Monday, May 24, 2021

Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio, Moon On the Lake, with Takashi Sugawa, Iuetsu Takemura


I cannot recall hearing a Satoko Fujii album that I did not like, though the instrumentation can vary widely and there have been quite a few albums. Still she consistently realizes music at a high level of artistry, imagination, and advancement. That does not mean I regard them all equally. Some stand out even at this superior level. That is the case with  a Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio album I've been enjoying lately, Moon On the Lake (Libra Records 203-065).

What puts this one in a very good place is in part Satoko's utilization of the trio format to allow a lot of breadth of expression So we get a nicely complex composition, "Hansho," to start things off, then there are balladic moments, a piano solo spotlight, free sections and so forth. Her running partners on this one--Takashi Sugawa on bass and cello, and Iuetsu Takemura on drums, make crucial contributions to the overall matrix that mark a well considered originality, a spontaneous sympathy, where articulation is directly to the point like a Haiku or somewhat more expansive, depending on the moment.

The album from first-to-last has an omni-directional unfolding that characterizes Satoko at her best. The a-to-b-to-c sequence makes the album excel in the interconnected deliberation. Such is the case with the five segment sequence that comprises the totality of the album. The overt busy, brilliant freedom of "Keep Running" has perhaps a pivotal role to play in moving us from the starting sequences to the end point of the closing title cut and its contemplative Zen-ish facticity of thereness.

Satoko and her talented trio plug into the vocabulary of avant and free jazz yet manage to utilize space, plus a variety of means and articulation to be original and meaningful throughout. This is a thing of beauty, a beautifully present trio that speaks to us now and no doubt will stand the test of time in the future I do believe.

Listen to this and get a feel for what is happening today, what is worthy, coming at us  right now! Satoko Fujii remains very much herself whether interacting freely with the trio or setting up then executing compositional elements that act as guideposts and help our listening selves to situate in the vast, sprawling sound matrix. Bravo.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Flow Trio with Joe McPhee, Winter Garden


Combine Free Jazz tenor giant Joe McPhee with the Flow Trio (Louie Belogenis, soprano and tenor saxes, Joe Morris, bass, and Charles Downs, drums) and you have something. Their album Winter Garden (ESP Disk 5040), recorded in January of 2020 just before the Pandemic hit, fills the ears with wonderful sounds. 

They make great music here because in part they have a good deal of common ground that they share readily and brilliantly. McPhee and Belogenis are both carefully attuned to the full richness of sax timbres that one can hear through the history of Jazz and so they both channel the development of thickly overtoned sax emanations from Coleman Hawkins' day through to Ornette and Ayler and beyond. In the way they do this they become a unique amalgam, themselves.

They have over the years developed their sound so fully that the two-sax front line syncs in and the two realize a wonderful rapport as they simultaneously create dual solo layerings. It is a freedom that cares to find interesting note paths in addition to the timbral sculpting so nicely alive throughout. And they clearly listen and shape the sound around each the other.

And so one of the primary elements that openings onto expressive sequences centers on the importance of the collectively tight-looseness of the two sax front line.

Creating contrasting and comingling bass lines with a nicely woody tone is Joe Morris, who can always be relied upon for rhythmically apt interactions with the drums yet open and freely challenging note choices that allow the horns to go virtually anywhere in response--be it advanced tonality, polytonality or pronounced tonal ambiguity.

Charles Downs cascades in ever varying, ever inventive freetime drum barrages that creates a multi-valent rhythmic ambiguity that helps the quartet traverse vast panoramas of open articulations.

Perhaps it is obvious to anyone who hears this but the quartet maintains the pre-free and now-free expanded role for each in the quartet--which ultimately identifies this music as of the Jazz camp rather than say, a New Music Improv date. It works because all four embody so deeply the tradition of such music without at all repeating what might have come before. 

