Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mole - What's the Meaning (Rare Noise, 2012)

Mole is a multi-national jazz band with an open minded aesthetic that includes aspects of fusion and progressive rock into their own unique amalgamation. Consisting of Mark Aanderud on piano and keyboards, Hernan Hecht on drums, David Gilmore on guitar and Jorge "Luri" Molina on upright bass, the group achieves a well integrated and cohesive sound. Standout tracks included “Stones” with Aanderud playing acoustic piano along with some nice aggressive drumming. Gilmore begins his solo in a probing fashion before ramping up the energy to a stinging interlude. Hecht’s drumming is impressive throughout, strong and supple with a profound sense of pulse that moves the music forward. “Four Tortilla Variation” has fast strong piano opening as drums kick hard and guitar spirals out leading the group to a dynamic sensibility as they ramp up the sound and then back off building tension through a piano, bass and drums feature and guitar solo spotlight. The music of Mole is well detailed and works on multiple levels of subtlety to bring the bands vision forward. What's The Meaning? - amazon.com

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Downbeat Readers Poll

I cast a vote in Downbeat’s 77th annual Readers Poll and these were my selections:

Hall of Fame: Sam Rivers
Jazz Artist: William Parker
Jazz Group: Vandermark 5
Big Band: Charles Tolliver
Jazz Album: Matthew Shipp - Elastic Aspects
Jazz Historical Album: Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1967
Trumpeter: Nate Wooley
Trombone: Steve Swell
Soprano Saxophone: Evan Parker
Alto Saxophone: Rudresh Mahanthappa
Tenor Saxophone: David S. Ware
Baritone Saxophone: Ken Vandermark
Clarinet: Anat Cohen
Flute: Henry Threadgill
Piano: Vijay Iyer
Electric Keyboard: John Medeski
Organ: Greg Lewis
Guitar: Mary Halvorson
Bass: Linda Oh
Electric Bass: Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Violin: Jeff Gauthier
Drums: Paal Nilssen-Love
Vibes: Jason Adasiewicz
Percussion: Hamid Drake
Misc. Instrument: David Murray- bass clarinet
Male vocalist: Mose Allison
Female Vocalist: Jen Shyu
Composer: John Zorn
Arranger: William Parker
Record Label: AUM Fidelity
Blues Artist: Joe Louis Walker
Blues Album: Dr. John - Locked Down
Beyond Artist/Group: The Black Keys
Beyond Album: The Black Keys – The Black Keys - El Camino

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

William Parker - Centering. Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987 (NoBusiness, 2012)

Centering is bassist William Parker’s own label an ongoing concern from the 1970’s until today. When times were tight and Parker wasn’t able to release his music on LP, he stored it with the hopes of future release. The Lithuanian record label NoBusiness has done several excellent archival projects in addition to recording new cutting edge music, and they have prepared an wonderful package of Parker’s previously unreleased music dating from 1976-1987. This is a beautifully done package with six compact discs and an excellent booklet with essays and photographs. The breadth of Parker’s music during this period is fascinating, ranging from working in duets with Daniel Carter to large ensemble performances that included singers and dancers as well. Parker is extraordinary throughout, composing and arranging works for diverse ensembles and musicians and blending voices and playing superbly whether bowing or plucking the bass. Disc one features Parker in a duo with saxophonist and trumpeter Daniel Carter with two long and compelling improvisations. Disc two has a fantastic trio of David S. Ware on tenor saxophone, William Parker on bass and Denis Charles drums. Parker’s wife Patricia Nicholson was also dancing during this session, so it would have been fascinating to see how she and the band would have interacted with one another. Disc three continues that session before splitting off into a couple of fascinating duet performances between Parker and free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle. The remainder of the disc is scored for voices with three short performances. Discs four and five develop larger ensembles beginning with the septet The Big Moon Ensemble and then The Centering Big Band which really demonstrate Parker’s ability to arrange and conduct a large group of musicians from the bass. The performances are open ended, but the musicians keep things from becoming anarchy and instead keep the music powerful and full of grace. Finally, disc six concludes with three extended performances from the Centering Dance Music Ensemble which integrates both voice and dance into a fascinating sextet with two trumpets and two violins. Listening to this fascinating boxed set, it is easy to see how the music presented here laid the foundation for the work that Parker has done over the last few decades. Centering - NoBusiness

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Books: James Lee Burke - Creole Belle

