Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ingrid Laubrock / Tom Rainey - Utter (Relative Pitch, 2018)

This is a very well played and consistently interesting album with Ingrid Laubrock on soprano and tenor saxophone and Tom Rainey on drums. Normally on their tours they play freely with minimal forms, but on this album, they composed music for several of the tracks. "Flutter" opens the album with a bouncing saxophone theme and dry sounding drumming that seems tight and claustrophobic. The music opens up nicely with a lean and taut improvisation that sees the saxophone deve deep into the music and the strong drumming become the foundation and an rhythm base that melds the shape of the music which builds to a conclusion of gruff tenor and powerful drumming. A combination of complex subtle percussion rhythms and discreet saxophone mumbles ushers in "Murmur" with the skittish improvisation moving unpredictably forward, before the saxophonist offers unexpected long tones of sound, which are met by rapid fire drumming, the musicians seemingly on a different plane from one another, but the combination works very well. They reunite in a strong collaborative improvisation that is a thrilling race to the finish line. "Chant II"is the only spontaneously improvised piece on the album, and is works quite well, opening with piercing saxophone and unique sounding percussing which makes use of the entire drum kit and more in creating a sound world that is fascinating and at times alien and wild. Pops of saxophone and then blasts of sound provide the dynamic yang to the spacey and open ying on this performance. A complex opening of fast and spiraling sound begins "Riddled" developing a complex rhythm, but through a very exciting and disciplined duet performance. Laubrock devises a great brawny tenor sound, astride explosive drumming which seems to be everywhere at once. There is a compelling section for solo saxophone, long textured passages of breath, varying in character and essence, but consistently compelling. This builds patterns for the duo to explore gathering room to develop context for the explosive finish. "Dusk" has a medium tempo opening for skittish cymbals and fast percussion, saxophone engaging and roughing things up as the music grows faster and deeper, becoming a brazenly fast episode with a tough sandpaper edge. The choppy feeling of "Clickety-Smash-Boom" recalls Eric Dolphy's leaping saxophone, as Laubrock's soprano saxophone is rhythmically charged by excellent drumming and maks for a very exciting performance that is full of heart. "Shutter" concludes the album, with wild and exciting dynamism allowing the musicians to take the music from a relatively calm placid place and blast it into orbit, continuing to make the sound of surprise the most important thing in this compelling album, one the musicians are committed to playing in the moment where their sense of curiosity and delight extends to the listener. Utter -

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fredrik Nordström - Needs (Cleen Feed, 2018)

Needs is a very interesting album in which saxophonist Fredrik Nordström brings together a double quartet, much like Ornette Coleman did on the epochal album Free Jazz. But where Coleman brought together the larger ensemble together to perform an album of mostly free improvisation with a couple of thematic nuggets, Nordström takes a modern jazz approach with well designed compositions, themes and sections for soloing and smaller group cell playing. The band consists of Nordström on tenor and baritone saxophones, Mats Äleklint on trombone, Filip Augustson on double bass and Christopher Cantillo on drums in the left channel. Fredrik Ljungkvist on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Niklas Barnö on trumpet, Torbjörn Zetterberg on bass and Fredrik Rundqvist on drums are in the right channel. The performance "Fake Face" is a short but exciting one with strong drumming and stout saxophone playing. The band plays a strutting theme, as more instruments lend their voices giving the music a big band feeling, before a couple of the saxophonists take flight to joust with decidedly modern tones and approaches. The group moves the a serious collective improvisation that is very exciting with powerful forward movement with high volume and energy surging though the performance, before dropping back into the punchy theme. Bass leads into "Hometown Prophet" as the music has a dark and muscular sound with surging low end horns that ride the wave of the percussion and trumpet fanfare into a potent opening section. Trombone works well adding a brassy interlude to the setting with elastic bass and dexterous percussion. Lighter toned saxophones surge underneath lifting the sharp edged trumpet even higher, brashly painting the sky with blistering runs, before being subsumed by the band leaning into its conclusion. "Brand New Dollars" has a brisk and alluring theme that moves fast and fluidly as the group acts as a whole zooming off into the distance, horns riffing, then a fine uptempo saxophone solo breaks loose well tended by fine rhythm from the bass and percussion. The band's playing is bright and exciting with the solos supported by punchy accompaniment, forceful rhythm section playing, and a deep sense of cohesion. There's a roaring blast of brass playing that keeps the momentum moving into the final fanfare closing melody that ends a fine and worthwhile album. Needs -

