Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Drake/Gahnold/Parker, The Last Dances

I've been listening to this download-only release lately and wanted to make sure you didn't miss it. Hamid Drake (drums), William Parker (of course bass) and Anders Gahnold (alto) get something wonderful going on in this 2002 studio recording, The Last Dances (Ayler ayDL-075).

Blazing freebop is what's happening here. The rhythm team enters a killer zone. Maestros Drake and Parker kick up a beautiful fuss. And Anders Gahnold responds with some gritty soloing that ranks up there with his best.

That's all I wanted to say about this one today. But shoot, it's an inexpensive DL release that sounds good and you can grab it off the Ayler Records site (nowhere else) in a flash. Click on the Ayler Records link on this page (right-hand column, scroll down) then look for the grouping of download releases.

This one will give you smiles and joy.

Chris Potter, The Sirens

It was sometime in the middle-'90s when I first heard tenor-bass clarinetist-soprano saxist Chris Potter. I had recently been over at the Village Vanguard interviewing Lorraine Gordon and it got me in the mood to go back and hear some music. I had never heard of Chris Potter at that point, so I figured "why not somebody new"? He was in great form that night, playing some very beautiful ballads and swinging up a storm. Scott Colley was on bass and he punched the group forward with a percussive attack that made it all come together. I went home satisfied and satiated with good sounds.

A few years went by, Chris joined Dave Holland's exceptional band, 9-11 destroyed my airline city guide career, but I had checked out the many Potter albums that were out by then and was happy to hear them.

Flash forward to today. Chris Potter has made a successful go of his own group and ECM has released his latest, The Sirens (ECM B0017932-02).

It's Chris with Craig Taborn making a good showing on piano, David Virelles adding the exotica of prepared piano, celeste and harmonium, Larry Grenadier on contrabass and Eric Harland, drums.

The Sirens gives Chris a chance to stretch out with fairly long and convincing solos and also show his latest compositional-conceptual frameworks.

He has gone into a not quite straight-ahead, contemporary zone that is part post-Trane, part post-post and shows an evolution from the Holland group sound. You'll hear excursions into what you might call new music-ethnos territory, plus some more beautiful balladeering and commanding stopovers in straight-eight territory.

Virelles's prepared piano in tandem with Taborn's piano gets some interesting play here and it extends the music.

Everybody does something key in the overall context. Chris shows why he is a top tenor today, with a sound that is becoming more and more personal, his compositions ambitious, a new ECM sound if you will.

Nice. Recommended.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Marc Riordan Quartet, Binoculars

If Thelonious Monk and Paul Bley do things for you, and you'd like the hear something that extends that music, the Marc Riordan Quartet and their Binoculars (Club Nerodia CN01) will give you a nice jolt.

Chicago-based, the quartet has angularity and plenty of free invention. Marc does the piano, Peter Hanson is on alto, Daniel Thatcher gets the bass going, and Tim Daisy swings the drums.

It's freebop with grit and joy. Riordan's originals have a satisfying ring to them and the band gets it very right in the choruses of improvisation.

Some of it frees it up and some of it gets a swinging outness, but it all gives me a lot of pleasure. These guys have IT!

Sometimes it's almost as if Monk lives inside of this band, but so convincingly so that you revel in it. Search this one out.

Psychotic Quartet, Cordyceps

Cordyceps (New Atlantis cassette and download NA-CAS-003) is the third recording of Psychotic Quartet. The group comprises trombonist Dan Blacksberg, violinist Katt Hernandez, bassist Evan Lipson, and percussionist Michael Evans. These are four musicians who bring a complexly spontaneous improv/new music perspective to playing "free".

All four play in different contexts outside of this quartet, but for this band engage in a kind of compositionally inspired outness, spontaneous composition, if you will have that phrase.

Throughout the course of the four segment performance they engage in a sort of four-way structure-building endeavor, almost as if four architects showed up at a site with various materials and, without any set plans, spontaneously set about putting up a building.

Needless to say in such an exercise there may be some moments where the windows are in question, or the roof may need rethinking, and so it is with Cordyceps. Not every moment is a gem of inspiration. Since it is never a question of living inside this structure those moments do not matter.

