Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jurg Wickihalder European Quartet feat. Irene Schweizer - Jump! (Intakt, 2011)

The third release on Intakt by soprano saxophonist Jurg Wickihalder finds him in the company of the highly regarded pianist Irene Schweizer along with Fabian Gisler on bass and Michael Griener on drums, and they make for a formidable group. The spirit of Thelonious Monk seems to hang in the air as the group navigates five Wickihalder original compositions, all spirited and ripe with opportunity for the musicians to improvise. The group leads off with "Triple Rittberger Exercise" which really brings out the impish Monk-ishness for Schweizer, before making way for a fine unaccompanied soprano saxophone solo. "Red Light Jumping Friends (dedicated to Irène)" has a ripe solo piano opening, strong with gentle filigree. The rest of the bend then enters jauntily, building something of a playful, roguish strut that develops faster and stronger during this section of the dynamic suite-like performance. Low piano and saxophone usher in "Last Jump" probing with an emotional sense of longing and loss. With bass and drums entering spaciously, the music begins to pick up pace, adding a dash of mordant humor to a full-bodied improvisation. After an interlude for solo bass, the music returns to long, lonely tones for saxophone with accents of piano and bass. The shortest performance on the album is also one of its highlights. "6243D (armstand back double somersault 1,5 twists free position)" develops a swirling and dance-like motif, with rolling piano and drums making way for elastic bass and percussion. Kaleidoscopic saxophone and excellent drumming underpin this wonderful performance. The ending track, "High Wire Dancer" is the longest on the album, finishing the album with an emphatic statement. Starting out with a well deserved centerpiece for drummer Michael Griener, the music picks up pace as the rest of the band enters the fray. This dynamic performance builds fast, with snake-charmer soprano saxophone developing a crescendo of high pitched raving over bass and drums with Schweizer laying out. After a calming bass interlude, the full quartet builds back in for a full headstrong sprint to the finish. This was a really well done and consistently interesting album. I'm not as well versed in the European improvisational scene as I should be, but this wonderful album leaves me wanting more. Jump! -

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bernstein/Goldings/Stewart - Live at Smalls (Smalls Live, 2011)

Guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Larry Goldings and drummer Bill Stewart have been playing together for many years, holding down a regular gig at the Smalls jazz club when their schedules allow. This is a nice example of their regular gig, beginning with “Chant” which shows the trio playing in a mellow laid back groove, with the organ bubbling and simmering like a thick stew. Drums and organ/guitar trade phrases and then Stewart takes over for a short drum solo before the group returns stretching out at length. “Molto Molto” adds a latin tint to a groove reminiscent to that which Grant Green and Larry Young would establish on some great Blue Note records of the 1960’s. The trio builds a deep subtle groove at a medium tempo, sounding professional but not slick or overly polished. “Everytime We Say Goodbye” slows things down to a languid ballad speed, afer a slow organ buildup, there is subtle ballad guitar over gentle brushes. Bernstein’s guitar leads spaciously before handing off to Goldings’ organ and Stewart’s cymbal beat accenting the loneliness of the song. The low tempo is continued on “Just a Thought,” with bursts of improvisation as the music grows slowly stronger building to a medium boil. The highlight of the performance is a performance of the classic Miles Davis standard “Milestones” beginning with science fiction/Sun Ra sounding organ effects, Bernstein takes the lead with a pithy statement of the familiar melody and builds upon it along with a strong fast organ led groove section. There is a spacious interlude for Stewart’s drums, developing a loud soft dynamic before a restatement of the melody and conclusion. This is a solid group, interacting and listening to each other closely, creating solid mainstream jazz through communicating and dialogue development. Live at Smalls -

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Steve Reid, Kieran Hebden and Mats Gustafsson - Live at the South Bank (Smalltown Superjazz, 2011)

