Thursday, September 29, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

Black Bombaim and Peter Brotzmann (Shhpuma, 2016)

Black Bombaim is a Portuguese psychedelic trio featuring Ricardo Rodrigues on electric guitar, Tojo (Vitor Rodrigues) on electric bass, and Senra (Paulo Gonçalves) on drums. They truly reap the whirlwind on this album, adding the mighty free jazz titan Peter Brotzmann, whose “have reeds will travel” mindset makes him open for any kind of setting whether acoustic jazz with William Parker and Hamid Drake or blasting post-everything with the Japanese noise masters Fushitsusha. This five-part suite is definitely not for the faint of heart as Brotzmann comes roaring right out of the gate on “BB and PB Pt. 1” playing unaccompanied tenor saxophone in his patented caustic and up front manner before being prodded by the band to even greater heights, rending and tearing the very air around him. Towering electric bass and taut drumming initially provide the power for “BB and PB Pt. 2” which Brotzmann taps into by probing his accompaniment and then taking flight with some torrid saxophone. When mixed with the trio makes for a very imposing and thrilling improvisation. There is a slight dynamic downshift to strong electric bass led music that Brotzmann can parley with before the guitar and drums rise up and there is a full bore quartet improvisation. “BB and PB Pt. 3” opens in a more plodding fashion, recalling heavy metal behemoths like Black Sabbath. Brotzmann responds with some of his most raw playing, crying out like an animal in its death throws. Combining this with the rhythmically pounding bass and drums makes for a very imposing experience. The group comes together as one force to drive the music forward relentlessly, uniting to belay any questions about age or generation, since everyone is locked in and laser focused about the music at hand. Rodrigues adds smears and squalls of guitar to the proceedings, and everybody goes over the top with scalding noise to the finish line. Tojo’s monstrous bass leads the group into “BB and PB Pt. 4” where the riff he builds creates heavy tension and Brotzmann responds with long peals of saxophone arcing across the backdrop. Drums crash and guitar snarls as everyone comes together in a massive edifice of pure sound. The collective improvisation is raucous and invigorating and just epic in its scope and scale, bordering on sensory overload. Muscular bass and drums and echoing guitar lay the foundation for the concluding “BB and PB Pt. 5” and Brotzmann is soon into the breach once again with an enormous sound that seeks to devour all in its path. The muscularity of the bass and drums and Brotzmann’s guttural responses allows Rodrigues’ guitar to fly over and around the core of the music adding splashes of color and zings of electricity as the music reaches it apocalyptic peak. This is truly an epic album, and kudos to Black Bombaim for having the stamina and cojones to play with a titan like Peter Brotzmann. They work together beautifully and the music is reminiscent of John Zorn’s excellent group Simulacrum that mines a similar vein. Black Bombaim and Peter Brotzmann -

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nat Birchall – Creation (Sound Soul And Spirit, 2016)

British saxophonist Nat Birchall has led powerful and evocative John Coltrane inspired sessions for several years now. This pithy and compact record continues that golden run of successful albums. The band features two drummers who, along with the rest of the five-piece group, create deep kinetic energy. Adam Fairhall accompanies Birchall on piano, with Michael Bardon on bass, and Johnny Hunter and Andy Hay on drums. “Love in the Cosmos” opens the album with taut saxophone declarations backed with stoic rhythm. Birchall’s yearning tenor tone calls through the air, with the rolling drums adding further momentum. There is a dark and imposing nature to the leader’s saxophone as it develops a raw and circling pattern that seems almost predatory in scope. The highs and lows of the music converge in a powerfully dynamic and unrelenting performance. Drums roll ominously on “Through the Darkness” and Birchall switches to a steely toned soprano saxophone, which gains power from the uneasy nature of the music. Strong, heavy drumming and ripples of piano are hallmarks of the music, and the soprano cries above the fray swirling and cutting through the air making for powerful company with a propensity for volume. Sturdy tenor saxophone enters on “Peace Be Unto Us” moving in open space provided by a more abstract rhythm section. The openness of the music suits them well, because no one is hemmed in, and the music has a spiritual quality to it, developing a wide panorama of sound. “Ocean of Truth” has a full band introduction with Birchall’s powerful tenor saxophone anchored by stout piano, bass and drums. The crashing drum duo adds muscle to the music encouraging peals of ripe saxophone making for a full band improvisation that is sleek and powerful, peaking with great fervor. Shaken percussion and bright piano chords usher in the concluding “Light of All Worlds.” Rolling drums and percussion engage with the patient tenor saxophone, and encourages the whole group to swell in intensity, culminating in scorching saxophone and roaring drums. There is an abrupt shift to a section where Birchall steps out and the remaining musicians develop a subtle rapport before everyone comes together for the moving finale of the album. This record worked very well, and the musicians were a tight and powerful unit that definitely took their inspiration from John Coltrane’s mid 1960’s band, but allowed themselves space to make their own statements, both individually and as a group. Creation -

