Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Odean Pope - Odean's Three (In+Out, 2013)

Tenor saxophonist Odean Pope emerged from the competitive Philadelphia jazz scene to become a long-time member of drummer Max Roach's group as well as releasing a number of albums as a leader or co-leader. On this lean and powerful trio album, he is accompanied by Lee Smith on bass and Billy Hart on drums. This veteran group works very well together, enjoying the space that the trio format offers while fully trusting each other to make the most of the available material. The trio has a special affinity for the blues, as evidenced by "Blues It" which is very inspiring and especially exciting when Pope's tart and explicit saxophone frames an energetic drum solo. "Blues for Eight" has a strong, deep and well built tenor saxophone feature with a compelling narrative moving between freedom and form. Unfussy bass and drum solos are featured before the full trio comes back, growling like a finely tuned muscle car. "12th Night" barrels along with a knotty collective improvisation that is frequently thrilling. The finale "You and Me" is again a potent and gritty improvisation with excellent interplay between the musicians. This was an excellent meeting of three talented musicians playing excellent jazz spontaneously and in the moment. Odean's Three -

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mike Pride - Drummer's Corpse (AUM Fidelity, 2013)

Drummer and musical conceptualist Mike Pride is comfortable in a wide variety of musical settings. After studying with the great percussionist Milford Graves, Pride has gone on to perform and record in a wide variety of settings from straight ahead jazz to heavy metal. He released two albums simultaneously earlier this month: Birthing Days, a fine post bop small jazz ensemble recording, and this album, which goes in the opposite direction entirely. This album is experimental in nature, focused heavily on rhythm with the opening track “Drummer’s Corpse” pulling together the cream of the improvising percussion scene including Bobby Previte, Ches Smith, Tyshawn Sorey along with some guitar and wordless vocals to develop a wild and fascinating ride. The pummeling drumming becomes hypnotic and drives the performance relentlessly forward. Pride describes this performance as his Ascension, referring to John Coltrane’s intense masterpiece and his hatred of war and violence. The music is roiling and near apocalyptic with a free jazz percussion orchestra blasting away but always with a purpose and never out of control. It is a cry in the dark against hatred and injustice, and it leaves an indelible imprint. The second piece, “Some Will Die Animals (for Gen Makino)” is dedicated to the drummer and sound artist Menko, and uses vocals and recitation of words and phrases to create a compelling and disjointed narrative. The band on this piece is a little more standard, Chris Welcome on guitar, Eivind Opsik on bass, Pride on drums and vocals, plus Marissa Perel, Yuko Tonihira and Fritz Welch reciting prose. I really enjoyed this disc, it was very exciting and risk taking. Mike Pride is always is someone who brings interesting and innovative music to the table, no matter what format. Drummer's Corpse -

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Monday, May 27, 2013

ADA Trio with Steve Noble - Live at OTO (PNL, 2013)

The ADA trio is a powerhouse unit of free-jazz royalty consisting of Peter Brotzmann on reeds, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello an electronics and Paal Nilssen Love on drums. Joining them for this live performance at the club OTO in London is the British per percussionist Steve Noble. "Part I" is the meat of the album, running nearly 40 minutes. Great drumming and harrowing saxophone reverberate around scouring bowed cello and electronics. Brotzmann's saxophone lunges full tilt into a torrid full band improvisation framed by caustic electronic laser blasts. Brotzmann is unperturbed and carries on with a dynamic waxing and waning solo statement. Thrilling music storms the senses led by two drummers mercilessly flailing away. Percussion, cello, bells, shimmering cymbals, smears of electronics. The intensity ramps down briefly with probing saxophone and electronic squirts. Soon enough they return to a full throated howl, with a thrilling drum duet before Brotzmann and Lonberg-Holm renter and guide the group to a full on Armageddon conclusion. For the encore there is no way to match the pitched battle cry of the main performance so they go in the opposite direction with percussive brushes duetting with cello and Brotzmann adding a long-tomed anguished wail. Wild stuff, highly recommended for free jazz aficionados.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mike Pride - Birthing Days (AUM Fidelity, 2013)

