Monday, June 26, 2017

Silke Eberhard Trio - The Being Inn (Intakt Records, 2017)

Silke Eberhard is a saxophonist, clarinetist and composer based in Berlin, and on this album she focuses on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, in the company of Jan Roder on bass and Kay Lubke on drums. This is the trio's third album, and it also marks ten years as a working group. The conceptual inspiration of the album is of an an imaginary inn that the saxophonist pictured as she composed songs for this project, which vary between a lengthy suite and short vignettes. "Ding Dong" begins this album and opens the door, creating an appealing performance that takes into account the historic music of Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman with ripe alto saxophone building a taut and exciting improvisation in consort with flexible bass and drums. The most ambitious piece on the album, "Willisau Suite," is a lengthy and episodic performance that takes melodic sub-themes and uses the them as the basis for an ever evolving collective improvisation that stretches out to nearly twenty minutes. The remainder of the album alternates between short three to five minute songs interspersed by even briefer improvisations lasting thirty to fifty seconds. The most noteworthy of these are the spacious "Minatur" which has Lubke deftly using brushes and creating a soft rhythm that is made whole with the addition of subtly played saxophone and bass, creating a melodic and mellow performance. "Kanon" mines the Dolphy influence, making a bass clarinet feature that is supported by bass and drums. The music created has a thoughtful forward looking approach, allowing much open space to permeate the sound allowing for a wide range of possibilities. The short but very urgent "Towels" leads to "In Drei" which has very taut and impressive bass and drums setting the foundation for the music. Eberhard's saxophone weaves in an out of the accompaniment creating an upbeat and infectious sound, with the improvisation developing its own inner logic. "8915" is another saxophone based piece, an uptempo and pithy performance, with a fine feature for bass included, and the musicians reacting to one another in a very creative fashion. This was a very good album, one in which, the musicians take their influences and internalize them, and then create their own music, stretching language of jazz in new and interesting ways. The Being Inn -

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Heads of State - Four in One (Smoke Sessions, 2017)

Heads of State is a group of veteran jazz musicians consisting of Gary Bartz on alto saxophone, Larry Willis on piano, David Williams on bass and Al Foster on drums. The group plays strong and swinging hard bop, ballads and mainstream jazz, beginning with the title track "Four in One," a Thelonious Monk composition, creating a fast paced version of the memorable tune. The band plays the theme quickly, then moving into a round of solos, and Bartz is particularly fluid in his playing. "And He Called Himself a Messenger" looks back on time spent as part of Art Blakey's band, and they are able to explore a deep groove akin to the music that was made by his groups. Foster sets the pace with an excellent beat and allows the group to anchor a string of potent solos. The music takes on a more subtle focus on Wayne Shorter's "Dance Cadaverous" with another excellent solo segment from Gary Bartz, one that is well constructed and makes excellent use of the source material before moving into the Charlie Parker bebop flag-waver "Moose the Mooche" with a fast and pithy performance. The group keeps the music compact and bright sounding, allowing it the room to move while keeping a tight hand on the reigns. A deeply rhythmic drum solo opens "Aloysius" with Foster making the best of the space before the rest of the group comes crashing in for a driving theme and improvisation. The music is joyful sounding and very accessible, and there is a palpable sense that the musicians are very happy playing together and are completely engaged by the material.  After the ballad "The Day You Said Goodbye," the band doesn't skip a beat revving into the Miles Davis “Sippin’ at Bells.” After a springy reading of the melody, a deep pocket is developed for ripe interplay of the instruments including a sparkling piano trio section and another impressive drum solo. Foster also leads them into the finale of the Eddie Harris composition "Freedom Jazz Dance" which develops a lightly funky groove and mines it for a lengthy and exciting improvisation with further solos for saxophone and bass. This band began as the Larry Willis All-Stars, assembled to pay tribute to the pianist McCoy Tyner, but gradually grew into a collective ensemble. They play a wide variety of post-bop jazz, and everything is performed in an enthusiastic and exciting manner. Four in One -

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, John Scofield - Hudson (Motema Music, 2017)

This collective group refers to itself as Hudson, because they all live near to one another in New York's Hudson River Valley. Consisting of Jack DeJohnette on drums, Larry Grenadier on bass, John Medeski on piano and organ and John Scofield on guitar, this veteran band plays a variety of jazz versions of well known classic rock songs and a few original compositions. "El Swing" is aptly named, setting a neat groove accented with shards of electric guitar. Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" gets a slightly funky groove with an almost reggae beat and pushes it forward with melodic waves of organ over tapped percussion as sharp spokes of guitar emerge, building to a nice series of solos over a more insistent rhythm. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is their second Dylan cover, developing a crisp rhythm with Scofield's guitar spelling out the melody. They develop a lyrical collective improvisation framed by washes of organ, gliding into a tumbling and cascading performance. The group's take on the Jimi Hendrix chestnut "Wait Until Tomorrow" comes with some fast and choppy guitar featured over funky drums and bass. Scofield develops a snarling guitar feature over keening organ which builds to a driving conclusion. Chimes or bells lead the band into the ballad "Song For World Forgiveness" with Medeski adding gentle acoustic piano which imbues the music with a gentle and meditative feel. "Tony Then Jack" becomes one of the straight up jazziest selections on the album, moving into a full throttle uptempo section allowing each of the members to take a short solo in round-robin fashion. Their final cover of the album is The Band's "Up on Cripple Creek" which begins with some rolling piano and organ setting the stage for bouncy guitar, bass and drums easing into the country funk feel of the melody. The group plays variations of the theme without straying to far from the familiar melody. This is a pleasant well-played album, with the accessible repertoire and melodic nature of the improvising assuring that it will have wide ranging appeal and will  be a sure fire festival draw. Hudson -

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thelonious Monk ‎– Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam Records, 2017)