The sound of the band is distinct. Katt's violin work is acidic, etching lines with a pointedness that goes well with the burnished expressive blur of Blacksberg's trombone. Lipson and Evans get adventursome sound results that compliment the "front line".

After a number of listens, one begins to feel this outness as familiar, friendly, whimsical but also aggressive. And that is what I was left with. They map out their own world on this album, and the world is one it turns out you can live in happily, if you make the effort. If there's a bit of sharpness now and again, it's better than being flat. And in the context it all comes together with conviction and style.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Vinny Golia, Marco Eneidi, Lisa Mezzacappa, Vijay Anderson, Hell-Bent in the Pacific

When you have four excellent players known for their instant compositional improvisations at your disposal (so to speak), you give them some studio time and hope they get something great going. That's sometimes the plan and in the case of Golia, Eneidi, Mezzacappa and Anderson's Hell-Bent in the Pacific (No Business CD 49) it comes off nicely.

This is a free yet self-structured session with some wonderful rhythm-section energy (Mezzacappa and Anderson) and reed velocitation (Golia and Eneidi). Vinny and Lisa sound especially good, but Marco and Vijay spar with them with a tightly knit looseness of great power.

It's one of those sessions that flies out of the speakers at you. Latch on!

Roger Davidson Trio, We Remember Helen

Producer and manager Helen Keane will be remembered. She will especially be so for her long association with Bill Evans. But she also encouraged pianist Roger Davidson to develop the confidence to keep going with the difficult pursuit of making a jazz living.

Roger remembers that help and the dynamic force Ms. Keane was on his We Remember Helen (Soundbrush 1024). It's a good trio outing with David Finck on bass, Lewis Nash on drums in a program of straightforward gems associated with Evans and/or with Helen in Roger's mind.

So "Waltz for Debby" is on the program, along with some well chosen standards, and a selection of Davidson originals well worth hearing. Roger favors a style that most certainly owes something to the Evans way: melodically complex and not all that bop-inflected, harmonically lush, generally lyrical. The trio has that interactive Evans Trio way also, with Finck and Nash very actively making a part of the whole.

It brings the Davidson trio jazz approach front and center. He is his own pianist, but will certainly appeal here to Evans afficionados.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ben Holmes Quartet, Anvil of the Lord

There is a subset to contemporary jazz that is avant in a slightly different way than flat-out free jazz: there is often a modern compositional bent with evolved rhythmic and harmonic complexities in the head structures that are very contrasting to the sort of symmetrical and short phrases bop favored, and tend to be more evolved than some of the fully free improvisers's setup motifs. The compositional element can often extend beyond the head format and come into play at any point in what otherwise would be the solo routines.

The music usually pulsates, but it may do so with odd-time signatures or rhythmic figures that fall between swing and rock yet have variational interest in the hands (and feet) of an imaginative drummer and a keen-sensed bassist (though the bassist does not ordinarily use his feet...). Finally there of course is room for soloing of the principal front liners.

Dave Holland's group has been exemplary for this sort of contemporary sound. But of course there are many others out there. A new, very good one is the Ben Holmes Quartet, as heard in their recording Anvil of the Lord (Skirl 020).

Ben Holmes wields the trumpet with distinction and writes the compositions, in which you can hear myriad influences, gelled together in ways that have a wholeness of style and concept.

His trumpet playing is inventive and direct toned--a little like Dave Douglas to my ears in sound and approach, but with a fluidity and sureness that points him forward. He is well served by his fellow groupmates: Curtis Hasselbring on trombone serves as a beautiful foil in the contrapuntal, two-line compositional heads, and shows good form in his soloing. The two-headed hydra of a rhythm section shows excellent teamwork. Vinnie Sperrazza sounds as creative and catalytic as he ever has and Matt Pavolka's bass is both structurally keyed to the song form and rhythmically rock solid, giving Vinnie excellent foundational support so that he can loosen up and get the variations going. Matt does interesting solo work when called upon as well.

