Friday, January 27, 2017

The Klezmatics, Apikorsim, Heretics

The Klezmatics are by now a central institution of the Klezmer revival, celebrated for their irreverent attitude but vibrantly idiomatic take on the tradition. Their new album, Apikorsim, Heretics (World Village 450031) gives us more spirited music with songs that are new to me, irreverent as ever, most frankly espousing an enjoyment of life in spite of troubles, others wearing the mantle of tradition lightly, with the unorthodox freely mingling with the orthodox.

The instrumental and vocal excellence of the band is paramount, and again they take on Klezmer tradition seriously but playfully, sometimes straying adventurously into modern jazz territory and other non-traditional realms, widening what Klezmer can be without losing sight of the roots.

It is music to savor, an album that will remind you that the musical world we inhabit is a remarkably
fluid one, that the river of world heritage is wide so long as we have creative musicians like the Klezmatics to renew our immersion in living form, in tradition as interjected into our polyglot present, just as past Klezmer was a melding of disparate influences.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song

Since my move to Cape May I have been struggling to re-establish the bio-rhythms I had absorbed up north as a matter of course. I am getting there, thanks in part to the infinitely helpful presence of some very worthwhile releases, especially one up today.

It is a new one from the ever seminal Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song (Thirsty Ear TH157212.2). The latest edition of the trio has had a little time to season and ripen and certainly with this one they stride forward in an ever more confident way and an interplay of great depth and strong horizontal motion.

In short, they swing loosely and freely to raise the bar on what a contemporary piano trio direction consists of, how it can get beyond the accumulated tradition of more than 100 years of recorded jazz piano in an organic way, musico-naturally.

Matthew sounds inspired and relaxed, presenting 12 originals that serve as exemplary pianistic springboards for his three-way dialogues with bassist Michael Bisio and the newest trio member, Newman Taylor Baker on drums.

Bisio remains as always a spontaneously acute second melodic voice in the trio, a bassist with something original to say and the means to say it. His interactions with Matthew's smart-soulful piano declamations make this outing something special and further evolved. Newman Taylor Baker takes in all that his bandmates are doing and replies with both what may be called for and the unexpected, sometimes both at the same time.

And Matthew sounds as authoritative as ever, becoming what he in fact is, a prime carrier of the piano jazz legacy, a great synthesizer and innovator, a critically important voice in the new jazz of today.

This album simmers it all so that what is left is pure essence. No covers, no minimum, just music at a highest pitch, whether introspecting or clambering for the stars.

The Matthew Shipp trio these days is like a train that is ever arriving as it ever departs for destinations not yet known. The three in tandem exemplify what the improvisatory arts are all about when they are in their purest state. There can be no final destination because the track extends outwards into infinity.

Perhaps their very best, this is! So far.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mississippi Heat, Cab Driving Man

On the playlist for me right now is the new album by the blues outfit Mississippi Heat, Cab Driving Man (Delmark 848). It's a 16 tune extravaganza of Chicago and beyond blues headed up by the exceptional harp of Pierre Lacocqoue. Inetta Visor is the main vocalist and she can dish it out. She is seconded in the voice department by Michael Doton, who is also the fine guitarist soloing on half the cuts, then there is a vocal appearance by Giles Corey, who is the other main guitarist in the mix.

To such a solid core of singers and instruments we add sax, keys, drums and bass and get a soul-blues spectrum of genuine syntheses between classic past and very alive present.

They run the gamut on the album from hard popping funk blues to boogie, slithering steam to down-on-it heaviness.

They manage to get the grooves going on true-to-self numbers one through sixteen, inclusive. It's one of those albums that looses none of the power of the classic forms yet finds ways to avoid a simple clone. Fresh is the word!

An excellent band in a terrific new album. I cannot imagine you would be disappointed with  this one. Not, that is, if you expect the real blues, something that measures up to the greats yet speaks to today.

Oh, yes it does.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tan Bucher & Countryman, Acceptance.Resistance

If you respond to the "classic" form of free jazz as practiced in the later sixties by the likes of Coltrane and Sonny Simmons, the recent album by the trio Bucher Tan Countryman Acceptance.Resistance (Improvising Beings 53) may well give you a new jolt by returning to yet forging ahead in this mode.

The Philippines-based trio has power and creativity at its fingertips with Simon Tan on bass, Christian Bucher on drums and Rick Countryman on alto sax.The band gives us a full set of free and swinging-propulsing sounds that sound fresh and contemporary while hearkening back to the masters of the idiom.

Countryman has a vibrant soaring tone that he puts to good use with onslaughts of post-bop free continuity and poise. There is excellent fluidity to his horn lines that make things grow as they go.

Simon Tan has plenty of ideas and a woody sound that may well remind you of Silva, Grimes, Garrison and other past masters.

Christian Bucher takes advantage of the trio space with a busy, churning time/spacetime that has creative invention as well as drive.