Creole BelleCreole Belle by James Lee Burke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this, the 19th book in the Dave Robicheaux series, the New Iberia, LA police detective is recovering from a serious gunshot wound in the hospital. During his convalescence, he receives a mysterious late night visitor, Tee Jolie Melton, a singer of zydeco and Cajun music who gives him an iPod that has her music along with some classic Louisiana music. Was this all just a morphine dream? Dave learns that Tee Jolie has been missing for months and no one can hear her music on the iPod except for him. While Dave slowly returns to work at the police department and looks into the disappearance of Tee Jolie and her sister, his best friend, private investigator Clete Purcell gets involved in the shooting deaths of local hoodlums. As the story develops, the two find out that the cases that they are exploring are interconnected, placing their families in grave danger. Like the books that have preceded this one in the series, Burke uses the evocative natural world of Louisiana as a character, and the devastating oil well blowout and subsequent environmental devastation as the equivalent of its fall from grace. The New York Times referred to this book as “nostalgia nior” and that is a valid statement as Dave dreams of returning to the unspoiled Louisiana of his youth. Themes of family and friendship pervade the novel despite devastating violence. Fans of the series won’t want to miss this one. Creole Belle - amazon.com

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Friday, July 27, 2012

David S. Ware/Planetary Unknown - Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (AUM Fidelity, 2012)

Saxophonist David S. Ware first convened the Planetary Unknown group last year for an album of the same name. Joining forces with William Parker on bass, Cooper-Moore on piano and Muhammad Ali on drums the made for a very powerful unit on that studio outing. This album captures the group improvising life and unfettered before an exuberant audience at the 2011 Sallfelden Jazz Festival. The music is spontaneously improvised in a three part suite called “Processional.” Part One is an extraordinary 33 minute improvisation, which develops through several improvisational movements but the whole band collective sections are particularly stunning with Ware’s extraordinarily authoritative tone cutting like a lance over Cooper-Moore’s unique piano accompaniment and the elastic rhythm of Parker and Ali. Part Two continues in the same fashion with a lengthy collective improvisation. Part three is the shortest on the album, but goes in a different direction, building from the bottom up with bass and percussion before Ware enters slowly, building a bruised and wounded tone that ends the concert with a sense of majestic beauty. This was a really very exciting album and is highly recommended. This group has come together as an organic unit that is creating in the moment and unbound by convention and expectation. Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 - amazon.com

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joe Morris, William Parker and Gerald Cleaver - Altitude (AUM Fidelity, 2012)

Guitarist and occasional bassist Joe Morris leads an exciting trio with Gerald Cleaver on drums and William Parker on bass on this beautifully improvised program. The band is assertive and communicative throughout combining energy music with threads of structure and nuance. The tracks on this album are named for differing layers of the Earth’s atmosphere, beginning with “Exosphere” where sharp, jagged guitar meets deep full sounding bass and clattering drums in an extraordinary performance that lasts nearly half an hour. The collective improvisation borders on mind reading at times as wave upon wave of musical ideas flow forth from the trio. Within the performance, there is a lengthy bass and drum section that stretches space and time in an elastic fashion. The music returns to a fast and exciting trio improvisation that crackles with shards of electricity. Throbbing bass and drums lay down a hypnotic foundation on “Thermosphere” leading to an excellent three-way conversation. Parker switches to bowed bass which adds some terrific texture and shading when played against the leader’s guitar and Cleaver’s rhythmic drumming. There is also a very interesting dialogue section for bowed bass and guitar with Cleaver ever so gently cross hatching around the edges. “Troposphere” becomes nearly incantatory with chanted sounds and vocals in the background along with deeply rhythmic bass and percussion. Morris’s guitar has a brighter tone on this track which blends in perfectly and helps build the music to a fast and powerful collective improvisation. Finally, “Mesosphere” keeps the strong bass and drum foundation with vocalization becoming nearly mesmerizing by time Morris enters the music. He leads the group into an intense trio section as the album closes. The music has great heart and intellect and the balance between the two gives the music much of its passionate motion. Cooperation is the key to this very successful recording, with three distinctive voices joining as one to create powerful and thrilling sounds. Altitude - amazon.com

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Monday, July 23, 2012

JD Allen - The Matador and the Bull (Savant, 2012)

