Friday, April 29, 2016

Almeida, Doynhoven, Klein, Vibrate in Sympathy

If you want to get a quick bead on the trio of Tobais Klein (alto sax, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Goncalo Almeida (double bass), and Martin van Duynhoven (drums), specifically on their album Vibrate in Sympathy (Clean Feed 341), you might consider the three dedications appended to three of their numbers, that is to Henry Threadgill, Oliver Lake and Ornette Coleman. I do not mean to say that those three dedications explain the music fully and we can be done with it. But it does give you a hint of what to expect.

Klein, Almeida and van Duynhoven do manage to give us their own vision of a freely articulate trio jazz with crucial compositional and improvisational elements that are certainly beholden to the avant tradition of the three masters paid tribute to. Klein gets considerable torque on the alto and makes the bass and contrabass clarinets speak with great color. He manages NOT to sound too much like anyone else in the process. He is soulful, noteful and original. Almeida is very much a full-blown virtuoso on the contrabass, fulfilling a special function on arco and pizzicato for the compositional sections, an ensemble bassist of great skill and invention, and a soloist who makes for lines of continual interest. And van Duynhoven finds a comfortable, catalytic niche as a swinging time component when called upon, or as a creative drummer in the open freedom zone. What he does always seems right for the moment.

Take all of that and lay it out in nine numbers and you have some seriously worthwhile music, a trio seriously contributing to what is happening today. They put a good deal of thought, feeling and interplay into the set. In the end you go away smiling. Because this one HAS the genuine frisson the new new thing needs to launch into excellent musical territory. Highly recommended!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Marilyn Lerner, Ken Filiano, Lou Grassi, Live at Edgefest

Today we have a very worthwhile LP recorded Live at Edgefest (no business NBLP 90) in Ann Arbor, 2013, featuring the excellent trio gathering of Marilyn Lerner on piano, Ken Filiano on bass, and Lou Grassi on drums. This is by no means their first but it is one of their very best, the live setting that day inspiring them to do some of their most compelling abstract avant-free playing.

The set features four longish collectively composed-improvised numbers that show a three-way dialog of a very high caliber. Each artist is saying something original and vital, and each gets plenty of room to interact and make significant statements of a free sort. Lou Grassi is one of the most important drummers on the avant jazz scene, playing well conceived, colorful washes of drum sounds with a dynamic and deliberation that make for a wide-open set of possibilities for the trio. Ken Filiano is the complete bassist, whether in arco or pizzicato mode, with a sure sense of phrasing and a propulsive, driving arc of sound color and soulfulness. Marilyn Lerner is very much a pianist who finds a special middle ground between scatter dynamics and advanced harmonic-line freedom. There is something of the new music approach to her playing as well.

The three give us an album that is thoughtful and full of feeling, expressive and dynamic. It is one of those albums that has so much to offer musically that it takes a few listens to fully digest.

Highly recommended. A piano trio in full flower, playing an unhindered and inspired set. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Valery Ponomarev Jazz Big Band, Our Father Who Art Blakey

In the later phase of Art Blakey's celebrated bands came to our ears the Russian trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, who had internalized the brassy exuberance of the Brown-through-Morgan-through-Hubbard trumpet school and made something of his own from it. Now these many years later he is still at it and with his tight and swinging Jazz Big Band he plays loving tribute to the master, in Our Father Who Art Blakey (Zoho 201601). Benny Golson makes an appearance and sounds fully himself.

The band is a crack outfit who prevails live at JALC's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and the Zinc Bar for an invigorating set of hard bop classics nicely turned for big band. Timmon's "Moanin, " Hubbard's "Crises," Duke Jordan's "Jordu" and "No Hay Problemas," Golson's "Blues March" and Valery's own "Gina's Cooking."

The huge swing associated with Blakey's group is there, the band is very tight indeed, and Valery shows us he's lost nothing of the old fire. Valery's arrangements seem entirely right and there is no shortage of good soloists here.

