Saturday, January 31, 2009

Brian Patneaude - Riverview (WEPA, 2009)

Brian Patneaude is a saxophonist and composer working primarily in the capital district of upstate New York. On this album, he is joined by guitarist Mike Moreno, organist Jesse Chandler and drummer Danny Whelchel. This group gets a very nice modern sound that is far away from the traditional "grits 'n' gravy" organ and tenor sound of the Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine recordings. The album is anchored by Chandler's Sam Yahel like cool toned organ, which along with understated drumming and guitar are constantly inventive throughout, creating great textures.The highlights of this disc for me were the performances of "Jolo" with its sing song melody which zips along with the joy of a Sonny Rollins calypso and supported by a probing organ interlude and cool guitar solo. Drop is another great uptempo performance that has a neon sounding guitar solo, and a strong, lean saxophone solo. The beautiful rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" is a wonderful piece of restrained beauty, with deep and patient saxophone making this a very memorable performance. This was a very good modern jazz album, the unique textures of the guitar and organ led to excellent opportunities for potent saxophone soloing and full band improvisation. Any fan of mainstream jazz would enjoy this fine disc.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Prasanna - Electric Ganesha Land (Abstract Logix, 2006)

I became curious about the guitarist Prasanna after learning that he had been playing with one of my favorite musicians, pianist Vijay Iyer. I downloaded this disc and was surprised to find that it was dominated by Jimi Henrix influenced distorted guitar fusion. Prasanna is joined on this disc by musicians in Indian instruments and percussion, Haridwaramangalam A.K. Palanivel on thavil, B.S. Purushotham on kanjira, konnakol, S. Karthick on ghatam, konnakol, morsing, Prapancham Ravindran on mridangam, Papanasam Sethuraman on kanjira.The problem that I had getting into some of this music (and guitar led fusion in general) is that at its worst, there seemed to be some self indulgent wankery of over amped guitar that overwhelmed the music. But be the end of the album, he seems to have gotten this out of his system and the final four tracks of the album in particular have a subtlety that is missing from some of the earlier pieces. Utilizing the percussive textures of the supporting instruments, Prasanna is able to weave his guitar over, around and through the music to very good effect.The music that ended the CD had an interesting combination of electric guitar and Indian percussion that showed a promising avenue for further exploration. It will be interesting to see in what direction he goes with Iyer's wide optn post bop, but, I think this particular album is best enjoyed by die-hard fusion and jazz-rock guitar fans.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mario Pavone - Ancestors (Playscape, 2008)

Bassist and composer Mario Pavone's latest disc is a very exciting example of full bodied modern jazz that draws from strong history of the music with a deep injection of avant-garde. He is joined by Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene on tenor and soprano saxophones, Peter Madsen on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The twin saxophone lineup along with the strength of Cleaver and Madsen's propulsive and percussive playing make this a very muscular sounding disc. The opening track, "Ancestors" sets the mood for the rest of the album with a deep pocket by the bass and drums and dark hued Andrew Hill influenced piano from Madsen. Super hot saxophone solos propel this one into the stratosphere. On "Strata Blue" which has a nice swinging feel and "Iskmix" Greene and Malaby dig deep and use some over some deeply physical saxophone and overblowing to very good effect. "Tomes" has throbbing and propulsive bass like a heartbeat, and climaxes with strong overblown tenor sax. "Arc For Puppy" has some high pitched skittering soprano, almost puppy like in its yelping. "Pachuca" is a feature for Madsen, who gets a Taylor-like percussion out of the piano. The tribute "Andrew" is an explosive highlight, with some extraordinary tenor saxophone and piano playing. I liked this album a lot, there are no half measures here, the musicians are going for if from the first note. There is a tremendous vitality andenergy to the music here, which shines throughout the length of the album.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Various Artists - M For Mississippi (M For Mississippi, 2008)

This is the soundtrack to a film about two blues lovers traveling through the south looking for music like the song collectors of old. While I haven't yet seen the DVD of their journey, if the soundtrack is any indication, the blues is alive and well in Mississippi. Much like George Mitchell and others who traveled to Mississippi in search of the "authentic" blues the music these gentlemen found is raw, deep and undeniably real. This disc leads off with a rollicking version of the title track, with Big George Brock and his band digging into a deep and hypnotic groove. Fat Possum hero T-Model Ford rocks the house with a massive juke joint groove "Hip Shakin' Woman" while the anonymous Mississippi Marvel channels the spirit of John Lee Hooker with a deep and ominous "Black Mattie's Face." Listening to this disc it is really encouraging to hear not just the depth of the Mississippi blues, but the breadth: electric or acoustic, stark or joyous the music that springs from this deep soil is a treasure for us all to enjoy.
M for Mississippi -

