Thursday, December 22, 2016

Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band Directed by Brent Fischer, Intenso!

Since the passing of jazz composer, arranger, pianist Clare Fischer his son Brent has been putting together various releases that offer us new views of his work in a vast spectrum of styles. Now he turns to the Latin-oriented Fischer on Intenso! (Clavo 201609), featuring the Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band under the direction of Brent.

Clare's son does a fine job putting together and completing tracks where Clare laid down the keyboard parts (for the most part) of numbers he wrote and/or arranged. Brent and several collegues orchestrated the numbers where needed and Brent comes through with items he co-arranged with Clare or realized on his own for some of the numbers.

The result is a full ten-song program of big band Latin jazz in the Clare Fischer mode, which insists on the Latin groove being at the forefront and then adds plenty of sophisticated big band flourishes.

Clare's "Gaviota" sounds great here with Roberto Gambarini on vocals. There is Clare's hip abstracted Latin version of Duke's "Rockin' in Rhythm," and lots more besides.

This is a crack big band in full flourish. Anyone who digs Latin Jazz in general and/or Clare Fischer in particular will take to this, I would bet.

It's a moving tribute to the Latin side of the Maestro!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Enoch Smith Jr., The Quest, Live at APC

When music conjoins with religious practice, my guiding view is first and foremost the quality of the music, in jazz as in any style. So hearing Enoch Smith Jr.'s fourth album The Quest, Live at APC (MisFitMe Music) I at first took no notice that the two piano trios represented here (Smith on piano for both) and the two vocalists who preside over several of the songs are making music for the Jazz Vespers service at the Allentown (NJ) Presbyterian Church, where Smith's music alternates with readings from the scriptures once a month.

No, the music first hit me and put a smile on my face. Only then did I recognize what the music addressed.

Enoch Smith Jr. is a fine pianist with a contemporary mainstream flourish, someone who can come up with very together compositional frameworks and arranged folk hymns.

This is hip music by any standard. The trio and vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles give us a stunning version of Chick Corea's "Open Your Eyes You Can Fly," and the Smith original "With Me." Emily Braden is no less convincing on "Creator," "Home" and the old "Jesus Loves Me."

This is good, excellent jazz that speaks with a modern day voice. I like it a great deal!

Jerome Jennings, The Beast

Jerome Jennings, fine post-Blakey drummer and bandleader, holds forth with a good band and compelling tunes on The Beast (IOLA). The stylistic spectrum from Hard Bop to very contemporary jazz is the order of the day. An underlying message is solidarity with Black Lives Matter, not made explicit in the music itself but present in the concluding words of the leader.

Nine numbers grace the album--"You Don't Know What Love Is" is the standard, nicely sung by Jazzmeia Horn. The rest are rousing instrumentals with Jennings ever-present as a drummer of swinging stature. Joining him are five adept jazzmasters in Sean Jones on trumpet and flugelhorn, Howard Wiley on tenor, Dion Tucker on trombone, Christian Sands on piano, and Christian McBride on bass. The rhythm section superbly sets up the drive of the music and everyone solos in world-class fashion.

Bassist Jon Burr contributes a Hard Bop gem in "Love the Drums," written especially for Jennings. It's off to the races thereafter, with four effective Jennings vehicles, Ben Webster's "Did You Call Her Today," Freddie Hubbard's "The Core" and a sparkling "Cool It Now" by Brantley and Timas.

The fit between tunes, ensemble, swing and solo work is near-perfect. It is one of the finest contemporary jazz mainstream sets I've heard in a while. Everybody deserves a brisk round of applause, leader Jennings especially.

Get into this one and you'll be hearing some of  the best today.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio, Desire & Freedom

When Albert Ayler famously said that his music and by implication the free jazz of the time was "not about the notes anymore," he described an important truth and guided the unprepared listener into the thicket of tenor saxophone timbre and extended sound vocabularies. But in a way it was always about that. Just listen to Coleman Hawkins, then Lester Young. Much of what makes the two what they were was their special sound. But then of course there was always the notes, the phrasing, that equally defined an artist. Even Ayler had a noteful vocabulary that by not being central, was a more open deep structure of notefulness in itself.