The great drummer Steve Reid enjoyed a fantastic career, playing with everyone from R&B singers to free jazz musicians. He recorded two wonderful albums in the 1970’s, Nova and Rhythmatism before keeping a lower profile the remainder of the decade. In the 2000’s he had a career renaissance, teaming up with the electronic musician Kieran Hebden to produce a number of albums that blurred the boundaries of jazz and electronic music. The two reunite here, joined by Swedish free-jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, in this live performance recorded at the 2009 Meltdown Festival, which was curated by Ornette Coleman. This is a truly inspired performance, with the band performing six long improvisations, featuring Hebden’s bubbling and zooming electronics and sampling and Reid’s ever changing rhythms, which shift like dunes of sand in the desert wind. The wildcard is Gustafsson, who adds spice to the music, picking his spots carefully, accenting the duo and adding his own voice to the proceedings. He actually sits out for the entirety of the first track, “Morning Prayer,” where Hebden and Reid build a hypnotic trance of soundscapes and beats. When he begins to join in on the music, tentatively at first, then with more power and confidence, the music gains added steam, becoming an unstoppable force of uncatagorizable sound. Shifting from dark and brooding textures to exciting, heavy and powerful features, the double album unfolds in a continuous suite waxing and waning like the unstoppable tide. This unique and fascinating performance is highly recommended for progressive jazz and rock fans. Live at the South Bank -

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cuneiform: Sao Paulo Underground; Mats/Morgan Band

Sao Paulo Underground - Tres Cabecas Loucuras (Cuneiform, 2011) This is a very interesting group that combines jazz composition and improvisation with electronics and effects to create an intoxicating and exotic blend of music. Featuring Rob Mazurek on cornet and electronics, Mauricio Takara on drums and electronics, Guilherme Granado on keyboards, electronics and samplers, Richard Ribeiro on drums as well as a number of special guests. The music on this album deftly mixes influences: contemporary Brazilian music, electronics and spiritual jazz like an updated version of Pharoah Sanders early 70's groove-free LP's create a music that moves like a dreamscape and every track works well as its own self-contained sound world while melding into the cohesive whole of the album. Mazurek, who has worked in several different musical contexts plays very well here, accenting the music and the electronic sculptures and punctuating the music with solo breakouts. The music here defies any particular box or category, drifting on a wave of freedom and possibility and making extraordinary music throughout. Tres Cabacas Loucuras -

Mats/Morgan Band - Live (Cuneiform, 2011) Play this album for a traditional acoustic jazz fan and watch their head explode! Just kidding, but not by much. The Mats/Morgan Band recalls the heyday of jazz fusion and progressive rock and blasts that music into the modern day with great musical chops and a sense of humor. With the intricacy of some of Frank Zappa's more ambitious work along with the virtuosity of The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever. This concert LP expands the group with Mats Oberg, Eric Carlsson and Robert Elovsson on keyboards, Jimmy Agren on guitar, Tommy Thordsson on bass and Morgan Argen on drums. The music works very well in the live context with the instrumental talent and speed of the band's playing definitely appealing to the audience, but that also applies to some of the spacier tracks. Fans of progressive rock and roll or jazz fusion should enjoy this disc quite a bit, there is a lot of talent on display. Live -

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Blues: Elmore James

Elmore James - The Complete Fire and Enjoy Recordings (Collectables, 1995) The great guitarist and singer Elmore James is remembered for his immortal riffs on slide guitar and for his use of loud amplification, but he also had one of the most emotionally powerful singing voices in all of the blues. The selections on this three disc compilation include many of the latter day recordings from the late 1950's and early 1960's recorded before the fateful heart-attack that took him much too soon. This set is quite a handful, including alternate takes and a few performances with James as a sideman rather than a leader. So it's probably not the best place for the curious to begin (that might be the nicely done Rhino set.) But for the hardcore blues fan, this collection is quite a goldmine of extraordinary music. Highlights for me were the epic version of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" propelled along by this apocalyptic bass and drum groove that James rides like a surfer with slide guitar accents and soulful vocals. One of James' most well known songs was composed and recorded during this period. "They Sky Is Crying," one of his most evocative vocal performances, was supposedly inspired by a torrid rainstorm that gave the song its name and lonely feeling. Another famous James song, "Dust My Broom" is included, an R&B hit that gave his backing band its name (The Broomdusters) and a guitar riff that inspired many of the most famous rock and roll musicians of the 1960's. The cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "One Way Out" (Williamson employed James on the original recording) and the instrumental "Up Jumped Elmore" were also very influential to the likes of The Allman Brothers Band. The liner notes are solid, giving a little bit of background to the recording sessions and the musicians involved, but it is the music itself, which seems to leap out of the speakers that is the real reward. Elmore James was a one of a kind musicians and this is an excellent dose of his music in its prime. Complete Fire & Enjoy Recordings -