So there you have it. An excellent effort from all concerned and a sign that Ben Holmes has arrived. I look forward to his ever-increasing presence on the scene in the coming years.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo Moholo, Ancestors

Any duet album involving trumpet and drums these days, for me anyway, gets me thinking about Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell's Mu, an innovative two-record set recorded in 1969. That session was profoundly influential in its sparse instrumentation and the musical freedom and contrasting discipline it created.

Happily trumpetmaster-composer Wadada Leo Smith and vet drumming stylist Louis Moholo Miholo have been themselves, exceptionally so, for so long that there is no danger on their duet Ancestors (TUM 029) that they come across as imitators. Yet the spirit of Masters Cherry and Blackwell are comfortingly present, as those ancestors who have gone out of this world but whose presence is felt daily by those who occupy the improvisatory strata like Wadada and Louis do.

Ancestors gives us Wadada trumpet in a blazingly forthright zone; and dynamic post-before tradition from the drumming lucidity of Louis.

It adds much in terms of musical interest to their body of recorded work and it gives you the essence of their musical thinking, paired down to the absolute essentials.

You will be bound to like it like I do if you know these important musical-personal forces on the scene. It's essential small-group improvisation.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Eric Person, Thoughts On God

Eric Person first came to my attention as a member of Dave Holland's group and I've been appreciative ever since.

His new album is a suite for biggish band that puts his compositional-arranging talent in a bold light. Thoughts On God (Distinction 4008) centers around Eric's relation to the All-Encompassing One.

The horn arrangements are especially fine, and of course Eric's solo work shines as always, though there understandably is less of it than in a small-group setting. This is big band with a backbeat much of the time, more modern and contemporary than backward-looking. It is not filled with the typical figures one finds in many post-Thad-Mel units. It is an extension of Eric's own horn thinking and not a sort of show-off kind of large sounding set of charts. That's refreshing. Not to put down the more traditional big band writing...but this album gives you a present-day sound, an original view.

Eric Person the composer is something you should not miss. Thoughts On God provides an excellent platform to hear his latest work in a larger format and with full-out instrumentation. And the band is fully worthy of his music attention too, by the way. They put their all into it. Spend a few coins and put your ears into it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ferenc Nemeth, Triumph

Ferenc Nemeth drums, composes, and arranges his way to some excellent contemporary jazz in Triumph (Dreamer's Collective 002). The compositions have a rock-funk core much of the time, on which complex compositional lines and good improvisational ideas are layered.

The band is something else. Guitarist Lionel Loueke does some improvising that stays in the mind, sometimes simultaneously singing along. Joshua Redman sounds excellent, as ever. Kenny Werner is in a "take it someplace" keyboard zone, in a post-Miles pocket. And Ferenc gives us the endless variation funk-rock pulse with lots of gutsy ideas.

This is the more or less acoustic sort of jazz-rock that seems so prevalent today. But it's especially good. Ferenc is off and running.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dan Block, Duality

Dan Block, the musician, the improvising reedman, the recording artist, the person, has been rattling around the edges of my experience for a time now, yet I have been guilty of not paying him enough mind. Until now.

The last album, Duality (Miles High), arrived a while back and I put it on. That's what did it. Made me pay attention. It is a series of duets of Dan on tenor, alto, clarinet, baritone, bass clarinet and an interesting and varied batch of artists: Ted Rosenthal, piano, Lee Hudson, bass, Paul Meyers, guitar, Catherine Russell, vocals, Rosanno Sportiello, piano, Mark Sherman, vibes, and on and anon. The recording concludes with a trio of Dan on tenor with Lee Hudson and Tim Horner (drums) and that's the way to go, break your own self-imposed rule sometimes.

The important thing of course is the music. Each track shows a side of Dan's improvising prowess in the main-stem/mainstream tradition and gives you a look at a chemically sound interaction with an equally individual player. And the music swings, burns and goes to very nice places indeed.

For that reason you should get a copy and make yourself happy. Dan Block is good!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Andrea Brachfeld, Lady of the Island

Not all the "jazz" I listen to, cover, write about is avant. Anyone who regularly reads my blogs knows that. Why? For one thing, a constant diet of avant, or any other style, is not good for the soul. Second, it is important to cover what one thinks are valid musical statements being made today, no matter the style. Third, music is music. Good music is worthwhile no matter where it comes from or what it uses as building blocks.

