Thursday, November 21, 2019

Peter Brotzmann - I Surrender Dear (Trost, 2019)

Peter Brotzmann had recorded over seven hours of material for his solo album, and ultimately to whittle it down, so he decided to just focus on the tenor saxophone. He was looking for a connection to the past, standards he played while learning his instruments and still whistles to himself today and their ties to music and art that are being made in the present moment. Title track "I Surrender Dear" is played patiently and with great tact and subtlety. Brotzmann's unique tone is still there but dialed back to make room for the melody. The music is played in a very dignified and thoughtful manner, eventually adding some tactful high register accents. This moves directly into "Lover Come Back to Me" which sees Brotzmann improvising a little more freely, but "Lady Sings The Blues" is a marvel of economy and taste, as he keeps the notes to a minimum and the touch and feel of the music is deep and powerful. "Nice Work If You Can Get It" backs into the familiar theme and then uses it to develop swinging saxophone that continually refers back to the theme before starting to dissemble it. Quiet and understated, "Crurchsong" feels like listening in on Brotzmann during a quiet moment alone, as he plays music that is unadorned and quite beautiful. "Shumpin" adds some of the more raw and grating sound that people may be accustomed to hearing, he plays rising tones like a call to action, and then builds a questing improvisation off of this opening, wonderfully reminiscent of early sixties Albert Ayler. This rawness is also at the heart of "Brötziman" where he takes his saxophone and shows the unique tone and approach that he has built over the course of his career. The imposing serrated edge of his sound cuts through the air, and he creates a spontaneous improvisation of immense quality. "Love Poems Nr. 7 and Dark Blues" stretches out over ten minutes, building a moody and earthy beginning, and gradually picking up the pace with his overall sound getting wider and broader, and he will dynamically shift the softer more melodic portions and the harsher toned areas. The final piece is a second version of "I Surrender Dear" with this one developing in a more abstract direction than the first one, though its clear that this composition touches him and he plays in a sensitive  in both the theme and subsequent improvisation. While this may not be the typical Brotzmann performance (if such a thing even exists) it is the vulnerability that he shows on these tracks that make them so appealing. He is exposed in the solo format, but the openness suits him, allowing him to clearly present his approach to music for all to hear. I Surrender Dear - Bandcamp

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Marc Edwards and Guillaume Gargaud - Black Hole Universe (Atypeek Music, 2019)

There is a charming story behind this impressive recording, where seasoned free jazz and experimental rock drummer Marc Edwards was contacted via social media by a hitherto unknown French guitarist named Guillaume Gargaud who asked out of the blue if they could perform and record together. Edwards was skeptical, but after learning that the guitarist was coming to New York soon and seeing a youtube clip of him in action, he decided to give it  a shot. It was a wise decision, after playing a live performance together that went well, a recording date was scheduled as they locked in well together, the live session flowed smoothly for the duo and they transferred their energy to the studio creating spontaneous creative improvisations, harvesting that energy they had discovered playing together live a few days prior. The music comes out white hot, beginning with "Volcanic Eruptions on Io" as the duo creates an exciting amalgam of free jazz and progressive rock that is played at a very fast tempo and demands great stamina and technical expertise from the performers. Both musicians are more than up to the task and engage with each other completely, exploring the available territory as Gargaud extends the playing field with guitar effects and rapid fingering and Edwards uses a wide range of percussion instruments in addition to a traditional drum kit to vary the texture and granularity of his sound. The title track "Black Hole Universe" takes us even further out moving from modern psychedelia to the spiritual jazz realms and resolving to a pummeling duet performance that doesn't let up. Eventually, the sound opens up and they played music using softer dynamics, on the track "Supernova Aftermath" which allows more space into the music and gives the musicians a chance to take their improvisation in a different direction, one that involves gradation of sound rather than full out squalls of noise. This works well as a change of pace, allowing this section to be characterized by constant change and progress, allowing them to set up for the final push to the finish line. "Electrical Acoustic Synapses" ends the album in excellent fashion, with increasingly developing music that is complex and intricate, inhabiting outer and inner space, gradually unfolding like a time lapse flower, with pulsating rhythms around the guitar and drums that evoke a sudden storm. The duo plays with frenetic abandon, in a wildly excited and enthusiastic whirling dervish like maelstrom of sound, creating magic seemingly out of thin air. This album worked very well, and it's hard to believe that the musicians had only played together once before heading into the studio to record this album. Things went so smoothly that their spontaneous performances from the recorded session are presented here in their entirety, without any editing. Fans of avant garde jazz or experimental rock music should definitely make time to check this album out, the music is fresh, the performers are deeply engaged and the results are very impressive. Black Hole Universe - amazon.com

