Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Andrew Cyrille, William Parker & Enrico Rava, 2 Blues for Cecil



Of all the lineups to expect in new improvisational/Jazz releases, this might not have been especially predictable in my head. But what a great idea, and in listening, you might well exclaim like I did to myself, what a great result. I speak of the recent album by Andrew Cyrille, William Parker and Enrico Rava called 2 Blues for Cecil (Tum CD 059). And of course this is unexpected only because it has not been a combination I am familiar with, not that it is not intuitively right as you contemplate it. After all trumpet master Enrico Rava, innovative drummer Andrew Cyrille and contrabass virtuoso William Parker justly deserve the long appreciation and recognition by followers of the improvisational arts as some of the very most important living exponents of their respective instruments. All of course flourish in a free playing situation. And they certainly do here.

It is one thing to say all of that, it is another to experience the uncanny three-way rapport and excellent high wire poetics of this lengthy but all-essential trio date. Everyone sounds inspired and reveling in the playing possibilities this teaming gave them at that more or less fateful series of musical moments. For the results are nothing short of magic, alternately thoughtful, then contentfully fireworks-explosive.

The rooted, yet free two blues segments here are beautiful--and so fitting a tribute to Cecil Taylor's rising out of the Jazz tradition into something of course completely open and unique.

I have not heard Enrico Rava's trumpet grace my ears in a number of years. The great news is that he sounds beautiful here, as do William Parker and Andrew Cyrille, who have been around the New York situation all along and I have heard pretty frequently in various fine sessions of the last decade.

The entire sequence is wonderfully alive, classic in its own sense, beautifully wrought in the best ways, free and inspired in the best ways. If you imagine this lineup and know the players stylistic strengths, imagine what that might sound like. This album gives you that in rewardingly strong ways.

Brilliant album. Big kudos to all concerned. Get this without fail!

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Rodrigo Amado, Northern Liberties


The world during the height of the pandemic hung in suspension. Things arrived more later than sooner. The response was the same at times. So this reviewer finds he is catching up with some very good things now. Rodrigo Amado's 2017 session Northern Liberties (Not Two Records MW 1016-2), which came out last year, was inexplicably buried in piles for a time. A thorough sorting unearthed it and it turned out to be timeless, ever at the vivid listening point for my sound fare regardless of season or time.

The album centers on four rough-and-ready collective improvisations by Amado on tenor, Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Jon Rune Strom on doublebass, and Gard Nilssen on drums. It is a very mutually simpatico band where Amado stands out quite naturally but the four of them have an ideal give and take throughout. Everyone has their say in the end. It is what a collectivity should be to my mind. This is some seminal free jazz expression, a happy confluence anyone who loves open free blowing will no doubt embrace.

It is classic avant expression, a torrid wash of freetime energy blowing following in the footsteps of Ayler, Ornette, late Trane and such, with some of Rodrigo's most excellent presencing on disk. He affirms once again his stature as a tenor of true importance on today's scene. Get this!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Quadro Nuevo, Odyssee, A Journey into the Light


Music by definition leaves the listener free to weave appreciative meanings in the hearing, especially if instrumental and thereby textless. The best sorts of music no doubt have been put together as meaningful to the composers/players. Then in time the fragility of it all of course turns around the open ended way that music speaks to us as we are the audience, we who so necessarily bring our experiential selves to the aural feast. Today's album in its own way epitomizes the evocative glow of extended meaning with some music that rings forth to my ears with a memorable lucidity.

So we have the chance to discover a new album that I might not have known of were I not sent it. I found it a surprise in the best ways. So we turn here to Quadro Nuevo and their Odyssee, A Journey Into the Light ( FM-323-4). It is an Italy-facing musical journey that means to capture the mythical story weaving centered around the Aeolian Islands below Sicily. Like most of the review music, I first listened a number of times without reading the liners or knowing exactly what the music represented. Happily  the music spoke to me and I did feel some of the beautiful potential of such a general subject space without knowing the why of it.

Aa I listened the myriad of compositional themes and a fully Jazz articulation of them struck me as soaked in the folk-like possibilities of a kind of Italian Folk-Jazz, sort of reflecting musically upon the accessible depth of possibility and so glancing upon as one listened the palpable beauty of Bossa-like lyricality along with the melodic strength of later Brazilian Jazz but that in terms of kinship, not imitation, So also I felt a little of the Birth of the Cool brilliance, maybe some Wayne Shorter in the compositional articulate elements.

All this to portray the Odyssee-al song story of setting forth on a mythical sail.

