Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ensemble Novo, Look to the Sky

I am a slave to circumstance, like most of us these days. I depend on what I am sent for the content of my reviews, and that happenstance can be a good thing, since I cannot predict what I will get and often enough do not always know much about some of that. So I learn. Today's jazz item came to me thanks to the more-or-less dependable auspices of the US Post Office. Ensemble Novo? I did not know of them until now. Their album Look to the Sky (Frosty Cordial Music FC 003) is spinning on my player as I write these lines. This is a chamberish gathering that in some ways reminds me of Chico Hamilton's old groups, yet more firmly within a neo-Brazilian realm.

The fare is an engagingly arranged mix of very familiar and less familiar Brazilian tunes--by Jobim, Gismonti, Nasciemento, etc., plus one original. The band comprises a well selected group of some five instrumentalists, plus guest Tom Lowry on percussion. The regular group is Ryan McNeeley on guitar, Behn Gillece on vibes, Tom Moon on tenor and flute (who also produced the album and gives us the original tune), Mark Przybylowski on acoustic bass, and Jim Hamilton on drums.

The tight-knit ensemble parts swing brightly in a mostly samba framework. They are very well wrought. And the soloing is appropriate and creatively alive.

So if you are a fan of the Brazilian jazz zone like I am, you should find this one like I did, nicely done and very appealing. It's an EP by the way. Kudos!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway, Randall Colbourne, Art Space

The trio of Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway and Randall Colbourne fills the ears with a special kind of three-way freedom that I feel increasingly is one-of-a-kind. This can be heard tellingly in the recent download release Art Space (11th Street Music), which I believe is the third album I have reviewed on these pages (index box above will call up the others).

Cheryl is on flute, alto flute and spoken word; Max Ridgway appears once again on electric guitar; and Randall Colbourne plays the drums. Each has a role to play in the ongoing free sequences and distinguishes our aural space with a closely interlocking three-way interplay that becomes considerably more than the already vital contribution each makes. It is the way the three become one that makes this music stand out. They have played together for quite a while and by so doing have developed a special kind of free rapport one encounters rarely in the free jazz firmament.

It is a sort of naturally relaxed impressionist freedom one encounters throughout. Cheryl is at her best, lyrical, textural and limpidly eloquent. Max rejoins her every phrase with well chosen guitar intelligence. And Randall completes the circle with subtle attack and a ready immediacy that is just right for the chamber ambiance the trio projects so well. Each establishes a very personal style of their own but then alternately gives way and springs forward with three-way line flow. You hear a never ending outpouring of modern melodic and harmonic advance. And that of course is a very good thing.

The music never flags while managing to create a special world one dwells within willingly and happily. If you do not know this threesome, here is the place to start. If you already do, this will no doubt increase your appreciation. Thanks for this, you three!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Loafer's Hollow

Mostly Other People Do The Killing is a one-of-a-kind jazz group. They are brilliant in the ways they take on the entire history of jazz and appropriate it in order to change our focus and hear things differently than we have before. They come at us once again with Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup 161). Oh, did I say they also have a great sense of humor. They do. And that is a most rare thing for players of this caliber. Might I recall the Art Ensemble of Chicago as others with brilliance and that ability to make serious fun of our musical legacy as they broke down barriers? We do not want to compare the two directly because that is probably not to the point, but they have always had that brilliant iconoclasm, too.

Loafer's Hollow is the second MOPDTK to take on early jazz as the building materials for a post-post jazz present. All of the music here has been composed by bassist Moppa Elliott. Each of these pieces takes on one of Elliott's favorite writers, with the cadence of the words forming an underpinning for the rhythmic articulation of the music. We do not need to know this to appreciate the results, but it doesn't hurt, either.

The MOPDTK transformation of early jazz to me is on a par with excellent tributes in such a vein by Charles Mingus (especially "My Jelly Roll Soul") and some more recent jazz compositions by Allen Lowe, a living breathing artist you should also know if you do not.

Founding MOPDTK members Elliott, Kevin (with that snare drum) Shea as the brilliant early jazz drummer parodist, Jon Irabagon as the sax light of our times (one of them), and the Ron Stabinsky open piano stylist and de-stylist of high caliber...they join a perfect choice of stablemates in bass trombonist Dave Taylor (do I need to say?), Steven Bernstein as trumpet and slide-trumpet monster and Brandon Seabrook as the ideal banjologist for this date (also on ectronics!) and that's need!

It is as brilliant as an SCTV episode, as unexpected as a cauldron of boiling water in the middle of a blizzard, a barrel full of monkeys o'serious fun.

Damn, I love these guys. Get this one.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Joachim Kuhn New Trio, Beauty & Truth

I might as well come out and say it. I have admired pianist Joachim Kuhn ever since I first heard his music. What was the first record I listened to? I think the Impulse album with his brother Rolf? Yes. Then the BYG albums and on from there. His pianism is impeccable and he uses his total command over the keyboard to take on various stylistic guises without betraying his originality.  So there is a free component, a Trane-Tyner element, and so forth on to today. When his new album came in the mail I smiled. Then I put it on. And I was not disappointed.