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

David S. Ware New Quartet - Theatre Garonne, 2008 (AUM Fidelity, 2019)

This entry in the David S. Ware Archive Series shows the great saxophonist at a crossroads. His legendary quartet had dissolved after a seventeen year run and he was also managing health difficulties, neither of which would keep him from making the music he loved. He convened a new group, keeping stalwart bassist William Parker and adding guitarist Joe Morris and percussionist Warren Smith. They recorded the music for the album Shakti on May 9, 2008, and then flew to France to present this concert of new material on May 24. “Crossing Samsara, Part 1” has a saxophone led theme with the guitar following Ware building into a collective improvisation with Smith and Morris adding a fresh approach and exciting new dimension to the Ware quartet. The music is potent and flexible, and the saxophonist mixes long bellows and quick filigrees of notes. Ware drops out, leaving space for the guitarist’s well articulated and prickly approach to combine with bass and drums playing fast but not very loud. The intricate mix of guitar, bass and drums allows complex rhythms to build back to the theme and conclusion. Ware develops an urgent new theme on “Crossing Samsara, Part 2” taking a long and unaccompanied solo that is very impressive, before the rest of the band returns to say their piece, playing faster and more complex, creating an intricate web of sound that constructs its own unique infrastructure. “Durga” is a slower paced performance that probes forward, gradually increasing in pace with subtle guitar, bass and shimmering cymbals. Ware uses a more raw and course tone on his instrument to excellent effect, weaving through Smith’s powerhouse drumming, digging in and wailing and leading a confident improvisation that pulls the band in on his coattails. Parker uses his bow wonderfully on this particular performance, adding an excellent sense of texture to the music as well. The drums and bass carry on their intuitive interaction on “Namah” with their communication building suspense in a subtle and deep manner. Saxophone and guitar enter, growing progressively more strident, Ware unleashing provocative and long piercingly held tones through circular breathing that are wonderful to hear. The performance wraps up with “Samsara (Reprise)” where Ware introduces the band and leads theme through a brief but enthusiastic instrumental finale. This was another wonderful entry in the Ware Archive Series, a timely reminder of what a titan the saxophonist was, and how he was always reaching for new sounds, new experiences and new ideas. Theatre Garonne 2008 - amazon.com

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Nick Dunston - Atlantic Extraction (Out of Your Heads Records, 2019)

Nick Dunston is a bassist and composer of some renowned, having received grants that have allowed him to compose the unique and genre-combining music found on this album. He is able to interweave intricate melodies with spots of freedom, full band interludes with exposed solo locations for each member of the band, and in doing so, craft a thoughtful and successful album that pulls disparate pieces into a cohesive whole. Aiding him in this endeavor are: Louna Dekker-Vargas on flute, alto flute and piccolo, Ledah Finck on violin and viola, Tal Yahalom on guitar and Stephen Boegehold on drums. The album is an intriguing mix of jazz improvisation, new music / contemporary classical and even some rock like passages. It opens with a spare section for violin or viola and percussion really building a mysterious and melancholy composition that takes this motif and uses it to explore different areas of slow, gradual progression. Other sections of the album see bowed bass or viola and flute in scouring sections of collective improvisation with free sounding percussion creating a whirling and kaleidoscopic soundscape, and other parts where gritty electric guitar can elbow in to the performance, carving sharp peaks and valleys into the flow of the music while also flaring out  long lines of neon hued sound. The sound of electric guitar and flute is unusual and creates a very appealing texture, reminiscent of certain iterations of King Crimson, weaving into a section for solo unaccompanied electric guitar, morphing into a complex improvisational section where the individual instruments and their notes and sounds reflect and refract like inside a funhouse full of mirrors, and culminating in a solo colorful and vibrant violin feature. Dunston sings on a track, developing a very effective vocal tone, low and laconic, keeping his tone and lyrics succinct amid the low violin and spare percussion. The final track is a full band blowout, very exciting and having effective and varied musical color and tone, with the musicians coming together to achieve a churning, writhing mass of improvisational excitement. Atlantic Extraction - amazon.com

