Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Whammies - Play the Music of Steve Lacy, Vol. 2 (Diff Records, 2013)

This is the second album that this group has recorded of compositions by the legendary soprano saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy, some of which were previously unrecorded. The group is made up of a worldwide cast of musicians: Jorrit Dijkstra-alto saxopnone and lyricon (an electronic wind instrument), Pandelis Karayorgis on piano, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Mary Oliver on violin and viola, Nate McBride on bass and Han Bennink on drums and was recorded at Firehouse 12, New Haven, in January and March of 2013. These performances are dedicated to artists of different mediums like the opener "Skirts (to Bill de Kooning)" which the group builds to a very interesting textural development. A couple of the hardest hitting performances are those who hit hard and get out fast, like the brief "Lumps (to Samuel Beckett)" and the slinky "Feline (to Marilyn Monroe)." The music of Thelonious Monk was a huge inspiration to Lacy, and to The Whammies as well, playing "Hanky-Panky (to Thelonious Monk)" with a fun and joyous performance, and the ending performance is one of Monk's own, "Shuffle Boil" where they end the music on an exciting and irreverent note. This was a fine album, of interest not only to Lacy fans, but modern jazz fans in general. It goes beyond strictly repertory music into a form all of their own. Play the Music of Steve Lacy, Vol. 2 -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Francois Carrier - Overground to The Vortex (Not Two, 2013)

Canadian alto saxophone player Francois Carrier was given a six month residency at the Vortex Jazz Club in London, to develop his music in a wide variety of formats. This album was recorded live at that Vortex Jazz Club in London and features Michel Lambert on drums, John Edwards on bass and Steve Beresford on piano. The music is very exciting, dynamic, and open; developing four lengthy and powerful collective improvisations. "Mile End" and "Bow Road" develops the group's message, although nominally under Carrier's leadership, the group performs as an organic whole. This is best seen on the epic twenty-five minute "Archway" which develops a nearly suite-like form, as the instruments weave in and out, with solo spots and different passages that focus on the individual musicians in duo or trio format as well. Using a blend of modern jazz and free improvisation, they are able to create space for spontaneous and soaring interactive playing. Carrier has a full bodied tone and leads some bracing improvisations that are taken at an exhilarating pace. The group develops a crystalline sound which builds in abstraction, but still remains accessible with the musicians in full support of one another. The music is exploratory and continuously evolving as it proceeds, developing layer upon layer as it proceeds. Francois Carrier - Overground to The Vortex: NotTwo Records

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, June 28, 2013

David Murray - Be My Monster Love (Motema, 2013)

Saxophonist David Murray’s latest project is an album that mixes instrumental tracks with his Infinity Quartet: Marc Cary on piano, Jaribu Shahid on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums (and Bobby Bradford sitting in on cornet for one song.) The other half of the recording has the quartet supporting singers Macy Gray and Gregory Porter. I must admit that am not a big fan of “jazz” singers, although Gray is more of an R&B performer, who sings the bizarre lyrics to the title track, “Be My Monster Love.” Porter’s roots appear to be in gospel as evidenced by his singing on “Army of the Faithful” where Cray switches to testifying organ and Porter sings with the fervor of a preacher. Murray gets a couple of opening for tenor saxophone as well. The purely instrumental tracks were the most interesting for me, like the strongly swinging “French Kiss For Valerie” and “Sorrow Song” to the very exciting highlight “Stressology” where Murray digs in for a deep and powerful tenor saxophone solo. Be My Monster Love -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bill Frisell - Big Sur (Okeh, 2013)

Guitarist Bill Frisell has had an interesting 2013, and it is barely half over. Whether collaborating with Marianne Faithfull at a recent concert to releasing one of his most bracing and exciting albums of his recent output, Silent Comedy on the Tzadik label. Big Sur was a commissioned work where he combined musicians from two of his working ensembles including Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola, Hank Roberts on cello and Rudy Royston on drums. The music returns to the pastoral Americana that Friell has been mining over the course of the past several years. The music is immaculately played as you would suspect, given musicians of this calibre, but the only problem is that the music never really seems to take flight. “Hawks” is the highlight of the album, where the band wakes up from it’s lazy slumber to add a jolt of well needed power to the proceedings. The rest of the album is quiet and polite, well played but ultimately unmemorable, like a dream that drifts by on a quiet summer day. Big Sur -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Filler post

 Send comments to Tim.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Short-Take: Brainkiller - Colourless Green Superheroes (RareNoiseRecords, 2013)