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Avant Music News - D.S. Ware Health Update

I sent an e-mail to AUM Fidelity - they aren't accepting cash donations for Mr. Ware yet, but Joerg said they will be setting up a fund to cover medical expenses so that people can donate to. More info.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Derek Trucks Band - Already Free (Victor, 2009)

Guitarist Derek Trucks' prodigious talent has allowed him to sit in with the likes of The Allman Brothers and McCoy Tyner, as well as lead a successful band steeped in rock, jazz and soul music. Joined by band members Todd Smallie on bass and vocals, Yonrico Scott on drums, Kofi Burbridge on keyboards, flute & vocals, Mike Mattison on lead vocals, and Count M’Butu on percussion, the band is very talented, but to their credit, never allows their virtuosity to run away with the music. Most songs stay under five minutes and are short, sharp and to the point, devoid of jam band pretensions. Although Trucks guitar is the focus of the disc, Mattison's rough and bluesy singing is a focal point, bringing a gritty realism to the cover of Bob Dylan's "Down In the Flood" and a booty shaking funk feel to something to make you happy. Trucks life partner Susan Tedeschi sits in on vocals (and guitar presumably) on the very nice and ruminative acoustic blues "Back Where I Started." Overall, this ia a fine album which wears its inspirations proudly on its sleeves, but still continues to search for new vistas to explore.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Various Artists - Chess Blues-Rock Songbook (MCA/Chess, 1997)

Well, there's not a lot of rock 'n' roll on this particular collection, just another marketing ploy and a way to slice up the much anthologized Chess blues catalog again. But that criticism aside, this is actually a very fun collection to listen to - the music is beyond reproach, and I can imagine that this would be a revelation to anyone raised on rock music and is starting to investigate the history of the music to its roots. All of the big names from the Chess glory years are here: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson; and are some of the lesser known members of the Chess stable like Willie Mabon and J.B. Lenoir. Listening to the music here, you can really draw a line from the deep bluesmen who came up from the south after World War II through to early rock 'n' roll legends like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and then finally to blues influenced rockers like the Rolling Stones. Anyone who is interested in the history of American music in the 20th Century, but is unfamiliar with the Chess Records story will find the music here a treasure.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Kinks - Picture Book (Sanctuary, 2008)

The is one of the first attempts to anthologize the entirety of the career of one of my favorite rock 'n' roll bands, The Kinks. There's a lot of room to cover, from beat pioneers in the early 60's with hits like "You Really Got Me" and "Sunny Afternoon" to their finest moments (and lowest sales, ironically) in the late 1960's, with true masterpieces of rock music as artwork with albums like Village Green Presentation Society and Something Else. Things went south in the early 1970's as front man Ray Davies focused on massive multi-disc projects that alienated many listeners with their pretentiousness. The boxed set takes a warts and all approach, unapologetic in presenting the band's greatest flops as well as their greatest hits. Reinventing themselves yet again as arena rockers in the post punk late 1970's the band had a Renaissance with a few hit singles and well received tours. The compilers cherry pick well from this period as well as the band's slow fade during the 1980's and 90's. As fascinating as this set is, it will be interesting to see who is willing to pay the considerable price to pick it up. Die hard fans probably own most if not all of the material presented here, and newcomers are unlikely to want to wade through six discs worth of music. Regardless it is a well done and effective overview of a band that had a long and influential career.

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Around the Web had an very interesting feature where trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas recommends 12 tracks by fellow trumpeter and composer Don Cherry:
"Don Cherry is a unique figure in the history of American music. Known primarily as a trumpeter, cornetist, and pocket trumpet player, Cherry was also an accomplished composer, one of the first to seriously merge American jazz with music from other parts of the world. He also eventually became a player of many small instruments from around the world, most notably the Malian stringed instrument, the doussn'gouni. As a trumpeter, Cherry played with a poignant, understated melodicism and an intensely creative sense of line that made him a one-of-a-kind player in the history of jazz."
Big Road Blues spotlights some vinyl LP's that haven't made the jump to digital yet this week:
"Lots of vinyl on today’s show as I’ve been trying to organize my LP’s and stumbled across some gems I haven’t played in a while. On tap today are several fine 1960’s and 70’s recordings by Guitar Gabriel, Babe Stovall, Willie Guy Rainey, Guitar Slim Green and Sam Chatmon."
The New York Times reviews The American Beauty Project, a group that performs the bluegrass and Americana inspired music of the early Grateful Dead:
"The concert focused on “American Beauty,” but dipped into its immediate forerunner, “Workingman’s Dead,” and went on other sidetracks. One goal was to focus on the band’s songwriting without trying to recreate “the Grateful Dead experience,” the guitarist and singer Larry Campbell explained at the beginning of the evening."
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Billy Harper - In Europe, Vol. 1 (Soul Note, 1979)

