Friday, August 18, 2017

Jonah Parzen-Johnson, I Try to Remember Where I Come From

Who is Jonah Parzen-Johnson and why should we care? The short answer is that he is a musician-composer from Chicago. The "why we should care" part at the moment has to do with his album I Try to Remember Where I Come From (Clean Feed 430). It is a series of short compositions Parzen-Johnson created and then realized on baritone saxophone and synthesizer.

The electronic part is somewhere between a piano and an orchestra in depth and density. It is generally filled with motifs and harmonic content. The baritone part involves long lines with circular breathing and cascading, gritty jazz sensibilities.

What stands out in contemplating this music is its totality of expression and driving forwardness. It is contemporary in essence, jazz-laced and both open-spontaneous and prethought-composed-planned.

The two elements mingle together for a venture in musical substance that offers sonic presence and expressive thrust.

It is definitely worth checking out if you appreciate electric-acoustics synergies!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Roots Magic, Last Kind Words



Roots Magic bypasses all the BS out there and zeros in on the roots of magic, the magic of the roots and their capacity to renew us time and again. Roots Magic map it out and let their inner fires kindle on the album Last Kind Words (Clean Feed 437). Alberto Popolla on clarinet & bass clarinet, Errico de Fabritiise alto & baritone sax, Gianfranco Tedeschi on double bass, Fabrizio Sperra on drums and selected guests here and there tear it up.

The selection of songs-compositions are excellent, perfect vehicles to root it out. A number of Charlie Patton blues numbers are pivotal, around which are situated earthy classics by Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Marion Brown, Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett, Pee Wee Russell and a couple of originals. It is exactly the right springboard for an avantly soulful outing that gets the blood coursing through your body.

More could be said. It need not be said because this is a lodestone of hip heat!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker, Whisper, with Dada Villa-Lobos

The heartfelt saudade of Brazilian song means that often enough there is a level of romanticism (in both senses) to be encountered in the music. It is a beautiful sadness that does not wallow in sentiment so much as it engages in affective panoramas of melodic sublimity.

That is what we get quite nicely in Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker's Whisper (Enja 9617-2). Cristina has a lovely voice in the tender realm of an Astrud Gilberto, and an identity of her own. She is an excellent harp player as well, with a very appropriate presence throughout. She is seconded aptly on voice and guitar by Dado Villa-Lobos. The Modern Samba Quintet (trumpet, vibes, double bass, percussion and drums) brings us fine soloing and rhythm work.

The subtitle of this album gives us a hint as to what is in store."The Bossa-Nova Brandenburg Concerto" plays on the presence of the Brandenburger Symphoniker. It does NOT mean that you should expect some kind of Heitor Villa-Lobosian "Bachianas Brasileiras." Or at least, not exactly. The orchestra plays a key role in a lush sort of richly expressive romantic way. And I suppose if you look hard enough you can find traces of Villa-Lobos' presence in some of the orchestrations, which are nicely handled by several arrangers.

The several works that do not center directly on bossa classics have a harp and orchestra element that may recall Gil Evans and Villa-Lobos both. The rest of the music is full throated bossa with vocals by Cristina and Dado, jazz solos by Cristina (I would love to hear MORE of what she does in a harp jazz lining realm here) and the Quintet, and the richness of an orchestral carpeting.

That may not be for everybody, but it is most certainly for those who appreciate a first-rate harpist and vocalist doing Brazilian classics in a large ensemble setting. If you are in that category this is something you will appreciate! Recommended.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rob Mazurek, Rome

Rob Mazurek, cornetist, electronician, composer and bandleader, has in the last several decades made some monumentally important recordings in the realm of avant new jazz. I have been happy to cover many of them in these blogs, and I again put fingers to keyboard in order to give my take on his newest, a solo album entitled Rome (Clean Feed 435).

In this case it is Rob going it alone, playing in and contemplating the eternal city of Rome, what it means in musical terms and how it feels to be doing a spontaneous multi-instrument foray with a particular set of creative actions frozen in time via the recorded medium.

As always it is about Rob's distinctive cornet artistry and also about a great deal more. We get the piano/prepared piano/electronic immediacy that goes into making Rob's singular musical vision what it is. Only in the bare bones solo context we get it unvarnished, expressionist yet not as multiple-lined as his larger and sometimes very much larger bands.

This is a more introspective Mazurek, with boldly underscored cornet, yes, but also his new music piano inventions a very central part of it all, along with an acute sense of sound color that comes out most contrastingly in his electronic spontaneous "orchestrations."

It is an album that does not overpower so much as it opens up a wide space within which some rather profound musical events take place.

It is a slightly different, more intimate Mazurek at hand on this set. Yet with a few concentrated listenings you experience once again some breathtaking possibilities unfold, like pastels on paper as compared with the oversized multiply-worked "canvases" of some of his larger group projects.

Outstanding! Give this your ears, whether you are friends, Romans and/or countrymen!


Friday, August 11, 2017

The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra, Dreaming Big

I am hard pressed to imagine what the economics are of keeping a big band jazz outfit together these days. It is no doubt difficult enough, even daunting to keep a stable and working quartet going. And what about an 18-member unit? I cannot imagine. Nevertheless we have happy evidence that such an outfit can at least rehearse thoroughly and hit the studios to wax an excellent set. I speak of the Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra and their album Dreaming Big (Gold Fox Records GFR 1701).

It is a nicely tight outfit performing the unabashedly modern compositions of Brett Gold. You may hear in his work a distinct Gil Evansesque attention to well orchestrated sonics and well realized through compositions that maintain a high level of musicality throughout. There is a Gold originality that stands forward however, despite his lineal antecedents

There are good soloists to be heard generously, and a very solid ensemble sound that swings and finesses its way through the program seamlessly, and masters the compositional forms with a sure jazz modernity.

There is a consistency and continual fluency to this program. Any admirer of the modern jazz big band will find the New York Jazz Orchestra and Brett Gold's compositions and arrangements a fine thing indeed. Here is breakthrough big band music for today. May they continue indefinitely!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Art Fristoe Trio, DoubleDown

In the course of my sometimes meandering existence as music writer, musician, poetic inventor and liver of life, I sometimes realize how lucky I am. Somewhat broke, maybe, but never bent by the wheel of harsh necessity. Or at least not now after a long struggle to realize my own self-actualization. I stand before you proud to represent the best of the music of today. Not all of it, but a vital corner of it.

An example springs forward for our consideration right now. It is a double CD by pianist Art Fristoe and his trio. Double Down  (Merry Lane Records 2-CDs) is the album by name. It pits the very inventive pianistic and electric pianistic stylistics of Art Fristoe with the totally appropriate accompaniment of electric bassist Tim Ruiz and drummer Daleton Lee or Richard Cholakian. Ilya Janos joins the three on percussion for several cuts as well.

There is strength and interpretive, inventive poetry to be heard in the judicious and appealing mix of Fristoe originals and standards from a wide spectrum of possibilities old and newer. So we get "Alone Together" and "Caravan" but also "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Blackbird."

What is a constant is the rightness and creativity of the arrangements, with sometimes a jazz-rock tinge, other times a central swingingness,  the cohesiveness of the trio and Art Fristoe's piano strengths. He can solo in a neo-bop post-early Corea zone, do some very interesting block and semi-block interpretations and combine a vertical harmonic development and convincingness with a line and melody-interpretive zoning that marks him as very musical in the best jazz-sensible ways. And Art can sing nicely, too. Listen to "Blackbird!"

The music comes across as something accessible to many, yet a fully pleasurable outing for even the most discerning among us. Good going!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LABtrio, Nature City

When you get complacent and think you have a full handle on something like adventuresome jazz, think again. Anytime I am convinced I have nailed it all down, a new batch of CDs arrive in the mailbox and...oh, there is more that is new!

LABtrio has that surprise element going. Their CD Nature City (outhere music 624) makes me sit up and take notice. The group at hand is a piano trio consisting of Lander Gyselinck on drums, Bram De Looze on piano and Rhodes, and Anneleen Boehme on double bass.

