Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Downbeat Readers' Poll Ballot 2017

Downbeat Magazine is accepting ballots for the 2017 Readers' Poll. My choices are as follows:
Hall of Fame: Sam Rivers
Jazz Artist: Ivo Perelman
Jazz Group: Lean Left
Big Band: Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra
Jazz Album (Released June 1, 2016, to May 31, 2017): Rodrigo Amado / Goncalo Almeida / Marco Franco - The Attic (NoBusiness Records)
Historical Album (Released June 1, 2016, to May 31, 2017) David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp Duo, Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004 (AUM Fidelity)
Trumpet: Amir ElSaffar
Trombone: Steve Swell
Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome
Alto Saxophone: Steve Coleman
Tenor Saxophone: Peter Brotzmann
Baritone Saxophone: Mats Gustafsson
Clarinet: Anat Cohen
Flute: Nicole Mitchell
Piano: Matthew Shipp
Keyboards: Craig Taborn
Organ: John Medeski
Guitar: Brandon Seabrook
Bass: Ingebrigt Håker Flaten
Electric Bass: Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Violin: Mark Feldman
Drums: Paal Nilssen-Love
Vibes: Jason Adasiewicz
Percussion: Hamid Drake
Misc. Instrument: David Murray (bass clarinet)
Male Vocalist: Theo Bleckmann
Female Vocalist: Leena Conquest
Composer: Roscoe Mitchell
Arranger: Nels Cline
Record Label: No Business
Blues Artist/Group: Joe Louis Walker
Blues Album: Gary Clark Jr., Live North America 2016 (Warner Bros.)
Beyond Artist or Group: Richard Thompson
Beyond Album (Released June 1, 2016, to May 31, 2017): Sleater-Kinney - Live in Paris

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Peter Brotzmann / Steve Swell / Paal Nilssen-Love - Live in Tel Aviv (Not Two Records, 2017)

This is an excellent meeting of three of the most exciting musicians in avant-garde jazz with Steve Swell on trombone, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion and Peter Brotzmann on saxophone and clarinet. This album was recorded live at Leontin 7 in Tel Aviv, Israel October 24, 2016. These musicians have played with each other countless times in many different configurations so the trust level they have is very high and they have no problem letting their guard down and playing for the sheer love of the music. That affection comes shining through on the main track, wonderfully titled "The Greasy Grind" which begins with an all out collective improvisation that is very exciting. Nilssen-Love's crashing drums and cymbals make a fine foundation for guttural saxophone and smears of brass that hit with raw physicality but are also played with great tact and depth. The music stretches out for a thirty minute exploration of the disparate sonic terrain, with spaces for solos and duets as well as the superb trio interaction. The music exists at many levels, whether it is a muscular free jazz blowout or an abstract sound collage with varying colors and strokes evoking a wide range of emotion. The second and shorter piece is called "Ticklish Pickle" is also aptly named, because the trio creates a slower, prickly performance that is gritty and focused on the granular level of the music. Brotzmann plays clarinet, and the hollow, woody sound of the instrument is perfectly placed to improvise the with long rough tones of brass and skittish percussion. It takes a great deal of patience and trust to pull off a performance like this, and you can almost sense the audience hanging on every note as the trio navigates the thickets and underbrush of the music, emerging triumphant after ten minutes of risk taking on the edge creativity. This is another excellent entry in the collective discographies of these three great musicians. Playing wide open, unfettered modern jazz, they provide a beacon of hope and demonstrate what real freedom means. Live in Tel Aviv - amazon.com

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Evan Parker - City Fall: Live at Cafe OTO (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2017)

It's an interesting feeling to listen to the great British avant-garde tenor and soprano saxophonist Evan Parker on fiftieth anniversary of the death of John Coltrane. Parker has spoken at length about his debt to Coltrane, but he repays that debt in the best manner possible, not by covering the great man's compositions, but be creating his own spontaneous improvisations that take the baton from Coltrane and show the way forward for the saxophone in free jazz or free improvisation in the twenty first century. Parker has released many live albums and I am far from an expert on his music, but this seems to be one of his finest, recorded during September of 2014 at the Cafe OTO in London. He is in an excellent form, accompanied by friends and colleagues Mikołaj Trzaska on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, John Edwards on bass and Mark Sanders on drums. They open with a massive spontaneous composition "Hunting Moon" which they play with a headlong rush of ecstatic music. With the two reed players intertwining as they reach for the heights of the musical creativity, and an ever shifting rhythm from the bass and drums keeping the music hurtling forward. It's the fractured and unpredictable nature of the rhythm that keep things so interesting. Where the saxophones may skitter and squeal and the bowed bass casts stark shadows the percussion skips and jumps to its own accord. They all come together to create a massive blast of creative energy that is most impressive. This continues on "In Case of Fire" in which the musicians complement one another, producing a soaring, optimistic sensibility as if the band is giddy with excitement at the possibilities of their music. The improvisation is emotionally direct, and structurally sound and the quartet is deeply attuned to one another as the reeds make a wide range of sounds and the four players are utterly focused. The quartet develops dynamics with the sound moving from soft and open against full and brash, and using this structure to create powerful momentum. They can play with thunderous force, lashing gales of saxophone and bass clarinet against buttresses of stoic bass and drums, to a triumphant conclusion. The audience erupts with music deserved applause and the trio returns with the shorter performance "Eternity For a Little While" which acts as a coda and a capstone to a remarkable performance. City Fall: Live at Cafe Oto - amazon.com