Drummer Mike Pride works in a variety of settings and has recently released two CD’s the mostly percussion Drummer’s Corpse, and this album by his group From Bacteria to Boys, featuring Jon Irabagon on alto and tenor saxophones, Alexis Marcelo on piano and synthesizer, Peter Bitenc on bass and special appearances by Jonathan Moritz on tenor saxophone and Jason Stein on bass clarinet. You know from the title of the first song, “79 Beatdowns of Infinite Justice, the” that this is going to be a fun album and the band doesn’t disappoint. They play with a blasting uptempo feel for the first half of the song, with drums and saxophone propelling things along nicely and synthesizer nearing meltdown. Pride’s drum solo is a bridge to a slower section that the group rides to its conclusion. Marcelo’s synthesizer is also on display during “Birthing Days” developing a sense of melodic funk while saxophone, bass and drums swirl about. There’s a bit of a 1980’s vibe to the proceedings, but their tongue is only partly in cheek as Stein contributes a great bass clarinet solo and Marcelo moves to piano to end the song on a less manic note. On “CLAP” there is strong group unity with some gritty saxophone building an exciting and frenetic feel. Moritz joins in for a thrilling twin saxophone blowout. Pride is the center of attention on “Fuller Place” where he takes an unaccompanied solo to open and then a drum solo during the song. In-between, his aggressive percussion drives dueling saxophone phrases. They conclude the album with a touching tribute to the recently departed drummer Paul Motian with a quiet and spacious performance of probing saxophone and drums on "Motiaon". This was an album that worked quite well; Mike Pride writes and plays with a great deal of wit and this makes for memorable and enjoyable music. Birthing Days -

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Friday, May 24, 2013

John O'Gallagher - The Anton Webern Project (Whirlwind Recordings, 2013)

Using the classical works of the composer Anton Webern as a jumping off point, alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher re-imagines the composer's work for a jazz ensemble that includes Matt Moran on vibraphone, Pete McCann on guitar, Russ Lossing on keyboards, Johannes Weidenmuller on bass, Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Margret Grebowicz contributes vocals. If I didn’t know beforehand that the music was based on classical compositions, I never would have guessed as the arrangements work very well and leave the band a large palette to improvise from. The vocals are often used as wordless scats, an instrument in its own right, somewhat akin the work that Jen Shyu has done for Steve Coleman’s groups. “Schnell” leads off the album with a bright and confident statement working in a post-bop modern jazz milieu with complex and intertwined instruments. “Quartet” focuses on O’Gallagher’s saxophone, building a strong and powerful statement amidst driving accompaniment. The finale, “All in This World” brings the whole group back together, anchored by Grebowicz’s freestyle voice acrobatics. The performance develops into a nice series of solo statements for Maneri along with saxophone and guitar, before once again bringing everyone together to close. This program worked pretty well, tasked with the difficult job of bringing classical music from nearly a century ago and trying to make it relevant to the modern jazz scene. Anton Webern Project -

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Links of Note

Blogger's block is kicking my butt, so I'm going to try to keep things going by offering some interesting links.

First world problem: the post-modern music snob.
Aquarium Drunkard celebrates Alice Coltrane.
Stream a live set from Chris Potter from the Village Vanguard.
Jeremiah Cymerman's podcast sports an in-depth interview with trumpeter Nate Wooley.
The New York Times charts the surprising collaboration between Pat Metheny and John Zorn.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Alex Sipiagin - Live at Smalls (Smalls Live, 2013)