Put the three together and set them loose. The result is an engaging album that keeps the flames kindled and creates a musical fullness that thrives on openness.

Here is a trio that knows what it is about and provides direction and soulful fire consistently.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Augustin Brousseloux, Jean-Marc Foussat, Quentin Rollet, Oui A Vu Ce Mystere. . .

What is a soundscape? Like a landscape, it is something with a horizontal continuity, an expanse of music land and sky if you will, a series of event markings that draw out the particularities of that landscape, along with the continuity of horizontal sustains. More or less. The world of free jazz-new music has embraced soundscaping increasingly, it seems to me, over the last decades.

Qui a Ve Ce Mystere. . . (Improvising Beings ib54) is such  a soundscape and a good one it is. The music is crafted freely but with care and sensitivity by a threesome of Augustin Brousseloux on electric guitar, Jean-Marc Foussat on live electronics, and Quentin Rollet on alto sax.

Each falls into his specific role and there is a good deal of dramatics and space-time cosmetics to be heard in the 40-minute live number and the 20-minute studio follow-up.

It is more about creating a vibrant and vital collective sonance than it is so much about impressing a stamp of individual personalities times three, although each musician does have a personal musical fingerprint that we find all over the music.

But in the end it is about the unique scapeside aural view that is created over time, in this case two contrasting ones.

It is the sort of music Improvising Beings has had the nerve to put out over the past few years. It is an example of how the formulas of freedom and what is orthodoxy in free-new music is not necessarily the only way to go. 

This music transfixes if you listen closely and repeatedly. It is unfashionably electric, which means it is beyond fashion, or rather the fashion-of-fashion-rejection.

It takes some living with over time. And then, ideally, you get it.

Does this have anything to do with "Ascension" or "Hymnen"? Yes, undoubtedly there are roots there, but it furthers avant "traditions" in a disarming, non-traditional way.

I like that. Years from now, this music will either be entirely forgotten or considered an important new path. That in part is up to us, the community of listeners. Which is it?

Listen for yourself.

But listen.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sound Underground, Quiet Spaces

If you have a similar background to me, the first thing that hits you in listening to the trio Sound Underground and their album Quiet Spaces is their apparent rootedness in the classic later-'50s Jimmy Giuffre with Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer. There is a chamber jazz approach in common. The instrumentation of Jonah Udall on electric guitar, David Leon on alto sax, and Alec Aldred on trumpet involves a similar openness of execution, with Jonah pivoting between chordal work and a third voice.

The compositions (by all three trio members) have a kind of genetic relation to the Giuffre classical-folk-jazz nexus. They are notable for their structural bent and memorability.

And the improvising schemas are well thought out like the Giuffre three-some's were.

But foremost in this is despite the genetic relationship the music does not really sound at all like Giuffre's did in those days. That's because it is so many years later and also because all three follow their own muses.

Put all that together and you have something very nice indeed. Check this out!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Giovanni Guidi, Ida Lupino

An album of exceptional merit is always an event in my world. Giovanni Guidi's Ida Lupino (ECM 2462) is one such. It reunites pianist Guidi with his former bandmate from a classic edition of Enrico Rava's group, namely trombonist Gianluca Petrella.  Added to this pairing is clarinetist Louis Sclava and drummer Gerald Cleaver for a most potent foursome.

The program is made up of a number of collective improvisations, some memorable compositional collaborations between Guidi and Petrella, and the iconic Carla Bley piece "Ida Lupino," the latter a dual tribute to Carla Bley on her 80th birthday and to the lifework of her former partner, pianist Paul Bley, who introduced the song to us and made it a classic.

The what of the album is on an equal footing with the how. All four turn in beautiful performances that make this a quartet of genuine distinction. The rapport between Guidi and Petrella is exceptional, but then the four-way of Guidi-Petrella-Sclava-Cleaver is no less so.

It is one of those albums that hangs together from first-to-last, a landmark release of the 2016 season, much deserving of your undivided attention.

This is music of the ages, and of course music of our current age par excellence.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Matt Wilson's Happy Family, Beginning of a Memory

2017 it is and we catch up to a good one on this first post of the year. Drummer-composer-bandleader Matt Wilson puts together his big band Matt Wilson's Happy Family in a recent album Beginning of a Memory (Palmetto). It is a powerhouse of an ensemble that includes Terell Stafford, Kirk Knoufke, Jeff Lederer, Andrew D'Angelo, Gary Versace, Larry Goldings, Chris Lightcap and others, all dedicated to a big sound, avant but rootsy.

There is humor in the seriousness, a sort of Mingus-like forward-backward sensibility, and some great playing from everybody.

The charts are smart and soulful. One is by Andrew D'Angelo and there are a couple of unexpected standards but the rest show off Matt's idea of a big ensemble hitting it for our times.

It is a hell of a nice outing, sounding better every time you put it on.

Dig you should.