Friday, December 22, 2017

Wadada Leo Smith, Najwa

Before the year ends I need to cover an album that deserves to rank among the year's best. I refer to Wadada Leo Smith's CD Najwa (TUM CD 049).  It's an electric freedom here. Trust Wadada to do that right. He heads up a really fine all-star lineup: Michael Gregory Jackson, Henry Kaiser, Brandon Ross and Lamar Smith on guitars, Bill Laswell on the electric bass, Pheeroan AkLaff on drums, Adam Rudolph on percussion, and of course Wadada on trumpet.

It's post-Milesian psychedelic avant music done to a turn. This is the Yo Miles idea allowed to blossom out and find its very personal, conclusive-for-now expression. Any of you who might have been skeptical about electric music, the classic Miles sides, and all the other things wonderful that have come out then and since (and I think you were wrong about that) listen to this and think again. For this in a way is a conceptual, compositional and improvisational culmination of all that. But there is still more Miles and Miles to go in this genre. It is by no means a dead creative avenue. Just listen to this one and use your imagination.

It is supremely balanced, elevated freedom music. And again, if you think we do not need freedom, look around. Some people may think they did it and do it "my way." No way to some of those folks. Your way? No, this way, please. Step forward or step aside.

There is a wonderful balance between AkLaff's churning drums, Laswell's smartly solid bass anchoring, the beautiful coloring and punch or the guitars and Wadada's supremely soulful smarts on the trumpet.

You wonder where it is going yet it is already there and moving ahead always. THIS is part of that.

Whoever you are, and I no doubt know many of you personally, I enjoin you to give this music some close and repeated attention. It is forward moving and a joy to hear.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Kasper Tom, Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Rudi Mahall, Abstract Window

I've come across some threads in social media lately, asking why it is that no major innovators have emerged on the new jazz scene today. A good answer by I-forget-who was that the scene has changed so that there is important work being done, but that none of it has been centrally confined to a few major figures. It is true. Part of that is a product of so much new jazz having become available these days via a combination of numerous smaller boutique labels, self-releases and the major jazz conduits. There are local hotbeds of progressive jazz and improvisation all over the world right now, with a sizable number of artists advancing the music in slow increments perhaps, but at the same time codifying and synthesizing the implications of major and some rather obscure artists who have helped make things the way they are now.

It is true in general also of modern classical composers and avant rock artists. The promotion of the next big thing is no longer a priority with the moneyed music business interests as a rule, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Absolute hegemony in modern music scenes would kill off much of what is excellent out there that did not fit the bill of the would-be big avant stars of the present.

And perhaps it is so that the mainstream audiences for such things is no longer very large, though one might argue all-the-more dedicated. Much of new jazz is an underground affair. The available work in clubs and concerts has shrunk a good deal in the last 30 years, making it necessary for hyper-local scenes to remain relatively isolated and insular. Like the old territory bands, there are sub-genres in new jazz, quite a few if you take the time to locate them. All this is probably a good thing for the quantity of good-to-excellent new jazz emerging out there. It is decidedly not a very good trend for the economic health of the artists.

With all this in mind I turn to a recent release that exemplifies the importance of new jazz along with its sometimes obscurity. Here we have Abstract Window (WhyPlayJazz RS032), featuring drummer Kasper Tom Christianson, pianist Alexander Von Schippenbach and clarinet-bass clarinet master Rudi Mahall. It is a European free date that allows a very creative and spontaneous frisson of eloquent free invention from three important figures very much active today.

Kasper Tom may be less known but he shows us he is fully worthy to be in the company of these two stellar artists. The program consists of 11 relatively short improvisations that cohere in the best senses of what the jazz-past-drenched realm of freedom in Europe means today.

All three are in mutually coherent dialog throughout, each responding on a three-way channel of independence-through-togetherness synchronicity.

It is an exciting example of one subrealm of free improv jazz that continues to grow and evolve today.

More you will understand if you give this album some deep listening. It is in its own way landmark.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Thelonious Monk, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, 1964

For the 100th Thelonious Monk birthday year we have an issue of a rather obscure Monk studio session from Europe, 1964. It comes in the form of a deluxe 2-CD set. Les Liaisons Dangereuses features Monk with Barney Wilen and Charlie Rouse, plus Sam Jones and Art Taylor. A short version of the spiritual "We'll Understand it Better Bye and Bye" is one of the more unique features of this set, but there are others as well.

An unusual arrangement of "Light Blue" with an off-kilter drum part is also notable, here present in two different versions plus a set of rehearsal takes (the latter of which is not essential).

The band is definitely on it and Monk himself is in top form. We get several solo Monk versions of things and multiple takes of "Rhythm-a-Ning" of "Crepuscule with Nellie," a single take of "Six in One," two solo takes of "Pannonica" and two quartet takes, and so forth.

Any Monk fan will find all of this a delight. If they had left out the rehearsal takes of "Light Blue" it all would fit comfortably on a single CD. On the other hand a Monk devotee would hardly quibble about this, as the content is primo and a refreshing go for this period.

Therefore I do shout the praises of this offering! Monk ever lives.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Wadada Leo Smith, Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk

As we celebrate and commemorate the 100th birthday of Thelonious Monk, we mark the occasion in a number of ways. Perhaps no more touchingly and succinctly a marking can be found than on trumpet master Wadada Leo Smith's Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM CD 053).

The premise is simple: turn Wadada loose in the studio with just his trumpet and some clear ideas on how solo improvisations can capture the essence of Monk's special mastery while also allowing Wadada to create art wholly his own.

This is tour de force trumpet artistry and a source of insight into Wadada the gifted improvisational inventor. Every phrase seems deliberate, nothing is as if an aside.

You hear Wadada as he is right now, an artist who in a way has come full circle through Yo Miles and ambitious jazz compositions, all of a very high order. Now once again he proudly proclaims his artistic independence as a player and in the process shows his great respect and love for the master, Thelonious Monk.

I could blather on at great length here. It is not entirely necessary. Suffice to say that Wadada Leo Smith is one of our real treasures, a giant among American artists living and excelling today, one of the world's musical wonders, so to speak.

He says it all with the utmost of inspiration and compactness, with just his trumpet and all his considerable innovative faculties.

Can I suggest you get this and live with the music for a while? You'll come away with something you would not have inside you otherwise, maybe. That is how rewarding this set is.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Amjad Ali Khan, Peace Worshipers

There is a special place in my heart for both Hindustani (North) and Carnatic (South) Indian Classical Music. I grew up at a time when there was an intersection of Indian Classical and Rock, much to do with Beatle George Harrison studying with the great Ravi Shankar. It opened up vistas for those who took it seriously, and I did. The rest has been a joyous exploration for me and I am grateful to have been present when it entered Western cultural consciousness and allowed us a pathway to its full presence.

This new recording, Peace Worshipers (Affetto 1706), by arguably the greatest living Hindustani exponent of the Sarod, Amjad Ali Khan, and his colleagues Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash on sarods and Elmira Darvarova on violin is very worthy of our attention. It brings to us the excitement of Jugalbandi (duet improvisations on a Raga structure) and the freewheeling compositional possibilities both inherent in Jugalbandi and beyond.

Most of the music is based on a particular Raga and composed by Amjad Ali Khan, There is also a recomposition of a Bulgarian folk song by Elmira Darvarova.

