Monday, December 31, 2012

Kidd Jordan; Thomas Chapin

Kidd Jordan - On Fire 2 (Engine Records, 2012) This is a fine sequel to last years On Fire album, with Jordan playing tenor saxophone accompanied by Harrison Bankhead on bass and cello and Warren Smith on drums. Jordan is particularly inspired, playing his very own saxophone glossolalia on "Speaking in Tongues" where he plays rapid fire bursts of inspired music that is caustic and raw, somewhat akin to the sound Albert Ayler achieved on his early trio recordings. "Waves of Birds" is a dark and intimate saxophone and cello duet, leading into the closing improvisation "Coming Down Blue" which develops a medium tempoed free interplay amongst the musicians. On Fire 2 -

Thomas Chapin - Never Let Me Go (Playscape, 2012) Thomas Chapin was an extraordinary saxophonist and flute player, equally comfortable leading avant grade or mainstream bands. He infused his music with pure joy, and that can be heard here in a band that features Chapin in a quartet setting with three discs of live music from 1995-96. The music often spins out at great length, but the players are always in control, playing riveting versions of the "Moon Ray" and Charlie Parker's "Red Cross." Even oddball pop tunes like"Wichita Lineman" work well, with the band spinning off from the melodies and weaving elaborate solos. This is a very powerful and important package of music from an artist who was taken far too soon. Never Let Me Go -

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Friday, December 28, 2012

David Gilmore - Numerology: Live at the Jazz Standard (Evolutionary Music, 2012)

The music on this album is found to be smoothly and gracefully moving between hard driving modern jazz and groove based sections, making for a well arranged and performed live album. Led by David Gilmore on guitar, the band features Claudia Acuna on vocals, Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, Luis Perdomo on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums and Mino Cinelu on percussion. The music flows as a suite, which Gilmore created with a grant from Chamber Music America. It is complex and rhythmically dense set of music, but never overwhelming and frequently exciting. Acuna’s vocalizing is wordless and adds a haunting sonority to the music, falling somewhere between the guitar and the saxophone. Melodies move in texture and create a helix between Gilmore’s guitar and either saxophone or vocals. Solos are to the point and well articulated and never show up the bands achievement as a whole. “Formulation” begins with a nice subtle drum groove that slowly builds while saxophone and guitar harmonize together. Zenon is given a nice solo spot here flying over the drums and percussion bubbling underneath. “Balance” is blazing fast, with blistering saxophone and guitar over pile-driving drums making it the highlight of the set. The set ending “Dispersion” builds with a boiling saxophone solo, giving way to a very cool hard driving section for drums, percussion and piano. Numerology: Live at Jazz Standard -

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

William Hooker Quintet - Channels of Consciousness (NoBusiness, 2012)

This exciting and surprising album was recorded live in March, 2010 at Roulette in New York City. Featuring William Hooker on drums, the band consists of Adam Lane on bass, Dave Ross on guitar, Chris DiMeglio on trumpet and Sanga on percussion.  The music is quite exciting and powerful with a great deal of rhythmic control, especially from the powerful drum and percussion team. The musicians run together in a vortex of seething power broken only by a member stepping outside of the maelstrom for a solo or for Hooker’s stream of consciousness poetry. Drums, bass and percussion come together like waves of greater or lesser density, moving the music inexorably forward. The interesting front line of guitar and trumpet works really well together, alternately powerful and svelte. The individual instruments have a range of internal air space allowing Lane’s bass to be one of the prime movers in the music’s forward motion, creating a big, spatially open sound. Channels of Consciousness - NoBunsiness Records.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Julius Hemphill Sextet - Fat Man and the Hard Blues (Black Saint,1991)

Saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill recorded in a number of different configurations both as a leader and a collaborator. He was one of the founding members of the pioneering World Saxophone Quartet, and after he left the group, he put together a saxophone sextet for this album that included the likes of Marty Ehrlich and James Carter. What is so impressive about the music is the really tight ensemble playing, whether riffing on an uptempo performance like the opening "Otis' Groove" or gleaning the texture and nuance out of a slower one in "Opening." A majestic and near Ellingtonian sweep of musical color anchored by deep and gutsy tenor saxophone on "Four Saints" makes for a very powerful performance. Horns playing off one another on "Glide" build tension and excitement, while pale flute is juxtaposed against saxes on the swirling "Tendrils." Big blasting riffs end "the Hard Blues" on a thrilling note, ending a very exciting and diverse recording. The Complete Remastered Recordings -