So Quadro Nuevo excels in a straightforward but folk-redolent way, with some excellent compositions/ arrangements for a rather large ensemble. The pieces are by, respectively, Mulo Francel (saxes, clarinet), Paulo Morello (guitar), Chris Gall (piano, keys), D D Lowka (bass), Andreas Hinterseher (accordion), and Robert Kainar (drums). Add to that Philipp Sterzer, flutes, and Max Geller alto sax, and there you have the complete roster.

All these folks give us compositional gems rubbing with sincerely fetching improvisations.  A bunch of listens give you access to what makes this music tick, and for that it is special, very nicely wrought, something poetically lyrical and in no way ordinary. It is folksy in the best way, and the Mediterranean breezes breathe significantly and happily through every bar. An outstanding go of it, this is. Highly recommended.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Tarbaby, Featuring Oliver Lake, Dance of the Evil Toys


Just what or where we go in our music present and future is not always clear to me. Like all of us in these days we peer over the horizon and hope for good things. Happily here is a good thing that I am very glad I have come to know. It is the trio Tarbaby with the brilliant Oliver Lake featured as altoist guest. The release is entitled Dance of the Evil Toys (Clean Feed 590CD). 

The trio foundation of this album presents itself as a thing apart, as a thoroughly personal Avant Jazz kind of possibility--with Orrin Evans on piano, someone I have missed for some reason but very glad to encounter here. Then there are the ever-inspired bassist Eric Revis and the wildly swinging and cosmic drummer Nasheet Waits. For much of the album Oliver Lake sounds absolutely essential on alto, and for a few pieces there is trumpetist John Lawrence; for one piece percussionist Dana Murray joins in.

What seems remarkable to me as I listen with appreciation is the wonderfully effective fit of improvisation with Jazz composition. A kind of AfterBop afterburn is sometimes nicely to be felt along with freely yet contentfully expressed Avant Jazz momentum. So we get an obscure but moving Trudy Pitts song with band vocal nicely articulated by Orrin Evans, then there are several gems by Oliver Lake, one by Josh Lawrence, several gems by Eric Revis, a nice one by Nasheet and then closing the set Prince's "Sometimes it Snows in April."

What stays with you as you listen is the care which went into this music, from the outstanding set of compositions to the very astutely constructed group sound and the always beautiful improvising cameos by all concerned.

Highly recommended, a very worthy highlight from the new year of Jazz offerings thus far, a classic for today. Do not miss this!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Phil Haynes - Michael Jefry Stevens, Music for Percussion and Piano


I've appreciated the creative drum-percussion prowess of Phil Haynes and the pianistic incandescence of Michael Jefry Stevens for a good while now, ever since I first started reviewing for Cadence. With the  duet album Music for Percussion and Piano (ARC Records) we get to hear them in a series of adventurous twosomes and it is a happy thing.

The music consists of some 18 relatively brief improvisations of a definite inner quality much of the time, a sort of later development of what perhaps Paul Bley was sometimes doing years ago, in the sense that it was less referential than self-contained, less channeling of jazz and blues syntax than forging a free harmonic-rhythmic universe unto itself but then cascading perhaps in ways that Cecil Taylor opened us up to. Not in a derivative way, any of it, and in this case less high-energy than reflective, more soundful than not but also self-testificatory at key moments.

The drum-piano dialog utilizes a kind of conversational in-the-moment speak, a definite speechifying there-ness if you will. And as the set rolls on there are more climactic jettisons of sound and a smoothly continuous expression field that holds your attention and keeps you actively listening. This kind of music demands a certain steadiness of listening devotion but it pays off with a long-form presence that is a real pleasure to experience.

Phil Haynes and Michael Jefry Stevens are on a roll here. Give it repeated attention and it will make a lot of musical sense in time. It deserves a place in your musical stash if you appreciate various markedly original expressions of freedom for piano and drums. Bravo!

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Stephane Spira, Giovanni Mirabassi, Improkofiev


Every so often, more at times, I remember I do not know everything. I do not know every new Jazz artist worth hearing or I might miss some at first, I do not know the future like some fortune teller gazing into a crystal ball. That's when I am glad to be "in the loop," tapping into the pipeline of things coming out for example. So today is a good example of why that can be critical, with the coming of a new CD by Stephane Spira and Giovanni Mirabassi with the provocative and revealing title Improkofiev (Jazzmax JM80404). That these artists are not that familiar to me is my own fault, I suspect--an accident of non-intersection. It reminds of why one needs to keep an open ear to the musicsphere, to be ready for anything.

