Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup, 2017)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing have long been one of the most exciting bands on the progressive jazz scene. This expanded version of the group features Moppa Elliott on bass, Jon Irabagon on saxophones, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and electronics, Kevin Shea on drums, Ron Stabinsky on piano, Dave Taylor on bass trombone and Steven Bernstein on trumpets. This larger version of the group adds a few new faces and this allows the band to explore some interesting textures. The recording draws on books and music, with new compositions that explore early jazz with some dedicated to writers. "Hi-Nella" sways in on and old-timey groove with feathering banjo and punchy brass. Their commitment to the sound of the past is pure, but the improvisations are as fresh as today's news, particularly in Bernstein's solo which is wide open and unaccompanied. There is a languid and slow tempo on "Honey Hole" with slinky brass and a gentle beat. An easy swinging saxophone solo breaks out framed and then joined by the other instruments, building to a stronger and decidedly modern improvisation section. Strong piano band bass provide the backbone for "Bloomsburg" upon which the brass and rhythm build. The brass instruments snake through the tune as Shea's drums break up the rhythm and open the music for a nice collective improvisation. "Kilgore" has ominous bass and fearsome growls before the band comes together for a mid-tempo swing with filigrees of banjo, before going rogue with extended sounds for brass and reeds. This is the most outside track on the album, throwing the remaining performances into sharp contrast with a bracing free improvisation for very high pitched saxophone and then a section of madcap barrellhouse piano. The tempo mellows on "Mason and Dixon" with quiet and patient piano solo introduction followed by the rest of the band crashing the party with some torrential drumming leading to a banjo feature and a free for all that takes the music in an exciting new direction. "Meridian" keeps an even keel with a thoughtful opening and variations on the theme they establish. There is another fine solo section for the brass section buoyed by the band's impeccable support. A jaunty straw-boater tipping melody opens "Glen Riddle" with lightly stepping horns accompanied by vibrant piano and banjo, before the music takes a darker turn with a more open improvisation anchored by Elliott's bass. Everything comes together again as the group seamlessly rejoins for a rousing conclusion. Effects give "Five (Corners, Points, Forks)" the sound like it was being played on a at 78 RPM on an old Victrola, but the music is decidedly modern with choppy banjo met with growls and shrieks of saxophone and trumpet framed by twinkling piano, the remaining instruments fold in and the effects are dropped for a fascinating interpretation of the music's possibilities. This is another fine album from this relentlessly creative band. Elliott's compositions take into account the whole continuum of jazz from pre-bop to free improvisations and the band interprets them with grace and poise. Loafer's Hollow - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicago Edge Ensemble - Decaying Orbit (Music+, 2017)

The city of Chicago is know for it's broad shouldered head strong jazz from the time Louis Armstrong brought the revolution north on a train from New Orleans through to fellow travelers Sun Ra, the members of the AACM, Ken Vandermark and the modern day keepers of the flame. Guitarist Dan Phillips brought together a hard hitting crew to pay respect to the jazz of Chicago, enlisting Mars Williams on saxophones, Hamid Drake on drums, Jeb Bishop on trombone and Krysztof Pabian on bass. The music works very well, combining the brawny swing the town is known for with progressive free elements that add to the excitement. The album is dynamic and ever evolving, starting with the lengthy opener "Attitude Adjustment" which develops patiently with complex horn interplay and solos that seem to bubble up from the firmament of the music itself. "Bi-Polar Vortex" begins with a rush of fast and exciting sound, incorporating collective and solo improvisations. After the manic episode of the cascading free improv ripens until the inevitable happens and the music crashes into a descending spiral to its uncertain conclusion. "Uptown Swagger" has the leader's snarling and snaking electric guitar locking in with with thick bass and propulsive drumming and shades of brass. It's a righteous and exciting tune that moves at a snappy pace with the snotty guitar making way for muscular horns and a sparkling saxophone solo. A strikingly brawny theme open "Not Here You Don't," creating an urgent atmosphere of anticipation. The storm clouds arrive and squalls of torrential music rain down in a startling collectively improvised section, led by crashing drums. A sparking guitar solo breaks free showering the scene with showers of flinty sound before the brisk and no-nonsense horns return to usher the music to a fine conclusion. This is a fine album of interesting themes and powerful performances by the full ensemble and the soloists. Everyone draws deeply from the limitless well of the city's musical history and creates a bold and thoughtful statement. Decaying Orbit - Bandcamp

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Interesting Links 3/18/2017

Aquarium Drunkard talks to Rob Mazurek about his recent Chicago/London Underground LP, and his collaboration with Emmett Kelly.
Bandcamp dips into the music of the great drummer Paal Nilssen-Love.
Ethan Iverson posts an interview with Geoffrey Keezer.
The Guardian on British experimental jazz at South by Southwest.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Led Bib - Umbrella Weather (RareNoise Records, 2017)

