Sunday, April 18, 2021

Gary Bartz - JID006 (Jazz Is Dead, 2021)

Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz six decade career at the forefront of spiritual jazz, soul jazz, post bop jazz and fusion has led him to be on of the revered elders of a new generation of musicians. So it made perfect sense for Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to invite him to take part in the evolving Jazz Is Dead project where young players meet master musicians in the act of creation. The use of electronics and fusion textures calls back to to some of the great albums Bartz made for Milestone in the early 1960's. His tone has softened a bit with age, but it fits in well with with breezy synths and glistening background sounds used on this album. He has lost none of his gift for melody and improvisation, bringing a fresh look to everything he touches. "Spiritual Ideation" nods to the spiritual jazz of the past, but is a product completely of the present with modern electronics meeting up with the leader's saxophone. Some funky bass touches come to the fore on "Visions of Love" and vocals are added to the mix, filling things out and giving the music a wide open sound as the they develop from the edges with the saxophone in the center. "Black and Brown" uses more urgent saxophone and drumming to develop a faster paced tune with fender rhodes framing the action, while the core band plays really tight, even as electronics swirl around them, they stay the course, with a propulsive full band improvisation. Bartz brings a soft and light tone to "Day By Day" along side a crisp drum pattern,  strong bass and tones of electronics. The vocals return again to fill the available space, a wordless stream with some lyrics as well, leading to a sense of gentle peace. "Distant Mode" pushes hard from the bass and drums, as electric piano and saxophone build in and complete the circuit, giving the proceedings a dynamic sensibility that explodes with bursts of further electronic sound. Bartz is hardly overwhelmed, pacing his playing nicely regardless of the mayhem, before the track suddenly fades. Nice bass playing and crisp drums open "The Message," developing a very interesting rhythm for Bartz to interact with, and this builds to a fine patient performance, with bursts of synth and electronics, filling out the soundscape, Finally, "Soulsea" closes out the album with heavy bass and drums, edging Bartz's saxophone forward with a heavy footprint, creating a dep groove including electric keyboard before a quick ending. This album worked quite well, it is wonderful to hear Gary Bartz and this unique setting suits him well, with everyone taking an open minded approach, leading to a successful recording. Gary Bartz JID006 -

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt - Made Out Of Sound (Palilalia Records, 2021)

Call it anything, as Miles Davis would say. This excellent duet recording between guitarist Bill Orcutt and drummer Chris Corsano ticks a lot of boxes for a wide range of music fans, molten Sonny Sharrock jazz fusion, GY!BE post rock and beyond. But what drummer Chris Corsano and guitarist Bill Orcutt are best at is creating their own hermetic pocket universe where they can create, improvise and resolve a resolve a series of thoughtful and well articulated tracks. On the opening performance, "Some Tennessee Jar," Orcutt's guitar is watery, slipping away like quicksilver or mercury at times, no matter how heavy the drums explode around it, becoming much sharper to meet the the tumult, creating a wonderful cacophony, as the sound envelops the listener from all directions. "Man Carrying Thing" is urgent and explosive right from the opening notes and beats with Corsano scouring his drums for every bit of kinetic energy, met by Orcutt's slashing electric guitar, creating a monstrous and thrilling duet performance. Sparks of guitar glisten amid the all out drumming onslaught then dive back down like percolating molten lava. Huge outrageous electric guitar chords and top down drumming open the brief "How to Cook a Wolf" where the towering guitar sounds are fantastic, with righteous drumming riding point. "Distance of Sleep" has a haunted and sparse sensibility, sounds of jagged edges any insomniac would be familiar with, developing a sharp craggy landscape of guitar and percussion with no smooth edges, lost in the wilderness with wolves, real or imaginary, at your heel. 6 There is wonderful texture at work on "The Thing Itself," with overlapping guitar, flowing like a stream, both hypnotic and hallucinogenic, creating their most psychedelic track on the album. Overdubbed guitars chime feverishly with waves of percussion pounding like surf, leading to auditory disorientation. "A Port in Air" has a rootsy theme using a beautiful guitar tone like a golden sunrise, allowing the musicians to create a well articulated duet sound painting, building a definite spiritual jazz vibe. This is a very impressive and exciting album to hear, even more so when you consider that it was a pandemic era recording that forced them to record their parts separately and seamlessly join them together. Ocutt’s guitar technique is vast, moving from fierce, angular shards of sound to shimmering, glowing harp like sounds, as if Alice Coltrane was being refracted through another dimension. Corsano is equally wide open to the possibilities of their meeting and provides a wide range of rhythmic textures that support and challenge his partner to take the music to an even higher plane. Made Out of Sound - Bandcamp

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Vijay Iyer - Uneasy (ECM Records, 2021)