The trio on this album is led by tenor saxophonist JD Allen, accompanied by Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Shakespeare wrote that brevity was the soul of wit and Allen’s group has been exploring that notion over the course of their past few trio albums. Their songs are brief, ranging from two to four and one-half minutes in length, and by distilling their ideas and weeding out any extraneous playing they arrive at a very concentrated and potent sound. The fact that this band has been together for a number of years is a big help also, as they can react to each other’s moves and keep the music pithy and forceful. The bullfighting metaphor is an apt one for this album as the three toreadors (musicians) duck and weave around the bull (the music) looking for a place to move in for the kill. Two versions of the song “The Matador and the Bull” bookend the album, the first one, subtitled Torero, is strong and angular with the musicians slashing and swaying in preparation for their meeting with the bull. The final track, subtitled Toro, runs longer with a thoughtful tone expressing the ending of the battle and the finale of the contest. In between those performances it’s a pretty wild ride, from the scalding uptempo presentations of “Ring Shout” and “Paseillo” which have excellent bass and drum movement along with deep and yearning saxophone. “Santa Maria (Mother)” and “Vuela (The Whisperer)” develop humid and late night ballad tones, at times lonely and elegiac and others probing and exploratory. This album worked well as a whole with August and Royston providing and excellent foil for Allen’s dark, rich and strong-coffee saxophone tone. The music is angular and coheres organically, showing majestic sweep that is quite admirable. The Matador and The Bull - amazon.com

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Raoul Bjorkenheim/Anders Nilsson/Gerald Cleaver - Kalabalik (DMG ARC, 2012)

This is a jazz power trio consisting of Raoul Bjorkenheim and Anders Nilsson on electric guitars and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The music is very exciting with the guitars taking turns supporting and leading each other and also goading one another into greater and greater heights of improvisational fancy. Recorded live at the Downtown Music Gallery in New York City during early 2011, the music was collectively improvised in the moment but it is hard to tell because the trio works so well as an organic unit. “Swirling Skies” and “Vortex” are explosive advanced jazz workouts that meld the best of the complexity of jazz fusion with the loudness and strength of progressive rock. It’s not just slash ‘n’ burn though, they develop the music through several other moods like slippery and droning tracks “Robot Tango” and “Saga Raga” before finally culminating in the haunting and mesmerizing slow ballad “Descension.” This album is a fine snapshot of like minded musicians meeting mindfully in time to create excellent music that is both powerful and thoughtful. The music remained enjoyable and exciting throughout and the variety of moods and feelings kept the music continually fresh. Kalabalik - amazon.com

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jim Mullen Reunion Quartet - String Theory (Diving Duck Recordings, 2012)

Jim Mullen is a jazz guitarist who has been releasing consistently enjoyable albums and working on collaborative projects for several decades. This album features Mullen with a swinging piano trio consisting of Gareth Williams on piano, Mick Hutton on bass and Gary Husband on drums. They make for a fine match and work through a wide variety of mainstream originals and cover songs. “Over the Hills and Far Away” develops really strong uptempo quartet swing. Mullen solos impeccably as the rippling piano trio keeps things moving briskly forward. Shifting downward to a confident medium tempo, “Love is Real” develops itself as a full band collective improvisation before the drums break out to trade sections nicely with the other instruments. “Greetings to Idris” and “Partial Eclipse” are slower and more reflective ballads that have the band playing gently especially on brushes and piano. They manage to keep the music subdued without becoming overly ornamental or maudlin. Their take on the music of Thelonious Monk is particularly joyous, taking a happy and upbeat approach to “Bye-Ya.” Sharp tinged guitar and strong rolling piano move the proceedings effortlessly forward. Fans of mainstream jazz guitar will really enjoy this album, Mullen has a touch of Wes Montgomery influence, but he definitely has his own approach to jazz and the band works together as a winning combination. String Theory - amazon.com

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bobby Broom - Upper West Side Story (Origin, 2012)

Bobby Broom is a mainstream jazz guitarist in good standing who leads his own group in addition to having impressive sideman credentials with Sonny Rollins, and the Deep Blue Organ Trio. On this trio recording, Broom is supported by Dennis Carroll on bass and either Kobie Watkins or Makaya McCraven on drums. They open up the program with “D’s Blues” which is a nice forward moving piece with Broom getting an interesting Grant Green like tone from his guitar. “Upper West Side Story” has the trio playing at a medium-up tempo with strong, stinging guitar over loping bass and drums. Slowing things down to a ballad fell, “After Words” has Broom open with a gently strummed guitar figure before developing a liquid flowing tone and making way for a bass solo. “Major Minor Mishap” has a bounding groove with the leader developing a nice neon hued guitar solo. “Fambroscious (for Fambrough)” is a tribute to the bassist Charles Fambrough and a highlight of the album, boiling with fast guitar and uptempo bass and drums. Broom keeps the music moving throughout, flowing like water over a waterfall. “Call Me A Cab” has a sharper toned guitar feel against a thicket of bass and drums, with the leader spooling out a thoughtful guitar solo. This was a well constructed mainstream jazz album. The band develops a diverse program of music that shifts through all of their gears from uptempo fast paced cookers to thoughtful ballads. Upper West Side Story - amazon.com