In what must surely be acknowledged as one of the most important archival issues of the year, this album consists of two discs of the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk adapting his own personal music for film, accompanied by an excellent group featuring Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Sam Jones on bass and Art Taylor on drums, with saxophonist Barney Wilen also sitting in on a few tracks. 1959 was a pivotal year for jazz and Monk was in the thick of it, while he didn't compose any new music for this project, he powers through some of his own most widely known songs with great vigor and passion. Two versions of "Rhythm-a-Ning" are included and both the master and alternate are muscular performances, with ripe saxophone playing, fast paced bass and drum accompaniment, and Monk's unique percussive piano playing that sounds truly inspired, rippling across the keyboard and stabbing at individual notes. There are also two versions of the ballad "Crepuscule With Nellie" included, with the much longer master version making excellent use of the two saxophone front line for texture, and the alternate dropping out after a few minutes. There were even plans to issue some of this music on 45 RPM records, with separate versions of a dreamy "Pannonica" and gently bouncing "Light Blue" cut for this purpose. "Well You Needn't" is heard in a concise edited form and then later in the full unedited version, both of which are worthy, with Rouse demonstrating how attuned he was becoming to Monk's music, which he would play for the next decade as a member of the pianist's group and then continue to interpret as a solo musician and in the underrated group Sphere. Monk is as spiritedly impish as always on both version, with his piano instantly identifiable and sounding like on one else. The final track is a fly on the wall version of "Light Blue" as the band works through the tune and Monk instructs the musicians on how to play their parts. With Monk explaining the time and rhythm, it's a fascinating look behind the curtain at the man and his music. Much of Monk's music has a cinematic or narrative feel to it, so the lack of any new music for the film hardly matters. The band came into the studio and laid down over an hour of jazz of the highest quality, and fans of Monk or classic jazz in general will be very pleased with the results. Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 -

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ned Rothenberg and Hamid Drake - Full Circle: Live in Lodz (Fundacja Sluchaj, 2017)

This is an intimate and varied duet album featuring Ned Rothenberg on alto saxophone, clarinet and shakuhachi and Hamid Drake on drums and vocals which was recorded live in Poland, in July of 2016. Both men have quite a bit of experience in playing jazz and improvised music in various downtown settings and they bring this into a sympathetic meeting. They begin their performance with the lengthy "Full Beams Dazzling" which has strong and powerful saxophone playing met by muscular drumming that creates a flexible and vibrant combination. Rothenberg moves to clarinet for the succeeding piece, "Tupuri Gifts," which takes a more subtle approach with Drake developing an ever-shifting rhythm on drums and percussion, one that suits the music perfectly and allows the instruments to intertwine in a natural and organic manner. "Lotus Blooming in the Heart" takes the music in a more spiritual direction with Drake adding soulful vocalizing to soft and reverent percussion. Rothenberg adds the exotic shakuhachi to the mix creating a very charming and continuously interesting performance. They return to more traditional free jazz with "Full Circle" with the music unfolding gradually and episodically, without forcing anything. They finish the concert with another spiritual, playing a rich and vibrant version of the traditional standard "Wade in the Water" with Rothenberg's deep and rich saxophone met perfectly with Drake's gentle groove. This concert was very successful with two very talented and individual musicians meeting on common ground and creating spontaneous and memorable music. Full Circle: Live in Lodz -

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Friday, June 16, 2017

John Lee Hooker - The Modern, Chess & Veejay Singles Collection 1949-62 (Acrobat Records, 2016)

The discography of the great blues guitarist, singer and songwriter John Lee Hooker is a perilous trek for the uninitiated. Hooker not only recorded for a vast array of labels, but he also recorded under a variety of pseudonyms which allowed him to record for several labels simultaneously taking cash up front in an era that did not see paying royalties to African-American musicians a priority. Hooker was part of the great migration during the second world war, moving from the deep south to Cincinnati and then eventually Detroit where his career began in earnest. This is a budget four-disc collection that tries to cut through the confusion of Hooker's early career by focusing on sides that were released under his own name for a selected few labels during the first phase of his career. In so doing, it hits most of the high points, beginning with the immortal "Boogie Chillun'" with its primal guitar and massive foot stomping beat became an unexpected hit on the rhythm and blues charts and set the mold for his music during these first few years. The hugely overamped guitar, and pounding beat that Hooker employed would be massively influential not only on fellow blues artists, but also to a wide audience of white musicians in the decades to come. Also recorded for the Modern label at this time was the stark "Hobo Blues" and another of his signature works, the extraordinary "Crawlin' King Snake." Chess began legal action against Modern, so Hooker's music was split between those two labels, ensuring that there was plenty of Hooker music in the bins during the early 1950s. Memorable titles like "Louise" and "Bluebird" came out of these sessions, and this success led some producers to try to alter the Hooker formula resulting in some ill-fated experiments like double-tracking and speeding up his vocals, adding roller rink quality organ and even xylophone on "Cold Chills." The move from to the Vee-Jay label in the mid-fifties thankfully did away with that, and added one of Hooker's most successful collaborators, guitarist Eddie Kirkland. Hooker recorded many sessions for this label, released as singles and then packaged for the blooming LP market. Notable tracks during this period include the memorable "Dimples" and "I'm In the Mood" as well as full-band remakes of some of his earliest solo recordings. One of his final hits, the swaggering "Boom Boom" comes at the end of the collection, finishing on a solid note. This collection is well done, and would best suit those that are a little familiar with Hooker's music and looking to dive deeper. There is a fine booklet with recording information and liner notes that help the listener digest the music. John Lee Hooker was one of the titans of post-war American popular music, and this set will show you the reason why. The Modern, Chess and Vee-Jay Singles Collection 1949-62 -

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound - Not Two (New Amsterdam Records, 2017)

Iraqi-American trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar's Rivers of Sound Orchestra is a seventeen member improvising big band that weds music of the Middle East to jazz with excellent results. This generous double album shows the band tearing down cultural divides and creating a unique hybrid, beginning with "Iftitah" which has a slow droning opening, creating music that is patient and low in tone. Stringed instruments and piano enter and develop an exotic sound. Horns build in like a heraldic announcement, with the brass becoming loud and powerful and accompanied by a piano flourish. The music is episodic in nature with the sound flowing naturally, leading to brash waves of horns accompanied by insistent bass and percussion. Guitar and percussion usher in "Penny Explosion" which has a broad array of sounds that create an unusual and beguiling structure with music which builds and swirls hypnotically. The music is spacious and breathes easily, sounding light and mobile with a wide vocabulary of sound. Horns gradually build in, rising gracefully and creating a large group sound that is very interesting and multi-faceted. ElSaffar's trumpet breaks out for a short solo before the music drops out to bass and hand percussion. They are joined by some quiet and nuanced saxophone and the volume rises to a percussion feature that is fast and fluid. There is a slow opening for percussion and horns to open "Ya Ibni, Ya Ibni (My son, my son)" with Eastern tinged horn solos showcasing the richness of their instruments, with subtle vibes shading the music. The music gradually evolves and other instruments fill in, broadening the sound. There is a patient and rich feature for piano, which develops a lush rhythm with bass and percussion. "Layl (Night)" has dramatically played strings, both plucked and bowed, swooping and swelling dramatically leading to a section of powerful vocals and vocalizations, with the music crashing like the sea with a single saxophone soloing gently against the heavy music in a beautifully subtle manner. A complex and appealing rhythm sets the mood for "Hijaz 21/8" with fine interplay among the musicians especially subtle guitar and percussion. Horns swirl and whirl dizzily, making for fine company with the strings and discreet horns that join the percolating rhythm. Trumpet arcs over deep seated accompaniment of shimmering vibes and percussion creating an alluring sound. The longest performance on the album is "Shards of Memory/B Half Flat Fantasy" which begins with light horns interacting with strings and percussion. Saxophones and trumpet are playing in space, in and out of phase, shifting over the vibes and rhythm. The music becomes faster and more strident, with the horns moving in tandem and a shifting rhythmic center creating excitement as instruments collide, merge and emerge. There is great collective playing as suite like interconnected sections of music show different aspects of the ensemble. Vocals are framed by strings and percussion, further communicating the drama of the music, which is restlessly creative. The band builds a powerful edifice, with saxophones blasting forth powerful sound concluding with a light fanfare. The album finishes with "Bayat Declamation" a travelogue of strings and percussion with a sound that is mobile and variable. Strong horns frame this cinematic music with a flavorful full band featuring expressive hand percussion strings and glistening vibes. This was a very successful album, and it is highly recommended to fans of jazz and world music. The performances are strong and varied and this marks a triumph for Amie ElSaffar and his exciting blend of music. Not Two -