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Franklin Kiermyer - Closer to the Sun (Franklin Kiermyer/Mobility Music, 2016)

Drummer Franklin Kiermyer’s latest album strongly evokes with glorious music of the great John Coltrane quartet and he is ably accompanied by Lawrence Clark on tenor saxophone, Davis Whitfiled on piano and Otto Gardner on bass. They take this type of jazz as a starting point and create their own statement. “Greetings to Pharoah” opens the album with lush piano and melodic saxophone that echoes Pharoah Sanders’ work. There is strong interplay of percussive piano and percussion on “Unified Space-Time” with the addition of raw cycling tenor saxophone developing a fast and pure sound before stepping aside for a manic piano, bass and drums interlude. “Ota Benga” has light piano and drums with a gentler feel to the music. There is a nice rhythm that is developed over which Clark solos confidently. The back-and-forth of the band is tight and Clark’s stentorian voice adds to the impact of the music. Bright piano and crisp drumming lead the full group into an expansive and explorative mode of playing on “Heliocentric.” There is an interesting contrast between the dark toned saxophone and the hyperactive rhythm unit. “Song For My Daughters” has a quiet majesty at its core that evokes a beautiful sunrise. Showers of piano notes and chords frame the patient and evocative music punctuated by arcing saxophone. After a solid bass opening on “The Soul Train” the rest of the band immediately falls in step. Raw saxophone develops the track further and there is much space made available for Gardner’s very good bass playing. “Emancipation Proclamation” has open, rolling drums and piano providing a sense of momentum and the raw and coruscating saxophone that accompanies it develops a sense of tension and release that adds depth to the music. Sharp percussion and raw, coarse saxophone also provide the needed push to “For Arthur Rhames.” They create a strong vessel for the music to develop with a dignified emotional impact thru gales of saxophone and ripe drumming. The rippling piano recalls McCoy Tyner and that propels the fast rhythm and driving a potent collective improvisation. The fast dynamic nature of the music continues on “Prayer,” which has a driving and pulsating feeling. There is a strong interlude for the rhythm section and then the saxophone returns to developing a steaming finale to the track. Fast drums and saxophone come crashing in on “Closer to the Sun” with tight group interplay that is intensely focused. Hard, scouring saxophone is very intense, aided by potent rhythm making for a strong combination of factors for very exciting music. This is a very exciting and rousing jazz album and the energy and urgency of the music make for very compelling listening. Closer to the Sun - Bandcamp

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ellery Eskelin - Trio Willisau: Live (HatOlogy, 2016)

This album by the excellent trio of Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone, Gary Versace on Hammond B3 organ and Gerry Hemingway on drums was recorded live at the Jazz Festival Willisau in Switzerland in August of 2015. The group has been subtly remaking the nature of the organ trio over their past few albums and this is a superb summation of their music. "On (or About)" is a massive fifty minute suite of jazz that hints at some of the classic melodies of the past, but also weaves in aspects of free music and heightened group dynamism. They open with some industrial sounds, like something from a foundry as the organ grinds ominously and cymbals crash. Eskellin doesn't enter until over four minutes have elapsed, creating great tension and adding a raw and scouring tone to the stark improvisation. Their collective improvisation grows quite intense, with beams of sunshine in the form of happier swing motifs folded in. Eskelin steps aside again about a third of the way through, allowing space for layers or bubbling organ and crisp drumming to build. There are hints of melodic activity and progress that can also be dialed down to a series of abstract smears and clanks. The leader returns with a series of circular saxophone figures framed by low volume organ, which develops into a fascinating blend of swing and free with Eskelin's dark and deep tenor saxophone tone leading the trio through to the conclusion of a set of music that takes liberties with the source material, and is thrilling to hear. The Monk chestnut "We See" is opened with Hemmingway's drums, which are brilliant throughout, developing interesting rhythms with Versase's bass like organ rumbling. Eskelin's saxophone enters patiently, developing the improvisation in a snappy and interesting manner. The drummer moves to brushes for an interesting change of pace, but the intensity of the music remains high until it is finally reigned in at the end of the performance. "(I Don't Stand a) Ghost of a Chance With You" is a lustrous ballad, with Eskelin employing a massive Ben Webster like tenor saxophone tone over a soft cushion of light percussion and keyboard. The music is very deep and soulful and shows that Eskelin is much more than the "avant-garde" player that he is often labelled. This is classic jazz, lush and lovely and the perfect end to a concert whose music has has hinted at the entire history of post-war jazz, played by a band with a unique identity and sharing in their own fine company. Trio Willisau: Live -

