Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Sarah Weaver, Synthesis Series, Music of Sarah Weaver and Collaborations

 


Composer and sound artist/improviser Sarah Weaver is one of those vital creative forces at work today in the New Jazz and Improvisation realms that makes the new, very new. There is a double album out digitally this summer but soon as a two CD-set that I've been listening to with interest. It is called Synthesis Series, Music of Sarah Weaver and Collaborations (Sync Source).

The music came naturally out of a COVID era social distancing as music meant to be performed live by members from widely disparate locations. The first most noticeable trait to this music is the appealing continuance of a long, spanning rhapsodic flow that gets its identity from composer-performer interfaces. All that is seen strongly from the beginning and the 46+ minute bird-like conference on "Integral Infinity."

Then the second part has a great inter-collaborative composition and performative thing for Gerry Hemingway and Sarah Weaver. What stands out right away is the striking blast of percussive color freely yet magnetically sounding a tattoo for our listening selves like a New Guinea slit gong sounding from an adjoining mountaintop.

Track one of album two,  "Isomorphic Now"  develops even further the long interactive song warbling as played beautifully by each of the melodically situated instruments.

The fourth and final soundblock begins with low notes from the  lower horns and then others wing into an interlocking intervallic lengthening.

The performers play a key role as color brushes, as improvisers, as artfully situated in Ms. Weaver's compositional matrix. They in so doing help make the music a sublime success, thanks especially to the overall directive,  completely sympatico retation to her and what sound and pronounced ambience she looks for. So kudos to Jun Sung Choi (vocals), Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax), Marty Ehrlich (clarinete woodwinds), Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, woodwinds), Ray Anderson (trombone), Dave Taylor (bass trombone), Mark Helias (contrabass), Gerry Hemingway (percussion, co-composer on piece #2), Sarah Weaver (composer, conductor, improviser, computer music), and Robert Dick (flute, contrabass flute).

All this takes place with a kind of classic New Music certitude. Ms, Weaver clearly occupies an comfortable perch among the prevailing avant winds folks. She does not follow a predictable path as far as what generally gets forward in some typical stylistic byways and cross currents. So I do recommend you pay serious attention to this. Bravo.

Hear related works played live at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQv2dVKyZpw&t=315s

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Owen Broder, Hodges: Front and Center, Volume 1

 

There is a truism in the idea that a tribute album can be progressive or regressive, in that returning to a specific artist or genre can help redefine the present or merely recycle it all like heartburn. Here is an album I immediately took to on first hearing but then hesitated, wondering whether we go forward or back with it. I did not know the artist before hearing this, but in the end I kept hearing a fresh newness as I listened so I resort happily to posting on it. Alto and baritone saxman Owen Broder shows himself a real fan of Johnny Hodges and his alto but then takes the swing influence and updates it all in a way that feels good to hear repeatedly. That on this first volume of the digital album Hodges: Front and Center  (Outside in Music, Bandcamp Digital Release).

The band is together and motivated to reach backwards and forwards at once, in a lively Quintet of Broder plus Riley Mulherkar on trumpet, Carmen Staaf on piano, Barry Stephenson on bass and Bryan Carter on drums. They go their own way within a kind of Rabbit and Duke in a swing stew that sounds all the clarion feeling of the best of that period without slavishly imitating anything.

The repertoire includes a couple of Swing and pre-Swing classics like "Royal Garden Blues" and "Take the A Train," then a few things, sides Rabbit did on his own, and then others that give us the essence but I do not readily recognize them. Good things all, played with a conviction and steadfast resiliency one does not often hear in such retrospectives. Bravo, bravo. Listen to this on the Bandcamp site and order it there if like me it gets you smiling. https://outsideinmusic.bandcamp.com/album/hodges-front-and-center-vol-1

M'lumbo, The Summer of Endless Levitation

 




M'lumbo has been a band I always seem to gravitate towards. I've covered a good number of their albums on these pages. Now here is a new one and it is different, spacy with a kind of Neo-African soundscape that rolls a little differently than the heavier Neo-Psychedelic Jazz-Rock of some of the earlier efforts. To me here listening  it is a cool thing, all of it. So you note I start logically with the title of the album, The Summer of Endless Levitation (Hell Yeah, LP or Digital).

