chosen and well suited for the music at hand. It consists of course of Joelle on contrabass, along with Guillaume Aknine on electric guitar, Florian Satche on drums and percussion, Jean-Brice Godet on clarinets, Theo Ceccaldi on violin, Christiane Bopp on trombone, Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet, Severine Morfine on alto sax, Alexandra Grimal on saxophones and Valentin Ceccaldi on cello. Readers of my blogs and those conversant with the European avant jazz lifestreams should recognize some or many of these names, but ultimately what matters is that the band as a whole has considerable improvisational abilities and a collective togetherness that is near ideal for the realization of Leandre's musical sublimities.

The drummer side of me notes some really interesting work from Florian here. But then there are many improvisational high points from virtually all concerned.

And the compositional frameworks are beautifully wrought and executed for an album that stands out as vitally contemporary and artistically superb. It is some of my favorite music so far this year! So needless to say I do thoroughly recommend this one. Great compositional cohesiveness and inspiration--and terrific ensemble and solo work! The Ten need to be heard--with I hope many live appearances and more recordings. Bravo!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bill Payne, Eva Lindal, Carol Liebowitz

Clarinetist Bill Payne did an excellent album with piano icon Connie Crothers a few years back (type his name in the search index box above for my review of that). He returns for another free chamber jazz outing in a CD simply entitled Bill Payne Eva Lindal Carol Liebowitz (Line Art Records LA1001CD).

Payne on clarinet, Lindal on violin and Liebowitz on piano hold forth well on 11 segments of chamber jazz collective improvisation. Nothing was worked out beforehand; all was generated spontaneously as it was recorded.

And the results? It is a very imaginative trio music we hear, three equals giving each other free reign and equal interplay for a varied sequence of moods and inventions. All are very accomplished artists and the expression "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" certainly applies. They form a tripartite confluence that is of course much more than three individual solos sewn together. Via deep listening they gain exponentially and we are the happy beneficiaries.

Highly recommended for all who might be drawn towards some modern and exceptional collective improvs not quite jazz yet not quite "new music" either. There is much to appreciate!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Piero Umiliani, Psichedelica

There is a good deal one might say about Italian soundtrack composer Piero Umiliani's album Psichedelica (Schema SCEB931CD). I will try and zero in on what strikes me as important or worth saying. Much of the music here was a part of the 1968 film "Svezia Inferno e Paradisia" (Sweden Heaven and Hell) directed by Luigi Scattini. A track most will recognize became the theme from the original Muppet Show, but there is a good deal more here, things that are more rock oriented, spacy, psychedelic in ways that perhaps sometimes remind of Ennio Morricone and also the zeitgeist operative at the time--the various ways pop psychedelia could be transformed into a mass audience vehicle. In that it is like what was happening when the earlier "space age bachelor music" transformed "authentic" exotica. And sometimes here and there the music reverts to a more categorical middle-of-the-road "normality" and that fits the bill as well as hopelessly campy in interesting ways.

In other words, this was to the swinging later-'60s as bachelor music was to the later '50s and early '60s. There was musical material out there to be transformed into something very au courant at the time but historically it was an art that rapidly fell into campy obscurity and obsolescence until recently. Now we appreciate much of this as fully of its period and brilliantly tacky yet ambitious in its best moments. It is at times avant edgy, then completely homogenous. For all that much of it is something of an exceptional listening experience on the whole. That is if you are up for it.

You get fuzz guitar, go-go beats, lush juxtapositions and the odd interpenetration of youth mystery with middle-class respectability. It is something my dad might of found interesting---akin to, but much better than when Lawrence Welk donned a hippie wig and Nehru jacket for a big laugh on his show back in the day. Or the show "Dragnet" when it attempted to deal with the times. It is the radical youth movement transposed for the consumption and appreciation of Joe Square. It does all of that in interesting ways. And really, that makes this album a thorough gas!

I would not have been caught dead listening to this in 1968 but today it is a hearty dollop of cultural incongruity that also shows Umiliani's skill and compositional-arranging acumen.

Bizarre and fun!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Grego Talks About His Album "Expansion"

I would like to introduce my new album Expansion to you, in the hope that you might find it interesting. To start it is available on Amazon via the following link As usual my critical self "interviews" the artistic me in the dialog below. What follows is a little of what the album is about and why I did it.