After ten years together, the liner notes inform us, they have been taking fresh stock of themselves. On Nature City they seek to delineate their identity more emphatically with a set of demanding compositions that require a very tight presentation but also a spontaneity and freedom.

Perhaps that is a tall order. They manage to succeed nevertheless with a music that may demand concentrated listening to appreciate properly, but then rewards with some exceptionally deep and advanced sounds.

This is jazz on the brink of a full avantness, yet occupying simultaneously a far corner of the contemporary mainstream. That positioning gives us the sort of advanced piano trio all-over threesomeness and takes it fully into a not-derivative place of its own.

I am rather thrilled with Nature City. It is a surface upon which three very talented players make of themselves a very welcome three-headed hydra that excels both in its compositional rigor and its improvisational spaciousness.

Kudos! Hear this one!




Friday, August 4, 2017

Xavier Camarasa & Jean-Marc Foussat, Dans les courbes

If my musical tastes often enough veer from the mainstream, I do not see it as my problem. It is a problem with the mainstream. Why is it that Modern Visual Art/Performance Art can regularly be covered by the mainstream art media, collected by the coterie of wealthy art patrons without complaint, installed in many of the world's most prestigious museums, yet music of a similar advancement is generally disdained, ignored or just plain reviled out there. I seek to redress that in my coverage of the new as well as the not-so-new. If it leaves me in poverty, at least I know I am doing a good turn for the art music scene today.

So today's offering in within that realm, music that is on the edge such that my housemates have their doubts about my sanity or alternately think there is some horrible cataclysm taking place in my living space. What we have is thoroughgoingly adventurous sound sculpting avant fare from pianist Xavier Camarasa and electronic music master Jean-Marc Foussat. The album is entitled Dans les courbes (FOU Records CD26).

What makes this program something superior and musical valuable is the freely articulated sonic understanding both artists bring to the table. The piano becomes almost an electronic vehicle; the Synthi AKS take on an almost pianistic demeanor. Of course that is only so in a sympathetic vibrancy sense. And yet there are much of the time contrasts that have a two-fold independence yet "go together" in non-cliche sorts of ways. The point is that there is an ever-shifting matrix of almost seamlessly cohesive noise and tone poetics that has a narrative quality and a continuity, yet a two-fold distinctiveness perhaps not as often found on the edges of free-new music as it might be.

Plus the sound melds are very musical as well as sonically alive with unexpected confluences.

I keep listening to this one. I keep coming away from it with an ever-increasing sense of satisfaction. That to me is a sure sign that this is avant sonancy of importance.

So not surprisingly I do suggest you dive into this music--provided you are unafraid of the untrammeled and genuinely NEW.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Itaru Oki, Nobuyoshi Ino, Choi Sun Bae, Kami Fusen

You never know (or I do not anyway) what is going to arrive in the mail for review from day-to-day. For example the other day my mailbox contained something by free avant jazz trumpeters Itaru Oki and Choi Sun Bae, and double bassist Nobuyoshi Ino, They gather together as an unusual threesome on the album Kami Fusen (No Business CD). It was a fortuitous meeting of the Korean Choi and the Japanese Oki and Ino. And it is captured in crisp audio clarity.

It is perhaps a somewhat unlikely pairing of two trumpets and bass, but even on first listen you hear the rightness of the three and their inspired interplay. It was recorded at a single live appearance in Japan that went forth without rehearsal. The compositional elements by Oki and Ino, and a standard or two are taken without a hitch and the improvisations travel to freely articulated yet centered and weighted territories.

Ino's bass playing is something to listen to closely. The two trumpeters offer dramatic contrasts in their sound and attack. All three give us something much more than three singulars, Rather three definite plurals come at us and demand our happy attention.

It is one of those one-off gatherings where a natural kinetic electricity is in the air. It is a fine listen, well worth your trouble if you want something open and brilliant.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Paul Rutherford, Sabu Toyozumi, The Conscience

The late Paul Rutherford (d. 2007) was one of new music-free jazz's most accomplished and daring trombonists. Many reading this do not need to be told. Drummer Sabu Toyozumi is an energetic, imaginative and fire-y exponent of free drumming in Japan. A series of annual get togethers in Tokoname of Sabu and select others led in 1999 to a duet meeting of Sabu and Paul Rutherford. The results were well recorded and now happily released as The Conscience (No Business CD).

The all-over sonic barrages of Sabu are exceptional here and set up a beautiful counterbalance to the Rutherford extroversions and trombone explosions.

It is an entirely free performance, and it is so with no flagging or coasting. Both are completely zoned-in and give us nuanced and inventive brilliance from first to last. It could be profitably heard as a kind of primer on the free jazz duet, on free trombone and drum excellence, on what a very productive duet exploration can be.

I am enjoying this one completely, repeatedly. All those interested or curious about freedom improvisations will do well to hear this one.

Very recommended.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Daniel Schlappi, Marc Copland, More Essentials

I have long appreciated pianist Marc Copland as a talented and expressively productive member of what one might call the Post-Bill-Evans School. Everything he plays seems right to me, most always.

A new album is out, a collaboration between Copland and bassist Daniel Schlappi. It is called More Essentials (Catwalk 150013-2). The title would seem to indicate that there was an earlier volume, but I will leave that to the discographers. My concern right now is of course this album.

The program consists of a number of reflective originals by Schlappi and/or Copland, most of which fall under the rubric "Essentials." All are stimulating and reflectively strong. But then there is a very well-chosen set of standards to be heard here, too.

They range from Miles' "Blue in Green," "All of You," Joni Mitchell's "Rainy Night House," Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," and others. The considerable prowess of Daniel Schlappi's bass combines with Marc Copland's pianistic rightness for a truly inspired sort of confluence.

This was one of those albums that I heard once, and immediately wanted to hear again. So, I put it on another time. With my helter skelter schedule I do not often do this. It is an indication of how the music reached me.

Two genuine jazz artistes inspiring each other to a high, a very high level? Yes. Listen to this, by all means!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Anne Vanschothorst, Beautiful World

 
I am generally not one to quibble about musical categories. Yet the internet has made categorical hair-splitting of tantamount importance. So when faced with a release that might fit in a number of blogs I do, I must mull it over somewhat carefully. If I post my review of harpist-composer Anne Vanschothorst's CD Beautiful World  (HSM) on this blogsite it is not because it would not equally belong on my Classical-Modern Music Review site. I place it here because I think perhaps the widest audience might be reached, an audience well versed in ambiance with a sort of quasi-ECM spaciousness.

To start at the top, I have been covering the beautiful harp artistry of Anne Vanschothorst for a while (do a search for her music in the search box of the classical blog). This new one has as a simple premiss some 11 compositions, all featuring Anne's meditative harp and one or more additional performers. So we get Anne with clarinetist Michael Moore, percussionist-drummer Arthur Bont, Thijs de Melker on organ, piano, or bass, Rebecca Star on vocals, and Jon Willem Troost on cello.

It is indeed a music of beauty, ambient not in the tonal fluffdom of typical "new age" music but in the concentric affectivity of Satie and beyond.

There is music anyone might appreciate--for example my spouse and one of the housemates both responded well as they passed through my listening space. And it also offers substantial results for those who demand more exacting content, which I of course do.

It is a moving slice of harp bliss and incisive compositional ambient moodiness. Perhaps it is Anne's best yet! In any case I do strongly recommend this one to you.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pol Belardi's Force, Riaz Khabirpour, Kaiser Quartett, Creation/Evolution

There is refreshing and ambitious artistry to be heard on Pol Belardi's Force and their album Creation/Evolution (Challenge Records Int. 71181).  The Force Quartet I gather is based in Germany. Pol Belardi's electric bass implacably puts the music on solid bedrock. The other quartet members play a central role in realizing Belardi's compositions and arrangements. David Fettmann on alto is energetic but not on the edge of energy playing. That happens to fit the unwinding musicality of line and harmony that Belardi favors. To call it post-Shorterian first occurred to me as I listened a final time while writing these lines. It is not wrong. There is a clarity and resonance you can feel in this music and though it does not strike me was being derivative of Shorter's writing, it does share with Shorter's compositions a kind of advanced melodic-harmonic matter-of-factness that is a good part of what makes this music in essence what it is. But there is more.

