Friday, May 31, 2013

Ravi Shankar, The Living Room Sessions Part 2

A titan has fallen. Ravi Shankar is no more. The Living Room Sessions Part 2 (East Meets West Music 1009), I can only assume, will be the last album planned and executed by Ravi during his lifetime, so it is in that sense his farewell to us.

I could fill many pages with how his appearance changed the course of Western Music and Western Culture. I will not do so today, except to say that his influence has been enormous. If today there are many here in the US who have become great appreciators of the classical Indian music tradition, if South Asian musical form has had great influence on both art and popular musics over the years in the West, much of that has to do with him.

And of course as an extraordinary composer and sitarist he has excelled and done much to extend ideas of form and to innovate with elements not ordinarily brought together in traditions of North and South India as well as with western elements. All this he has done. But it was primarily as sitarist brilliantly performing raga with tabla and tanpura that we first encountered him here and so it is perhaps fitting that he takes his leave of us in this way.

Part 2 continues where Part 1 left off, Ravi Shankar in the comfort and informality of his own living room giving us extended raga performances with talented tabla master Tanmoy Bose.

As in Part 1 the alap and mid-tempo portions of a raga performance predominate. Ravi was at this point somewhat frail and so mostly shies away from displays of technical wizardry that were a usual part of a performance in earlier years. We get some very absorbed and profound meditations from Ravi that make up for it, plus some gats (compositions) that stay in the mind. He sings effectively and briefly in the Sindhi Bhairavi performance what may be a part of a bhajan (devotional song) that then serves as a gat. He dampens the strings for a time and he sometimes repeats a motif to engage in more purely rhythmic interplay with Bose, and at one point makes of the sitar a drum, playing one note in various rhythmic articulations.

In the end, Ravi is having a great time here, as he enthusiastically exclaims at the end of the last track. And along the way he gives us some engaging and profound last thoughts, musically speaking. He takes liberties and operates in a free zone for much of this CD. It gives him joy and that joy is contagious. We are grateful for a lifetime of devotion and genius. We now say goodbye to his earthly presence. His music will live on. Thank you so much.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mikrokolektyw, Absent Minded

I believe it would be just about impossible to make the sort of music the duo Mikrokolektyw thrives at and make a living by it here in America. It's too good, too advanced, too electronic and too out there in a combination that doesn't ring bar cash registers. I could be wrong. They are stationed in Poland so thankfully they don't have to face months and years trying to get an economic flow going here.

And I say all of that by way of a complement. We need music people don't know they need to hear at first, music that breaks barriers and combines things in ways that are "forbidden."

Well that, to my mind, is what I especially like about Mikrokolektyw. They have a new album out, Absent Minded (Delmark 5003), and it takes things a step further. The duo consists of Artur Majewski on trumpet and cornet and Kuba Suchar on drums and percussion. They both fashion the electronic backdrop, the wash of MIDI-live ostinatos, drones and third-voice musicality that they play so effectively over.

This new one is even freer than past efforts. It's tour de force mood freedom, with excellent improvs by the two and atmospheric electronics laying a carpet of sounds behind them.

They are so unique we are starting to hear imitators. But let's not go there right now. What's important is that these are very musical minds at work, two expressive spirits that need to be heard and so you should listen to the new album--and of course buy it. That's the point for the survival of such things!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kris Davis, Capricorn Climber

Kris Davis is seemingly content to follow a direction that brings her music to a place all hers. And why not? Perhaps that music is not one typically played in the smoky, funky jazz clubs of yesteryear, with their modicum of tourists, drunks and traditionalists cheering and clamoring for endless choruses of bebop. Those places are nowadays harder and harder to fill up one's dance card with anyway, and what her music is deserves hearing in whatever places welcome the new, the avant, the smart. There are (potentially) plenty of them and her music should be welcomed there, I would think.

All this hits me as I listen again to her album Capricorn Climber (Clean Feed 268). It's a marvelous ensemble (quintet) effort with new music and improv at the forefront. Kris is on piano and contributes the compositions, all except one collective improvisation. She has an important place in the ensemble, often in the role of fellow front-line melodist and good-ideas improviser, but also as harmonic speller-out. Matt Maneri appears in his very inimitable viola style, a singular force. Ingrid Laubrock brings her tenor and gets a chance to wake us up to her own singularity. Then there is the very first-rate rhythm team of Trevor Dunn, bass, and Tom Rainey, drums, who interpret Kris's charts beautifully and take full advantage of the spontaneous freedom they get in imaginative, personal ways.