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Led Zeppelin - BBC Sessions (Atlantic, 2016)

This is an update and expansion of the 1997 release with the music handpicked and re-mastered by Jimmy Page, adding another disc’s work of unreleased material, making it a fine collection of the mighty Zeppelin during their lean and hungry early years 1969-1971. They are steeped in the blues during this period, borrowing and in some cases even lifting wholesale from the past masters in their creation of their music. White-hot blues manifests itself on impressive versions of “Travelling Riverside Blues” and their version of Otis Rush’s swaggering “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” There own material is as impressive as their covers with “Whole Lotta Love” witnessing Plant’s erotic moaning against Jimmy Page’s scalding guitar riff’s and John Bonham’s thunderous drumming. Sewing together the shorter sessions that the group played for radio leads to improvised jams like “Something Else” which apes Eddie Cochran to fine effect, especially with John Paul Jones adding barroom piano to the mix. There are several versions of “Communication Breakdown” seemingly played at each session, but it is interesting to see how the song evolves and tightens to a blast of pure energy by the end. It’s a riot to hear them go from that song into another slow jam of “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” The addition of multiple versions of songs is worthwhile, since it shows how their band evolved when playing both their original material, but blues standards as well. The music becomes heavier and more powerful as time moves forward, with elements of psychedelia creeping in as the bluesy “You Shook Me” is twisted and alerted as the band adlibs and improvises, and Plant adds some generous harmonica. There is some epic bass playing laying the foundation for “How Many More Times” which sets the stage for Page and Plant to take flight and play off of one another. Plant improvises lyrics (clichés, but they work) and Page responds with thunderous riffs, ending up quoting Albert King’s “The Hunter.” The group tears into “Immigrant Song” with enthusiastic abandon then rip into the popular “Heartbreaker” before a very excited studio audience. Subtle guitar explorations and eruptions echo throughout “Since I’ve Been Loving You” that show that the band is capable of moments of delicacy amidst the bombast, also demonstrated on the obligatory “Stairway to Heaven” and “Goin’ to California.” Overall this is a very interesting set and will be a treat to hardcore fans of the band. BBC Sessions -

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Parrinha / Lopes / Jacinto - Garden (Clean Feed, 2016)

Garden is an adventurous collective trio recording featuring Bruno Parrinha on alto and soprano saxophones as well as clarinet, Luis Lopes on electric guitar and Ricardo Jacinto on cello and electronics. The music is skillful, often subdued improvisation, of a very restrained order, and yet seeming loose, despite the control. “1351” has very light peals of breathy saxophone with the barest scrapes of cello and guitar as deep cover accompaniment. The music is spare and abstract, never rushing for a conclusion or resolution. There is a quiet air of ominousness at times, as if all is not as it seems. There are long drones of pure sound juxtaposed against scrapes and clangs, as the electronics frames and challenges the music. Smears of electric and acoustic instruments create a unique sound field. Slabs of sound weave in and out on “1402,” like transmissions from a lost spacecraft. The musical terrain is ever changing with its raw nature continuing to challenge as sparks of guitar and cello arc across the music. “555” offers gentle guitar sounds with quiet sighs of saxophone and clarinet while plucked cello adds a bass like momentum. There is exciting raw free saxophone on “516” with cycling electronics becoming more prominent. The music is unfettered and powerful, the squeaks and pops of the electronics and strings engage with the raw and powerful reed playing played in a skillful manner. The music becomes enchanting and hypnotic with a wide mix of sounds coming to the listener. “1030” has burbles of clarinet and sparks of electricity and the musicians show how deeply attuned their listening skills are, playing at a very high level and allowing the trio to improvise collectively creating a haunting landscape around them. Things are getting a little wilder on “744,” with sawed cello and snarling guitar creating a release for all of the tension that has been building in the previous selections. The long dawn out enthralling sounds on this track are emblematic of the album as a whole, a fascinating endeavor. Garden -