Trumpeter Alex Sipiagin is having an excellent year, by my count this is the third album he has released in 2013, and all feature his strong playing and post bop construction. This album is a freewheeling live album from the Smalls nightclub in New York City with a band that features Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone, Lage Lund on guitar, Dave Kikoski on piano, Boris Koslov on bass and Name Smith on drums. The album has the feeling of a jam session, with the excitement and passion of a group of like minded musicians coming together to explore a common bond. But the music never slides into pretentiousness, the lengthy tunes have a intricate ensemble playing and heady solo sections that come together form a cohesive whole. “Live Score” gives you a feel for the music, with the group setting the pace for solid and uplifting modern-mainstream jazz. There is quite a bit of space available for solo statements, and particularly memorable is the tenor saxophone solo by Seamus Blake on “Videlles” where he takes the raw material of the song and constructs a number of interesting variations upon it. Live at Smalls

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Filler Post: New York Art Quartet; Woody Shaw; Nik Bartsch; Vijay iyer

Hank Shteamer has an excellent essay on the new boxed set by the New York Art Quartet:
  • "We've come to know and love the so-called "energy music" designation, but we've also learned that it's been a double-edged sword in the long term, this notion of free-jazz as some sort of quasi-religious expressionism, some heroic shout to the heavens that inevitably takes at least an hour to exhaust itself." 

Destination-Out has a post with mp3 from the great trumpet player Woody Shaw:
  • "Moving from open atmospherics to funky back-beat and back again, the tune ebbs and flows under the masterly hand of bandleader Shaw, who does most of the soloing."
Innerviews features a lengthy discussion with Nik Bartsch:
  • "Bärtsch’s aesthetic is informed by an interest in Japanese martial arts. He’s an avid practitioner of Aikido, a practice steeped in the idea that trust, commitment and humility serve as the underpinnings for distinctive individual life paths."
Jazz Club Jury has a video interview with Vijay Iyer.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Massacre - Love Me Tender (Tzadik, 2013)

Massacre is an on-again, off-again trio featuring Fred Frith on guitar, Bill Laswell on bass and Charles Hayward on drums and occasional voice. These three musicians have crossed genres with impunity throughout their careers, and the music here is an amalgamation of sounds. There are aspects of jazz, progressive rock, dub and many more that combine for a wholly unique sound world. Then there are tracks like "The North Reaches to the Ankle" where it is a full band improvisation, creating soundscapes in real time. The music flows continuously without any breaks, as it was either partially or totally recorded live. Frith gets an excellent spotlight piece on the opener "Bright Blue" where he is allowed room for some blistering shards of electricity. "In Search of the Nervous System" takes on an ominous and more disturbing turn, with Laswell laying down great slabs of electric bass, while Hayward hammers aways on drums and interjects screams of fractured poetry into the maelstrom. This was a continuously interesting album. By defying any type of genre or classification the group is free to pursue whatever past it chooses, and they choose and challenging and compelling one. Love Me Tender -

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ceramic Dog - Your Turn (Northern Spy, 2013)

Guitarist Marc Ribot has led a number of ensembles during the course of his career, but perhaps none quite as dynamic as the post-rock collective Ceramic Dog he shares with Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Ches Smith on drums. Mashing together progressive rock, jazz fusion and furious improvisation, they hit on a find combination of music that is frequently exciting. Split between purely instrumental tracks and songs with vocals, there is a nice flow to the album. Ribot's guitar is the centerpiece of blistering performances like "Your Turn" but the nature of the trio working add a cohesive whole is what makes this scalding instrumental so impressive. "Masters of the Internet" is the finest song with vocals on the album, a withering beatdown of music pirates, and those who see music simply as bits and bytes rather then a labor of blood and toil. Set to a withering rhythmic beat, the song pushes its message relentlessly home with sarcastic lyrics leading the way. One thing that is not sarcastic is their exciting version of Paul Desmond's "Take Five." Given the circumstances, one would think that covering this song would be an exercise in piss-taking parody, but it is far from it. The group takes this song straight and improvises a unique arrangement and performance of it. "We are the Professionals" has a "Masters of the Internet" stomp feel to it, with Smith developing a solid bass drum groove and the group chanting out the lyrics before moving into the set ending "Special Snowflake" which ends the program on a high note. This was a consistently interesting album, one that covers a wide range of territory with a unfettered and open approach to music. Your Turn -