So this is much more than a typical tribute album--it's the transposition of the Blakey repertoire and style into first-rate big band music. Good show!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Big Picture Holiday, Shimmer and Melt

Big Picture Holiday and their album Shimmer and Melt (ropeadope 284) provides a contemporary kind of jazz-rock-funk music that sneaks up on you with successive listens. The first listen allows you to establish its affinity with what has come before, but then as you listen several more times there is something uniquely memorable that hits you.

The band is made up of Avram Fefer on saxes, bass clarinet and alto flute (and regular readers of this column may recall previous releases of his. Type his name in the search box for a few of those.) Then there is Kenny Wessel and David Phelps on electric guitars, Alexis Marcelo on electric pianos, Jason DiMatteo on electric bass, Chris Eddleton on drums and Todd Isler on percussion--the latter for three of the eight numbers.

The compositions-arrangements are more than mere platforms for the solo work of Avram, the guitarists and Alexis on keys, though they most certainly set the scene for some very nice improvisations, especially from Avram. The written parts are in the progressive rock-jazz mode, perhaps reminding a little of later Soft Machine and the later Soft offshoot outfits. There are nicely pronounced interlocking parts that give an edge and substance to things, sometimes even incorporating at times minimalist roots that provide another dimension to the grooves.

And it is the superior arrangements-compositions that, as you listen a few times, bring the music into the memorable territory. And the solo work reinforces that even further.

In the end this is an album that grabs onto you and leaves an excellent impression. If you want music that grooves yet gives you something sophisticated and advanced, this one is a definite for you!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Peter Kuhn, Dave Sewelson, Gerald Cleaver, Larry Roland, Our Earth / Our World

Peter Kuhn is one of those important avant jazz figures who doesn't always get the credit he deserves as a saxophonist of stature. The reasons for that are many, and I do not need to go into them here. But happily we have a new album with Peter and a fine quartet of fellow travelers in great form, Our Earth / Our World (pf Mentum CD 096). It's the band live as part of Arts for Arts Our Earth / Our World series, recorded in NYC this past April, 2015.

It's a full blown blast off into free-avant territory with Peter on alto, tenor and Bb clarinet, nicely seconded by Dave Sewelson on baritone and sopranino, Larry Roland, bass, and Gerald Cleaver, drums. The recording is clear and mostly well balanced, if perhaps not of the highest quality, but the music itself is such that you forget about that once it all gets going and zero in on what is happening.

Peter and Dave get some magical two-horn dialogs rolling, but then also take plenty of solo space on their own too. Larry and Gerald bring to our ears a free-zoned and primally grooved rhythm tandem and keep the fire stoked nicely. Gerald is one of those drummers who should be listened to carefully because he is always inventive and well worth the attention.

It's some fire-y free music in the avant tradition and a rare chance to hear these artists together pushing the envelope and letting everything follow the creative wind.

I am glad to have it and I do recommend you check it out, especially if you do not know these players well or at all. Encore!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Jutta Hipp, Lost Tapes: The German Recordings 1952-1955

Pianist Jutta Hipp embodies one of those tragic tales of lost opportunity. She began her career in her native Germany, made some strides in recognition, got the attention and approval of Leonard Feather, who recorded her and sponsored her migration to the United States in the mid-'50s. There she recorded several albums for Blue Note, became enamored with the hard bop pianistic style, had a brief club presence and rather abruptly faded into the woodwork in the States, though she remained here until her death in 2003.

My adventurous record collecting days in early adulthood found me tracking down a couple of her Blue Note sides and later another of her with Zoot Sims that was reissued on CD. I had heard that her original work in Germany put her loosely in a Lennie Tristano mode, but it is not until now that I have been able to hear it. Lost Tapes: The German Recordings 1952-1955 (SWR Music 423) unearths a CD's worth of live recordings made under the auspices of SWR radio.

It is, to me, a revelation. Much as I do appreciate her Blue Note recordings, it is in this earlier period that she sounds especially interesting to me. The recordings find her in a trio setting and then with the additions of the tenor of Hans Koller, who has a Konitz/Marsh sound, understandably, Atilla Zoller on guitar and a very young Albert Mangelsdorff, who at that point was a budding bopper trombonist who had already gained facility and prowess.

