Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nedudim, Fifth House Ensemble, Baladino

Nedudim (Cedille CDR 90000 164) is what you get when the Fifth House Ensemble, Baladino and composer Dan Visconti put their collective creative energies to work. The three together give us a beautiful fusion of Middle Eastern, European and American folk traditions--with direct channelings of Israeli, Iranian, Spanish, and Indian folkways into a contemporary amalgam both extraordinarily diverse and effective.

My expressive self has been a happy recipient of this music for several weeks now. Each number shows off the sizable amassed forces, say for example vocals, violin, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, clarinet, oud, percussion, nay and shofar for "Si Veriash a la Rana."

Each number reflects the varied backgrounds of all concerned with traditional songs arranged deftly or new compositions reflecting and combining the collective heritage of all.

It takes a bit of adjustment and a release of your everyday expectations. Once that happens you will revel in a sophisticated and musically keen world amalgam that is a joy to hear.

Heartily and happily recommended!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Okkyung Lee, Christian Marclay, Amalgam

Christian Marclay's abstract, new music turntable infusions blend vitally with Okkyung Lee's extended cello techniques on the impactful duo improvisation amalgam (Northern Spy 082 CD).

It is a continuous barrage of lively sonic collage we hear for some forty minutes, nimbly bounding from sound-event-station to sound-event-station, ever in development, ever pursuing an open destination.

The album was captured live at Cafe Oto and nicely expresses the creatively spontaneous inspiration of shining in the moment.

There is a beautifully open rapport between Lee and Marclay that involves an acute awareness of the sonoric possibilities of color-timbre discourses in real time. The noise element contrasts with notefull textures dramatically throughout the set.

This is a vibrant contemporary example of the exceptional flowering of new music improv that has taken place in this century thus far. As talented individuals encompass a greater and greater spectrum of  sound poetics we begin to see a dramatic increase in spontaneous expressivities and at times a great distance between the language of such performances and earlier "free" vocabularies.

A brave new sort of world confronts us on the best of such event gatherings. Amalgam reminds us how far we have come, how Lee and Marclay are exemplifying and pointing towards new sonic frontiers.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Joe McPhee, Flowers

Saxophonist Joe McPhee has been a key member of the new jazz community for so long now that some might tend to take him for granted. They should not. After all his long-time partner in Trio X, bassist Dominic Duval, has recently left us. We must appreciate and celebrate our masters while they continue to flourish.

And so as a timely reminder we have a newly released, all-alto-solo Joe McPhee album Flowers (Cipsela 005), which was recorded live at the 2009 Jazz ao Centro Festival in Coimbra, Portugal.

It is a thematically unified affair--with a series of dedications (for Ornette, John Tchicai, Anthony Braxton, etc.) which serve as catalysts for some state-of-the-art improvisations.

Joe is in great form, seemingly inspired by the appreciative audience. And you find yourself caught up after a few listens in the logic-soul of the spontaneous moment.

It is an excellent set, a great one to have. Long live Joe McPhee!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nick Fraser Quartet, Starer

Here's a crack quartet led by drummer Nick Fraser. Starer (Ontario Arts Council) deftly combines new music and free jazz with Fraser's compositional frameworks that set off the open drumming, the bottom density of double bassist Rob Clutton and cello intensities of Andrew Downing, nicely balanced by the tenor and soprano exuberance of the formidable Tony Malaby.

This is music that wakes you up to new possibilities that lay out well and pointilistically drive forward with a contrapuntal kind of avant swing that starts with Nick's all-over fullness of tone and gets handed forward with the complex string work and sax soulfulness. It is a furtherance of the Too Many Continents album Nick and Tony did a while ago with Kris Davis. Clutton and Downing give the music a different spin but it's all on the road to the very new.

It is both very original and very successful in its free-structured juxtapositions.

One of the more startling avant jazz albums this year to date. Bravo Nick and Quartet! Get this one!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Kasper Tom, Rudi Mahall, One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure

The ever-present duo formation in avant jazz gets another fine example with drummer Kasper Tom and reedist Rudi Mahall's One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure (Barefoot Records 050 CD). The two have been regular performing partners for some time now (type "Kasper Tom" in the search box above for three examples of the two in a larger group setting). But this is the first to my knowledge of the two in duet.

Nine spontaneous numbers fill out the CD with nicely turned improvs, Rudi unleashing his arsenal of clarinets in his special way and Kasper Tom playing consistently brilliant and inventive free drums.