Led Bib is a consistently interesting progressive British jazz band with fusion overtones consisting of Mark Holub on drums, Pete Grogan and Chris Williams on alto saxophone, Liran Donin on bass and Toby McLaren on keyboards. This is a forward looking jazz ensemble that has evolved to the to a point where their trust each other implicitly and allow the music to flow naturally. They develop a muscular form of music that sets interesting and memorable themes which evolve into spirited improvisations. Most of the music on this album came about organically in the studio through a tight sense of collective improvisation, starting with “Lobster Terror," which opens the album with a choppy melody that makes way for some excellent collective playing from the group and then evolves into “Too Many Cooks,” which ups the ante even further, folding in elements of rock and electronic music to make for a very powerful performance. It's not all blistering tempos however, because on the wonderfully named “Insect Invasion” the band develops an atmospheric and spaced out groove which is also used on the melodic and jaunty concluding track “Goodbye." The group has become a stable and well oiled machine, evolving naturally and incorporating on each of the member's ideas and influences. The band adroitly travels the realms of jazz with pop and world music overtones, creating something provocative and memorable. Having two saxophones moving together over a heavy rhythm team that keeps the music moving continuously forward creates a very powerful sense of momentum. The band has developed gradually from a group that Holub put together for a university project into an organic and ever changing group of musicians. Hopefully we can receive more regular updates on their progress. Umbrella Weather - amazon.com

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Billy Mintz - Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note, 2017)

Drummer and composer Billy Mintz develops a free-wheeling double album in the company of John Gross on tenor saxophone, Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano saxophones, Roberta Piket on piano and keyboards and Hilliard Greene on bass. They cover a wide range of material from soul jazz to bop and free improvisation. "Angels" and "Vietnam" open the album on a serious note, moving from a spiritual jazz song to a sombre ballad. Things develop in a faster direction on "Dit," which has an angular melody that swings hard as the saxophones that swagger over frenetic drumming and strong vibrant piano. The music is propelled forward while cutting to a subtle piano trio section toward the end. "Flight" and "Flight (Ballad)" are two sides of the same coin, with the former establishing a classy and nicely mannered jazz sound, while the latter opening things further with a spare and spacious caress. "Cannonball" develops some storming hard bop with crisp drumming and some fine saxophone textures. The music stretches out further with lengthy tracks like "Shmear" giving the leader space for a interesting solo and some dynamic shifts in tone and and and alternate take of "Dit" which moves from an emphatic statement of the melody with cascading variations thereof. The second disc is even more expansive with tracks such as "Love and Beauty" and "Ugly Beautiful" which are lengthy improvised performances, growing from a graceful piano based ballad to a strong to a rippling jazz performance with taut saxophone and rhythm. The group ends the album with an extended version of "Cannonball" that allows Picket to develop a deep organ groove and the saxophones to stretch out accordingly. There is a lot of music to digest on this album, but it is quite worthwhile, covering a wide range of jazz styles with class and integrity. Ugly Beautiful - amazon.com

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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Microscopic Septet - Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues (Cuneiform, 2017)

The Microscopic Septet were one of the leading progressive bands in New York City during the mid to late 1980's, and then went their separate ways as performing opportunities began to dry up. Thankfully they returned to the fray in the late 2000's first with some fine reissues of their earlier work, and then a series of exciting original LP's for the Cuneiform label. The band consists of Phillip Johnston on soprano saxophone, Don Davis on alto saxophone, Mike Hashim, tenor saxophone, Dave Sewelson on baritone saxophone and vocals, Joel Forrester on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums. They play the blues in a jaunty and addictive fashion, opening with "Cat Toys" which is appropriately named, given the madcap nature of the music as the saxophonists chase the rhythm section like a wound up feline. "Blues Cubistico" adds some extra angles to the music, but sticks with the warmly swinging feel of their sound with some fine riffing and an extra dosage of baritone saxophone soloing. There is some sweet soprano saxophone melody to the nimble "Don't Mind If I Do" before the rest of the band crashes in to bump the music to a higher level with percussive piano supporting Sewelson on another excellent solo flight. Some storming riffs open "When It's Getting Dark" pushing the music forward in a strutting and memorable manner. All of the musicians  support one another admirably in solo and full band improvisations that are taut and powerful. "After You, Joel" sets up Forrester for some much deserved attention, and his playing is tasteful and thoughtful, making the most of a short solo spot with some pithy improvising. They turn the traditional "Silent Night" into a smoky ballad and take the music out in style on "I've Got a Right to Cry" which mines the Kansas City blues of the territory band years, even adding a gravely vocal turn for Sweleson. The format of the blues suits the band very well, allowing them to set their little big band riffs in their natural habitat, and then adding unique solos and improvisations that keep the music continuously interesting throughout the length of the whole album. Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues - amazon.com

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Interesting Links

Ethan Iverson interviewed Robert Glasper, creating controversy, commentary and responses, leading to a follow-up post about Mary Lou Williams.
PopMatters looks at books about jazz and the loft scene in the 1970"s.
The Irish Times interviews Evan Parker.
There is a BBC Radio special about Alice Coltrane.
The New Yorker profiles Jack White.
An excellent interview with George Coleman at Burning Ambulance.

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