I find this album interesting and worthwhile for what Jutta brings to the sound. She is at times quite adventuresome in her note choices and the occasional complexities of her harmonic comping style.

If you listen closely and sympathetically you hear a pianist coming into her own, playing in a style that seemed to suit her talents much better than the hard bop she later favored. Those who do not dig Tristano and his school can perhaps leave this one alone. But if you are like me and thrive on Lennie's innovations and those that followed in his pathways, you will doubtless hear in these recordings an interesting and talented acolyte who may have gone much further and thrived had she stayed on this route.

Fascinating music from a pianist whose migration to the US ultimately was her undoing. Hear this one if you want to know why she attracted all the attention in those first years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Vijay Iyer, Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke

This duet recording of Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith is significant on a number of levels. Maestro Smith is one of our national treasures, a jazz composer-trumpetist whose long career is filled with greatly inspired musical creations, documented in recorded form in a discography of beautiful things and of course punctuated by his entrancing live appearances across the planet. Vijay Iyer is a pianist of ever-increasing importance. He is a mainstay among recent innovative new jazz pianists.

Vijay was a key member of Wadada's Golden Quartet for a time. There were important moments in their live appearances where the two would embark on duets that took the music to a very high plane.

They have continued to play together as a duet as circumstances allowed, most notably in an appearance together in New York's The Stone early in 2015.

All of that previous interaction serves to introduce and form the foundation of the first all-duet album of the two together, A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM 2486). The program is nicely bookended by an opening Iyer piece, "Passage" and a concluding Smith opus "Marian Anderson," dedicated to the remarkable singer who gave us so much last century.

Central to the album is a joint venture, preworked by the two but ultimately improvised according to the guidelines they set out for themselves in seven segments. The title work "A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke" is the result. It is dedicated to Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990), whose work and outlook inspires a very focused, expansive series of analogous meditations that zero in on alternately dense and intensely quiet sets of ruminations. Wadada clearly revels in his interaction with Vijay, as does the pianist with him. This is landmark modern improvisatory art, a blockbuster of subtlety and inventive concentration.

And so it puts forth some of the best, most moving examples of Wadada and Vijay's current approach. This is one not to miss. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nik Bartsch's Mobile, Continuum

Nik Bartsch is undoubtedly one of the best of the later-day minimalists. He combines well-conceived, ever-evolving contrapuntal interlocking lines that bring ostinato patterns in and out of the musical carpet and devises ingenious variational voices that enter and themselves become ostinatos. There is a logical and rhythmically lively unfolding of ensemble sections, spurred on much of the time with interlocking drum patterns that put the music into jazz-rock-funk territory without losing the mesmeric qualities of the music. And he is consistently inventive, never banal.

His latest, Nik Bartsch's Mobile Continuum (ECM 2464), out on April 22 of this month, brings us a series of eight engaging works. Mobile is the all-acoustic version of his ensemble (Ronin is the somewhat electrified version) and the first on ECM to feature the ensemble. The group consists of Bartsch on piano, Sha on bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, Kaspar Rast on drums and percussion, and Nicolas Stocker on drums and tuned percussion. They are joined by a string quintet for three of the pieces.

Bartsch's vision of the Mobile ensemble from the beginning had a communal collective aim, as opposed to one where individual virtuosity is the main impetus. There is a fascination with Japanese ritual culture, which comes out in the way the music dwells in its space to my mind. Like a traditional Japanese house, space and its material embodiment/containment in physical marking work together as a single experience. Multiple continuities and ritual-sacral defining of the music's presence are all a part of the totality.

There is an unpredictable contemplative element at work in this latest music and it surfaces especially when the overt motor rhythmic rock-funk element is not prominent.

It is as a result an album that alternately reflects and moves rhythmically forward. It is as a result as often a chamber music as it is a music that embodies the dance of patterned sound. Those who expect more of the explicitly motored Ronin need to set aside those expectations and let the music open itself up.