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Piano: Sunna Gunnlaugs; Dred Scott Trio

Sunna Gunnlaugs - Long Pair Bond (Sunny Sky, 2011) Icleandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs performs her latest album with the help of Porgrimur Jonsson on bass and Scott McLemore on drums. The group works very well together, on first listen it seems to be a self-functioning unit like the Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau trios, but closer listening shows the depth and thoughtfulness of the performances. The trio shows a great deal of mindfulness, approaching the music in the present moment and bringing an attentive way of dealing with both the compositions and deep listening to their colleagues. There is a crystalline beauty to the music that upon further examination unfolds its secrets slowly like the narrative of a well written novel. “Autumnalia” was a favorite track of mine, the slightly melancholy air of the music aptly describing in music the beauty and transitory nature of the fall season. There are two interesting covers on the album, “Diamonds on the Inside” originally by Ben Harper is re-arranged as a spacious meditation with large drops of piano notes falling like rain around the supportive bass and drums, and the beautifully haunting “Vicious World” by Rufus Wainwright, transformed into an excellent ballad with deft brushwork by Scott McLemore. This was a very impressive and well done album with the group having clear comprehension of their musical ideas and having great attention, engagement and compassion with the musical ecology they are creating. Long Pair Bond - Bandcamp

Dred Scott Trio: Going Nowhere (Ropeadope, 2011) The Dred Scott Trio with Scott on piano, Ben Rubin on bass and Tony Mason on drums takes the piano trio format in a different direction, playing forcefully and dynamically, with a tongue in cheek sense sense of humor akin to another wonderful piano trio, The Bad Plus. Scott is a forceful piano player, getting a deeply full bodied sound out of the instrument whether skittering nervously with vocal interjections on “66 6ths” to the funky and occasionally raunchy rave up “Mojo Rhythm (Son of Yaa!) where the bass and drums build a nice rhythm and blues groove for Scott to weave around. They end on a slightly unexpected note with a performance of the standard “Seven Steps to Heaven.” The juxtaposing of their hard, rhythmic approach with moments of spacial awareness make this an interesting album, something that should make the band appeal beyond the jazz audience into aficionados of funky jazz like Medeski, Martin and Wood. Going Nowhere - DredScott Store

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trumpets: Wadada Leo Smith; Corey Wilkes

Wadada Leo Smith - Dark Lady of the Sonnets (TUM, 2011) Always searching for new musical vistas, the trumpet and flugelhorn player Wadada Leo Smith teams up with Min Xiao-Fen on pipa and occasional voice and Pheeroan akLaff on drums. The trio is called Mbira, and they create a very interesting album featuring five lengthy improvisations which develop dynamically from abstract beginnings and unfold in suite-like formations growing collective improvisational energy gradually like particles from the cosmic void coalescing into stars and planets. Min Xiao-Fen is particularly fascinating, with the plucked instrument akin to a lute adding depth and texture to the music. akLaff has been playing with Smith for many years and his weaving of percussion ideas from many cultures and ideas underpins much of the music's success. Smith is in particularly potent form, playing lengthy and strong lines on his instruments. "Blues: Cosmic Beauty" takes the earthiness of roots based music and melds it with percussion and strings to develop a new cohesion and opportunity for musical expression. "Dark Lady of the Sonnets" flows organically with a lyrical and narrative grace, folding in diverse influences from Africa and Asia into a rich coherent structure. This album combines the traditional aspects of ethnic and improvisational music while reaching out for the unknown without fear. Its essence is thoughtful and vital and this program is filled with powerful, involving music. Dark Lady Of The Sonnets -
Wilkes - Kind of Miles: Live at the Velvet Lounge (Katalyst, 2011) Corey Wilkes is a another trumpeter reared in the fertile Chicago scene (who probably has listened to quite a bit of Wadada Leo Smith.) So precocious was he that Wilkes was tapped to stand in for Lester Bowie in a reformed Art Ensemble of Chicago live album. On this disc, also recorded live, but at the famed Velvet Lounge in Chicago, Wilkes examines the music of another departed trumpet master, Miles Davis. But he stays away from the usual "tribute album" cliches by crafting four long dream like performances, beginning with Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," a tune Davis often covered. After that, the band breaks out to Davis' electric material, using the melodies and ideas of the original music as jumping off points for lengthy solos and collective passages that range far and wide. Combining the acoustic and the electric in the closing "So What/It's In the Right Place" shows all sides of the band from fiery to contemplative, and the group consisting of Kevin Nabors is on tenor saxophone, Greg Spero on keyboards, Junius Paul on bass, Xavier Breaker on drums and Kahil El Zabar on percussion, mostly use the space to their advantage to meld and shape the music to their own ends. Patience is required, because their are some static spots in the lengthy jam like performances, but they are successful in their ques to use the music of Miles Davis as an inspiration rather than a destination. Kind Of Miles -