This is some more of my favorite type of jazz, strong and muscular yet still thoughtful and in control. Tenor saxophonist and composer Billy Harper is one of the musicians that came of age in the generation after John Coltrane and got a little lost in the shuffle, despite immense talent. Much like Eric Dolphy took the lessons of Charlie Parker and used them to construct his own voice, Harper takes both the musical and spiritual lessons of John Coltrane and applies them to his music, creating huge swaths of music that has immense power. The opening "Priestess" has strong full bodied piano playing in a McCoy Tyner-ish mode, supporting some deep strong trumpet and tenor saxophone. "Cavalry" has an amazingly deep and strong tenor saxophone solo - Harper seems to be able to draw from a limitless well of strength and ideas in his solos and the impact is amazing. The twenty minute plus epic "Illumination" concludes the album with an awesome performance of passion and thoughtfully applied power, with Harper cutting a blazing Coltrane like solo and playing both with wild abandon and yet complete control throughout. It's an awesome, hair-raising performance, and the entire album is a masterwork of modal jazz. This is very inspiring and endlessly fascinating music.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Eric Dolphy - Live at the Five Spot, Vol. 1 (Prestige, 1961, 2008)

One of my favorite jazz albums has gotten the deluxe RVG reissue treatment, so it's a good time to take another look at it. The most interesting jazz for me to listen to is the music that embraces both structure and freedom, and this album is a perfect example of that. This is part of the three album series that highlights a wonderful run at the small club in New York City that hosted many of jazz's greatest stars. It would be difficult to put together a better band of inside/outside musicians than those playing here: Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Booker Little on trumpet, Jaki Byard on piano, Richard Davis on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums. The music here is wide open, filled with opportunities for wonderful solos from all of the band members and wonderful ensemble playing. As great as the rhythm section is (one of the best ever) the spotlight falls on the two men in the front line, both who would pass away much too young, but on these recordings sound as vibrant and colorful as is possible in this music. Dolphy's saxophone manages to sound both utterly unique and a completely logical extension of the music of Charlie Parker. His jumping, swooping solos are simply a joy to behold. Same for Little, whose warm supple tone and pyrotechnic ability recalls both Clifford Brown and Dizzy Gillespie, but remains completely his own. He was 23 years old and not fated to live a year longer. The music here includes the extraordinary lengthy compositions "Bee Vamp" and "Fire Waltz" which remain state of the art in modern jazz almost fifty years later. This is music that never fails to make me smile and shake my head in wonder at the talent of the fine men gathered here and the extraordinary music that they made.
Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot, Vol. 1 -

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Avant Music News

I have become really interested in the Scandinivian jazz scene lately, with bands like Atomic really leading the way into modern jazz.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm back...

In a moment of general dread, depression and panic, I put the blog in stasis for about 24 hours before realizing that I missed it. I changed the name of the blog to be more inclusive and the description to something that is a little less serious. I'm going to expand the blog to include books and some other interesting stuff. Music will still dominate, but hopefully things can be a little less serious and a little more fun. Things used to be fun before the blog became a grind, and I felt like I was shanking out poorly thought-out tripe.

I really want to get away from the idea of "reviews" and lean more towards reactions and observations about the things I'm listening to and reading, and away from the austere and judgmental "review." Thanks for bearing with me during my mid life crisis. If you have any ideas on how to improve the blog, please let me know.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Charles Tolliver - Mosaic Select 20 (Mosaic, 2006)