Critical Grego: So you've got another album for us? It sounds familiar. Didn't you circulate some private CD-ROMs of this a few years ago?

Artistic Grego: Well, yes, most of the guts of the current album were initially mixed down and circulated privately a few years back. These were the first sessions and the first project I did with my fully decked-out studio. The digital work station allowed me for the first time to have essentially an infinite number of tracks to work with, and so I went a little mad with all the possibilities. Those first mixes in the end I was not completely satisfied with--I tried to do a little too much at points so I returned to the earlier mixes and came up with a different sequence and what I believe is a more coherent presentation of the myriad elements involved.

Critical Grego: So what is this music about? How did you come to make it?

Artistic Grego: It all started with some simple grooves I built up on hand percussion, then a riff. From there it took various forms, some of which I ultimately rejected. I tried in this newly mixed and mastered version to get closer to what I had originally planned. I suppose it all goes back to those early Miles electric classics and some of what was happening from time to time, especially on Bitches Brew and the original Live at the Fillmore release. That music gave us youngsters a new way to play freely, yet rockingly and how to build in space, like a space station. There are parts on those sides where the main solo is either secondary or a part of the totality and like a pianist would comp in bop-and-after jazz, many of the instruments (say as played by Airto, Jarrett, Corea and etc.) would create a pointillistic carpet of interlocking parts, multiple "comps," that went along with what, say, Miles was doing in his solo. Well everybody got something out of that idea then and Expansion in part is a return to the multiple comp tapestry only with a whole bunch of instruments--a virtual orchestra/big band, with multiple percussion, banjos, guitars, drums, gongs, vibes, santuur, bass, mandolin, glockenspiel, as so forth. I tried to push the idea to its extreme limits by doing things like adding a 50-guitar orchestra section but in the end I realized that there was a limit to what a digital soundstage of endless overdubs could present with realistic two-channel mixdowns. There is a point where it becomes increasingly difficult on a digital platform to create an infinite number of layers, which is often what I hear in my head. So a little compromise was necessary, to get the soundstaging audibly crisp enough, so to speak. So the Expansion as heard in three sections on the album gives you two windows on the orchestral free jazz-rockestra with different instruments embellishing the groove pointilistically and a middle section that is more free-electric orchestral, more Sun-Ra-meets-Varese-like, you might say.

Critical Grego: And there are some chant-like vocals. What is that about?

Artistic Grego: They are based on transcribed nonsense prose that was designed by a spammer to get past the simpler spam filters in use a while back. It was all about nothing, with absolutely no meaning, but surreal in the extreme for the random dada sense it all made. So I decided to build Expansion around a chanted version of meaninglessness, to kind of highlight how a to-hell-with-you segment of the population approaches the humanity of others, that how they only give a damn about getting to you and getting to sell you their fraudulent goods, on the net more than ever. It's a gesture of disgust, of the deterioration of language on the internet and the media at large and the increasingly questionable ethical world we occupy willy nilly nowadays.

Critical Grego: You are making a good deal of very densely textured musical things. Why don't you just hire an orchestra?

Artistic Grego: As it is maybe $5,000 went into the instruments and equipment that allowed me to do this, originally, luckily at a time when I had the money. And I've made a diner dinner's worth of that back. I've been in no financial shape to be able to pay people to do my music. Maybe that will be possible in the future. But as I see it I am getting the sound I imagined already, only because I have enough musical chops on a variety of axes to get what I was after. SO 200 years ago this might have been exceptionally tortuous solo piano music, because that is what poverty might have afforded me. The music is virtual (that is, multiple overdubs in real time) but the musical sounds are still there. I do look forward to interacting with other musicians in the future, to get a real-time organic interaction going, but for now this gives you the sound as I imagined it, as close to real-world performance as possible.

Critical Grego: So this is a three-movement Expansion to replace the original five-part version you first ended up with, and only a few people heard. But there are other cuts?

Artistic Grego: Yes, a soundscape, live to two-track for synth, and a hypnotic counter riff-out,  all to provide some contrast and breathing space.

Critical Grego: Who do you think might like this album?

Artistic Grego: Oh, I don't know. The old psychedelic-proto-prog crowd should find it both familiar and slightly strange, avant jazz fanciers who do not mind some electricity and rock elements, fans of Miles's original fusion bands, new music aficionados not afraid to consider a new mix of elements, maybe my mom if she were alive today, no maybe not, haha. Musical folks in general. Avant electricians. Naturally exploratory souls. Somebody looking for something different.

