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!