So where to begin? If you go over to the BandCamp page that is devoted to the new album you will read that M'lumbo is a "New York multimedia band that crosses the boundaries of Rock, Electronic, Psychedelic, Jazz, and World Music with over 14 recordings.... 'It's Mickey Mouse, The Stanford University marching band, Santana and Syd Barrett rolled into one...borders on genius'-- Baltimore City Paper."

To get more specific this one is a majestic soundscape evoking the wonderful summers of our youths maybe, of Africa in classic days, of our deepest dreams and complex weaves of associations. Sometimes you might find there is almost a Beatles-in-summer resonance, other times a sunny acoustic-electric back porch dream. It all feels like a pitcher of fresh ice tea and lemon, to me at the moment. It is music most carefully and effectively orchestrated for a heady mix of acoustic and electric instruments and vocals. And it in the end is itself, delectably so.

It is a fruitful excursion into the symphonic realms of acoustic-electronica nowadays, a beautiful tapestry of synthetic and organic dream weaves. To go or to stay is up to you. One thing is certain. This is music in itself, of itself at the highest caliber. So get your ears on it if you can.

Take a walk to the album site to listen. https://mlumbo.bandcamp.com/album/the-summer-of-endless-levitation

Thursday, June 29, 2023

ANNA, Intentions, Progressive and Cosmic Ambient Electronics for the Soul

 

ANNA is a DJ from Portugal, born in Brazil. Her new (second) album Intentions (Mercury CD) provides you with a sort of progressive avant ambience that lets one float inside a universe one would love to call one's own. And indeed the artist provides us with a meditation technique by which to hear this music which ultimately gives you a way to take this album unto yourself. It is a mesmerizing Post-Minimal Radical Tonality that may be totally laid back but is never the least bit banal in a New Age flatulence, not at all, in fact quite the opposite. The cosmic wrap envelopes you but then when you interrogate the music itself it is not found wanting or pandering.

This is an album that has a haunting excellence of sound color and an absolute wealth of invention that makes it all quite special. That I am happily covering the album should make you see that it is not the pablum that some minimalist, trance, smooth or ambient music can  be. I would say it is a masterpiece of this sort of thing, so do not miss it. Bravo, bravo.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Denny Zeitlin, Solo Piano, Crazy Rhythm: Exploring George Gershwin







Ever since the early '60s pianist Denny Zeitlin has excelled as an original improvisational voice that has all the harmonic nuance of a Bill Evans but too all of a later tonality and line abstraction of the New Thing dispensation beyond what is exemplified in Paul Bley, etc., along with an electric acumen that is as orchestral as it is all-encompassing. Today's offering has nothing to do with that third and all to do with his pianoforte prowess and identity, his original stance in regards to a set of standards by Gershwin, namely his solo piano adventure Crazy Rhythm: Exploring George Gershwin (Sunnyside SSC 1693). The concentrated set is from the live concert as part of the annual Zeitlin solo spot in the Oakland Piedmont Piano Concerts.

Many of the must-include Gershwin songs are a go here, so "Fascinating Rhythm," "Summertime, " "My Man is Gone Now," etc. There are also some lesser known ones here, nicely done, like "I Was Doing Alright," and "I've Got a Crush on You."

The rapid modulation possibilities come into play at choice moments, and as expected, there are exceptional voicings and substitutions. At the same time it all swings well when appropriate and goes in a forward momentum to paraphrase and invent inventive alternative phrases throughout, in a sublime Piano Jazz sort of way.

This is the 2018 concert and no surprise but it sounds as timeless as when it was made, the proverbial day before yesterday. Inspiration is abundant and it all makes for an excellent go round, affirming Zeitlin as a true master of the Jazz arts, up there with the heavies no matter how you want to stack it. He gives us some thrilling line weaving in the process and it is a ride of exhilaration and satisfaction. We get the aromatic spice of Modernism with an overarching sense of totality that just works.  Nice work, and what a command!