Critical Grego: Well thanks for giving us a little background. I find it all catchy enough that some folks would take to it, I think.

Artistic Grego: I do hope so. The music only makes sense to be heard and I hoped liked by a reasonable slice of ears out there. Thanks in advance to those that take the leap and hear what it is about.

Jane Ira Bloom, Early Americans

If you have not been paying enough attention to Jane Ira Bloom you are in for a most pleasant shock. Or, for that matter, even if you have. She comes to us today with a landmark trio recording, Early Americans (Outline OTL142). Armed with 12 fetching originals, her soprano sax and some ideal trio team members in bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte, she is otherworldly on this date, no two ways about it.

The kinetic togetherness of the trio is something special, which is not surprising given the caliber of these artists, but nonetheless surpasses anything in the business-as-usual realm to go to the heights. They swing like mad, they make a trio confluence that is nothing but exceptional, and all seem truly inspired and in just the right frame of mind to excel.

The compositional frameworks (with Bernstein's "Somewhere" as the nod to standards) are nicely varied and substantial.

But all-in-all Ms. Bloom's soprano is the main attraction. She has been her own stylist from the very beginning. Yet she has grown into one of the very finest and original exponents of the soprano today, to the point where the past was only a (great) prelude to this, her ravishing contemporary phase. She has it all now--very original tone and incredible control, pristine phrasing and exceptional invention. Nobody sounds quite like this, past or present. She is a marvel, simply put. And hearing her on this album in such sympatico surroundings, you know this is a major achievement, a fulfillment of years of development and creativity. She is tops.

A serious contender for the jazz album of the year, this is. Jane Ira Bloom will bring you musical joy on Early Americans. Do not hesitate, get this album and immerse yourself!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ralph Alessi, Quiver

Trumpet master, composer, bandleader Ralph Alessi may have reached a wholistic pinnacle on his first ECM release Baida (see my January 10, 2014 review on these pages), but the process proceeds apace on the new one, Quiver (ECM 2438). It's his quartet as in the last album with Gary Versace replacing Jason Moran on piano but otherwise again giving us Drew Gress on doublebass and Nasheet Waits on drums. The quartet has achieved a sort of togetherness and unity that leaves room for the significant individual originally of the four artists but also sets the table for each composition (all by Alessi).

In the process the increasingly glowing trumpet work of Ralph is pronounced and exceptional. Versace acquits himself very well in both his solo and accompanying roles. Drew Gress as always is a bassist of real stature and goes very far in making the quartet shine forth. Last but not least, Nasheet Waits drums with a kind of subtle brilliance that keeps the music moving forward in truly artistic ways.

The compositions put the entire album on a special plane, much akin to the pronounced lyrical side of many ECM dates, but with an integrity and subtle sophistication that grows on you the more you listen to it.

It marks Ralph Alessi as an artist who has reached the more sublime realms of the modern improvisatory arts, making his way to the heights as a full-flowered original.

And the music has a beauty that does not sacrifice itself on the altar of accessibility. It manages to have all the earmarks of the jazz arts today, with all the complexities served up to us in very original terms, yet with an accessibility that will doubtless find a wide audience of admirers.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Happymakers, Wolfgang Fuchs, Jacob Lindsay, Damon Smith, Serge Baghdassarians, Boris Baltschun

Who are the Happymakers? Will they make you happy? What music is this? The answer is yes. At least to the second question, provided you make yourself disposed towards the sounds that come at you in joyful torrents of improvised care. This is a five-person quintet of players who develop a special chemistry in the process of creating eleven segments of freely improvised avant music, all on the self-titled CD (Balance Point Acoustics BPA 008). Free jazz? You can call it that. It has some jazz rootedness, but then some rootedness in new music as well.

So who are these Happymakers? As of May 2003 they all were in Oakland California at least part of the time to record this album. After and before that they are from a diverse set of places, the US, Europe....and of course wherever they happen to be.

To be more specific, the Happymakers are Wolfgang Fuchs on sopranino saxophone and bass clarinet, Jacob Lindsay on Ab, Bb and bass clarinet, Damon Smith on double bass,  Serge Baghdassarians on guitar and electronics, and Boris Baltschun on electronics.