Back to the quartet. Jerone Klein on piano has a full musicality and backbones the music while nicely embellishing improvisatorily as called upon. And Neils Engel drums creatively and brings out the compositional and propulsive needs well.

For about half the pieces the quartet is joined by guitarist Riaz Khabirpour and he adds considerable musical texture and finesse. The Kaiser String Quartett also adds fullness and a distinctive compositional complexity and richness to the music on half the program. Pol manages to integrate both into the artistic whole in ways that feel organic and natural.

The sum of the musical results is very motivated by the compositions and how they lay out over time. There is an almost-classical logic to the unfolding of each piece, and a great deal of musical riches to explore and appreciate. It is not quite ECM-ish, not exactly neo-Third Stream, not exactly anything but Belardian. I do sometimes hear an affinity with that old 2LP Keith Jarrett album on Columbia years ago, especially in the string and guitar elements. And it turns out that is a very good thing, a very fulsomely musical thing, and expressive and slightly lyrical thing.
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I would think anyone who likes the idea of a jazz composer-centric music will launch into the music positively. I do recommend it as a substantial offering, perhaps more modern contemporary than avant garde, but such distinctions are not important if the music is worthy. It is! Listen.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day Quartet, On Parade

For those who might have missed Harris Eisenstadt's music, and for those that already know, his recent Canada Day Quartet album On Parade (Clean Feed 413) continues the adventurous journey through compositional-improvisational singularity.

The band is chemically-collectively and individually very well suited as a vehicle to take Harris's compositional structures and flesh them out with a special unity-in-disparity. Of course Harris is on drums with his very creative intelligence. He is a drummer's drummer. You listen to his very varied and subtle yet dynamic approach and you hear so much. Nate Wooley is one of the top tier modern-avant trumpeters out there and his work on this album bears out his deserved high status. He's a dynamo. Matt Bauder is one of my favorite tenors these days because he always comes at you with a strong, varied tone and great ideas. Then Pascal Niggenkemper on bass handles the compositional realizations and improvises with equal power. He is a third horn as much as a rhythm mate of always-in-there talent.

You hear the four-way interplay and improvisations with a smile because there simply are no cliches to be heard! And at the same time the compositions are substantial and weighty in ways that point to Eisenstadt's special approach. There are multi-lines and fresh modernisms always.

So once again I must strongly recommend the new one to you. Modern avant jazz has a seminal force in Harris and the Canada Day Quartet. Do not miss this!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2, Tarvos, with Bobby Kapp




So today I present to you my thoughts on the second volume of the ambitious and endlessly absorbing series, The Art of Perelman-Shipp. Volume 2, Tarvos (Leo LR 795). On it we are treated to the trio of Ivo Perelman, tenor sax, Matt Shipp, piano, and one of the more unsung masters of avant jazz drumming, Bobby Kapp.

Kapp has a supreme feel for getting his drums to SOUND, ringingly and musically, and then how to construct a prose of drum eloquence that is perfect for this threesome.

As the other volumes in the series, it is open freedom throughout that is the order of the day.

Matt sounds his usual excellently appropriate self. He is sometimes less overtly soloistic than he usually is, but what he plays is perfect as a pianistic setup for the proceedings and if you listen concentratedly to what he is doing, you hear how what he is doing goes a long way in establishing what is happening. And then there is some very weighty space eventually where he rhapsodizes freely as only he can!

This volume has some exceptional Ivo Perelman tenor. He wills himself into a sort of twilight world where the immediate mingles with a sort of scumbling presence of the past in jazz sax. I hear, almost hallucinate with the resonance of players like Johnny Hodges, Pete Brown, Ben Webster, there yet as a musical apparition, a ghostly wisp of allusions to what no longer exists except in Ivo's masterful channeling of their long silent echoes.

And so the entire program glows with an aura that is palpable yet intangible. It is a testament to the masterful brilliance of the three frozen in a series of brilliant moments.

Perhaps you should start here with the set! It is a prime example of very rooted and eloquent new free jazz.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rodrigo Amado, Goncalo Almeida, Marco Franco, The Attic

I must say that the work of tenor sax man Rodrigo Amado has over the recent years never failed to leave an excellent impression on me. He is back with a trio of Goncalo Almeida on bass and Marco Franco on drums for the recent CD The Attic (NoBusiness NBCD 98).

It is pure modern avant free jazz in a very open setting. Almeida's double bass grounds everything whether arco or pizzicato; Marco Franco drums his way into an open field with consistent drive and imagination.

And all that sets up nearly infinite possibilities that Rodrigo takes advantage of with some very inspired tenor flights. As one expects, he has a ravishing tone and never flags in his formidable knack to weave endlessly fascinating, soulful and earth stirring lines.

It is an astonishingly great set, in my view. Grab it!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Jared Sims, Change of Address

A new baritone man has arrived. His name is Jared Sims and his latest album is Change of Address (Ropeadope). This modern-day hard bop from the agile baritonist has the torque of a hard hitting organ combo putting it all together nicely behind him.

Jared is joined by Steve Fell on electric guitar, Nina Ott on organ, Chris Lopes on bass and Jared Seabrook on drums. They lock in with the solid grooves that form the bedrock over which everything happens.

And Jared's baritone pushes it all ahead with a stock of good ideas in a post-Pepper-Adams and beyond mode. He has the sound and the good note choice of a formidable baritone exponent.

Seven game originals grace the set and allow Jared to reach maximal expression levels. Steve and Nina spell him with some worthy solos.

In all, good times and good jazz are to be had on Change of Address. Sims comes through and you will be grinning and tapping your foot to this I will safely bet.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Francois Carrier, Michel Lambert, Rafal Mazur, Oneness

OK, there's is another good one out by alto titan Francois Carrier. It is called Oneness (FMR CD444). It is a live date recorded in Krakow, Poland in 2015. Francois is joined by long-time collaborator Michel Lambert on drums and Rafal Mazur on acoustic bass guitar. Rafal gives the music more open spaces than a trio with piano would have, and so there is that much more potential for the three to proceed unhindered by overt harmonies and such.

Now that does not mean that this trio is necessarily better than some of the ones before. You can type Francois' name in the search box above to read my positive thoughts on many of the earlier albums.

All those things aside, the music is strongly motored by the inspiration and suchness of the instrumentation.

Francois is beautifully limber and bursting at the seams with great lining ideas. The man is a fountainhead of energy and form, as much on this one as anywhere. He is one of those who is to the alto in a way what Ali was to boxing. There is continual oblique and unpredictable movement, and the series of "stings" that hit home.

Rafal gives the music continual countermelody, never quite doing what you expect. It gives the music a bottom-center that allows Francois and Michel lots of latitude.

And Michel does what he always seems to do so well--give the asymmetrical  periodicity that expands greatly what diffuse time possibilities are available and actualized.

In sum this is world-class free jazz. You probably owe it to yourself to check it out closely. It is a real kicker!


Monday, July 3, 2017

The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume One, Titan, Ivo Perelman, Matt Shipp, William Parker

When a stellar twosome simultaneously release an ambitious set of seven  freely collaborative explorations, The Art of Perelman-Shipp, one would do well to take notice. They have been in tandem more than a few times before, with over 30 recordings released in the past several decades. The new set is both a summing up and a fresh trail blazing. I start today with Volume 1, Titan (Leo 794). I plan to cover all seven on these pages. In the widest sense, they remake in musical terms the astronomical reemergence of Saturn in our solar neighborhood.

The first volume features Ivo Perelman on tenor sax, Matt Shipp on piano, and William Parker on bass. This makes perfect sense, in that Parker is a present-day TITAN of free music (as he has been for many decades), and especially associated with Matt as fellow-members of David Ware's pathbreaking quartet and later as a cornerstone of some of Matt's best trios.

The Volume One program is broken into six segments. All are freely invented and very much a living, flowing interlocking of the highest sort. Some of the best moments are relaxed, concentrated effusions of three-fold invention. Other sections gradually build energy and torque. The entire CD finds all in peak form and intent on scaling the higher climbs of cosmic stratospherics.