Given the name Brainkiller, I expected a full-frontal sonic assault akin to John Zorn’s slash and burn group Painkiller. This was not the case however, for the most part the record was quite tuneful and relieved heavily on rhythm. Consisting of Brian Allen on trombone, Jacob Koller on keyboards and piano on Hernan Hecht on drums, they develop a wide sound palette that belies the trio format. There were a few heavy moments like the King Crimson-esque stomp on “Secret Mission” but mostly the group used a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments to create miniature musical segments. “Otaku Goes To A Rave” develops a fractured dance music playfulness, using electric piano and agile drumming to set the pace. “Plates” develops a thick bass groove from the keyboard, while short bursts of trombone and drums keep the music lively. Colourless Green Superheroes - RareNoiceRecords

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Black Host - Life in the Sugar Mines (Northern Spy, 2013)

Black Host is a collective outfit consisting of Darius Jones on alto saxophone, Brandon Seabrook on guitar, Cooper-Moore  on piano and synthesizer, Pascal Niggenkemper on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. This represents a coming together of some of the most interesting players on the avant-free scene and they mix together melodic songs and wide open improvisation. They get off to a roaring start with "Hover" and "Ayler Children" with the former developing a powerful performance over the course of sixteen minutes, and on the latter, the spirit of Albert Ayler is present as they develop simple themes into a thrilling texture of improvisation. Seabrook builds electroshock guitar to a pleasant cacophony as Jones adds wails of saxophone pushing the outer limits of their conception, creating powerful, seething music. Ominous clanks and chords move in on "Amsterdam/Frames" with vaporous gusts of electronics adding to the ghostly labyrinth of the music. "Gromek" is a fascinating performance with Cleaver building an industrial piston sound of propulsive drumming. Jones develops eerie foghorn saxophone into the rhythmic incantations. The music becomes a hypnotic abutment of sound, rushing forward with  massive slabs of noise. Fearsome and hyperkenetic music develops a deep beat over squiggly electronics in as sampled lyrics bubble up on "Wrestling." "May Be Home" wraps up the album with a mysterious opening that is spare and spacious, recalling the ambiance of a lonely night in a big city. Piano and bass build a stark noir soundscape with ominous portents. Life in the Sugar Candle Mines -

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Books: Mingus Speaks by John F. Goodman (University of California Press, 2013)

Bassist and composer Charles Mingus was one of the iconic figures of post-war jazz. Working in any configuration from solo to big band, Mingus's heart-on-sleeve music was only matched by his larger than life stature and blunt outspoken nature. This volume collects interviews with Mingus conducted by John Goodman during the period 1972-1974. This was a comeback period for Mingus, who had suffered a series of health and financial setbacks during the previous decade. This was also a fertile period, when he recorded the albums Changes One and Two, Let My Children Hear Music, Mingus and Friends and Mingus at Carnegie Hall. He would soon be slowed by the onset of ALS, which he would pass away from in 1979. This book finds him in fighting form however, criticizing everything from Madison Avenue and the American consumer culture to the free-jazz New Thing movement that developed in the 1960's. Mingus was a ferociously intelligent man and it is fascinating to read his thoughts on music and life in general. Fans of Mingus and jazz history in general will find a lot of enjoyment here and it makes a perfect counterpoint to the man's fact and fiction autobiography eneath the Beneath the Underdog: His World as composed by Mingus. Mingus Speaks -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sao Paulo Underground - Beija Flors Velho E Sujo (Cuneiform, 2013)

Cornetist and composer Rob Mazurek is one of the hardest working musicians in the field of jazz and improvised music, both leading and collaborating in several groundbreaking ensembles. Sao Paulo Underground is a very exciting band that combines jazz, electronics and fusion into a vigorous brew of music. Along with Mazurek, the band is rounded out by Guilherme Granado on keyboards and synthesizer, and Mauricio Takara on percussion and electronics. The band sounds much bigger than three musicians with the use of electronics and strong percussion recalling Miles Davis’s mid-1970’s dark-funk records like Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangea. But the music on this album never turns to sludge no matter how industrious it becomes, and the personalities of the group shine through. Songs like “Ol’ Dirty Hummingbirds” develop a blustery opening, only to throttle back for a quieter mid-section before dramatically ramping up to close. “Over the Rainbow” is a feature for ballad cornet, while “The Love That I Feel For You Is More Real Than Ever” shows that while the band can swoop and wail, they are also capable of tender moments as well. The music on this album works very well, and the group supersedes any easy genre description in developing a broad based and resonant sound pushed forth with an energetic vigor. Beija Flors Velho E Sujo -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Blog Status Update

