Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dave Douglas Quintet - Be Still (Greenleaf, 2012)

Be Still marks a unique point in the canon of trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas. Consisting mostly of hymns that were played at his late mother's memorial service, the music has a delicate and ethereal quality that is sombre yet never maudlin or morose. Joining Douglas on this album are Linda Oh on bass, Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, Rudy Royston on drums and vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. The music grabs attention right away with O’Donovan’s vocals floating mysteriously and weaving through the opening “Be Still.” She gets a chance to show her bluegrass chops on “High on the Mountain” singing around a loping, bounding groove. The instrumental playing on the overtly religious material is appropriately reverential as on “God Be With You” and “This is My Father’s World” where the band paints shades and textures that support and frame the vocals. There are a few instrumental tracks, particularly “Middle March” where the band gets to step out a little bit while “Whither Must I Wander” returns the music to a slow and longing feel. This was an intensely personal project for Dave Douglas, and it’s a singular entry in his catalog. The arrangement of voice and quintet works quite well, making for an elegant and fragile album.Be Still -

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Michael Bisio - Matthew Shipp Duo - Floating Ice (Relative Pitch, 2012)

This is a spare and thoughtful disc of duets between bassist Michael Bisio and pianist Matthew Shipp. The textures are very interesting, Shipp’s dark and mysterious tone meshes well with the deep elastic tone of Bisio’s bass. Opening with “Floating Ice” the music develops an urgency with percussive sections setting up areas of tension and then resolving them in an exciting fashion. The music has a large dynamic range from low and delicate to brash and boisterous. “Swing Laser” has a fast and demanding improvisation that develops into a strong interlude for bowed bass. A section of unaccompanied piano opens “Disc” showing Shipp probing, swirling and dancing across the music. His crystalline piano is also the centerpiece of “Supernova” playing dense deeps chords while Bisio responds with the bow. Exciting rhythmic piano and bowing builds eerie and hypnotic tones. ”Holographic Rag” develops the percussive piano motif even further, bringing in thick knots of low end notes and chords, propelling the music into the final track, “Decay,” where bowed bass and piano probe and saw and gently fade away. Michael Bisio & Matthew Shipp: Floating Ice -

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brad Mehldau Trio - Where Do You Start (Nonesuch, 2012)

Pianist Brad Mehldau is riding a wave of creativity. Earlier this year he released a successful album of original compositions called Ode, and this album follows it up with interpretations of pop and jazz standards. Performing with his longstanding trio mates Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, the group takes on a wide ranging and diverse set of material and arranges it for piano trio. From the jazz arena, the group performs two classics from the hard bop era, “Brownie Speaks” by Clifford Brown and “Airegin” by Sonny Rollins. They breeze through these songs, making them sound effortless in their pithy improvisations. The pop covers range widely, from the ancient rock anthem “Hey Joe” which had been played by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Love and beyond. Things slow down a little too much on Elvis Costello’s ballad “Baby Plays Around” which lingers for ten minutes at a mournful, melancholy pace. It’s redeemed by an excellent version of “Time Has Told Me” by the late British singer-songwriter Nick Drake. Mehldau had previously covered Drake’s “River Man” to excellent effect on a previous album and the air of pensive mystery fills the music beautifully here as well. This was an interesting album that pulls together the diverse influences that make up Brad Mehldau’s musical worldview. From jazz to pop and everything inbetween, all music is fair game, keeping the performances fresh and valid. Where Do You Start -

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Charles Gayle Trio - Look Up (ESP, 2012)