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Steve Davis - Gettin' It Done (Posi-Tone, 2012)

Trombonist Steve Davis has many credits as both a leader and as a sideman in the modern mainstream jazz scene. On this album he channels the spirit of Art Blakey, Horace Silver and other hard bop masters to create a fine and swinging album. On this album, he is accompanied by Josh Bruneau on trumpet and flugelhorn, Mike DiRubbo on alto saxophone, Larry Willis on piano, Nat Reeves on bass and Billy Williams on drums. They achieve a full, rich sound when playing together and the music offers a wealth of solo space. Opening with “Village Blues” the group sounds lush and deep, playing at a medium tempo. Trombone over cymbal tapping and well paced trumpet make way for round-robin soloing over swinging drums. The title track has a strutting boppish melody featuring fast saxophone over pulsating bass and drums. Muscular hard bop is also the order of the day on “Sunny” with upbeat trombone and swinging drums setting the pace for a driving piano, bass and drums section. I enjoyed the uptempo tracks the most, but the group does add a couple of ballads to the program for flavor. “Alike” slows the tempo to a ballad feel with long tones of music luxuriously caressing the melody and setting up a fluid piano based interlude. Beginning at a slow tempo, “Longview” opens with slow piano and horns building to intuitive swing as the song gradually gathers pace. Gettin' It Done - amazon.com

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Steve Lacy - Estilhacos (Clean Feed, 2012)

This is an exciting improvised performance by soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy in a live concert with Irene Aebi on cello, Kent Carter on bass, Noel Mcghie on drums and Steve Pots on alto saxophone. Recorded live in Lisbon in 1972, the music is very hot and exciting, beginning with “Stations” which is an interesting experimental track where the band uses recorded sound and spoken word as a jumping off point for their improvisation, which develops into a blasting collective statement. The medley “Chips - Moon - Dreams” opens with a developmental introduction with what sounds like a harmonica adding texture to the music. There is a torrid alto saxophone solo that makes way for Lacy’s soprano that probes and squeals over strong drums and cello, slowing down the pace before dramatically ramping up to the finish. “No Baby” has a fast, ripe and raw melody with strong grinding saxophone building a fast and raw improvisation. Soprano saxophone comes in strong and loud and occasionally shrill overwhelming the recording equipment, building to a dynamic double horn finale. “The High Way” brings the album to a scalding conclusion with the two saxophones binding with strong drums and cello making for a very powerful and potent collective improvisation. This was a very exciting album to listen to, the musicians go for broke from the first note. The recording quality can be a little raw at times but if anything that makes the music even harsher and more powerful in the levels of energy that the musicians produce. Estilhacos - amazon.com

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Books: John Connolly - The Reapers

The Reapers (Charlie Parker, #7)The Reapers by John Connolly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book in John Connolly's Charlie Parker series, but ostensibly it is really the story of Louis, Parker's enigmatic friend and colleague. When he was a young man, Louis witnessed a horrible race related hate crime, and then committed a crime of his own by avenging the death of his mother. Louis' mixture of intelligence and ruthlessness brings him to the attention to a man named named Gabriel who ran an elite group of contract killers called The Reapers. During his years as a contract killer, Louis ran amok from a fellow Reaper called Bliss, and the heart of the story is the attempt by Bliss to avenge himself against Louis. Louis had long since left the world of contract killing, settling into marginally more legal activities with his lover Angel. But when Gabriel re-enters his life prompting one last mission, Louis and Angel are caught in a deadly web of deceit and lies. This was a very well written novel, filling in the back story in one of the most interesting side characters of the series. Following Louis from a young man to a killer and then retirement takes a whole new slant on the series. Also you get into some of the other character's minds and learn what they think of Parker and his adventures.  Parker does appear in person at the end of the novel, but Connolly keeps him in the third person, like a well known person reflected in a distant mirror. This isn't the place to start with this excellent series, because the narrative depends on quite a bit of back story from the previous novels. But this marks an excellent diversion in the series, changing the point of view and perspective and momentarily dropping the supernatural tinge that permeates the Parker centered novels to excellent effect. The Reapers: A Thriller - amazon.com

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day III (Songlines, 2012)