It's Joachim and his "New Trio."  The album is Beauty & Truth (ACT 9816-2). With Joachim is Chris Jennings and drummer Eric Schaeffer, both in every way worthy.

This is an expression of the growth of the artist over the years. You have a great Ornette piece (the title cut "Beauty & Truth"), two perennial and unexpected covers of the Doors ("The End" and "Riders On the Storm"), "Summertime" by Gershwin, a couple of memorable Komeda gems, a Gil Evans classic, and the rest some potent Kuhn originals.

There is a contemporary acoustic jazz and rock plus a free wheeling sort of feel that has something to do with the Jarrett trios at the core but ultimately restates the Kuhn piano trio ethos.

Joachim is in great form, a pianist's pianist. This is pure joy to hear for me! The New Trio rhythm section is right where they need to be, both very much on top of things.

I must say I dig this one profusely! So, what, do I love everything I hear? Absolutely not. But everything I love gets on here sooner or later. This is one. Kuhn is one of the pianists of our time. He still is and you need to hear that on Beauty & Truth.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Angles 9, Disappeared behind the sun

The band Angles 9 shows you immediately that they are taking no prisoners on their album Disappearance Behind the Sun (Clean Feed 405). Martin Kuchen, whose compositions for this nine-tet (a near big band) make for a most refreshing avant jazz offering, takes a tenor solo of a blazingly incandescent kind and then we jump right into the compositional essence of this music.

Martin is on alto and tenor, along with a very committed and effective group: Zethson on piano, Stahl on vibes, Broo on trumpet, Kajfes on cornet, Aleklint on trombone, Hegdal on baritone, Berthling on double bass, and Werlin on drums. The band has great character and plays the compositional elements with a zest and verve that bring the smoking fire of this music in full aural view. Collective improvisation, melodic abstractions and riff underpinning meld together for some wildly ecstatic jazz. Solos are peppered throughout in excellent ways. And as you listen you know that this is the music of right now, modern in its determination to go beyond, filled with soulful exuberance and downright lucid musical outbursts of brilliance.

Five compositions distinguish themselves with a band that steps forward to realize it all with a perfect zeal. Kuchen's music stands out rather unforgettably as a new something, related to what has gone before in the advanced avant echelons. Maybe you recognize a debt to George Russell in its layering of multiple lines and extroverted collectives and solos atop riffs. A debt but absolutely fresh and new for all that.

This is one hell of a set from a talented band and the sure compositional forms and substance of Martin Kuchen's enormous talent.

This album is just terrific and I cannot recommend it more highly. It points I hope to much more from Martin, for this is extraordinary!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Gunter Baby Sommer, Le Piccole Cose, Live at Theater Gutersloh

Every so often I open my mailbox down here in Cape May and find some truly unexpected surprise. In this case it was European free jazz drum master Gunter Baby Sommer and his quartet live at Theater Gutersloh, Germany in 2016.  Le Piccole Cose  (European Jazz Legends 09) is the title of the album.

As much as I have admired Sommer's drumming over the years I have never heard one of his groups, so this got my attention. With him is trumpeter Manfred Schoof, alto sax and alto clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi, and bassist Antonio Borghini. Schoof was part of Sommer's 1979 quartet; the other members are new.

What I had hoped for took place that day when they appeared in concert (though I could not be sure beforehand what that would mean): everyone was in great form and the music covered a wide swath of avant jazz possibilities from classic Ornettian harmolodic swing to that which lies beyond.

Nicely fashioned compositional frameworks by Sommer (4), Schoof (2) and Trovesi (1) set the stage for some very fine improvisations and group interplay. Sommer's drum solos and ensemble work are masterful and incisive. He simply sounds great and very much at his best. Schoof and Trovesi more than keep up the pace. They sound as brilliant as ever. Borghini is a solid backbone to it all.

It is one of those albums that gets your ear-attention immediately and consistently. And it keeps blossoming forth the more you listen.

In short this is a great big happy surprise. 73-year-old Sommers still has it and the band is as exciting and capable as anything in the new jazz realm today. Drummers and their friends will dig this!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Xavi Reija, Reflections

From drummer Xavi Reija we have a thoroughly musical outing of himself and his trio (with Nitai Hershkovits on piano and Pau Lligadas on acoustic bass) doing a set of Reija originals. Reflections (self-released) captures contemporary piano trio jazz in exemplary form. The tunes are harmonically rich, changes oriented and both lyrical and driving, depending.

Hershkovits has a style that is out of Corea, post-Jarrett, Hancockian, and beyond to today. It's up-to-the minute fresh, with excellent technique and a singing projectiveness. Lligadas keeps the forward momentum grounded in the changes and helps keep that horizontal movement nicely structured. Xavi's drumming is driving, rhythmically creative, well conceived and in its own way a very important, critical contribution to the trio's melodic-propulsive brilliance.

And Xavi writes some very nice tunes that are as fresh as the trio's realization of them.

The more I play this one, the better it sounds to me. This is a trio that deserves wider exposure. They are firmly in the "art" realm of piano trio creating. Hear this.