This album is a trip back in time, back to when venues like the Knitting Factory in New York City were giving veterans and newcomers to the free jazz scene a chance to play and gather some momentum. Charles Gayle was one of those who made the most of it, after years of scuffling hard and living on the streets, Gayle finally had sympathetic musicians to play with and venues that wanted to book him. This archival album recorded in Santa Monica, CA in 1994 has Gayle featured on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and vocals along with Michael Bisio on bass and Michael Wimberly on drums. The music comes out of the blocks hard on the opening "Alpha" with the trio thrown into stark relief by the potency of the music. Echoes of the earlier "new thing" mix with the loft scene and early revival of free jazz in the 1990's as Gayle leads the trio with this history of avant jazz at his fingertips. The next two tracks follow the established lead with "Homage to Albert Ayler" particularly poignant, recalling Ayler's own ESP masterpiece Spiritual Unity, in the spare shards and angles of the music. It is clear on this track as well as "I Remember Dolphy (Eric Dolphy)" the the musicians are really locked in well together, not needing to fill up every available space with sound, but allowing silence to play a part as well. So it's a shock to hear Gayle take to the microphone supported by strong bass and drums to deliver an eight minute spoken word harangue worthy of the wildest fire and brimstone preacher. It's always been clear that Gayle's spirituality was a driving force in his life and music, but his tirades against abortion and homosexuality and his claim that you can't understand Coltrane, Ayler and Dolphy unless you "know God" only seem worthy of a soapbox messiah handing out end-of-the-world screeds on street corners. But as soon as that is done he channels his spirit wholly into the final performance, entitled "The Book of Revelation" it funnels all of Gayle's seeking and questing power and energy and combines it with Bisio and Wimberly to make a scouring improvisation, which takes the course raw power of the leaders saxophone and delivers it as a caustic wail, a high-pitched cry of pain, grief, and anger from the depths of his soul. More than his questionable philosophizing, this is the real heart and soul of the music. Look Up -

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spotify Playlist - John Coltrane's Birth Anniversary

What are your favorite John Coltrane albums or performances?

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thelonious Monk - Original Album Classics (Sony, 2012)

Though he was scuffling throughout, pianist and composer Thelonious Monk's profile slowly rose through the 1940's and 1950's and in 1962 he signed with the major label Columbia Records, and then even had his picture on the cover of Time magazine in 1964. This collection of Monk's music collects for albums from the mid to late 1960's, and the live albums, Misterioso (Live on Tour) and Live in Tokyo are particularly interesting. Both are with the classic late period Monk lineup of Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Butch Warren on bass and Frankie Dunlop on drums. Both show how potent the band was while playing live and how Monk was continually reinventing his own repertoire, coming at the music from new angles and dimensions. I don't think that Charlie Rouse has ever gotten the credit he deserves as a saxophone player. By this point he had been playing with Monk for several years and had intuitively absorbed the music. His tone and approach could go from being chiseled and diamond hard to soft and enveloping. Combined with Monk's percussive and staccato accompaniment, they made for a bracing group. Live in Tokyo presents one full concert from Sankei Hall on May 21, 1963, while Misterioso (Live on Tour) pulls together selected performances from 1963-1965. The Monk LP was a studio album, featuring an exciting recording of a new composition called "Teo" as the standards "Just You, Just Me" and "April in Paris." Finally, Monk's Blues is an unusual album, presenting Monk in a big band context with the arrangements by Oliver Nelson. The brass and saxophones are really shrill and right up in your face, with a particular hollow sound in the recording that adds to the nervous air of the proceedings. As strange as the settings may be, Monk remains unperturbed throughout, comping and soloing with a weary stoicism. Original Album Classics -

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pharoah Sanders - In the Beginning 1963-1964 (ESP, 2012)

Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders originally came from Little Rock, Arkansas and moved to New York City to try his luck on the music scene in the early 1960’s. He payed his dues hard, living on the street at times as he explains in some of the interviews included in this set, but gradually he began to make headway. His initial break is documented on the first disc, recording with Don Cherry and Paul Bley, both of whom had significant links to Ornette Coleman. This led to music that was rough around the edges, but exploratory free-bop. Disc two features Sanders debut album as a leader, Pharoah’s First. Sanders performs two sidelong improvisations in a quintet setting. This works out very well, with two strong pieces that stretch the boundaries of hard-bop, but don’t quite move into the full throated roar that Sanders would demonstrate when he joined the John Coltrane Quintet in 1965. The final two discs of this collection bring together an extended version of the album Sun Ra Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold. Sun Ra, in fact was the person who gave the former Farrell Sanders the nickname “Pharoah,” but the title of this album is really something of a misnomer, as both Sanders and Howard get very little solo space on the record. What is interesting, however, is hearing the Arkestra in a live setting, playing some of their most angular and free music. The one place where he really gets the spotlight on the massive track “The Other World” which includes a fiery overblown Sanders solo and a lengthy interlude for several band members in percussion. This is a bit of an odd, yet interesting collection where Pharoah Sanders is the connecting link between various aspects of free music in New York in the 1960’s. There are several illuminating interviews included and the liner notes offer some interesting context, so fans of early 1960’s free jazz will find this set worthwhile. In the Beginning 1963-1964 -