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Jeremiah Cymerman's Podcast

Check out this excellent conversation between Jeremiah Cymerman and Mike Pride.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Jon Irabagon - Absolute Zero (Not Two, 2013)

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon never fails to bring the sound of surprise on his albums, no matter what the format. From the glorious mayhem of the collective band Mostly Other People Do the Killing through his solo and support roles, he is relentless in his pursuit for new venues for music. This is a collectively improvised session from 2009 featuring Hernani Faustino on bass and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. This is a recording that grows on you, as they eschew a lot of the traditional themes and melodies of jazz to develop their own texture and rhythm. Irabogon expands his playing slowly on this recording, moving between several different saxophones. He will start with some probing and almost tentative playing, before moving his saxophone playing into swirling and swooping music that sounds free, but well controlled. The improvisations on this album have names that are drawn from science like “Cosmic Distance” and “Spacetime” and the playing by the musicians echoes this approach. The trio plays with a free feel within those structures and Faustino and Farrandini weave wide open textures for Irabagon to improvise from. They are co-leaders as well, building their own approach to the music that engages the trio in collective improvisation. The group internalizes a common vocabulary that can deal with these structures and freedoms and build from them very quickly. Absolut Zero -

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Noah Haidu - Momentum (Posi-Tone, 2013)

Pianist Noah Haidu leads a solid mainstream trio on this album supported by Ariel de la Portilla on bass and McClenty Hunter on drums. The play a wide variety of original compositions and a few standards that cohere well as a mainstream jazz LP. "Momentum" and "Groove Interlude" are a showcase for Haidu's percussive uptempo piano playing, driving the music forward, with ample support from bass and drums. On the standards "A Child Is Born" and "The End of a Love Affair" you hear the more melodic sense of the band. Haidu has an excellent sense of time and pacing, allowing the music to breathe well and allowing his colleagues ample space to express themselves. He ends the album with a reading solo piano  reading of of "Serenity" which builds from a forlorned opening to a a hopeful and gentle conclusion. All in all, this is a fine piano trio release, quite accessible and approachable for most mainstream jazz fans. Momentum -

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Monday, May 06, 2013

Vinyl record shopping

Went used vinyl slumming yesterday at Jack's Music in Red Bank. I really don't have a lot of money to spend, but it crate digging beats the depression back, so I'll make do. They had a bunch of pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd which is my favorite period for the band. It all goes downhill after Dark Side IMHO. They were priced a little steeply - $7.99 so I just picked up Meddle which was one of *the* albums when I was in college. I don't know who first hipped us to Meddle, but within a week we were all humming "San Tropez" and singing "Fearless" under out breath. Good times. Apart from that I picked up an Art Tatum 2-LP compilation (with no discographical information so its something of a mystery.The 3-LP Yessongs was available cheap, the cover with the great Roger Dean artwork was a little worn but the vinyl despite being thin and flimsy seemed quite playable. Rounding out the bunch was an excellent copy of Duke Ellington's Piano in the Foreground, a great set with the Duke leading a trio with bass and drums. I think his piano playing is just fascinating, and there were sections, particularly on "Con-Go" that sounded as out as anything else of that vintage with odd voicings and percussive notes and chords.

