Following the fascinating ode to Haitian music on his previous album, pianist Bobby Avey enlists John O’Gallagher on alto saxophone, Thomson Kneeland on bass and Jordan Perlson on drums for a thoughtful and well articulated album of fresh modern jazz. “Countless Voices of Unknown People” opens as a funky march with interesting drums and droplets of poised piano developing a sad theme, which is juxtaposed against the active drumming. The piano, bass and drums trio blasts off with emotionally percussive piano chords, fast nervous bass and rhythmic drums making for great interplay that is hard hitting and very exciting. Saxophone and drums are tight and exploratory on “Fall not a Tear” which has a full bodied and slamming rhythm, making for a quartet improvisation that is fast, loud and very exciting. The mid-section has a piano and subtle saxophone duet, then great up-tempo full band improvisation that is very rhythmic and exciting. The group uses dynamics brilliantly, moving into a quiet piano, bass and drums section that builds back up fantastic ending. The short pieces “Inhuman Wilderness,” “Structural Adjustment,” and “Land Theft” were designed as a suite lamenting the tragic state of the human species. Starting with open brushes, beads of piano and very light saxophone, the music becomes mysterious and subtle. Then thick bass, probing drums and nervous piano develop a mid-tempo skittering fast percussive section with wicked fast piano and finally dark bass, bass and drums thrashing epic drumming making for a fantastic ride. “I Should Have Known No Less” starts with a quiet dawning of droplets of piano notes and chords, very open bowed bass, and gradual entry of the saxophone. The pace of the music picks up with sharper drumming and deeper dynamics allowing for an uncluttered section with very nice plucked bass and O’Gallagher’s pungent alto saxophone tone playing well and making for a fascinating quartet improvisation, building faster and deeper, and very impressive. A slashing piano trio section before the saxophone returns, and the music gains strength and moves deeper. Avey builds an ominous solo piano excursion on “Rent the Sky” which is dark and moody and a very interesting soundscape. “Composure Must Be Rare” is a glorious finale with crushing drums and full bodied piano enthusiasm, an interesting drum and bass rhythm, which builds faster and faster, setting up a killer collective improvisation, with raw saxophone, deep heavy piano chords and soaring bass and drums. This was an excellent album of original modern jazz. Avey’s compositions and arrangements are consistently fascinating and the quality of the playing by each member of the band is at a rarefied level. Inhuman Wilderness - amazon.com
This very exciting sextet can do a lot more than attack; they play a variety of moods and modes, from wild free jazz to a more atmospheric style of music. The band consists of Anna Hogberg on alto saxophone, Elin Larsson on tenor and soprano saxophone, Malin Wattring on tenor and soprano saxophone, Lisa Ullen on piano, Elsa Bergman on bass and Anna Lund on drums. “Attack” is the opening track, which starts mild and ominous with low toned sounds of saxophone and drips of piano and percussion, but develops into an interesting theme by the saxophones. There is a saxophone solo that gets wilder as the other two deftly supports one featured horn and the music grows faster and harsher with squalls of piano and percussion before throttling back to the atmospheric sounds for the conclusion. Drops of piano and percussion sound free and open on “Familjen” with deeply plucked bass, skittering piano and drums. The horns play a gentle theme, as if calming the savage beast within. There is a nimble tenor saxophone solo that nicely rises in power, supported by other horns and a solid beat. “Borderline” is an absolute blast with raw saxophones making the music simply ooze excitement and passion as it turns into a torrential rain of piano and percussion and a thrilling free for all, and the luscious sound of Hoberg’s alto saxophone solo tearing through the thicket. Bergman has an excellent bass solo to open “Lisa Med Kniven,” developing a nice rhythmic sound, and the piano slides in as the saxophones start to move in very classy subtle groove with percussion and different flavored saxophone playing music of many colors. Dark toned piano thunders through a solo feature, and saxophones come in strong, with a soloing horn jousting with the heavy free piano, making for a thrilling ride. Again there is a bright saxophone soloing along with the rhythm section making for lively stuff that is punchy and addicting. “Skoflikargränd” and “Regent” are short vignettes that have raw and slow saxophone probing, and piano that builds in with the percussion sounding like processional music. The music builds louder with strong drums and piano creating abstract squirting and skittish sounds with soft saxophone in the background. The saxophones develop a stark theme on the closing “Högberger,” with skittish percussion developing an excellent solo section. There is deft bowed bass and saxophones building the excitement of the music to a fever pitch. Tenor saxophone pushes gales of sound against exciting bass and percussion as fresh saxophones intertwine, pulling the music into exciting collective improvisation as piano slams into the music, goading on the waling saxophones and making for a very exciting free collective improvisation before slowing down to a quieter hymn like ending. This was a very good album of modern jazz; the musicianship is first rate and the fearless nature of the improvisations make for a highly recommended album. Anna Hogberg Attack - Omlott Records.