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paul Motian

Rest in Peace, Paul Motian.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Music Listening: Samuel Blaser, Atomic, R.E.M.

Samuel Blaser - Consort in Motion (Kind of Blue, 2011) This is a chamber jazz album filled with hushed tones and thoughtfully designed improvisations between Samuel Blaser on trombone, Russ Lossing on piano, Thmoas Morgan on bass and Paul Motian on drums. The interaction between between Blaser's delicately smeared and articulated trombone and Motian's minimalist percussion creates a quiet, intimate album that requires and concentration and contemplation. "Si Dolce è l'Tormento" and "Reflections on Vespro della Beata Vergine" nudge the tempos slightly up a little bit, engaging the band into full improvisation and interpretation of the themes and melodies. Consort In Motion -

Atomic - Here Comes Everybody (Jazzland, 2011) The joyfully boisterous Scandinavian jazz collective Atomic, consisting of Fredrik Ljungkvist on saxophones, Magnus Broo on trumpet, Havard Wiik on piano, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, takes a much different direction, performing free-bop that is grounded in the exploratory music of the 1960's, blasted forward into the modern world. Made up of some the best performers on the European jazz scene, the players are able to put any individual notions or egos aside and drive their energies collectively into the exciting and dynamic music. Making music that blurs the intersection of hard bop and free jazz, that allows them to carve out exciting territory for their sonic explorations, makes this a very exciting and enjoyable album. Here Comes Everybody - iTunes

R.E.M. -
Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011 (Warner Brothers, 2011) This is a compilation pushed out in the wake of the venerable American rock 'n' roll band's surprising announcement to disband after a thirty year run. Although two discs are not enough to sum up the band's contribution to music, it does a decent job of hitting some of the high points. Early classics like "Radio Free Europe" are included along with some of the other highlights from the groups early tenure on IRS records making up the first disc. Disc two concentrates on their recordings for Warner Bothers, occasionally brilliant like the selections from the extraordinary Automatic for the People LP, but also including some questionable selections from their spottier recordings in the mid 2000's. Not perfect by any means, but it makes a sensible place to start for the curious. Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982 - 2011 -

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Books: Choke Hold By Christa Faust

Choke Hold (Hard Case Crime, #68)Choke Hold by Christa Faust

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Former adult film star turned vigilante Angel Dare is hiding out working in a small greasy spoon diner in Yuma, Arizona, after being busted out of the witness protection program by the very gangsters she tried to put away in the previous novel, Money Shot. When she has a chance encounter with a former lover and his estranged son, in the diner. Before they have a chance to get properly reacquainted, killers burst into the room with a hail of gunfire. Angel’s ex-beau takes a mortal hit and makes a deathbed request that she keep his eighteen year old son, a budding Mixed Martial Arts star safe at all costs. After barely escaping the attack, the move to the son Cody’s friend’s house, the punch-drunk fighter Hank. Together the three scour the American Southwest and Mexico, trying to shake the gangsters once and for all and and trying to get Cody his big chance at becoming a championship fighter in Las Vegas. This is a short and very powerful noir story, where the protagonist, Angel, is drawn into a series of events beyond her control that spiral out of control into chaos and death. In Angel Dare, author Christa Faust has created a truly compelling character, haunted by a troubled past, but hell-bent on being a survivor and nobody’s victim. Faust weaves elements of paranoia and dark violence into the narrative recalling pulp masters like David Goodis and Philip K. Dick, in the plot where nothing is what it seems and the well-drawn characters are desperate to stay one step ahead of danger. Choke Hold (Hard Case Crime) -