It is a quartet-quintet date (the latter on one cut that adds flugelhornist Yoann Loustaldt) featuring the principals of the group, Stephane Spira on soprano saxophone and writer of two of the seven pieces here along I suspect with the arrangements, plus pianist Giovanni Mirabassi. They are nicely forwarded by fellow band members: drummer Donald Kontomanou and bassist Steve Wood. Everyone coalesces together quite well, and understandably but notably soprano and piano have the bulk of the solo time and they give us a Postbop lucidity that is rewarding to hear. Bassist Wood and drummer Kontomanou have cameo solo appearances and they do not waste them. With an album and artistry like this however it is the compositional and arranging particularities that stand out as much as the soloing. The swinging eloquence at times reminds favorably of early Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett and perhaps too the Andrew Hill of his classic period on Blue Note. Soprano-wise you can detect an influence of Wayne Shorter and Dave Liebman--all that not a copy mind you so much as a certain commonality of deliberation and line movement.

And then the prefigured element is quite outstanding as well. The three part "Improkofiev" sequence is a nicely astonishing sort of thing, with arrangements of three passages from the wonderful Violin Concerto No. 1 of Prokofiev given a truly jazzed rethinking/recontextualizing. It is so dramatically transformed that I listened several times without consulting the CD jacket and felt to myself "I know this music, yet somehow I am feeling redirected!" Then I listened more after I knew what was up and it confirmed my feeling of going somewhere new with something so familiar and appealing. And it is all quite revealing as you discover the roots to feel what especially soprano and piano do with the music, how the improvisations are fitting but excellent in their own right.

The same might be said for their improv/transformation of Satie's most famous of the Gymnopedies. It is slightly edgy, less directly lyrical. The Carla Bley "Lawns" has here that kind of sprawling gospel-funk that Jarrett used to do so well, only they go their own way and the Carla element still holds forth nicely.

The two Spira Jazz compositions here fit right in with the overall stylistic thrust of the music and hold their own in variously refreshing ways.

I have been enjoying this one thoroughly and I do not hesitate to recommend it to you. It has "Classical" roots in part, obviously, yet it does not sound exactly Third Stream-y so much it has taken melodic-harmonic ideas from Modern Classical classics and made them over to a sophisticated PostBop matrix. It succeeds completely. Hear it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Live@VisionFest 20, Perry Robinson, Mark Whitecage, Ken Filiano, Lou Grassi


Time seems to fly by half the time. Here we are contemplating a fine album Live@VisionFest20 (Not Two MW1023-2) and as I listen with a lot of pleasure I of course then note with alarm that clarinetist Perry Robinson and alto saxist Mark Whitecage are both gone from this earth! The good news is that bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Lou Grassi are still thriving, and that we have this excellent set of all four to enjoy as many times as we want!

As I mentioned on the last Whitecage review I also recall hearing Mark and Perry with the Gunter Hampel Big Band at Sweet Basil and not only was that in 1985 but my two dear friends who went to see them with me are dead as well. As it turned out that set was recorded too and it still sounds great to me. So thank the stars for recordings!

But what matters here is this new release. The VisionFest is like what Newport was years ago. If an important conflagration was slated to play, you know they were going to give it their all. Are sure enough, this quartet set has a full flush effort going for it. It is a Free exploration of course, and the 34 minute "One for Roy" is an especially flat-out scorcher with Filiano and Grassi laying down a thick carpet of energy and heat while Robinson ranges fully and firey across the entire spectrum of his clarinet. And then Mark comes through with some of the most fully stoked chromatic runs ever. That in itself is a thing of fineness and we remember why he mattered always!

Well now such a recording and such a festival is all the more valuable in the scarcity of every moment going forward. This is essential music, just as the VisionFest in NYC is essential each year. So grab this one and get gone to the good stuff!

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Alessandro Sgobbio, Piano Music


Piano music, solo piano music at one time "on disc" was pretty rare in "Jazz!" There was Bill Evans, Muhal Richard Abrams, of course some choice bits of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller nailing it in Camden, NJ, some Lennie Tristano that was wild or madly swinging or both, of course Thelonious Monk. Then Keith Jarrett with a few that kind of changed a lot of things. Who have I missed? A great deal but still not as much as you might think. You should explore it all without fail! Come what may I plan never to stop exploring the wonderful whole of it. 

Well Classical music is a huge other category and thank the muses for all of that, too. My first piano teacher told me I should play drums because I arranged one of his silly canned songs as a cha cha, a march, something else dance-like. He was wrong, damn it. I could have picked up drums later. I was in first grade, stupid! Well the piano was still there so I kept at it as I felt it. but there were no formal lessons again until 1971! I am glad though about the piano because it helped me listen to others playing!