This is a wonderful re-issue of two live albums by Tolliver's Music Inc., a collective band that originally appeared on his own record label, Strata East. Recorded live in the club Slugs in New York City and in Tokyo, Japan, the music is very high quality post bop, sometimes dipping into free territory and at other times into the jazz tradition, but always played with deep commitment and passion. The core of the group is Tolliver on trumpet and Stanley Cowell and piano; with Cecil McBee on bass and Jimmy Hopps on drums during the selections from Slugs, and Clint Houston on bass and Clifford Barbaro on drums during the performances from Tokyo. The music here is potent and virile, like "Our Second Father," which is a strong John Coltrane tribute of deep modal jazz. Cowell gets a rippling piano solo backed by propulsive bass and drums. This performance is a real highlight, the band is truly inspired and going for it, especially Tolliver who is strong and sharp throughout. Other lengthy performances include the blasting "Secret Father" with its strong and supple performance and ripe piano trio section. "Orientale" has a somber opening, before opening into a suite like performance which includes a powerfully mournful sounding bowed bass solo. While most of the music found on this collection are original compositions, there is an excellent arrangement of Thelonious Monk's classic "'Round Midnight" which builds to a fine charging trumpet climax from Tolliver. It's great that this excellent music is being reissued because it sheds much needed light on some excellent musicians. The 1970's are often seen as a down time in jazz, but as can be heard here, but scratching just beneath the surface, there is much joy to be found.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Big Road Blues has posted show notes from their latest broadcast, and they contain a wonderful essay about the influential guitarist and singer Tampa Red:
"During his heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s, Tampa Red was billed as “The Guitar Wizard,” and his stunning slide work on steel National or electric guitar shows why he earned the title."
Destination Out goes retro with some excellent mp3's and lists of the Best Jazz of the 1980's:
"We at Dest: OUT are incredibly pleased to present all the Voice lists this week, in two posts, along with music that draws from some of the most mentioned albums. We have found the whole thing to be surprisingly deep, the source of much great music. We hope the same is true for you."
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

DVD's: Ken Vandermark - Musician (Facets Video, 2008), 4 Corners - Alive in Lisbon (Clean Feed, 2008)

These two films show different sides multi reedist and composer Ken Vandermark. The Musician DVD is part of the "Work" series that shows different people going through all of the facets of their jobs. Ever wonder what the life of an improvising musician was like? Well, if Musician is any indication, it's an awful lot of grunt work like traveling, logistics, composing and rehearsing with a few moments of thrilling live performance. This film gives a look at all the planning and hard work that goes into making music and making a living. There's also some really hot footage of Vandermark performing with different ensembles. The 4 Corners DVD is a concert video from the Clean Feed label's home base in Lisbon, Portugal. This is a great band with Vandermark collaborating with Mangus Broo on trumpet, Adam Lane on bass and Paul Nilsson-Love on drums. The musicians play very well together and it makes sense because they have played with each other for years in this group and others. This is a very nice hour long concert which checks free jazz, strong hard bop and abstract improvisation. The concert was very well filmed with multiple camera angles providing close ups of soloists and deeper shots of the band improvising together. Both of these DVD's were quite good, and will be enjoyed by fans of exciting modern jazz.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Gebhard Ullman - New Basement Research (Soul Note, 2008)

With a title like that you wonder if the musicians are a latter day Dr. Frankenstein, cooking up something up something in an underground lair. Tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Ullman along with Julian Arguelles on soprano and baritone saxophones, Steve Swell on trombone, John Hebert on double bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums certainly generate enough energy to raise the dead, and it makes for an exciting, raw and raucous disc. The album opens with "Dreierlei" which has a fun and exciting multi-horn fanfare before bass and drums join the cacophonous excitement. "Gospel" has a spacious solo reed working an Albert Ayler-ish folk theme with a slow tempo as bass and drums and the remainder of the horns arrive making lush and full music which has echoes of a New Orleans funeral march. "Seven 9-8" has a solo reed opening before the rest of the band kicks in hard with a righteous honking feast and sweeping trombone solo. "D. Nee No" has some shrieking improvisation and some smaller, more intricate interplay as well, including a well done saxophone and trombone duet section. "Desert… Bleue… East" builds slowly around Swell's trombone before the rest of the band joins in. The feature here if for the wonderful soprano saxophone playing of Arguelles who begins by soloing against riffing horns and builds to a storming conclusion. "Almost Twenty Eight" ends the album in a fun and funky way with heavy drums and a raucous and strong tenor solo from Ullman. I really liked this album a lot, the music was very exciting and compelling and it sounded like the musicians were having a blast playing.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Andrew D'Angelo - Skadra Degis (Wayside, 2008)

