Thursday, December 29, 2022

Thomas Heberer, Ken Filiano, Phil Haynes, Spontaneous Composition


The world, the "Free World" of Free Improvisation keeps moving ahead even if the  cultish novelty of such things may no longer be in play. The heady days of Ornette, Cecil, Ayler, late Coltrane and the like may no longer be with us, but then of course prophets are meant to usher in the future and then must leave it to the later practitioners. That is how it goes. And if there is a kind of "routinization," as Max Weber described such things, in the wake of the first innovations it only means that the controversy surrounding what a boldly new style can generate diminishes as the community makes its way slowly to the music as a fulcrum point in a post-mainstream musical climate. That is good in the end because the style needs to continue untrammeled by excess friction or opposition from others who ideally should respectfully honor the music and not question its creative, transformative influence on the music scene.

With all this we hail a new trio grouping that forms a part of the latest in Free Improv, with the virtuoso open form thriving in the hands of Thomas Heberer on trumpet and piano, Ken Filiano on contrabass and Phil Haynes on drums on their debut trio recording Spontaneous Composition (Corner Store Jazz CSJ-0129).

It is about the trio thriving in a total improvisational situation, recorded at a faculty recital at Bucknell University on September 4, 2022. There came out of it some five spontaneous segments, each collective improvisation covering a slightly different feel to it but ever inspired, a three-way of the highest and most inventive type. All three trio artists are brilliant improvisers at the peak of their powers, so happily this recital gives us a nicely consistent, movingly elevated slice of their art today.

We hear the poetic immediacy articulated on all three instruments, and importantly the drumming shows that rare melodic feel that goes steps beyond time per se into an advanced percussive mode. And that drumming forms the foundation on top of which trumpet and contrabass build an original edifice rather far beyond the traditional trio roles. So listen closely and soar along. Look up Phil Haynes Corner Store Jazz on Bandcamp and you can listen to it and decide for yourself. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

It's About Time, Music for Wind Ensemble and Jazz Soloists, New England Conservatory Symphonic Winds, William Drury


When one contemplates the legacy of the New England Conservatory in Boston,  if you are like me the realm of Jazz Composition springs to mind, given its association with the brilliance of such things in the hands of NEC associated artists George Russell, Gunther Schuller and Jimmy Giuffre, among others. So when I came upon a new release by the New England Conservatory  Symphonic Winds under William Drury, namely It's About Time (MSR Jazz 1801, my eyes lit up.

And after a good number of listens I come on here to talk about it. First things first, the ensemble is surprisingly seasoned for a school ensemble. They have an outstanding timbral luster, a full and balanced, punchy tutti and colorful sectionalities, and they bring out the salient features of each work very well indeed.

The repertoire includes some fine basics by Bernstein ("Some Other Time") and Mancini ("Dreamsville") both nicely arranged by Dave Rivello. Then there are forays into the future and present, all showing some hommage one way or another to key compositional-arranging voices like Gil Evans, George Russell, Gunther Schuller and what came after, but then all stating an original meld and memorable soundings, each its own. 

Rather than try and epitomize each new work performed in the program I will leave it to your ears. Suffice to say that each piece  has much of musical merit, plenty of richly inventive group unfoldings and dynamics. All of this music is progressive, and perhaps there is not a lot of the boldly avant about it, but in the end one does not care. In the end it is uniformly high caliber music that transcends category and nicely stands up to scrutiny in the Jazz and Classical New Music aspects of the whole throughout. So here's to the composers represented: those mentioned above plus Mildred J. Hill, Guillermo Klein, Greg McLean, and James Stevenson.

I do recommend you hear this, live with this music and grow with its implications. It is in every way worth your time.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Ivo Perelman & Joe Morris, Elliptic Time


It used to be a fairly common thing for the LP scene in Jazz for a label to group together its most popular Jazz players, those who place at the top of the various Jazz polls and call attention to them. So JJ Johnson's First Place, Cannonball Adderley with Wes Montgomery, Ray Brown, Victor Feldman and Louis Hayes dubbed "The Poll Winners." Or Shelly Manne, Barney Kessel and Ray Brown recording, also as "The Poll Winners." These days there is less of the sort of immediate calling out of commercial potentiality\in a particular gathering, yet of course there are groupings ro be had that feature instrumentalists who rate high on their instruments in terms of public acclamation. I do not always follow the poll results these days but it seems to me one might well note the "top of the standings" characterizations of some groupings these days, So I might venture to say is the case for the Free Jazz centrality of alto saxophonist Ivo Perelman and guitarist Joe Morris.