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Lean Left - I Forgot to Breathe (Trost Records, 2017)

Lean Left is an inspired combination of guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels from the legendary Dutch punk band The Ex with free jazz luminaries Ken Vandermark on saxophones and clarinet and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. This is their seventh album together, and it was recorded in Amsterdam in 2015, beginning with "Coastal Surface" which opens with heavy grinding as all of the band's gears engage in a very cool fashion. This is a high impact balls to the wall conflagration, pushing the music to the outer limits before they pull back to allow some open space leading to a delightfully skewed portion of extended techniques then to a graceful conclusion. "Margo Inferior" has some rattling and clanking percussion with squeaks and pops which turns into a budding collective improvisation that is fast and forceful. The juxtaposition of the fast, hard exciting section and the open spaced areas comes forth like an invitation to dance. The epic "Groove for Sub Clavian Vein" is the centerpiece of the recording beginning with probing saxophone and guitar zig-zagging through the available space. They begin to slash and burn at a boisterous high volume which has an exhilarating impact. The music is wide open and unpredictable, moving massive blocks of sound becoming alarming and imposing while still thrilling the listener with strong pummeling drumming that keeps everything focused as Nilssen-Love builds a creative solo from his cymbals inward. There's a dynamic downshift for electronics and then Vandermark's blazing saxophone re-enters creating a thick sound that charges forward making a full band improvisation that is exciting and well articulated before moving to a quieter more nuanced conclusion. The spacious and abstract vibe is continued on "Oblique Fissure" beginning with choppy guitar and muddy saxophone then developing gradually to a stark and potent collective improvisation which kicks and tears at the firmament with spring loaded intensity bursting forth with dizzying excitement. "Pleural Lobe" has some alarming and imposing sounds, with music that opens and closes like breathing. Shards of electric guitar and percussion leading to a scalding improvisation that is unpredictable and exciting. The album closes with "Cardiac Impression" which takes abstract sounds and builds them into a powerful improvisation that takes the band to an over the top finish. This was another excellent album from this band, their first new release in three years. Hopefully this will rekindle the excitement in this group, leading to more performances and albums. I Forgot to Breathe -

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

JD Allen - Radio Flyer (Savant Records, 2017)

Tenor saxophonist JD Allen releases about one album per year, and it is always an event. There's little fanfare but those in the know wait with baited breath. This year's album has a quartet setting with Allen accompanied by Liberty Ellman on guitar, Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. The music revels in the twilight world between the mainstream and the avant-garde, making exploratory jazz that draws from many sources. The opening track "Sitting Bull" has a dark and rich vein of emotion running through it, with deep toned saxophone and free ranging drums framed by guitar and bass. There is a stern feel to the music that begins to lighten as the improvisation takes shape with Allen's raw saxophone lightening ever so slightly and beams of guitar poking through, and leading a fine full band extrapolation. A fine opening for guitar, bass and drums allows the rhythm team makes the most of it. Everyone comes back together at a simmer, directing the music to a carefully considered conclusion. Strong and supple playing lays the groundwork for "Radio Flyer" with stoic saxophone and resonant bowed bass leading the way with humility and maturity. The music is taken at an open-ended mid-tempo, with sparks of guitar providing juxtaposition within the heavy atmosphere. Drums gain in power providing a jumping off point for Allen's saxophone and Ellman's waves of shimmering guitar, and provoking a tight collective improvisation, and a well played guitar solo. "The Angelus Bell" has the trio barreling out of the gate at high speed, and with a lot of mass behind that velocity. The boiling bass and drums support the leader admirably, as quieter guitar accompaniment adds color to the proceedings. There is an opening for the trio with subtle percussion and guitar, slowly rising in intensity for a quick finishing move from Allen. There is a return to medium tempo on "Sancho Panza" featuring some fine and patient bass playing and subtle percussion. The music develops into a dark toned ballad approach with occasional piercing sounds of saxophone. Gentler percussion with brushes and guitar make the most of some open space, then Allen's melancholy saxophone return to guide them to the conclusion. "Herueux" has the band playing at a medium pace, allowing for maximum movement within the music, building to a tight and powerful full group improvisation. The band flexes and moves through their paces in an impressive manner, eventually making way for a well played guitar solo,and  building to a robust improvised section for guitar, bass and drums. A choppy rhythm opens "Deadalus" led by some fine drumming and angular saxophone, coming together for a very interesting quartet improvisation, buoyed by thick bass. Ripe and powerful saxophone surges through the music with touches of guitar and rolling drums keeping pace. There is a nice fluid guitar solo included, and a powerful drum solo. "Ghost Dance" slows things down considerably, with bass and drums laying the groundwork, building in suspense with the addition of a moody guitar line, creating edgy interplay between the musicians. Allen's pinched saxophone startles upon entry, his acidic tone burning through the music that surrounds him, driving the music into further unexplored territory before an abrupt finish. This was another excellent album from JD Allen, who is one of the most consistently capable performers on the modern jazz scene. Each of his albums has been a unique gem, and this is no exception. Radio Flyer -

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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Jamie Branch - Fly or Die (International Anthem, 2017)