Those who look to Nik for complex space-funk minimal blow-outs are better served perhaps with some of the Ronin sides (type "Bartsch" in the index-search box above for some of my reviews). If you cast those expectations aside, though, this gives you another side of Bartsch's music universe. More quietly, less propulsively mesmeric, it nevertheless gives us a good deal of excellent music to consider, to ruminate upon and with. And there are still a few nicely motored works here, so there is balance.

Very much recommended!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lisbon Connection, Elliott Levin, Luis Lopes, Hernani Faustino, Gabriel Ferrandini

Today another good one from some familiar Portuguese avant jazz artists (familiar to me, and to you if you've read my blogs regularly anyway). The album is dubbed Lisbon Connection (Jacc Records).

On it is a quartet of very simpatico instrumental voices we've heard from a good deal, together in varying couplings and with others: there's Elliot Levin, on tenor, flute and voice, an extroverted, impassioned reed proponent with plenty to say; Luis Lopes, an electric guitarist with an excellent sense of extended sound possibilities and an unpredictable sense of interesting line and cluster possibilities; Hernani Faustino, a bassist with a full arsenal of techniques, a rich tone and consistently good ideas; and Gabriel Ferrandini, an adventurous world-class drummer with a guaranteed ability to enhance any session he is on.

This is intricate, full-blown free interaction of the highest caliber, a counterpoint of sound color, energy and soulfulness, some free jazz exemplary of  the lively Portuguese scene. There are spots for solo, duet, trio and full quartet, with some playfully effective expressionist poetry from Elliott.

If you do not know what's going on in Portugal these days (and there is a lot) this is a very good example of the free jazz end of the spectrum. There are some new music improvisational players too, but you can find that elsewhere on these pages. Anyone who knows these artists will appreciate them in great form here. Or even if you don't.

And so I do recommend this one to you. Sit back and let it unfold before your ears. Bravo!

Friday, April 15, 2016

LAMA + Joachim Badenhorst, The Elephant's Journey

Another interesting release from across the pond, namely the trio LAMA plus Joachim Badenhorst on the album The Elephant's Journey (Clean Feed 331). The group is a good one, Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet and bass clarinet, Susana Santos Silva on trumpet and flugelhorn, Goncalo Almeida on doublebass, effects and loops, and all but one of the compositions, Greg Smith on drums and electronics and one of the compositions.

This is adventurous contemporary avant jazz with a bit of electronics, nicely composed springboards and collective improvisations. Joachim and Susanna give us a good front-line presence for the compositional elements and solo space, and Goncalo plays an important role with ostinatos and in varied other ways, to fill out the ensemble melodically and harmonically as needed. And he has something to say in the solo zone as well. Greg Smith plays an expanded role considerably beyond time keeping and forms an integral part of the ensemble sound.

You hear a beautiful post-Hubbard tone from Susana and it goes especially well with the throaty bass clarinet of Joachim, reminding one just a little of the classic Dolphy-Little lineup in its open and colorful freedom collectivities, or for that matter, Barbara Donald and Sonny Simmons.

It is one of those albums that creeps up on you with successive listens. It is first-rate avant jazz, both improvisationally and compositionally, with an ensemble tight-looseness and appealing blend. It is a most pleasant surprise, ultimately formidable no-nonsense contemporary music on the cutting edge.

Check it out!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Renato Braz, Saudade

The Portuguese term "saudade" has an entire musico-cultural wellspring of meaning surrounding it when it comes to both Portuguese and Brazilian music. A Portuguese translator, nice fellow, I used to work with in my office editorial days told me it was essentially untranslatable. But not if you listen enough to music with that quality, either with Portuguese Fado or Brazilian Bossa-Samba-Song. It is all about either what someone has lost and will never have again, or what one never did and never would have in life but still longed for. It is about the beauty of an aching nostalgia for what cannot be, the deeply sad but transcendent feeling of what is not there for you. Music with this feeling if done right has the sort of beauty that can bring tears or chills, or both.