This is the first album by pianist and composer Vijay Iyer's new trio with Linda May Han Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, the three having originally met at the Banff International  Workshop in Canada. They were able to come together in New York City in December of 2019 to make this record or primarily original compositions. The interplay between the musicians is continuously fascinating, where Linda May Han Oh may be more associated with mainstream jazz and Tyshawn Sorey with avant-guard jazz and classical composition, but it is Iyer's complex yet open minded composition that gives room for the three musicians to mesh very well, allowing for the development of both intricate structure and wide ranging improvisation. Iyer's compositional themes reflect the state of the world in 2020 ruminating on the pandemic, political instability, and the general malaise of the time. But the performances of the music and the development of the compositions among the three musicians is anything but depressing, sounding vital and urgent. Iyer spools out lengthy labyrinthine piano explorations over elastic ever changing bass and drum playing, building to flexible, supple collective improvisations which retain the nature of each performance's theme but provide a lot of space for wide ranging and surprising exploration. This is a fairly long album, but it never seems that way, the music is developed and paced in a manner that suggests a narrative structure, or a journey that the listener is invited to embark upon along with the band, where the continuous current of music is ever flowing. This trio has made a fine contribution to the modern music scene with this album, which was engaging from start to finish, creating an enthralling and unpredictable soundscape that demands attention and rewards it generously. Uneasy -

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Thursday, April 08, 2021

Jim Snidero - Live at the Deer Head inn (Savant Records, 2021)

Alto saxophonist Jim Snidero got a rare opportunity during the cursed plague year of 2020, he was able to assemble a quartet for a safe, socially distanced performance at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA. Rounding out an excellent quartet with Orrin Evans on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, and selecting from a repertoire of standards, the group made the most of this opportunity. Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time” is an excellent opener, with the musicians swinging hard on this uptempo bebop number. The band is tight, and the saxophonist is strong and agile. The group produces a pleasant version of standard “Autumn Leaves” incorporating an impressive bass solo, by Washington, who demonstrates an impeccable technique and sense of time. Snidero dedicates "Old Man River" to the Black Lives Matter movement and backs it up with a genuine and emotional performance shaded by gospel and blues. Orrin Evans, on a busman's holiday from The Bad Plus contributes a stellar piano solo to "Bye Bye Blackbird," where he is featured at length. Duke Pearson's "Idle Moments" was indelibly featured on a 1965 Grant Green album of the same name, and this group does a fine version of their own, creating a great ballad feeling, quiet and spare with soft saxophone punctuated by curls of stronger sound, shadowed by deft brushes. "Who Can I Turn To" shows the leader playing his saxophone in a very melodic manner alongside elastic bass and very melodic bright piano. The group develops a fine uptempo performance, including a delightful bass solo framed by piano and gentle percussion. An elegant lengthy solo piano opening introduces "My Old Flame" which evolves into a tender ballad with longing sax, brushes and deeply felt bass. Snidero has lovely saxophone tone in his solo section during this patient ballad and short tag ending. The band concludes their set with a fast exploration of "Yesterdays" with the rhythm section providing the urgency as the three boil at a fast pace met by some ripe saxophone playing and a strident push to to the conclusion. This must have been a real treat for those who were in the audience, something that we may never take for granted again, four talented musicians coming together to play music in the moment live and in person. Live at the Deer Head Inn -

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Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Hedvig Mollestad Trio - Ding Dong. You're Dead. (Rune Grammofon Records, 2021)

After releasing a more experimental solo album last year, Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad reconvenes her regular trio for another exciting exploration through the realms of jazz fusion and progressive rock. She is accompanied on this album by Ellen Brekken on electric and acoustic bass and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums and percussion. “Leo Flash's Return To The Underworld” comes crashing out of the gate in a raucous way, setting a grinding guitar tone with bludgeoning drumming, and Mollestad’s guitar tone bifurcating into a repetitive riff and snaking solo, over taut bass and drums. Hitting very hard with an all out full band segment that recalls some early seventies King Crimson vaulted into post-rock territory, the music is gritty and raw, impacting the listener in a visceral manner. There is a massive guitar solo that strikes out toward the end of the performance lighting the path for the end of the track. “All Flights Cancelled” has an insistent and urgent call to action. The initial repatitive theme drives the music forward with bass and drums quickly falling in line. Mollestad's guitar feature shapes and scours the available material into fascinating waves and forms, with supple shiifts and turns to the overall sound. The rhythm section is in constant motion with undulating bass, and riveting drums pushing the whole trio ever onward in a very exciting fashion. A piercing guitar tone anchored with stout bass playing sets the scene for “Magic Moshroom” where sparks fly from the guitar and drums as the musicians really dig into the sound, leading into a soaring collective section for the band to really demonstrate their identity as a true distinct unit. “The Art of Being Jon Balkovitch“ is an exciting and wild performance where the band grinds out a hard funk feel with embellishments, leaning on excellent bass and drum work as the guitar flies overhead in a killer solo, with towering long tones of pure sound falling back into the rhythm as the band swirls and shimmies into a warped psychedelia. This album worked well and should appeal to progressive rock fans as well as inquisitive jazz partisans. The band is tight and the performances are strong throughout the whole album. Ding Dong You're Dead -