Jamie Branch is a trumpet player and composer who has spent quite a bit of time in the fertile Chicago jazz scene. Like most of the best music from this city, her music is neither avant-garde nor straight-ahead, but a sophisticated amalgam of accessible themes and open ended improvisations. On this album she is joined by fellow city alumni Tomeka Reid on cello, Jason Ajemian on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. Sitting in at various times on the recording are by Matt Schneider on guitar and Ben Lamar Gay and Josh Berman on cornet. The record they create is short, but packs quite a wallop on tracks like "Theme 001" where scraping cello and thick bass create an excellent launching pad for a strident trumpet solo framed by subtle sparks of sharp and crisp percussion which creates a complex rhythmic environment that provides fertile ground for improvising. Branch's trumpet solo has a strong physical edge to it, with weighty power and dignity propelling it. The music is energetic and kinetic, containing the mass of a full, ripe sound that allows it to be quite effective. "Theme 002" takes up where that piece leaves off with memorable bass and drums rhythmic structure, and Branch moving into a solo that adds long tones of higher pitched sounds, building the power of the music carefully, establishing an interesting melody and then using this as the basis for a pithy improvisation. The music Branch leads is confident and proud, and capable of it's own unique genetic signature. The musicians bond tightly over the music and this leads to some very interesting collective playing. There is a clarion call of trumpet on "Theme Nothing" which is met with immediate support and encouragement from the rest of the band, and again they develop a rhythmic foundation for the music that allows for its development with shards of trumpet flashing amidst the open groove that the overall music establishes. There is an irresistibly funky section for cello, bass and drums before Branch returns and helps drive the music home with passion and grace. The music on this album worked quite well and the band plays with a great deal of rhythmic imagination, allowing the music to go from lyrical to abstract and back without a hitch. Jamie Branch is definitely a young talent on the rise, and her future is bright. Fly Or Die -

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Books: Bob Dylan - Chronicles Vol. 1 (Simon & Schuster, 2005)

Bob Dylan's autobiography is a wonder of wordplay and storytelling, which is as compelling as some of his best lyrics. He subverts the normal architecture of biographies by jumping ahead to when he first moved to New York City and his description of early sixties New York as a frozen winter wonderland where he was struggling and scuffling to make it as a musician, also shows him seemingly overloaded, drunk on literature, music, film and other stimulants. From there we flash forward to 1968, and Dylan is now world famous, but in his own mind infamous. He is trying to take a break from music and desperate to try to create some space for himself and his family. From Woodstock to New York and beyond, he is relentlessly chased by seekers who believe he has the answers to everything and the press who wants to know what the "voice of his generation" has to say. We flash forward again to 1987 and a very intricate and in-depth recollection of the recording of the Oh Mercy album, a powerful and under appreciated comeback produced by Daniel Lanois. It was a difficult birth, beginning with Dylan having a moment of clarity about performing and writing, and then the recording sessions in New Orleans which stretched over a long period of time. From there, we end where we began, back in an icy cold New York City, with some detours to his formative years in Minnesota. He signs a contract for albums and songwriting, and the rest is history. This was a fantastic book, with many idiosyncratic twists and turns, and details of a unique and fascinating life. Chronicles: Volume One -

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Friday, June 02, 2017

Sun Ra - Discipline 27-II (Saturn 1973; Strut/Art Yard 2017)

This is a welcome reissue of a rare album from the great cosmic bandleader, keyboardist and composer Sun Ra came which was recorded around the same time period that the film and associated soundtrack to Space Is the Place was recorded. This was a purple patch for the Arkestra with some of their most powerful soloists on board and Ra setting some of his most memorable themes, beginning with "Pan Afro" and "Discipline 8" which have done very intricate ensemble playing with strong percussion, framing keyboards and some really happening horns. Featured is some excellent alto saxophone, presumably from Marshall Allen, that takes the ideas and characteristics of early 1960's Eric Dolphy as a starting point and then constructs a driving improvisation that stretches and pulls at the musical space and time in a very exciting manner. Things start to get a little further out on the track "Neptune" as the band gets into a deeply spiritual and cosmic groove, with chanted vocals from some of the male members of the group giving listeners a news update from the eighth planet along with some solid instrumental accompaniment. The main event is the twenty-four minute long medley "Discipline 27 (Parts 1-4)" which shows Sun Ra and June Tyson both singing, doing some great call and response vocals, beginning with the theme to "Life is Splendid" and then moving into some more social commentary where they rap about laughter, and the music becomes quite unnerving, and you're not sure whether the group is laughing with you or at you. It is a curious arrangement and one that really makes you think and respect Sun Ra for creating music that works on so many levels. This is a very memorable album that definitely deserves the belated recognition that it is receiving. Discipline 27-II -

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Thursday, June 01, 2017

Aruan Ortiz - Cub(an)ism (Intakt Records, 2017)

Coming hard on the heels of last years superb trio album, Hidden Voices, Cuban born and Brooklyn based pianist Aruan Ortiz moves into even more deeply personal territory with an angular and fiercely played album of solo piano. This album is the result of an interesting convergence of musical ideas and styles, which draws upon the variety of musical and personal experiences of Ortiz’s life, as a musician and a world traveler, and as one who is relentlessly curious and humanistic musician and individual. On this album, Ortiz’s compositions are derived from well developed thoughts and sensations, and they course along synaptic constructions which are shot through with the unexpected, allowing the music to flow naturally and organically. He plays the length and breadth of the instrument, with blasts of powerful lower end bass notes and chords that ring and resonate with astonishing clarity throughout the music. While he has a definite stylistic approach to the music, the music on this album remains diverse at all times. Using clear but flexible approaches, the music engages through structure and surprise, as well as tension and release. Clear and shimmering musical constructions are abruptly altered as the deep rhythmic nature of the music asserts itself. Each of the performances has a unique mood of their own. Ortiz makes carefully structured music into a compelling mix of sounds, rhythms and improvisation. All these elements combine to make a very unique sound. Musical forms converge like eddies, swirls and whirlpools of sound in a grand current, but Ortiz maintains the vision to keep the music under control. This album works quite well, with the music ranging widely in the traditions of jazz piano while keeping melodic structure at the forefront. The Cuban influence infuses Ortiz’s music with further drama that jolts the proceedings like a burst of electricity, creating interesting structures that allow for flowing improvisations and continually interesting music. Cub(an)ism -

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Amok Amor - We Know Not What We Do (Intakt Records, 2017)