This is about the notes, but especially about how the notes are shaded with timbre-colors, how they lay out in pointillistic counterpoint, how each instrumental contribution fits in with an expressive whole. Everyone works together impressively well, listens closely and responds with creative musical strokes of their "brush" to creative a collective tone painting, or rather a series of them.

In truth this is a group with an unusual cohesiveness, a multi-being organism, a flair for creating an ever-evolving blend of differences-in-sameness. We can thank Damon Smith for getting this recording together, as Balance Point Acoustics is his baby and we tip our cap to him for the copiously absorbing fare that has come out on the label.

As for the various ins and outs of the artists and their backgrounds, I refer you to the lucid liners written by Lisle Ellis and Damon Smith. I find this one an essential for its skilled and exciting synthesis of Euro-American improv channels. Not a note is extra here. And yes, it WILL make you happy if you let it.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Jungle, Mat Walerian, Matthew Shipp, Hamid Drake, Live at Okuden

On the heels of the Mat Walerian-Matthew Shipp duo recording of last year (see my review from May, 2015 on these pages) we have a trio of Mat, Matt and drummer Hamid Drake extending the interaction with Jungle, Live at Okuden (ESP 5009, 2-CDs).

Once again Mat Walerian establishes his presence as an avant reedist with some fire-y blues and roots in his soul. On alto, bass clarinet, soprano clarinet and flute he holds his own with the seminal pianist Matthew Shipp and the drummer legend Hamid Drake.

The two-CD space gives us a good amount of time to hear Mat stretch out and interact fully with Matthew and Hamid. It is music in the outside realm as you might expect, but the open form approach allows for various developments. Shipp and Drake turn in some beautiful performances that set the stage and offer convergent voicings for Walerian to respond to in his concentrated soulfulness.

It is an impressive outing, as much so for the Walerian extroverted testification as for the high flying responses of Shipp and Drake.

This is present-day music in the grand ESP tradition, with two masters of the art creating a joyful noise in support of the lesser-known but very grounded and expressive Mat Walerian. My favorite from the set is "One For," where the post-Coltrane channelings have a beautiful momentum and spiritual energy that is reassuring and heartening to hear today.

But the whole set is very worth having, for the coherency and committed travels of three of the very best new-new thing practitioners of the high art. It's a winner, hands down!

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Linda Sharrock Network, They Begin to Speak

Vocalist Linda Sharrock's revival continues apace with a house exorcizing, system cleansing, neighbor scattering two-CD live set of Linda in full force: The Linda Sharrock Network and their opus They Begin to Speak (Improvising Beings ib46).

This one gives us Linda's inimitable vocalizations, Mario Rechtern's reeds and two contrasting lineups, one recorded live in France, the other live in the UK. Each has a kick-out-the-jams rebellious free-spiritedness born of dedicated concentration and emotive volatility.

The French date includes some artists Improvising Beings followers should surely know and a few that may be less familiar: Itaru Oki on trumpet, Eric Zinman at the piano, Makoto Sato on drums, Yoram Rosilio on bass, Claude Parle on accordion, and Ciprien Busolini on violin. The UK session joins Linda and Mario with Derek Saw on trumpet, John Jasnoch on electric guitar, and Charlie Collins on drums.

As with the first recordings in the comeback present, Linda inspires her group mates to some very moving, emotionally heightened free music. With Linda in full voice, giving out with the boldest of exclamatory screams and wails, it is a situation were you as a sideman need to respond with everything you've got or just go home. Surely everybody holds nothing back. Her roots are in the free-est heights of sixties expression and her presence, especially in this new set, intrepidly clears the air, scuttles the accretions of politeness and routine to make a space to blaze the outside trails of extreme expression.

She is in great form here, which means that you are either ready for a trip to the edge of freedom or you'll run away from it all in fear and confusion. That depends on you alone. I find it extraordinarily bracing, but then I was listening to Monkey-Pockey-Boo with interest around 1971, so I come prepared. You who might shy away from the edges of out-dom may head for the hills when you hear this. But those who are open to the netherworlds will doubtless find both bands in emergency response mode, Linda spurring everyone on and filling the air with emotive tattoos that make her perhaps the most outside of all vocalists.

It is like a dip in an ice-cold stream. There are those who will decline, others who will take the plunge and feel all the better for it.

