Monday, January 30, 2017

Recent Listening 1/30

John Abercrombie Quartet - Up and Coming (ECM Records, 2017) Guitarist John Abercrombie builds upon the success he found on his pervious album, 39 Steps, with another quartet album featuring Marc Copland on piano, Drew Gress on bass and Joey Baron on drums. The music is patient and melodic, and at times mild and melancholy. The musicians approach the songs on this album with a sense of calm beauty, and the music is taken at a mostly ballad or medium tempo, like on the Miles Davis standard "Nardis" or the original and intricately woven "Silver Circle" but they will then occasionally move into a faster setting as on the short and sweet "Flipside." The band is up to the challenge of this type of playing, moving with tactful restraint and developing what sounds like a crystalline latticework of notes and chords building to a thoughtful approach to melody and improvisation. The music is very atmospheric in its approach, flowing like a current of air or water, with mellow turns of phrase rather then jarring leaps.
Mats Gustafsson and Craig Taborn - Ljubljana (Clean Feed Records, 2017) This is an inspired if unexpected meeting of the minds between the pianist Taborn and milti-instrumentalist Gustafsson who opts for slide and baritone saxophone on this album, which was recorded live and unrehearsed at the 2015 Ljubljana, Slovenia Jazz Festival. They develop a two-part collective improvisation that is dynamic and free flowing, beginning with "The Eyes Moving. Slowly" which hits like a truck to begin with massive guttural waves of saxophone met by expansive and powerful keyboard playing. In the lighter moments of the music, Taborn is able to provide delicate showers of notes met by Gustafsson's percussive popping of his saxophone keys which allow to music to claim a much larger sound field than you might anticipate. The second track, "The Ears Facing the Fantasies. Again" is a more open an expansive improvisation, with the musicians finding common ground that is at times lyrical and light, and then able to probe the darker corners of improvised music.
Ballister - Slag (Aerophonic Records, 2017) The balls-to-the-wall jazz trio Ballister consists of Dave Rempis on alto and tenor saxophones, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion. They have recorded several excellent albums in the past and this one is no different, capturing a white-hot performance from Cafe Oto in London in 2015. The music is outrageously exciting right off the bat on "Fauchard" with coruscating saxophone, mutating amplified cello and ferocious drumming pinning the listener in their seat. The music is raw and so very much alive that it can even lift clinical depression, whipping from full throttle scouring to the quiet abstract passages of "Guisarme." Things come full circle on the concluding track "Glaive" where Lonberg-Holm simply outdoes himself, combining the cello and electronics to create squalls of Hendrixian feedback that just take the music over the top.

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