To get a free sample stream of the album and find out how to order go to BandCamp at https://dennyzeitlin.bandcamp.com/album/crazy-rhythm-exploring-george-gershwin

The set has so much to like I expect it will appeal to confirmed Jazz ears as well as musically inclined newcomers. Wonderful album. Top ratings!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Yumi Ito, YSLA

 


Singer-Songwriter Yumi Ito happily sent me her new album and hey, it sounds so good. It is called YSLA  (ENJA yeb7831). I am taken by her intonationally impressive, gifted, stylistically rangy and ultra-musical voice, which may remind you slightly and nicely of Byork or Imogen Heap or sometimes even Edie Brickell only more sophisticated but not in any obvious way. She can scat wonderfully well in a contemporary zone, What else? The Milk Eyed Mender, that artist, Joanna Newsom? Maybe, but just as an affine so to speak, perhaps not a sister per se, but most emphatically herself. Her new album has seven very tunefully advanced songs bursting over with originality, with a feelingful content and lyrically bracing presence one does not encounter the likes of often, but even so this is very much her own way about it, arrangements, compositions and artistry Zazzy Jazzy-ish in ways that will perhaps floor you like it did me. Ah, Madame Zazz, as Duke might have exclaimed!

Throughout she plays a nicely conceived set of piano and Rhodes parts, she is also well accompanied by a tastefully wrought set of accompanists that she arranges deftly for, and she produces it all with impressive sonic results. So what don't I like about the album? Nothing! The lyrics are often personal, poetically acute and amorously situated, which is cool. I will not say she is a new Joni Mitchell but she has a kind of vastness about her music here which does not diminish her in any way, and there is something there that you will probably like if you like Joni. Either way this is substantial fare.

She is Japanese-Polish if you wonder, and her music is her way through the world we live in today. The music is very contemporary, sometimes a bit riffy, with progression expression, and tangy, soundscape-y growths of musical sound. The vocals ride atop it all with a yodel and a yip, a nuance of phrasing that is a beauty to hear and a triumph of the wonderfully rangy perfection that makes you perk up and listen. Bravo.

To do a free stream of the album, to find out more details about the album,  and to order a copy go to https://yumiito.bandcamp.com/album/ysla-2 and to find out about the ongoing world tour this year go to her general site https://www.yumiito.ch/concerts

Devin Gray, Most Definitely, Solo Drum Album

 


An unaccompanied solo drum album was a rare thing when I was growing up, so I especially appreciated a Max Roach album that had select solo gems that came out back then,  and then Milford Graves' solo percussion ensemble (with Sonny Morgan) followed by another essential,  Andrew Cyrille's BYG solo album from 1969. There have been others since but those three examples still stay in my musical memory as the most influential and iconic to me in formative years.

Today we have a new one that deserves our attention, namely Devin Gray's Most Definitely  (Rataplan 40). This is a thoroughgoing exploration of the drum set improv space that virtually converges today in a sort of New Music percussion ensemble view with a Free Jazz extended techniques articulation of it all. There are also a few moments here where the drum audio is altered by electronic transformations and it works fine and widens the aural possibilities as it comes and goes from the program. But otherwise it is a tour de force of sound color in miniature and sometimes in a maximum torrential wash of drumming, impressive and original. This is one of the most interesting and creative solo drum albums I have heard in recent years. You give it a couple of close listens and if you are like me you will start to appreciate the subtle, nuanced and often powerful expressions that put Devin in the "thinker's drummer" category. The musical trip throughout has dramatic pacing and an ending that will stir you up for sure, I suspect. Bravo!

Stream the album and check out digital, CD, or LP ordering options at Bandcamp: https://devingraymusic.bandcamp.com/album/most-definitely


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Vaster than Empires, Three Days

 

Every day moves forward the presence of time, of history, of where we have been and then might in turn be. Today that needle moves decidedly forward with the Avant Improv trio Vaster Than Empires and their recent CD Three Days (New Focus Recordings PAN 28). It is a full album of intelligent, extended techniques invention that brings us forward in the experimental language of abstracted Modernism with sound explorations and noise-pitch dialogues for violin (Erica Dicker), percussion (Allen Otte) and sound artist composer-improviser (Paul Schuette).