Ivo now and then reaches back for some vibrato-laced allusions to older jazz modes. Matt and William reference and channel the rich heritage of the music as well, all made present as they then further empty the cauldrons of fire and fluidity.

It is one of those dates where everyone clicks together and inspires each the other to surpass where they plateau  momentarily now and again, then take it a step upwards.

It is an auspicious beginning to the set and fully advanced as an excellent offering that stands on its own regardless of the promise of the six volumes to come. More on those soon. Meanwhile by all means hear this first.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Vadam Neselovskyi Trio, Get Up and Go

I must say that the recent CD by Vadim Neselovskyi and his trio, Get Up and Go (jazz family-blujazz BJ3449), is getting my attention in the best ways. Think of Bad Plus for compositions-arrangements on a high level, but then ratchet it up a couple of notches. The intricate compositions of Neselovskyi carry the day, very much so. But they work because the trio (with the fine vocals of Sara Sherpa on a couple of cuts) play the living daylights out of them. They have worked hard no doubt to get themselves into a razor-sharp executionary mode. The results are plaintive in moving ways at times, but then exciting, dynamic, forcefully resilient at other times.

This is virtuoso modern jazz, made possible by the considerable abilities of Vadim, plus Ronen Itzik on drums, Dan Loomis on acoustic bass. They rollick and raise the veritable roof so that you cannot ignore or background what is going on, try as you might (though I surrendered early on to the spell of this one). Neselovskyi has some beautiful improvisational moments throughout, which only add to the proceedings.

I do find myself enthralled with this one. It is something readily understood as contemporary piano trio modernism, but then an original gesture in its own right.

Oh, yes!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Enter Humcrush

Oh, yes! The very first seconds of the music on Enter Humcrush (ShhPuma 030CD) let you know that this duo means business! I don't remember having heard either before, but no matter, because this is a music that both erases the path in front of it and redraws new lines to replace that which has disappeared.

Stale Storlokken appears on Fender Rhodes, synth and electronics; Thomas Stronen is on drums and electronics.

What you get is a very electric-electronic set of hard avant rock-jazz freedom, a sort of evolved psychedelia the way things are in the constant process of panning out today.

Stronen steps forward with the busy rock-funk-jazz depth that you might (and rightly so) trace back to Jack DeJohnette on Miles' "Live at Fillmore." It is a further evolution of what playing time can mean when it is dealt out in strait-eighth rock measure, only smearing bar lines and extending the variations endlessly as bop drummers like Klook learned to do with swing.

And Stale has much to say, freely and bent with fuzzi-cosmic grit or at times cleanly coming forth in sound yet retaining an outside styling both inventive and soulful.

This is one of those albums that asserts and realizes much that heretofore was somewhat latent in avant-free jazz-rock. And it kicks it! Oh, it does!

This is music to check out for sure! Happily recommended.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Staub Quartet, House Full of Colors

Put together a sort of "string quartet" of Portuguese free jazz/new improvised music stars Miguel Mira on cello, Carlos "Zingaro" on violin, Hernani Faustino on bass and Marcelo dos Reis on acoustic and prepared guitar, and you get the Staub Quartet. Their debut CD House Full of Colors (JACC Records 33) is so much more than a chance meeting that you sit up and take notice from the first notes onward.

Those who know these four and their freely inventive prowess should not be surprised. Though I am not in the position to keep score, they have all played together in various combinations and surely belong together. There is nothing casual about these improvisers--everything I've heard of them has a huge sense of purpose and an advanced open form seriousness that often enough verges on the sublime. So I naturally had lots of expectations when I put this CD on my player.

To say I was not disappointed is to say that all the four can be inventively is very much present here. The whole is the greater for the Staub Quartet formation. Each plays a role and as you listen to the six segments you revel in how the colors and textures of the instruments in the hands of these masters come to create totalities that are consistently near breathtaking and sometimes well beyond that.

There often enough is a kind of gestural complementarity between bass and cello, for reasons that have to do with their potential as rhythm section choices in more conventional jazz, but then both Mira and Faustino can of course function as horns and convincingly so. Or of course both are supreme colorists and find a place when there are two-, three-, or four-way blends of that kind of thing. Make no mistake however, this music channels historic jazz only in the most convoluted and indirect ways. There is a kind of "soul" to it all, but a different kind. And the lining is not naked linearity but collectively simultaneous. So does it sound like Armstrong and Oliver? Well, no, not really! So do not expect that. Do expect the outer fringes of avant jazz and new music to have some relation to what you hear.

Zingaro is a supreme solo line-weaver on violin but he can and does also blend his special ways into the whole. Marcelo transforms his guitar sound (whether prepared or otherwise) into the totality so much so that you have to remind yourself that the fourth line is a guitar line. Sometimes he becomes such a shape-changer that he transcends his instrument to become a pure aural force in the complex mix. Listen once through just for him and you'll be surprised and enlightened as to what he comes up with.

All four of course form the matrix that makes all the difference on this album. Nobody is the "star;" the various organic growths they nurture in the six segments have a natural yet uncannily "forward" quality that you must hear with focused intent, to expose yourself repeatedly and gradually to get the full appreciation this album demands and deserves.

It is one of the best outings of all four and it is one of the best "fours" in avant music outings today.

You want to know what is new and important ion free improv? This is one for sure! Excellent!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Michael Pedicin, As it Should Be, Ballads 2

We have come some distance from the time in jazz where the ballad was a fixture (think for example early Miles, Coleman Hawkins) of a typical set by the most advanced of musicians. An entire album of ballads is a rare thing these days, and you certainly do not expect a ballad in a typical set by today's stalwarts. I do not, anyway.

So to me a new release of just ballads is unusual, more so than perhaps it used to be. Tenor-soprano Michael Pedicin is one of the exceptions, as he shows with a second volume of ballads: As it Should Be, Ballads 2 (Groundblue Records).

The album is nicely put together, with eight worthwhile compositions by Johnny Valentino (the guitarist here as well), plus "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and Coltrane's "Crescent". Pedicin is out front with some very fine effusions on tenor and soprano. He is well seconded by Valentino on guitar and Frank Strauss on piano and Rhodes. The rhythm team has a subtle but swinging role. Mike Boone on bass, Justin Faulkner on drums and the well-known  Alex Acuna on percussion distinguish themselves with a proper backdrop for the pellucid and stirring solos.

It is one of those CDs that can be ear candy for the uninitiated yet have full artistic presence for the cultivated jazz listener.

Give this a spin!


Friday, June 9, 2017

Zack Clarke, Random Acts of Order

More interesting free-avant improvisation-jazz by artists I am not very familiar with? I am happy to say yes. Today it is a matter of one Zack Clarke, pianist, electronician, leader of a very capable trio on the album Random Acts of Order (Clean Feed 409).

This is a free trio with a decided difference. Henry Fraser is the double bassist, Dre Hocevar the drummer, and they both contribute much to the outcome. But it is Clarke's pianism that especially wins me over. He has a well developed harmonic sense and a great touch, yet he fits in not much at all with the Paul Bley vs Keith Jarrett-Bill Evans vs Cecil Taylor schools. Actually if I think about it he may have some affinity with early Burton Greene, but not in any obvious way. And there is a jagged quality that may channel Bley but only in the most whispie sense.

He covers spooky ambiance and topsy-turvey free rolling post-swing. And he does it in his very own way. It is an album that hangs together very well.

Zack and trio bring to us another way to slice the avant pie. It is a pleasure to hear and experience this. Something new!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Leap of Faith Orchestra, Supernovae

Leap of Faith Orchestra is New England sax-jazz composer-bandleader PEK's large ensemble. It returns with an ambitious new album, Supernovae (Evil Clown 9125). For this recording the band numbers some 21 musicians conversant with the vocabulary and thrust of free jazz today.

Supernovae is a live, nearly 80-minute sonic extravaganza that the group let loose with at the Somerville Armory last year. There are endless combinations and permutations of the vast instrumental capabilities and timbral combinations of which the ensemble is capable. Some sort of compositional-conductional schema is clearly at work throughout.