Those are the parts at work on this disk. The sum is quite engaging. There are very sublime moments of group counterpoint, and there are all kinds of shades of other music making happening too. Davis and ensemble give us the avant music of the present, of the "right now," and it is music that should be widely heard. Thank you Kris. Thank you quintet!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kahil el'Zabar Quartet, What It Is

Can you believe that Kahil el'Zabar has, with and without his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, released something like 58 albums to date? That's what I read and I am not really surprised because he has done it for years. Still that is an achievement.

So here he is with quartet and a new release, What It Is (Delmark 5002). This is an organ combo more into a post-Larry Young than post-Jimmie Smith thing because the modern post-Trane, post-Pharoah sound is there along with some of the Afro-Jazz elements Kahil has favored over the years. There are also the tribal grooves going, and more late-Trane fire when the organist switches to piano.

Justin Dillard mans the Hammond, along with piano and electric piano, and he does well. Kevin Nabors gets into zones you expect on tenor. Junius Paul logs in with ostinatos and general foundational goodness on acoustic bass. And of course Kahil plays some riveting grooves on the drum set (he isn't often given the credit he deserves as a drummer of a very together nature) as well as the African earth drum and the kalimba.

You get mainstays like "Impressions" and "Central Park West," good originals in bluesy groove and African outness, all played with fire and no-jive conviction.

It's another good one.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Triptet, Figure in the Carpet

Are there too many jazz/avant releases coming out these days? I recently read an interview with a prominent artist who expressed this thought. We sometimes forget how many releases proffered as jazz came out during the late-'50s-early '60s. Only a portion were truly worth your time, and there were many thousands that usually erred on the side of mood pablum. And some of the rote blowing sessions didn't always stand the test of time.

As someone who tries to keep up with the slog of output that hits our senses yearly, I will admit that there is much at times that seems premature and unnecessary today, partially because recording and releasing a CD is relatively easy and inexpensive. But there is some great music too that we might not have had a chance to hear in years past. It is an enormously time-consuming job to sift through what can be had--I know and I only get exposed to a part of it, so it's easy to overlook something.

Such a something might well be the latest album by Triptet, A Figure in the Carpet (Engine 2012). Hailing Sun Ra as primary influence, the trio winds their way through a live electro-acoustic set that has an acid-etched series of sound design episodes to give you pause and get your attention.

Who are these guys? Michael Monhart plays saxophones, splitting his signal so that the input goes into a laptop for further electronic manipulations. Greg Campbell plies a "junkstra" combination of set drums and percussive extensions, plays a beat up French horn and subjects things to laptop electronics as well. Tom Baker plays an acrid and wide-timbred fretless guitar, a theremin and too gets involved in electronic manipulations.

Can these guys play "Giant Steps" or "Cherokee?" I don't know about that. They don't try and it isn't a concern. Their version of tradition goes back to Ra in an out plugged-in and acoustic mode, and live electronic, live outside pioneers like AMM, MEV, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, to my ears, groups and artists that sought to create sound worlds where often there were no virtuoso soloists carrying the music further, but instead sought to create stimulating envelopes of improvised, experimental sound worlds, seeking an overall cohesion more than a Promethean individuality. I may overly simplify, but that's in essence what at least part of it was about.

So too Triptet. They create a widely travelling set of ten episodes that hang together as a legitimate, successful, poetic traversal of some of the possibilities available to them. This one gets fairly orchestral in its denseness and has the drama of dynamics and a kind of sustained-versus-punctuated dialog of contrasts.

If their next album was a great songbook-bebop revival I'd be surprised. But they do what they do with results that consistently interest, surprise and extend the listener's home turf, ultimately shooting him off to distant realms, trips of fancy and imagination.

If you are into the electro-acoustic realm of spontaneous outness, you will gravitate toward this, I think. Definitely recommended for those pioneering ear-souls!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Dann Zinn 4, Gracie's Song

Here's a young tenorist Dann Zinn, who has found inspiration in the Trane and post-Trane zone and taken it to his heart. He has a tone and approach that combines Trane and the gutsy Texas tenors, with lots of Tranish note flurries, the cry and a trace of gutbucket kick. Oh, and a little later Pharoah in there? You tell me.