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Monday, December 24, 2012

DVD: Jazz Icons - John Coltrane: Live in France 1965 (Reelin' In The Years, 2011)

This is the second volume of John Coltrane live performances to be issued on the Jazz Icons imprint, which releases live concert footage from jazz legends from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Recorded at the Antibes jazz festival in France, this video captures the “classic quartet” of John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums at a turning point. Playing for consecutive days in front of a large festival audience, and performing the famous suite A Love Supreme for the only time live. The footage begins with a haunting and stoic version of the ballad “Naima.” The music is emotional in an imaginative manner and begins the concert in a very contemplative fashion. The first surprise is up next, when Coltrane launches headlong into “Ascension” leading a quartet version of the large ensemble long form improvisation which would polarize the jazz world upon its release on LP. You can sense the band was going in different directions at this point with Coltrane’s explosive saxophone playing foreshadowing the music he would pursue during the remainder of his career. Jimmy Garrison gets a long bass solo where he uses many techniques including plucking, strumming and bowing as a bridge between “Ascension” and the next song “Impressions.” This is a headlong quartet improvisation that features some excellent McCoy Tyner piano and blazing speed. The video ends with a dozen minutes of A Love Supreme, consisting of “Acknowledgement” and “Resolution.” It’s a fascinating tease, there is an audio release of the entire performance included in Impulse’s deluxe edition of A Love Supreme, and it shows the power and majesty of this performance. Soon this band, one of the best ever, would fracture and the musicians would split to pursue their different paths. This a wonderful chance to see this great band in one of their final performances together. Jazz Icons - John Coltrane: Live in France 1965 -

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Julius Hemphill - Chile New Yor

Julius Hemphill was a saxophonist and flutist that was very influential of the loft and avant garde scene. Coming out of the same Fort Worth high school that Ornette Coleman did, he moved to New York in the mid-1970’s to participate in the loft scene. He entered into a flurry of activity, recording, teaching and forming the influential and popular World Saxophone Quartet. This album, in collaboration with percussionist Warren Smith, is a fascinating one, consisting of the soundtrack to a “sound installation” in an art gallery which was showing a display of Chilean artwork dealing with the political upheaval in that country. This album consists of seven spontaneous improvisations, three very long and four very short. Everything works quite well, the music is very edgy, as the artwork must have been, but it flows with a lyrical grace. Hemphill drifts between alto and tenor saxophone and flute while Smith plays drums, percussion and vibes. Starting out slowly on “One” the music evokes a vast landscape, before “Two” and “Three,” the remaining long improvisations, develop a more caustic feel, reflecting the political turmoil apparent in the artwork. The final compositions are simple sketches that round out the album that is a unique one where art is used as a starting point for a spontaneous improvisation which is in turn refracted onto artwork and adds another dimension to a multi-faceted presentation. The Complete Remastered Recordings of Julius Hemphill -

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Eric Revis 11:11 - Parallax (Clean Feed, 2012)

Bassist Eric Revis has played with Branford Marsalis among many other luminaries in the jazz world. On this album, he leads a fascinating inside-outside band full of star power: Jason Moran on piano, Ken Vandermark on saxophone and clarinet and Nasheet Waits on drums. The musicians pulling in opposite directions could have made for a mess, but far from it, the group plays with a powerful muscularity that makes for a particularly hard-hitting album that comes off as an example of hard-bop for the 21st century. “Hyperthral” begins in a scattered and anxious fashion, developing interplay for sax and drums, and evolving into a burly improvisation filled with power. The excitement builds to a high level of energy full band power. The group comes out fighting on “Split” led by an upbeat piano trio, with strong drumming and ripe keyboard. Ripples and smears of saxophone, pouring ahead, cascade out from Vandermark as the band drives forward in an exciting performance. “IV” features acidic sounding saxophone over a supple bass and drum rhythm, building a real nice modern jazz feel. Moran’s piano ups the ante even further as the music becomes a tumbling landslide. Going way back, “Winin’ Boy Blues,” lurches forward with bluesy saxophone, crashing drums and old-school jazz. Moran has it all under his fingertips and is great here, while Vandermark digs deep growling and spitting. This was a fine album, with some of the best players on the modern jazz scene playing solid originals and a couple of unexpected originals. Parallax -