However PEK and his ensemble regulated their sound and silences, their assertions and combinatory presences, there results torrents and trickles, small activated cells and large tutti outbursts fascinating and moving to hear. All 21 players use the freedom available to them wisely.

The finished product has the excitement of the best free large ensembles of Silva, Rivers, Taylor and  JCOA. It is excellent fare for the dedicated avant jazz aficionado.

It that describes you, then this is doubtless for you! It is a very worthwhile listen. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Peter Erskine Trio, John Taylor, Palle Danielsson, As It Was, 4-CD Retrospective

In the maddening jumble of my life as it happens to be right now, I've had a release ready for review for several months. Why I am only getting to it now has nothing to do with the music and its quality. It has more to do with an unceasing serendipity that has at times sidetracked my ordered intentions.

So we plunge in, or rather I do. You are the readers. It is up to me to speak. I hope of course you will read. The Peter Erskine Trio with John Taylor on piano and Palle Danielsson on bass had four albums come out on ECM, 1992-1997: "You Never Know," "As It Is," "Time Being," and "Juni."  In the interim a good deal of time and change has effected us and our world. John Taylor is no more. We have been flung into the future willy nilly and it is not what we expected. Meanwhile the ECM folks have seen fit to re-release all four albums as a box set retrospective entitled As It Was (ECM 2490-93).

And so the music emerges once again for us to reconsider. I will now admit to you that the period of 1992 through 1997 was alternatively one of poverty and then incredibly dense activity for me. I had almost no time to follow what was coming out, and so I missed all four of these albums.

The result is that this retrospective is to me something totally new. In the end it should make no difference. What is worth hearing or rehearing now is a matter of worth TO US who still stand (or sit) in the ever-passing world of music available for the hearing. Either the music speaks to us right now or does not.

As It Was most certainly DOES speak to me at this waystation of my life. I have come to appreciate the late John Taylor as a pianist of world-class stature on the contemporary jazz scene. If I came to him via several of his own albums instead of this trio, it does not matter. Similarly of course both Palle Danielssohn and Peter Erskine I have long appreciated for their superb artistry.

These four albums today sound as fresh and current as anything coming out on ECM now. Taylor provided most of the compositions, Danielsson others and a few covers are a part of the set.

What endures and catches our ears is the enormously subtle interplay of the three. They interact in full complementary synch, with a beautifully spacious balladic sprawl or a sophisticated swinging pulse.

And as you listen you feel that the ECM piano trio legacy that has been so much a part of the label's contemporary presence is notably represented by these sides. There is harmonic lush expansion, there is a compositional rootedness and an introspective-turned-sometimes-outward feel that makes all this music as capacious (roomy) as it is understated and profound.

Any contemporary jazz piano trio adept will find in this set much to explore and grow into. It is not a loud music, but it is originally expressive and consistently so. Listen if you can!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sxip Shirey, A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees

The smack-down of review CDs in our now very tiny space has called for my continual attention, as the hustle and bustle and multi-purposes of the space usage threaten at all times to create impossible pile jumbles. So far, so good, but it can be tough. For example somehow today's CD, Sxip Shirey's A Bottle of Whiskey and A Handful of Bees (VIA 11).  I found it at the bottom of a box that was supposed to contain new music classical. When I unearthed it again I remembered I had liked it so I gave it the requisite final listens. After those I realized that here was something special, certainly nothing to do with classical, but instead an intriguing mix of distinctive alt rock sensibilities along with a bluesiness-rootsiness and at times a hip-hoppish veneer. None of those aspects come through conventionally. That is all the more reason this one is so different and, I must say, cool.

Xavier and Sxip do the vocals and both are excellent. There are instrumentals, too. All of it has a brilliant arranger's touch and a very hip memorability. Lyrics are something to ponder but nothing I would want to categorize on this page. Some seem well beyond the range of pop radio!

The combinations of electro-synths and conventional or unconventional instruments are uncannily out of the ordinary. And the more I hear it, the more distinctively compelling the music seems.

Sxip is not an ordinary commercial artist. The commerciality is twisted and turned so that people may dig it but it speaks originally and satisfyingly on its own terms. Is Sxip the new Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks? In a way but not in a way you'd expect. Does that get your attention? Well this disk got mine!

A real ear-opener!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Kaja Draksler Octet, Gledalec

Composer-pianist Kaja Draksler and her Octet give us a decidedly different musical experience on the two-CD set Gledalec (Clean Feed 417). The group features two vocalists, two reeds (including Ab Baars), violin-viola, double bass, drums and Kaja on piano.

To describe the music is not easy. There are early music influences, folk strains, a contemporary new music element and an avant jazz aura about it. There are very gentle moments that you do not often find in this sort of music, and a thoughtful sort of expression. And there is fire!

There is no one who quite sounds like this. If you have patience and take care to give it a close listen, Glendalec will open up some very eventful and unique musical worlds within which you can dwell at length. I looked to her discography on her site and there is much more. Here is a good place to start. Then if you are like me you may want to explore what else she has been doing. Oh, look her up on my search box above for another one I reviewed and liked.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Earth Tongues, Ohio


The trio Earth Tongues and their 2-CD improvisation Ohio (neither/nor n/n 006) is one of those long building free-new music essays in sound that takes its time unfolding and rewards the patient listener with a finely honed, ever-blossoming panorama

You might not know what to expect, or I did not at least, by looking at the personnel and instrumentation. The jacket tells us that the trio is made up of Joe Moffett on trumpet and cassette player, Dan Peck on tuba and cassette player and Carlo Costa on percussion. What we get is a beginning with little sounds, microscopic fragilities, quietude of a carefully, creatively mapped out spontaneity.

Only in time does the music become ever more present, in ways that remind one of some of the pioneering new music improv groups (MEV, AMM, etc), only updated and personalized for the now we live in.

All makes an artistic sense if you just let it be. The unfolding is the all. And with that we can actualize our listening self to become something other. Such is the best sort of avantdom.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Rob Mazurek, Chants and Corners

The music of Rob Mazurek in the past decade has been remarkable. His use of electronics in a thoroughly exciting free jazz medium, his cornet, his role as bandleader, all stands out in my mind as high points in the later period of avant expression.

And now we have a further example of his, another clear sign that the momentum of his most creative period to date is in no way at an ebb. The new one is entitled Chants and Corners (Clean Feed 416). It incorporates deftly electronics manned by Mazurek, Guilherme Granado and Thomas Rohrer. Mazurek is also on cornet and on piano for one track, Granado is also on keys, Rohrer on rabeca, flutes and soprano. Then there is Mauricio Takara on drums plus Philip Somervell on piano and prepared piano. The totality of the ensemble is as primary as the quality of the improvisations. It is a joyous noise we hear.

To parse each part in a description is perhaps to miss the point? On the other hand one cannot help but appreciate Rob's stunning cornet work. Everybody does the right thing, though. Giulherme's and Philip's keys-piano work is rompingly appropriate. Mauricio drums up a froth. And Thomas adds significantly on reeds. But it is all this within an electronic wash that puts things on a collectively higher plane.

It is nothing less than what one would expect from Mazurek at this stage. But then it is also more, a further development, a remarkable fluency of free musical expression taken another step forward.

Hear, absolutely!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Allen Lowe, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out DownEast

Why it has taken a while for me fully to appreciate the music of Allen Lowe is a bit of a puzzle, now that I am totally on his wavelength. Maybe because he is so prolific--the "box" set I reviewed a while back had an awful lot of music to digest and I'll admit I wrote up my review before I had spent enough time with the music to assimilate it fully. I ended up going back to it and the additional spins made it all come together for me.

So, thankfully, there is more coming out. There is another set I'll be getting to but first a single disk release, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out Downeast (Constant Sorrow 999). I can identify with the title because I am living it, too. The world is very beautiful but nowadays very hellacious, as anyone reading this might know.