This ensemble formed in the course of an intersection in Cincinatti of two of the trio doing graduate  work and the other flourishing in local New Music performance. The  resultant trio gives us a spontaneous and virtuoso bead on sonic arts that hearkens back to classic improvisers like MEV, AMM and Il Gruppo as it simultaneously looks ahead to the world we will hear and see going forward from this day.

Maybe I say this too much but I believe the sure method for hearing this music properly (as well as any else of the advanced kind) is an open mind and a clear deck while listening and then the patience to let the music flow through your hearing in multiple listens. Now for me right as I pen these lines I am working on listen four and I must say it all is making rewarding sense to me. After repeated hearings it does not sound arbitrary but rather smart and timely in its interactive whole. It is complicated and ever-changing but it is excellent and without a doubt some of the best of this sort of thing that has come by me in the past decade. Vaster Than Empires is decidedly inspired on this album. They are the real thing in Improv today, at the top of the heap in results and good sounds. Do not miss it. Give it a streaming listen at bandcamp. https://newfocusrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/three-days Bravo, bravo!

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Allen Lowe, In the Dark

 

Allen Lowe has it all going for him in terms of artistry--his saxology, his Jazz composing brilliance, his determined directionality, his historical grasps and insights. Alas his health has not been with him lately with a malevolent cancer and many operations under his belt The good news is that he is back with two new releases that mark him as reassuringly continuing to excel and flourish. 

Today a good look at his more ambitious undertaking, the multiple CD project dubbed In The Dark (ESP-Disk 5080 3-CD) featuring the Constant Sorrow Orchestra. His bandmates are an interesting choice for a stylistic diversity and a wide period coverage of post-eclectic, wholistic Jazz expression from quasi-New Orleans to Bop to Post-Mingus post-Blues and Roots revisited,  ultimately to profundity and beyond. So we have an effective and winning lineup of clarinet great Ken Peplowski in tandem with Allen's eloquent and kicking tenor sax, Aaron Johnson's alto sax and clarinet, Lisa Parrott a most pleasant surprise on baritone, Brian Simontacchi on trombone,  Kellin  Hannas on trumpet, Lewis Porter on piano, organ-synth and synth, Alex Tremblay and Kyle Colina on basses and Rob Landis on drums.


The sprawling 31 composition triumph pits excellent players with memorably appealing and seriously impactful compositions for one of the greatest comebacks ever. Get this one, do not hesitate. Stay tuned for a discussion of his other new release.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Mats Gustaffson, Merzbow, Balazs Pandi, Cuts Open

 

Mats Gustaffsen is something of a world apart as a saxophonist when it comes to a style association. Yes he is free, but he can be very electric too. So today's recent offering is a case in point. Cuts Open (Rare Noise  RNR 0122 2-CD). This one has long extended free articulation for Gustaffson and band. His baritone sax and flute are out front nicely at times but he is as, or even more active throughout with his own live electronics. The well known artist Merzbow (Masami Akita) gives us his usual highly evolved noise electronics and with Matts additional percussion., Finally Balazs Pandi gives us a gradually unfolding blanket of bash on drums and percussion. It has some of the essence, that pioneering vibe heard decades ago the early electronics groups like Il Gruppo amd Musica Electronica Viva. It is still way ahead and not perhaps for everybody with ears. It takes a few listens perhaps before you start working to an understanding of what they do here.


The whole is an extraordinary, long unfolding and a truly orchestra blend of extreme electronics and band with dynamics that keeps evolving and growing until you want to shout at the squirrels. Well I do anyway.

Nicely nuanced and well recommended. Listen here on the BandCamp Site and order if you like: https://matsgustafsson.bandcamp.com/album/cuts-open

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Paul Van Gysegem Quartet, Square Talks

 

What yearly developments new and serious music manages to achieve are not always the sort of thing you hear about in the mass media these days. This blog page tries to cover as big a swatch of what's new as possible. Today is no exception with a release worth hearing and consideration, namely the Belgian  New Free Jazz ensemble known as the Paul Van Gysegem Quintet and their live album  Square Talks (el Negocita Records eNR079, Bandcamp).