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jacob Garchik - The Heavens: The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album (Yestereve, 2012)

Musician Jacob Garchik combined his unorthodox love of both gospel music and the scientific method as the background for this audacious solo album. Overdubbing up to eight trombones, two baritones, two sousaphones, and a slide trumpet in his Brooklyn home studio is quite a feat in itself, the fact that it holds together so well is a testament to Garchik’s talent and vision. “The Problem of Suffering” has higher sounding horns playing off against lower register instruments, laying out slabs of music that clears the path for the trumpet to dance through. “Optimism” brings together organized riffs of brass, sounding like something akin to the World Saxophone Quartets except with trombones. Fast and urgent, “Digression on the History of Jews and Black Music” shows to sousaphones laying down a boiling bottom end that propels the music forward. “This Song Is the Center of the Universe” is a short blast of witty banter, while “Glory/Infinity/Nothing” keeps the irreverent feel, delving into what seems like complex cartoon music. This is a very unusual album, and the instrumentation alone would mark it for listening. Garchik put a lot of time and energy into this recording and it shows in a fascinating and thoughtful recording. He takes a sense of renewed wonder into the music dealing with the sacred and the scientific and brings them together in a joyous and fun manner. This music is quite accessible, part brass band, a hint of New Orleans, some gospel and a lot of modern jazz sensibility. The Heavens -

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Ninety Miles - Live At Cubadisco (Concord, 2012)

Ninety Miles is a mainstream jazz super-group containing Stefon Harris on vibraphone, Christian Scott on trumpet, and David Sanchez on alto saxophone. They play Latin influenced jazz, particularly influenced by the music of Cuba, located ninety miles off the coast of the United States. This album was recorded live in Cuba with the trio being joined by two excellent Cuban bands which add an authentic and powerful aspect to the music. The symbiosis of the two musical cultures works well, making for a very good concert and an excellent disc. The first performance sets the tone for what is to follow, “And This Too Shall Pass” does not jump in with both feet, but rather builds gradually and patiently developing space and time accordingly. The following “Brown Belle Blues” however is a rhythmic juggernaut with driving percussion and horns aggressively pushing the music forward. “Congo” follows the same path, developing an afro-cuban arrangement that has been in the DNA of jazz since Dizzy Gillespie brought Cuban music into the bebop fold in the 1940’s. This album worked well as a whole proving the sustainability of the relationship between Cuban music and American jazz. One can only hope that the diplomatic climate can warm to a level that will allow musicians from both countries to travel freely and collaborate on more projects like this. Live At Cubadisco -

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Juma Sultan's Aboriginal Music Society - Whispers From the Archive (Porter, 2012)

Juma Sultan is an American percussionist, best known for a short term playing with Jimi Hendrix, and several notable musicians from the free jazz scene of the 1950's and 60's.This is a collection of handpicked tracks from the vast collection of Sultan and in particular is his collective group The Aboriginal Music Society. The dates and personnel vary from track to track as the Aboriginal Music Society was consistently evolving as musicians came and went over the years. The band explores a multitude of styles that included elements of African music, jazz, rhythm and blues and soul music. The opener, "AMS", is an exciting 20 minute plus hypnotic track starting out with percussion and then gradually opening to include piano, guitar and saxophone. Rhythm is the key here as it is with all of the music on this album. The group erupts on a riotous blast of blues on "Shake Your Money Maker" with drums, flute and chanting vocals. "Darn My Socks" for two drummers, bass, guitar and vocals delves deep into rhythm and blues. Great lyrics: well, darn my socks/ain't that a fox! Percussion and clapping break up the very long "She Made Me Feel Like Glory" which develops a hypnotic feeling of percussion and flute with vocals. Whispers From The Archive -