The band follows him into the zone. Taylor Eigisti has a McCoy influence that he wears well and makes his own place in it. The rhythm team of John Shifflett, bass, and Alan Hall, drums, get things burning with drive and finesse.

Zinn gives us seven strong originals and a version of Carmichael's evergreen "Stardust" that will give you pause.

Everything is the real thing and there's no nothing going on, so I found myself saying to myself, "yeah!" every so often. It's modern but it has deep roots. And Zinn can bring it on!

Louie's Dream, For Our Jazz Heroes, Eli Yamin, Evan Christopher

Time for that rather rare commodity these days, a pre-bop session for clarinet and piano. Eli Yamin plays the 88s, Evan Christopher the clarinet on Louie's Dream: For Our Jazz Heroes (Yamin Music 37574-8).

A warmly executed set of jazz classics and originals by Yamin and Christopher is what you get. Yamin plays a nicely striding, swinging piano in a mostly post-Ellington vein (to my ears). Christopher plays clarinet less like Goodman than Artie Shaw, maybe a little Edmund Hall in there, too. Or even Jimmy Hamilton. The tone is soulful and beautifully pellucid. And he plays!

Their originals are strong, especially the Mahalia Jackson tribute "Let His Love Take Me Higher," which others might cover too!

So the individual numbers, as implied above, are often dedicated to a "jazz Hero:" Duke, Mercer, Bigard, Bechet, Trane, Mary Lou Williams, and even Amira Baraka.

The vitality of the playing is what wakes you up, for starters. Both are very sincerely immersed in swing and pre-swing styles and they have the warmth of conviction. It's a heck of a nice set!! Recommended!

Confusion Bleue, Roulette Concert

Confusion Bleue is the collective effort of four talented improvisers (three plus guest), an exacting live-mix sound man, plus you, the listener. Specifically there is Nobu Stowe on piano and electric pianos, Ross Bonnadonna on electric and acoustic guitars plus alto and bass clarinet, Ray Sage on drums, Lee Pembleton on sound, and for the album at hand, Roulette Concert (Ictus 165), guest Chris Kelsey on soprano.

The album was made in the course of a gig at the Roulette in New York, 2010. Hence the title. There are four fully improvised sequences, the third based on Miles' "Blue in Green."

That having been said, let's turn to the music. What to say? There is excellent rapport throughout. Nobu Stowe is an all-encompassing presence, running the gamut from post-Taylor fanfares to wildly inventive chromatic extensions, outly dissonant rock riffing and undulating, driving tonal tangents. Chris Kelsey is blazing it up whatever is happening. He is fired up and letting it all go on this set. Lee Bonnadonna plays some very effective guitar in an in-and-out zone. He will give you a second voice with his reedwork as well, though I find his guitar playing the main attraction. And Ray Sage is hitting it with tumbling smartness and cooking looseness.

This is a very able and flexible outfit. They are captured on a good night, too. The "Blue and Green" improvs break up the set with unexpected tonal freedoms, even a little Bachian counterpoint before a burlesque of good humor. It all makes the time fly on the ear end.

One thing I like about this band that night is that they let themselves go without reservations, even if it ends up in stylistic territory not expected of "free" players. They go wherever it seems right at the moment and so you get combinations you might not expect in avant jazz. But then they do the "purely out" with dedication and fluidity to satisfy the "heavy energy" cravers (like me) fully.

As I listened over time I was reminded of the "wherever it needs to go" resolve of a Dave Burrell. This band has that sort of ranginess.

So it's good to hear this one. Creativity cannot and will not be suppressed! This evening at the Roulette was anything but (supressed, that is). Great sound. And fun, too! Bravo.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Antonio Adolfo, Finas Misturas (Fine Mixtures)

Finas Misturas (AAM 0705) involves a cohesive, meaningful blend of the Brazilian and jazz. Pianist-songwriter-bandleader Antonio Adolfo has drawn upon his many years experience in both worlds to create a program of four nicely turned Adolfo originals that find themselves in juxtaposition with six jazz classics, by Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Bill Evans, nicely arranged as a fine blend of Brazilian and jazz flavors.

The instrumentation can go as large as a sextet or less for more intimate arrangements. Here we experience the commingling of jazz and Brazilian with players who embrace both currents and make the arrangements happen.