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Los Lobos - Kiko 20th Anniversary Edition (Shout Factory, 2012)

This was one of my favorite albums from my college years, so it was with a degree of nostalgia that I picked up this newly remastered edition. Los Lobos is a long standing rock and roll band from Los Angeles, blending Latino influenced music with rootsy rock. By the time Kiko came out originally, the band had been recording for over a decade and had been developing a signature sound and it climaxed here in one of the band’s high points. The social activism and the care and compassion that they showed the less fortunate comes through in the finely wrought songwriting on tracks like "Angels with Dirty Faces" and “Whiskey Trail.” The linear flow of the album and the arrangement of the music develops beautifully from the delicate acoustic music of “Saint Behind the Glass” and the haunting “Two Janes” to the blasting rock and roll of “That Train Don’t Stop Here” and “Short Side of Nothing.” The extra tracks tacked on at the end of the end of the album aren’t really that substantial, a demo recording and some live tracks from a holiday special, but they don’t detract from the original album which still holds up after 20 years as a beautiful set of music.Kiko: 20th Anniversary Edition -

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Do the Math on Books

Don't miss Ethan Iverson's new post on Do The Math entitled Newgate C.'s Calendar where he writes about two of the hottest crime novels of the summer: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which I haven't read, and Dare Me by Megan Abbott which I thought was a knockout. Here's the writeup I put on Goodreads for Dare Me:

Addy and Beth are leaders of a fiercely competitive cheerleading squad at Sutton Grove High School. Beth is used to ruling the roost with an iron hand with Addy at her side. But things begin to change when a new coach takes over the squad. Young and commanding, Addy is awed by her, while Beth sulks away nursing bruised ego. As Addy is drawn deeper and deeper into the coach's personal life, Beth seethes at the betrayal and begins to plot revenge against the new coach and her starry-eyed followers. So, as a committed and life-long nerd, the thought of reading a book about the trials and tribulations of a group of high school cheerleaders was a bit of a stretch. Abbott's pedigree as a great storyteller and the rave reviews that this book have been getting made me take the chance and it was well worth it. She drops you into the mind of Addy, who narrates the story as a mixture of untouchable bravado and teen awkwardness and angst. There are several subplots in the book: a crime story, betrayal and loss, but above all it is a coming of age story, where Addy is forced to vault from teen to adult in the blink of an eye and face some really serious questions. It is really to Abbott's credit that she can create characters that are so far removed from something that I can even fathom, and make them into three dimensional characters, not cardboard cutouts. The book is very thoughtfully written, with the characters and the story becoming a witches brew of drama. It's not comfortable being vaulted vicariously back into high school, but the discomfort is the mark of an excellent story: it never lets you off the hook, forces you to see things from a different perspective and try to seek empathy and compassion from that viewpoint.

He then goes on to name check two of my favorite modern noir writers, Alan Guthrie and Ray Banks. Iverson's recommendations for both writers are spot on, but don't sleep on Banks' novellas like the extraordinary Wolf Tickets along with Gun and California.

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Elliott Sharp Trio - Aggregat (Clean Feed, 2012)

While many musicians “double” on multiple musical instruments, they are usually on instruments that are similar in range and texture, like saxophonists playing both tenor and soprano. So it was particularly interesting for Elliott Smith, a well known guitarist, to also add tenor and soprano saxophone to his repertoire on this trio album where he is accompanied by Brad Jones on bass and Ches Smith on drums. Sharp’s approach to saxophone is similar to his approach to guitar, aggressive and exciting, developing spirals and knots of sound with a raw and brawny tone. It’s rousing and somewhat jarring to hear the him switch back and forth between the instruments, but the music is well equipped for it and Jones and Smith are excellent developing a free tumbling rhythmic scheme. The opening track “Nucular” (a Sonny Rollins nod) and “Allelia” are focused on the saxophone, with Sharp developing squeals and long waves of pure sound and emotional exclamations over cool bass and drum support. “Hard Landing” is a stellar guitar based performance with Sharp blasting out angular shards of electricity and weaving them into an outrageously intense collective improvisation. The trio tumbles like acrobats on the guitar centered performance “The Grip” playing off deep textured snarling electric guitar against loping drums and bass to excellent effect. This was a very successful recording, Sharp proves himself a very powerful improviser on both guitar and saxophones, devising improvisations that make the most of his considerable skill as well as that of his bandmates, making for a substantial statement. Aggregat -