Well I am still up for such things. The other day Alessandro Sgobbio told me he had a solo piano album coming out. Could he send a copy? Sure. Well here it is, words about it anyway, his Piano Music (AMP Music and Records AT0114).

So if I may caution you if you are an early bird you can pre-order this on Bandcamp--and September 2022,  voila!

So I have been listening to this a lot. It is a series of compositions that have an immediacy that gives it a Jazz sort of ambiance, something of course that Keith Jarrett helped forward so well and now the mantle passes to another, more than one other, no doubt. Well Alessandro shows us with this album he has his own vivid, lyrical, pensive, rapturous sense. It is perfect, each of these pieces has a perfectly lively and original way about it.

This is a full-bore winner from start to finish, if you seek that dream world of expression a piano can give you like no other instrument in many ways.

I will not try to explain this music except it is performative and spellbinding. I can imagine many of you will love it? I think so! So get it. It is worth waiting for but trust me, it will take you someplace nice!

Monday, July 4, 2022

Tomasz Dabrowski & The Individual Beings, Polish New Jazz


When I was a good deal younger and LPs were king I took delight in finding a couple of excellent albums of Polish Jazz on Muza Records--by Kristof Komeda and Tomasz Stanko, respectively. There would be others to come and I have always appreciated the fine artistry and stylistic boldness of the best of Polish jazzmasters. Now here we are today and both Komeda and Stanko have left this earthly world. But happily there are others coming to us and all is well, certainly for the group known as Tomasz Dabrowski & the Individual Beings (April Records 093CD).

It features trumpet master Tomasz Dabrowski and his seven-tet in a tribute to Tomasz' friend and mentor, the great Tomasz Stanko. You can hear the line of influence in Tomasz's deliberate, probing trumpet style and an intelligent compositional stance.

Unless you are really on top of the Polish Jazz scene today the group members might be unfamiliar to you, and a few are not Polish, not that it makes a difference in total. Yet at any rate they get together nicely--though the trumpet playing is ever at the forefront, mostly. Still, kudos for all of them, Fredrik Lundin on tenor sax, Irek Wojtetezak on tenor, soprano and electronics, Grzegorz Tarwid on piano and keyboards, Max Mucha on double bass, Knut Finsrud on drums, and Jan Emil Mlynarski on drums and electric drums.

What matter in the end is the density of musicality and the Modernist compositional contentfulness and trumpet presence in it all. Dabrowski is a trumpeter and jazz stylist that deserves acclaim and appreciation. He is excellent in his very own way. Anyone who likes or loves Polish Jazz as I do, you will find this one a real boon! Get it!


Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet, 132350


This CD came in the mail recently along with a note that this in fact would be one of two last pfMentum releases, which is a shame because the label has been a producer of some very worthwhile Avant Jazz and generally Progressive musical fare over the years. As all 13 of my on demand CDs were put out of print a year ago along with everything else in the Amazon program, I cannot say I am surprised. There are hard times these days with COVID and general upheaval in the music business. But nevertheless I am of course very glad to have this one. It is the Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet of some 23 artists doing a live set Jeff's entitled 132350 (pfMentum PFMCD150).

The band is stellar and well disposed to the Avant-Free Jazz fare. The set opens and concludes with two ditties sung by Jeff  in a kind of bad-good Dylanesque mode to pump organ accompaniment--"Father Death Blues" opens the way to dark yet humorous ways and the Skeeter Davis classic "End of the World" caps it all off nicely. In between are four Kaiser compositions that give the band instrumental direction and dramatics in thoroughly nice ways.

The names of the luminaries you will doubtless recognize in the band are Vinny Golia on saxes, Dan Clucas on trumpet, Michael Vlatkovitch on trombone, and Mark Dresser as one of the two bassists.

Judging from the liners this was recorded sometimes before the Pandemic put a temporary halt to such things. It is a thoroughly exploratory space shot for your musical senses, a very exciting set of nicely clustering pan-sonic explorations of musical space.

It is a fitting end to the pfMentum label and a tribute to the importance of Jeff Kaiser as a big band leader-composer-artist. Do listen to this. It will gradually grow and take life in your musical consciousness. And that is a very good thing, I think. Strongly recommended!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Glenn Dickson, Wider Than the Sky, Solo Clarinet and Loops


I feel humble some days when I get the mail and find endless CDs by people about whom I have niot a clue! The good news about all that is that some folks are very good, so one has hope even if one has no idea what is coming next. Today I am happy to check in with you and talk about a clarinet player named Glenn Dickson. Now I racked my brain and then did a search here and realized I did know of Glenn via an avant Klezmer album by Dickson and friends entitled  Blood, with the band under the name Naftule's Dream (see August 17, 2016 article on this blog).