It is an absorbing, very successful effort from start to finish. All features a nicely adventurous Quintet of Paul Van Gysegem on double bass, Cel Overberghe on tenor and soprano sax, Patrick De Groote on trumpet and flugelhorn, Erik Vermeulen on piano, and Marek Patrman on drums and for one selection a second trumpet.

The open improvisational game plan is to listen to one another and create a mutually inventive set of interactions. This has passion but also a kind of free logic that rings true with nicely tempered contributions from all concerned. There is a specially lucid and thoroughgoing vision to this music that perhaps identifies it as European more so than not, surely in its vocabulary at any rate. At the same time it is not in any way a gratuitous or hasty sort of bundle so much as it is a very successful effort to thrive in a free improvisational state.



Recommended heartily. Not to be missed if you seek the new edges of jazz freedom.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Jacob Chung, Epistle

 

Tenor Sax Hard Bop and Postbop adept Jacob Chung scores big with his Quintet and this most attractive set entitled  Epistle (Three Pines Records) which came out in late 2021 but seemingly stands the temporal test and gladly so as far as I am concerned. So this comes to us as a tight knit and swinging tenor-trumpet-piano-bass-drums unit that includes Christian Antonacci, Felix Fox-Pappas, Thomas Hainbuch, Petros Anagnostakos in a lively album of hard charging Postboppers out of the Blue Note mould of New-Thing-Eve offerings, updated with a new cast of swinging cats.

All six numbers have a sort of anatomically correct bearing and a goodly hipsonic attack. It reminds me obliquely of the Lee Morgan Blue Note middle period album I found  at the Sam Goody Sale Annex  in midtown Manhattan when I was a budding listener in my adolescence years ago. Not that this album is a ringer for that one in any way, but it could have been in that same bin and would not have alarmed me as being out of place were I to have somehow heard it back then. I only set the scene to give you a context for this music. It assuredly refers back to those heady days of the music yet holds its own as a first-tier tenor vehicle to appreciate whether you go back to earlier days or do not.

One thing is certain. Jacob Chung is a tenor star to watch. Meanwhile he has a great sound, motility facility and the guy could be one of keys in the action avenues of Jazz soloing in the years to come,

It is a good bet and I happily recommend it to you. For some additional considerations listen to him on some select videos and such. https://jacobchungmusic.com/


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Amjad Ali Khan, Music for Hope

 

If there are good musical ideas out there, I hope someone will hip me to them. In the old days I might frequent a hip record store and maybe as I went in there was a new Don Cherry album on, and I got it musically, so I got it! Nowadays someone might send me a review copy in the mail. So that latter happened happily with Amjad Ali Khan and his album Music for Hope (Zoho ZM202207).

This is sarod master Amjad Aki Khan/s good idea of pairing himself and his two sarod playing disciple sons Ayaan Ali  Bangash and Amaan Ali Bangash with Chinese Pipa  virtuoso Wu Man and Indian-Mideast-Asian drum specialist Shane Shanahan. All get together to play music with compositional and rhythmic frameworks primary of Hindustani origins but then free wheeling improvisations that allow each instrumentalist personal leeway. And so truly we experience a synergy between North Indian and Classical Chinese commonalities.

The album clocks in at 35 minutes of pungent compositional improvs that thanks to all concerned truly punches in for a genuine fusion of two local art brilliances.

It is an album that actually is what it purports to be and in very winning ways. Nice compositions, vital improvisations. So do not miss it! Here is a taste of the music and a little more about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Y0vf9KXMY




Thursday, March 2, 2023

Sara Caswell, The Way to You

 

Every so often I catch up with somebody who I have missed in the years of isolation I have endured when some significant miles away from the urban centers of Jazz. Happily I have recently connected with such a luminary in violinist-Jazz composer Sara Caswell and her quartet in her first outing as a leader in more than 17 years. It is the album entitled The Way to You (Anzic Records ANZ-0085-02) and I am very glad to have gotten to know it in the last few weeks.