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Anat Cohen and Trio Brasileiro - Rosa Dos Ventos (Anzic Records, 2017)

This album is the most recent foray into Brazilian jazz by clarinet and saxophone player Anat Cohen. She is joined on this album by the members of Trio Brasileiro: Douglas Lora on guitar, Dudu Maia on mandolin and Alexandre Lora on drums and percussion. The band is inspired by Brazilian choro music, which combines European musical forms with African and South American rhythms to make a fertile playground for improvisers. "Baião Da Esperança" opens the album with a jaunty and rich tune, one that the listener can easily imagine dancing to. The interplay of the strings is nimble and fleet, incorporating the percussion in a deft manner and allowing Cohen's deeply swinging clarinet to move at will. Stout guitar and mandolin introduce "Ijexa" with shaken percussion joining in to develop a very strong rhythmic foundation. The music swoops and sways in an intoxicating manner, coming together to develop a deep groove that Cohen solos over in a plaintive and emotional fashion, picking her spots, and not overwhelming the music or disrupting the feeling it has. After a dynamic downshift to a more melancholy setting, the musicians regroup and push forward to a grand conclusion. "Valsa Do Sul" has hollow sounding clarinet in open space, probing and setting the mood for the trio to jump into an grow into a charming melody. The way the strings and percussion can interact with one another is very impressive, weaving and building textures that are perfect to either encompass or challenge the clarinet in their midst. The light and nimble music is like a fluttering hummingbird, hovering between flowers as a soft breeze flows around it. Clarinet and percussion develop a choppy rhythm on "Sambalelê" which is quite exciting as they improvise beats and notes, channeling the swing tradition of pre-war jazz and the expansive history of Brazilian music. "Choro Pesado" is a lightning fast collective improvisation for the full quartet, with the percussion and strings developing an exciting rhythmic basis for the music that is thrilling to hear. Cohen is deeply intertwined within the music, and the sound she develops further aligns the scope of their improvisation, and allows it to become a whirling dervish of colorful sound. The quiet and thoughtful ballad "Lulubia" ends the album with subtle guitar and mandolin developing a memorable melody, aided by slight percussion, and eventually joined by Cohen's soft and supple clarinet with frames and engages with the other instruments beautifully. This album worked quite well and it is clear that this was a full meeting of the minds rather than soloist with accompaniment. The quartet traverses various styles and traditions of Brazilian music, but also keep in mind the improvisation based nature of the jazz tradition. Rosa Dos Ventos - amazon.com

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Burning Ghosts - Reclamation (Tzadik, 2017)

The band Burning Ghosts is a fascinating hybrid of heavy metal and free jazz consisting of Daniel Rosenboom on trumpet, Jake Vossler on guitar, Richard Giddens on bass and Aaron McLendon on drums. The album opens with "Ftof" which has an insistent rhythm being laid down by the drums followed by some nimble trumpet playing. The group develops a choppy and nervous feel to the music that is even more enhanced with the entry of electric guitar. This pushes everyone forward to a very powerful collective improvisation with guitar and trumpet punching in tandem with deep bass and frenetic drumming. Rosenboom's trumpet leaps over jolts of scalding guitar before laying out and allowing a nasty guitar and percussion battle to commence, where lashing drums lead the way. Trumpet re-enters, taking the music even further afield, and leading a full charge to the conclusion. A drone punctuated by blasts of raw sound opens "Harbinger," creating an imposing musical edifice where trumpet arcs over the massive rhythm trio, growing ever more assertive. They drop into an immense post-rock groove that annihilates anything in their path. The music is dense and towering, eventually yielding an intense climax with slashing cymbals, growling guitar and frenetic trumpet playing, while blending in some opens spaces to ramp up the tension even further. "Radicals" juxtaposes gnarly overdriven guitar with subtle brass to interesting effect, developing opposite roles that build upon each other. There is a nice bass solo interleaved between the two opposing forces, which opens space for the music to breathe. Rosenboom adds further texture with muted trumpet, before everyone enters the blast zone with some over the top full band playing, becoming a thrilling boil. The music strives forward vigorously over a punishing beat, with stoic trumpet and drums achieving excellent cohesion. Subtle and insistent bass ushers in "Catalyst," serving as a foundation for full throttle drums and guitar, with the mad riffs making way for the entry of the trumpet. The music spits fire and lightning, maintaining it's fast speed, regardless of the complexity of the music. The dynamics at play are powerful with the music moving from slow and ponderous to white hot and fast. "Revolution" is a short and ripe blast of power that ends the album in fine fashion. Trumpet soars over vicious guitar, bass and drums, driving the music into a majestic and exciting conclusion. This is heavy and dense music that is still able to retain a tenuous tie to the jazz tradition while blasting it relentlessly into the future. Reclamation - amazon.com