Adolfo plays a rhythmically, harmonically and melodically sophisticated piano, an important exponent of the dual heritage as it has worked out in the music. Tenor/flautist Marcelo Martins has absorbed the Getz through Trane and Farrell lineage that forms the building blocks of the style, and made it his own. Acoustic Guitarist Claudio Spewak brings the subtle bossa comping chordal style along with a solo style that has beautiful tone and thoughtful note choice as its goal. He succeeds well. The rhythm section cooks nicely in samba jazz fashion.

The Adolfo originals shimmer in a setting where the classic jazz pieces are made to open up to Brazilian rhythm and creative harmonic articulation. So we have nice versions of "Con Alma," "Giant Steps," Jarrett's "Memories of Tomorrow," "Naima," "Crystal Silence," and "Time Remembered." The rubbing up against one another of classic modern jazz pieces and Adolfo originals holds together in ways that make Adolfo's music seem equally valid and cause the mind to toggle with the various elements in both realms as they coincide or sequence together.

Throughout Adolfo sounds great, the other soloists shine, the rhythms and harmonies pop. It's a fine outing for all and will mellow the harshness of the most world weary without sacrificing the musically substantial aspects of Brazilian jazz. That is a trick the best Brazilian player-writers know to perfection and Antonio Adolfo is one of the very best at it.

Grab this one for a beautiful synthesis, like a fine wine, fully matured and filled with subtle nuances of the senses. Antonio Adolfo blends finely indeed. This one's a winner!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Giuseppi Logan, More, Anniversary Edition

First off, I would like to wish ESP Disk a very happy anniversary. They are celebrating 50 years (hard to believe) as a label this year. To mark the occasion they are remastering a number of classic sides and making them available in vinyl and CD versions, with the original art and design intact. The Giuseppi Logan album More (ESP 1013) is one such release.

I've had this album for many years and I find it to be his best, for the effective groundbreaking live journey into "new thing" that it is, recorded at Town Hall in New York City in May of 1965. Giuseppi opened the concert and was followed by Albert Ayler and his group. The classic Bells recording came out of Albert's set.

So why do I like this album especially? Giuseppi's very free playing on alto, bass clarinet and flute reached a zenith that night. And his brief "Curve Eleven" piano solo is a very creditable effort in the free-ranging Tayloresque zone. He is supercharged. Then the rest of the band is fabulous as well. There is a great performance from a very young Don Pullen, playing definitive slam-bang avant piano. Milford Graves gives us a pristine version of his iconically percussive, orchestral style of free drumming. He sounds particularly beautiful on the set. Another icon, Eddie Gomez, gets a jump start on things with Giuseppi and you can hear him to good advantage on the final ten minutes of the recording. Reggie Johnson otherwise is the bassist of record, and does a quite credible job. Together the group reaches a fine zone of outness that makes the record a classic in the early "new-thing" discography.

I leave the most interesting part for last. An additional ten minutes of music was discovered while preparing the tapes for remastering. It turns out that the second half of "Shebar" was on the tape that otherwise contained Ayler's Bells set! It rounds out the performance and gives you a complete composition for the first time. Most importantly it is as vital as the rest of the set. So that's a very nice bonus.

So there you are. THIS is the version to have. It still sounds meaningful to me. If you don't know this album and want to get a feel for the early days of "free jazz" by all means check it out.

Blaise Siwula, Dom Minasi, Nobu Stowe & Ray Sage, New York Moments, 2006

...and speaking of New York, there's time today to cover another first-rate avant jazz outing going back to 2006. It's Blaise Siwula, Dom Minasi, Nobu Stowe and Ray Sage holding forth at length on New York Moments (Konnex). Anyone familiar with the New York improv scene know these are players with formative Big Apple profiles, although pianist Nobu Stowe spends more time on the West Coast of late.

In any event this set features alternately blazing and then more introspective fully improvised moments in time, a slice of undistilled creativity if you will. Blaise Siwula gets to the heart of the matter with some of his best recorded work on soprano, alto and tenor, guitarist Dom Minasi puts in some very effective fully activated electric guitar work, showing us a thinking-man's approach to guitar harmo-melodicism, Ray Sage kicks everything up several notches on freely flowing drums and Nobu Stowe puts us on notice that he can (and does) give us an all-over turbulance but also can flourish quite definitely as an ultra-chromatic out piano lyricist and tonal-center inventor of lively piano.

