Saturday, October 30, 2021

PAN Project, Korean, Japanese and Chinese Stylistic Interactions and Traditional Music Heritage


Taking on the present-day musical world in all its vastness can be exhilarating, yet too it can be a humbling thing. We must always be open to the new and the not-yet-intimately known. We should not be afraid to grow, to understand more. Today's volume seems especially relevant to that idea, as it is an adventure in considering from a new perspective the traditional music realms of Korea, Japan and China. The ensemble and the album both are dubbed  Pan Project (Neuma 148). The Pan is taken from the Korean Pansori musical form, the "Pan" being a gathering together, in this case of the cross-cultural and intercultural elements, the rich intercultural East Asian in instrumental performance, in ritual and in vocal, in theatre.

What I will readily admit is my "outsider" knowledge of such things. I hear a primary influence of Korean Pansori, some elements from Chinese opera and Japanese shakuhachi and other stylistic elements, some of which go back to Gagaku, or at least my ears pick up on that possibility here. All this I loosely hear and appreciate without a kind of detailed expertise. The musicianship is very much first rate, the music endlessly fascinating to me. So it is a happy confluence of musical elements to me regardless of a blow-by-blow tracing of roots. There is the general gestalt of a wide confluence on this program and it is rewarding to hear.

The artists come together with great elan and interactive brilliance. Jeff Rogers gives us a finely played guqin, a Chinese seven-string plucked instrument, Ned Rothenberg appears on the Japanese shakuhachi and bass clarinet (many readers will doubtless know his seminal Avant Jazz work), Ying-Chieh Wang plays the Chinese bowed erhu, Woonjung Sim gives us some exciting rhythmic thrusts on Korean percussion, and Sae-Yuon Jeong gives us dramatic vocals with a definite Pansori flair at times. Last but not least there is Gamin Kang on the Korean double-reed piri, the sheng-like mouth organ called in Korea the saenghwang and the double reed Korean taepyeongso.

So even if I do not have a definitive bead on the exact provenance of each musical utterance, I get it and the more I listen the more I hear those cross-fertilizations. It gets your ear involved either way.

An album you East Asian traditional music enthusiasts will no doubt savor and appreciate as I have. If you simply have open ears and do not know much about these traditions, listen anyway and you will no doubt grow with  your exposure.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Simon Nabatov, Loves

Jazz composer-pianist Simon Nabatov impresses with an eleven member band doing a series of eight interrelated compositions on Loves (Leo CD LR 818). The overarching theme is romantic relationships and the two vocalists Rebekka Ziegler and Tobias Christie alternately  sound as vocalese "instruments," sing in song oriented phrasings or as vocalists holding to a spoken-sung part, or for that matter reciting text poetics and evocative word interjections, all of which help further the theme and add an important component to the total group sound.

The remaining nine artists have three-fold importance--as part sounding compositional exponents, as collectively free improvisors and as individual soloists in an attractive, open-ended framework.

Simon has created an ever changing textural abundance of avant jazz that favorably reminds of some of the JCOA gems and perhaps Bley-Haden large band collaborations, yet holds its own as freely original.

Each band member contributes to the whole, each a flexible artist to work in compositional realization and free improv spontaneity that Nabatov requires for such music. He of course is the pianist throughout. There is a dramatic cadenza-solo spot for him towards the end and it adds to it all greatly. But there is so much going on throughout that one opens up to it all happily--if one is like me, anyway. There is continually a regeneration of furtherance that makes it all a very absorbing listen.

So the band is nicely rounded out by Leonhard Huhn on saxes and clarinet, Sebastian Gille on tenor sax, Udo Moli on trumpet, Janning Trumann on trombone, Axel Porath on viola, Nathan Bontrager on cello, Stefan Schonegg on bass and Dominik Mahnig on drums. A goodly gathering of players comfortable with free playing or following a chart with a complimenting loose freedom.

It all works together remarkably well. In fact I must say it ranks among the best of such things these days. Simon Nabatov shines as composer, pianist, as bandleader. It is a kind of Avant Jazz triumph, memorable with its melodic surety, ensemble power and contrasting tender sort of poetics, too. This is an album to savor. Check it out without fail if you appreciate a wall-to-wall exceptional New Thing experience today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Jean-Pierre Jullian Sextet, Ma y Ma


What this posting is about is the newly released 2012 recording of the Jean-Pierre Jullian Sextet. The album is entitled Ma y Ma (Mazeto Square CD 3770005705398). It is one of those albums that jumps out and hits you as exceptional. Or it does that to me, anyway.

There are cycles of circularity-repetition that extend throughout the compositional aspect that remind me of and extend nicely the sort of things that Circle, Braxton, Holland, Mitchell (e.g. Nonaah) have done. It is made something personal and flowing into through-parts and quasi-sequential and quasi-contrapuntal aspects that the Sextet handle well. And when rhythmic displacement is involved there is an absorbing rhythm vibrancy that gives you another level of musical expansion to mind and appreciate.

So we have Jean-Pierre at the drums, Tom Pablo Gareil on the vibraphone, Lionel Garcia  on alto sax, Adrien Bennefeld on cello, Aurelieu Besnard on bass clarinet, Guillaume Seguron on upright bass. This is a good reading and good improvising outfit--and of course that is critical for Jazz Composition charts that actively seek maximum instrumentalist interactions. The sextet has an improvisatory originality that goes well with Jean-Pierre's compositional flourishes. Everybody is good to hear including Jean-Pierre with his subtle and swinging drumming.

I am telling you this is no joke. Julian and Sextet are primed and the music is revelatory! Do not miss this one if you are serious about New Jazz and Jazz Composition. A huge hoorah for this album!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Falkner Evans, Invisible Worlds, Solo Piano


When listening to new music we all have some set of expectations. Sometimes when it is something we did not expect, we can get hung up on that and maybe neglect to value what it IS. I think those thoughts as I listen to Jazz pianist Falkner Evans and his album Invisible Worlds (CAP 1070). It is a solo piano set played as a kind of tribute to his late wife who passed in tragic circumstances in May of 2020. It is a kind of working through of his sense of loss but also a kind of snapshot of who she was for him. warmly so.

It is music with a compositional but also an improvisational aspect, so it seems to me. It thrives on the sort of basic Jazz, Bop-and-after  assumption of a chordal left hand and a right hand for melodic passages and runs. The album begins and ends with versions of the title cut, which ravishes and stands out while it sets up the listener for the six other sequences we hear with interest.

While I was searching for a cover JPEG on line for this review I stumbled on some critical commentary on him and on this album. He is like Bill Evans, somebody says. Well, yes he shares with Bill a highly evolved harmonic sense, and the sort of poetic stance of "Peace Piece."

But if you expect to hear technically demanding soloing you might put that aside and just listen. It is not a matter of a right hand that comes across as horn-like in a post-Bud way. The compositional and improvisational elements are very musical and beautifully wrought but not a vehicle for virtuoso intensity. There is rather a mood that is balladic and introspective all the way through. Now what matters here is that he sculpts it all with care, with musical intelligence and feeling, something richly inventive as a whole.

It is a moving portrait of his wife and some of the most harmonically brilliant music I've heard lately. Approach it on its own terms and think of a twilight world of remembrance and you will doubtless get the feeling of a pointedly articulate harmonic expression that one does not often hear in such a context. Brilliant!