Well Glenn Dickson comes through with another side of his artistry,namely an entire album of clarinet solo with electronic loops he entitles Wider than the Sky (Naftule's Dream Recording CD NDR104). As you listen to this full length, seven cut CD you hear the same Dickson clarinet in the sense of being quite virtuoso-like, with beautiful agility and modality primality. We hear the solo clarinet excel overtop a series of live digital loops of multitracked clarinets sustaining and repeating as called for. I've played this enough times to be sure but in truth I loved this one from the first hearing. It is Avant Folk Primal you might say.

The entire sequence places the listener into a peaceful, dream-like state and yet remains wholly cohesive and musically contentful.

You might not exactly expect such a program in today's vast soup of stylistic possibilities-, but then it is not out-of-place, either, I suspect you'll like this one for its cosmic quality and its terrific clarinet artistry. It is out physically on July 8, 2022 if you are reading this slightly early. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Jean-Pierre Jullian Quintet, Foret Lacandone


Jazz composers when they are good make for music of a high level. It is surely so on the recent album by composer/drummer Jean-Pierre Jullian and his Quintet doing an album entitled Foret Lacandone (Mazeto Square 37700057053050). The instrumentation is not entirely the norm and that plus the players' sympathy and prowess form a strong foundation for the works Jullian brings to us, some 16 compact but detailed inventions.

Jullian puts complex contrapuntal dynamic lines in motion for the band of alto/baritone sax (Guillaume Orti), transverse flute, bass flute and piccolo (Etienne Lecomte), vibraphone and marimba (Tom Gariel), contrabass (Claude Tchamitchian)  and the composer on drums. The players each address their jigsaw-like connected parts with lyricism and drive and when called upon improvise smartly around the structures of each piece. It is not entirely about the improvisations but they fit in with the kind of relevancy and stylistic acumen one would expect.

In the end it is the charts by Jullian that carry the day, with a modern tang and grit and a multiple line motion that swings yet caresses our musical senses at the same time. It is original, very inventive, complexly, rhythmically engaging and a joy to hear. Jullian is the real thing. Bravo. Hear this one, get it!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Precipitation of A Decision, The Ride on the 8 of Infinity, Paul Hartsaw, Damon Smith, Jerome Bryerton


There is something about music that is as good as one hoped it would be. It is reassuring? Consoling? There is also something interesting about how Free Improvisation can come to transcend the idea of the totally spontaneous when you hear it a fair number of times and it starts to make a meta-sense to you--in other words you understand it as a kind of deliberate form even though it is "off the cuff." I must report in, gladly,  that the album at hand today gives me both satisfactions. 

Precipitation of a Decision, The Ride on the 8 of Infinity (Balance Point Acoustics BPA 2CD3)  combines pn two CDs a 2008 session (Ride) with one from 2021 (Precipitation). Ride features Paul Hartsaw on soprano and tenor sax and Damon Smith on contrabass. Precipitation has Hartsaw on tenor only along with Damon Smith on contrabass and Jerome Bryerton on drums.

Both Paul Hartsaw and Damon Smith are artists I have been hearing and appreciating for some time. (Look up both in the search indexes both here and on the Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog for earlier reviews of albums by both artists.)

The trio album is especially invigorating, with wonderful three-way interfaces of dynamic freedom. The duo disk has especially intimate dialogues, not as full-out blowing energy exactly,  but then really quite subtle and absorbing in a slightly more esoteric way. Drummer Bryerton sounds lucid and open in the trio session. And the three get more dynamic and energetic at times.

It is all told some of the finest free jazz albums of the year thus far. It is after a few listens centered on the world that the players occupy and respond to, it goes perhaps without saying. But of course it is not THAT they respond so much as HOW they respond, that makes this special.

This one will certainly appeal to the Free Improvisation aficionados out there, as it is a specially fine example. It might also serve to introduce nicely those not familiar with the genre. Bravo!

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Bloom-Funkhouser Duo, Exuberant Ellingtonia, Flute & Piano Sessions


We last encountered flute and reedman Peter H. Bloom on a well-done album by Mark Harvey and his quartet on my October 16, 2020 review here. Pianist John Funkhouser has also played with Mark, as a part of his big band. The Bloom/Funkhouser Duo as we experience them here is another very fertile avenue of their playing, in the rather impressive tribute album Exuberant Ellingtonia (Americas Musicworks AM CD 1597).