The album begins as is Allen's way with an excellent cast, Allen of course with his inimitable alto and then Nels Cline on guitar, Ray Suhy on guitar, Matthew Shipp on piano, Kevin Ray on bass, Larry Feldman on violin and mandolin, and Carolyn Castellano on drums. The "big names" give us key contributions, but then again so do the "smaller names." Allen however is the guiding force on alto that makes it all come together.

The originals are open, mostly changes-based gems that show Allen has absorbed fully the roots of avant jazz (whatever those are in their great plentitude). He has worked his way through the myriad avenues and byways, doubtless a long process that has led him to his own original path. That end discovery of his musical self after such an extensive exposure to what has been is of course not at all the norm. Not many have so fully slogged through it all as he has. It is key to his music, that working through and beyond.

Each piece is memorable in form and melodic-harmonic movement. They open the way to improvisations of stature.

This is a great place to start if you do not know Allen's music, and you should. It is an additional and very rewarding temporary resting point if you already know him. Either way the music is vital, jazz of the most developed sort,  reaching some of the highest planes of attainment on the scene today.

Can you tell I recommend this unreservedly? I do.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jason Anick & Jason Yeager, United

In today's realms of "serious" music, including the art of jazz, nothing is absolutely given. That means that anything is possible, even if some pathways are not exactly welcomed by a large segment of the music listening public. We who make and/or cover such musical roads may need to learn that an isolation from the mainstream of musical and verbal discourse becomes more and more a reality, a condition that one must either accept as a fact of life or take an unappealing turn to the popular.

Neither this writer nor the music he covers today is about to "sell out." Yet in fact the music has the ability to garner a wide appeal if things were different out there. Maybe it will after all.

I speak of the collaborative teaming of  violinist Jason Anick and pianist Jason Yeager on the album United (Inner Circle 067CD). It consists of some evolved originals by Anick and Yeager, some selected compositions by Zbigniew Seifert, plus Harrison's "Something" and Miles' "All Blue."

There is a slight classical element to be heard in the originals but a pronounced contemporary jazz center that shows off the very focused abilities of Anick and Yeager, a rhythm team (alternating, two different ones) and some guest appearances by trumpet and saxophones.

The spotlight is squarely on the two in fascinating interplay. If the material reminds of Burton or Corea in classic phases, perhaps that has something to do with the Berklee nexus of the players? I does not matter. What counts is the beautiful musicianship of the team and how they extend and interpret the compositions in a total gestalt of intertwining poetics.

Anick is a hell of a violinist and Yeager a wonderfully alive pianist.

It's all good.

Frantz Loriot, Reflections on an Introspective Path

Why do I write these? Not for fame or fortune, for sure. An entire CD of avant jazz viola solos may be critical to the new music scenario, and by directing readers toward it I am helping to define what's going on right now. So for better or worse I keep on. Even if my championing seems to me a thankless task.

But no matter. Frantz Loriot is the viola master I speak of above. The 2014 recording of his solo viola improvisations is entitled Reflections on an Introspective Path (neithernor n/n 002). I covered Frantz's large ensemble compositions the other day, and he has distinguished the proceedings of a number of improv ensembles as violist. I've covered a number of these as well, as the index search box above will reveal.

In spite of all that (and it is excellent) this recording perhaps represents the ultimate challenge. Hit the studios with only yourself and your viola. Create a CDs worth of edgy solo viola improvisations.

The key to such an outing is expressive invention. Frantz Loriot has that. He disregards much of the time the accepted conventions of string technique and instead forges his own path of timbrally rich, counter-"legitimate" extensions of the sonic possibilities of the viola. And each of the seven improvisations contained on the album concentrates on a particular extension complex and its expressive potential.

In the end we have an ever-contrasting series of adventures. Loriot is not content to stay in place, but rather to confront a widening vector of extended techniques with a free jazz fire and a new music recombinatory abstraction of means.

This will not be everyone's cup of tea. But for those who let themselves open up to the sound dynamics Frantz so single-mindedly masters on this program, it is a revelation. As the Marcel Duchamp quote on the album sleeve implies, sometimes you have to free yourself of the technical habits of normality in order to create anew. Loriot does this consistently and poetically.

And so you who seek to go beyond need to hear this.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Benedikt Jahnel Trio, The Invariant

The Benedikt Jahnel Trio celebrates ten years as an entity with a striking album that selects eight of Jahnel's compositions and presents them as they are played these days, after years of live performances and a boiling down to the sophisticated essence of what they are now.

The Invariant (ECM 2523) alludes both to the persistence of the trio and its consistently high level of musicianship. That Jahnel should be an ECM artist is also an invariant--of the label's initial and continuing attention to some of jazz's most innovative pianists, beginning of course with Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett and following through to the present day. The most distinctive of the ECM ivory manipulators have much in common: a highly developed harmonic and melodic sense and the ability to swing as strongly as they can create lyrical largos of great creativity.

Jahnel is one of the very best of the current crop of artists. He shows you that dramatically on the album--just as the trio of himself, Antonio Miguel on double bass and Owen Howard on drums drives home the extraordinary evolution of the modern piano trio as we now experience it. All three artists are integral to the outcome, the years of recording and gigging making themselves felt with a palpable excellence of interdependence and interplay.

This is as fine example of the piano trio art as you are likely to hear this year. It is a celebration, a tribute to dedicated continuity and growth.

By all means, hear this and be moved.

Beyond Trio Live at Spectrum, Cheryl Pyle, Roberta Piket, Newman Taylor Baker

What we know today as avant jazz can take many forms, in a spectrum ranging from free jazz to new music improv with many shades in between. We get a blend slightly verging toward new music realms on the Beyond Trio's download EP Live at Spectrum (11th Street Music 2013). This edition is a very good one, caught in peak form in 2013. Cheryl Pyle chimes in on flute, Roberta Piket on piano and Newman Taylor Baker on drums.

Baker brings his chamber percussion set and its ubiquitous washboard for a discerning barrage of freely articulated small sounds. Roberta Piket sounds out responsive, advanced lines that come out of a Taylorian-Bleyian-new music lineage, opening up the harmonic center to a greatly expanded chromosphere. Cheryl Pyle is in excellent form on flute, deftly winding her way through the full range of the instrument and the open-form chromatic choices that are part of her hallmark.

In the 30-minute set presented on this album we get a number of contrasting moods and some striking trio interplay. It is one of the best for this trio and Cheryl, a refreshing offering of what makes this band something altogether else! Listen and enjoy.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Frantz Loriot, Manuel Perovic, Notebook Large Ensemble, Urban Furrow

The idea of "never too late" fills my head as I jump in to cover something that may have come out in 2015 yet remains a vital offering for big band avant-free jazz improv-composition today. It is violist-composer Frantz Loriot and composer-arranger-conductor Manuel Perovic heading the Notebook Large Ensemble on the album Urban Furrow (Clean Feed 338).

All compositions are by Loriot, except the brief "To HR," which is co-composed by Loriot and Perovic. There are nine musicians involved in the band, an international intersection of worthy players: Loriot's viola of course, plus two reed players, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, cello, doublebass and drums.

A broad wash of collective and individual improvisation moments set off and make alive the compositional elements. From the vamp-like chord progression integral to "West 4th," the abstractions and harmonic underpinnings of "Division," the song form and changes on "To HR," and so forth all the way through the album's sequence, there is a close fit between the writing and the improvisational spirit that brings the music to life.

And in the process free improv and compositional structures blend together to create a music than is more "both-and" than it is "either-or."

The result is a music that is neither strictly avant garde nor is it mainstream. It has an outness to it that brings foundational elements into play that the uninitiated listener might hang her or his ears onto to guide the experience and make it more readily accessible than a strictly avant journey would.

What matters is that the music hangs together as a whole, that all elements work together to create an interesting and satisfying musical experience. There is plenty here to dig into.