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jerry Bergonzi - Spotlight on Standards (Savant, 2016)

Saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi can be depended upon to release a quality mainstream jazz album every year and this one is no different. The change is in the accompaniment, in which he employs Renato Chicco on organ and Andrea Michelutti on drums. This gives the well-known standard songs a new polish and allows the musicians leverage to interpret them in their own way. “Witchcraft” opens the album with a melodic medium tempo of slinky saxophone over subtle organ and percussion. The spacious and well-articulated organ and percussion get room to move, bubbling through their paces. The leader comes back with pithy interjections of sound weaving a competent and thoughtful solo. There is a slightly more urgent pace to “Bi-Solar,” but the music remains rather quiet, simmering rather than shouting. There’s a very nice swinging interlude for organ and drums and then a portion where the musicians trade small solos with one another, especially giving the drummer a share of the spotlight and creating and “one for all and all for one” sensibility. “First Lady” has some thick organ and nimble percussion setting the stage for Bergonzi’s agile saxophone. The tunes on this album are all over six minutes long, which gives plenty of space for the musicians to stretch out. Copious amounts of organ fill in for any missing bass or guitar and Chicco makes the most of the freedom. The leader’s saxophone develops a wounded cry that ups the emotional ante of the performance. “Dancing in the Dark” is light and swinging, with subtle bubbling organ and percussion supporting a lilting melody. The group improvises variations on the music displaying keyboard virtuosity and refined rearranging of the song. There’s a strident feel to “Out of Nowhere” with tight interplay and a strong saxophone solo that develops a raw dynamic. There is a solid section of organ and percussion interplay before the lean cry of the saxophone re-emerges and engages well with the other two musicians. “Come Rain Or Come Shine” has a spritely spark to the melody, moving to a very good improvised section where there is ample opportunity for the musicians to weave in and out without getting in anyone’s hair. Bergonzi is at his best spooling out polished, husky lines of saxophone backed by tactful organ and drums. This album works quite well with the organist and drummer mixing their support role with some fine solo spots and the leader playing with agility and a sense of relaxed swinging confidence. Spotlight On Standards -

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Ricardo Silveira and John Leftwich - Cosmos (Adventure Music, 2016)

This is a pleasant if unremarkable album of Brazillian tinged jazz with a band led by Ricardo Silveira on guitar and John Leftwich on bass. The album also features Kiko Freitas on drums and the legendary flautist Hurbert Laws. The music remains atmospheric with a light and gentle sense of melodicism woven through the music. Silveira’s acoustic guitar is a focal point for the music, guiding it through various changes and evolution with deft assurance. Leftwich’s deep-rooted bass is a focal point for the music, whether it is acting as an acutely engrained grounding mechanism or soloing and providing support for the other musicians; Leftwich is unflappable and reliable throughout the album. Laws has made many albums of this nature and his light and breathy flute playing swoops and swirls around the music, sometimes framing the other musicians in their improvisations and also developing several solo spots for his own gratification which are pithy and competently handled and charming in their own way. The mild and gentle melodies can be slight at times, to the point where they might just drift away into the ether but the light percussion and subtle brushwork of Freitas keeps everything grounded with sensitive changes in rhythm providing much needed variety in the music. The highlight of the album is “Reflections,” where the gentle vocalizations that the musicians have been adding to the overall sound match with the breathy flute and the guitar and drums providing a sensibility that is more urgent than many of the other tracks on the album. There is subtle interplay among the main trio that frames Laws’ flute soloing and also wisely provides him with space to move. This makes for solid background music as is does nothing to spook the horses. The music is pleasant mainstream jazz that is well played and thoughtful.  Cosmos -

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mats Gustafsson and Friends - MG50 Peace and Fire (Trost, 2016)

