Friday, November 22, 2019

Robert Dick, Joelle Leandre, Miya Masaoka, Solar Wind

There is a world where each musical instrument has a set routine, a set body of technique that could be codified in the form of a book. That is not so relevant where the music of Robert Dick, Joelle Leandre and Miya Masaoka are concerned, especially on their album Solar Wind (Not Two MW986-2).

On the contrary, it is not codification so much as recognition of a freedom and the inventiveness to create a sound world that is a product of three independent imaginations that work together for surprise juxtapositions more than leader-follower hierarchies.

Each is a master of her or his instrument, Robert Dick of the flute family, Joelle Leandre of the contrabass, Miya Masaoka of the koto. And the working out of that mastery for this album decidedly does not lie in initiation and imitation so much as the fashioning of parallel sound universes created and then sustained, to form unique and distinctive wholes.

And so they do throughout with some 12 freely composed improvisations. High invention is the order of the day, a Zen of sound creation that is neither directly obvious nor willfully arcane. It is a natural world, closer to an untamed forest tract than a closely clipped and cultivated garden? I do not know if the analogy works, since some sound universes here sound somewhat trimmed and cultivated, some wildly open and untamed or untrammeled.

So we hear mood-memory poetics in sequences, where all three create a confluence out of disparity--a bowed graininess, a scraping of strings and aerated launches of air all conflated and combined into one moment in time.

And in the end one might set about codifying this musical series of gestures, but the artists would be on to the next project, the next gathering of musical souls no doubt, and the results would need re-codifying as we are in the right now. Thankfully we are in that. So listen to now. Be where these three are right now.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Avram Fefer Quartet, Testament

Alto-tenor stalwart Avram Fefer and his music have graced these pages happily in the past. Of late he is hitting a new peak, especially with this all-star quartet outing entitled Testament (Clean Feed 557CD). Joining Avram are guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Chad Taylor, a group anyone would be proud to field but they are also really on it for this session. The music nicely synthesizes where Jazz has been and too where it is going, which means in short it is saying something very good indeed.

Chad Taylor energizes the session by not hanging back, but instead giving the music the battery power it so needs to testify properly. He and bassist Revis have been playing, as Avram mentions in the liners, with Fefer since their first days in New York, recording several trio sides and etc. The kinetic magic and the long experience playing together translates into a power that runs at full voltage, with the Revis bass presence a key element in the success of the date.

That Marc Ribot is a guitarist's guitarist I need not tell you who read my columns regularly and anyone who has followed things closely in the past decade. On this outing he is heartened by the rest of the band to shine very brightly indeed.

The compositions are sterling blowing vehicles that let everybody swing forward mightily. Chad pens one, Avram the rest.

Finally one must say that Maestro Fefer comes across like a firebrand on these numbers. He clearly is emboldened and inspired by the quartet to do some of his finest blowing on disk. He is cooking!

I cannot recommend this one strongly enough. It is flat-out HOT! So get it already. It both swings and frees things up like mad.

Friday, November 15, 2019

New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires

We have seen countless times in music history how a local music situation can be a source of burgeoning new developments. And is there some of that to be heard in the recent anthology New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires (ESP 5033)? Yes, I think so.

We have to contemplate and appreciate right now 14 tracks that cover what is going on in Buenos Aires Improv today. The names will undoubtedly mostly be unfamiliar to you as they were to me but the music speaks without fail. So we hear Pablo Diaz's Quintet, the Luis Conde and Ramiro Molina Duo, a trio of Augusti Fernandez, Pablo Ledesma and Mono Hurtado, a duo of Enrique Norris and Paula Shocron, etc.

This music has the freshness of the new. If it reminds a little of the early ESP recordings from New York that makes it all the more fitting to come out on the pioneering "Free Jazz" label.

Rather than try and give a blow-by-blow description of what is a great deal of very good music, I will merely heartily recommend you get this one if you are interested in improvisational music today. Kudos!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Stephen Grew, Poseidon, Solo Piano

Further sounds for Avant solo piano hounds? Try Stephen Grew and his solo album Poseidon (self released), which was recorded at the Great Hall in the University of Lancaster in 2018.  It is a full, four-segment program of very hands-on energy-motility-movement piano which is not so much imitative as it is an original voice out of the tradition of  Cecil Taylor, an outgrowth of his initial burst forth.

You listen, you quickly sense difference, something very much testificatory but not subject to the same modulations as Taylor might have done in the course of a long solo. Instead we get scatter modules of boisterous expression both inventive and varied--and wholly in a realm of its own.

The phrasings are jazz-like, "blown" lines as emotive outpourings with a wailing quality as it were. There are plenty of ideas to be had in the course of the program. Moreover there is a feeling of constant motion that is hard-charging and harmonically unstable, with a feeling of constant change within a sphere of sameness. And that's good of course. The sheer speed and energy can be very exhilarating! And the consistency of style clusters in a given segment is very noteworthy.

Based on this album Stephen Grew is up there with some of the most exciting "out" pianists practicing today. That's saying a lot. Hear this one by all means!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Eve Risser, Apres un Reve, Solo Piano

From pianist Eve Risser we have the live solo EP Apres un Reve (Clean Feed CF 524CD) recorded in concert at FGO Barbara in Paris, 2018.

What stands out about this composition-performance is the heightened inside-the-piano acuity of the sound, by strumming directly the strings of the piano, plucking, hitting and conventional key stroking, but at times with some amount of involvement of preparation of the strings, if perhaps with the fingers and hand alone at times. That and the fascinating polyrhythms she produces as an integral part of the piece set this very much apart from the usual fare.

There is eventually once the work gets going a mesmeric quality that sounds rather African and/or Minimalistic. The harmonic beauty, especially of the introduction, is also stunning.

I could describe this one with many more words, but I would think a single listen would cover all of it handily. And if you hear it once, no doubt you will want to hear it again!

Highly recommended. A tour de force of new pianism.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day Quartet Live

To my mind Harris Eisenstadt and his Canada Day Quartet are doing some of the most interesting and original Modern Jazz today. That is born out by their latest Canada Day Quartet Live (Clean Feed 535 CD).

Harris provides the compositions and plays the rather subtly yet definitively plied drums as always. He is joined by a formidable lineup of contemporary improvisers--Nate Wooley on trumpet, Alexander Hawkins on piano, Pascal Niggenkemper on acoustic bass. The band is freeze-framed for a live set at AJMI in Avignon at the end of a nine-gig European tour.

They tackle eight interrelated compositions in their patented loose-tight fashion. Angular yet directional, the set deals with themes, motifs and rather brilliant soloing with a swingingly loose rhythm base. as is their wont.  Harris notes in the liners that the compositions were conceived during a three-week stay at Poschiavo, Switzerland in 2017 as part of the Uncool Artist Residency, and consists of both unison lines and multi-voiced lines.

It is with the combination of compositional foundations and freely articulated group and individual improvs that the music takes on its distinctive qualities and hey, it is much more than just head-solos-head in layout--everything permeates everything else and all the better for it.

This is the Canada Day outfit's seventh album and surely one of their best. Eisenstadt is essential listening for any serious student of the improvised arts today. Hear this!