With this in mind we get a beautiful album of songs sung by Renato Braz, entitled very appropriately Saudade (Living Music LMU-48). Renato gives us a spate of wonderful Brazilian songs, sung with great lyrical feeling, accompanied by his nylon string guitar, and, among others, the Paul Winter Consort, in a welcome return.

Renato's version of the Dori Caymmi-Nelson Motta perennial "O cantador" will give you Renato's beautiful saudade approach. The chorus and how his voice expresses so much in it tells us all we need to know. But of course there is much more here, songs by Chico Buarque, Antonio Carlos Jobim and lots of others, songs that have a way of getting to the essence of it all. Some are new to me. They may not be to others. What matters is they have that special way about them.

Renato Braz and his singular voice is the focal point around which the songs pivot. The arrangements are lyrically strong as well. Braz has that it that makes everything right on the album. The time is never wrong for true saudade. Like the blues, it is perennial. And the time seems exceptionally right for it now. Hear this!


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gabriela Martina, No White Shoes

Some artists hit you on a wave-length that is a natural one for you, and do it with such flair and verve that you are hooked into the music for good and all. Gabriela Martina does that for me on her No White Shoes (self-released). With the exception of some vocalise versions of "Witch Hunt" (Shorter) and "Night in Tunisia" (Dizzy), these are all Gabriela's own songs and arrangements. They are poetic, sophisticated harmonically and melodically, with some rock/jazz overtones and a general unpredictability in the best sense. They stand out.

Her backing musicians are excellent, first-rate and add much to the feel of the music, but primarily this is all about Gabriela's clarion bell-tone voice, a very beautifully expressive instrument, her songs, most memorable and romantically poetic, and her arrangements, which have a dynamic clarity and dramatic pacing.

The more I hear this one the better it gets. Gabriela is marvelous! Hear this one a bunch of times. You'll get it, I have no doubt!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Matthew Shipp, Michael Bisio, Live in Seattle

Matthew Shipp and Michael Bisio are some of the very major players these days on the new jazz-avant-rooted-or-whatever-else-you-want-to call-it scene.

You can hear their forays together in excellent incarnations of Matt's trio and of course they each have extensive discographies of great recordings everyone should check out.

Even though it is a truism that the live situation is many times a step above and an ideal setting in which to hear improvised music, you find some relatively few albums that bring the idea home profoundly.

That to me is very much the case on Shipp and Bisio's recent vinyl LP offering Live in Seattle (Arena Jazz AMP 505494).

Seattle, the "Church" to be exact, was just the right setting for the two to make some joyful sounds on April 30, 2015.

Both are in an exuberant playing mood and the audience reinforces and gives them a feedback-loop that enable them to do some of their best playing yet. They run the gamut from abstract yet madly swinging originals with freedom, yet too with a foundation in the heat of tradition. . .

. . . to some standards like "My Funny Valentine" and "Where is the Love" which they remake in their own sound images, and some strictly free blowing, too. In short they cover something of what they are doing typically these days, but they sound especially inspired on this occasion with the open-ended possibilities that just the piano and the contrabass suggest.

They nail it! Michael is burning in pizzicato and bowing modes, more than keeping pace with Matthew's continuing and extraordinary flame of expression. They scale some of the highest heights, do some of their very best playing here.

It reminds you why these two are at the top of the heap today--both individually and in tandem.

In fact I would go so far to say that this is one of a handful of the greatest piano-bass sets recorded in recent times. It is virtually without peer. It has the burning edge of post-hard-bop, the full breadth of freedom, and the ability to bring in compositional elements via standards and Matthew's inspired pieces. They keep the torch wildly and happily surging forth.

Yeah! Grab a copy of this one!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Jean-Marc Foussat & Jean-Luc Petit, D'Ou Vient La Lumiere!