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

John Coltrane Quartet - Newport, New York, Alabama, 1963 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2021)

Ezz-thetics Records continues is re-examination of John Coltrane's live work, moving from Graz 1962 to two concerts in America in 1963. For the Newport Festival concert, Roy Haynes sits in on drums for an ailing Elvin Jones, but the remainder of the album presents the "classic" quartet at its peak: John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Beginning with the July 7 concert at the Newport Jazz Festival, the group sounds well prepared for a very exciting set beginning with a wistful "I Want to Talk About You" that opens the performance and is marked as truly special by incorporating some breathtaking unaccompanied tenor saxophone near the end. "My Favorite Things" was a staple of nearly every performance from this band, and it gets an extended seventeen minute plus workout here with ample solo space for McCoy Tyner. A long burning version of the Coltrane original "Impressions" follows with the leader sending wave upon wave of improvised saxophone to a delirious audience. It's fascinating to listen to Haynes here, he has a lighter and more fluid touch that is ideally suited to bebop, but he makes the transition well to the modal music and provides Coltrane with a much different foil then the thundering Jones. Elvin Jones returns for the Live in Birdland sessions recorded during October and November, and his presence is immediately felt in the live tracks, beginning with a powerful version of "Afro Blue" with a cruising rhythm section interlude before Coltrane returns to put the hammer down and develop a scalding collective improvisation that is felt as much as heard. "I Want to Talk About You" is repeated, once again adding a daredevil solo saxophone improvisation that is vibrant and thrillingly alive, and "The Promise" is the final live track, where Jones effortlessly develops beautiful rhythms, and Tyner sparkles aside Garrison's weighty bass and Coltrane's extraordinary soprano saxophone, which towers over it all. This re-issue was designed to focus on the live material, but Derek Taylor says in his fine liner notes that the remainder of the studio tracks, particularly "Alabama" were included as a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement and the drive for social justice that Coltrane exemplified. "Alabama," written after the racist church bombing in Birmingham killed four African American children. It is a sad, quiet tune, but the power and the grace that it represents goes far beyond the world of music and remains one of John Coltrane's towering achievements. This was a very well done re-issue, with like minded live mater grouped material giving a sense of the group's progress along side relevant studio material. The remastering is strong and the music is bright and vibrant, clearly produced with care. Newport, New York, Alabama, 1963, Revisited - Squidco

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Floating Points / Pharoah Sanders / The LSO - Promises (Luaka Bop, 2021)

A daring album that attempts to meld electronic sound, free jazz and orchestral music, Sam Shepherd, who performs under the name Floating Points has been working on this album for nearly five years. Shepherd's synthesizers and keyboards are met by the legendary tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra. The music is a nine part unbroken suite with movement markers for navigating the piece. "Movement 1" begins with a probing electronic motif that serves as the basis for the suite and will repeat for its entire length, Sanders enters with a well worn tone that marks the earthly opposite to Floating Points sky and cosmos. They work well in the liminal space between composition and improvisation, electric and acoustic, Pharoah playing with the patience of someone who has spent a lifetime on the musical and spiritual path. The music broadens on "Movement 2" which incorporates a large curtain of strings with Sanders' gruff saxophone as a marked contrast. "Movements 4 - 5" are the centerpiece of the album, where the three disparate parts come together as vocalizing leads to long and longing tones of saxophone, like the setting sun, Pharoah's tone and approach to the instrument is instantly identifiable and unique. He moves to a lighter tone for "Movement 6" but the orchestra swells and quickly gains presence. Strings well up and take over, becoming shrill and fractal at the conclusion. Sanders returns on "Movement 7" playing with the soft beauty people often don't give him credit for, amid the shimmering electrons that creates an otherworldly fusion / krautrock fantasia, with Pharoah punctuating the performance with a fast and urgent blast of sound. They gradually come back to Earth on the final two sections, "Movements 8 - 9" where Floating Points develops a huge droning effect for electric keyboard and then rounds it out with a short swirl of orchestra. This was a fascinating album; while the three actors at play here seem to be Frankensteined together at times, when the combinations work, particularly sections where Floating Points electronics meet Pharoah Sanders' saxophone the resulting music comes close to a state of grace. Promises -

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