Amok Amor is a fascinating band that began with Christian Lillinger on drums, Petter Eldh on bass, Wanja Slavin on saxophone and they are joined on this album by the always exciting Peter Evans on trumpet, to make them into a powerful quartet. Their music is improvisational, thoughtful and abstract but also accessible and filled with interesting themes and melodies. The blend of instruments and bright and bouncing, beginning with the track "Pulsar" which has a tight melodic statement, and excellent collective playing between the musicians and the some bold individual statements as well. There experimental nature keeps the music fresh and interesting, as evidenced on "Body Decline" where they play at a fast paced tempo, with some complicated interplay and a dynamic sensibility that makes the music very appealing. "Alan Shorter" is an abstract and well intentioned ballad, an improvised tribute to Wayne Shorter's brother, a trumpeter and free jazz pioneer. Actually a full quartet improvisation, "Trio Amok," features deeply ingrained possibilities that this music has and exposes the potential for this type of open ended music that develops at the whims of the musicians involved. The rattling and clanking of the drumming on "Brandy" takes the music in a new rhythmic direction, soon joined by deeply resonant bass, which allows the music to develop with slowly increasing drama until Evans enters with a pinched trumpet improvisation, echoing off of the powerful bass and drums. They are able to extrapolate off of this information and Slavin joins to make this a collective improvisation that is fresh and detailed, flexing the music in new and different ways. The finale of the album, "A Run Through the Neoliberalism," adds some very subtle  improvising with the bobbing and weaving brass and rock solid foundation of the bass and drums giving the proceedings a more melodic and textured feel. On this album, there are hints of the groundbreaking music of the original Ornette Coleman quartet and the wit of another group that Evans was associated with, Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Fans of the music of those two groups or inventive modern jazz as a whole will find a lot to enjoy on this album. We Know Not What We Do -

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hank Mobley - To One So Sweet Stay That Way: Hank Mobley in Holland (Nederlands Jazz Archief, 2016)

This seventy-seven minute disc is comprised of three sessions that tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley was involved in during a short tour of The Netherlands in Spring 1968. Although the liner essay hints that drug addiction and prison time had taken their toll and he might be past his prime, the music found on this album is really quite good. Mobley might not play with the strength of his peak years, during the late fifties and early sixties, but time and hard won experience had made him into a wiser and cagier musician, one who picked his spots, and allowed the local musicians who supported him (including drummer Han Bennink on the first three tracks) to have their say as well. The album starts off in fine fashion, with Mobley placed as a soloist backed by guitar, piano, bass and drums. The opening performance "Summertime" is taken at a fast clip and Mobley sounds completely engaged with the music, as he does on two Sonny Rollins compositions, "Sonny's Time" and "Airegin." He seems to have a real affinity for Rollins's music: playing taut, memorable lines and swinging mightily. The following two tracks "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and "Twenty-Four And More" place him in a rare big band setting, and sparks do fly on the second performance where the orchestra is able to frame a thoughtfully constructed saxophone solo. The second half of the album is made up of four lengthy performances of standards and blues backed by a swinging piano, bass and drums trio. This places Mobley into a setting where he can thrive, with a solid and knowledgeable group that has his back and understands when to stay out of the way and when to come forth and engage him, like on the driving "Blues By Five" where Mobley emphatically states the theme and then races to a fine solo statement with the trio in hot pursuit. There is a lush piano introduction to the ballad "Like Someone in Love" and the trio makes for a very tasteful partner to the soloist's patient and yearning saxophone. They wrap up with some storming stretched out improvisations on "Three Way Split" and the standard "Autumn Leaves" and each member of the band is allowed some space, but the lion's share goes to Mobley who makes the most of it, playing in grand style. There isn't a lot of live Hank Mobley available so this is a welcome release. He is still playing assertive and confident saxophone, and his Dutch peers are more than up to the task, making this a welcome attachment to his discography. In Holland -

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Alice Coltrane - The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop, 2017)

Alice Coltrane is most well known to music fans as the wife of the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, but Alice was a formidable multi-instrumentalist and composer in her own right. She held the piano chair in John Coltrane's band from 1965-1967 and also issued a wealth of solo material on Impulse! and Warner Brothers in the years following her husband's death. One thing that she shared in connection with John was a relentless spiritual yearning and this became the focus of the rest of her life, when she founded an ashram in California, took on an unpronounceable Sanskrit name and devoted herself to spiritual pursuits. But she never gave up music entirely which we are to be grateful for because she was a protean force on several instruments in addition to piano like the electric organ and harp, which gave her jazz based music such interesting and memorable flavor. From 1983 - 1995, Alice Coltrane published several private press cassettes of devotional music that received little coverage and were not well known to the outside world. This is where this collection comes in, bridging the gap in her musical evolution between her retreat from the wider musical world in the early eighties to her surprising reemergence in the jazz setting with the Translinear Light album and a few public concerts before she passed away in 2007. This album takes selections from those cassette only releases, remasters them and presents the music in a digital or vinyl format with photos and liner notes from Coltrane scholar Ashley Kahn. The music is quite unlike anything else we had heard from her, although the is a lengthy revisiting of one of her former spiritual jazz pieces, "Journey in Satchidananda." While matters of the soul were never far from her jazz work, this is another thing entirely, with much of the music consisting of chanting, singing including Alice's own vocals and hypnotic percussion. The instruments most associated with her are heard with washes of organ and shimmering harp on some pieces, but the most surprising aspect of the music was her embrace of synthesizers and the possibilities this technology offered for her devotional music. She uses the technology in a very unique way, framing the vocals, in conjunction with percussion and developing melodic lines. This isn't the cheesy 1980's synth you may be dreading, it's light years away from any pop sensibility, and it's closest analog may be some of the mellower works Sun Ra was creating with similar technology during this period. Overall this is an interesting look a well known musician that turned away from jazz to focus on her spiritual life and looked to make a contribution in both arenas. Listeners searching for music that is similar to her 1970's jazz albums will likely be flummoxed by the music on this collection, but embracing it with an open mind can lead to interesting results. World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Turiya Alice Coltrane -

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Interesting Links 5/24

A look at income inequality among jazz musicians.
Phil Freeman's roundup of recent jazz releases and some interesting thoughts about cut-price box sets.
Bandcamp interviews saxophonist and composer Oliver Lake.
New Music Box interviews Rudresh Mahanthappa.
The Observer interviews Nels Cline.
A lengthy NPR podcast about the new archival Alice Coltrane release.
Pop Matters on the real birth of the blues.
Matt Lavelle on the astrology of Albert Ayler, John Coltrane and touching base with Giuseppi Logan.
Bandcamp on Joshua Abrams work in jazz and soundtracks.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wes Montgomery and the Wynton Kelly Trio - Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (Resonance Records, 2017)