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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Who - Quadrophenia- The Director's Cut (Super Deluxe Edition) (Geffen, 2011)

The progressive rock opera Quadrophenia has been my favorite album by The Who since I discovered it in college. This is one of those "overkill" reissues, really aimed at the true believer fan, containing not only the original double album re-mastered, but discs of demos and surround sound mixes, along with a hardcover book and other related ephemera. I didn’t have the money (or the attention span) to purchase the whole set, so I was thrilled that the most of the music (except for the surround sound) was made available on the music streaming site MOG. Even compressed to 320 kbs MP3 format, I could hear the improvement in the sound over the cassette I wore out as a student or the early edition CD that I have. Quadrophenia was a “concept album,” like the band’s Tommy or the aborted Lifehouse project, and this album is about youth alienation during the mods vs. rockers conflict in early ’60’s England. The highlights of the music for me have always been some of the stand-alone pieces like “The Real Me” which is one of the band’s most potent uptempo anthems featuring stellar bass playing from John Entwistle and powerful vocals from Roger Daltrey. The horn and piano enhanced “5:15” and the hauntingly powerful ballad “Love Reign O’er Me” are some of the groups most mighty songs. These performances and the rest of the album are strung together with a loose storyline and some instrumental filler that uses some early synthesizer technology on display. I think the original album is a classic, but the demo songs on the remaining discs/streams are really of interest only to heavy fans. It’s interesting to hear how Pete Townshend arranged the music using synths and guitar, and the way that the band would develop and flesh out the full versions of these skeletal songs. Much of the music here is akin to the Scoop and Another Scoop LP’s released by Townshend in the 1980’s. I didn’t have a change to see the extensive liner book and the other chotchkies that come with the box, but the photographs and essays are undoubtably impressive. This is quite a package and quite a pricetag, but for the die-hard fan of The Who it is probably worth the expense. There is a more wallet friendly Director’s Cut that has the remastered original album and a few of the demos at a much lower price. Quadrophenia- The Director's Cut (Super Deluxe Edition)

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jason Adasiewicz - Spacer (Delmark, 2011)

Re-united with his Sun Rooms group featuring Nate McBride on bass and Mike Reed on drums, Jason Adasiewicz furthers his claim on being the pre-eminent vibraphonist on the progressive jazz scene. A mainstay in Chicago jazz groups as both a leader and valued member of collective ensembles, he is continuing the forward thinking jazz tradition on the vibraphone created by the likes of Walt Dickerson and Khan Jamal. This trio has developed a near telepathic empathy, like the best piano trios, with the ringing vibes shimmering playing with and against deeply wrought bass and nimble drumming developing a deeply rhythmic pattern. Bookended by two short solo vibraphone excursions, the music is consistently excellent, whether played at speed like the fast paced “Bees” and “Run Fly” where the group collaborates to produce a unique sound world. “Pillow” and “Bobbie” slow things down to a ballad tempo, allowing the group space to work and develop improvisations from the evocative themes. This was a really well done album by a trio that deserves great respect and opportunity to play their music often. Vibraphone trios are comparatively rare in jazz, but this album makes a compelling case for the format. The music is engaging and challenging and the performers are some of the best the fertile Chicago scene has to offer. Spacer -

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Books: Black Light by Patrick Melton, st. al.

Black LightBlack Light by Patrick Melton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Buck Carlsbad is a private investigator, traveling the country taking jobs and pulling marks. Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Until you learn that Buck has a special gift, and that pulling marks means capturing wayward ghosts and poltergeists. Buck is scarred by thoughts a desolate stretch of Nevada where the ghosts of several notorious killers lie and where his parents themselves were killed. He tried to go there once before and was nearly killed himself by what lies in wait there. When he learns of plans to build a high-speed rail line that will connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas, traveling right through the paranormal "triangle" in the desert, and he receives a mysterious invitation to ride the inaugural journey, he knows that there is trouble brewing. As Buck rides the high-speed train and the ghosts come out of the woodwork, he's in a life or death struggle, where everything is on the line. This book is an interesting horror-thriller, and it moves seamlessly despite being a collaboration between three different writers. There is a considerable amount of graphic violence on par with some movies (the writers wrote the screenplays for the Saw franchise if that gives you any idea) but if you are a fan of supernatural horror, you should definitely check this one out. Black Light -