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - Son of a Bitches Brew (Important Records, 2012)

Ironically it was Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew album that was my gateway from jam rock groups like The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers into full fledged jazz fandom. I wonder if this album could be a similar gateway to a new generation of open minded music fans. Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. are mostly well known as a Japanese psychedelic rock band and they approach their tribute from that angle. Adding "Son of a..." to the title was an interesting idea not only for the double meaning but for the idea that this album wasn’t designed to be a tribute, but rather an extension or an exploration of Davis’s classic album 40+ years on. The opening track, “Son of a Bitches Brew” is the most direct homage to the original with rippling waves of electric piano and drums, playing off against swirls of saxophone. The titles the band uses continue to nod in the direction of the electric period of Miles Davis as the music goes farther and farther away into the stratosphere. “Water Babies Kill Kill Kill” and “Theme From Violence Jack Johnson” take the music into electric guitar overdrive where the band sets up swirling hypnotic drones and then sets their sights on the cosmos. So while this wasn’t a “fusion” album per se, that might actually work to its advantage. The band clearly loves the music of Miles Davis but doesn’t feel the need to treat it with reverence. The after paying homage with the first track on this album the band goes in their own direction entirely, one that fans of progressive rock and experimental jazz may enjoy. Son of a Bitches Brew -

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Richard Bliwas Trio - Nine (Rising Rose, 2012)

This is an interesting group that adds flourishes of electronics to flesh out their open ended jazz improvisations. The group consists of Richard Bliwas on piano and electronics, Daniel Carter on tenor saxophone, Bruce Ditmas on drums and bass and Ned Goold sitting in on tenor saxophone. Much of the music is medium tempoed and atmospheric, with some touches of shimmering electronics. Carter plays with great control, developing whispery, breathy saxophone sounds over percussive piano and drums. The music often finds itself shifting in mid performance to incorporate a palette of electronics. An example of this is the dark hewn organ synth in the background with the remainder of the band in the foreground making "Must to Crust" slightly disorienting, as sound reverberates across a series of funhouse mirrors. The dynamics exist between Bliwas's faster, almost hyperactive piano with Carter's slow laconic saxophone hazily drifting overhead. It is the tension in the push and pull between these two musicians that gives the music much of its power. "The Stirring" has fractured rhythmic piano and saxophone that weaves in and out of the phases of the music pulling back as the piano surges forward.  Followed by a section of squiggling electronics and drums. This is music that encourages further exploration. It's fascinating to hear Daniel Carter, who is usually thought of as a bastion of the free jazz scene, playing with such slow and pronounced articulation and the electronics also offer further avenues for improvisation as they are well incorporated int the texture of the music as a whole. Nine -

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Friday, December 07, 2012

John Zorn - Concealed (Tzadik, 2012)

The Concealed brings together two of the groups that play John Zorn’s compositions, without him taking part, the string ensemble Bar Kokhba and exocita/lounge band The Dreamers. The players are Joey Baron on drums, Trevor Dunn on bass, Mark Feldman on violin, Erik Friedlander on cello, John Medeski on piano and Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone. The music deftly shifts between the two poles, from the vaguely Middle Eastern bowing and plucking of the string ensemble to percussive vibes, piano and drums of the other pole. The latter is exemplified on the opening track “Persepolis” where the piano and vibes dance around a deftly stated pulse. “Back to Bokhara” shows the approach of the string section with multiple textures being developed across bowed and plucked instruments. They can develop a melancholy air as on the beginning of “Life Is Only Real When I Am.” But the album as a whole is not a downer or depressive, the compositions and the performances cover a wide variety of aesthetic territory and show Zorn’s diverse interests as a composer. Concealed -

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Boneshaker - Boneshaker (Trost, 2012)