So we move on to today and the new tenors out there. A significant one is surely Rodrigo Amado, who with his Motion Trio have a worthy new album out called Desire & Freedom (Not Two 946-2). It IS all about the sound that Rodrigo on tenor gets, that celloist Miguel Mira gets, that drummer Gabriel Ferrandini gets. But it is most definitely also about the notes, how to sound lengthy strings of tone and sequence that do not depend on the obvious and predictable, but rather chromatically diverge in and out of tonal centers with little repetition and continuous invention. Perhaps that is most difficult for the drummer, who on the surface has only so many surfaces, but no, Gabriel knows about the variations to be gotten by touch and micro-spacial surface differences.

So this trio has as a foundation Ferrandini's variational sonic virtuosity, its irregularity but its continuous non-pulsing soundings. Miguel Mira approaches the cello somewhere between the understructure of a free contrabassist and the stop-action distinction of a front-line collectivizer.

Then, with the three long improvisations that comprise this set, Rodrigo puts his limber and ultra-spontaneous creative inventive brilliance to the test. He puts himself on a melodic tightrope and negotiates the line he chooses to walk with risk-taking dexterity. His sound is his own, a robust tenor heartiness more in line with a Rollins than a Coltrane, but readily identified as his own sonic person.

It's a tour de force set, some of the strongest and most directionally continuous music Rodrigo and the Motion Trio have made to date. This puts them in a special zone, up there with some very heavy company. I am glad of it, but more importantly you need to get with this one if you follow free avant improv unfoldings today. It's important music!

Monday, December 12, 2016

David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo, Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004

Undoubtedly no single collaborator looms quite as large in the discography of tenorist David S. Ware as pianist Matthew Shipp. He opened up the harmonic-melodic matrix for David in ways that nobody else quite did and was a catalyst for some of David's very best work. So of course it was with a sense of anticipation that I encountered the envelop that contained the previously unreleased duo of the two, Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 (AUM Fidelity DSW-ARC 02).

As Matthew Shipp notes in the liners, the duo setting differed from a typical quartet outing by the freedom it encouraged for both players to enter into open dialog not as leader and sideman but instead as two musical equals.

There is a freedom and a channeling of the free and jazz-historical continuum to be heard in lengthy developments. It is no coincidence that the set ends with a brief Ware quotation of the old "Wade in the Water" melody.  The music abstracts, deconstructs and reconstructs the spiritual and temporal phrasing of jazz tradition without letting it structure the totality of where the musical destinations lead.

And so David and Matthew let the expressive winds carry them to special testificatory territory. The two breathe-phrase as two-in-one yet never seek to repeat either what the self or the other has said in real time.

David sounds especially ebullient and fluid, a whirlwind within an improvisational vehicle headed further to its long delayed destination. Matt alternates between abstract riffing, simultaneous lining and a free comping carpet of directional warp and woof.

It was a poignant moment in time where thankfully the "tape" was rolling to capture it all faithfully. It is a tribute to what can be no more, the potent intersection of David and Matthew in an especially fruitful moment in time. And for that it is a classic free-frame expression with all the warmth, fire, and eloquence one could ask for. It reminds us how much we miss with the passing of David, but then how much remains with the continued brilliant vitality of Matthew!

This is one not to miss.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Keith Jarrett, A Multitude of Angels

For those who try and keep up with Keith Jarrett's recorded output there can be a daunting array of choices, given his long and distinguished history as one of contemporary jazz's very greatest exponents of the piano. Now we have a substantial 4-CD set of never before released solo concert material from a 1996 tour of Italy, A Multitude of Angels (ECM ). 

It was a last time that Keith played continuous sets without pause, long improvisations, and it was also recorded during an inspired period. The four separate nights are each represented on a single disk.