Davarova is a very fine violinist who fits in well with the Indian classicists. She and Amjad turn in some beautiful performances. And the ensemble as a whole engages in exciting and beautiful exchanges. Some of it reminds of Ravi Shankar's elaborate compositions that went into synchronized variations and thematic expositions based on but travelling beyond Indian tradition. Other have the subtle Jugalbandi interplay.

It is music in every way worth your time.  Amjad Ali Khan brings brilliance to our ears in his lively and beautiful compositions. And the playing is all you could hope for. This is a stunner! Grab it by all means.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Maykel Elizarde Group, South County, Music of Cuba

The dance music of Cuba is as beautiful to me, when well done, as anything I've heard. And when dance elements combine with a pronounced jazz flavor, so much the better. This holds true of the Maykel Elizarde Group and their recent album South County (Ansonica AR0004). It features the exceptional tres guitar of the bandleader, the fine vocals of Yudelkys Perez Jure, and a very together ensemble that includes six other fine musicians and some welcome guests.

The music is very lively, with the tres holding forth nicely, percussion and bass laying down a rock solid foundation and flute and ensemble embellishing it all while Yudelkys' voice soars atop in those numbers where she is featured. Tres solos sprinkle the music with a brilliance anyone can recognize.

In short this is contemporary Cuban music of real distinction, something that sounds great any time of day, any season, whenever you are in the mood to groove and stretch your soul. Recommended. Viva Ansonica Records for bringing this to us.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rob Schneiderman, Tone Twister, Brian Lynch's Hollistic MusicWorks Presents

Jazz, excellent jazz can still be found. You may not be able to comb the stacks of a trusted record store this day and unearth something that causes you to try out an unknown possibility. Yet we still can take a chance and open up another set of fine musicians that interconnect. I get an awful lot as a reviewer and so get exposed to things in bulk. What emerges from all the listening I must do are various "finds," new worlds of jazz that my ear hears and appreciates whereas in earlier times I had less exposure to this much new music. So I try and help you with various possibilities you might not otherwise be hipped to.

Such an album is most definitely Brian Lynch's Hollistic MusicWorks Presents Tone Twister by Rob Schneiderman (Hollistic MusicWorks HMW 16). It is finely honed quintet jazz capturing the essence of classic Blue Note hard bop in the finely composed, arranged and nicely improvised mode. The piano-trumpet-tenor-bass-drums instrumentation of course is venerable. It is made concrete by the fine players who form Hollistic MusicWorks: Rob Schneiderman on piano, Brian Lynch on trumpet, Ralph Moore on tenor, Gerald Cannon on bass and Pete Van Nostrand on drums. All very good players well suited for the music Schneiderman envisions.

"Unforgettable" is the one standard we hear, and it forms a familiar island in a sea of inventive hard bop. The rest are Schneiderman-penned numbers, each with an element of style known well to us, Latin-tinged,  loping, swinging funk, boplicitous excursions, mid-Trane-ish, Tyneresque feels, Monk-Duke modes, in short a good variety of moods and grooves. Within the whole there are nicely tight interlocking horn voicings, piano strengths and subtleties, and a continual powering by the rhythm team.

A happy confluence is what we get throughout. Put it on and engage!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Denny Zeitlin, George Marsh, Expedition, Duo Electroacoustic Improvisations

Nothing can be taken for granted in music or in life. Yet Denny Zeitlin and George Marsh have been playing together off and on so long and so productively that we might be guilty of overlooking just how much they have grown as individuals and as musical partners over the years. It has not been a continuous unbroken association since Denny had George on hand as a part of an excellent trio in the late '60s.

So with a new installment of their work together at hand, Expedition, Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvsations (Sunnyside SSC 1487), we are well served by listening closely.

Denny, of all the pianists that expanded from just acoustic piano to a live combination of the acoustic instrument and multiple synths, etc., has been one of the most brilliant exemplars of maintaining a very high level of musicality while orchestrating the notes with a composer's sense of variation in timbres and textures.

George in the meantime has become the ideal drummer in such a setting, with a sure sense of swing and a beautiful full and varied drum set sound.

The new one flows so well and so musically that I feel we are in the presence, that a lifetime of talent, and musical soul and brains is culminating in some of the very best "electro-acoustic" jazz ever! This one really ravishes our musical senses and gives us a virtual jazz orchestra that will make a believer out of the mouldiest figs of acoustic purity. This is above all integrated spontaneity, with complete timbral mastery joining fittingly with free jazz inventiveness of the highest order.

In the listening is the confirmation. Expedition is one of the finest jazz albums of the year!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Eric Revis, Sing Me Some Cry

Anyone who reads this column regularly should be familiar with Eric Revis. He is a new jazz freedom bassist, composer and bandleader whose music has been addressed in several review articles over the years. We come back to him happily with a recent release of his entitled Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed 428).

The album features an excellent quartet in Revis on bass, Ken Vandermark on tenor sax and clarinet, Kris Davis on piano and Chad taylor on drums. All four have a hand n the compositional frameworks, with four of nine by Revis, one each by Vandermark, Taylor and Davis, one by Adam Rogers, and one a collective quartet venture.

The frameworks set up some cutting-edge improvisations by the foursome, who are rooted in the music yet determined to move forward. Each is an important voice on her or his instrument. And at the same time there is a pronounced four-way confluence to be heard.

Perhaps most impressive over the last few years is the emergence of pianist Kris Davis as a central and cogent contributor to a good number of fruitful sessions. She is a central voice here as well. Eric bears close listening too for his bass smarts. And really there is centrality to all, though Vandermark and Taylor one always expects over the years to make important contributions to whatever date they are on. That is very true on Sing Me Some Cry.

In the end one is struck by the vibrancies of the frameworks as well as the cohesive movement of the improvisations. There is individual and collective totality on all nine pieces.

There is every reason to check this music out if you want to know what is new about new avant jazz. It is a bright moment on a continuum of continual effervescence out there. Grab it and spin it and you'll no doubt get it!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bambu, Alexandra Grimal, Benjamin Duboc, Valentin Ceccaldi

An open-ended, hard-edged trio excels in creating dramatic presence on the recent CD Bambu (Ayler Records 152). There is a European sort of new music-avant garde jazz confluence to be heard on this recording. The lower strings-plus-saxophones in the right hands makes for pronounced sonarity.

Benjamin Duboc has become to my mind one of the primary forces in avant garde double bass on the continent these days. He reminds us why here. Valentin Ceccaldi on cello holds forth as an extension and inner respondent-equal to Duboc. Alexandra Grimal tops the bottom or adds to it depending on which saxophone she is playing and its range. She establishes herself as a full creative co-respondent and in her vocal ruminations a sort of additional instrument.

You might say that this kind of music is a "thinking person's" free improv. There are some moments when there is a meditative care and hushed expectancy. Other segments burst forward in vivid timbral colors. Never does the music seem  rote. On the contrary we have a freshening both lyrical and other-earthly.

This is surely a music beyond category. It does not care what it is called. It sings itself. We join in. Worth your time and attention is this album! And you'll help out a label of real importance. Get it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Michala Petri, Marilyn Mazur, Daniel Murray, Brazilian Landscapes

Some music to appreciate fully you have to let breathe inside of you for a space. That is true certainly of Michala Petri, Marilyn Mazur and Daniel Murray's Brazilian Landscapes (Our Recordings 6.220618). It needs to breathe inside your musical mind because it has a beauty made up of unusual parts that in turn form an unusual whole.