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Gary Clark Jr. - The iTunes Session (iTunes, 2013)

Guitarist Gary Clark Jr. burst on to the musical scene recently with the major label record Blak and Blue, as well as some high profile concert appearances such as Eric Clapton’s Crossroads guitar festival. Clark is the total package: an intuitive and talented musician, emotive singer and thoughtful songwriter. This session has an off the cuff feel and some of the between song banter suggests an informal jam between friends. The iTunes album reprises many of the tracks of the earlier album, but is able to take a different and more spontaneous spin on them. “Next Door Neighbor Blues” and “Ain’t Messing Around” are strong, pithy performances that get the session off to a fine start. Of particular interest is his funk filled cover of Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” which has some great bass and soulful singing. Clark’s best known song is the finale, “Bright Lights, Big City” which is a crushing collage of riffs and ominous lyrics that is completely captivating. Also notable is “When My Train Pulls In.” This song takes them a few minutes to get going, but once the band establishes itself, Clark is able to construct monolithic riffs of electric guitar that drive the music forward ruthlessly while incorporating a kaleidoscopic range of color into his solo. While it might be easy to dismiss this as a fan-service stop gap, careful listening to that music belies that accusation. Clark is as forceful and serious as ever and this is a well earned testament to his status and popularity. iTunes Session -

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Soft Machine - Fifth (CBS, 1972)

The Fifth album from Soft Machine completed their transition from psychedelic prog-rock to jazz fusion. The purely instrumental tracks are performed by a ever changing lineup that included Elton Dean on alto saxophone and saxello, Hugh Hopper on bass, Mike Ratledge on keyboards and Phil Howard or John Marshall on drums. "All White" leads the album off with horn and electronics building in with fuzzy organ giving way to electric piano as Dean's saxophone, with a pinched nasal tone, releases ribbons of music with the three other band members providing punchy accompaniment. The music moves to an abstract, watery texture on "Drop" where echoed keyboard builds in with bass and drums and heavily processed saxophone. "As If" brings the proceedings back to a strong full band improvisation. Dean is really reaching releasing forth a taut spray for notes, with the low moan of bass providing texture. After a short drum feature on "LBO" the group comes together for a quite jazzy performance on "Pigling Bland" with Dean developing a tart and citrus tone on alto saxophone. "Bone" strikes out with low and ominous smears of organ, setting the stage for the whole band to come together developing a strong and potent fusion of jazz and progressive rock. An alternate take of "All White" ends the album with a drum lead in building to a strong and exciting improvisation and taking the album out on a fine note. It is interesting and a testament to the musicians skill that they were able to play so consistently well despite the swirl of ever changing musicians that were entering and leaving the group. More changes were in store to come, but the musical quality remained high.Soft Machine: Original Album Classics -

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

Craig Taborn Trio - Chants (ECM, 2013)

Pianist Craig Taborn began his career in the band of James Carter, and like Carter, he is open to all of the possibilities of jazz whether eclectic or traditional. This album is a deeply thoughtful and well paced set of acoustic jazz where Taborn is accompanied by Thomas Morgan on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The sound textures are bright and accessible on the uptempo tracks like the opening “Saints” and the appropriately titled “Hot Blooded.” The group engages with Taborn’s compositions quite well, developing a rapport that lasts through the whole session. The take a haunting and exploratory music on the album's centerpiece ”All True Night / Future Perfect” begins in a melancholy mood before shifting into a lush medium tempo improvisation of probing bass and cymbals, that builds speed but not power, as the trio gains as much traction from their restraint as their muscle. Several of the latter pieces on the album are also quiet and reserved like “Cracking Hearts” which opens with very soft percussion and brushes making for a hushed air. The trio develops a watery and viscous feel where Cleaver’s subtle and unhurried percussion is the key, ever shifting like dunes of sand or waves at sea. “Silver Ghosts” continues this theme with spare and spacious solo piano beginning the performance before bass and drums build in. They frame Taborn’s excursions as cascades of notes pour forth. Equally open ended is “Silver Days of Love” with chords and notes of piano and minimal taps of percussion. The music seems suspended in space and time and takes quite a bit of concentration to follow. “Speak the Name” concludes the album with gently rolling drums and developing piano. They slowly ramp up the pace of the performance, developing into a more active mid-tempo. Building to a welcome crescendo, they slowly descend and conclude. Chants -

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