Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Sylvie Courvoisier, Ned Rothenberg, Julian Sartorius, Lockdown


All of us who have experienced the recent year or so (as I write these lines) will no doubt look back upon it all as a definite trial. Our artists, musical or otherwise, like all of us have not remained untouched, but reacted to the time--with creative output if they could remain in their productive zone. So today for instance there is the recent trio open form Jazz album Lockdown (Clean Feed CF560CD) as recorded this past October 2020 in the thick of the Pandemic, by Sylvie Courvoisier, Ned Rothenberg and Julian Sartorius. Many readers will no doubt be familiar with at least some of these artists, but if not then here is a chance to get to know them.

Sylvie Courvoisier is the pianist, Ned Rothenberg plays alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet and shakuhachi, and Julian Sartorius in on drums and percussion. By virtue of the album title Lockdown we understand that the music responds with immediacy to the Pandemic circumstances. And for sure the music has a somewhat more contemplative attitude than perhaps a live club date in a pre-Pandemic time might have had.

Of the eight segments that make up the album, three were composed by Ms. Courvoisier, one is by Ned Rothenberg and the remaining four were jointly composed and/or collectively improvised by the trio as a whole. As a whole there are composed lines that form a group melody-harmony-rhythmic ringing out, then there are at times some ostinato-riff figures that underpin things, then as we might expect there are telepathic and telekinetic three-way improvisations.

Remarkable as you listen are the sorts of reflective smarts this music conveys, and not surprisingly a seriousness that comes with the lived experience, as seconded with such titles as "Deep Rabbit Hole," and "Quarantina."

Julian Sartorius's drumming is inventive, sonically well developed and free while also commenting on the piano-reed soloing that sets apart the drumming and allows it to have an avant discursive rather than a time-keeping role per se.

Both Courvoisier and Rothenberg are limber, lucid, inspired, free-wheeling and expressive on many levels. 

The trio convinces with sure-handed confidence and musicality without trying to engage in virtuosic showboating and it all works. The trio here functions as a fountainhead of interesting musical ideas. This is one of the most musically expressive free trio dates I've heard yet this year. Get this if you want to keep up with what is happening out there. Very recommended.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Special Edition Box


Over the past decade the various duet recordings between Ivo Perelman (tenor sax) and Matthew Shipp (piano) have unquestionably been some of the most advanced and together new Jazz-Free recordings of our time, a duet for the ages. Happily they continue to play together. Most rewardingly there is a Special Edition Box (SMP Records 2020) with more excellent music from the two. 

The box contains a studio CD of the duet entitled Procedural Language, a Blu-Ray of the duo Live in Sao Paulo at SESC, a video capturing them at said event on July 11, 2019. Then there is an informative booklet, Embrace of Souls by Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg.

I no longer have the capability to view Blu-Ray disks on any of my devices so I was not able to watch the DVD. I am sure it is worthy but I have not been able to check it out.

The booklet has an appreciation and chronology that puts the music in perspective, followed by an annotated discography of interest to any collector-enthusiast.

The whole package is quite handsome but it is the CD Procedural Language that grabs my attention especially and attracts my ears with each listen. There are twelve improvisational segments for Ivo's tenor and Matt's piano, every one a significant improvisational utterance, freely articulate and ever filled with a Jazz joyfulness. Ivo testifies, declares, while Matt responds with free structuring towers of pianism that beautifully open up the moment with great ideas that spur Ivo on all the more.

It is some of the most remarkable of their duets, which is saying a lot since we have been blessed with some real gem sessions from the two in the last five years. Tumbling, driving, contemplating, exclaiming, decrying, balladizing, harmo-melodic stratosphering, they spontaneously travel the musical spaceways in ways that ring true always. If you need rejuvenation (and nowadays who doesn't?) this music appears as an oasis in sometimes an all-too-arid wasteland of the everyday. Here are Ivo and Matt in the full maturity of where they are right now, savoring each moment of music filling the air, letting the interlocking ideas flow unhindered. for optimum constancy of "telling it."

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Francois Carrier, Alexander Hawkins, Nirguna, John Edwards, Michel Lambert

There are days when life intervenes, when it gets in the way of a set routine. If ever one might get distracted, that would be the case in the last year with the Pandemic and etc. So at some point, today's two-CD set arrived in the mail, I noted it with interest, set it aside and...well here we are and it is later. Never too late, though. I now with close listening realize how interesting, important, good, etc. is this album named Nirguna (ColYaKoo Music). It is a live date from the Vortex Jazz Club in London from June 2017. 

It is a very auspicious gathering of Francois Carrier on alto saxophone, Alexander Hawkins on piano, John Edwards, bass, and Michel Lambert on drums. This is the primo Free Jazz we have come to expect from Francois Carrier, with a most remarkable continuity of total freedom flow, of endlessly inventive lining by the full quartet, tumbling outwards, inspired and without a set pulse, so that the four can take off and soar without the least restriction. 

Nirguna in Hindu religious practice means without form or without qualities. That is quite appropriate in the sense that this music is virtually that, though playing with intention does indeed have some kinds of spontaneous form and qualities, yet here we think in terms of no set form or quality. Just like is implicated in post-Freudian psychoanalytic parlance, where a human utterance "means" sometimes in some possibly unconscious way, so this music also means without setting out overtly to intend, though too it may defy some easy set of words to describe it.

The two CDs carry two long improvisations each. The overflowing four-way output can be torrentially heated, pointillistically jagged, fluidly mercurial and/or percussively insistent. Never for a moment does this music flag. And clearly one feels the instantaneousness of it and it exhilarates in the doing!

The Carrier plus Hawkins, Edwards, and Lambert quartet combination is one of Francois' most productive groups to my mind, most inspired, and the live London club setting seems to add to it so that everyone is set into a freedom that has no end in terms of good spontaneous ideas and interlocking power. Carrier, Hawkins, Edwards and Lambert each turn in remarkable performances in both their intrinsic worth and their ability to respond creatively and intelligently each to the other. And never for a moment do you forget that "this is Jazz" for whatever that means ultimately. Never for a moment is there not a central stream of driving expression.

It is a triumphant performance from first-to-last. If you wonder about Carrier or Free Jazz here is a great place to start, If you already know it is a must nonetheless! Hoorah!