To start there is the instrumentation and the musical personalities at hand. Recorder, classical guitar and percussion? That in itself is unusual. And then the peopling of the instruments is special. Marilyn Mazur has been for years a very accomplished and innovative percussionist. She shows on this recording that she is ever more resourceful and brilliant in her use of congas and all sorts of percussive instrumental possibilities. Michala Petri plays a very vibrant and contemporary kind of recorder sounding. In her hands it is an instrument of jazzy provenance, very fluid and timbrally diverse. Classical guitarist Daniel Murray plays in a fully blossomed contemporary manner that takes into account the rich tradition of Brazilian and jazz-oriented possibilities without being unaware an unversed in the state-of-the-art stylistic parameters of the classical guitar art per se.

Put these three together with some very ingenious and moving arrangements that allow for and sound with a jazz-like spontaneity. The interactions of the three within the well-worked out arrangements gives us an unusual sonic depth and presence that plays out fully and meaningfully.

And then there is the repertoire, a good mix of classics and lesser known Brazilian classics and lesser known pieces along with a few nice Daniel Murray originals. The Brazilian derived fare includes songs and works by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Egberto Gismonti, Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos, plus Paulo Porto Alegre, Paolo Bellinati, Ernesto Nazareth, and Antonio Ribeiro. All of the material has substance and the Brazilian tinge both rhythmically and otherwise.

The result spans chamber classical structure-form and Brazilian jazz heat and drive.

It is beautiful. It needs a few hearings to encompass and then you are there. That is, if you respond to it like I did. I cannot say that there is anything quite like it. Anyone who favors things Brazilian will take to it. Or even those who simply love good music.

Very recommended. A sleeper but a keeper!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daunik Lazro, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Didier Lasserre, Garden(s)

We drift along in time while new and worthy music can fill our ears and does if we take the time to listen to what is at hand. Today one such album offers itself up for consideration, namely Daunik Lazro, Jean-Luc Cappozzo and Didier Lasserre's Garden(s) (Ayler Records AYLCD-150).

It is a trio date from France that calls upon some standards and some free originals to suspend our everyday mundane concerns and catapult us into an ozone strata of improvisational futures laced with classics of past tenses spoken in the present-future tense.

There is a sort of oscillation between rethought classics and new ground. So we have Duke's "Sophisticated Lady," and the lesser-known "Hop Head,"  Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament," Ayler's "Angels." They rub shoulders with the strictly new improvs that this trio so readily fabricates.

Lazro has a true voice on baritone. It is both classic and future directed. His tenor has a different feel, as can often be the case with multi-reedists. Cappozzo interacts well with Lazro and as expected from him creates his own improvisational space. Lasserre drums with a dynamic confidence that works well in the space he naturally gets from a spare threesome without blanketing harmonic instrumentation.

The results are moving, motional, never static. And in the end it is firmly a part of the jazz continuum, yet in itself an original statement. That's a very good thing. Listen and I think you will dig what you hear!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ellason, Traditional Cuban Music

I've spent a good deal of my life listening to Afro-Cuban and neighboring musics. I cannot pretend to be an expert but I am profoundly influenced by it all. With a diplomatic semi-normalization of US-Cuban relations we can now hear a great deal more of what has been happening on the island. Ansonica Records is an ambitious undertaking of  Parma Recordings, aiming to bring US-Cuban musical collaborative projects to our ears as well as documenting what is happening in Cuba today.

In the latter category is the notefull passion of Traditional Cuban Music (Ansonica AR0003) as played and sung by Ellason, an excellent all-female outfit. The aim is to revive the music of Compay Segundo and Sigundo Garay and get general inspiration from the genre known as La Trova.

It is essentially in the style of 1940's Havana jazz bands, featuring especially the Charanga form with a driving heat and lyrical crispness. Lead singers and chorus are spectacularly good, and the band of bass, guitar, congas, bongos, cowbell, two clarinets and violin get a wonderful sound and heat everything up so that you surely want to dance.

I dearly love this band and their music. Anyone who digs the old sounds will revel in it all. Havana comes alive and we are there. Wonderful stuff!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter, Luke Damrosch, Limit

This past September 8th I was happy to review a recent Alan Sondheim album with Azure Carter and Luke Damrosch. We have yet another, entitled Limit (Public Eyesore 138). Sondheim, you will recall, had a couple of multi-instrumental iconoclastic free improv albums out on ESP back in the day. He is going strong again, as this album attests.

Luke Damrosch plays madal and is responsible for engineering and programming, Azure Carter gives us her quirky songs and sings them with disarming straightforward candor, and Alan handles the music concepts and plays a battery of instruments as we have come to expect, in this case viola, guqin, flute, clarinet, alto clarinet, long necked saz, dan moi, ghichak, ukelele, guzheng, holeless shakuhachi, hegelung, sanshin and rebab.

The blend is spaced out at times by studio enhancements. All is plainly what it is, regardless. And what it is gives the listener plenty of pause (plus playback and fast forward)! There is at all times a provocative kind of freedom that, as is Alan Sondheim's way, never stays put in a single free idiom, instead covering free jazz and world roots in ways he has come to make his fingerprint sound.

Azure adds much with the special songs that form a vivid, whimsical contrast to the freedom swirling about her.

Limit pleases greatly if you give the music a chance to grow within you. It is not like anything else exactly. It is Alan Sondheim.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Biggi Vinkeloe Band, Aura Via Appia

Melody, song and freely stepping forward are central to the beautiful album by the Biggi Vinkeloe Band, Aura Via Appia (Omlott MLR 015 2017). It centers on the presence of the band in Rome, on the singular feeling that evokes, a songfulness, a singular directionality brought on in part by being there, or so I would suggest.

The band itself has presence. It centers around of course Biggi on flute and alto, Robert Bellatalla on double bass and Peeter Uuskyla on drums. Joining them is Nema Vinkeloe on well done vocals and violin for the two Swedish folk songs and Pharoah Sander's wonderfully familiar "Japan." Simon Uuskyla nicely brings his voice to the two versions of Mozart's "Un Aura Amoroso" and his "Speculum Dianae".

This is music that sings, and to me that is always a big part of Biggi as an artist. Her alto and flute are ever singing, as they very much are here. The entire album however does embrace a singing of a singing, in the Mozart, in the folk songs. There always is a kind of discursive logic to Biggi's soloing, a speech-song quality. And we get lots of nicely hewn Biggi here, as good as anything and that is very good indeed. The band has open forward free movement that sets Ms. Vinkeloe into a space where she can shine brightly. So she does. And the song moment only bring that to us as a reinforcement, an affirmation.

Aura Via Appia has a gentle, open joy about it. We sing along in our hearts, because the music cannot and should not be denied. You listen the more, the better it gets. Kudos to Biggi and the band. Listen to this!

Monday, September 25, 2017

LAMA + Joachim Badenhorst, Metamorphosis

The world of Portuguese new music-avant jazz is a most fertile one. I have been happy to cover it increasingly over the years. It surely forms one of the more vibrant and varied, innovative and original scenes out there today. An especially rewarding outfit is that of LAMA, which if you type their name into the search box above you will see I have been reviewing on a regular basis for some time. The latest, Metamorphosis (Clean Feed 433) brings into the fold once again clarinetist-bass clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst for a rather riveting set.  LAMA itself consists of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Goncalo Almeida on double bass, keys, effects and loops, and Greg Smith on drums and electronics.