The collection features some 14 gems by Ellington and his collaborators-creative circle--notably of course Billy Strayhorn, Mercer Ellington and then a few others as co-composers for selected songs. Just the choice of these particular pieces seems inspired, a dream list of fabulous vehicles for short composition and improv segments, miniatures that ring out with the exceptional evergreen brilliance of the works and at the same time give us a chance to appreciate the high musicianship of the duo.

Bloom has a brightly gorgeous tone throughout, with some of the clarion bliss of an Eric Dolphy but a somewhat different improvisational way about him, rangy and modern on his own terms. John Funkhouser gets my full attention as well. His channeling of stride, walking, even boogie is masterful and impressive, with his right hand keeping the lines unspooling nicely as called for.

The elements of the entire set come together for a listening experience that might well appeal to those not as up on the Jazz scene as others. Either way however, whether novice or old hand, it is a joy to wind though this music program time and again. At least for me. I think perhaps also you.

Highly recommended.

Peter Bloom's bright-toned, gorgeous flute

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Denny Zeitlin, The Name of This Terrain, with George Marsh and Mel Graves


Pianist Denny Zeitlin has had a long and productive career in Jazz, beginning in the early sixties and an acclaimed series of acoustic trio albums for Columbia, then a period where electronic keyboards, synthesizers and electronic effects along with electric bass and of course drums were at the forefront, that period lasting around ten years beginning in 1968. 1973 saw the trio of Zeitlin, George Marsh on drums and Mel Graves on electric bass produce their first Fusion-Jazz-Rock album, dubbed  Expansion. It was widely acclaimed at the time and a copy found its way to me via JCOA Distribution. It was in the basic parameters of that sort of thing then but at the same time had a harmonic-melodic originality in keeping with Zeitlin's advanced and sometimes ornate piano trio sides that established him in the first place. Of course 1973 was a peak period for electric Jazz and Jazz-Rock as an art form and a popular possibility as a place from which Rock fans might jump into a further extension of what was possible.

The Zeitlin Trio carried on in this mode for a decade before returning to acoustic endeavors. Now that so much time has passed we can look back of how things stood and fully recognize Zeitlin as a stylistic originator.

And now some many years later we have an earlier session made by the trio that included band vocals and a somewhat more overt Avant Rock direction, in an unreleased album from 1969 entitled The Name of This Terrain, which we finally can hear as a  CD, LP or download on the Now Again Reserve label. In the initial period after the album was completed Zeitlin and the trio did not find a label to put it out. Listening now it seems pretty clear that it fits in with a sort of Proto-Progressive Jazz-Rock as favored at the time by groups like Soft Machine but also of course all in relation to the Psychedelic Rock scene and Fusion as a whole. You listen to the album closely now and you affirm that the addition of  band vocals does not especially allow the music easily assimilation into advanced Rock radio and concert situations. The music does not by adding vocals make for a more commercial possibility. It is still in many ways complex Avant Jazz. The title cut "The Name of This Terrain" has vocal parts decidedly outside of the mainstream though worthwhile in their own right if you approach the music without preconceptions.

And the rest of the album lives up to the challenge of the first cut. It is complex, advanced, at times in a mind-meld of the more psychedelic music of the period but perhaps in ways that might not have been easily assimilated back then.

But if you listen today without some idea of what one SHOULD be hearing, it is something that retains interest, at least I found it so. For those especially who liked this electric trio in its instrumental version, there is much to like here but with the unexpected twists of a sort of song form. Anyone who seeks forward sounds, complexity and fire, you should no doubt give this a chance. It fits in perfectly with the period styles of the time but then does not easily pigeonhole into that matrix. The lyrics are sometimes a bit more intelligent and perhaps learned than might have been expected. Well obviously this music today would not be likely to appeal to "teenyboppers" and no doubt if there was a strictly Rock market for this music at one time it may no longer be relevant, except perhaps if you lived through those days musically and can situate it accordingly. The band can sing on pitch and in their own realm so that will not intrude upon your ears. It adds to the music and gives us a new angle on it all listenig now.

It is not what you might expect I would think. But on that level it is all the more interesting, at least I found it so. Try listening before you plunk down for it. If you are like me it will perk you up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Lennie Tristano, The Duo Sessions. With Lenny Popkin, Connie Crothers, Roger Mancuso


I was lucky to come across Lennie Tristano's piano brilliance pretty early in my music listening world--via a ten-inch RCA anthology of "Jazz Piano" that included a very nice Tristano version of "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You." I took to it immediately and from then on I appreciated everything of his I came across, little-by-little. Fast forward to today and some really worthy unreleased Tristano from his later years, The Duo Sessions (Dot Time CD DT8016).