That's the gist of the session but it is of course in the hearing that the moment is given meaning.

And happy to say, the meaning is out front and moving with this kinetic grouping of like souls. Grab this one.

Ras Moshe, Outsight

New York based tenor-reed-windman Ras Moshe has been tearing it up for a number of years, though he is not always as well documented by recordings as he should be. So a new album devoted to his music is a particularly welcome event. That is in the form of the full length set Outsight (straw 2 gold pictures) which is available as a download and as a CD as well--online or at DMG.

The album gets off to a kicking start with the modal swinging "I Hear You," featuring Ras on tenor, Tom Zlabinger, contrabass and the always-in-motion drummer Lou Grassi. Ras breaks it up with a firey solo that makes good use of a recurring scalar riff. Tom gets some supercharged tensile walking going and puts it all in gear.

Next up is the suite "Circle One, Two, Three and Four" which features Ras on tenor and a second group of under-recorded New York avant improvisers: Matt Lavelle on trumpet and bass clarinet, Chris Forbes at the piano, James Keepnews on electric guitar, Daniel Levin at the cello, and Dave Miller on drums.

This one flows with collective free variations of the looser and a-temporal sort, everybody getting the chance to blend together around a freely articulated tonal center and some head riffs. Matt has a hard brassy sound, Ras gets full-toned post-Ayler presence with an especially fine lower resonance, Chris Forbes hits it dynamically in a turbulent post-Taylor mode, Levin plays the burning role that ordinarily a bass might in these kinds of out-ings, sounds great and gives the music its underpinning. James Keepnews mixes it up with electric sound colors, some bluesy outness and unpredictable creativity. Dave Miller contributes a very appropriate free-zoned percussion wash. It's a great showcase and a model of the variations-on-variations outward excursions.

The final piece gives tribute to the recently fallen avant tenor hero David S. Ware. Levin on cello and Zlabinger on bass get expressive. Ras comes in for one of his best recorded solos, probing, searching, paying respects.

And so ends an excellent set. If you don't know Ras's music this is the place to start. He comes through with a first-rate outing that does justice to the ins and outs of his attack and shows why he is an indispensable part of the New York avant jazz scene. Everybody puts in effective personal statements and gells together as three separate dynamic units that work it to strong ends. Get this one and you'll be getting a critical piece of Big Apple present-day advancing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Peter Evans, Zebulon

Peter Evans was and is a trumpet player who never ceases to surprise me. When I first heard the solo album he did for Evan Parker a number of years ago I thought, "huh?" And it's been that way ever since, whether it's with MOPDTK, with others or on his own. He is a startling player who uses a formidable technique in the service of his very own expression, in sounds, in notes, in conception.

So it is with a trio of John Hebert (bass) and Kassa Overall (drums), in a live set in Brooklyn, appropriately entitled Zebulon (More is More 131) (the name of the club). It's four Evans compositions taken with a maximum of torque, drive and freedom.

When you deal with digital media there are no grooves from a technical point of view, but in all other ways, groove applies here. They swing, they smoke and Evans is off to the races without a horse.

The rhythm team is right there and Hebert gets some nice moments, Overall swings it for all it's worth, but this is Evan's time to construct a post-bop, post-swing, post-post, and then deconstruct it all, take it into pieces, exaggerate phrases like a present-day Lester Bowie, then turn it all upside down.

Perhaps the wildest moments are saved for the final number, "Carnival," which is a kind of "Carnival of Venice" for a trumpet in a weightless vacuum, soaring off to a place unknown and perhaps very far away. Hebert arcos like a man possessed, Peter hits some periodic accents that fall polyrhythmically between beats and Kassa is right there with it. They fall into a maddening kind of boogie phrase while Hebert drones in polyrhythms, then they all take off again.

This is a set that is wild: wildly funny, wildly frenetic, almost mock frenetic, and so expressive it takes you along on its back and you are out there with them.

In short, Peter Evans steps out with an excellent trio and shows himself to be a titan among men, so to speak. Totally bonkers, technically amazing and absolutely musical, Evans triumphs! You just might not want to do without this one!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bridges, Andrea Centazzo, Akira Sakata, Kiyoto Fujiwara

Bridges is the right name for a recent Ictus recording (162). That's because it puts together a trio from widely diverging geographic origins: the Italian master percussionist-drummer Andrea Centazzo with Japanese improv vets Akira Sakata (alto, clarinet, vocals) and Kiyoto Fujiwara (double bass).