Guitarist Wes Montgomery had joined in with the The Wynton Kelly Trio once before, creating one of the most famous jazz guitar albums, Smokin' at the Half Note in 1965. This sees a reprise of that effort with Montgomery sitting in with pianist Kelly, with Ron McClure on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. This previously unreleased music was recorded for radio at the Penthouse Jazz Club in Seattle, WA on April 14 and 21, 1966. There is a mix of tracks with only the trio and with Montgomery sitting in, beginning with the trio tracks "There Is No Greater Love" and "Not a Tear." The former is a nice spirited performance that is fast paced and seriously swinging. There is a solid bass solo with subtle percussion along with rippling piano and trading of short sections between the piano and drums. The latter is a medium tempo piece with subtle bass and percussion anchoring the piano. The jump dramatically a little ways in, ramping up the pace quickly and mining a strong and deep vein of sound. Montgomery finally joins the group on "Jingles" which is a compact performance that begins with a tight, choppy theme before moving into a storming improvisation with the guitarist launching flinty shards of tone with fine trio accompaniment. They cruise in fine fashion, with a balanced and finely honed sound. The following tracks, "What's New" and "Blues in F" are also quartet performances, the first one developing a slower pace, with patient and thoughtful work from the trio along with probing guitar. Montgomery's dexterous and expressive playing is very impressive here and on the blues where they blast into a fast tempo with everybody playing at a high heat. This music is delightfully presented, buoyant and joyous with a group that just clicks, playing without pretense. Unfortunately, the music fades out before the conclusion. The trio is back in the spotlight for "Sir John" and "If You Could See Me Now" with the opening track becoming nicely stretched out with the musicians developing a deep pocket with elastic bass and grooving piano and drums. McClure is featured with a solo and then the closing track, a showbiz standard that gets a lush and ornamental opening, becoming an elegant ballad with brushes and gently spacious playing. Montgomery is featured on the final three tracks of this album, beginning with "West Coast Blues" which dives straight into his familiar melody, and then breaks out into a colorful quartet improvisation. They play thick slabs of music, solid and substantial stuff that is very exciting. "O Morro Não Tem Vez" and "Oleo" wrap things up with the Jobim tune given some nice rhythmic accents by Cobb and develops a nice bossa feel for guitar and percussion. The music is relaxed yet finely crafted with the guitarist's complete command of his instrument on full display. Finally they rip into the Sonny Rollins composition with some epic guitar chased by the roiling trio... only to have the music fade out infuriatingly after just two minutes. Such were the whims of radio recording during that era, but it leaves you wondering what might have been. Smokin' In Seattle: Live At The Penthouse -

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Catching up with Paal Nilssen-Love

Paal Nilssen-Love and Peter Brotzmann - Levontin 7 Tel Aviv 30th March 2015 (Catalytic Sound, 2017) The great Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love has played on many occasions with the legendary German reed instrument master Peter Brotzmann, and this is an excellent entry into the annals of their partnership. Taking off at an appropriately blistering pace with Brotzmann's scalding tenor saxophone clearing a path like a bulldozer, the music barrels forward relentlessly. Nilsson-Love's drums roll in a deeply rhythmic manner, crashing and throbbing, keeping the music grounded and providing even further momentum for the proceedings. This album is one long spontaneous improvisation, and the musicians are able to flex the sense of time and space, with Brotzmann moving through the gamut of instruments he uses which provides a wider range of hues and textures for their performance and the drummer meets him every step of the way, and it is the interaction that they develop that is the most special part of the music, and the two men are egoless in placing the music before themselves and develop a startling and vibrant performance. Bandcamp

Paal Nilssen-Love, Claude Deppa and Peter Brotzmann - Cafe Oto London 9th April 2013 (Catalytic Sound, 2017) Nilssen-Love and Brotzmann are joined by trumpeter Claude Deppa and this trio will carry their improvisations in a different way than on the previous album. Deppa has a more fragile and lighter approach to his instrument that makes him a perfect foil for the other two musicians who have a very strong and powerful manner of playing. Instead of one lengthy performance, the trio's collective improvisation is broken into four sections, with the first one being the longest, over twenty minutes in length, where the group gets right down to business with deep and penetrating music that is powerful and fully present. There is a dynamic downshift after that with the music developing in open space, before building back up to a very exciting and fast paced conclusion that wraps the performance up nicely. Bandcamp

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Van Morrison - The Authorized Bang Collection (Sony Legacy, 2017)

The story of Van Morrison's earliest solo recordings is a fascinating one. Bert Berns, a hustler, songwriter and record producer for his own Bang Records brought Morrison to the United States to record after his tumultuous tenure fronting the Belfast based rhythm and blues band Them. The poppiest material of Morrison's career, the Bang recordings encompassed his love of blues and soul, and the music they recorded had a claustrophobic small band feel, occasionally using female background singers in a call and response format. "Brown Eyed Girl" is the song that everyone remembers, it's a masterpiece of giddy pop music that was a top ten American hit during the summer of 1967. That wasn't the only excellent piece of music recorded at these sessions, and the first disc on the collection is the strongest, comprising the master recordings for these sessions. The harrowing song "T.B. Sheets" about trying to deal with a friend who is dying from tuberculosis, which stretches out to over nine minutes and an early version of his iconic songs "Beside You" and "Madame George" show the path he would take into his career to come. "Midnight Special" is a traditional folk song that was associated with the great songster Lead Belly, who was a formative influence in Morrison's youth, and here they move into a joyous setting with the background singers and tight band pushing the music forward relentlessly. Experiments with a Latin tinge on "Spanish Rose" and the chunky rhythm of "Chick a Boom" show that Morrison and Berns were willing to try a wide range of music in search of another hit. Disc two takes a deeper dive into these sessions, which place alternate takes of the master recordings and use snippets of studio chatter to frame the songs. Some of the tracks like alternate take of "T.B. Sheets" are quite different, and the disc ends with several takes of "Brown Eyed Girl" showing how the hit was painstakingly put together. The third disc is the most controversial, thirty one no-effort contractual obligation songs recorded for Berns's widow after his sudden death and Morrison was desperate to escape the Bang contract to move to Warner Borthers. Morrison felt he was being exploited and turned in songs like "Blowin' Your Nose" and "The Big Royalty Check" to fulfill his contract and be sure there was nothing that could be released for profit. The material has been bootlegged over the years, but this is the first time it has been legitimately released. For the serious fan of Morrison's work, this is an excellent collection and highly recommended, but for the less devoted, the Bang Masters album remains in print. The Authorized Bang Collection -

