Monday, September 29, 2014

Charles Lloyd - Manhattan Stories (Resonance, 2014)

Charles Lloyd was at a turning point in his career when these recordings were made in 1965. Behind him, high profile sideman positions with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley. Ahead lay the very popular group he would lead in the late 1960’s, playing to packed rock halls and touring the world. Caught between these two spheres, lay these two concerts at Judson Hall and the infamous Slug’s nightclub, with Lloyd on saxophone and flute, Gabor Szabo on guitar, Ron Carter on bass and Pete LaRocca on drums. The Judson Hall concert on the first disc is very well recorded, open with Lloyd’s own composition “Sweet Georgia Bright” where the band is quite comfortable and allows for a series of excellent solos. Lloyd sounds confident and strong, with echoes of John Coltrane in his tone. Szabo has a sharp and angular guitar tone and Carter and LaRocca swing mightily. “How Can I Tell You” is a sensuous ballad, with a wistful hue. Szabo’s “Lady Gabor” appears twice, from both Judson Hall and Slug’s and Lloyd leads off with light and spritely flute before relinquishing the floor to the composer. Szabo seizes the opportunity on both occasions and builds lengthy, interesting solos, infused by his Hungarian heritage and also filled with sharp corners and flowing shapes. The spontaneous “Slug’s Blues” opens that venue’s set with a fast paced dive into strong, soulful saxophone playing and the rest of the band just rolling along with enjoying the space of an on the fly improvisation. “Dream Weaver” another Lloyd original rounds out the music with a lengthy swinging oration that has soaring saxophone lines and superb accompaniment. This was a very interesting set with the music at a very high level and the sound cleaned as much as possible. There is a fine set of liner essays and a hat must be tipped to Resonance Records who have unearthed two wonderful historical releases, Offering by John Coltrane and Manhattan Stories by Charles Lloyd. Manhattan Stories - amazon.com

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Jeremiah Cymerman with Nate Wooley and Evan Parker - World of Objects (5049 Records, 2014)

Clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman is a very busy man: he is a label-owner, podcaster, solo and group improvisor and he has a day job on top of it. This album was a labor of love for him, a completely improvised session between Cymerman doubling on electronics, trumpeter Nate Wooley and legendary British saxophonist Evan Parker. Recorded at The Stone about one year ago, the music consists of three improvised pieces: the epic "Box of Memories" along with "And the Call of the Wild Beckoned Them" and finally "Men of Distinction." The music is quite adventurous with the musicians feeling each other out in the beginning, and then delving deeper into the improvised fabric. The instruments blend well together and, while the music they make is challenging, there are points of reference and also points where the music is like a funhouse reflecting the music in many directions. The introduction of the electronics adds to the disorientation, allowing one instrument to loop and play against and then rejoin the music make for a very exciting addition to the proceedings. This is very good and fascinating music, made by three excellent musicians in the mindful moment which moves from meditation to cacophony but never loses its sense of focus. World of Objects - jeremiahcymerman.com.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

John Coltrane - Offering: Live at Temple University (Resonance/Impulse, 2014)

Although it had been available in fragmentary bootleg form for quite a while, this restored version of John Coltrane's concert from Temple University on November 11, 1966 is a significant addition to his catalog, and a fascinating glimpse of how his music continued to move relentlessly forward to the end of his life. This concert has his late period band: Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones and a little flute, Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone and piccolo, Rashied Ali on drums and Sonny Johnson subbing for Jimmy Garrison on bass. There were also a wide range of local musicians that Coltrane invited on stage. The concert begins with "Naima" already in progress with a very strong Coltrane solo making way for a lengthy piano interlude, developing a mysterious feel before Coltrane returns with a deeply confident conclusion. The dark tone and haunting melody of "Crescent" is cast aside as Pharoah Sanders begins to solo on tenor saxophone. His sound is very raw and guttural as he grapples for leverage in the music, screaming with pure emotion. After a section of piano and excellent percussion, Coltrane returns, sounding stoic but developing his expression further and further out, embracing the extra percussion before returning full circle to the melody and concluding the piece. "Leo" was a staple of this band's repertoire and this version begins with a choppy and urgent sound. Pharoah Sanders develops anguished cries of gritty and passionate sound before Coltrane moves to flute, then back to tenor saxophone full of potency. "Offering" is a quieter, hymn-like short piece of section that develops into a bass feature and then finally the melody for the finale, "My Favorite Things." Coltrane's soprano saxophone here is as evocative and beautiful as ever. He graciously allows a local musician to take a solo before returning getting very deep into the music as Sanders supports him on piccolo. Coltrane's epic stream of consciousness solo takes the music to it's conclusion and garners rapturous and well-deserved applause. This was an excellent and fascinating concert, well worth checking out for fans of Coltrane's later period music or free-jazz in general. Offering: Live At Temple University - amazon.com

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Francois Carrier - The Russian Concerts Vol. 2 (FMR Records, 2014)

Recorded in three locations in Moscow in 2013,  this very powerful collective improvisation is led by Francois Carrier on alto saxophone, along with Michael Lambert on drums and Alexey Lapin on piano. The make a statement of purpose right off the bat on "JCC II" which has strong saxophone echoing grandly around the venue, the group as a whole is sharp and strong, especially Carrier who displays epic and protean power on his instrument. "JCC III" begins with a probing section for piano and drums, Lapin is quite patient in dropping showers of notes before Carrier comes in and the tome of the music begins to darken. Lambert drops the hammer and they are off with squalls of saxophone and drums framed by rumbling dark bass piano chords. Opening with strong group interplay, "JCC IV" allows Carrier to rear back and let loose a steaming stream of notes, honks and wails, before throttling lack and ending the piece with the sounds of quiet breath. "ESG-21 III" is an epic performance as the band begins the piece with protean wailing coming fast and hard, particularly Carrier who winds up and lets loose like a coiled spring, absolutely all out and thrilling. But as the booster rockets fall away, the music changes shape entirely. As if they have now been launched into the cosmos by the ferocity of the opening section, the music becomes a long and open exploration of musical space and time. This is the longest performance on the album and demonstrates the band is far from just a fire-breathing free jazz unit but a group that has almost telepathic unity that allows for the use of dynamics that shapes this excellent and exhausting album. The Russian Concerts Vol. 2 - francoiscarrier.com.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio with Peter Evans - The Freedom Principle (NoBusiness, 2014)

This is a potent collective improvisation group featuring Rodrigo Amado on tenor saxophone, Peter Evans on trumpet, Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums recorded in Lisbon in March of last year. The obvious precedent of this group given the instrumentation would be the classic quartets led by Ornette Coleman in the late 50's and early 60's. But while those bands improvised freely from Coleman's own quirky compositional ideas, this band takes things a step even further by collectively improvising without a net and molding the fear and exhilaration of such an endeavor into the music. "The Freedom Principle" lays things on the line as the group moves valiantly through sections of loud and exciting free jazz as a full unit and also sections for soloists supported by the fellow members and and sections of whisper quiet music where the listener must pay rapt attention to what is happening, considering that the music is being played at a low volume and a slow pace. The two remaining pieces, "Shadows" and "Pepper Packed" continue this sense of dynamism further with Evans sounding much different than he does on discs by Mostly Other People Do the Killing where he plays in more of a post-bop/free jazz sensibility, and in this case he takes quite a few risks in his trumpet playing and Amado follows suit moving from gutsy squalls of tenor saxophone to long lines of of ominous wind. The rhythm section is interesting also as Mira's cello gives him a lighter and sharper sound than a traditional bass and Ferrandini's drums add a depth of texture that makes for a successful recording. The Freedom Principle - amazon.com

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