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rob Mazurek Pulsar Quartet - Stellar Pulsations (Delmark, 2012)

Cornetist and composer Rob Mazurek has an exciting way of exploring space and time with his ensembles whether through the bubbling electronic improvisation of the Sao Paulo Underground and the Exploding Star Orchestra or the diversity of his projects as a leader. On this new group, subtitled the Pulsar Quartet, he is performing with Angelica Sanchez on piano, Matthew Lux on bass guitar and John Herndon on drums. There's an interesting mix to the all original setlist on this album, the sounds developed move in a variety of directions, from uptempo improvisations that move briskly with throbbing electric bass and percussive piano providing the momentum, to the ballads which recall the rich beauty of Miles Davis's slow and sparse music from the 1950's. Here everything is hushed and slow, Mazurek's tone is open and emotional, bordering on romantic at times. It is interesting to hear a musician that can go so far out at times, to turn inward for meditations on lonely introspection, and it demonstrates the wide ranging nature of his musical talent. Stellar Pulsations -

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Animation - Transparent Heart (Rare Noise, 2012)

The group Animation consists of Bob Belden on saxophones and flute, Pete Clagett on trumpet, Jacob Smith on bass, Roberto Verastegui on keyboards and Matt Young on drums. Belden is the leader of the group and the composer of the tracks. After a decade of working on large scaled themed projects like the soundtrack to the film The Black Dahlia and the projects Miles From India and Miles Espanol, Belden decided that he wanted to tell a story of his own. What emerges on this album is a musical portrait of modern New York City and all of its attendant hopes, fears and conflicts. The specter of the terrorist attacks hangs over this album as it does for the city in tracks like "Seven Towers" where looped clips of bewildered control tower operators give way to a boiling improvisation. The same is true of "Provocaterrorism" written as a musical reflection to the actions taken in response to the atrocity. "Occupy" as well, weaves in chants and commentary of the Wall Street protests of 2011 into the music's larger motif. The music itself is quite interesting, developing a modern take on the electric period Miles Davis music that Belden knows so well from previous musical projects and and as a producer for Davis re-issues. Moving from haunting misty cityscapes to modern protest music, Belden covers a lot of ground and as Charles Mingus and Max Roach before him, tries to use jazz as a medium for the discussion of important social issues. Transparent Heart -

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sam Rivers/Dave Holland/Barry Altschul - Reunion: Live in New York (Pi Recordings, 2012)

This special reunion concert was recorded at the climax of radio station WKCR’s week long Sam Rivers Festival, where the saxophonist/flutist/pianist was reunited with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul for a concert recorded live at Columbia University in 2007. During its heyday from 1972 - 1978, the group was influential for helping lead the movement towards free jazz on the New York City loft scene, especially Rivers’ own Studio Rivbea. It’s hard to believe that the three musicians had not played together for twenty five years before this concert, because they seemingly picked right up where they left off. Rivers was a remarkable multi-instrumentalist, playing tenor and soprano saxophone, piano and flute and switching between instruments with remarkable clarity and agility. Instead of the scalding energy music that is associated with much free playing, the music presented here by the trio is high energy, but the freedom is a freedom of ideas, of moving across space and time as they choose in the course of two lengthy uninterrupted sets. Holland is remarkable as always, playing a deep toned and rock solid bass that flows beautifully and Altschul sounds similarly inspired developing deep swirls of percussive sounds, interacting beautifully with Holland and Rivers. There are a few solo and trio settings over the course of the two sets, but the focus of the music is the deeply empathetic collective improvisation. The band is totally focused in the moment, like artists walking up to a blank canvas and extemporaneously creating in real time with no preconceived notions. It almost has the feel of listening to an intimate conversation between longtime friends, and that conversation is thrilling. Reunion: Live in New York -

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Spirits Up Above (Rhino, 2012)