This was a very exciting and much welcome blast of old school free jazz energy from a collective group featuring Mars Williams on saxophones, Kent Kessler on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Each has deep experience on the outer fringes of the jazz scene and they make for a very cohesive and potent unit. "What Doesn't Kill You" is the opening track and it is aptly named because it is strong medicine indeed. Williams blows great guttural blasts with utter command and integrity, while Kessler and Nilssen-Love respond in kind. This is raw and bracing free music, caustic and carrying a buzz of excitement throughout. "Beauty of Sadness" opens with stoic bowed bass as the saxophonist and percussionist fill in slowly in what becomes a quieter, patient exploration of the sonic landscape. Williams switches to soprano saxophone on "Sticky Wicket" swirling and swooping around bowed bass and agile drumming. The music gradually ramps up, gathering more and more power and moving with a nimble grace that belies the amount of energy available. Everything comes to a head on the epic blowout "Hostilities In Progress" which comes out fighting from the get-go with Williams tenor saxophone scorching the earth amid fusillades of bass and drums. The music is very aggressive and thrilling with the amount of pure raw energy being expended bulldozing everything in its path. It's not wanton destruction though, the musicians are too skilled and wily for that. Developing this lengthly collective improvisation through dynamics, they are able to harness power that takes them through to near the end where they pull back on the reigns for a deceptively quiet conclusion. Boneshaker -

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Monday, December 03, 2012

Charles Mingus - The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65 (Mosaic, 2012)

The great bassist and composer Charles Mingus was arguably at the height of his powers in 1964, leading an awesome band that included Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute, Johnny Coles on trumpet, Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone, Jaki Byard on piano and Danny Richmond on drums. The first two concerts on this collection feature this band, first from The Town Hall in New York City and then from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The setlists are roughly similar, but the playing is totally unique throughout. Mingus and Byard get solo spots on “Sophisticated Lady” and “A.T.F.W.” respectively, and there are lengthy performances dedicated to Dolphy (who was planning to leave the band) on “Playing With Eric” and “So Long Eric.” As great as those epics are, the band ups the ante even further with “Parkeriana” a medley of songs written by or associated with Charlie Parker that deftly shows the musical link from Parker to Dolphy and beyond. As Marc Myers wisely points out, much of Mingus's music of this period was protest music, and one of his most famous protest songs “Fables of Faubus” gets a half-hour long workout to end the Amsterdam concert. After Dolphy’s departure and tragic death, Mingus regrouped, with Lonnie Hillyer on trumpet, Charles McPherson on alto saxophone and John Handy on tenor saxophone joining Byard, Richmond and himself for a performance at the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival. Opening with a medley of Duke Ellington favorites, the group cruises beautifully through the music of Mingus’s hero before the real treat comes. Mingus adds six more horns including longtime friend Buddy Collette for a lush and powerful big band version of “Meditations On Integration.” Mingus returned to Monterey in 1965 for a short performance that included his great spoken word and music piece “Don’t Let It Happen Here” and an unexpected version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The package ends with a performance from Minneapolis in 1965 that nicely wraps together many of the themes that Mingus had been exploring during this period. There is a civil rights/protest song, the haunting “A Lonely Day In Selma, Alabama/Freedom,” strong bebop to freebop with “So Long Eric” and “Bird Preamble” and even a medley of standards. This is a heavy set of music, Mingus brought all of his legendary emotion to bear on two years of extraordinary music. After this, he would be off the scene for the most part for a number of years with health problems before returning in the early 1970’s. Mosaic did their usual fine job putting together this set, with wonderful liner notes and photographs and the best sound quality that live music of this period would allow. Charles Mingus - The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65 - Mosaic

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Barr Shea Dahl - Barr Shea Dahl (ugExplode, 2012)

This one flew under my radar a little bit, but when I read about the musicians I got excited. Mick Barr was the powerhouse guitarist behind Jon Irabagon's excellent album I Don't Hear Nothin' But the Blues: Appalachian Haze, while Kevin Shea is the drummer in the great jazz ensemble Mostly Other People Do The Killing. Tim Dahl is new to me, playing bass here and in an avant jazz/noise band called Child Abuse. The music is absolutely torrid, over the course of two lengthy improvisations "Porxen/Proxen" and "Gedra." Although this can be intimidating to listen to, it's two twenty minute blasts of improvised noise, there's a wild mix of fusion, noise/metal and unmitigated free jazz. The music is muscular and strong willed, they blur the lines between post-punk rock and free jazz, the exciting trio makes such genre conventions moot by combining rock intensity with jazz intricacy. They simply blast off into the cosmos on a kaleidoscope of pure sound.Barr Shea Dahl -