Today, another invigorating aural outing from Fou Records (FR-CD13), namely Jean-Marc Foussat & Jean-Luc Petit in the epic album . . . D'Ou Vient La Lumiere! It is a sprawling, almost orchestral set with Foussat's live electro-acoustics and Petit's contrabass clarinet, soprano and alto saxes combining for a new-music oriented, free-jazz improvised extravaganza.

What strikes one on first hearing is the nicely realized combination of reeds and electronics, how they work in synchrony and evolve organically with vivid sound panoramas that retain a poetic quality and unfold with a linear thrust. The multi-layered Foussat electro-acoustics form ever-varying dramatic platforms against which Petit's limber and aurally sophisticated reed sonics comment and complement the proceedings creatively and with vivid character.

Each of the four mostly long pieces forms an acoustically advanced poetic whole that has a concerted flow and a conversational agility, a cosmic sound depth, an evenamental thrust, a marked periodicity.

It reminds us that Jean-Marc Foussat is one of the significant leaders and innovators in electro-acoustic improvisational new music today, but also that Jean-luc Petit is a wind-master with a full sound-color pallet and a fertile improvisational imagination.

Get this one for a full-blown journey into the outer realms. There is a consistent realization of long-formed outness that retains your interest and satisfies your craving for the new and futuristic sounds of today! Very recommended.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sarah Bernstein Quartet, Still/Free

The musical worlds of Sarah Bernstein are multi-faceted. There can be dark, moody moments, big electric-like sounds, poetic depth and anything in between, but she is always very much herself. On the current release she gives us music in an expanded tonal, beauteous quartet frame. The album is Still/Free (Leo 746). It centers around Sarah's violin of course and features the ever-piquant Kris Davis on piano, plus some first-rate, intelligent rhythm section drive from Stuart Popejoy on electric bass and Ches Smith on drums.

There are seven Bernstein originals that stand out as special and at the same time allow the band to freely swing around them with inimitable soloing from Sarah and Kris, nicely essential solo and group thrusts from Stuart, and world-class time and freedom from Ches.

It shows us in depth Sarah's more ambitiously modern jazz-centered playing and her carefully and effectively wrought modernist compositions in this vein. It establishes that we have something special going on in the way it all flows memorably, gives us some of her very fine, original violin work, essential Kris Davis soloing too and an exciting cohesive band that I hope can continue to play together, gig, make a bigger name for itself.

I love the music. I think you may well feel the same way. Bravo!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Grego and a Few Words on His New Albums "Osirus in Orion I & II"

Grego here. My seventh and eighth albums, Osirus in Orion I & II (Ruby Flower), are now out and available on Amazon As usual I occupy a little blog space to talk about them. A mock interview format seems like (as before) a way to break it up, so here goes.

Gapplegate: So what is going on with your new volumes Osirus in Orion I & II?

Grego: I wanted to gather together the more interesting of the off-the-cuff tracks I've captured while making some of the more dense and layered music that I've put out on my previous albums. The tracks have been culled from some of the first things I did in the current studio setting and then from various points later on. I had been working with the audience-free avant rock improv unit The Yodlers for more than a decade when 9-11 jarred my sensibilities and made me realize that there were other musical mountains I needed to climb, or at least try to start another climb or two. So I bought a bunch of new musical instruments (financed through a very modest inheritance), put together a recording studio bit by bit and started working on some ideas. The Yodlers operated on a principal of absolute freedom and spontaneity and that was cool. It involved a group dynamic that was often interesting but I was starting to think of different ways to get out to different places and I wanted to work on them a little. So I started with simple capabilities, two-track live and eventually four-track. I mostly just turned on the recorders at first and let something happen. Then eventually I got a much more sophisticated capability that let me compose and arrange for many instruments. But those first spontaneous moments had something too and I later returned to that from time to time to see what would come out. Osirus in Orion chooses some of the very first basement music and then from the later solo things that I thought had interest.

Gapplegate: So how does that work with the cosmos-themed titles?