Hello: I have had a confluence of medical and personal issues reach critical mass all of a sudden. Just wanted to let you know that blogging will be a little sporadic for a while Thanks a lot: Tim.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ross Hammond - Cathedrials (Big Weezus Music, 2013)

Progressive jazz guitarist Ross Hammond leads an excellent west coast based quartet with Steuart Liebig on bass, Alex Cline on drums and Vinny Golia on tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and flute on this very exciting and frequently thrilling new album. “Cathedrals” opens with an excellent nod to Albert Ayler, hinting at the feel of his masterpiece album Spiritual Unity. The group takes their time, slowly building up the intensity as strong insistent guitar, bass and drums develop, and Golia digs in on tenor saxophone. He switches to flute on “Hopped Up On Adrenaline” which makes for a cool sound when combined with guitar, with solid locked in bass and drums for support. Things quiet down a bit on “A Song for Wizards” with processed guitar blends with subtle brushed percussion. Hammond builds a powerful yet controlled guitar solo with soprano saxophone alongside. “Run, Run Ibex!” is taken at a medium tempo with meaty guitar and tenor saxophone developing a chiseled majestic feel, building to a high level of intensity. Flute and guitar take center stage again on “Telescoping” Jagged shards of guitar are hurled forth supported by excellent bass, coming to a head in a feverish section where Golia switches to soprano saxophone and swirls faster and faster as if propelled by gravity. “This Goes With Your Leather” has rousing saxophone with guitar, bass and drums crashing in. Hammond develops a massive riff stomping with a rock like manner, while Golia remains unperturbed. They develop a killer collective improvisation over a massive beat, developing overwhelming music that demands to be played loud. The tempo is kept up and strong on “She Gets Her Wine From a Box” where slabs of drums and guitar are met with wailing saxophone. The evolve to a great fast improvisation that is filled with the feeling of excitement. This was a very well done and exciting recording. Hammond is developing a new and original conception and fans of forward leaning music should definitely check this out it. Cathedrals -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blue Cranes - Swim (Cuneiform, 2013)

Blue Cranes, from Portland, Oregon, are an interesting band that combines modern jazz with elements of indie rock to forge a unique sound. Consisting of Reed Wallsmith on alto saxophone, Joe Cunningham on tenor saxophone, Rebecca Sanborn on keyboards, Keith Brush on bass and Ji Tanzer on drums. “Beautiful Winners” opens the album with some dirty sounding electric piano and harmonized horns giving the music a full feel. Strong drums and piano build to a frenzy and then stop abruptly. There is a heavy slow and ponderous beginning to “Everything Is Going To Be Okay” with the horns piling together over dark piano. Horns and bass break out of the torpor with a saxophone solo that builds energy as it stretches. “Cass Corridor” has a throbbing undercurrent with saxophones soaring overhead, developing an ominous feel accented by electronic smears of keyboard. Slow and quiet bowed bass opens “Polarnatt” with slow and low toned saxophone letting out as the piano, bass and drums play an interlude akin to The Bad Plus before the saxophones move back for a deep and strong full band improvisation. “Great Dane Small Horse” has bowed bass and and low toned saxophone harmonize into a hard gutsy feel, developing a dense and claustrophobic improvisation. “Painted Birds” features electric piano, drums and saxophone developing an upbeat and genial conception. Pastel hued piano and breathy saxophone carry things through to an amicable conclusion. The bonus track “Corporal’s Lament” is pleasingly experimental with accordion like keyboards messing with processed saxophone and smears of electronics developing an exciting prog-rock feel. Swim -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

S.O.S. - Looking For The Next One (Cuneiform, 2013)