This is a Jarrett not as much concerned with the lyrical Lisztian  romantic side, nor is there much in the way of standards, one or two presented as encores. Instead it is a Jarrett immersed in the various jazz orientations he had become known for, minus the post-Evans bop/post-bop side of things.

He delves deeply into "free" avant playing, his personal approach to gospel-funk and otherwise very rhythmic or soaring flights, and some beautifully down-to-earth balladic moments.

It is one of his best solo outings of his later period, with free-flowing improvisations within his most original zones. Is it his very best solo recording? No, I would not say that. But anyone captivated by his more ambitious solo music will find it up there among the best of the "Beyond Koln" era. Any serious Jarrett fan/collector will welcome the music as I did.

Thank you Maestro Jarrett!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Nuova Camerata, Chant

The avant-free chamber jazz unit Nuova Camerata makes a modern "new music" confluence that is a product of the vibrant sonic combinations inherent in the group and the exceptional musicality of the participants. The instrumentation is marimba, violin, viola, cello and contrabass, played by the very imaginative and capable improvisers Pedro Carneiro, Carlos "Zingaro," Joao Camoes, Ulrich Mitzlaff, and Miguel Leiria Pereira, respectively, all for their very stimulating disk Chant (Improvising Beings ib50).

This set contains the kind of magic you get when five superior musical minds get together and forge a music freely and spontaneously made yet filled with an inner musical logic that is the sum of the five working against each other. It shows you how far the "new music" wing of free improvisation has come over its existence this past 50 years or so.

There are other ensembles doing music like this in Europe and the US, and each one is different, though there is a certain amount of interchangeable personnel that has to do with both geographical proximity and natural inclinations.

Nuovo Camerata surely is one of the very best of such ensembles, and we should give a shout out to the Improvising Beings label for covering such music when it is hardly an endeavor to make one rich.

One might remark that it is such boutique labels that have done a great deal in the past decades to keep uncompromising improvisation alive, just as ESP, Blue Note, and handful of others kept the most modern of jazz out in front of its potential audiences in earlier times.

But aside from all that, Chant is remarkable for the cohesiveness of the sonic envelopes it creates. This is music caught in freeze frame, a CD of remarkable togetherness that will never be duplicated in quite this way again. They could record yet another album, and one hopes they will, and it would not duplicate what transpires here. And out of that beauty is a fragility. Like snowflakes every one would be different, out into the air and then gone, and every one would also realize a unique structure special unto itself.

That's part of what makes this music so attractive. But even if you did not know how these special sorts of gatherings come together, you with keen and open ears would appreciate the sounds with a little effort.

So grab a copy of Chant and appreciate an especially fine musical snowflake.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Amazonas, Deep Talk

From Europe today comes a thoughtful set of free jazz from a very game quartet known as Amazonas. Deep Talk (SODA CD12) plummets the depths of significant musical dialogues that occur when everyone is in synch and has much to say.

Biggi Vinkeloe is here on alto and flute, doing what she does so well; Thomas Gustafsson sounds limber and filled with ideas on soprano also; and the rhythm section of Anders Kjellberg on drums and Annika Tornqvist on bass kick up some dust with power and finesse.

And as a foursome they tackle open and free territory from the tumbling all-timeful to straight-eighth pulsation and swing, never falling into cliche but ever keeping it new. This is what I've come to expect from Biggi and Thomas, and for sure we get them at a peak of expression. And the four together have just the right mix of imagination and togetherness so that there is not a routine moment in the ten works on the album.

Here is a band worthy of your attention. Perhaps they will tour the States sometime soon? In the meantime, for smarts and style, fire and lyric abandon, you cannot beat them.

An important and joyful offering!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Art Pepper and Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974, Unreleased Art: Volume 9

By 1974 anything associated with the "cool school" in general and Cool California in particular had reached a nadir in popularity among jazz fans. Neither Art Pepper nor Warne Marsh belonged in that category in some generic sense. Pepper may have had cool overtones from time to time but he ultimately came as much out of Bird as not. He had more in common with Jackie McLean and Phil Woods than, for example early Bud Shank, but he was important on the California scene in the heyday of West Coast Jazz and by the early '70s that was not going to get you much cache, or cash I suppose.