Grego: Well, all of it has a more or less spacey outlook. There are solo moments for drums alone, vibes, piano and synth keys, guitar with or without beat box, some oriented to a rock crudity, punk-like, some taking inspiration from my surf-music oriented youth, a little in the Rypdal mode, others "free" in the improvisatory style, having in effect a kind of tributory relationship with Cecil Taylor or Sun Ra, but all basically initially or wholly spontaneous and worked into form (in the virtual quartets) or left as a one-take expression of some improvisatory idea. But they strove, all of them, to exit the mundane space and enter into something more outward-reaching. So the space theme worked for me.

Gapplegate: Do you see yourself as an improvisor-instrumentalist? A composer? A sound artist?

Grego: The thing about doing all this music by myself in my basement, I do not see myself at all. I am just a conduit without audience (for these), without a clearly conscious aim, someone who plays a fair number of instruments but not as a "guitarist" a "keyboardist," or what-have-you. I was mostly known as a drummer/percussionist in my active gigging days, though the piano was an important part of my musical life too and the guitar and I have had an attraction to each other from my youth and that never fades. I play some bass guitar here as well but that's in the quartet numbers. It's a matter of loving the sounds, trying to make them happen, getting a facility of some sort but then trying for a musical result that interests me. I play "composer's" instruments, maybe. The thing is I don't really care how people see me as long as my music gets to them on some level. And the idea of sitting down and making some music for yourself has always been key to me. If that music can be heard by others and they get something, that's great, but originally the music on these two CDs was just for myself.

Gapplegate: Do you envision yourself playing with others again? In public?

Grego: Of course. But that wasn't my ultimate aim in the music on these albums. It was making something of the moment, of my life as it was at any point, to put it into sound. Nothing at all pretentious. I just went and DID. This stuff is very personal, sometimes very raw, but absolutely sincere, so much so that I have a certain misgiving putting it out at all, like sharing letters to a lover or something. But ultimately I hoped it might be of interest to folks, some of them, so I put it together and there we are.

Gapplegate: So this is more of your "live" self, playing to yourself?

Grego: I guess so, yes. The virtual quartet pieces are four-times live, the rest are all in real-time, like when I am playing a sustain synth set of chords with my right hand and responding on seven string as a real time sort of dialog, or when I am doing some music against a beat box, starting with guitar, switching to drums, or just simply playing an instrument by itself.

Gapplegate: Do you plan on doing more of this solo work?

Grego: No plans to, no. It's basically a one-time set of musical snapshots that captures the time spent in the first decade or so of the new millennium here outside of NYC. The times may have been rough, and sometimes there was a sheer joy in making music, but it all gets in there somehow. I hope it gives pleasure.

Gapplegate: OK, then. What's next?

Grego: There is a virtual orchestra rock post-Milesian thing, "Expansion," then an album of folk song psychedelia arrangements, all coming soon. After that we'll see.

Aarhus Jazz Orchestra Presents Lars Moller's ReWrite of Spring, Featuring David Liebman and Marilyn Mazur

There have been a few jazz rethinkings of Stravinsky's landmark "Rite of Spring" but none so thoroughly reworked and rethought as Lars Moller's ReWrite of Spring (DaCapo 8.226117-18) which fills two CDs with a studio version and a live version. The Aarhus Jazz Orchestra plays with a marvelous discipline and artistry under Lars' conductorship. David Liebman's soprano and Marilyn Mazur's percussion take on some prominent roles and they rise to the occasion wonderfully.

17 fine musicians make up the Aarhus outfit. They are put through their paces with great results.

The composition ultimately is the main premise here, understandably. Moller is a jazz composer of genuine talent. Whether you know the original "Rite" like the back of your hand or not much at all, the music speaks for itself here in all its throaty complexity. Those who know the Stravinsky will hear motifs emerging from the carpet of big band sounds and so have an inside track of what Moller is up to. But then the results are so engaging in a modern vein that those with big ears will doubtless not fail to appreciate what is going on regardless.

The live version has a bit more time (ten minutes, to be exact) for solo space that Liebman and Mazur take advantage of with the excellence one expects from them.