The music combines compositionally directed and free improv sounds in very logical and earthy ways. Of the five segments as recorded at Jazzcase last January, three are by Almeida, and one each are by Badenhorst and Smith. Ms. Silva has ubiquity and strength on trumpet; Badenhorst counters with his own clarinet-family gumbo. The rhythm-electronics team of Almeida and Smith bring a huge presence to the music conceptually and personality-wise. They are a big reason why everything hangs together while it expands outwards continually.

I cannot do proper justice to the music using the words at hand to me this Monday morning. That would take a great deal more effort, because this is not easily categorized. It is new, involved, evolved and free yet carefully thought-out. What is important is in the hearing, after all.

And so I do heartily recommend you hear this one repeatedly. It is much a thing to absorb you and give some meaning to what is the modern now. Take it on seriously and you will be the richer for it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dennis Gonzalez's Ataraxia, Ts'iibil Chaaltun

Trumpetist-bandleader-jazz composer Dennis Gonzalez has never been a follower so much as a prime, parallel force in the Zeitgeist of present-avant jazz. He continues to strike an independent yet forward striving path with the trio Ataraxia and their 2-LP offering Ts'ibil Chaaltun (Daagnim DVDI).

The vinyl presentation is state-of-the-art, a beautiful object in itself. The music is singular, with classical Indian-cum-fusion-Milesian-cum-free-jazz  furtherences saving our musical day. The trio says much with only three voices, Dennis of course, Jagath Lapriya on tablas and Drew Phillips on contrabass. The music wisely conflates multiple stylistic worlds with an organic wholeness that seems effortless but of course is a product of careful interlistening and instrumental insights.

There are the tablas nicely laying down the rhythmic core, occasional tambura drone, thoughtful contrabass anchorage and variations, and some haunting Gonzalez trumpet.

It turns out to be a marvelously varied platform that never seems the least bit contrived. It explores a spectrum of possibilities in ways that ring the truest and make a major art music statement.

It may not be exactly what you would expect from Dennis Gonzalez. And that is partly the point. He never rests and in the travelling comes a mastery of possibilities for which this trio has fully prepared.

A milestone, this is! And fully worthy to traverse universes, to take your ears to places somehow familiar yet boldly personal. Wow!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Joris Teepe & Don Braden, Conversations, with Gene Jackson & Matt Wilson

What can still be can satisfy when it is put together just right. Conversations (Creative Perspective Music 3004) by bassist Joris Teepe and tenor-flautist Don Braden is one of those kind of sessions. It is a tenor-bass-drum lineup that accentuates forward momentum swinging in a loosely cohesive, very inter-conversational way. The emphasis is not so much on breaking new ground as it is on finding new ways to walk down a fairly well-trodden path.

The trio here dwells comfortably and brilliantly on the edge of late hard-bop freedom. There is very hip propulsion, basso profundo musicianship from Teepe that can dwell inside and outside of the assumptions of a jazz classic, standard or original, and a Braden tenor fluidity that recalls early Sam Rivers, mid-Wayne Shorter, even Sonny Rollins is an advanced mode, that sort of thing, only Braden-fresh.

Bass and sax have a frontline presence together often enough. But Teepe also keeps the rhythm-team movement happening with Gene Jackson or Matt Wilson, both of whom distinguish themselves in turn. The fact that they do a nice version of Elvin Jones' classic "Three Card Molly" is great, but it also puts you in mind of that early trio with Farrell and Garrison, not to mention the classic Rollin's threesome before that. And it is not the notes themselves but that evolved cross-talk that is present here.

The choice of material and their attention to getting inside it makes for a strong outing. The Corea "Humpty Dumpty," Mingus' "Pork Pie Hat," Shorter's "Footprints" and the standards like "This is New," plus a couple of nice originals by Teepe, Wilson and Braden, all of that keeps the ears fresh and comfortable with the new-old, structure-form oscillations.

It is in every way top tier modern jazz! Everybody shows strength and creative open-field vision.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Anemone, A Wing Dissolved in Light, Peter Evans, John Butcher, Paul Lovens, etc.

If you revel in the extroverted and brash yet smart sort of free jazz outings, I believe the recent album A Wing Dissolved in Light (No Business NBLP 105) will appeal very much to you. The group calls itself Anemone. Those that follow the avant garde jazz scene will surely know the work of trumpetismos Peter Evans, who on this set concentrates most productively on the piccolo trumpet. Then there is tenor and soprano master John Butcher, who has made a dramatic impact on the scene for a while now. Drummer Paul Lovens has iconic status, deservedly. Joining them are two somewhat lesser-known but essential artists, Frederic Blondy on piano and Clayton Thomas on double bass, both of whom make important contributions to the whole.

Gone are the head-solos-head one-by-one improvisational routines to be replaced by the group explorations "orchestrated" by the collective intuitions, restraint versus assertion dialectics that Anemone unveil so well. If this often enough is what new free jazz favors, it nevertheless poses a great challenge to the participants, since every minute must entail careful listening and a demand to make every note count.

Anemone shows us, not surprisingly, that they are masters of the instant form collective. There is no moment when the music seems unpurposive. On the contrary it all hangs together remarkably well.

If you want to know how evolved freedom jazz can be right now, this is as good an example as any.

So pay this one close attention if you can. It rewards with some sublime spontaneity.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio, with Mark Helias, Dan Weiss

This music is no joke. It is the meeting of Quinsin Nachoff on tenor sax, Mark Helias on double bass and Dan Weiss on drums. The results are simply self-titled Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio (Whirlwind Recordings 4706). It is a master statement of what contemporary jazz could be and is from some of the best practitioners out there. Best practices. Inspired praxises.

I knew and appreciated Quinsin from his previous album Flux (type that in the search box above for the review). The Ethereal Trio takes things further. Helias and Weiss are a kind of dream rhythm team for Quinsin. The three together create a magic trio outing that stands on the improvisational edge of contemporary practice without quite jumping into the abyss. And so there is a creative tension between time-place marking and open-ends insistence that puts this music in a kind of essential relation to the present-day listener and the vertical possibilities available to the committed and brilliant improvisers that make up the trio.

Nachoff takes the prevailing open tenor possibilities and makes of it something personal and very fluid. Helias is in this context a co-lining voice of great lucidity and a rhythm foundation of pillared strength, playing against Nachoff and Weiss equally and very productively. Weiss is a drummer of terrific inventiveness and as much swing as you can ask for--when it is called for.

Put that together with six originals and you have something that stands out as a must-hear!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Marcelo Dos Reis, Eve Risser, Timeless

Guitarist Marcelo Dos Reis has been involved in some wonderful improv sessions in recent years. For that matter so has pianist Eve Risser. A duo of the two turns out, understandably, to be an inspired idea. We can hear the results of their intersective get together at the October 2016 "Jazz ao Centro Festival" in Coimbra, Portugal on the recent CD Timeless (JACC Records 34).

The idea of conjoining both prepared and unprepared piano and acoustic guitar alike is given very creative focus in the seven free improvisational segments that make up the program. Marcelo and Eve attend closely to the very expanded sonarities possible in such a setup. They allow their creatively inventive selves full latitude to get the maximum  of ethereal traction out of the possibilities inherent in what end up being four instrumental options. Of course the many sound possibilities of the two prepared instruments are what you notice first coming out of your speakers. Then with continuing listening the entire spectrum of sounds and the gestural interactions become ever more clear and compelling.