What pulls it all together is the sureness of articulation from all concerned and in that way, the extraordinary commanding presence of Joe McPhee's tenor. The unfolding of the collective note/timber spontaneities never flags. Bravo. Hear this one! Get it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Nate Wooley, Mutual Aid Music


Good things of course may come in small packages. With standardization though after a while everything may come in small packages--as in the case of the CD at large in the world today. My job in part is to alert you to some of the good things in that line.

And so today we have trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley and his Mutual Aid Music (Pleasure of the Text Records POTTR1309 2-CD). It is surely one of the good things. It comes together out of an Avant-Jazz-meets-New-Music point of view with a chamber ensemble of notable players--Ingrid Laubrock, saxophone, Joshua Modney, violin, Mariel Roberts on cello, Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe on pianos, Matt Moran on vibes, Russell Greenberg on percussion, and Nate Wooley on trumpet.

The title Mutual Aid Music gives us a clue to how the music is conceived. Mutual aid in the most general sense assumes a community in which each member takes stock of his or her abilities or gifts if you will and then how in any situation they each can make use of their gifts to benefit the group as a whole.

For the strictly musical group at hand Wooley wishes each player to make improvisatory contributions that make the totality of the ensemble sound better, open up new possibilities and/or inspire all to make choices that are selfless.

Wooley puts all together in an effort to move beyond the "dialectic bubble" of composition/improvisation, while encouraging the idea of spontaneity and empathy, to provide each musician with the opportunity to make decisions, to "find the right kind of architecture for the musicians to push themselves to the transcendent collectivities new music and improvisation."

How this takes place, to hint at something more complex than space allows us to fully discuss here, basically comes out of assigning for each work, for each musician a set of notated musical elements from which they make choices and decisions as to what they will play and when. The liner notes go into much greater detail and you should read them to get a more precise idea of what is transpiring. Each musician has for any given composition one or two sets of notations and/or graphic scores, textual instructions, etc. That is the case for seven of the eight musicians in each concerto. Then there is the eighth player who is invited to contribute a completely improvised part.

The first CD presents four "Mutual Aid Music" Concertos. The second CD gives us another version of those four works.

In the end is a series of complex and open-ended segments of music where each member of the ensemble and then the concerted improviser is free yet all has a direction that is neither rigorously specified like some New Music can be, nor is it entirely "free" as some Avant Jazz of course can be.

The novel means by which this music comes to us, after you understand how that is the case, helps you to appreciate it all the more, but then if you knew nothing of it the music would I suspect retain its communal efficacy.

Nate Wooley gives us a landmark set of what at one time might have been called "Third Stream" offerings. The musicians perform remarkably well. They turn what in other hands might have become a kind of experimental exercise and breathe real musical life into it all. And the framework itself seems to inspire and vary the results very nicely.

Very much recommended.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Pak Yan Lau and Lionel Malric, Duo Pour 454 Chordes


If you look at the cover above you can see why I might have had this on my "to listen" stack longer than I should have. It tells you less than usual about what could be contained within. Luckily I grabbed it this weekend and gave it a first listen. Wow! It is Pak Yan Lau and Lionel Malric on two prepared grand pianos doing inspired spontaneous improvisations they entitle Duo Pour 454 Chordes (el NEGOCITO Records 12" vinyl/CD or download Bandcamp).

They start with two Erard mini-grand pianos from 1903 and 1908, respectively. They prepare the pianos with thought and care and then create a series of rather glorious soundscapes while playing with the keys, bowing, strumming and picking inside the pianos, using various plectrums on the open strings.

What we get is seven ambient and evocative segments that show an enormously keen sense of sound color and adventure. It is a brilliant series of New Music-Free Music-New World Music contemplations-each one distinct, each one a fascinating and bracing fresh breeze of creative thrust. It may have been out for a while but it has a timelessness that makes it absolutely current for the world we are in and no doubt some future worlds as well.

Some have rhythmic pulsation, at times in a trance-hypnotic vein, all fill up the aural canvas with a keen sense of sound sculpting. None seem casually tossed-off or random in a non-Cagean sense.

It is a wonderful listen, landmark music for prepared piano! Very recommended.