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.