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dave Liebman - Surreality (Enja Weber, 2012)

Jazz saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist and scholar Lewis Porter are collaborating in two different ways, first on this album, where they are joined by Marc Ribot on guitar, Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. The are also worked together on Liebman's biography What It Is: The Life of a Jazz Artist.(excerpt here) On this album they cover a wide range of music from fusion to avant-garde and beyond. The opening track "Olivier" harkens back to the time Liebman spent in Miles Davis's electrified ensembles of the early 1970's. Guitar and electric bass set a chugging groove for lighter textured soprano saxophone and electric piano to fill in and shade. Albert Ayler's "Omega Is the Alpha" is the highlight of the album, and just a wonderful performance. Marc Ribot is turned loose with some snarling electric guitar, digging deep into the music. Ribot leads an Ayler-based band called Spiritual Unity, so he is the perfect choice for this track. Liebman comes in on tenor saxophone, playing Ayler's spiritual-folk theme before taking the tune way out and leading a torrid collective improvisation. "Trigonometry" by Ornette Coleman has the leaders bouncy saxophone leading an intricate improvisation. Liebman's high spirited soprano saxophone moves back and forth in a swinging fashion and pushes through to another nice solo from Ribot. Dark piano opens the title track "Surreality" with bass and drums kicking in as guitar melds in and develops a powerful beat. The album wraps up with a haunting and beautiful rendition of John Coltrane's "Alabama" ushered in with deep bowed bass. Lewis Porter wrote a well received book about John Coltrane and Liebman counts him as his biggest influence, so there is a lot of pressure and poise here. The music is stoic and thoughtful, and builds to very powerful and emotionally wrought exclamations. Surreality -

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rez Abbasi - Continuous Beat (Enja, 2012)

Guitarist Rez Abbasi has spent quite a bit of time as part of the New York City music scene, but has toured all over as part of collaborative groups and as a bandleader. On this album he plays in a trio format with John Hebert on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. Abbasi was quoted as saying he was looking for music that “retains the warmth of the established trio sound but also employs electronics in order to expand the timbral palette, especially for the melodies.” He succeeded in that quest and the music is well played and thoughtful. “Divided Attention” uses a repetitive guitar motif to build tension and release to spring the music forward and gain momentum. Subtle percussion and probing guitar open “Major Major.” The trio centers around Takeishi’s drums before gradually building force with stronger guitar and bass. “Rivalry” is quite exciting, with a backbeat of drums and bass and Abbasi’s guitar streaking across the musical sky like shooting stars. Potent guitar and drums drive the music forward around the grounding of rock solid bass. It is really interesting to hear this group tackle the music of Thelonious Monk, as they do on their performance of “Off Minor.” The music sounds subtly fractured with the addition of electronics that probe and tease at the familiar melody. This was a very sharp sounding and exciting recording. While the music is still quite accessible, it is very fresh and thoughtfully produced. Continuous Beat -

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

7th Annual Jazz Critics Poll

I was very excited to be invited by Francis Davis to take part in the year end poll that he is conducting in collaboration with These were my entries in the poll:

2012's Ten Best New Releases
 1. Paul Dunmall and Tony Bianco - Thank You to John Coltrane
2. Matthew Shipp et. al. - Black Music Disaster
3. Vijay Iyer - Accelerando
4. Sam Rivers et. al. - Live in New York
5. Neneh Cherry and The Thing - The Cherry Thing
6. Steve Lehman - Dialect Fluorescent
7. Matthew Shipp - Elastic Aspects
8. Charles Gayle - Streets
9. Donny McCaslin - Casting for Gravity
10. Jon Irabagon With Mike Pride And Mick Barr – I Don't Hear Nothin' But The Blues Volume 2: Appalachian Haze