With all of the attention focused on his recent health challenges, people may have forgotten what an excellent musician saxophonist and composer Andrew D’Angelo really is. This is a lean and mean trio session with Trevor Dunn on bass and Jim Black on drums in which the group makes blast furnace trio jazz, shown of any finery or ornamentation. The music found here is very exciting and the group plays very well together. The riotous “Gay Disco” ends the album with a blast of free-funk much like the music of Ken Vandermark’s much missed band Speceways Inc. "Bo Bee Bo Bee Bee" and "25 Hits" have wonderfully strong performances, combining the intricacy of modern jazz with the energy of free improvisation. "Fam Hana" and "Egna Ot Waog," ratchet down the intensity just a hair, but the interplay between the musicians and the interesting narrative of the compositions keeps the music fresh and alluring. I liked this album a lot, the free pieces were like a bracing kick to the head and the mellower music a balm for the soul.
Skadra Degis -

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wow. If Ethan Iverson ever decides to leave music (which I hope he never does) he could make a fine living as a literary critic. I was very sad about the death last week of one of my favorite writers, Donald Westlake, but Iverson has done him proud by writing one of the most amazing blog posts in recent memory as a tribute to his awesome storytelling skills:

"I’ve devotedly read enormous amounts of crime fiction for as long as I can remember. My discovery of Donald E. Westlake came rather late, sometime in my mid-twenties. He’s a bit of an acquired taste; there are no spectacles, no sentimental romances, and very little obviousness in his writing. He demanded that the reader peer a little closer at the page than most of his colleagues."

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Sony Rollins - Live in Vienne DVD (Doxy, 2008)

It must have been amazing seeing Sonny Rollins live in an old Roman amphitheatre in France. The next best thing is to see this well produced DVD that features Rollins and a crack band performing a fine set of calypsos, standards and ballads. The great saxophonist is joined by Clifton Anderson, trombone, Bobby Broom on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Victor Lewis on drums and Kimati Dinizulu on percussion. The calypsos are Rollins' trademark and the two performed here are wonderful. The recent and timely composition "Global Warming" and the familiar favorite "Don't Stop the Carnival" are just wonderfully buoyant performances, with Rollins playing like the fearsome gladiators that must have fought in that stadium thousands of years ago. He swoops and sweeps his thrilling solos over a band that supports his every move without ever getting in the way of the action. The disc also includes lengthy version of the standard "They Say It's Wonderful" and the latter-day Rollins original "Sonny Please." This disc was very well filmed and produced with multiple camera angles that keep the band and the soloists front and center. This is a fine performance and an excellent addition to the Road Shows CD that also highlighted Sonny Rollins live concert prowess.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Destination Out publishes an unusual best-of: "JAZZ, YA’LL: OLD WORLD: Mosaic’s Anthony Braxton “Complete Arista” set the gold standard this year. Fledg’ling reissues of the first few Brotherhood of Breath albums, plus suppressed Chris McGregor sides from that same era, formed another essential body of work and didn’t get as much press as they deserved. Hats off for the welcome reissue of John Tchicai’s Afrodisica, and more treasure troves of rare and wonderful Sun Ra now available via Art Yard and Atavistic."

The Village Voice holds up the traditional end with a listing of their top 50 jazz albums and some related stories: "Did I sense in all of this a desire to kick Rollins upstairs—a move to declare him unfair competition? A poll in which he bests the nearest competition almost two to one, even with a handicap, suggests he might be. But in the months leading up to this year's presidential election, how often did we hear that an opinion poll is merely a snapshot of prevailing sentiment at any given moment?"

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ambrose Akinmusire - Prelude to Cora (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2008)

I first head about trumpeter and composer Akinmusire when he won the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition in 2007, and since then he has been making a name for himself as a sideman and now as a leader. This is a very ambitious album, here Akinmusire is joined by Aaron Parks on piano, Chris Dingman on vibes, Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone, Joe Sanders on bass, Justin Brown on drums with Logan Richardson on alto saxophone and Junko Watanabe singing on a few tracks. There is a very strong drive to cover a lot of ground on this CD with flashes of classical and pop music integrated into the post bop modern jazz that pervades the album. The tracks that I enjoyed the most where the stronger uptempo performances like the driving "HumSong (Skidrow Anthem)" and the lengthy "Dingmandingo" both of which have some crackling improvisational passages from all concerned. Some of the midtempo pieces drag a little bit, but they do have an interesting feel with shimmering vibes and wordless vocals. The album ends with a nod toward the jazz tradition with Akinmusire and Parks improvising nicely on a classy duo version of Benny Golson's "Stablemates." This is a solid album of mainstream jazz. The young and talented musicians performing here have their own conception and draw on many different facts of music and work to combine them into a cohesive whole.
Prelude to Cora -

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