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.