And I recommend you do that!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Chris Greene Quartet, Boundary Issues

Tenor-soprano jazzman Chris Greene wants to cross through stylistic barriers. He and his quartet set about to do just that on Boundary Issues (Single Malt 011). What we get is an album of contemporary jazz that shows its hard-bop roots and adopts the rhythms of our current world to the needs of Greene's historical-contemporary explorations. His beautifully open horn tenor sound and ravishing soprano are unleashed and focused to ride across nicely burning grooves, whether it be the reggae pulsations inherent in his arrangement of Silver's classic "Nica's Dream," or the funkified or swinging takes on standards, selected contemporary jazz gems from folks like Kenny Kirkland, or Greene's own originals. The band stands out while Greene lets loose.

His sidemen are the right ones for this date. Damian Espinosa on piano and keys, Marc Piane on acoustic and electric bass, and Steve Corley on drums have what it takes to motor the music along, add their own personalities and solo effectively. Greene stands out in the end as a player of finesse and soul, thoroughly immersed in his version of the contemporary style.

The set is together and in the end a beautiful listen. Greene is something new and worthwhile. Hear him.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Dickey / Maneri / Shipp, Vessel in Orbit

When formidable jazz artists get together in a spontaneous act and create a body of music, if the conditions are right something very valuable may be created. It is true that those with no understanding of the music may hear no difference between an inspired date and one less so. Nonetheless those who have been trained to grasp, to feel the essence of the music take notice.

Much of new avant jazz today may be misunderstood or unappreciated by those who have not taken the effort to live with such sounds over an extended period. As the great John Coltrane told a Japanese interviewer many years ago, "It is something that you may understand over time, or you may never understand." I am quoting from memory so I may not be giving his exact words, but the truth remains.

How long it took me to understand fully the free improvisational art form we are blessed with in our time is not easy to reconstruct exactly. I delved into it all when quite young and back then there was a spirit of growth and a need to question the world that predisposed me to explore such things, so that when I first heard Coltrane's Om I immediately felt the importance of the music, though I did not understand it yet. It was something "in the air" then, something that went along with the spirit of the age. I eventually listened to more and more of this kind of music and there was a number of years I put into the first effort, understanding growing with every new artist or recording I surveyed. There was no "aha" moment because understanding never ceases to grow if you allow it. Now there may be less inclination for people to travel beyond their typical comfort zone today. Or I may be wrong. My neighbors for sure have no real idea of the music that they may overhear me listening to. But their natural curiosity is not obvious. They may be too old for that?

The point in this is that you either have a need to expand your being for whatever reason, or you maybe do not. Those who don't may never come to the music. Others may find they are ready for the truly new.

It is those in the second group who along with avant jazz converts may find Vessel in Orbit (AUM Fidelity 101) of intuitive or concrete importance. It may hit you immediately or only after several listens. But it is built into this music and only needs your participation to complete the communication, to create for your being the art that is intended to be a gift to you.

The music is a product of the fruitful meeting of Whit Dickey on drums, Mat Maneri on viola and Matthew Shipp on piano. Eight free improvisational segments grace the album, each a coherency that can stand on its own or add collective weight to the whole album in sequence.

The threesome is primed and filled with great musical ideas. Maneri is less often heard with these two co-creators than the two co-creators have been heard together. In fact a previous meeting on disk with either has escaped my memory if there have been any. Whit was a full-time member of Matthew's trio for a long while and so the two have had a good deal of time to forge a dialog. Whit has as I understand it been ill for a time, so there has been a refreshing pause in their musical discourse. All sounds extremely well with the two here, for sure. They jump right in where they left off.

Maneri sounds completely at ease on this album so if there may be less logged-in musical interaction between himself and the other two, there is an immediate connection they make here. It is some of the finest Maneri moments I have heard on record. He unleashes torrents of pristine improvisational lines, unpredictable yet sounding totally right for this trio context.

Matthew Shipp seems to find that the relaxed gathering puts him in the mind to upend his creative vessel and let great things pour out continuously.

Whit takes advantage of the open potential of the trio to create ever varied patternless freedom via continually significant drumming. So this is pretty momentous, all of it!

There are times when the history of jazz makes an allusive appearance via a kind of style quotation scenario, but then it is mostly improvisations that have the purity of the now, the eloquence of the making present of the present.

The music is not so much energy directed, though there is much energy. It is a three-way willingness to speak with new words, to make sense out of the previously unexpressed, the potential to express.

The result is very beautiful! You who do not know what freedom is might start here and perhaps change your life. Those who already know will find joy in this outing. It is exceptional.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo, Peace, Tribute to Kelly Churko

The recorded opus of avant jazz composer-pianist Satoko Fujii continues to grow, impressively. There is a consistency of innovative thoroughgoingness and dedicative detail. One of the latest, Peace (Libra 217-039), is by the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo. A lively and well disposed ensemble of 14 Japanese avant jazz stalwarts, including Fujii partner Natsuki Tamura, is joined by guests but Fujii music familiars Christian Provost and Peter Orins on trumpet and drums, respectively.

There are three compositions by Fujii, one by Tamura. They show us a dynamic and exciting band running through with interpretive and soloistic acumen the well-sequenced thematic, sectional, individual and collective improvisational-compositional excellence one comes to expect from the Fujii/Tamura ethos.

You are in the process treated to endlessly recombinatory improvisational pairings and solos along with some blisteringly hot or alternatively introspective compositional elements.

It has all the Fujii complexities and memorability. In a selfless way what it does not have is the Fujii piano, or for that matter any piano playing whatsoever. But this band is filled with excellent musicians who are called upon to create vast expanses of cosmically charged sound.

It is important music, something anyone following the cutting edge of the new jazz should definitely hear.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Possibilities, Get 'Em

A trio named Possibilities has made a CD and I find it very good. Get 'Em (Possibilities/DAJ Records DAJ 001) is the title. Tim Bennett mans the saxophones and wrote most of the material on the program. Dan Stein plays acoustic bass. Peter Manheim is on drums.

There are song structures along with an avant freedom, in a contemporary mix with an eclectic edge that it seems an increasing number of new jazz artists utilize in personal ways. Bennett has a mastery of the flowing contemporary line that reminds me of the "Beatrice" phase of Sam Rivers, or for that matter the in-and-out complexities of some of jazz's greatest of '60s-and-beyond masters.

So there are loose funk modes and beautifully swinging grooves, free "rubato" adventures, all of it forwarded in nicely attractive, spontaneous ways. The rhythm section does quite a bit more than pull their own weight. Mannheim and Stein are schooled and soulful teammates that set off Bennett's very considerable sax facility and imagination.

Bennett has no trace of the derivative lick folks who were coming up a while ago. He is blessed with the seeming ability to hew his own lines at all times, none of them overly beholden to the masters that have come before but also permeated with the essence of later jazz developments.

There is a very enjoyable and moving straddling of past and present, innovation and respect for the elders, jazz art essentials and future movement instantiations. This is movement and it is also a joy.

Bennett seems destined for something important. This trio already is there! So check it out.



Monday, May 1, 2017

ONE, Jason Rigby: Detroit - Cleveland Trio

What you are not aware of might not hurt you, but it might deny you a source of pleasure and enlightenment. ONE (Fresh Sound New Talent 505) by Jason Rigby: Detroit - Cleveland Trio is such an offering.  It pits tenor-soprano man Rigby with the excellence of Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Jason shows what he is made of. This may not be his first album--I am aware of five or so. It is certainly one of his strongest, a great introduction for those who do not know his music or a confirmation for those who do.

One gives us a strong set of originals, a tune by George Schuller and a couple of American Songbook and jazz standards. Throughout there is attention to song structure, including the changes underpinning where applicable, but a freewheeling freedom that also places the music comfortably in the avant camp at times.

Cameron's excellent bass work forms the rock-solid core around which everything turns. He can spell out the changes in a masterful way, he can solo with real authority, and take the free-oriented segments under his wing with creative thrust, Gerald's drumming can swing fabulously and/or open the freedom feel up with a control and flourish that makes him indispensable to the whole.

Jason springs forth on One as a fully mature tenor-soprano man of true stature. If at times I might feel this trio encompasses the roots of the pianoless trio from the pioneering Sonny Rollins units through to the Sam Rivers trios at their best, it is because Rigby has a command over the saxophone in its historical sweep and forges a language of his own in the best traditions of a rooted launch upwards. And it also strongly goes into a new way of old with the beauty of the Cameron-Cleaver rhythm team.