The great saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has been a pillar of the free jazz and improvisation scene worldwide for decades now. In the tradition of John Zorn, he celebrates the milestone of his fiftieth birthday with a series of concerts with his friends and colleagues preserved for posterity here on this four disc set. Some of the groups on this box are Gustafsson's most lauded bands like the wide-open free jazz, avant rock, fusion and beyond group Fire!, The Thing, which originally began as a Don Cherry tribute, before developing into one of the most exciting jazz trios and also Swedish Azz, a tribute to the best jazz musicians that Sweden has produced. Some of the people represented on this collection make up a who's who of modern free jazz like Sven-Ake Johansson, Anna Högberg, Ken Vandermark, Agustí Fernández, Sofia Jernberg, Erwan Keravec, Christof Kurzmann and many more. The box set also includes two lengthy booklets of musical commentary and biography. The music is of very high quality throughout and Gustafsson is very generous in allowing his friends to have quite a bit of the limelight, showing that his role as an enabler is one of his most important traits. He is able to develop groups and bring people together, acting as a catalyst for the modern free jazz music scene. The width and breadth of the music presented here is very impressive and shows how Gustafsson's musical interests range from post-rock to free jazz and beyond. Mg50: Peace and Fire -

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fire! - She Sleeps / She Sleeps (Rune Grammofon, 2016)

Fire! is the distinctive trio of Mats Gustafsson on tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, Johan Berthling on bass and and Andreas Werliin on drums. They have released a number of very interesting albums over the past several years including excellent collaborations with Oren Ambarchi and Jim O'Rourke. "She Owned His Voice" opens the album in a very fast and exciting manner, with the trio improvising collectively and keeping the music loose and raw. Gustafsson's use of lower end instruments gives the music weight and heft that serve it well. The musicians cavort joyously, blazing through the music with deft passion. "She Sings, She Sings" takes the music in the opposite direction with raw, bloodied saxophone building caustic tension with sounds of rending and tearing to the pace of a much slower beat. These scary and impressionistic sounds are very effective in building an atmosphere that seems fraught with danger and malice. "She Bid a Meaningless Farewell" develops a heavy rhythm from the bass and drums over which Gustafsson begins to develop a series of low toned saxophone foghorn like bleats giving the music a forlorn air which sounds profoundly sad and lonely. The album is concluded by "She Penetrates the Distant Silence. Slowly." This is the longest track of the album and it has dark bass tones in empty space which are gradually accompanied by haunted inky saxophone tones and ghostly clattered percussion. The burly saxophone slowly gains volume building a heavy ominous atmosphere which is framed by the oppressive sound of bass and drums. Werliin develops heavy beats over which gales of doom laden saxophone are being cast around, and the cursed nature of the music is very alluring. The album is a little short, designed for an LP, but this works in its favor. The music is focused, patient a works through a large dynamic range. The band is very tight and the music is based around their interplay as a unit, not about solo heroics. She Sleeps She Sleeps -

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Sunday, September 04, 2016

Steve Lehman - Selebeyone (Pi-Recordings, 2016)

Alto saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman has always been daring in his approach to music, using original approaches to harmony and rhythm to develop a unique series of releases. This album builds on that history, developing music that employs Senegalese and American hip-hop, electronics and jazz to develop an unprecedented soundscape. Joining Lehman on this project are Gaston Bandimic and HPrizm, rapping in Wolof and English respectively. Also present are Maciek Lasserre on soprano saxophone, Carlos Homs on piano and keyboards, Drew Gress on bass and Damion Reid on drums. Producer Andrew Wright also worked with Lehman to developing drum programming and sampling that add further spices to the musical stew. Tracks like the opening “Laamb” and “Cognition” have a very dynamic approach with the nature of the rhymes and music building and dropping spontaneously as the aspects of the sound changes. The use of rhythm is further explored on “Bamba” where the music becomes quite complex with an intersection of beats, melodies and words. All of which comes together in a very forceful and impressive way because each of the musicians is able to make their own statement without stepping one each other’s toes and keep the holistic nature of the music in the forefront. The music slows at times, allowing tracks like “Are You In Peace” and “Akap” to breathe naturally, and develop deep, subtle and thoughtful textures and feelings. This album was very impressive and brings together seemingly disparate tributaries of music and combines them into a grand unified whole, flowing together as one. Selebeyone -

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