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Monday, November 14, 2011

MSMW Live: In Case The World Changes Its Mind

This is a live collection from jazz guitarist John Scofield collaborating with John Medeski on organ and keyboards, Billy Martin on drums and Chris Wood on bass. The music was drawn from the source material of their previous collaborations John Scofield’s A Go Go and MSMW’s Out Louder. Their lengthy 2006 tour together provided the music for this album. The open the double-live album in fine fashion with the up-tempo groover “A Go-Go,” featuring a strong guitar solo. Bubbling organ and funky rhythm made this a great crowd pleaser. “Deadzy” brings a more atmospheric focus to the proceedings. The song has a creepy haunted-house feel with spooky guitar shards punctuating rumbling bass and drums and smears of organ. “What Now” brings us back to a fast, overdriven organ groove with guitar accents, everybody storming hard. Steaming electric organ and wah guitar which develop into an excellent solo halfway through. The band comes through at full throttle making this a definitive highlight of the album. Bringing the funk is the main focus of “Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing” with a Meters/New Orleans type rhythm, with the organ swirling happily over the parade groove. A section for thick bass and a drum solo are featured before the full band comes back together for a wickedly funky conclusion. The group references the blues quite nicely with “In Case The World Changes Its Mind” and “Little Walter Rides Again.” Both develop excellent R&B grooves with Medeski getting a wide variety of sounds from his keyboard lineup, including one that sounds uncannily like an amplified harmonica. A final track of note is “Miles Behind” opening with a fine drum solo before segueing into a stomping live improvisation like something out of the Miles Davis On the Corner sessions. Wood provides a massive bass pivot like Michael Henderson did in the Davis band, and Scofield employs guitar effects to mimic the electrified trumpet of the fierce groove of Davis’s electrical period. This was as well put together live collection that shows the band in a variety of settings from jazz fusion through blues and gospel. They are able to meld these diverse source materials into lengthy jam style improvisations, making for an enjoyable collection. MSMW Live: In Case The World Changes Its Mind -

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ivo Perelman - The Hour of the Star (Leo Records, 2011)

South American saxophonist Perelman has been a fixture on the free jazz scene for decades now, recording albums in a variety of musical combinations for a variety of record labels. This is the best one of his I have heard, he is in rare form and the band is absolutely stellar: Matthew Shipp on piano, Joe Morris on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The quartet setting suits the music perfectly as it sits on the nexus of modern jazz and free improvisation. The band can be quite intense during the uptempo free passages on "Singing the Blues" and the lengthy "Hour of the Star." Perelman's tenor saxophone is brawny and raw, very emotional and deep. The rhythm team is excellent, providing an elastic base for the leader to bend and shape at his will. Matthew Shipp in particularly excellent, both in accompaniment and solo spots. They throttle back to a quasi-ballad on the haunting short song "The Right to Protest," before ramping the sound back up to a thrilling finale. This was a very well done and consistently excellent album, with all four members of the band playing at the top of their game. Fans of modern jazz and free improvisation will be thrilled by this exciting album. The Hour Of The Star -

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Books: The Affair by Lee Child

The Affair (Jack Reacher, #16)The Affair by Lee Child

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lee Child's most recent Jack Reacher thriller sends his famous character back in time to where he developed many of the quirks that made the other books in the series so enjoyable. This novel is set in 1997, and Reacher is still an Army MP with the rank of major. The Army is changing, downsizing in the interlude between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror. Three murders of beautiful women have occurred in a small town in Mississippi, which is located near an important and politically connected Army base. The Army sends an investigator to check out the base which is locked down during the investigation, while Reacher is slipped into the town through the back door to conduct an unofficial investigation of the town. Reacher joins forces with the (naturally) beautiful female sheriff, an ex-Marine who sees through his cover story immediately. Looking for either a civilian or military killer, Reacher conducts his own type of investigation uncovering a massive conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. This book works pretty well, and Reacher remains a compelling character, and to see him in transition between the military and civilian worlds is quite interesting. Child writes at a brisk pace that keeps things moving along well even when the characters are waiting for something to happen. With the sheriff being repeatedly described as a beautiful woman, it is inevitable that she would get together and the sex scenes do grow a little gratuitous after a while. But it is a small quibble in another fine entry in a very popular series. The Affair: A Reacher Novel -