With a few listens you come away with the feeling that THIS is what great jazz is all about. There is a fluency and mastery that is timeless. I get the feeling I had listening to early Chico Freeman albums--that here is a player destined for great things.

I think I'll leave it at that for now. Listen to this music, please. We are in good hands with Jason Rigby. He doubtless has a role to play in the future of this music. I am heartened.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ensemble Novo, Look to the Sky

I am a slave to circumstance, like most of us these days. I depend on what I am sent for the content of my reviews, and that happenstance can be a good thing, since I cannot predict what I will get and often enough do not always know much about some of that. So I learn. Today's jazz item came to me thanks to the more-or-less dependable auspices of the US Post Office. Ensemble Novo? I did not know of them until now. Their album Look to the Sky (Frosty Cordial Music FC 003) is spinning on my player as I write these lines. This is a chamberish gathering that in some ways reminds me of Chico Hamilton's old groups, yet more firmly within a neo-Brazilian realm.

The fare is an engagingly arranged mix of very familiar and less familiar Brazilian tunes--by Jobim, Gismonti, Nasciemento, etc., plus one original. The band comprises a well selected group of some five instrumentalists, plus guest Tom Lowry on percussion. The regular group is Ryan McNeeley on guitar, Behn Gillece on vibes, Tom Moon on tenor and flute (who also produced the album and gives us the original tune), Mark Przybylowski on acoustic bass, and Jim Hamilton on drums.

The tight-knit ensemble parts swing brightly in a mostly samba framework. They are very well wrought. And the soloing is appropriate and creatively alive.

So if you are a fan of the Brazilian jazz zone like I am, you should find this one like I did, nicely done and very appealing. It's an EP by the way. Kudos!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway, Randall Colbourne, Art Space

The trio of Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway and Randall Colbourne fills the ears with a special kind of three-way freedom that I feel increasingly is one-of-a-kind. This can be heard tellingly in the recent download release Art Space (11th Street Music), which I believe is the third album I have reviewed on these pages (index box above will call up the others).

Cheryl is on flute, alto flute and spoken word; Max Ridgway appears once again on electric guitar; and Randall Colbourne plays the drums. Each has a role to play in the ongoing free sequences and distinguishes our aural space with a closely interlocking three-way interplay that becomes considerably more than the already vital contribution each makes. It is the way the three become one that makes this music stand out. They have played together for quite a while and by so doing have developed a special kind of free rapport one encounters rarely in the free jazz firmament.

It is a sort of naturally relaxed impressionist freedom one encounters throughout. Cheryl is at her best, lyrical, textural and limpidly eloquent. Max rejoins her every phrase with well chosen guitar intelligence. And Randall completes the circle with subtle attack and a ready immediacy that is just right for the chamber ambiance the trio projects so well. Each establishes a very personal style of their own but then alternately gives way and springs forward with three-way line flow. You hear a never ending outpouring of modern melodic and harmonic advance. And that of course is a very good thing.

The music never flags while managing to create a special world one dwells within willingly and happily. If you do not know this threesome, here is the place to start. If you already do, this will no doubt increase your appreciation. Thanks for this, you three!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Loafer's Hollow

Mostly Other People Do The Killing is a one-of-a-kind jazz group. They are brilliant in the ways they take on the entire history of jazz and appropriate it in order to change our focus and hear things differently than we have before. They come at us once again with Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup 161). Oh, did I say they also have a great sense of humor. They do. And that is a most rare thing for players of this caliber. Might I recall the Art Ensemble of Chicago as others with brilliance and that ability to make serious fun of our musical legacy as they broke down barriers? We do not want to compare the two directly because that is probably not to the point, but they have always had that brilliant iconoclasm, too.

Loafer's Hollow is the second MOPDTK to take on early jazz as the building materials for a post-post jazz present. All of the music here has been composed by bassist Moppa Elliott. Each of these pieces takes on one of Elliott's favorite writers, with the cadence of the words forming an underpinning for the rhythmic articulation of the music. We do not need to know this to appreciate the results, but it doesn't hurt, either.

The MOPDTK transformation of early jazz to me is on a par with excellent tributes in such a vein by Charles Mingus (especially "My Jelly Roll Soul") and some more recent jazz compositions by Allen Lowe, a living breathing artist you should also know if you do not.

Founding MOPDTK members Elliott, Kevin (with that snare drum) Shea as the brilliant early jazz drummer parodist, Jon Irabagon as the sax light of our times (one of them), and the Ron Stabinsky open piano stylist and de-stylist of high caliber...they join a perfect choice of stablemates in bass trombonist Dave Taylor (do I need to say?), Steven Bernstein as trumpet and slide-trumpet monster and Brandon Seabrook as the ideal banjologist for this date (also on ectronics!) and that's all...you need!

It is as brilliant as an SCTV episode, as unexpected as a cauldron of boiling water in the middle of a blizzard, a barrel full of monkeys o'serious fun.

Damn, I love these guys. Get this one.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Joachim Kuhn New Trio, Beauty & Truth

I might as well come out and say it. I have admired pianist Joachim Kuhn ever since I first heard his music. What was the first record I listened to? I think the Impulse album with his brother Rolf? Yes. Then the BYG albums and on from there. His pianism is impeccable and he uses his total command over the keyboard to take on various stylistic guises without betraying his originality.  So there is a free component, a Trane-Tyner element, and so forth on to today. When his new album came in the mail I smiled. Then I put it on. And I was not disappointed.

It's Joachim and his "New Trio."  The album is Beauty & Truth (ACT 9816-2). With Joachim is Chris Jennings and drummer Eric Schaeffer, both in every way worthy.

This is an expression of the growth of the artist over the years. You have a great Ornette piece (the title cut "Beauty & Truth"), two perennial and unexpected covers of the Doors ("The End" and "Riders On the Storm"), "Summertime" by Gershwin, a couple of memorable Komeda gems, a Gil Evans classic, and the rest some potent Kuhn originals.

There is a contemporary acoustic jazz and rock plus a free wheeling sort of feel that has something to do with the Jarrett trios at the core but ultimately restates the Kuhn piano trio ethos.

Joachim is in great form, a pianist's pianist. This is pure joy to hear for me! The New Trio rhythm section is right where they need to be, both very much on top of things.

I must say I dig this one profusely! So, what, do I love everything I hear? Absolutely not. But everything I love gets on here sooner or later. This is one. Kuhn is one of the pianists of our time. He still is and you need to hear that on Beauty & Truth.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Angles 9, Disappeared behind the sun

The band Angles 9 shows you immediately that they are taking no prisoners on their album Disappearance Behind the Sun (Clean Feed 405). Martin Kuchen, whose compositions for this nine-tet (a near big band) make for a most refreshing avant jazz offering, takes a tenor solo of a blazingly incandescent kind and then we jump right into the compositional essence of this music.

Martin is on alto and tenor, along with a very committed and effective group: Zethson on piano, Stahl on vibes, Broo on trumpet, Kajfes on cornet, Aleklint on trombone, Hegdal on baritone, Berthling on double bass, and Werlin on drums. The band has great character and plays the compositional elements with a zest and verve that bring the smoking fire of this music in full aural view. Collective improvisation, melodic abstractions and riff underpinning meld together for some wildly ecstatic jazz. Solos are peppered throughout in excellent ways. And as you listen you know that this is the music of right now, modern in its determination to go beyond, filled with soulful exuberance and downright lucid musical outbursts of brilliance.

Five compositions distinguish themselves with a band that steps forward to realize it all with a perfect zeal. Kuchen's music stands out rather unforgettably as a new something, related to what has gone before in the advanced avant echelons. Maybe you recognize a debt to George Russell in its layering of multiple lines and extroverted collectives and solos atop riffs. A debt but absolutely fresh and new for all that.

This is one hell of a set from a talented band and the sure compositional forms and substance of Martin Kuchen's enormous talent.

This album is just terrific and I cannot recommend it more highly. It points I hope to much more from Martin, for this is extraordinary!