Percussionist and composer Harris Eisenstadt is one of the leading lights of the new jazz scene, leading and participating in several bands including this one that includes Garth Stevenson on bass, Chris Dingman on vibraphone, Nate Wooley on trumpet and Matt Bauder on tenor saxophone. They get a nicely arranged quintet sound with some very well composed and thought out songs by Eisenstadt. “Slow and Steady” opens the album with ringing vibes and graceful trumpet playing, developing into an excellent medium paced formation enhanced by subtle brushwork from the leader. Probing trumpet and vibes usher in “Settled” building to strong brass accenting Buader’s saxophone solo with cool sounding shimmering vibraphone, bass and drum support. “A Whole New Amount of Interactivity” moves from the meditative nature of the first two compositions to a spritely upbeat feel. I love the way the vibraphone and drums mesh to create a really cool percussion sound. Horns frame them and then give birth to a strong supple trumpet solo sounding outstanding and robust section for trumpet and drums. “The Magician of Lublin” arrives with low plucked and bowed bass with ripe trumpeting and vibes around the edges giving the track a sense of purpose akin to Eric Dlophy’s great album Out to Lunch, as they develop many interesting moods and textures throughout the piece. The dynamic nature of the music and the musicians is displayed well in “Nosey Parker” where a thoughtful sunrise type melody gives way to spears of trumpet across the other instruments. Delicacy is apparent in “Shuffle off this Mortal Coil” with soft spoken trumpet and vibes giving way to a brighter pace with Dingman leading the way accompanied by a strong drume pulse. Eisenstadt shifts the mood and pace constantly, dictating the nature and feel of the music. This was a well done and thoughtful album Eisenstadt gives much room for his sidemen to shine and contribute to a concrete group sound. Canada Day III - amazon.com

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Books: As Serious as Your Life by Valerie Wilmer

As Serious As Your Life: The Story of the New JazzAs Serious As Your Life: The Story of the New Jazz by Valerie Wilmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As Serious as Your Life is one of the few books to chronicle the “New Thing” in jazz, free jazz that developed in the 1960’s and continued into the Loft Scene of the 1970’s. British writer Wilmer focuses on American musicians, primarily in the New York City region, and succeeds in putting together a portrait of the musicians and the scene that is extremely valuable. The first part of the book is made up of portraits of some of the leading lights of the scene, both living and dead. John Coltrane, the guiding light for many of the musicians mentioned here is profiled not only for the progressive nature of his music, but for the positive and mentoring effect he had on other musicians. Sun Ra and Albert Ayler are portrayed as enigmas, the former due to his DIY approach to the music and the record industry and the latter due to his radical sound and ever changing nature. She also moves beyond strict biographies of the musicians into looking at the social and philosophical nature of the musicians and how this affects their creativity, the women who live with them (this was an almost completely male dominated scene) and the politics and issues of race that are ever-present in jazz and improvised music, especially during this period where predominantly African-American musicians were attempting to break free from traditional means of disseminating music and building audiences and developing a more DIV aesthetic. This was an excellent book, very highly recommended to jazz fans, and sits well with Arthur Taylor’s Notes and Notes and A.B. Spellman’s Four Lives in the Bebop Business as a thoughtful and blinder-free look into the trials and tribulations of musicians trying to create original music during the 1960’s and 1970’s. As Serious As Your Life: The Story of the New Jazz - amazon.com

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jacam Manricks - Cloud Nine (Posi-Tone, 2012)

Saxophonist Jacam Manricks is a player with a strong melodic sensibility, performing on this album with a potent unit which includes the leader on alto saxophone, Adam Rogers on guitar, Sam Yahel on organ, Matt Wilson on drums and David Weiss sitting in for one track on trumpet. Manricks has a has a nice and individual tone on the alto saxophone, a light and floating texture that makes a marked contrast to the more pinched and tart feel favored many other alto players. The band's patient and subtle style of music works quite well, and should make their music accessible to mainstream jazz fans. The combination of organ and guitar is always a beguiling one and particularly here with Yahel and Rogers playing together, and combining with them always excellent drummer Matt Wilson to lay superb foundation stones for Manricks’ solo flights and their own individual statements. Inspired by a visit to visit to the grave of Eric Dolphy, one of his prime inspirations, “Serene Pilgrimage” is particularly interesting, with Manricks taking the song as an unaccompanied solo performance, developing a meditation and mindful format that allows him to show off different facets of his technique. The majority of the compositions are Manricks originals, leading off with the title track “Cloud Nine” which makes the most of his light and airy tone, interacting with the band at speed. David Weiss sits in with the group on the complex original “Lullabies and Alibis” and the album closes with their sole non-original, a lilting performance of "Luiza" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Cloud Nine - amazon.com

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Neneh Cherry and The Thing - The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound, 2012)