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Entr'acte - Soigne Ta Droite (Audiographic Records, 2019)

This bracing album is the first from a new large ensemble led by multi reed instrumentalist Ken Vandermark. It features some of the best improvising talent from America and Europe, including Nate Wooley on trumpet, Mette Rasmussen on alto saxophone, Jasper Stadhouders on electric bass and guitar, Terrie Hessels on guitar, Joe Williamson on acoustic and electric bass, Elisabeth Harnik on piano, Steve Heather and Didi Kern on drums and Dieb13 (Dieter Kovačič) on turntables and electronics. The music that this group creates over three long performances is a rich and exciting mixture of electric and acoustic music, blustery gales of reeds and brass, imposing squalls of guitars and electronics and abstract, spacey interludes for piano and reeds. "Perpetual Desk (For Ikue Mori)" dedicated to the no-wave drummer turned laptop pioneer comes barreling out of the gate, allowing the group to make a statement right away, mixing piano with raw sound and allowing the music to unfold gradually. Guitars intertwine to build a different texture and the music shifts, with the horns building in on top. Bright and immediate saxophone solos amid feathered percussion and bowed bass sounding wonderful, building to squalls of vividly colorful sound. The horns riff before letting loose another saxophone with exemplary rhythmic accompaniment, constructing raw and rending sounds. There is a spacey interlude, as synth sounds slink around in the dark, cut off by massive chunks of full band sound. Spare sounds open "Foundry (For Richard Serra)" growing into an imposing web of guitars and electronics, then drums crash in taking things way out in a thrilling and uncompromising manner. Horns fold in, filling out the sound to a massive gale, relaxing to allow piano to improvise with guitar and percussion. Invigorating and blustery horns fall in toward the middle of this lengthy presentation, playing together in a fine formation, before disgorging a saxophone for a powerful solo flight over vivid computer electronics and powerful drumming, creating an all out improvisation that is enjoyable to hear. Horns trade ideas with Harnik's piano in a witty section leading to her remarkable solo section, then the spaciousness comes back with bowed bass and long tones in eerie near silence, then adding instruments slowly as they close the performance. "Telegram (For Francis Picabia)" has ripe and passionate horns with thick bass and drums, and electronics adding further texture. The music is brash and swaggering, moving confidently forward, with a saxophone branching out for a piercing solo cutting through the accompaniment and sounding excellent with a penetrating tone and outstanding presence. The drummers take center stage with a laudable feature, stretching and pulling the rhythm to the breaking point, resolving to a full collective improvisation, praiseworthy and a lot of fun to hear. This album worked very well, it was exciting and deserving of respect and support. The compositions were well designed, allowing the band along with smaller sub-units and soloists excellent opportunities to shine and they made the most of it, deserving approval and admiration. Soigne Ta Droite - Audiographic Bandcamp

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Miles Okazaki - The Sky Below (Pi Recordings, 2019)