Despite being blinded as an infant, Rahsaan Roland Kirk developed an innate sense of playing saxophones and flutes, and used this skill to develop a unique and personal style of playing several instruments at one time in an extraordinary display of virtuosity. Kirk recorded with the Mercury and Limelight labels from 1961-1965, before signing to Atlantic Records and having a lengthy tenure at that label, lasting until 1976. This two disc collection is a selection of Kirk's recordings for Atlantic, studio and live recordings ranging from string drenched ballads to stratospheric uptempo cookers. The music on this collection is presented in vaguely chronological order, beginning with three very strong tracks from The Inflated Tear LP of 1968. "The Black and Crazy Blues" and "The Inflated Tear" show Kirk playing smears of sound through his multiple horns, developing very emotional textures. "Lovellevelliloqui" is a scalding and searing fast performance, with Kirk riffing on multiple horns and soloing on tenor saxophone. Kirk would often sing or chant or offer up some vocal encouragement ant that is typified on tracks like "Volunteered Slavery," "Blacknuss" (each the title of individual Kirk LPs) and the gospel tinged "Spirits Up Above." The presence of John Coltrane also looms large over this period with "A Tribute To John Coltrane," a three song medley of songs associated with Coltrane and the original "Something for Trane That Trane Could have Said." Disc two isn't quite as well selected as the excellent first disc but does have some highlights of its own like the Ellington tribute "Carney and Begard Place" and the roaring fast paced "Pedal Up" taken live from the Keystone Corner in San Francisco. After his tenure with Atlantic Record, Kirk would record a few albums for Warner Brothers despite suffering a debilitating stroke. No matter what life threw at him, Kirk rose above the challenges and continued to make music. There is a solid selection of his best in this collection. Spirits Up Above -

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord - No New Tunes (Hot Cup, 2012)

Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord are a very exciting modern jazz unit, playing big strapping improvisations, with the music expanding and combing styles and sensibilities. Lundbom plays guitar along with Jon Irabagon on alto and soprano saxophones, Bryan Murray on tenor and balto (?) saxophones, Moppa Elliott on bass and Dan Monaghan on drums. "The Bad! Thing" opens the album quickly with wild saxophones and drums battling for space with crunchy electric guitar. "Talent for Surrender" has a slow, slinky grind allowing snarling guitar to spark a dynamic ebbing and flowing of intensity. Monaghan's drumming builds inexorably stronger before the saxophones come flying in for a powerful conclusion. "The Other Third One" is the centerpiece of the album with huge drums and squalls of raw saxophone and throbbing bass. There's a strong barking guitar solo in a gutsy fusion mode, recalling the scalding grace of Pete Cosey and Sonny Sharrock. Mighty growling saxophones spitting out gigantic riffs ushers in "Follow the Swallow" Lundbom glides in and out with fragments of guitar over vigorous drumming. The band comes out swinging hard on the concluding track, "Of Being Done To," with a potent alto saxophone sounding tart and vital. Everybody really puts the hammer down with pulsating bass, drums and guitar that rises and falls on the thermals of rhythm. This album worked really well, with each member of the group working intuitively with each other and as an organic whole. They develop an interesting aesthetic concept that allows them to interact in a complimentary fashion. No New Tunes -

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard (Palmetto, 2012)

The title Alive at the Vanguard refers to pianist Fred Hersch’s inspiring comeback from a series of serious health setbacks that had plagued him in recent years. The music on this two-disc album is very much alive as well, with Hersch accompanied by bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson. The set list is a well rounded mix of popular and jazz standards and original compositions flowing from the swinging to haunting ballad. “Havana” opens the album with a slight Latin tinge at a medium up-tempo. “Tristesse (for Paul Motian)” is a slower, emotional ballad, elegiac with a sound like a rainy day. Uptempo, brisk and jaunty, “Segment” develops a nice bass and drum pulse, setting the foundation for piano exploration. The music develops into an excellent fast trio performance. The medley of “Lonely Woman/Nardis” is particularly interesting with McPherson setting subtle ominous percussion before the famous Ornette Coleman melody is beautifully stated. Nervous drumming with subtle piano and bass accompaniment gives way to an extended bass solo before returning to the melodies after a long journey. The standard “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” has a gingerly played opening over brushes and bass as the probing trio delves deeply into their improvisation. They conclude the first set with Sonny Rollins composition “Doxy” which is rearranged and slowed down a little bit with Hersch even hinting at stride piano briefly before the trio moves into a fine medium-up improvisation. “Opener (For EMAC)” has a fresh sounding trio improvisation, using dynamic shifts within their playing and featuring a solid drum solo for McPherson. There is a soft solo opening on “I Fall In Love Too Easily” developing into a nice trio selection with subtle brushwork and bass. Hebert gets a excellent feature on this performance, moving through the open space of the ballad. “Jackalope” develops a very interesting rhythm with cascading piano and bass in an uptempo performance. The medley of “The Wind/Moon and Sand” has a delicate solo opening with bass and drums entering the track after about four and a half minutes. The group builds steam to a faster pace with ringing piano against bass and drums. Another medley “The Song Is You/Played Twice” ends the recording with the trio deftly entering the picture in a subdued nature, before there is a segue into deeper and more percussive piano, bass and drums. The music is very much alive and in the moment, and the mindfulness that the group uses shines through in each piece that they play, making for vital and exciting jazz. Alive at the Vanguard -