S.O.S. was a fascinating experimental British jazz band that was active from the early to mid 1970’s. Consisting of saxophonists Mike Osborne, Alan Skidmore and John Surman the group also embraced electronics including synthesizers, sequencers and electric keyboards and drums, which gave their music a unique and progressive sound. Looking For The Next One is a compilation of unreleased studio sessions and live recordings. “News” is a short opener that sets the pace for the music with electronics fading in and saxophones responding in a snarling and intriguing manner. “Rashied” is particularly exciting when probing saxophones swirl around each other in a manner that is experimental and unusual. The music foreshadows the work of the World Saxophone Quartet with the tight harmonization of the instruments and then in sections where two saxes riff and support the soloing of the third. Science fiction electronic bleeps and bloops introduce “Looking for the Next One” building hypnotic tones and adding electric piano to the mix. They develop a droning hum as a base, then there is a tenor saxophone solo above it. “Country Dance” has circular saxophones developing a force field of sound using a fascinating series of delay and echo. Electronics and the introduction of drumming drive “Q.E. Hall” to a fast and exciting improvisation. Solo saxophone over great percussion move the music into hardcore free territory before pulling back from the brink with an electric piano interlude. There are three lengthy live tracks on the second disc, “Suite” “Trio Trio” and “Up There.” These show how the band’s conception was able to be incorporated into a concert setting, taking risks in lengthy quasi-free improvisations that use jagged saxophone, swirling electronics and waves of percussion. This was an exciting set of music. Though the electronics are quite dated by today's standards, they must have been seen as exotic at the time, and their use along with powerful saxophones and percussion make the music much more than a historical curiosity. Looking For The Next One -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pat Metheny - Tap (Nonesuch/Tzadik, 2013)

Composer John Zorn has invited many musicians to interpret his growing songbook, but none seemed as interesting and fraught with danger than this one. Guitarist Pat Metheny is best known for his pop-jazz work, but has also collaborated with edgy musicians like Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman over the course of his career. On this album he plays a wide array of instruments in the company of Antonio Sanchez on drums. “Mastema” is a hot opener, immediately gaining attention with an exciting and progressive combination of electric guitar and drums. They shift gears on “Albim” with Metheny moving to introspective acoustic guitar with a dark and probing touch, and Sanchez playing very subtle brushed percussion. “Tharsis” features Metheny using a guitar synthesizer, spouting arcs of neon lighted music over tight drumming. Building to a fast and complex section and then drawing down to the conclusion, the performance is kept dynamic and interesting. A darker and more ominous feel is developed on “Sariel”  where strummed guitar is used to frame longer electrified lines. This lengthy performance moves through several sections from fast and snarly through a downtempo rhythm. “Hurmiz” ends the album with an interesting switch to keyboards enveloping Sanchez’s drums and moving to a chaotic free feel. This works well and gives Sanchez plenty of space for some thunderous drumming. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise that this album was so successful. John Zorn’s Book of Angels compositions are quite accessible for a wide range of musicians and listeners alike.Tap -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Uri Gurvich - BabEl (Tzadik, 2013)

An award winning saxophonist who emigrated to the United States from Israel, Uri Gurvich gained traction on the jazz scene through his well received debut album, The Storyteller. On this followup, he is accompanied by Brahim Fribgane on oud and percussion, Leo Genovese on piano and keyboards, Francisco Mela on drums and percussion and Peter Slavov on bass. This album mixes modern jazz with Middle Eastern influences and Gurich's saxophone has an appealing taught acidity, somewhat akin to Jackie McLean. This tone comes through well on the darkly swinging "Dervish Dance" where the mood is echoed by Mela's shimmering cymbals. "Nedudim" features oud and piano working together to support the saxophone, bass and drum unit. The music shifts to develop a different texture when Genovese moves to organ from piano. By turn his piano is dark and foreboding on "Alfombra Magica" building a ballad pace that works as a foundation for Gurich's emotionally wrought solo. The lonely feel continues on "Scalerica de Oro" with saxophone and guitar providing an exotic feel over slowly building percussion. Fribgane builds the place with stronger string playing as the music builds and the musicians develop chants and intonations that sound like a sacred ritual from a bygone time. "Hagiga Suite" feature the leaders saxophone over piano, bass and drum accompaniment. Genovese weaves in melodic accents as the music develops and builds. Well played drums and hand percussion add an interesting development to "Camelao" as the music climbs to a peak and then is slowly drawn down to a fine conclusion. This album worked quite well, the addition of to oud rather than guitar gave the music a different taste, which worked well in conjunction with the remainder of the band and Gurvich's penetrating saxophone tone, making for a well paced set of music. Babel -

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton - Live at the Maya Recordings Festival (NoBusiness, 2013)

Saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton are stalwarts of the European free improvisation scene. On this live recording, the come together on four vibrant performances, creating music that is boundary expanding yet accessible. I sometimes have trouble comprehending collective free improvisation when it is very quiet and slow, but this was not a problem with this album where the musicians moved dynamically through a number of textures and tempos that kept the music interesting. The quiet and spare midsection on “Obsidian” was counterbalanced by Parker’s soprano saxophone that swoops and dives on the unaccompanied beginning to “Chert.” He moves the saxophone through a number of filigrees and figures that coalesce into a free and unencumbered flight. The music was mysterious and probing, and gave way to Guy’s entry on bowed bass and Lytton’s subtle percussion. The build off of each others strength to make a highly cohesive group improvisation. The begin “Gabbro” with subtle probing, and Parker switching to tenor saxophone. The the music builds and draws power inexorably, as if powered by an unseen force, communicating in a language all its own, honed through many years of the three men performing together, creating music that is bracing in its range and power. They draw back briefly, then charge ahead to the finale. The performance named “Scoria” begins slowly before developing into a worrying, anxious wave of emotional cries and nervous beats. They end the performance on a high note that it to be admired. Live at Maya Recordings Festival - NoBusiness Records. 