And happily the two gather as a duet in the recent album Elliptic Time (Mahakala Music). Now I do not suppose I will be venturing into new territory when I note how both players over the years have gradually honed their approach to free playing so that they are ever the original free voices at the top of those active today. One thing that marks them both and so then understandably makes sense out of how a gathering of the two works exceptionally well--that is that both spring into free territory with a strong assumption of the ins and outs of Jazz line weaving specifics translated into a more harmonically open and ever shifting bedrock of testifying, of expressing a noteful and a densely emotive giving forth.

All this transpires with brilliance in a series of five freely articulated segments, each thriving in consistenly underscoring a densely thick lineage that hearkens in its own way back to the essence of Bop possessed fervor that without fail gives us a thoroughly Jazz influenced improvisation, as opposed to something like Il Gruppo,where the improv used more the vocabulary of New Music and Avant Concertizing.

So there we are. Happily they do not just do this, they do it exceptionally well. Very recommended.

Marina Hasselberg, Red


Vancouver cellist Marina Hasselberg comes through with a startling debut effort, the  blockbuster Red (Redshift CD and Limited Edition LP). By refusing to be pinned down to some set mould, she covers much ground in time and space, from solo cello outings that recall but rechannel Bachian modes, to some wondrous  group ambient and avant improvisatory brilliances featuring Ms Hasselberg with a freewheeling Quintet that includes notable individual and group contributions of substance from the  lot--including Aram Bajakian on spacey electric guitar, Kenton Loewen on drums, Giorgio Magnanensi on electronics, and Jesse Zubot on violin,.

The ten more or less short sequences cover magic  music poetics in all kinds of ways and with heartening nuance always. Each cut is its own adventure, together making for a hearteningly fresh go at the possibilities. Ms. Hasselberg is a formidably strong cellist in sound and note choice. Each cut shows her making her own pathways with ultimate musicianship. Her quintet chalks in musically astute and dynamic profundity without fail.

It may be a sleeper but all told one of those hidden gems it is well worth your effort to discover and appreciate. Warmly recommended.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Francois Carrier, Unwalled, with Alexander von Schlippenbach, John Edwards, Michel Lambert


Unwalled (Fundacja Sluchaj) has come to us recently and so much the better for all who appreciate what is exemplary in Free Jazz today. In a studio date recorded in early 2022 we have Canadian alto sax wizard Francois Carrier joining forces with regular associates bassist John Edwards and drummer Michel Lambert and special guest pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach in a wide-ranging, free-wheeling set of great expressivity and inventiveness from all concerned. 

All the Carrier albums I have heard in the last decade are good, show us a fully eloquent and inventive artist at a peak. There is virtually no one better suited to openly free invention these days and so there are many of my favorite artists out there that I wish he would get a chance to play with some, but the group he fields here is as close to ideal for him as I could think of, though of course results would differ with other primo artists. That perhaps is coming up. Happily though this one bedazzles us with a lot to like,

The rhythm team of  bassist Edwards and drummer Lambert give Carrier a virtually endless tapestry of free variations with which to play against. And too Schlippenbach has that accompanying open invention and then an ultra-dynamic and creative second front-line voice of excellence.

After a good umber of listens I am happy to report in on this--one of Carrier's very best, a milestone and a bellwether of why Francois is one of the very best and most lucid of free sax players today. Do not miss this one!

Friday, December 9, 2022

Rodrigo Amado, The Field, Motion Trio, Alexander von Schlippenbach


Some artists are so situated in the music today that it is a good idea to catch ALL of the releases if you can, because each is likely to catch lightening in a bottle. Looking back on these pages I have covered a good deal of the albums featuring Portuguese tenor sax master Rodrigo Amado. And each has something central to contribute to the Free Avant Jazz scene as we live it now. He is one of those do-not-miss-anything artists for me.

So naturally I made note when a new one came out recently. The Field (NoBusiness Records NBCD 141)  It is one long live improvisation for Amado and his Motion Trio that includes Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums, both laying down a nicely open free rhythm section wash, with inventive fullness that goes against it all in ways that egg the whole of it on.

An important instrumental addition for this set is the Free Jazz ace pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach who forms an altogether prime contrast line and chord spelling nexus between his own self and the trio, especially Amado. They articulate a wonderful pairing off and pairing on together again as the music proceeds.

In the end we have another gem with Amado and company in a fine fettle indeed. It speaks well of the health of the Free Jazz scene. But more of that in the coming weeks. Enjoy this one!