Top Three Reissues
1. Charles Mingus - Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-1965
2. World Saxophone Quartet - Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint and Soul Note
3. Don Pullen - Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint and Soul Note

Year's Best Vocal Album
Neneh Cherry and The Thing - The Cherry Thing

Year's Best Debut Album
Carmen Intorre Jr. - For the Soul

Year’s Best Latin Jazz Album
David Virelles - Continuum

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Jon Irabagon With Mike Pride And Mick Barr ‎– I Don't Hear Nothin' But The Blues Volume 2: Appalachian Haze

This one track album of pure excitement is a continuous blast of energy from Jon Irabagon on tenor saxophone, Mike Pride on bass and Mick Barr on drums. The first volume of this series was a shot of excoriating noise with just Irabagon and Pride and things are ramped up even further with the addition of Barr and his his thrilling and hyper-kinetic guitar playing. I hear echoes of classic performances from the end of John Coltrane’s career like “Vigil” and “Sun Ship” where the trio develops little motifs and then using those as springboards to to further their open ended improvisational search. Collective improvisation is the most important of the musical approaches here. Although any one of the instrumentalists could dominate the proceedings if they so chose, the results are remarkably democratic, with everybody working together to push the boundaries of exploration to its limits. Although this could be daunting to listen to: forty-seven minutes of uninterrupted loud improvised jazz, there is no sense of the music being some grim-faced, testosterone fueled blowing contest. Although the music is undoubtedly muscular, there is a sense of fun and joy that comes from the music and riches the musicians find along their quest. This thrilling album isn’t for the faint of heart, but its not a one-trick pony either. There’s a lot going on underneath the surface that make this a remarkable album. I Don't Hear Nothin' But the Blues Volume 2: Appalachian Haze -

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Rolling Stones - Grrr! (ABKCO/Interscope, 2012)

The Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary as the “world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band” in the summer of 2012, with rumors of reunion concerts, a splashy hardcover book and this compilation that covers their history as well as adding two new songs recorded specifically for this collection. This is an entry of the three disc version, but there is also a super deluxe version with bonus early demos and a 7” single. This collection runs roughly chronologically, beginning in their early years, enthralled by American blues and R&B and releasing singles of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” and Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster.” Disc one tracks how the band assimilate the blues into their sound and developed their unique voice one some of their best known early singles like “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Under My Thumb.” Disc two is quite powerful, pulling songs from arguably the bands fines period, the late 1960’s and early 1970’s; classics from the Beggars Banquet LP “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Sympathy For the Devil” and from the Exile on Main Street LP, “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy.” This leaves the spottier albums of the late 1970’s to today for disc three. They are chosen judiciously, with familiar tunes like “Start Me Up” and “Miss You” mixed in with the likes of album singles “Mixed Emotion” and “Highwire.” The two new songs added at the end are quite good, particularly “Doom and Gloom” which rides an excellent groove and shows that the swagger can still be called upon when necessary. GRRR! -

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Grass Roots - Grass Roots (AUM Fidelity, 2012)

Grass Roots is an exciting modern jazz group consisting of Darius Jones on alto saxophone, Alex Harding on baritone saxophone, Sean Conly on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. In the brief liner notes to this album it is written that the group and the music came together in a natural and spontaneous manner. That certainly sounds like the case as Taylor and Conly lay down an elastic and balanced groove while Jones's alto saxophone is raw and excoriating and feeding off guttural blasts from Harding's baritone. "Hotttness" opens the album sounding deep, stoic and very powerful. The saxophones trade staccato bursts of ideas. Building into a tight groove with the saxophones circling strong bass and drums before they once again open the throttle, erupting into free flight. "Lovelorn" has a nice contrast between the brawny baritone and the yearning alto, embracing the open space made available by the music. There is a torrid and exciting blast of music on "Ricochet" with Jones approaching a Pharoah Sanders like level of intensity and the full band rough & ready. Harding's "Flight AZ 1734" has a fast swinging opening for the saxophones together building a very upbeat and emotional tune. Alto and baritone take flight on fast and strong solos, playing tight and united. "Schnibbett" and especially "Hovering Above" are dynamic, with slow examination of quiet, probing at open space. This album worked well, straddling the line between strong modern jazz and free music. The contrast between the two saxophones tones drives a swirl of activity that is earthy and spontaneous. Grass Roots -