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Julien Desprez and Luis Lopes - Boa Tarde (Shhpuma, 2018)

This album is a collaboration between two electric guitar players, Julien Desprez from France and Luis Lopes from Portugal, and they use their instruments as a way to sculpt and paint with sound as a physical artist would, using noise as their palate and the air around them as the canvas. "Iris" is the first and most lengthy track, one that begins slowly and patiently with gradually building tones, probing the space around them. Using patches of feedback and altered sound the music is subtly altered, as waves of sound drift outward, with the musicians piling tone and sound upon each other building an edifice of noise and creeping forward movement. At about the half way mark, grinding slashes of guitar appear and lead to a faster murkier grinding sound pushing their amplifiers into higher volume and states of feedback. They are really going for broke, creating a thrilling improvisation, shredding ever faster, and playing with blinding speed and facility, later shifting to a quieter but no less energetic section. "Adelaide" is a shorter piece with more menacing guitars scraping and crunching, moving quickly into a maelstrom of sound with no preamble. The guitars lash out with bolts of electricity as the music turns jagged and chaotic with great blasts of pure electronic noise at the center of the action. The second long track, "Gracinda," uses grinding sounds like industrial machinery to set a powerful foundation for the improvisation that follows. Like men at work, taking larger slabs of music and smashing them into granules, the music progresses, adding and withdrawing textures and approaches for the manipulation of sound, and varying the amount of energy they use. From blasts of migraine static to near silent scans of the cosmos. The musicians work together, never trying to blow the other away, but building on their partner's ideas. The finale is "Constanca" which has an eerie and ghostly beginning, horror movie vibe, with long arcing tones that seem to bend around corners and peek around the other side to piercing jabs of sound hitting the payoff with an all or nothing blowout. This was a very interesting and well made album, it's certainly not for everybody, but if you are a fan of noise or experimental music it is highly recommended. Boa Tarde -

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

David S. Ware - The Balance (Vision Festival XV +) (AUM Fidelity, 2018)

This album is the fourth edition in the David S. Ware archive series, focusing on the trio Ware led, playing tenor saxophone, stritch and saxello, with longtime confederates William Parker on bass and Warren Smith on drums. The first half of this album presents the group live at the fifteenth annual Vision Festival playing a three part suite Ware composed for the occasion. "Vision Suite Part One" opens with the huge and welcoming tone of Ware's tenor saxophone, muscling through the theme of the suite unaccompanied, the sound vibrant and full of life. The bass and drums crash in, adding exciting momentum as Ware holds one long passage before embarking on a breakneck collective trio improvisation. Ware holds long tones via circular breathing and punctuates this with quicksilver runs up and down the saxophone as the bass and drums respond with cat like quickness. Smith's drumming and Parker's bass playing are the perfect match for Ware, framing and supporting whatever he chooses to do, allowing his creative energy to flow unimpeded, in an extraordinary performance. Moving into "Vision Suite Part Three," with the stentorian saxophone and powerful drums and bass embarking on an epic conclusion to their suite. Ware is patient in letting the music develop, but knows when to throw down, with torrid gales of sound, and digging into the the enormously deep pocket that Parker and Smith have carved for him. The three playing as a whole are an unstoppable force, with decades of experience and hard won victories behind them, they play with grace and beauty. Ware and Smith trade passages while Parker mediates, and the music erupts with withering and glorious sound, before opening up for unaccompanied saxophone with a held breathing tone that seems to defy human physiology. The trio becomes tight, fast compact unit, cruising to the finish line and well deserved ecstatic applause. The second half of the album comes from the Onecept album session in 2009, making you reconsider how great that album is if these tracks didn't make the cut for the finished album. "Kama" has deeply elastic bass and drums, setting a open ended foundation for the track, with Ware enter entering, and weaving around the rhythm and then engaging with it. The music develops gradually, as Smith adds excellent accents to his percussive flavor and Ware responds in kind with bursts of rolling notes, as Parker anchors everything together. The music breathes, with the space available allowing the musicians to develop their own sensibility and share it gracefully, interacting with the others as equals. Always a deeply spiritual man "Bodhisattva" reflects his ceaseless curiosity, with long peals of sharper notes, and urgent bowed bass and hollow percussion giving the music and exotic feeling. The music is deeply felt and powerful, moving into areas of texture and hue that are unusual but very moving. Ware (playing saxello or stritch) gets a tart and piercing tone that is framed well by the bowed bass and tympani, and this is a very powerful and though provoking piece of music, proving once again that David S. Ware was one of the true titans of the music. Any music. The Balance (Vision Festival XV +) -