This was the set they played live at JAPZITALY in Milano, a concert to benefit children in Japan. With the exception an allusion to the "Stella by Starlight" theme towards the end, this is a wholly extemporized set. "Bridge #1" was a free ballad that gave Sakata the chance to get a little out lyricism in before his playing got more into a noteful wailing. Andrea and Kiyoto follow sympathetically and raise the temperature of the music as the alto solo climbs.

"Bridge #2" finds Akira playing some pointedly limber and inspired clarinet while Andrea gets into sustained sounds from gongs and cymbals and Kiyoto holds forth arco.

"Bridge #3" has some fine Centazzo wide-range sound coloring and forward charging alto and arco. "Bridge #4" gives us a chance to hear some dramatically out vocalizing from Sakata that is well complemented by extended orchestral percussion and an attractive recurring bass motif.

"Bridge #5" ends the set nicely with some free pulsations that center in and out of the "Stella" theme. It's a Sakara tour de force but everybody by now is relaxed and moving forward with good feeling.

So that's the set. It may not be the free endeavor of the century, but it is very nice to hear these three get a successful and varied series of improvs going. All three are strongly inside of the zones they have carved out for themselves. Together they form some beautifully lively Bridges! Listen and you'll hear it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Abdelhai Bennani Trio, Encounters, with Alan Silva, William Parker, 2000

Not-yet-well-known tenor saxist Abdelhai Bennani knows how to pick them. The trio album Encounters (JaZt Tapes CD 037) has Alan Silva on piano and synthesizers and William Parker on double bass.

The program is a live, first set from The Sunside in Paris in 2000. It features three free improv "Encounters" and it gets into the classic new thing outsideness in ways you might expect from Alan and William (Alan delving into the piano and synths imaginatively these days) and then Abdelhai plays an out tenor that has the immediacy of a raw-er Shepp. He goes for the gut responses and gets a wide palette of sound colors going.

Those who dig Parker and Silva will find lots to hear on this. And Abdelhai is well worth hearing as well. I couldn't help wishing that a Sunny Murray would come into the fold to make it a quartet. But one gets used to this trio format quickly and there's much good for the free-jazz ear.

Find out more about this and other Limited Edition JaZt Tapes by going to

Thursday, May 9, 2013

John Vanore & Abstract Truth, Culture

Philly based John Vanore writes some beautiful charts. . . probably nowhere more so than on his new, fourth album with the large band Abstract Truth, Culture (Acoustical Concepts 47). There is a good variety of music on this offering, from a nice big-band rethinking of Shorter's "Footprints" to a reworking of a piece by classical composer Frederico Mompou. In between there's some formidable original charts by John, including "Easter Island Suite."

The band has power, precision, and finesse. There is good soloing that is out front pretty often, from John on trumpet and Bob Howell on tenor, among various others.

This is heavy-hitting fully modern big band music from a tight organization. They are seriously advancing the big-band cause with some excellent music. Definitely recommended!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bennett Paster, Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful

A good hard-bop session still makes it in my book. That's what you get with Bennett Paster's Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful (self released). The gathering is in the form of a sextet, with guest percussionist Gilad adding a seventh voice for part of the set.

Bennett Paster penned the compositions and plays a quite convincing piano for the program. He's got a Harris through Hancock feel, harmonically hip, line fluent. There's a three-horn front line for those Blue Note type voicings and Paster takes advantage in the writing. Joel Frahm is on tenor, Tim Armacost on tenor and soprano, and Alex Pope Norris plays the trumpet. All can solo in the syle with good facility, velocity, and taste. And they do. The rhythm team of Gregory Ryan and Willard B Dyson Jr, bass and drums, do all you would expect to get the session swinging.

It's well-crafted mainstream jazz, with nicely written tunes and well played solos. You will not be disappointed if you come to it expecting to hear the serious side of what that is. And your toes will tap when they feel it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Szilard Mezei Tubass Quintet, Canons - 2nd Hosting

I'll say it straight-off. Szilard Mezei is one of the most interesting jazz composer-instrumentalist-bandleaders active in Europe today. If you don't know of him much, it's because his releases do not shout out their existence, exactly. They are mostly small quantity albums on important but hardly mass-marketed avant jazz boutique labels, which I often favor--as of course regular readers know.