This is guitarist Miles Okazaki's fifth album of original compositions, coming after his ambitious 2018 project where he recorded the Thelonious Monk songbook for solo guitar. He is accompanied by Matt Mitchell on piano, Fender Rhodes and Prophet-6, Anthony Tidd on electric bass and Sean Rickman on drums. "Rise and Shine" houses nimble guitar, subtle bass and piano, and as the drums enter the band kicks into gear with the full group developing a complex interaction. Mitchell moves to electric keyboard to interact with the bass and drums at a fast pace, and the guitar returns for a tight and well controlled feature, with Mitchell deftly moving back to acoustic piano and anchoring the closing section. Funky electric bass opens "Dog Star" with keyboards and slinky guitar creating an interesting groove, and the music drives forward with Okazaki's guitar leading the charge with the drums providing powerful accents. The band is really locked in and playing very well together, supporting the leader who is pushing headlong through the performance in a very impressive manner. "Seven Sisters" has acoustic guitar sounding bright and clear amid muted but active percussion, with Okazaki then moving to electric guitar in conjunction with electric piano, creating abstract sounds that seem to hang in the air. The music builds from the nebulous nature to something more solid with stronger electric guitar lines meeting crisp bass and drums. "Monstropolous" uses heavy drums, electric bass, manic electronic keyboards and guitar going all out in a collective fusion improvisation, which is very exciting and free sounding. The music is wild and rambunctious, and Mitchell and Okazaki t stretch out, reveling in the interplay and the freedom that the enhanced instruments allow. "The Castaway" mellows the mood a bit, medium tempo blending ideas from each of the instruments, with the guitar developing a more piercing, laserlike tone. This gives the performance focus and the guitarist crafts a fine feature, leading into a section of acoustic piano, bass and drums. There is a bouncier feeling to "The Lighthouse," with the band playing together closely on the theme in a very intricate pattern, Okazaki breaking out for a well articulated guitar solo and building it slowly and patiently creating an architectural marvel. Mitchell plays a lush and rippling piano feature over bubbling bass and drums, and the band returns together closing a wonderful modern jazz performance. "To Dream Again" is the closing piece that uses guitar and drums creating an atmospheric sound that gradually develops in unexpected ways. Sounds bend and twist with the guitar eventually becoming more prominent, with a pinched stinging tone cutting through the keyboards and muscular drumming. This was a very good album of modern jazz played by a band of thoughtful, open minded musicians. The music is complex but compelling and the performances that the band develop are consistently interesting and worthy of merit. The Sky Below - amazon.com

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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wes Montgomery - Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings (Resonance, 2019)

This new collection of recordings by the famous jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery is a series of previously unissued sessions recorded both live and in studio from his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. These recordings were made during the in the middle to late fifties by local piano player and arranger Carroll DeCamp. The first section of the collection features Montgomery with a pleasant piano, bass and drums trio, the perfect setting with which to display his talents. They play fine versions of some of his best known original compositions, "Four on Six" and "West Coast Blues." These are short and concise versions, with short statements of the theme and brief solos. Also recorded during this session were two Miles Davis songs, "So What" and "Tune Up," and a lengthy and moody performance of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" with some spacious patient playing using skeletal guitar lines. The next session covered places Montgomery among a Hammond B3 organ sextet with saxophone and trombone. The sound is a little cramped but the arrangements work pretty well, with a lengthy jam on the Montgomery original "Jingles" that stretches out well with horn riffs and brief solos and a fine feature for the guitarist. Also included are nicely soulful tracks "Ecaroh" by Horace Silver and "Whisper Not" by Benny Golson. The band develops a nice groove that percolates well with the guitar weaving between the horns and drums. The final session is from what they call a "Nat King Cole Style," a drummerless setting with Montgomery playing with just bass and piano. This chamber jazz group works well, with intricate interplay but still able to swing like mad, and these recordings make up the bulk of the overall compilation. This session consists of jazz and popular music standards, allowing for long developing performances of "It's You or No One," "Summertime" and "The Song Is You." This is a fine format for Montgomery, and it's a shame that he didn't get a chance to explore it more during the course of his truncated career. The extra space allows him to solo at length, clearly demonstrating the unique approach that he was developing to the instrument that would go on to influence generations of musicians. Resonance goes all out as usual in the packaging, with lengthy essays from scholar Lewis Porter and guitarists George Benson and John Scofield, along with excellent photographs and discographical information. It's a fine collection and fills in a gap in the recorded development of Montgomery's discography, presenting enjoyable music in the process. Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings - amazon.com

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