This is free music that might disturb you, might exhilarate you, might send you to any number of spaces outside yourself. It will not leave you indifferent. That I vow! Kudos to all for the courage to pop for us a gigantic musical balloon.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Vladimir Tarasov, Eugenijus Kanevicius, Liudas Mockunas, Intuitus

From the creative cauldron of Vilnius comes a very worthwhile trio filling up a two-LP set with some very involved and lively collective improvisations. Intuitus (NoBusiness Records NBLP 92/93) features Vladimir Tarasov on drums, percussion, cimbalom and hunting horn, Eugenijus Kanevicius on acoustic bass and electronics, and Liudas Mockunas on soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet.

The three know what they are about and what to expect from one another. The resulting improvisations reflect a knowing presence accordingly. This is music that is both local and international in its roots, freely jazz rooted but also channeling some of the deep local musical currents in subtle ways, in the use of the hammer-zither cimbalom, for example.

Everybody is in the close-listening mode. Mockunas gives us plenty of expression and tone variation with his array of woodwinds (he gives us some especially wonderful soprano playing but sounds good on all four instruments), Kanevicius brings up the bottom with a punctuated, soulful attack and adds appropriate electronic colors from time to time, and Tarasov plays free-alive drums of note and intelligent use--giving the trio an advanced irregular horizontal momentum from the many sounds he realizes on a conventional set and the colorful textures he adds with his secondary instrumental soundings.

This is uncompromising free music with a kind of Zen-like concentration on sound poetry spontaneities.

There is a DIY feel to it all, partially perhaps as it was recorded in an intimate setting--in Tarasov's home studio. But most of all there is an ease and informal lucidity that comes out of three exploring possibilities together with a sympathetic togetherness and purposiveness.

It has that kind of "we are home and relaxed" feel I used to get hearing Sam and his trio in the Studio Rivbea setting years ago, only of course the trio here has its own way to get it all moving.

A good one--a very worthwhile example of these three getting to some outside zones.

Check it out. Well done!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Kali. Z. Fasteau, Intuit, with Kidd Jordan and L. M. Rozie

There are many facets to consider when attempting to characterize what makes multi-instrumentalist Kali. Z. Fasteau's music what it is and has been, the special qualities that go into her artistry. We can hear those facets clearly and nicely in her latest album, Intuit (Flying Note 9017), and so it lets me talk about both the new sounds and her legacy in general.

Intuit is like her many previous releases a collection of free, spontaneous compositions, free jazz if you like that term. As with the earlier efforts Kali gathers about her some important voices in the avant improvisational circles she is a part of, generally New-York-centric. Three sessions are represented here, two live, one studio.

The dynamic and effusive tenor sax master Kidd Jordan joins her for four of the 11 numbers. L. Mixashawn Rozie is her creative partner for the rest of the album, primarily on tenor but also djembe, shaker and flute. For this program Kali makes her appearance on drums, but also livens the sound tapestry with nai flute, viola, mizmar, vocals, and aquasonic.

Straight off we experience two critical aspects of her approach over the years. One is to surround herself with very capable free music artists, which is certainly the case with Jordan and Rozie. Kali at all times makes a sort of maximum interactive experience out of the artistic grouping at hand. In the process the open freedom approach allows her fellow improvising partners to open up and give excellent performances. In that you might see her as a kind of free-music present-day Art Blakey: find the best musicians and give them free reign in a group setting. That's been the case all along.

The second critical aspect of her music is the multi-instrumental approach. By having the very open flexibility of a diverse battery of instruments she is capable of sounding in her own stylistically distinct creative way, the music has always the potential of a wide set of possibilities that challenge her playing partners to give a spontaneously multi-valent, articulate response to the playing moment, which in turn spurs Kali on to respond in kind, with various unfolding sound-interactive loops that can and do cover a wide spectrum of possibilities fully, poetically.

With Intuit we get an inspired set of creative results. Kali has an excellent feel for the drum set and sets up pulsating and free structures that give Kidd and Mixashawn a good deal to respond to. Kali's nai flute, viola, vocals and mizmar extend the possibilities outward in a sort of world-village-meets-free-music realm which has always been part of Kali's way.

Jordan and Rozie turn in excellent performances as Kali does in return. It is an album that bears repeated listens and musical attention. There are many magical synchronicities to be heard and savored. It is an excellent example of Kali's music today. In short, this is a very worthwhile addition to your avant library, either as an introduction to Ms. Fasteau's art or another fine new offering.

Definitely recommended!