It covers three sessions, from 1970, around 1976 and around 1967-68, respectively. The first locks in with Lennie Popkin on saxaphone, the second with Connie Crothers also on piano, and the third tandems Tristano with drummer Roger Mancuso.

The sound quality is good and the music inspired, a freely articulated kind of Avant Post-Bop/Late Bop. There is no flagging, nothing cliche, nothing humdrum, in other words it is all we might hope for and expect.

So there is a wonderful wealth of late FreeBop lucidity in the sessions with Lennie Popkin, and as you listen you realize that Popkin was and is yet another articulate and swinging saxman of the Lennie School, in my count the third after Konitz and Marsh, sounding really inspired here.

The duos with the great Connie Crothers is supremely out there in the happiest ways and are worth the price of admission alone.

And then with Roger Mancuso as duo-mate we enjoy Lennie with some nicely propulsive drumming--very forward moving in ways that suggest that Lennie here welcomes a more busy drum presence than he is sometimes accused of not abiding. Listen to their improvisations off of "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and you will hear some exciting fare! But it is all good.

All coms across as super together improvs, first-rate later Tristano that anyone who appreciates the truly MODERN world of his spontaneous best will welcome with some joy--like I did and do! Bravo! Indispensable Tristano for all who already know or want to explore. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

In Memory of Mark Whitecage, The Nu Band Live at the Bopshop


Mark Whitecage was one of those reedists whose importance to Avant Jazz was as pivotal as anyone of his generation. Yet the world at large mostly never quite knew of him. He left us this past March 7, 2021, more than a year ago as of this writing. Happily there is an album out that celebrates his life at the same time as it features his performance with the Nu Band live in Rochester, NY on January 18, 2018.  It is entitled  In Memory of Mark Whitecage, The Nu Band Live at the Bopshop (Not Two NW 1019-2).

The band is a most notable one--with Whitecage on alto, clarinet and Dine flute, Thomas Heberer on quarter-tone trumpet, Joe Fonda on bass and flute, and Lou Grassi on drums and percussion. These of course are players who occupy a central place in Improv circles, stalwart innovators and steadfast performers in key sessions over the past several decades or so.

And this one puts all that together in a full blown set where you hear channeled and transformed the history of the Free scene from Ornette, the NY Contemporary Five and on to these artists in complete concordance, in a logical progression. It all can swing or expand outwards in articulations beyond regular pulsations. and everybody has something good to say in the musical dialog.

Each artist contributes one compositional framework or so and all together everything pops out at you with dynamic ecstatics. Happily Mark sounds great and for all that everybody is putting it all together here in a most fitting way, reminding us that Mark Whitecage was on top of the world in his playing even in later years, and for that matter affirming that the Nu Band was/is one to be reckoned with! The front line AND the rhythm section score and we all are the benefactors.

I could wax on but it all comes together if you put this one in front of your ears. RIP Maestro Whitecage and thanks for all the music. Listen to this one, buy it if you can. Bravo!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double, March


You can expect too much from life for sure. And then in time you need to adjust what you assume and recalculate what to do next. When it comes to music though, there is not always a need to adjust to that in any given year there are good and/or excellent new recordings on the horizon. And so the scene never grows old if you keep up with what is happening at any given moment.

One of the happening things right now is drummer Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double and their album March (Firehouse 12 Records PH12-04-01-35). Like with Ornette Coleman's classic Free Jazz lineup there are two of each instrument, for in this latter case a kind of double trio, rather than the double quartet of Ornette's.

So we have leader Tomas Fujiwara on drums, vibes and compositions (add Cleaver as co-composer for last cut), and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Then there are the electric guitars of Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook. And finally we have Ralph Alessi on trumpet and Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet. Of course they can be heard as three pairs of two, a kind of double trio. The first consideration is that they are important artists on their instruments, critically acclaimed and appreciated in the Jazz Improv underground. If you know the scene you will doubtless recognize and be somewhat familiar with the players. if not even more familiar.

This is their second album, the first dropping into our ears in 2017, so it has been a while and the band has had a chance to cohere nicely. I am afraid I missed the debut, and here the well-turned compositional frameworks that Tomas gives to the band on this new one helps steer an innovative path for the talented six and sets things up for loose swinging and rocking freedom.

The album was recorded in late 2019, right before the pandemic hit us all and put a halt to most of the live music possibilities for a while.

Alessi, Seabrook and Fujiwara formed the nucleus for the doubling into Triple Double. And then in time came the full double three coupling.  The first album came about in 2017, when the full roster was relatively new to each other as a whole. Now that we have March we can gauge the full growth of the outfit on its second-go-round. And that is a very good thing indeed.