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Friday, November 11, 2011

November Podcast

I hadn't done a podcast in a while and I wanted to give you a chance to check out what I have been listening to lately. The link to the podcast page for downloading (and eventually streaming) is here. Let me know what you think, it's been a while since I've tried this. Here is the playlist:

Background Music by Jason Stein Quartet; Milestones by Charles Earland; Minus Gravity 1 by David S. Ware; Monuments by Rez Abbasi; Killer by Rudresh Mahanthappa; TMNT by Sidony Box; Hazelnut Eyes by Gilad Hekselman; The Edge by Wellstone Conspiracy; Wayne's World by John Escreet and Recoil by Nils Petter Molvaer.

Any artists or representatives objecting to the use of their music, please contact via e-mail.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jason Stein Quartet - The Story This Time (Delmark, 2011)

Choosing to focus on the bass clarinet makes Jason Stein a unique figure in jazz. While notables like Eric Dolphy and David Murray have used the instrument as part of their repertoire, Stien’s focus on the instrument has led him to develop his own unique voice. The remainder of the quartet consists of Keefe Jackson on tenor saxophone and and contrabass clarinet, Josh Abrams on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums. “Background Music” and “Lennie Bird” bookend the album with short, taut performances and dexterously intertwined horns. The saxophone and bass clarinet swirl around each other like a helix over throbbing bass and drums. Three compositions by Thelonious Monk are also featured. “Skippy” has the bass and drums developing a great foundation for the wonderful Monk melody before Stein breaks out for a solo statement. The two develop a really nice reed interaction over a swinging rhythm. “Gallop’s Gallop” takes an experimental track beginning with a gentle statement of the melody, then moving into an abstract section of squeaks and squawks before returning to a low-key conclusion. “Work” has a dynamic feel with funky, growling horns contrasting with lighter passages. Among the other compositions, “Little Big Horse” is a highlight, with tricky hornwork developing a slinky melody over fine sounding bass and drums. This performance is kept fresh with an expressive solo for bass clarinet, developing a raw and potent feel. Performing compositions from a wide range of musicians in an interesting setting, this album proves to be very enjoyable and exciting. The Story This Time -

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Rez Abbasi - Suno Suno (Enja, 2011)

Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi has been developing a unique conception of the song form and improvisation that draws from a wide variety of influences, including Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music. Joining him on this album is a band consisting of: Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Vijay Iyer on piano, Johannes Weidenmuller on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. For the most part, the album is made up of lengthy, dynamic suite-like performances, beginning with “Thanks for Giving,” stately uptempo beginning building to a percussive vibrant piano solo that makes use of the entire instrument. The song builds dynamically with an extended guitar solo with drum encouragement. Alto saxophone builds in, swirling over choppy percussion and melding like a crucible of musical tones. “Onus on Us” takes a mellower mid-tempo tact, with guitar breaking out for a probing solo, patient and making great use of space. It is a well textured, lengthy solo developing into percussive piano and drum interaction. Swirling saxophone moves in progressing into a quiet fire before making way for a bass solo. After a short piano introduction, “Monuments” envelops a throbbing intensity, with a repetitive grove setting a foundation for strong saxophone over rumbling piano. Mahanthappa breaks out for a complex saxophone feature, with the full band following suit. Abbasi breaks out for a mix of heavy repetitive riffs and heady soloing. “Nusrat” has a melodic opening featuring low-end that leads into a taut and pointed guitar solo that builds to a fine climatic sequence. Wailing, almost pained saxophone drawn from deep inner strength envelops the music projecting deeply visionary music, propelled by excellent drumming. A rippling piano, bass and drums opening ushers in “Overseas” which quickly becomes a feature for pianist Vijay Iyer. His piano rolls, ably supported by bass and drums, before saxophone drifts in gradually in a patient and mysterious manner enveloped by smears of abstract guitar. Mathanhappa probes the music quietly on the sly before building to a fast and strong conclusion. Funky piano trio with guitar slithering out at a medium tempo opens the set closing “Part of One.” A lengthy guitar solo patiently builds an architectural statement while piano and percussion weave intricate dynamic feeling like textiles of sound. The alto saxophone really builds to a snake-charmer intensity, with exotic tones as the full band brings the music to a conclusion. In their attempt to meld the traditional music of northern India into a jazz context, the group has woven together a great set of performances. The compositions are memorable, leading to thoughtful and inventive improvisations and the playing is sterling all around. Suno Suno -