A near-perfect example of the sort of release I speak of is his new one on No Business, a fine label out of Lithuania. This one is an LP pressed in only 300 copies, Szilard Mezei Tubass Quartet's Canons - Second Hosting (No Business NBLP 56).

This one may not jump out at you right away. That's probably in part due to the very unusual instrumentation: Szilard and three others on contrabass and a tuba player!

The sound is dark and burnished. The improvisation out front, the compositional motives typical Mezei in that they bear his autographic stamp--the way of irregular phrasing, repositioning tonal commonplaces so that they become unusual.

This may not be one to start with if you want to know about his music. My blogs cover a good number of those so search here and on the Gapplegate Guitar blog and you'll find others. But there nonetheless is the characteristic daring presence on this one that makes Szilard an artist to listen to closely.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Oscar Brown Jr. and Maggie Brown, We're Live

Oscar Brown Jr., who passed in 2005, was one of America's premier jazz vocalists-lyricists-songwriters. He is captured vividly in tandem with his formidably singing daughter Maggie in a live gig recorded in Chicago sometime in the later years, when he didn't get too many record offers because of his political leanings. This is previous unreleased, first-class Brown. We're Live (ESP 4071) pits Oscar, Maggie, and another daughter, Africa Pace Brown in a cameo vocal appearance, with a solid piano trio of Miguel de la Cerna (piano), Yosef Ben Israel (bass) and Avreeyal Ra (drums).

The set gives you a widely encompassing sampling of the Browns's hard-bopped vocals, including a lyricized version of "Billie's Bounce" and other Bird classics, "When Malindy Sings," originals and some blues, all done with distinction.

Whether you are a Brown enthusiast and have most or all of his sides, or are new and seeking out a good sample of his music, you'll be well-served by this one.

Verneri Pohjola & Black Motor, Rubidium

There have been some excellent avant jazz recordings coming out on the Finnish TUM label lately. One you may have missed is Rubidium by Verneri Pohjola & Black Motor (TUM 031). There is good free jazz avantness here, directly from Finland, by trumpet exponent Verneri Pohjola and a trio of local freemasters known as Black Motor: Sami Sippola on tenor and soprano, Ville Rauhala on contrabass, and Simo Laihonen on drums.

Black Motor have seven CDs of their own out and eight years gigging together. They cite Brotzmann, Ayer, and Rashied Ali as prime influences. With this four-way conjunction that includes Pohjola, I hear also the infuence of early Garbarek, Stanko, Vesala and perhaps middle-period Ornette/Cherry. Black Motor began collaborating off and on with Pohjola in 2009 and continue to do so today. This CD, of course, is a documentation of what they are up to.

It's a bracing set of numbers, mostly originals by Pohjola and Rauhala, and some beautiful free synchronicity and lucid eloquence from all four, sometimes simultaneously, other times with a more classical sort of solo-rhythm breakdown.

These are excellent players creating some very magical avant jazz. I am impressed!

Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgeway, Randall Colbourne, Green Underworld

Green Underworld (11th Street Music CD 2013) is a moody jazz-contemporary offering by the distinctive trio formed by Cheryl Pyle, flute and poetry, Max Ridgeway, guitar and acoustic bass, and Randall Colbourne, drums.

It has free elements, poetic depth and improvisational expressiveness. There is a new music influence that can be heard especially in some of the ravishing flute lines and guitar explorations. It's a music of mood, a quietly spacey journey through some murky green depths, a kind of drifting toward a peace of understanding, a pieced-together landscape of seaweed and seafoam.

All three collectively produce a music of originality, with Ms. Pyle's flute and quiet poetry evoking the modern art of Miro and Klee, gentle abstraction, angular lines. The three together produce a modern avant melange that goes about its way with an avant mellow-dee scape that relaxes yet is three-square in a free innovative zone, a sort of improvised jazz version of Morton Feldman's quietude. Flute, guitar and free, quiet, inner-directed percussion meld with Cheryl's recurring poetic action-imagery to set out a special place for our ears and inner imagination.

It's very easy to hear and puts one in a zone that feels good. If you come for the flute, which you should, you'll leave with a feeling of group stasis, of steady-state wonder at the mysteriousness of existence, of the floating oceanic vastness we live surrounded by.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Maucha Adnet & Helio Alves, Milagre

Brazilian song, whether firmly jazz-entrenched or not, is something I respond to. And that's what I am doing with vocalist Maucha Adnet's album in tandem with sensitive and ravishing pianist Helio Alves, Milagre (Zoho 201302).