Six-In-One is a powerhouse band featuring Bruce Coates on sopranino, soprano and alto saxophones, Paul Dunmall on tenor saxophone, Corey Mwamba on vibraphone and recorder, Walt Shaw on percussion and electronics, Seth Bennett on bass and Mark Sanders on drums. Six-in-One is comprised of six musicians chosen by Shaw Coates to celebrate the final night of their exhibition of the relief and constructed sculpture called Subjects and Structures. The opening performance “Subjects” has a slow probing beginning with vibes playing in open space, followed by abstract percussion and bowed bass. The saxophones weave in and out of one another looking for purchase with the vibes framing their dialogue. The music starts to get wilder and more exciting as time goes on, and saxophones build, drums crash and vibes reverberate accordingly. There is an impressive bass solo, and a quiet abstract section for percussion and vibes. Dynamism is the name of the game and the group uses it very well. Reeds flitter about each other in open space like birds around a fountain, and then they lead into a full band collective improvisation, which builds in intensity. The music becomes more strident and powerful as saxophones wail and drums thrash. There is a slow and cautions opening for reeds and percussion on “Structure” where vibes provide balance for flickering brushed percussion and reeds. The free collective improvisation is a high wire act, but the music the band plays here is balanced and nuanced. There is tenor saxophone soloing against and in alignment with complex percussion before the music blooms into a great free jazz collective improvisation, with drums getting deep and saxophones charging hard while vibes clank and sprint across the surface of the music. There is a fast and exciting section for vibes and drums in a percussive dialogue, which then backs out to a quiet and abstract silence. The music moves back to a two-reed conversation between soprano and tenor horns which make a dialogue with the skittering percussion. The horns begin to swirl dangerously and make for caustic commentary and an exciting exchange, then making way for a spot of bowed bass as well. The reed dialogue is really the highlight of this section, especially in association with shaken percussion and drums. There develops a section of clanging vibes and wheezing saxophones followed by a volley of hand percussion in the midst of a subtle backgrounds of reeds and vibes. The horns return with alarming intensity and develop into a full-blown collective improvisation by the group that is very exciting. “Nothing Is Paltry - After Antoni Tàpies” is the coda that has slow and probing instrumentation accentuated by the unexpected sound of recorder. Saxophone and recorder with light percussion, moving slower and quieter and the music is very subtle. This was a very well done performance of free jazz. The music on this recording celebrates the richness and complexity of improvisation while remaining accessible and thoughtful. Subjects and Structures - amazon.com
Trombonist David Gibson has created a fine modern mainstream jazz album with his fourth Posi-Tone release. Performing alongside him are Freddie Hendrix on trumpet, Theo Hill on piano, Alexander Claffy on bass, Kush Abadey on drums. Saxophonists Doug Webb and Caleb Curtis guest on a couple of tracks as well. The title track “Inner Agent” opens the album in an up-tempo fashion with bright sounding piano and swinging cymbal play supporting punchy and brash horn riffs. There is an excellent section for the piano, bass and drums unit that swings very hard. “Axe Grinder” sets a funky groove with the horns harmonizing and then breaking free for solo sections, including some stratospheric trumpet. Gibson takes a rapid and smoothly executed trombone solo over rippling piano and subtle bass and drums. There is a fast and exciting sendoff to “The Sythe” with ripe saxophone soloing over muscular playing from the rhythm section, and Abadey’s drums driving the music hard. Gibson gets another nice featured spot, ramping the tempo down just a hair and developing a confident and well-articulated solo. “The Court” has a bouncy and interesting foundation from the piano, bass and drums, while strutting horns come out together and then diverge in short statements before returning to complete this pithy and concise tune. There is a medium tempo sensibility to “Gravy” with swaggering horns sounding good over strong rhythm and percussively comped piano. Gibson’s trombone glides through the rhythm with aplomb demonstrating an appealing tone to his music. The album is completed with a tasteful and restrained version of The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun.” The horns are very subtle and it isn’t until the piano references the melody that the penny drops and you hear what is happening. This performance is emblematic of the entire album, because it is music that is tasteful and thoughtful and should be well received by mainstream jazz fans. Inner Agent - amazon.com