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Monday, November 07, 2011

David S. Ware - Organica (Solo Saxophones, Volume 2) (AUM Fidelity, 2011)

For saxophonist and composer David S. Ware’s second volume of solo unaccompanied performances for the AUM Fidelity label, He has chosen sets from two performances; first a private performance from Park Slope in Brooklyn, then his set from the Umbrella Music Festival in Chicago. Both of these are strong and vibrant performances, with Ware dividing time between the tenor and sopranino saxophones. “Minus Gravity 1” and “Minus Gravity 2” are taken from different concerts, but both feature the sopranino saxophone, which though small in size, makes a very distinctive tone, allowing Ware to swirl and sway in a very free and bird-like manner. The title “Minus Gravity” is apt, because it is as if he has been unshackled from the Earth’s gravitational field, and his music is free to travel like a light beam across the Universe. He is able to shape and mold the music during both improvisations, allowing the music to seek its own freedom, while he keeps the guiding hand nearby. “Organica 1” and “Organica 2” are also aptly named, as tenor saxophone features, the feel like they have sprung like beautiful flowers from the deep, rich and fertile soil first sown by the likes of Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins. Ware’s brawny tenor saxophone sound is a direct continuation of this lineage (in fact, he studied with Rollins for a brief time as a young man.) The earthy depth and his use of the entire range of the horn make both of these performances captivating. Unaccompanied free(ish) saxophone might seem like a difficult endeavor, but the great variety of sounds he can attain on his horns, from graceful swing to exotic tones to full out wailing are a wonder to behold. These extended improvisations never wander into noodling, nor are they repetitive. The extended musical canvas gives him the space and time needed for his ventures. David S. Ware remains one of jazz’s most ardent musical explorers as demonstrated on this fine album, his creativity knows no bounds. Organica (Solo Saxophones, Volume 2) -

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Friday, November 04, 2011

John Escreet - Exception to the Rule (Criss Cross, 2011)

British expatriate pianist and composer John Escreet has made quite a name for himself as a leader and a sideman, recording for Davis Binney’s Mythology Records and also the Dutch Criss Cross label. On this album he takes a shifting approach to the jazz paradigm, adding spots of electronics and breaking up his longer improvisations with small vignettes. On this session of original compositions recorded on January 19, 2011 in Brooklyn, Escreet is accompanied by David Binney on saxophone and electronics, Eivind Opsvik on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. The opening track “Exception to the Rule” has rolling drums and piano, developing into a strong and vibrant saxophone solo at a fast tempo. An intense full band section develops led by wild saxophone and drums. “Collapse” has an open feel with the piano trio developing an spacious vibe. The group contrasts light and dark before Binney enters late, probing and developing his statement to intense fever pitch. The full quartet develops fast off the blocks on “Escape Hatch” with a fine collective improvisational section moving to an open area of saxophone and drums. This is a very dynamic performance revealing a choppy abstract middle section using electronic flourishes, before pulling things together for a fast wrap up. Percussive piano and saxophone swirls build the template of “The Water Is Tasting Worse” where Binney takes control and builds to a potent and complex solo. Escreet wrestles control back with a fine percussive piano solo. “Wayne’s World” wraps up the album with the leaders piano developing a very nice foundation for the performance. Binney enters, building an enigmatic solo akin to that of Wayne Shorter whom I assume the composition is dedicated to. The music shifts dramatically between fast saxophone focused sections and slower more ruminative piano interludes. This album worked quite well, John Excreet is able to demonstrate his compositional prowess while at the same time incorporating elements of technology which increase the palette of the music. The band is rock solid throughout and makes an emphatic statement. Exception To The Rule -

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