When the Scandinavian free jazz super-group The Thing was founded in the 1990’s they named themselves after a song by the multi-instrumentalist and jazz iconoclast Don Cherry. In an attempt to get closer to the essence, they recruit Cherry’s step-daughter, one time pop star Neneh Cherry for an interesting program of pop, rock and jazz performances. This is not a stretch for The Thing, who has collaborated with many artists and has made aspects of rock music part of their repertoire. The Thing consists of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. The album works really well, covering music from a wide range of genres and neither the musical group or the singer make any concessions to each other, but rather collaborate beautifully. “Cashback” opens the album with a very catchy and hook heavy song, driven by propulsive bass and before saxophone and drums lead into the chorus keeping everything fast. The band supports Cherry well, poppy but never contrived. Low tones build in on “Dream Baby Dream” and under hopeful sounding lyrics the music stays subdued and in line with the vocals. The band develops into a deeper and more robust instrumental interlude of ecstatic music before Cherry’s incantatory singing draws the performance out to a conclusion. Ominous low tones of saxophone set the stage before the vocals come in strong on “Too Tough to Die.” Strong riffing from the band laying down smears of sound and declaratory vocals pushed ever onward by driving drums. “Accordion” combines Cherry’s soulful voice with some powerful lyrics as Nilssen-Love’s drums gather power and the song’s message becomes progressively grittier and darker. The punk anthem “Dirt” has a strong and powerful feel, with Cherry’s deep soul vocals wallowing in the murk of the music. The song develops into a screaming catharsis of a free jazz free for all. Ending with Ornette Coleman’s “What Reason Should I Give” brings it all back to jazz. Cherry slows the ebullient vocals of the originals, drawing out and questioning the words as the band paints with smears of sound in a slow and graceful manner. The Thing have collaborated with a number of musicians during their career as a band and while this might be their most surprising coupling, it is also among the most successful. Both Cherry and the band buy into each other’s sound world without hesitation and produce a powerful album. The Cherry Thing - amazon.com

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Monday, July 09, 2012

Mike Reed's People, Places and Things - Clear on the Corner (482 Music, 2012)

People Places and Things is a group (one of several) led by Chicago drummer Mike Reed. The group is made up of Tim Haldeman on tenor saxophone, Greg Ward on alto saxophone, Jason Roebke on bass, Mike Reed on drums and with Craig Taborn on piano and Josh Berman on cornet sitting in on a few tracks. The group was originally formed to honor some of the unsung musicians of the Chicago jazz scene of the late 1950’s, but with this album they switch to predominantly original compositions. They open with an uptempo piece of hard-bop interestingly titled “The Lady Has a Bomb.” This is tough modern hard-bop that builds intensity by steps before one of the saxophones takes off backed by elastic bass and drums. The second horn engages briefly at a boiling tempo developing a swaggering swing. “Old” develops a more suspended feel with a medium tempo tenor saxophone probing and weaving. Tenor and alto shade each other and harmonize, deep in thought and conjunction before making way for a spacious bass solo. “Sharon” Also develops a fast pace adding Taborn on piano, covering a composition by John Jenkins with a fast-paced collective improvisation. Taborn keeps the music swinging hard along with strong bass and drums. Galloping saxophones trade phrases with Reed’s brisk drumming. It is interesting to hear how this group has developed over the course of their work together. What began as an homage to the bast has emerged into a full fledged band developing their own unique take on the modern jazz experience. Clean on the Corner - amazon.com

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Sunday, July 08, 2012

InterStatic - InterStatic (Rare Noise, 2012)

InterStatic is a genre-defying trio consisting of Roy Powell on organ, Jacob Young on guitars and Jarle Vespestad and drums. They weave together elements of jazz, fusion and progressive rock into a cohesive whole. The group rarely breaks out into scalding improvisation, instead building their energy back into their improvisation, coiling like a spring. “First Vision” develops the music’s viewpoint with guitar probing over skittish and shimmering drums. Young spools out his solo over fast drums and organ drone in a hypnotic fashion. “Washed Up” builds slowly with subtle drumming and smears of guitar feedback as the music gradually gathers pace. Young’s guitar rides over and around the developing drumbeat as Powell’s organ enters and swirls the proceedings into a fine collective improvisation. The band goes for broke on “InterStatic” as fast drumming and droning organ develop a dynamic and well controlled musical environment for the give and take of musical ideas. “The Elverum Incident” also keeps the pace high with storming drumming encouraging strong guitar and keyboards. Powell and Vespestad lay an excellent foundation for Young to soar over the fine accompaniment. InterStatic - amazon.com