If you go back a few years in your listening it might strike a resonance in you if I say that this music reminds me nicely of the sort of lyrical melodic jazz that was practised by Gary Burton in his fertile middle period with Steve Swallow, Keith Jarrett, Sam Brown, violinist Richard Green, etc. Then also some of the more memorable early ECM records by Eberhard Weber come to mind as well. Sara and her tight-loose sympathetic quartet bring you significant performative elements that set off the songful niceties of Sara's pieces with a Jazz immediacy that gives them vibrant life.

Sara's violin understandably is a central component of it all and a marvelous voice for Jazz it is. She handles the written-melodic and the improvised passages with a special ease and beauty that sets her apart. But then a critical voice in it all too is electric guitarist Jesse Lewis in a sport of post-Friswellian post-Abercrombie-like universe makes for especially attractive ballsy lyrical flow soloing throughout. Ike Sturm is a marvelously anchoring bass component who can give us a lovely solo too without hesitation. Drummer Jared Schonig has a loose Swing-Rock feel that sets each piece apart and breathes periodic charm always. Finally on about half of the numbers here the quartet is joined by vibist virtuoso Chris Dingman to give us that classic Rock-Jazz interwovenness we have so happily heard in years gone by on Burton albums, etc.The program of originals and nicely turned cover arrangements stand out as terrific vehicles for Sara and the artists to shine forth.

When it comes to this kind of expressive  harmonically impressive fare I must say it is the very nicest sort of music in this style that I have heard in years. Very recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Jeff Arnal, Curt Cloninger, Drum Major Instinct

 

What is next in the sequence of the sounding virtually of everything we can guess at but never know 'til it is there, and today's example is as unexpected as anything right now. What is it then? A duet of drummer  Jeff Arnal and Curt Cloninger on modular synthesizer for a thoughtful and sonically alive full album entitled Drum Major Instinct   (Mahakala Music CD MAHA-034).

As you listen you immediately grasp that this is spontaneous in its three segmented part improvisations, yet they manage to remain extraordinarily inventive and varied in what they weave moment-after-moment. Jeff's drumming owes something to the Eddie Blackwell sort of time plus continuous set adornment solo material in ever inventive and sonically diverse ways. On top of this is Curt's rather psychedelic drone and minimal sonic landscaping. He varies all he does in every sequence so we feel time passing and music endlessly pouring with enchantment from a fountainhead of intelligent spirit.

The key is perhaps obvious but not in any way routine in the continual brilliance of the evolving musical moments. It reminds of Terry Riley John Cale, Robert Wyatt in their finer moments yet very much with  the duo's own heady mix of possibilities, and there is a noisey sonic element too that thickens everything much of the time without a question of abandoning the harmonic trance set-up and slowly evolving until the next organized moment of new ground.

Outstanding job! Highly recommended, one of the finest electronic and percussive clusters of improvisational brilliance I have heard lately. Bravo, molto bravo!

Monday, January 16, 2023

Satoko Fujii, Hyaku, One Hundred Dreams

 

The incomparable pianist and jazz composer Satoko Fujii never to my ears fails to deliver a superb and original devotion to expressive sound in the Freedom Jazz mode. To celebrate some 100 of what I have heard as beautiful albums of all heard to date Ms. Fujii gives to us the latest, Hyaku, One Hundred Dreams (Libra Records 209 021).

It balances in her special way compositional and freely improvisational moments and you will hear one of her earlier works in triumphant return towards the end. Throughout it is a special ensemble of musicians who fully celebrate with feeling and musicality this remarkable journey thus far. This is a star-studded gathering who belong to this music as few might at this level. The full cast consists of Ms. Fujii, of course, at the piano, plus Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor sax, Wadada Leo Smith and Hatsuki Tamura on trumpets, Ikue Mori on electronics, Brandon Lopez on bass, with Tom Rainey and Chris Corsano on the drums.

Every moment counts on this program, from unaccompanied solos by various artist--not the least from Satoko herself, naturally--plus various ensembles of improvisers and then compositional frameworks, all of the highest caliber and best heard than described.

More than this I can say, certainly, that whether you have been following Satoko Fujii's career assiduously or are new to her, this is an album on the must-have-and-hear list. It is a joy and you simply need to immerse yourself in it. This volume reaffirms her pianistic importance and her brilliance as a jazz composer and a bandleader. It is all here to hear on a single CD. Amen, amen.