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Peter Brotzmann, Masahiko Satoh, Takeo Moriyama – Yatagarasu (Not Two, 2012)

The great German free jazz saxophonist Peter Brotzmann (also playing clarinet and tarogato on this album) is joined by Masahiko Satoh on piano and Takeo Moriyama on drums on this exciting and frequently thrilling album which was recorded in November of 2011 in Krakow, Poland. The title track “Yatagarasu” leads off the album with wailing saxophone, piano and drums. It’s interesting to hear Brotzmann perform with a pianist, something that I have rarely heard him do. He even drops out, allowing for a piano and drums section before picking up the thread of conversation. This isn’t just slash and burn experience, but music that moves through different motifs and expressions. Brotzmann’s instantly identifiable sound conquers all, leading toward brilliant sections of interplay. The epic “Icy Spears” opens with the raw cries of Brotzmann’s torogato moving into full improvisation with the group. He moves to saxophone as the music moves into a jazzy and sultry feel before subtly rising back up with cries of passion, culminating in full bore free improvisation. This long performance is all about dynamism, from a flowing solo piano section to long lines of torrid free saxophone and drums interacting. They close of the performance with two shorter pieces, “Autumn Drizzle” and Frozen Whistle” with the former developing from probing piano and drums through to epic squeals and wails of saxophone, while the latter acts as a haunting coda to a most intense and impressive performance. Yatagarasu -

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BTW: Stef's Free Jazz Blog is celebrating Brotzmann Week.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Jordan Young - Cymbal Melodies (PosiTone, 2012)

Jordan Young is a drummer leading a group on this recording that features Brian Charette on organ, Avi Rothbard on guitar and Joe Sucato on tenor saxophone. Young is a subtle drummer, using shades of texture and nuance instead of dramatic loud playing. The album is a very solid mainstream jazz session melding pop music, the earworm melody of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” which flirts with cheese but never quite succumbs and “Roxanne” which is played a seductive and slithering funk, weaving in and out of the song, developing a nice feature for Sucato. The groups jazz roots are firmly planted, with a fine interpretation of Grant Green’s “Grantstand” taken as a fast trio performance with nice guitar soloing. Also interesting is “The Best Thing for Me Is You” where organ and guitar sit out, leaving Young on brushes and Sucato building deep and dark tones from his tenor saxophone, taking a unique and quite successful duo approach. The group ends the album with three trio pieces, all uptempo, anchored by the Young original “Mood for McCann” which deftly adds elements for soul to an already simmering stew. Cymbal Melodies -

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Paul Dunmall and Tony Bianco - Thank You to John Coltrane (Slam, 2012)

Saxophonist and composer John Coltrane was and continues to be a massive influence on jazz and many other fields of music. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Paul Dunmall and drummer Tony Bianco take a minimalist approach to their Coltrane tribute, touching on some of his most famous themes and crafting their own improvisations out of them. Since the two musicians might be more associated with the free improvising scene it is particularly interesting to hear them investigate some early Coltrane compositions, recorded before he began investigating free jazz in ernest. The ballads "Naima" and "Alabama" are particularly interesting, with Dunmall touching on bruised and haunting versions of the melodies and joining with Bianco to take their improvisations off into a more abstract territory. "Giant Steps" is slowed down from the galloping pace of the original, and dissected by the two men, laying out the music's component parts and using them to build their own personal statement. This album is bookended by two compositions from John Coltrane's late "free period," "Peace on Earth" and "Expression." The former is an excellent free-jazz burnout with the two musicians going full bore right out of the gate and investing the music with the power and the passion that its composer intended. "Expression" is simply staggering, waxing and waning over the course of twenty-eight minutes, it's a tour de force of epic proportions. Both Dunmall and Bianco are completely invested in the music, giving all they can and the effect is breathtaking. A fantastic way to end one of the most enjoyable (IMHO) albums to come out this year so far. Thank You to John Coltrane -

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