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Steve Coleman - Morphogenesis (Pi Recordings, 2017)

Saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman is an enigmatic musician who is always looking around the next corner, incorporating philosophical and non-musical ideas as inspiration for his compositions. He is a writer and performer of complex music, yet somehow that music remains accessible, with interesting themes constantly bubbling up abetted by witty improvised sections. Many of the musicians on this album have been in Coleman's extended circle for quite some time and they are more then up to the task of performing his knotty music. In addition to Coleman on alto saxophone, the band consists of Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Maria Grand on tenor saxophone, Rane Moore on clarinet; Kristin Lee on violin, Jen Shyu on vocals, Matt Mitchell on piano, Greg Chudzik on bass and Neeraj Mehta on percussion for about half of the tracks. The development of textures and the interplay among player is the is the foremost mission of the band, beginning with the composition "Inside Game" which slowly builds over nine and a half minutes, with reeds and brass developing sweeping forays into the source code of the song while wordless vocals and violin slip and sway around the music which is rooted by thick bass and piano. "Morphing" is the centerpiece of the recording, and at fourteen minutes in length it develops a suite-like structure, allowing themes and melodies to rise up from the simmering cauldron of the music and engage the musicians with open ended opportunities for self expression within the boundaries of the composition. This album was quite interesting to hear, especially when you place it in the context of Steve Coleman's last few LP's. His close relationship with Pi Recordings has given him the opportunity to record regularly while tweaking and modifying the music and the musicians as he sees fit. It is a daunting road that he has embarked upon, but with he is producing excellent results and has a clear-headed vision for the future. Morphogenesis - amazon.com

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rock 'n' Roll Roundup

Rock 'n' Roll Roundup 2017 marks the anniversary of several  important albums in the history of rock music, and special editions of classic albums are landing regularly with a ponderous thud that makes one think of aphorisms like "gilding the lily," but the reissue machine grinds relentlessly forward regardless. The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was a titanic release in 1967, and has often (especially in Rolling Stone magazine) been held as the pinnacle of rock 'n' roll music. It's hard to listen to this album with fresh ears, especially if you were born after the release of the album, taking all of their innovations for granted because they are indelibly stamped in the DNA of much of the music which followed. This Fiftieth Anniversary edition of the reissue comes in two formats: a two disc set, with a remastered stereo version of the album on disc one, sounding bright and shiny enough to make a Pepper agnostic blush, and a selection of outtakes, loops, alternate takes and chatter on disc two. The second disc is interesting for a behind the curtain look at The Beatles creative process, but it's not compelling enough to be returned to very often. For the hard core Pepperologist, especially one that has deep pockets comes the four disc plus DVD/Blu-ray Super Deluxe Edition, which have various mixes of the record and outtakes in mono, stereo, surround sound, and the requisite big book of essays and photos. Another band who is not known for their modesty is U2, and they are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their lauded album, The Joshua Tree. The album may be their most enduring work, containing hits and memorable deep cuts. Like the Pepper set, this re-issue comes in two flavors: the poor man's two-disc set that has remastered album, then a live recording of a 1987 Madison Square Garden concert. The big spender edition beefs the package up to four discs, with the two aforementioned along with a deep dive into album remixes along with period B-Sides and outtakes. The Rolling Stones grind out re-issues at a dizzying rate, with live music making the bulk of the material. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones was recorded in Texas on the 1972 Exile On Main Street tour, so it catches the band playing a hot set at near the peak of their powers. Playing cuts from that album and tweaking them on the fly in addition to judicious reprising of some of their earlier hits. The only thing that holds this back from really standing out among the scads of Stones live LPs is the bootleg quality sound, one that wraps the music in a in a muddy miasma that is perhaps appropriate considering how much of the Exile on Main Street album itself was such a gloriously murky sprawl. The three disc deluxe edition of The Doors first LP also celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, gave me a vivid synesthetic flashback of wandering around my first college, spinning this tape in my Walkman (remember those?) This package has a cleanly remastered version of the original LP itself in both mono and stereo in addition to a period live recording and the obligatory expanded liner notes with rare photographs. Nick Cave has always been an enigmatic presence on the rock 'n' roll scene beginning with the band The Birthday Party, and eventually forming his own band called The Bad Seeds. The two disc collection Lovely Creatures - The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds is an excellent introduction to his solo work, covering the length of his career, hitting all of the high spots and including some interesting album tracks that give a well rounded look into his musical vision. Finally, The Grateful Dead release what to diehard fans may be the holy grail, a professionally mastered release of the complete concert from Barton Hall at Cornell University in May of 1977. This concert can be purchased separately or as part of the deluxe Get Shown the Light boxed set which includes the concerts immediately preceding and following the Cornell show. The Dead were at a mid career peak, performing at a very high level as well improvising and re-arranging new and familiar material. If you are still in need of more Dead, the soundtrack to the new documentary film Long Strange Trip is available, mixing familiar tracks with previously released songs.

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