The pairing allows as in this second album a myriad of groupings in various additive and subtractive modes. So "For Alan, Part II" (dedicated to the late drumming icon Alan Dawson, who was Tomas' mentor and teacher in his early days) is a wide-wheeling happy grooving drum solo duet between Tomas and Gerald, one of the finest such things on disk. 

The opener, "Pack Up. Coming for You" starts with a trio of Fujiwara, Bynum and Halvorson in a 7/8 open-ended groove, some time later the second trio possibility comes to the front, that is of course Cleaver, Seabrook and Alessi. Then in the last section we are treated to the full six going at it. In this way we are prepared for the shifting interactions of the six and the creative frisson they create regardless of who is combined at any time.

In the end it is a fully engaging program with the inventive originality of each running up against any and all in turn. After a few listens you come away from it with an appreciation for the effective creative leadership of Fujiwara, his compositional dexterity and the imaginative responses of all concerned. If you are like me, from first finding quite interesting the unusual lineup I put the album on and, in the end, found that all my hopes for such a lineup were justified. To get an idea listen to "The March of the Storm Before the Quiet of the Dark." It is a fine album indeed, a highlight of open-ended jazz groups for this now relatively new year. Bravo!

Note: the album's release date is March 4 of 2022. Do not miss it!

Friday, February 4, 2022

Carla Diratz & the Archers of Sorrow, The Scale


The good thing about social media to me is the musicians, artists and good people you might not otherwise meet in your life. So Carla Diratz has been that to me, a dear friend but even if not an artist-vocalist-songwriter of a deep sort. She and the Archers of Sorrow have a new one out entitled The Scale (Discus 124CD). It is another gem in a long string of such things.

If you appreciate the Rock-Art song world of such folks as Jack Bruce and Robert Wyatt, along with the kind of adventure the Soft Machine was up to in the original years, well all I can say is that Carla and her compadres are yet another example that perhaps has not gotten the recognition she and they deserve.

So I will not quote from them (you will hear them with a listen)  but an important component of all this is Carla's poetic lyrics. They unfold complex image-thoughts.

Then to the music itself? Carla is a vocalist of absolute originality, just right for the tempered cold-heat of her songs. Then there are the core instrumentalists who form especially the foundation for what goes on. There is Martin Archer who realizes much that is prime on keys, saxophones, clarinets, recorders and software. And then Nick Robinson makes an important presence felt on electric and acoustic guitars, loops and a little keyboard as well. Then we have good showings from a rhythm section of Dave Sturt and Adam Fairclough on bass guitar and drums, respectively. Charlotte Keeffe on trumpet gives us some very nice improvising and then finally there are background vocals by Jan Todd and Julie Archer.

The music has a kind of prog art song aspect that is in its own way distinctive and a joyous listen and there are avant jazzy elements too. I think the best indication of the originality of it is that categories are not sufficient to portray what you will hear.

I give this my highest recommendation in the way it hits me as a beautifully complex, original matrix of music to savor.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Francois Carrier, Japan Suite, with Matsayo Koketsu, Daisuke Fuwa, Takashi Itani


The good news about life is that there is always encouraging trends in new music to be had in the world out there. The less good news of course is that life can be challenging these days, whether in terms of health, wealth or universal strivings for happiness and parity in a world where these are often objectives more so than givens..

This blog space of course celebrates the good things, the music worthy of our attention. Today there is a new one by Canadian alto sax master Francois Carrier--the album Japan Suite (NoBusiness Records NBCD 125). 

It is a lively Free quartet date with Carrier plus three Japanese Avant Improv champions--consisting of fellow alto saxophonist Matsayo Koketsu, double bassist Daisuke Fuwa, and drummer Takashi Itani.

This is a recording of a live gig in Japan in 2019. There are eight segments in all, each a collective improvisation. The ear as it hones in on the music gets naturally attracted to the contrasts between the two altos, Masayo often in extended technique expressive freedom territory, inspired and branching out onto stream-of-musicality events nicely. Francois at times matches him sound-color-for-sound-color, other times drives his alto into his invigorating classic tone flurry of flowing note clusters He comes through always with vividly imaginative advanced connectivity, whether it be the color end or the noteful end of his innovative musical self.

Bassist Fuwa and drummer Itani come across with lots of locked-in free energy backdrops that spur the altos ahead and remain interesting and essential as a rhythm section, worthy of attention in listening as much as the saxes, and in the end filling out the totality of musical movement in rewarding ways. 

Each improvisational segment rings out with expressions exploratory, high energy, or contemplative in turn. Carrier to my mind is an essential altoist and these Japanese virtuosi make perfect artistic-expressive partners. Strongly recommended.