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Thursday, November 08, 2018

Peter Brotzmann and Heather Leigh - Sparrow Nights (Trost, 2018)

The musical empathy and bond between pedal steel guitarist Heather Leigh and multi reed instrument master Peter Brotzman has deepened over the course of recordings and live performances, culminating in this mysterious and powerful gem of an album. Brotzmann makes full use of his arsenal of instruments, including b-flat, bass and contra alto clarinets, and alto, tenor and bass saxophones. The album reaches its peak on "This Time Around" with scalding, near industrial strength steel guitar with a torrential ringing tone that is also scratching, and howling in a feral manner. This is met by tenor saxophone, playing lone bellowing tones, sharp and hot as the the duo coalesces into a withering improvisation heading through the atmosphere and out into space. Brotzmann is in full bellowing mode and the amount of color, light, and shade that Leigh is able to summon from her instrument is very impressive, especially when she takes a brief solo that seems to consist of a shower of multicolored aural sparks flying in the air to cap this amazing performance. This is followed by another excellent track, "River of Sorrow" which is a long improvisation, beginning with spirited rivers of guitar tone rising and cresting as the horn enters, but the performance remains fairly relaxed in the opening section, developing an exploratory mindset. Brotzmann begins to open up, roaring into his instrument with sounds akin to tearing metal, ripping and rending, which gets truly wild as Leigh ups the ante with close encounters type alien sounds coming from her guitar. The tones and sounds the two musicians are so disparate from one another that they work perfectly together using their own personal means of communication to creating a sound image that is unforgettable. The piercing tones of pedal steel guitar are met by growling tenor saxophone on "All of Us" with Brotzmann marking his territory in a bear like apex predator manner while Leigh raises and lowers the tone and volume of her instrument in an attempt to sooth the savage beast. They work well as a team, moving to a near quiet section with some bluesy accents and abstract soundscapes. This was the duo's first studio album and allowed them more time to experiment and explore. It's a lengthy album, with the compact disc version is well over seventy minutes, but it is worth savoring because these are two musicians who have developed a synergistic relationship and use it to create original music that is beyond genre and classification. Sparrow Nights -

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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

King Crimson - Meltdown: Live In Mexico City (DGM, 2018)