Maucha is an excellent singer, filled with soul and musical feeling. Alves has samba jazz subtlety and style in his pianism, an excellent player. The two tackle a set of great songs, some familiar to me, others not but all worth experiencing. There are songs by Gil, Jobim, Buarque, Veloso, Pascoal, de Moraese, and others unfamiliar to me. All have that subtle rhythmic lilt that a great vocalist puts forward with this music. It's all there.

Magic is in the air on this disk. I revel in it. If you like classic samba-bossa song, this duet will send you!

The Charles Gayle Trio, Look Up, 1994

At what point is the incandescent sax work of Charles Gayle, as far as recordings go, enough? I only say this because the initial period of his ascent into the free jazz firmament has a consistency of outlook and execution that, once encountered, begins to sound similar from release to release. A new one, the Charles Gayle Trio's Look Up (ESP 4070) has been out for a little while and listening to it at length gives me a deja vu feeling.

It's a live date from Santa Monica, 1994. The band is an excellent one: Michael Bisio on bass and Michael Wimberly on drums. The sound is good, except Maestro Bisio is not entirely audible in the ensemble onslaughts. He has some nice unaccompanied moments however to make up for that. Wimberly is dynamic free heat throughout, pushing and prodding Gayle forward. Gayle himself is ablaze with Aylerian explosivity, pitching forward with the no-nonsense freedom that brought him to our attention with force in those days.

I guess if there is a point where we look for movement in his music (which we certainly get on his piano dates), this was not the time for him to give it to us, as he was still establishing the full-throttle presence and legendary persona-come-into-the-fray that brought such initial acclaim. He sounds anything but predictable here.

The set is marred slightly by a eight-minute verbal explosion Gayle throws at us to a free tumbling backdrop. It's angry, it's non-stop and it takes the form of an old-time backwoods sermon on "homosexuals," "fornicators," people who smoke, murderers, intellectuals and other variegated undesirables, and how they cannot listen or understand Dolphy, Trane, and etc., until they embrace the father, son and holy ghost. That seems to be the gist of it. If it's how he felt at the time, so be it. It does seem a bit extreme and the level of anger perhaps slightly mystifying. Not that he doesn't have the right to be angry--it's what he chose at this point to be angry about that I don't quite get. Quite obviously this is about the kind of gospel sincerity Ayler came across with towards the end of his career. Here it less convincing and, truth to tell, on repeated listens annoying.

The rest of the album is aces, though. At what point is enough of this period enough? Perhaps not yet, depending on how many recordings you have of '90s Gayle. This one has lots of heat and a crack team of Bisio and Wimberly to egg Gayle on. So it's mostly very nice to have.

Lucian Ban & Alex Harding Tuba Project, 2005

I am shifting backwards for a moment to a recording a few years old that I am only now getting into, that seems worthwhile discussing nonetheless for its virtues. I speak of Lucian Ban & Alex Harding's Tuba Project (CIMP 337), recorded in 2005 and released shortly afterwards. It's a disk I came upon in the course of my tenure at Cadence reviewing music and am finally getting a chance to hear closely in the last couple of weeks.

Pianist Ban and baritone saxman Harding put together an outstanding unit consisting of selves plus tenorist dynamo J.D. Allen, tuba stalwart Bob Stewart and weighty drummer Derrek Phillips. Lucian wrote and arranged all but one number; Alex handled one of his own.

What is striking about the music is the level of performance throughout, which is high. Bob Stewart always is a pleasure to hear in a rhythm team role and he adds great strength to ensemble passages. Phillips breathes drummer's fire to get the band moving. Harding and Allen make an excellent solo front line and Ban adds to it as well. Their collective onslaughts have a Mingusian Blues & Roots coherence and burning consistency. Individually they are formidable as well.

The excellence and execution of the compositions-arrangements put this session in a class of high distinction. It is a model of some good ideas put into play with soul. And the CD sounds just terrific, the bottom rich and nuanced, mids and highs crisp and well balanced.

In short everything was right on this one. It may be a bit of a sleeper but you should take the trouble to seek it out while you can. Many stars for this one, if I gave out stars.