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jon Irabagon - Axis (Rune Grammofon, 2017)

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon is joined by guitarist John Hegre and drummer Nils Are Drønen, on a very well played and exciting album that was  recorded on two separate locations in 2014 and 2015. The album consists of two long tracks that move between quieter melodic passages and and flat out free jazz. The first half of the opening track "Berlin" is long and spacey, but jumps startlingly after the nine minute mark to a full blowout of barreling drums, spirited saxophone and heavy guitar. The music becomes an absolutely thrilling batten down the hatches type of collective improvisation, where everybody playing is full bore sounding like a force of nature with nothing held back. The concluding track "Fukuoka" takes its time as well, beginning with probing saxophone popping and honking along with tempered guitar, looking for an opening into the music along with skittish percussion which pushes ahead and the music slowly gains momentum. The proceedings develop an imposing strength, which is unpredictable and forward thinking. Long tones of saxophone, washes of guitar and fractured percussion, sneer with a sense of danger and malice as the volume rises on torrents of stark saxophone and drums with flinty guitar moving in between. They step up to full howl and the effect is very impressive. The band surges toward a mighty finish playing a lights out collective improvisation that is nearly frightening in its withering intensity. Axis -

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Peter Brotzmann / Heather Leigh - Sex Tape (Trost, 2017)

The arresting title and Peter Brotzmann's eye-popping artwork are matched by this unique recording of steel guitarist Heather Leigh and Brotzmann using his full battery of instruments including tenor and alto saxophones, tarogato, and b-flat clarinet. This is one continuous forty eight minute performance that was recorded live at the Unlimited festival, in Wels 2016. It is a fascinating recording, with Leigh's instrument light years away from the from its normal usage in country and roots music, because she uses it to develop a unique and otherworldly drone, a quavering sound that can at times seem fragile and haunted, but then can lash out with an unexpected and stinging wrath. Brotzmann sounds deeply inspired in this setting, setting the pace right away with his gruff saxophones blasting away with steely controlled power that is very strong, but never overwhelms his playing partner. But when he moves to the clarinet and especially the exotic tarogato the music takes on a very special feeling with the odd pitches and timbres that these two musicians explore with their respective instruments makes for a very memorable interaction. The music moves organically throughout the performance with the improvisation developing in both duet interactions and solo spots for both musicians. This was a fascinating album, the improvisation that is formed by these two musicians is a testament to the transformative power of music, and the notion that all instruments are compatible with one another provided they are in the right hands. Leigh, the daughter of a coal miner and Brotzmann, who grew up in the midst of the wreckage of post-war Germany seek and find common ground in the act of improvisation, creating a memorable album in the process. Sex Tape -

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Francois Carrier / Rafal Mazur / Michel Lambert - Oneness (FMR Records, 2017)

The music on this impressive album was created spontaneously in the moment by Francois Carrier on alto saxophone and Chinese oboe, Rafal Mazur on acoustic bass guitar and Michel Lambert on drums, and was recorded live in Krakow in 2015. "Oneness" opens the album with breathy saxophone and subtle bass and drums probing the space and confidently attacking the silence. The music is very well recorded and it captures the alluring tone of the acoustic bass guitar and the dynamic tension it creates with the other instruments as the music moves forward, developing an eloquent collective improvisation at a medium up pace. The bass and drums drill down into the music, with raw and taut saxophone engaging them in a fierce meeting. The exotic sound of Carrier's oboe introduces "Flow" which squeaks and swirls around with cymbals and bass fluttering around with a deep sense of adventure. He moves back to saxophone as the performance progresses, getting down to business in an exciting fashion with an intense three way improvisation, building to a fast and frenetic conclusion of raw musical power. "Observations" has a quieter beginning, spacious with choppy drums and insistent bass helping the music gain steam building to a fortress of sound, buoying the music and lifting the sound further with exciting saxophone astride thick bass and rattling drums. Bass and drums provide a firm foundation as the startling and fascinating sound of the oboe crashes in. Swapping to saxophone, Carrier leads the band to a furious section before throttling back to an airy conclusion. The trio develops a long and dynamic improvisation on "Uplifting," coming out of the gate fast and hard. Thick bass and drums flow as the saxophone takes flight to soar. There is exciting saxophone wailing over potent rhythm in an intricate improvisation. Raucous patterns and raw rending saxophone of unrelenting power continue, then the music slows to a spacious section of elastic bass and skittish percussion. The lull doesn't last long and soon the trio is in full flight once again, dashing forward at a breakneck pace. The album is concluded by "The Urgency of Now" which is another lengthy track that begins patiently, building music infused with humility and humanity and developing an architecturally sound improvisation. The music is lean and tough, with saxophone shrieking in an ecstatic manner in the company of elastic bass and roaring drums. They incorporate patches of oboe, that startling sound, and then conclude in a profoundly remarkable manner. Oneness -

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Cuong Vu 4tet - Ballet (RareNoise, 2017)

After a successful collaboration with Pat Metheny last year, trumpeter Cuong Vu meets up with another notable guitarist, Bill Frisell, in a tribute to the compositions of composer and arranger Michael Gibbs. They are joined on this live album by Luke Bergman on bass and Ted Poor on drums and the album begins with "Ballet," which shows the leader playing along with spare guitar and brushed percussion in a quiet and mysterious fashion. They move through space carefully, with Frisell taking a very jazzy guitar solo supported by thick bass and swirling and slashing brushes. Vu's brass returns and weaves through the thicket, developing a potent current with a solid full band improvisation punctuated by stabs of guitar and rattling bass and drums. "Feelings and Things" sees the band taking a lush ballad approach, with bright trumpet providing rays of light, building in a majestic fashion with subtle brushes in accompaniment. Light and nimble percussion sets the stage for "Blue Comedy" with the band joining together to state the jaunty melody. There's a swinging section for guitar, bass and drums which is played with a cunning wit. Punchy trumpet pokes through with drums laying out briefly and develops a very impressive solo feature with the rhythm team in tight support. Guitar, growling trumpet and light percussion are hallmarks of "And on the Third Day" which is spacious with a hint of the unknown keeping the music fresh and interesting. The trumpet slowly rises to shine as the volume of the music increases which creates a muscular collective improvisation, especially when Frisell slips the leash and bursts out with beams of laser sharp electric guitar which is full of energy. The quartet comes together for a strong improvisation and then downshifts to a controlled landing. The album concludes with "Sweet Rain" with brushes and patient guitar and bass playing in a delicate manner with graceful horn playing probing and casting glances and they finish the album playing this gentle ballad in a restrained and dignified manner. This album worked quite well, and the Gibbs compositions were the perfect food for this band to feed on. The band plays the music in a thoughtful manner that allows each of them to shine while also supporting one another. Ballet -