Since roaring back to life in 2012, the legendary progressive rock band King Crimson has released a number of live albums and official bootlegs as well as a generous helping of free downloads that have charted the band's progress. This latest release is comprised of three compact discs and one blu-ray, consisting of music performed during the band’s five night residency in Mexico City during July 2017. The liner notes of the collection have some wonderful photos, and highlights from bandleader Robert Fripp's diary. Fripp is the only musician to have been in all incarnations of the group going back to 1969, and he states that this version of the group is one of only four definitive formations of the band and the first one since 1981. The band has solidified as an eight piece with the now customary three drummer front line that runs like a fine sports car. The three compact discs represent a typical concert for the 2017 tour, but as Fripp and other musicians mention in the liner notes these concerts were special, the Mexican audiences were particularly respectful and generous, and the band responded in kind by playing at a very high level, performing music from the length of their nearly fifty year career. "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" Parts One and Two bookend the first CD, allowing the drummers to enter with a subtle world music feeling on the former and blast righteously along with the guitars in the latter. The dynamism of the percussionists is also on display on tracks "The Hell Hounds of Krim" and "The Talking Drum," which allow them to weave a thoughtful and complex tapestry of percussion that can support or lead the band. After an amicable arrangement with the band's former lyricist Adrain Belew, tracks from the 1980's period of the band have returned to the setlist, as evidenced by the inclusion of slightly re-arranged version of "Indiscipline" and "Neurotica." Well represented are some new compositions that the band have developed, which are quite potent, including the driving title track "Meltdown," but it is also a real treat to hear this larger band play material from the early years of their existence, many which went unplayed from the mid seventies until the band reformed 2012. Tracks such as "Cirkus" and "Islands" are given quite dramatic readings on the first disc, and on the second rare tracks "The Letters" and "Sailor's Tale" make an appearance. Their most well know compositions from the late sixties through the mid seventies receive raucous performances from a skull crushing "Easy Money" and a soaring version of "Red" to simply majestic versions of "Starless" and "21st Century Schizoid Man." The blu-ray has excellent multi-camera footage of a full concert, either in 5.1 surround sound or high resolution stereo, along with extended concert audio, either in 5.1 surround sound or high resolution stereo. Overall it is an excellent package with the band at the height of their powers and offering a wide variety of viewing and listening choices, and it is highly recommended. Meltdown: Live In Mexico City -

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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Andrew Cyrille / Wadada Leo Smith / Bill Frisell - Lebroba (ECM, 2018)

This is a beautiful album from revered veterans Andrew Cyrille on drums and percussion, Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet and Bill Frisell on guitar. Cyrille's developed the album's title Lebroba as a contraction of the birthplaces of the creators of this music which ranges from all shades of jazz to West African music and shades of the blues. "Worried Woman" begins the album with dusty and ghostly trumpet and guitar, joined by percussion in a fearless improvisation, with golden toned trumpet arcing high in the sky framed by guitar accents. Cyrille's drums are everywhere, casting a spectral backdrop for the beams of pure trumpet sound and a collective improvisation that is stoic and powerful, with Smith at his grandest and Cryille playing the improvising Loki, changing shape at will. This is followed by the epic tribute "Turiya:Alice Coltrane Meditations and Dreams:Love" which proceeds like a hymnal or procession, with Cyrille's deftly played cymbals meeting patient trumpet with a quiet sense of purity. The quality of experience exuded by these musicians is potent as crisp trumpet solos over low percussion and spare guitar chords. Frisell is the wild card here and on the album as a whole, he shouldn't work, but does, adding just the right touch and stepping aside at just the right time. Cyrille develops this track in a state of grace, he doesn't need to overplay, just add subtle shading, color and framing. Spare long tones from trumpet and guitar hang in space, joined by the drummer whose very stroke is individually placed. This is a long improvisation, over seventeen minutes, that gains it success from the respect the players have for each other and the honoree. "Lebroba" has guitar and drums playing in a light and frisky manner, giving the memorable theme a clear Frisellian stamp. Smith's pinched trumpet gives the music a late night noir feeling, spacious and mysterious, and Frisell's guitar solo slowly builds the drama in a cinematic fashion, that is further extended by Smith's and Cyrille's retorts. There are free sounding cymbals and smears of electronics from the guitar on "TGD." The electric freak out is initially a shock, but neither the trumpeter or drummer are fazed in the slightest, rippling forth with muscular playing amidst the scalding electric guitar. It is weird but worthy and keeps the track interesting, breaking out the entire arsenal of effects, balanced by the acoustic trumpet and drums. As if to prove they can do anything, the album ends with an absolutely stunning ballad called "Pretty Beauty," with soft and emotional trumpet and guitar meeting natural and haunting shimmering cymbals and deft brushwork. This is a quiet mainstream jazz treat, sure to stump the recipient of any blindfold test, as the music gradually blooms with patience and beauty and approaches Zen grace. Cyrille's brushes are a constant, ever shifting, as the shining trumpet rises like the breaking dawn. Lebroba -

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