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Saturday, July 07, 2012

Books: The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow

The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to SavagesThe Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages by Don Winslow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don Winslow is fast becoming one of my favorite storytellers, and Savages, the book this novel was based on, was one of my favorite novels of 2010. While the conclusion of that book limited the options for a sequel, it did offer many unanswered questions about what came before, questions that Winslow spins into another excellent story with this book. This story has a split focus, one half of it following the developing marijuana empire of Ben and Chon and their lady-friend O as the develop it in the mid 2000's. The backstory shows the development of the development of the drug culture in California as it moves from the peace and love 1960's to the cocaine cowboy era of the 1970's and 80's. As Ben and Chon become the victims of their own success in their business and begin to attract the attract the attention of law enforcement and big time drug syndicates, the past and the future collide with deadly consequences. Winslow is an excellent writer and he keeps the story moving at a breakneck pace even as he weaves a complicated thread tracing multiple plot lines over nearly forty years. His snarky sense of humor becomes progressively darker as the plot moves along, and the characters are well drawn and the dialogue is excellent, reminiscent of the witty banter of Elmore Leonard. Brutal, yet funny, this is a fine fast paced thriller. The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages - amazon.com

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Friday, July 06, 2012

Ravi Coltrane - Spirit Fiction (Blue Note, 2012)

Saxophonist and composer Ravi Coltrane has built his career slowly and carefully with some high profile gigs as a sideman and a few discs as a leader. This is his first album for the venerable Blue Note label, produced by fellow saxophonist Joe Lovano (who also sits in on a couple of tunes.) The rest of the band is made up of Luis Perdomo or Geri Allen on piano, Drew Gress or James Genus on bass, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, and E.J. Strickland or Eric Harland on drums. Coltrane has a very clear and light tone on both the tenor and soprano saxophone and he uses that to his advantage on the opening tracks “Roads Cross” and “Klepto.” Coltrane and Alessi have worked together before and have an excellent musical relationship that flowers on “Klepto” with the two horn complementing each other while moving in time and space. “Spring and Hudson” takes things in an entirely different direction, with Coltrane engaged in a short but passionate and exciting duet with the drummer Eric Harland. Another exciting development on this album was when Joe Lovano joined the group to play the open ended Ornette Coleman composition “Check Out Time.” This shakes any remaining dust from the proceedings and allows the musicians the freedom to stretch out and express themselves. Spirit Fiction - amazon.com

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Books: Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand

Available Dark: A Crime NovelAvailable Dark: A Crime Novel by Elizabeth Hand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cassandra Neary is an old-school hand on the New York City punk rock scene and a photographer of some reputation.  After running into some trouble in Maine, she is looking to make an escape from her crowded New York City apartment when an unexpected offer arrives. Receiving an invitation from an enigmatic man in Helsinki who wants her to authenticate some photographs before he purchases them, she is soon on her way to Finland to meet a reclusive photographer whose pictures of dead people have an alluring if repulsive beauty to them. After she vouches for the photos, she leaves for Iceland on the trail of an old lover who may be living there. Things take a turn for the worse as the Finnish photographer and his assistant are murdered, and Cassandra is being stalked by a sinister man in Reykjavik. Chased and hounded around the island nation, Cassandra must find the killer and the connection to the macabre photographs she traveled to see. This was quite an atmospheric thriller, moodily taking shape in the dark of the Scandinavian winter. Music plays a key role to the plot, whether the punk rock of Cassandra’s youth or the message laden death-metal that links the other players in this drama. The characters were drawn well, and this dark book looks at the underside of the music and art scene where danger lurks and all is not as it seems. Available Dark: A Crime Novel - amazon.com

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Tom Harrell - Number Five (HighNote, 2012)

Trumpeter and composer Tom Harrell’s latest project, Number Five, is a quintet recording where he is accompanied by Wayne Escoffery on tenor saxophone, Danny Grissett on acoustic and electric piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Jonathan Blake on drums. The album opens very well with an exciting rendition of “Blue ‘n’ Boogie” where fast paced trumpet and drums ratchet the speed ever higher. The music is fast and hard hitting and features a nice drum solo from Blake. The title track is the original “No. 5” features the whole group playing in a well developed fast swing formation. Harrell’s trumpet really moves over rapidly paced bass and drums before making way for Escoffery’s dark toned and well constructed saxophone solo. After that it’s solos all around with Blake emerging as the winner again with an epic rhythmic drum feature. The group makes some fine ballad statements as well, on “Journey to the Stars” where tender piano and smears of trumpet make for a gentle and haunting performance. Harrell even takes the standard “Star Eyes” unaccompanied making for a spare and lyrical account of the song. Number Five - amazon.com

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Arild Andersen - Celebration; David Caldwell-Mason - Cold Snap