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Alan Holdsworth - Blues for Tony (MoonJune Records, 2016)

Guitarist Alan Holdsworth passed away recently after a lengthy career playing progressive rock and jazz fusion. He was highly regarded by his peers and left a lengthy discography including this live album that is dedicated to the legendary jazz drummer Tony Williams in whose Lifetime band he played during the 1970's. Holdsworth is accompanied on this album by Alan Pasqua on keyboards, Jimmy Haslip on bass guitar and Chad Wackerman on drums. The music was recorded live during their 2007 tour and shows that they were a confident and thoughtful group, willing to explore the boundaries of the intersection of jazz and rock music. The lengthy title track "Blues For Tony" opens the album with the music blazing a fast trail of lightning fast guitar playing and pastel tones of the electric keyboards. Wackerman is in the hot seat on a dedication to the drum great, but he acquits himself very well, playing complex rhythms with grace and humility. The musicians are able to play at high speed with a sense of tightness and unity that is very impressive. On the Holdsworth original "Fred" they are able to step out for confident solo statements and also play in formation in ways that are exciting but resist any unnecessary grandeur or showing off. "Red Alert" is particularly interesting as the group settled into a funky fusion groove that recalls Miles Davis's eighties band, and allows the bass and drum unit to really dig into the music while the leader shoots sparks of fiery electric guitar framed by washes of electric keyboard, a tactic they also develop on the exciting "Pud Wud" which features snarling guitar solos and powerful playing from the full band as a whole. It's not all explosive music and they lower the intensity on "San Michelle" which receives a beautiful solo acoustic piano introduction from Pasqua that is introspective and quiet before he moves back to electric keyboards as the rest of the band joins in and transforms the music into a neon toned fusion excursion with Holdsworth building his guitar solo gradually as the music picks up pace. He seems to play effortlessly, developing a statement that becomes more strident, illuminating the improvisational possibilities that are inherent in the music. This is a lengthy album that works quite well and would be enjoyed by fans of progressive rock and jazz fusion. It serves as a fine memorial for Holdsworth, and a nod to his time playing with the great Tony Williams. Blues for Tony -

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Chris Potter - The Dreamer is the Dream (ECM, 2017)

Chris Potter's latest album had a long gestation period, concluding at New York City’s Avatar Studios, after several days of recording in Switzerland and a long string of live concerts before that. This is a new acoustic quartet that features Potter on tenor and soprano saxophones plus bass clarinet, David Virelles on piano and keyboards, Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums and percussion. "Heart In Hand" opens the album with the focus on majestic and patient tenor saxophone and piano, supported by spare bass and drums. The percussion sound becomes a complex rhythm in combination with piano with jaunty tenor saxophone on "Illimba." The music is upbeat and infectious with a touch of Sonny Rollins in the leaping and loping tenor saxophone solo. After a fine piano, bass and drums interlude there is a snappy and bright drum solo. "The Dreamer Is The Dream" has Potter's reed echoing in silence, getting a distinctive sound from his bass clarinet, then the band joins in on a quiet ballad performance. There is a very nice bass solo in open space, which is impeccably played. Potter's strident horn moves in with quiet authority leading the group to the powerful conclusion. Sampled sound and subtly played percussion and chimes provide an intriguing opening for "Memory and Desire." Quiet yearning soprano saxophone moves in a stealthy manner, patiently developing the melody, while muted tones of piano and gentle percussion glisten. There is a feeling of warmth to the performance, which builds gradually to a feature of saxophone and dancing cymbals, frolicking through the music. "Yasodhara" has tenor saxophone and complex rhythm picking up speed, as the full quartet comes into bloom. Potter's thick and resonant saxophone receives delicate framing from rhythm trio. The group develops a fine free spirited improvisation which brings a sense of joy in the act of playing. There is a rippling interlude for piano, bass and drums, before the leader's saxophone returns building back up carefully, then letting loose with a flurry of activity.  Finally, "Sonic Anomaly" allows the piano, bass and drums unit to set the stage before the rock solid tenor saxophone enters, confidently striding forward. Rhythmic accompaniment and choppy saxophone phrases make for an appealing performance and overall atmosphere. This was a very successful recording, where the band were able to develop their sound, pushing past all challenges and creating a pleasant and thoughtful album. The Dreamer Is the Dream -

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

John O'Gallagher Trio - Live In Brooklyn (Whirlwind, 2017)

Saxophonist John O'Gallager is joined by Johannes Weidenmueller on bass and Mark Ferber on drums, on this taut, well played album of mainstream jazz recorded live at Seeds::Brooklyn. The music is muscular and deeply felt, beginning with the opening tracks "Prime" and "Extralogical Railman" which begin with some mellow bass and drums giving the music a spacious and open feeling, as they probe the space around them. The drums begin to roll accompanied by weaving saxophone patiently allowing the music to develop to a louder intensity with a strong and immediate performance. This is a long sequence that unfolds gracefully with a dramatic downshift to music of quiet longing with a subtle bass solo. The drums and saxophone build back in, upgrading the volume and the speed of the improvisation, with ripe drumming underneath moving into a fine conclusion. "Credulous Intro" has solo saxophone painting the air with broad strokes before "Credulous" fully takes flight, opening into a ballad with gentle brushes and bass joining the leader's saxophone. Room opens for a supple bass solo with sympathetic percussion which are then joined by peals of saxophone cutting through open space, creating arcs of sound that grow in strength. The music increases in volume, ramping up from ballad to a strident trio section then to a powerful all-out improvisation with a very impressive drum solo breaking out and building a tight rhythm. There is a medium tempo sensibility to "Blood Ties" with O'Gallager channeling bebop in a bright and powerful solo amidst solid bass and drums. The trio develops an exciting level of intensity and interplay with a strong drum solo and fine collective finish. "Nothing to It" also establishes a comfortable medium tempo, moving ahead in leaps and bounds using their dynamism, bootstrapping into into fine solid mainstream jazz with rippling and muscular playing, and incorporating a nice bass solo with tapped percussion. The concluding track "The Honeycomb" strides forward confidently, developing a fast pace, building nimble, exciting and powerful stuff that finishes with a roaring climax to the improvisation, making a thrilling sendoff to a fine recording. Live in Brooklyn -

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