The music is as much about the timbrally exotic flourishes as it is about pitch. The two aspects combine in ways only avant improvisational savantes like Eve and Marcelo could pull off. Nothing sounds random or accidental. And none of it is because these two know well what they are about. They know which parts of their articulation arsenal will correspond with what the other is doing at any given moment.

So each moment of the totality has significance and aesthetic expressivity. It allows the duo to open us up continually to fascinating and rewarding open universes of sounds.

Timeless puts time on hold, as the title suggests. You listen outside of the clock watching being we tend to be when everyday life is in its more mundane phase. The musical events of Timeless sacralize the sound-art space we dwell in and leave us with boundless soundscapes of focused beauty and character. And it does so with disarming selfless individuality, with a dual creation of real value.

Get this one and prepare for parts unknown! Timeless captures timbral wonders as it takes you away from anything ordinary. Molto bravo!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meaghan Burke, Creature Comforts

Sometimes nothing can quite prepare you for a music when it defies easy categorization. Tha is most certainly the case with songwriter, singer, cellist, lyricist Meaghan Burke. Her album Creature Comforts (self released) comes toward you as a kind of underground art song program, quirky and unexpected.

All that is Ms. Burke and all that are her songs are joined variously by a string quartet (that includes her cello), clarinets, resonator guitar, Sousaphone, drums, contrabass, guitar and backing vocals.

Her voices is very musical but also dramatic and I suppose you could say "wayward" in a sort of Downtown way. In the process there is a productive conflation of rock, cabaret, new music, freedom, and I suppose a tiny smidgen of pop. The HOW of the creative stew is the everything, of course.

And that how is poignantly singular, about a personal everyday or otherwise life, about a nicely wrought cello, a touchingly honest sound assemblage that fascinates and moves in its unpretentious yet arty totality.

There is no satisfactory set of words glibly and hastily scrawled (or of course typed). It is Meaghan asserting through her songs, "I exist!" And in the process we too exist alongside her, for the length of the program and beyond.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter, Luke Damrosch, Threnody, Shorter Discourses of the Buddha

It is always heartening to hear an artist who long ago made a heroic gesture in the earlier new music free jazz world still active and moving forward in an ever-expanding personal expression. I speak of Alan Sondheim, who in the earlier and perhaps more heady days of new free music making put out several albums on ESP that might qualify as some of the most daring music you've never heard. Not daring in a drop-your-drawers astonishment sort of way. More like an unpretentious refusal to recognize boundaries. His multi-instrumental essays still enlighten, still bear close hearing today.

So now we encounter Alan still going strong, in a productively creative collaboration with Azure Carter and Luke Damrosch. Alan plays a battery of instruments that includes all manner of winds, Irish banjo, Alpine zither, viola, electric guitar, oud, pipa, erhu, etc. Joining him is Luke Damrosch on guzheng, madal, revrev supercollider software. Then there is Azure Carter and her highly contrastive, profound singsong song vocals.

The three gather together to create in the Sondheim vision a free pan-world music that through its multiple gestures and referents builds a new sort of sonic world. In that way everything Sondheim creates is another "New World Symphony" if you will.

This new effort is as good or even better than what has come before. It gels cohesively through the magic of deliberate disparity, like a mole sauce, a seemingly odd concatenation of chile and chocolate that thrives through its very melding of sensual opposites. Like that.

Highly recommended for you musical undergrounders.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

B.J. Jansen, Common Ground

For anyone who loves the baritone sax there is a recent album by the adept B.J. Jansen, his baritone and a most illustrious gathering of hard boppers. It is entitled Common Ground  (RoninJazz 20170501). The program consists of originals by Jansen and others, a cornucopia of contemporary bop tunes that open things up for the players.

With Jansen is Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone, Duane Eubanks on trumpet, Ralph Peterson on drums, Dezron Douglas on bass and Zaccai Curtis on piano. Together they make for a formidable whole that packs plenty of improvisational clout.

Jansen acquits himself well among such stellar company. He has a big sound and earthy soulfulness that falls into original territory, somewhere between Pepper Adams and Hamiet Bluiett would be a way to describe it.

And there is a joy in this music that comes out of the love of playing. The love of listening is our role in this action. I for one am glad to play my part as audience for this one.

Nicely done on all levels!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Toxic, Mat Walerian, Matt Shipp, William Parker, This is Beautiful Music Because We Are Beautiful People

This is the third meeting of reedist Mat Walerian with pianist Matthew Shipp on disk, at least as far as I am aware. It pairs the two with bass master William Parker as the trio Toxic. The album is entitled This is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (ESP-Disk 5011).

The opening "Lesson" makes it clear that the album focuses on sonic worlds that express through a spontaneous sound design. The flute-shakuhashi duo of Mat and William contrast against Matthew's inside-the-piano soundings for a mood that looks inward.

"Breakfast Club Day 1" evolves the sonics to include some cosmic William Parker bowing, Mat on alto sax and Matthew inside and then outside the piano. There are searchingly soulful gestures and Matthew then breaks out into some very personal expressions that look ahead to a pure state of musical being. He opens up to spontaneous compositional clarity outside of the usual free expressions and seeks his own RIGHT THEN ground. In reply is alto and bowed bass as a parallel creation.

It tells us what the artists seek and realize throughout. A musical world that follows the three as improvisers so sure of themselves that they can range far and wide into wherever the moment may bring them.

Freedom music is ideally and at its best  not a rote thing. The three give us an excellent example of how much their lifetime of open-form improvisation comes into play to create itself anew. You could give a separate hearing to concentrate on what each is doing in turn. It would be very worthwhile. Still it is the three in significant togetherness that makes each moment special.

If you like many right now don't know exactly where you are headed, you can learn and revive from this session. You do not  have to know in some formal sense to truly KNOW. That is only if your life stands available to you to draw from. And that life has its musical aspects, experiential aspects, in the end all of its presence. The best of freedom needs the totality of the experiences of the artists at hand. And then a true calling forth. That is what so excellently comes to your ears on This is Beautiful... It IS.

Strongly recommended as a model of what can be and is right now!

Friday, September 1, 2017

ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Kyle Bruckmann, Henry Kaiser, Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited

Revisiting classic avant-contemporary jazz works can be a challenging proposition. Somehow to retain something of the vibrational aura of the original yet also bring in a fresh improvisation slant on it all is far from easy. The ROVA Saxophone Quartet is no stranger to such efforts, having done a very worthy job in recreating Coltrane's Ascension some years ago.

And now the ROVA Saxophone Quartet returns with a movingly expressive look at Steve Lacy's 1975 Saxophone Special, appropriately titled Saxophone Special Revisited (Clean Feed 415). There of course is nothing else quite like the Steve Lacy of those classic days, with his brittle, dryly acerbic wit and quirky smarts.

The ROVA revisit maintains the same instrumentation as the original: sax quartet (Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin), synthesizer/electronics (Kyle Bruckmann), electric guitar (Henry Kaiser). The performers understand completely the tabula rasa nature of the original live recording and manage to convey it authoritatively while giving us a very creative take on the improvisational possibilities that bring the music alive for the world today.

On the recording we get the five original compositions plus Lacy's "Cliches" and "Sidelines" as bonus tracks. The extras are no throw-ins so much as an extension of the moods and modes of the music.