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Crimson ProjeKCt - Live in Tokyo, March 17 2013 (Iapetus/Bandcamp, 2013)

The Crimson ProjeKCt is a group of alumni and associates of the great progressive rock band King Crimson. They tour widely, performing the Crimson repertoire as well as their own music. Consisting of Adrian Belew on vocals and guitar, Tony Levin on chapman stick and bass guitar, Pat Mastelotto and Tobias Ralph on drums, Markus Reuter on touch guitar and Julie Slick on bass guitar. They cover a wide range of the Crimson catalog, from strong instrumental workouts on “Red” and “Larks’ Tongue in Aspic Part II” to moody and ethereal ones on the opening tracks “B’Boom” and “THRAK.” The band is at their most exciting on uptempo performances, particularly the knotty and effective “Elephant Talk” and the stomping “Dinosaur.” Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, Markus Reuter step out as The Stick Men for the intricate performances of “Industry” and “VROOM VROOM” before the whole group comes together to perform a couple of great King Crimson compositions, “Indiscipline” and “Thela Hun Ginjeet” which are driven by powerful and complex rhythm and Belew’s infectious singing and spoken word. Live in Tokyo, March 17 2013 - Bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Charles Lloyd - All My Relatiions (ECM Quartets Compilation, 2013)

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd was one of the hottest names on the jazz scene in the 1960's, featuring high profile gigs as a sideman with the likes of Cannonball Adderley and with his own quartet which played rock halls and jazz festivals around the world. Burned out and spiritually spent, he became something of a recluse, recording sporadically before joining the ECM label in the late 1980's to begin a remarkable 25-year run. Like many of his early ECM releases, the band is anchored by Swedish pianist Bobo Stetson along with Anders Jormin on bass and Billy Hart on drums. Their music is strong and deep, combining Lloyd's deeply spiritual nature and modern post-bop jazz. Lloyd sticks primarily to tenor saxophone on this album, branching out a few times to add flute and Chinese oboe to his arsenal."Piercing the Veil" opens the album with dark toned and athletic saxophone playing soloing nicely over well paced accompaniment. "Thelonious Theonlyus" is the highlight of the disc with the band deftly channeling the spirit of Thelonious Monk in a jaunty and exciting performance. Lloyd takes a bit of a more meditative path on "Little Peace" and "Hymn to Mother." The former is a flute feature framed by subtle and shaded accompaniment. He connects cohesively with his colleagues to create a patient and enduring performance. The later is a slow and mournful song, gradually moving the band forward toward a hard-won grace. Finally, "Milarepa" shows Lloyd playing a brief snippet on Chinese oboe which has an alluring and exotic sound. Quartets -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Guerrilla Toss - Guerrilla Toss (Tzadik, 2013)

Guerrilla Toss is a band that combines a wide variety of extreme music into a very potent combination of hair-raising mayhem. Consisting of Kassie Carlson on vocals, Simon Sheldon Hanes on bass guitar, Ian Kovac, Jr. on synthesizer, Peter Negroponte on drums and electronics and Arian Shafiee on guitar. The are the perfect band for the radical aesthetic of the Tzadik label, channeling everything from raw noise to free improvisation and building up wild flights of fancy that begin at a scalding temperature and never let up. Carlson’s vocals act almost like a free jazz saxophone, screeching and wailing and scrambling for purchase against the tumult of the instruments. Blasting forth with the raging “Cash Now” the bands music brings to mind ensembles like Zorn’s Painkiller or Japanese noise bands. They develop a powerful collective improvisation, incorporating electronics and potent drumming. The title “Diluted Fetus Circuit Tycoon” kind of gives you an idea where the music is headed, with the amped-up guitar, bass and drums lay waste to the proceedings aided and abetted by synthesizer and wordless vocals. This is not for every taste, but for those who enjoy the wilder side of noise-rock and jazz there is a lot to explore on this album. Guerilla Toss -

Send comments to Tim.