So today we have a straight-ahead, mainstream effort by flautist Andrea Brachfeld, Lady of the Island (Zoho 201210). Andrea can PLAY. And she's put together some new and old standards, some compositions of her own, gathered a gaggle of excellent players, gotten some hip arrangements together, and let it all happen. It's a quartet with added folks for the larger arrangements. Those folks include Wycliffe Gordon, who sounds great, Wallace Roney (hey!), and others. Everything swings, some with a bit of the Latin tinge.

All reflects very well on Andrea Brachfeld and her artistry. Dig her version of Herbie Hancock's "Eye of the Hurricane" and you'll get it!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Your Support is Appreciated

I thank all the readers who have supported this blog with your attention over the years. When I started blogging I was writing for Cadence and it seemed a logical extension of that work. Now that I have moved on from Cadence I spend a great deal of time listening to new music and writing up reviews strictly for these blogs.

With the downturn in the economy I have found myself in need of some form of support if I am to continue operating. Just the cost of internet service alone has become difficult to afford. My wife and I are facing a long cold winter without enough money to pay for the simple necessities such as heat. We turn the thermostat down in the hopes that what fuel we have will last, but there are some nights when we are VERY COLD. Needless to say I do not get paid for these articles, nor would I accept payment for reviews from the artists themselves.

Readers however might find it in in their hearts to throw me a bone. Copy this url My PayPal account is accessed with email gapplegate5 at (at=@ here to discourage robot crawlers!) If you could throw in a dollar or two it would help me continue doing these music blogs.

Thank you!

Grego Applegate Edwards

Jason Robinson, Tiresian Symmetry

Some artists can get into the middle of what's new and hip and do it so well they go a long way to defining the scene, epitomizing it. That's the case with reedman-composer Jason Robinson and his album Tiresian Symmetry (Rune 346).

It's a large-band effort with some great part writing, free excitement, beautiful soloists and a kind of post-Milesian rock-funk collectivity.

Jason has gathered together some killer players for the date. Himself of course and Marty Ehrlich, George Schuller, Ches Smith, Drew Gress, Marcus Rojas, JD Parran and others. All work together excellently and can solo as a group or individually and make it all definite, defining.

The compositions are out and in in the best ways. This is modern, Jack! Every line is worth listening to closely and the sum effect is very, very impressive.

Let this one loose on your player and revel in its many shades of sounds.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rob Mazurek Pulsar Quartet, Stellar Pulsations

Chicago's Rob Mazurek is one of those select artists out there now whose every recording is interesting, unpredictable and worth hearing. A recent one by his Pulsar Quartet, Stellar Pulsation (Delmark 2018) is no exception.

The quartet is a good one, Rob on cornet, the burgeoning pianist Angelica Sanchez, and a rip-snorting rhythm section of Matthew Lux on bass guitar and John Herndon at the drums.

It features seven memorable Mazurek compositions in an in-and-out zone. There are changes at times, chromatic expansions, rhythmic freedom and infectious pulse as called for, moods alternately blazing and tender, and some wonderful musicianship.

Rob sounds great as ever, Angelica Sanchez shows why she is especially in demand these days with her very pianistic ability to be inventive and striking in whatever the vein, and Matthew and John tear it up.

It's one not to miss. Mazurek is essential and this is one of his best.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mikolaj Trzaska, Olie Brice, Mark Sanders, Riverloam Trio

NoBusiness Records has been doing an excellent job exposing the world to important aspects of the American and International improvising avant garde. They have also, from their home base in Lithuania, been taking the opportunity to document and present Eastern European artists that we might not otherwise get the chance to hear.

Altoist-bass clarinetist Mikolaj Trzaska is one such artist. The recent double LP Riverloam Trio (NoBusiness NBLP 52/53) gives us a good listen to Mikolaj in a fine trio setting. Olie Brice on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums provide an excellent collaborative twosome for Trzaska's reeds. They are free-wheeling and inventively varied, accomplished free improvisers.

And Trzaska has stylistic originality. He has a soulful rasp a la Threadgill and the ability to weave interesting lines with excellent consistency. He can soar in the clouds or whisper with the wind.