Arild Andersen w/ Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - Celebration (ECM, 2012) Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen has been a potent force on the European jazz scene for many years, as a leader, sideman and member of the collective group Masqualero. On this album he reunites with saxophonist Tommy Smith who was featured on his excellent 2008 release Live in Belleville and also recruits the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra to give the proceedings a big band flavor. The setlist for the album is made up of well known compositions from the ECM label, and the focus is clearly on Andersen whose gorgeous bass playing is featured throughout, framed by the larger band and given ample solo space. Smith gets a couple of spaces to shine as well, particularly on the blasting opener “May Dance” where the horns set the stage for a vibrantly alive tenor saxophone feature. Smith also develops a majestic statement on “Ulrikas Dans” enveloping a powerful movement from the light horns that are framing the brass and percussion. Those are the most extroverted moments on the disc, which often gives way to meditative and understated lyricism. Andersen develops a number of colors and textures on his instrument whether playing bowed or plucked and is able to weave in and out of the large band arrangements at will. The music here is very subtle and nuanced with the focus on quiet and delicate improvisation. Celebration - amazon.com

David Caldwell-Mason - Cold Snap (CD Baby, 2012) Pianist David-Caldwell Mason is an up and coming musician who has played regularly along the eastern seaboard of the United States. On his new album, he is accompanied by Ari Hoenig on bass and Kellen Harrison on drums. Strong trio interplay is the order of the day on this album, with fine original compositions allowing the band to ably support one another and step out for solo sequences. Ripe piano and supple support from bass and drums are the highlighted on tracks like “Unfold” and “Don’t Worry Mama,” developing strong collective improvisation among the intricate nature of the music. The jaunty “Single Ladies” ups the pace even further with a bright and danceable melody and a spritely set of improvised statements. “With Fear and Trembling” takes the music in the opposite direction, developing an ominous and nervous composition that develops a slow and moody feel. This was a well played album that moves easily and gracefully and the musicians show a great deal of flexibility in their development of the music. Cold Snap - amazon.com

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Monday, July 02, 2012

Metallic Taste of Blood - Metallic Taste of Blood (Rare Noise, 2012)

While the band’s name Metallic Taste of Blood might portend some type of heavy metal outfit, the band is far more diverse, drawing upon a number of genres and melding them in order to create their own original sound. The band is something of an experimental music supergroup consisting of Eraldo Bernocchi on guitar, Colin Edwin on bass, Jamie Saft on keyboards and Balazs Pandi on drums. The band went into the studio with no preconceptions of what type of music they would make, and in turn developed a strong amalgam of ideas and source material. “Bipolar” shows off the group’s dynamism, echoing the diseases dreadful changes in mood with loud soft passages in composition and improvisation. “King Cockroach” takes things in an entirely different direction by adding aspects of dub and reverberation to the music. The music sounds like a Bill Laswell production with strong powerful bass and booming dub developing a powerful presence in the music like a heartbeat. There is an interesting mix and synthesis of styles and taste, on this album, opening it up for fans of out jazz and progressive rock. Metallic Taste of Blood - amazon.com

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

John Surman - Saltash Bells; John Zorn - The Hermetic Organ

John Surman - Saltash Bells (ECM, 2012) Saxophonist John Surman has had a long and interesting career playing in everything from big bands to solo concerts and everything in-between. This particular album is a solo performance, but one with a twist, with Surman playing several instruments overdubbed upon one another that create a thoughtful and evocative musical scene. Surman juggles a wide variety of instruments: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, alto, bass and contrabass clarinets, harmonica and synthesizer to evoke images of his childhood growing up in the western section of England. The music is very atmospheric with the different saxophones and clarinets intertwining around as the bell like synthesizer quivers around the wavering sound. I found the sounds that Surman creates on this album to be quite unique, developing layer upon layer and really evoking a mysterious place and time in an alluring performance filled with lyrical beauty.  Saltash Bells - amazon.com

John Zorn - The Hermetic Organ (Tzadik, 2012) Composer and instrumentalist John Zorn is unwilling to stay in one spot for a very long time, and surprised fans by returning to his original instrument, the organ, for a series of solo recitals during the fall and winter of 2011. Taking inspiration from the scores of silent films and Phantom of the Opera, Zorn brings a unique conception to the organ the builds dynamic contrast between washes of pure sounds and eerie stretches of ominous silence. Recorded live at Columbia University in December of 2011, the suite “Office Nr 4” is broken down into six sections, “Introit, Benediction, Offertory, Elevation, Communion and Descent.” The motifs and moves that are developed by the huge pipe organ are very impressive and at times overwhelming. This is an interesting and well played album that shines a completely different light on Zorn’s method as a composer and improviser. He tries his best to tame the powerful beast and succeeds in creating some evocative sounds and alluring moods. It is really unlike anything else in his catalog. The Hermetic Organ - amazon.com

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