Clearly, the two are in top form and engage in high-level dialogues throughout. Once again we have some elevations of the spirit that bear repeated listening, marking the Euro scene as a hotspot for the new jazz. Kasper Tom and Rudi Mahall make for essential listening.

I do recommend you get this one!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Keefe Jackson, Jason Adasiewicz, Rows and Rows

From the continuing renaissance of avant Chicago jazz we have another interesting reunion and an album of bold sonic assertion--namely tenor-bass clarinetist Keefe Jackson and vibist Jason Adasiewicz on their latest duet Rows and Rows (Delmark 5024).

Each has of course developed his own sound and this duet is free flowing yet structured with some excellent compositional ideas from the two. That makes considerable difference in giving us a stand-out album.

And that's one of the hallmarks of new Chicago--they challenge themselves to pull a little bit more forward with every project via good ideas and excellent execution.

You listen to these two together and how they have devised worthy motifs to improvise around, fulcrum points as it were, and you get a program that speaks freshly of the continuing evolution of the avant improviser.

This session has it all going on--concept, motifs, beautifully thematic improvisations and an adventurous dynamic.

Another great example of how Chicago continues to remain vital!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lefteris Kordis, Mediterrana (Goddess of Light)

Something fascinatingly different is in store for us today. Greek jazz composer-pianist Lefteris Kordis presents his album Mediterrana (Goddess of Light) (Inner Circle Music 052). It is a stunning example of cross-cultural fusion (Greek and jazz in an acoustic setting) that features Lefteris and his very ear awakening way with the fusion he is all about (piano, and added synth for one cut), plus a trio of Petro Kampanis on bass (replaced by John Lockwood on one cut) and Ziv Ravitz on drums, a very artistically capable threesome in themselves. They are joined at various times on the album by the specially colorful sounds of Harris Lambrakis on ney, Roni Eytan on harmonica, Vasilis Kostas on laouto, Alec Spiegelman on clarinet and bass clarinet and Sergio Martinez Diaz on cajun and claps.

The additional players color the music nicely and set up the compositional thrust of Lefteris in ways that stand out.

The music rocks and swings genuinely and makes the composed and improvised material especially vivid.

It is a music so thoroughly woven together with the strands of Kordis' background and very contemporary jazz that there is no pulling apart at any time.

It is an outstanding vision of real fusion today, as valuable for Lefteris' piano as it is for the compositions and arrangements. Kudos for this! Get it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Julien Palomo, Scutigere

Julien Palomo, head of the avant Improvising Beings label, is also a gifted composer-instrumentalist.

His newest venture is a full CD-length electro-acoustic work entitled Scutigere (E198). It is a soundscape that takes a long-form approach to its sprawling, ever-unwinding sonic tapestry. There are event-oriented sections but also an endlessly floating, suspended continuity. Sustained elements evolve and change while a sort of orchestral blend of distinctive timbral washes ebb and flow like the tides.

It takes its time and ideally you the listener need to slow down and surrender to the flow of musical ideas.

There are repetitions that mostly occur over long time spans and those repetitions develop and mutate so you find every few minutes that the music has changed a great deal though you still remain a'swim in the sonic tidal washes.

It is one of those singular works that travels along so evocatively that the hour's elapsing play time seems much more brief, or even virtually timeless.

Kudos to Julien on this one. It is surely one of the most important electroacoustic works in the last few years, to my mind. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Peggy Stern, Z Octet

Jazz-composer-pianist Peggy Stern is new to me. Her Austin, Texas-based music is very nicely presented on her recent Z Octet (Estrella Productions).

The Octet is a lively group of musicians well attuned to Peggy's arabesques, her contemporary freshness, her well-voiced, very original contemporary approach. Peggy's piano (and vocals on one number) are joined by a somewhat unusual instrumentation of clarinet, flute, trombone, cello, bass and drums, plus Suzi Stern on vocals for two pieces.

The lines she writes have unexpected aspects and tonal yet not-at-all common touches. And the sort of thoughtful arranging of the voicings gives you a sonance that stands out. There are good players here--capable of improvisations that have the sound of surprise that goes with Peggy's music.