The double LP is a joy to hear. But keep in mind only 300 copies have been minted. So grab one now if you are inclined. It's a great listen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Jeff Davis, Leaf House

The Fresh Sound/New Talent series showcases up and coming players, those perhaps not yet well known but filled with promise, at least ideally. Funny thing about the volume by Jeff Davis, Leaf House (Fresh Sound/New Talent 407). It sounds anything but. I don't mean it doesn't sound new. It does. It doesn't sound "up and coming." It sounds most definitely "already there."

It's Jeff Davis on drums, Eivind Opsvik, contrabass, and Russ Lossing, piano, for a trio that has great power and finesse, something you don't expect from youthful, promising neophytes.

It's a set of Jeff Davis compositions that do a great job getting the trio into a spontaneously prosaic mode.

The trio gels beautifully. Jeff is loose, free, inventive, strong. Eivind is a beautiful bassist with sound command and note choice that take him far from the norm. Russ is a pianist of complexity and directness combined.

The ambiance of this date is something like the classic Paul Bley trios of his middle period--steeped in the tradition, working way outside the old tradition but run through with its essence.

Yet it sounds not like the Bley trios of yesterday, in that this is "new" music. Like how things go when they go right, it is steeped in the Bley tradition, so to speak, yet is working its way outside the tradition, though run through with its essence.

That can be how it goes. One to another bringing the one to the other and on again. How Leaf House goes. Don't miss this one.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut-Marcus Cummins, Cannibal Love (The Field Recordings)

Because of a chance encounter with certain recordings, I used to think of Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut as a kind of Eddie Condon of the free-avant improv scene. That is, that he was an excellent organizer of sessions with good people, had a way of getting good results and produced a music, in this case of avant-free jazz, of exemplary purity.

All that was true of the couple of live albums I happened to first listen to, but I've been hearing other things now and realize I was wrong. Jeffrey is also a multi-instrumentalist who can play.

Today I am covering one he did as a duet with Marcus Cummins: Cannibal Love (The Field Recordings) (ABRI). It's a very adventurous live set with Cummins at the soprano, Shurdut on piano. It gives you a very good chance to hear Shurdut's pianoforte style close-up as well as Cummins' sax work.

Jeffrey shows himself here as a very energetic post-Taylorian exponent, keyed well into Cummins' equally noteful soprano expositions. It's a fine example of energy music in mostly high gear and showcases their interactions nicely.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Record of the Year 2012, and Why I Shy Away from End-of-Year Lists

I don't tend to do end-of-year lists on my blogs for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I cover too many genres and I would rather not be forced to categorize those I pick. Second, I consider everyone whose music I cover a winner. They've furthered music in good ways, so it's all of them that should be applauded and encouraged.

But this year I've chosen a "Record of the Year" because I find it especially inspiring. It's Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform Rune 350-353).

Now for the new year of music! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bobo Stenson Trio, Indicum

In listening to the new Bobo Stenson Trio album Indicum (ECM 2233) I said at first, "gee, sounds familiar." Then I had to remind myself that Maestro Stenson was a part of ECM (with Garbarek, etc.) nearly from the very beginning. If there is an ECM piano sound (and there is), he had something to do with fashioning it. Bley, Jarrett, Stenson...they shared and share stylistic traits. Bill Evans was an elder relation then, surely. Bobo Stenson today is still a vital part of that sound, and he is playing and extending himself, it is important to remember.

Appropriately Indicum gives him and his trio a good variety of material to work with, band originals and improvisations, a Bill Evans number, George Russell's "Event VI" in a very nice version, a Norwegian traditional melody, and so forth.

Anders Jormin on doublebass and Jon Falt on drums do what you might expect from such a trio and do so well. Bobo shows a ruminative, reflective side on many of the pieces in a balladic sense and he sounds very beautiful in the process.

It's one that modern piano trio fans will love. A perfect record for long winter nights ahead...Norway or New Jersey.

Happy New Year!

A storm last December 20th knocked out my internet and phone for most of the holiday season. I am back and wish you a fulfilling and worthy new year ahead. My blogs starting today will be back on their usual schedule. There are many new releases to cover so I will get right to it!