Any avant contemporary jazz listener will find this album quite enjoyable, stimulating, bracing, whether they have lived long with Lacy's original LP (as I have) or not. Those that know it will appreciate how ROVA and company manage to keep to the original mood yet move it ahead in creative ways. Spring forward, fall back. Listen and travel to future and past at the same time. Do it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mind Games, Ephemera Obscura

Anything we do not know is not necessarily some profound treasure, obviously. Yet we ignore the new and unknown at our own peril, for there are ever-worthy finds to be made when we cast a wide net. I cannot begin to convey to you the utter horror I can experience when putting utter crap on my player in search of the righteous stuff. Yet there is the elation too, when I come across something really good like the group Mind Games and their album Ephemera Obscura (Clean Feed 432).

This is a quartet of excellent players opening up into avant jazz tundra with compositional structure and improvisational freedom in equal amounts. The compositions are by various members of the group. They do a great job setting things up. Plus there are a number of collective jaunts.

Who are Mind Games? Angelika Niescier is on alto, a limber exponent of lucidity that helps a great deal in speeding things up and doing it with creative smarts. Denman Maroney plays piano. I've been hearing excellent things from him for a while and his slap-dash selectivity puts him in the upper echelon of post-Paul-Bley and post-Taylor newnesses. James Ilgenfritz mans the contrabass with pluck (pardon pun), frictive elegance and musically worthwhile determination. Andrew Drury is one of those drummer that can make a date right just by his percussive musicality, with an emphasis on the latter.

Put the four together on eight pieces and you have an ever-varying, playfully brilliant outcome. There never feels like there will be inevitability, like some free dates can do (and sometimes extremely well). Surprise is the norm, and each trip takes us to an interesting destination that we do not exactly expect.

After all has sounded I am left with a satisfaction that comes when in the presence of the best kinds of spontaneous creativity. If this has the acrid, angular tuneful tonal outness of a Dolphy album to some extent, it then also carries us forward to a more widely open-form looseness that is part of today.

Great job from a great quartet lineup!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jonah Parzen-Johnson, I Try to Remember Where I Come From

Who is Jonah Parzen-Johnson and why should we care? The short answer is that he is a musician-composer from Chicago. The "why we should care" part at the moment has to do with his album I Try to Remember Where I Come From (Clean Feed 430). It is a series of short compositions Parzen-Johnson created and then realized on baritone saxophone and synthesizer.

The electronic part is somewhere between a piano and an orchestra in depth and density. It is generally filled with motifs and harmonic content. The baritone part involves long lines with circular breathing and cascading, gritty jazz sensibilities.

What stands out in contemplating this music is its totality of expression and driving forwardness. It is contemporary in essence, jazz-laced and both open-spontaneous and prethought-composed-planned.

The two elements mingle together for a venture in musical substance that offers sonic presence and expressive thrust.

It is definitely worth checking out if you appreciate electric-acoustics synergies!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Roots Magic, Last Kind Words

Roots Magic bypasses all the BS out there and zeros in on the roots of magic, the magic of the roots and their capacity to renew us time and again. Roots Magic map it out and let their inner fires kindle on the album Last Kind Words (Clean Feed 437). Alberto Popolla on clarinet & bass clarinet, Errico de Fabritiise alto & baritone sax, Gianfranco Tedeschi on double bass, Fabrizio Sperra on drums and selected guests here and there tear it up.

The selection of songs-compositions are excellent, perfect vehicles to root it out. A number of Charlie Patton blues numbers are pivotal, around which are situated earthy classics by Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Marion Brown, Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett, Pee Wee Russell and a couple of originals. It is exactly the right springboard for an avantly soulful outing that gets the blood coursing through your body.

More could be said. It need not be said because this is a lodestone of hip heat!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker, Whisper, with Dada Villa-Lobos

The heartfelt saudade of Brazilian song means that often enough there is a level of romanticism (in both senses) to be encountered in the music. It is a beautiful sadness that does not wallow in sentiment so much as it engages in affective panoramas of melodic sublimity.

That is what we get quite nicely in Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker's Whisper (Enja 9617-2). Cristina has a lovely voice in the tender realm of an Astrud Gilberto, and an identity of her own. She is an excellent harp player as well, with a very appropriate presence throughout. She is seconded aptly on voice and guitar by Dado Villa-Lobos. The Modern Samba Quintet (trumpet, vibes, double bass, percussion and drums) brings us fine soloing and rhythm work.

The subtitle of this album gives us a hint as to what is in store."The Bossa-Nova Brandenburg Concerto" plays on the presence of the Brandenburger Symphoniker. It does NOT mean that you should expect some kind of Heitor Villa-Lobosian "Bachianas Brasileiras." Or at least, not exactly. The orchestra plays a key role in a lush sort of richly expressive romantic way. And I suppose if you look hard enough you can find traces of Villa-Lobos' presence in some of the orchestrations, which are nicely handled by several arrangers.

The several works that do not center directly on bossa classics have a harp and orchestra element that may recall Gil Evans and Villa-Lobos both. The rest of the music is full throated bossa with vocals by Cristina and Dado, jazz solos by Cristina (I would love to hear MORE of what she does in a harp jazz lining realm here) and the Quintet, and the richness of an orchestral carpeting.

That may not be for everybody, but it is most certainly for those who appreciate a first-rate harpist and vocalist doing Brazilian classics in a large ensemble setting. If you are in that category this is something you will appreciate! Recommended.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rob Mazurek, Rome

Rob Mazurek, cornetist, electronician, composer and bandleader, has in the last several decades made some monumentally important recordings in the realm of avant new jazz. I have been happy to cover many of them in these blogs, and I again put fingers to keyboard in order to give my take on his newest, a solo album entitled Rome (Clean Feed 435).

In this case it is Rob going it alone, playing in and contemplating the eternal city of Rome, what it means in musical terms and how it feels to be doing a spontaneous multi-instrument foray with a particular set of creative actions frozen in time via the recorded medium.

As always it is about Rob's distinctive cornet artistry and also about a great deal more. We get the piano/prepared piano/electronic immediacy that goes into making Rob's singular musical vision what it is. Only in the bare bones solo context we get it unvarnished, expressionist yet not as multiple-lined as his larger and sometimes very much larger bands.

This is a more introspective Mazurek, with boldly underscored cornet, yes, but also his new music piano inventions a very central part of it all, along with an acute sense of sound color that comes out most contrastingly in his electronic spontaneous "orchestrations."

It is an album that does not overpower so much as it opens up a wide space within which some rather profound musical events take place.

It is a slightly different, more intimate Mazurek at hand on this set. Yet with a few concentrated listenings you experience once again some breathtaking possibilities unfold, like pastels on paper as compared with the oversized multiply-worked "canvases" of some of his larger group projects.

Outstanding! Give this your ears, whether you are friends, Romans and/or countrymen!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra, Dreaming Big

I am hard pressed to imagine what the economics are of keeping a big band jazz outfit together these days. It is no doubt difficult enough, even daunting to keep a stable and working quartet going. And what about an 18-member unit? I cannot imagine. Nevertheless we have happy evidence that such an outfit can at least rehearse thoroughly and hit the studios to wax an excellent set. I speak of the Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra and their album Dreaming Big (Gold Fox Records GFR 1701).