Paying homage to the classic Charles Mingus album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady would be challenging enough, but writing an original suite based on that legendary work and then having it set to dance is a real test. Alto saxophonist Greg Ward succeeds admirably on all accounts, composing and leading a ten-piece band in a rousing suite of music that both honors Mingus and develops a fresh and original concept of its own. You can hear the great bassist’s musical style threaded throughout the work, especially on the opening “Daybreak” where there is there is deep and rich playing from the seven-member horn section punctuated by Ward’s tart and lively saxophone soloing. There is some appropriately thick bass on “The Menacing Lean” along with horn riffs that could storm any barricade, while a sense of wistful beauty on the lush ballad “With All Your Sorrow, Sing a Song of Jubilance” which is preceded by the chaotic brief intro sequence “Smash, Push, Pull, Crash.” The ballad has rich and velvety horn playing, particularly from the brass. “Grit” is a short and brief swinging performance with cooking piano, bass and drums supporting a muscular tenor saxophone solo, and “Round Three” moves even deeper with punchy horns and another fine saxophone solo framed by spare droplets of piano. There is another exceptional bass solo (Jason Roebke truly rises to the occasion on this album) on “Dialogue of the Black Saint” before the horns take flight with an excellent section of wah-accentuated brass. “Gather Round, The Revolution Is At Hand” ends the album with an episodic suite within a suite, beginning with light, nimble and very colorful horns. There are vibrant broad strokes of color, and a majestic trumpet solo that flashes overhead like a shooting star. Light toned saxophone with drums and percussion lead the band, which is very tight and seems to breathe as one organism before diving into one final cacophonous section that ends the album on a glorious resolution. The writing, arranging and playing are fantastic on this record. This is not repertoire, but a tribute album in the finest sense, one that takes inspiration from a celebrated musician and album but creates its own unique and original sound world. Touch My Beloved's Thought - amazon.com
Kent Miller is an acoustic bassist on the Washington, D.C. scene, releasing his debut album in the company of Benny Russell on tenor saxophone, Darius Scott on piano and Greg Holloway on drums and percussion. The album is solid modern hard bop played with skill and panache, with solid compositions and accomplished solo and group improvising. “West End Carnival” is a fine opening for the album leading to some upbeat and bouncy performances, and a very well designed sense of rhythm as the music develops an Afro-Caribbean vibe that is jaunty and infectious. There is a choppy sense of swing on the soulful “Miss Lillie” which locks into an excellent groove when Russell lays out and the Scott solos over the rock solid bass and drum unit. Miller is a team player, but does allow himself a solo spot on “One For Two Blues” that is taut and well articulated. “G’s Bop” is one of the highlights of the album, because it is a bright and bouncy piece of modern jazz that allows for some good solo spots, especially from the drummer Holloway who makes the best of it by soloing and supporting the band and he is in pleasing form throughout the album. This was a well-done and very solid album of modern mainstream jazz. Miller and the group represent themselves very well throughout, making an admirable statement. Hopefully we will hear more from them in the future. Contributions - CDBaby
Snakeoil is Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Oscar Noriega on clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano and Ches Smith on drums and percussion. This is a very exciting live album of music from the book Spare by Berne and Steve Byram that was “mastered into submission” by guitarist David Torn. Tim Berne is a wizard at bringing musicians together for a specific sound or mission and this band is particularly potent. They have recorded three studio albums for ECM with another on the way, but truly come into their own when onstage. Everyone is at the top of their game and completely engaged in the material and each other. The music is comprised of three very long and one medium long performances that allow the band to stretch out at length, improvising not only in solo contexts but as a collectively improvising unit and in groups of twos and threes. “Deadbeat Beyonce” is the leadoff track, and in the running for the best song name of the year. There is a fantasia of color and sound that is achieved here, whether on a full-bodied Matt Mitchell solo feature, or in the different shades of sound that Berne and Noriega are able to achieve from their instruments. Ches Smith has been one of the most exciting percussionists on the scene for some time, and he shows just how valuable he is on this recording, whether playing in a quietly abstract manner or driving the music forward, his drumming is endlessly fascinating. The other two very long performances, “Spare Parts” and “OC-DC” are both dynamic pieces of music, shifting from a quiet and impressionistic to thrilling free jazz cacophony. Berne is particularly inspired throughout and his tart saxophone tone is perfect for the edgy music that he has co-composed. There is a heart on sleeve emotion to the music that is gripping to hear and makes this album a must-listen for progressive jazz fans. Angus Oleum - amazon.com