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ernest Dawkins - Afro Straight (Delmark, 2012)

Saxophonist Ernest Dawkins takes a break from the New Horizon Ensemble and the Afro-Heritage Ensemble, two larger bands he leads, to explore a different heritage, that of a few saxophone masters. Dawkins leads, playing tenor and alto saxophone along with Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Willerm Desilfort on piano, Junius Paul on bass and Isaiah Spencer on drums along with some additional percussion. The majority of the album consists of compositions written by or associated with John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. From the Coltrane songbook we hear "Mr. P.C.", "Central Park West" and "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise". The group executes these songs very well, expanding what were originally quartet performances to include trumpet and extra percussion. The two Coltrane originals are tough and agile, while the standard is stretched out a greater length, hinting at the melody before fully embracing it. Wayne Shorter's "United" and "Juju" harken back to his Blue Note period with strong blustery saxophone and ripe accompaniment. Also included are a couple of Dawkins originals particularly the title track which is a short blast of joyful music. The bebop anthem "Woody 'n' You" and an interesting organ washed "God Bless the Child" round out the performances. This was an enjoyable and well played album. The musicians revisit some familiar songs and play them with class and tact making for accessible and satisfying music. Afro Straight -

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Ben Allison, Michael Blake and Rudy Royston - Union Square (Abeat, 2012)

Bassist and composer Ben Allison has been at the center of the modern jazz scene as a bandleader and the driving force behind the Jazz Composers Collective which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. On this album he plays in a stripped down trio format with longtime collaborator Michael Blake on tenor and soprano saxophones and Rudy Royston on drums. The music on this album features great interplay and a patient and unforced conception. “Flapper” has a strong loping bass and drums combination and uptempo but rough hewn saxophone. Everyone works together for an concise and potent performance. Powerhouse bass and drums again drive “Lucky Man” where Blake gradually develops the pace of his saxophone playing to meet the frenetic rhythm that the trio builds to a furious conclusion. “Run Southern Boy” is enveloped in a dark feel, growing fast and strong with an undercurrent of unease. Blake’s raw and sandpaper-rough saxophone keeps everyone on edge and the music is urgent, powerful and edgy. Many years of playing together have allowed the musicians on this album to develop a level of trust that generates levels of yearning, emotional textures in the music and  a thoughtful evolution of their sound and improvisational conception. Union Square -

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gary Clark Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers, 2012)

Guitarist and vocalist Gary Clark Jr. emerged from the potent Austin, Texas scene working the hard way, up through the trenches and gradually building a buzz that reached a fever pitch with the Bright Lights EP. It is easy to see why Clark has gained so much attention and major label support, he has a great package of skills: guitar playing, singing and songwriting in addition to being comfortable in any genre from contemporary rhythm and blues to gutbucket blues. Clark comes blasting out of the gate with some scalding blues rock on “Ain’t Messin’ ‘Round” and “When My Train Pulls In.” The latter is particularly impressive as it combines the time-honored blues motifs of being “born to lose” and train travel with a thoroughly modern slash and burn guitar solo. Clark switches to the other end of the spectrum with “Blak and Blu” and “The Life,” both of which are radio-friendly rhythm and blues performances that hint at hip hop at times. “Bright Lights” nods to an old Jimmy Reed song while making it all Clark’s own with ominous dark music and Clark threatening “you’re gonna know my name...” It’s a great performance, grabbing the listener’s attention in a darkly riveting fashion. But Clark can be an entertainer too, whether teasing Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun” or blasting out roadhouse rock with a killer riff and a strong backbeat on “Travis County.” In lesser hands, this might seem like a schizophrenic exercise in genre hopping, but Clark inhabits all of the music evenly and with great skill. He has a wide range of music at his fingertips and plays it all with grace and power, on his way to what will hopefully be a long and successful career. Blak and Blu -

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