In the end the idea of a complete "ReWrite" of the "Rite" is a good one. You in effect get a wholly new, wholly modern jazz oriented work that transposes the excitement of the original to a present-day big band context. Moller knows his band, the instrumentation and the players involved well and scores the music with a post-Evans insight into the varied colors, textures and potential power he has at his disposal.

It is a triumph for all, nearly breathtaking in its strength and breadth, performed with magnificance and filled with compositional brilliance.

Strongly recommended!

Monday, April 4, 2016

William Parker, Stan's Hat Flapping in the Wind, 19 Songs Performed by Lisa Sokolov and Cooper-Moore

We get a special window on the more lyrical and intimate side of jazz composer and leading artist William Parker in his new CD Stan's Hat Flapping in the Wind (Centering 1012), as performed by vocalist Lisa Sokolov and pianist Cooper-Moore.

There is a fine balance on these songs between the poetic and the soulful, the reflective and the testificatory, the direct and the impressionistic, the spiritual and the it-ness of existence. There are nods, tributes to some greats now sadly gone, Mahalia, Ornette Coleman, Butch Morris, Jeanne Lee, David S. Ware, Miguel Pinero.

The music begins in effect with William's remembered images of Daniel Carter and his wife Marilyn Sontag coming towards him at Washington Square Park with Marilyn's felt hat flapping about in the wind and yet another occasion with film maker Stan Brakhage doing the same. Both were preludes and presages of artful events about to take place, and somehow the images allow and help us realize a set of characters coming "in and out singing songs that speak about dancing, singing that acknowledges the holiness of the spirit world and the acceptance of mysteries, and songs in praise of song," in William's words from the liners.

And so all 19 songs move us variously as realizations of what the spirit brings to us. The songs range from proudly declarative, pensively thoughtful, affirming and transcending resignation, on the actual and artful capturing of the reality of life and death.

Lisa Sokolov gives us a hugely soulful and dramatically alive singing of the songs. Cooper-Moore gives us a full range of  moods corresponding to the songs at hand, complementing the vocal nuances and the lyric content with a fully fleshed-out pianism.

The wealth of beauty contained in the songs defy any attempts at simplification. Each is like a spring flower, unique in itself and ultimately beyond words, yet filled with poetic saying. Blooming like a momentary impression that vividly captures all, like those hats flapping in the wind, pregnant with themselves and containing the germination of all that is, life and its finite duration and the realization of what has been in every now we are to live.

That is how I feel after hearing these 19 significant pieces of William Parker, each a part of himself yet detached and letting the wind blow through them as sound-in-air.

They have a healing quality. They need to be heard. Hear them!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Matchbox, Jorrit Dijkstra, Pandelis Karayorgis, Nate McBride, Curt Newton

From up there in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we get more of the worthy musical semaphores and full-phores of a modern avant jazz kind that altoist Jorrit Dijkstra and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis have been supplying us with on their Driff label.

The one on tap for consideration today is a nicely expressive quartet date--Jorrit, Pandelis, plus Nate McBride on bass and Curt Newton on drums. The album is called Matchbox (Driff 1501).

This is a quartet that knows where it is going. The compositions, alternately by Dijkstra and Karayorgis, extend the legacy of Monk, Mingus and Dolphy with originality and both swinging and free-flowing architectonics of a pronouncedly geo-angular penchant. Every piece has a pronounced feel to it which the improvisations expand and capture in the jazz moment.

Jorrit opens up the color possibilities with the lyricon and a synth, and that sounds as right as the all-acoustic numbers. Curt Newton drums with smarts, swing and color. Nate McBride shows his formidable flexibility and ability to get where he needs to to make everything work. Then of course Jorrit and Pandelis each are artistic personages with their own special aural footprint, originals in full bloom here.

In the ten numbers featured on Matchbox we get an abundance of inspired avant jazz, some of the best around these days. There is an easy familiarity of the four that comes with a long period of interaction and so we get a chance to hear a seasoned foursome that can anticipate what everybody is doing and follow suit with their own corresponding conversational voice.

This one is a definite treat to hear. Outstanding quartectonics!