Pretty outstanding, this all is! Get a copy if you want to dig into something new and substantial in the jazz composition realm.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Red Trio, John Butcher, Summer Skyshift

The pairing of the excellent Portuguese avant blockbuster the Red Trio and the ever idea-and-fire-stoker tenor-soprano John Butcher is a great idea and it sizzles its way through a wildly lively set on the recent album Summer Skyshift (Clean Feed 372).

The trio itself has been outstanding for while now. Rodrigo Pinheiro's piano  is an explosion of wonderfully executed, dramatic ideas, Hernani Faustino responds with parallel virtuoso all-over heat, and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini gets his own sound with busy and very open creative time. Add Butcher's over-the-top energy and timing and you have a free outing that is hard to top.

This has all the good things about live jazz, recorded in a bright flame at the Jazz em Agosto series last year.

This one is a definite cork-popper, a model of extraordinarily productive four-way inspiration. Strongly recommended!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Eri Yamamoto Trio, Life

Eri Yamamoto, her piano and her trio return with a nice new one simply entitled Life (AUM Fidelity 099). David Ambrosio supplies the very fundamental bass playing that anchors the music fleetly and somewhat lightly, melodically and rock solid. Ikuo Takeuchi plays some swingingly busy drums with some subtle touches that set off Ms. Yamamoto's well-conceived and original pianism.

All but one of the compositions on the set are hers, with one by Ikuo. They have a great variety, from a jazz waltz to a jagged figure to improvise off of to a sort of zombie rocker, there is whimsicality but understandably a definite seriousness of purpose in all of this.

Eri's piano style has harmonic and melodic complexity--she may have been influenced by, say, Bley and Tyner, yet there is a great deal of originality on display, even a bit of humor.

Altogether a winner of an album!  Bravo Ms. Yamamoto!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Elektra Kurtis & Ensemble Elektra, Bridges from the East

Violinist Elektra Kurtis and her Ensemble Elektra are back again with a new one that once again sings out with a kind of fusion jazz that gives us a strong eastern folk flavor--from Greece, the Baltics, the Mid-East and combines it with jazz fusedom.

This one is called Bridges from the East (Milo Records 301). Elektra as you may well know is a gloriously rhapsodic violinist who has the brilliance to meld wonderfully the violin's eastern roots, its jazz heritage and its classical history into a style that is all Elektra. Curtis Stewart seconds her nicely as the other violinist in the band and he can swing! Then there is the irreplaceable eastern-jazz clarinet Lefteris Bournias, plus the crack rhythm team of Bradley Jones on electric bass and then the ever-insightful drumming of Reggie Nicholson.

Elektra's compositions are as ever right on the mark and the arrangements capture the special eastern fusion blend for which the ensemble is famous.

Nothing missing here. Another gem from the ensemble!

Sinikka Langeland, The Magical Forest

Some of the current ECM stable of artists have combined folk, early music elements and ambient ECM jazz in startling ways. Sinikka Langeland is one such as you can hear in her new album The Magical Forest (ECM 2448). "Magical," "enchanted" are words that some to mind listening. Sinikka has a lovely voice and plays the kantele, a kind of folk harp, and she is joined for this album by the Trio Mediaeval, three female voices of otherworldly grace and charm. Also on hand is her Starflowers quintet that includes Arve Henriksen on trumpet, Trygve Seim on tenor and soprano saxes, Anders Jormin on double bass and Markku Ounaskari on percussion, a very capable outfit that expands the sound with a folk-jazz spaciousness.

The lyrics and hence the theme of this album is centered around the legend of the World Tree, axis mundi.

It is an album that places you on a folk-jazz terrain that is exceedingly beautiful, like no other exactly, lyrical and sonically uncanny.

If you are looking for something new and lyrical and are not sure of what, this one may give you what you cannot quite name. It's like that. It is beyond our age yet belongs to it exceptionally well.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Quinsin Nachoff, Flux

Some albums suddenly grab you at the second listen or so for their remarkable qualities. Tenor saxophonist-jazz composer Quinsin Nachoff's album Flux (Mythology Records MR0012) did that to me. He works here with a bassless quartet of self on tenor, David Binney on alto, Matt Mitchell on piano and keys, and Kenny Wollesen on drums and percussion. These are players with lots of fire and soul that devote themselves to realizing Nachoff's unusual and sometimes complicated pieces with exemplary spirit and interpretive brilliance.

The lines are almost folksy-Bartoksy, but no, there is a Nachoff-sian something, too, that sets it apart.

If you are looking for brainy heat, you can put your money on this one. It is excellent.