It is a nicely tight outfit performing the unabashedly modern compositions of Brett Gold. You may hear in his work a distinct Gil Evansesque attention to well orchestrated sonics and well realized through compositions that maintain a high level of musicality throughout. There is a Gold originality that stands forward however, despite his lineal antecedents

There are good soloists to be heard generously, and a very solid ensemble sound that swings and finesses its way through the program seamlessly, and masters the compositional forms with a sure jazz modernity.

There is a consistency and continual fluency to this program. Any admirer of the modern jazz big band will find the New York Jazz Orchestra and Brett Gold's compositions and arrangements a fine thing indeed. Here is breakthrough big band music for today. May they continue indefinitely!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Art Fristoe Trio, DoubleDown

In the course of my sometimes meandering existence as music writer, musician, poetic inventor and liver of life, I sometimes realize how lucky I am. Somewhat broke, maybe, but never bent by the wheel of harsh necessity. Or at least not now after a long struggle to realize my own self-actualization. I stand before you proud to represent the best of the music of today. Not all of it, but a vital corner of it.

An example springs forward for our consideration right now. It is a double CD by pianist Art Fristoe and his trio. Double Down  (Merry Lane Records 2-CDs) is the album by name. It pits the very inventive pianistic and electric pianistic stylistics of Art Fristoe with the totally appropriate accompaniment of electric bassist Tim Ruiz and drummer Daleton Lee or Richard Cholakian. Ilya Janos joins the three on percussion for several cuts as well.

There is strength and interpretive, inventive poetry to be heard in the judicious and appealing mix of Fristoe originals and standards from a wide spectrum of possibilities old and newer. So we get "Alone Together" and "Caravan" but also "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Blackbird."

What is a constant is the rightness and creativity of the arrangements, with sometimes a jazz-rock tinge, other times a central swingingness,  the cohesiveness of the trio and Art Fristoe's piano strengths. He can solo in a neo-bop post-early Corea zone, do some very interesting block and semi-block interpretations and combine a vertical harmonic development and convincingness with a line and melody-interpretive zoning that marks him as very musical in the best jazz-sensible ways. And Art can sing nicely, too. Listen to "Blackbird!"

The music comes across as something accessible to many, yet a fully pleasurable outing for even the most discerning among us. Good going!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LABtrio, Nature City

When you get complacent and think you have a full handle on something like adventuresome jazz, think again. Anytime I am convinced I have nailed it all down, a new batch of CDs arrive in the mailbox and...oh, there is more that is new!

LABtrio has that surprise element going. Their CD Nature City (outhere music 624) makes me sit up and take notice. The group at hand is a piano trio consisting of Lander Gyselinck on drums, Bram De Looze on piano and Rhodes, and Anneleen Boehme on double bass.

After ten years together, the liner notes inform us, they have been taking fresh stock of themselves. On Nature City they seek to delineate their identity more emphatically with a set of demanding compositions that require a very tight presentation but also a spontaneity and freedom.

Perhaps that is a tall order. They manage to succeed nevertheless with a music that may demand concentrated listening to appreciate properly, but then rewards with some exceptionally deep and advanced sounds.

This is jazz on the brink of a full avantness, yet occupying simultaneously a far corner of the contemporary mainstream. That positioning gives us the sort of advanced piano trio all-over threesomeness and takes it fully into a not-derivative place of its own.

I am rather thrilled with Nature City. It is a surface upon which three very talented players make of themselves a very welcome three-headed hydra that excels both in its compositional rigor and its improvisational spaciousness.

Kudos! Hear this one!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Xavier Camarasa & Jean-Marc Foussat, Dans les courbes

If my musical tastes often enough veer from the mainstream, I do not see it as my problem. It is a problem with the mainstream. Why is it that Modern Visual Art/Performance Art can regularly be covered by the mainstream art media, collected by the coterie of wealthy art patrons without complaint, installed in many of the world's most prestigious museums, yet music of a similar advancement is generally disdained, ignored or just plain reviled out there. I seek to redress that in my coverage of the new as well as the not-so-new. If it leaves me in poverty, at least I know I am doing a good turn for the art music scene today.

So today's offering in within that realm, music that is on the edge such that my housemates have their doubts about my sanity or alternately think there is some horrible cataclysm taking place in my living space. What we have is thoroughgoingly adventurous sound sculpting avant fare from pianist Xavier Camarasa and electronic music master Jean-Marc Foussat. The album is entitled Dans les courbes (FOU Records CD26).

What makes this program something superior and musical valuable is the freely articulated sonic understanding both artists bring to the table. The piano becomes almost an electronic vehicle; the Synthi AKS take on an almost pianistic demeanor. Of course that is only so in a sympathetic vibrancy sense. And yet there are much of the time contrasts that have a two-fold independence yet "go together" in non-cliche sorts of ways. The point is that there is an ever-shifting matrix of almost seamlessly cohesive noise and tone poetics that has a narrative quality and a continuity, yet a two-fold distinctiveness perhaps not as often found on the edges of free-new music as it might be.

Plus the sound melds are very musical as well as sonically alive with unexpected confluences.

I keep listening to this one. I keep coming away from it with an ever-increasing sense of satisfaction. That to me is a sure sign that this is avant sonancy of importance.

So not surprisingly I do suggest you dive into this music--provided you are unafraid of the untrammeled and genuinely NEW.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Itaru Oki, Nobuyoshi Ino, Choi Sun Bae, Kami Fusen

You never know (or I do not anyway) what is going to arrive in the mail for review from day-to-day. For example the other day my mailbox contained something by free avant jazz trumpeters Itaru Oki and Choi Sun Bae, and double bassist Nobuyoshi Ino, They gather together as an unusual threesome on the album Kami Fusen (No Business CD). It was a fortuitous meeting of the Korean Choi and the Japanese Oki and Ino. And it is captured in crisp audio clarity.

It is perhaps a somewhat unlikely pairing of two trumpets and bass, but even on first listen you hear the rightness of the three and their inspired interplay. It was recorded at a single live appearance in Japan that went forth without rehearsal. The compositional elements by Oki and Ino, and a standard or two are taken without a hitch and the improvisations travel to freely articulated yet centered and weighted territories.

Ino's bass playing is something to listen to closely. The two trumpeters offer dramatic contrasts in their sound and attack. All three give us something much more than three singulars, Rather three definite plurals come at us and demand our happy attention.

It is one of those one-off gatherings where a natural kinetic electricity is in the air. It is a fine listen, well worth your trouble if you want something open and brilliant.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Paul Rutherford, Sabu Toyozumi, The Conscience

The late Paul Rutherford (d. 2007) was one of new music-free jazz's most accomplished and daring trombonists. Many reading this do not need to be told. Drummer Sabu Toyozumi is an energetic, imaginative and fire-y exponent of free drumming in Japan. A series of annual get togethers in Tokoname of Sabu and select others led in 1999 to a duet meeting of Sabu and Paul Rutherford. The results were well recorded and now happily released as The Conscience (No Business CD).

The all-over sonic barrages of Sabu are exceptional here and set up a beautiful counterbalance to the Rutherford extroversions and trombone explosions.

It is an entirely free performance, and it is so with no flagging or coasting. Both are completely zoned-in and give us nuanced and inventive brilliance from first to last. It could be profitably heard as a kind of primer on the free jazz duet, on free trombone and drum excellence, on what a very productive duet exploration can be.

I am enjoying this one completely, repeatedly. All those interested or curious about freedom improvisations will do well to hear this one.