Tenorman Warne Marsh of course came out of the Tristano School and along with Lee Konitz were the major saxophonists associated with Lennie. Tristano and his acolytes were a great deal more than "cool," of course, but the independence of their sound and approach left them out of the "funk" reaction that was so influential, and so they tended to be lumped into the generic heap.

Pepper of course also had his personal problems with addiction and a number of lengthy incarcerations that took him out of the scene.

By the time they formed a two-horn front line for a gig at Donte's in LA, they were playing with a fire that had no relation to cool. And at that point especially the two brought out something in each other that was more than the sum of their parts. So we are lucky that Art's widow Laurie had inherited a set of tapes capturing in detail and decent clarity the two on a Friday night at the club and now is releasing it all in a 3-CD set Art Pepper & Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974 Unreleased Art: Volume 9 (Widow's Task APM 16001). Jack Shelton was in the lineup for the gig but for whatever reason could not make the Friday show and so Art nabbed Warne for that night.

Incredibly, Art and Warne had last played together in the '50s, yet there is such kinetic energy here you would never have thought it had it not been so. The repertoire was the bop standards each would know: "Cherokee," "Donna Lee," etc. plus some American songbook chestnuts like "All the Things You Are."

They were backed by a capable and enthusiastic trio of Mark Levine on piano, John Heard on bass, and Lew Malin on drums.

And it is the magnificent interplay of Art and Warne, so different from Warne and Lee Konitz and/or Art and any other horn player, that makes this a magic set. The interlocking dual counterpoint between the two in joint solo space is something to behold. But then the two on their own are equally fine. They play HARD and with lots of fire. That makes this set a beauty!! Get it for a special club date where everything is right and both Art and Warne play as well as they ever did!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Steve Heckman, Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute

Tribute albums to seminal jazz masters by contemporary players can go any number of ways, not always for the best. If the resulting music has its internal expressive fire burning, then it stands out as a performative whole of its own. If not, one might well ask, "What's the point?"

Happily we find an integral whole going on Steve Heckman's Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute (Jazzed Media 1074). Steve is in fine form on tenor and soprano, Grant Levin sounds well on piano, and the rhythm section of Eric Markowitz on bass and Smith Dobson V keeps things swinging.

The middle period of John Coltrane's output gets most of the attention, and that is fine given that the quartet and Heckman in particular have gained a great deal from studying the music of that time.

The Heckman original "The Legacy" spells out the indebtedness to middle-Trane while carrying on with good swinging ideas and an improvisational voice collective extending the sounds further.

"Resolution" and "Dear Lord" take from the early-late period and things like "26-2" and "Impressions" have the middle period resonance going nicely.

Of course if you don't know Trane you should start with his own recordings. But those Trane lovers like me out there will find plenty to get into on this album. Trane will never be replaced, but he can be honored, certainly. Heckman and company show complete respect while managing to breathe some new life into the music.


Michel Blanc, Le Miroir des Ondes

Composer-drummer Michel Blanc comes through with a 33-minute chamber-electric work called Les Miroir des Ondes (Ayler 151). It was meant to capture the composer's reaction to a number of historical events that took place in his experience between 1972 and 1989. A track of event-related voices and sounds continuously blends with the chamber group's music, in a sense pinning the music with the experiences they were meant to comment upon.

The work is a seamless melange of new music, rock elements and new jazz overtones, performed magnificantly by Marc Ducret on electric guitar, Annabelle Playe, vocals, Anne Giminez, piano, Antonin Rayon, organ, and Blanc himself on drums and percussion.

The music has a wealth of arresting aural events that continually segue one with the other, creating long unfolding mood auralities that fascinate and draw the listener in.

It is a unique and very worthy piece, modern without allying to definite style categories, synthetic yet rather wondrously distinctive.

I've heard nothing quite like this out there before. Viva Michel Blanc!