Very recommended.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Daniel Schlappi, Marc Copland, More Essentials

I have long appreciated pianist Marc Copland as a talented and expressively productive member of what one might call the Post-Bill-Evans School. Everything he plays seems right to me, most always.

A new album is out, a collaboration between Copland and bassist Daniel Schlappi. It is called More Essentials (Catwalk 150013-2). The title would seem to indicate that there was an earlier volume, but I will leave that to the discographers. My concern right now is of course this album.

The program consists of a number of reflective originals by Schlappi and/or Copland, most of which fall under the rubric "Essentials." All are stimulating and reflectively strong. But then there is a very well-chosen set of standards to be heard here, too.

They range from Miles' "Blue in Green," "All of You," Joni Mitchell's "Rainy Night House," Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," and others. The considerable prowess of Daniel Schlappi's bass combines with Marc Copland's pianistic rightness for a truly inspired sort of confluence.

This was one of those albums that I heard once, and immediately wanted to hear again. So, I put it on another time. With my helter skelter schedule I do not often do this. It is an indication of how the music reached me.

Two genuine jazz artistes inspiring each other to a high, a very high level? Yes. Listen to this, by all means!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Anne Vanschothorst, Beautiful World

I am generally not one to quibble about musical categories. Yet the internet has made categorical hair-splitting of tantamount importance. So when faced with a release that might fit in a number of blogs I do, I must mull it over somewhat carefully. If I post my review of harpist-composer Anne Vanschothorst's CD Beautiful World  (HSM) on this blogsite it is not because it would not equally belong on my Classical-Modern Music Review site. I place it here because I think perhaps the widest audience might be reached, an audience well versed in ambiance with a sort of quasi-ECM spaciousness.

To start at the top, I have been covering the beautiful harp artistry of Anne Vanschothorst for a while (do a search for her music in the search box of the classical blog). This new one has as a simple premiss some 11 compositions, all featuring Anne's meditative harp and one or more additional performers. So we get Anne with clarinetist Michael Moore, percussionist-drummer Arthur Bont, Thijs de Melker on organ, piano, or bass, Rebecca Star on vocals, and Jon Willem Troost on cello.

It is indeed a music of beauty, ambient not in the tonal fluffdom of typical "new age" music but in the concentric affectivity of Satie and beyond.

There is music anyone might appreciate--for example my spouse and one of the housemates both responded well as they passed through my listening space. And it also offers substantial results for those who demand more exacting content, which I of course do.

It is a moving slice of harp bliss and incisive compositional ambient moodiness. Perhaps it is Anne's best yet! In any case I do strongly recommend this one to you.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pol Belardi's Force, Riaz Khabirpour, Kaiser Quartett, Creation/Evolution

There is refreshing and ambitious artistry to be heard on Pol Belardi's Force and their album Creation/Evolution (Challenge Records Int. 71181).  The Force Quartet I gather is based in Germany. Pol Belardi's electric bass implacably puts the music on solid bedrock. The other quartet members play a central role in realizing Belardi's compositions and arrangements. David Fettmann on alto is energetic but not on the edge of energy playing. That happens to fit the unwinding musicality of line and harmony that Belardi favors. To call it post-Shorterian first occurred to me as I listened a final time while writing these lines. It is not wrong. There is a clarity and resonance you can feel in this music and though it does not strike me was being derivative of Shorter's writing, it does share with Shorter's compositions a kind of advanced melodic-harmonic matter-of-factness that is a good part of what makes this music in essence what it is. But there is more.

Back to the quartet. Jerone Klein on piano has a full musicality and backbones the music while nicely embellishing improvisatorily as called upon. And Neils Engel drums creatively and brings out the compositional and propulsive needs well.

For about half the pieces the quartet is joined by guitarist Riaz Khabirpour and he adds considerable musical texture and finesse. The Kaiser String Quartett also adds fullness and a distinctive compositional complexity and richness to the music on half the program. Pol manages to integrate both into the artistic whole in ways that feel organic and natural.

The sum of the musical results is very motivated by the compositions and how they lay out over time. There is an almost-classical logic to the unfolding of each piece, and a great deal of musical riches to explore and appreciate. It is not quite ECM-ish, not exactly neo-Third Stream, not exactly anything but Belardian. I do sometimes hear an affinity with that old 2LP Keith Jarrett album on Columbia years ago, especially in the string and guitar elements. And it turns out that is a very good thing, a very fulsomely musical thing, and expressive and slightly lyrical thing.
I would think anyone who likes the idea of a jazz composer-centric music will launch into the music positively. I do recommend it as a substantial offering, perhaps more modern contemporary than avant garde, but such distinctions are not important if the music is worthy. It is! Listen.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day Quartet, On Parade

For those who might have missed Harris Eisenstadt's music, and for those that already know, his recent Canada Day Quartet album On Parade (Clean Feed 413) continues the adventurous journey through compositional-improvisational singularity.

The band is chemically-collectively and individually very well suited as a vehicle to take Harris's compositional structures and flesh them out with a special unity-in-disparity. Of course Harris is on drums with his very creative intelligence. He is a drummer's drummer. You listen to his very varied and subtle yet dynamic approach and you hear so much. Nate Wooley is one of the top tier modern-avant trumpeters out there and his work on this album bears out his deserved high status. He's a dynamo. Matt Bauder is one of my favorite tenors these days because he always comes at you with a strong, varied tone and great ideas. Then Pascal Niggenkemper on bass handles the compositional realizations and improvises with equal power. He is a third horn as much as a rhythm mate of always-in-there talent.

You hear the four-way interplay and improvisations with a smile because there simply are no cliches to be heard! And at the same time the compositions are substantial and weighty in ways that point to Eisenstadt's special approach. There are multi-lines and fresh modernisms always.

So once again I must strongly recommend the new one to you. Modern avant jazz has a seminal force in Harris and the Canada Day Quartet. Do not miss this!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2, Tarvos, with Bobby Kapp

So today I present to you my thoughts on the second volume of the ambitious and endlessly absorbing series, The Art of Perelman-Shipp. Volume 2, Tarvos (Leo LR 795). On it we are treated to the trio of Ivo Perelman, tenor sax, Matt Shipp, piano, and one of the more unsung masters of avant jazz drumming, Bobby Kapp.

Kapp has a supreme feel for getting his drums to SOUND, ringingly and musically, and then how to construct a prose of drum eloquence that is perfect for this threesome.

As the other volumes in the series, it is open freedom throughout that is the order of the day.

Matt sounds his usual excellently appropriate self. He is sometimes less overtly soloistic than he usually is, but what he plays is perfect as a pianistic setup for the proceedings and if you listen concentratedly to what he is doing, you hear how what he is doing goes a long way in establishing what is happening. And then there is some very weighty space eventually where he rhapsodizes freely as only he can!

This volume has some exceptional Ivo Perelman tenor. He wills himself into a sort of twilight world where the immediate mingles with a sort of scumbling presence of the past in jazz sax. I hear, almost hallucinate with the resonance of players like Johnny Hodges, Pete Brown, Ben Webster, there yet as a musical apparition, a ghostly wisp of allusions to what no longer exists except in Ivo's masterful channeling of their long silent echoes.

And so the entire program glows with an aura that is palpable yet intangible. It is a testament to the masterful brilliance of the three frozen in a series of brilliant moments.

Perhaps you should start here with the set! It is a prime example of very rooted and eloquent new free jazz.