Monday, October 31, 2016

King Crimson - Beat (40th Anniversary CD/DVD) (DGM, 2016)

Coming hard on the heels of Discipline, King Crimson's triumphant 1981 return to form, Beat is the first King Crimson album to have the same personnel as the previous one and this stability allows them to craft another excellent set of songs, adding new wave and world music elements into their progressive rock format. The group had coalesced around the leader and guitarist Robert Fripp, guitarist, percussionist and vocalist Adrian Belew, bassist and Chapman Stick player Tony Levin and percussionist Bill Bruford. As can be inferred by the title, the inspiration for the material on this album is the writing of the avant-garde poets and writers of the Beat Generation, like the driving lead off track, "Neal and Jack and Me," which motors along with the energy of an all-night amphetamine fueled writing and talking session, adding allusions to beat figureheads Neal Cassidy and Jack Kerouac. "The Howler" also evokes the great beat poet Alan Ginsberg and his famous and controversial poem "Howl." "Heartbeat" and "Waiting Man" show the group approaching a newfound sensitivity, nearing ballad tempos at times, but also with complex and exciting rhythmic and tempo changes included. "Neurotica" is a blasting composition that matches the exciting nervousness of the lyrics about the madness of city living with explosive instrumental accompaniment, featuring ripping guitars, pulsating bass and Stick and stirring percussive work. This album is a very string set of songs, and even spawned a 12-inch single at one point. This is a two-disc set that features the 2016 stereo mix on a compact disc and surround sound and high-definition stereo mixes by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp as well as three rare video performances on the accompanying DVD. There are very interesting liner notes, drawing from Robert Fripp's diary as well as the historical perspective given by Sid Smith's essay and extra photographs. This is a very well designed package and provides a wealth of material for fans to sift through. Beat (CD/ DVD-Audio) 40th Anniversary -

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

The DKV Thing Trio - Collider (NotTwo Records, 2016)

It would be harder to imagine a more potentially more explosive modern jazz lineup then Ken Vandermark on tenor and baritone saxophones and Bb clarinet, Hamid Drake on drums, Kent Kessler on bass, Mats Gustafsson on tenor on baritone saxophones, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Thankfully the music lives up to all of the lofty expectations. These musicians have been playing together in varying formations for nearly two decades and it is that empathy and mutual respect that this music is built upon. The album was recorded at Manggha Hall in Krakow on November 1st, 2014, and there are three long collective improvisations that are attributed to all members of the group equally. Both The Thing and The DKV Trio have their own manner of playing developed over many concerts and albums, but there is no sense of parochialism, and everyone subsumes their ego and works for the greater good. "Cards" opens the album explosively with echoes of John Coltrane's Ascension and Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz as templates, and the group is able to work very well as a cohesive unit, allowing little motifs to develop and exploring them and interacting with each other in a vigorous fashion. The two reed players develop rich and meaty sounds which develop into the lengthy "Moving Map" where the musical landscape has an enormous amount of territory available and the band makes the best of it by moving dynamically from loud to soft and from intense to abstract. The textures that the musicians are able to create make the concluding performance, "Left and Left Again" so impressive. The amount of nuance that the bassists and drummers are able to bring to the music is something that makes the music so exciting. They are able to have a sense of rhythmic drive that is at once loose yet integrated at an almost molecular level. This was a very exciting and thoroughly successful recording, featuring six of the best musicians in modern jazz playing at the height of their powers. Collider -

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord - 2016:EPs (Hot Cup, 2016)

Jon Lundbom’s Big Five Chord released four digital EPs over the course of 2016, collecting them into physical and digital boxed sets this fall. The series features Lundbom on guitar, Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Balto Exclamationpoint (Byran Murray) on tenor, prepared tenor, and balto! saxophones, Moppa Elliott on bass, and Dan Monaghanon on drums. On the EP Bring their A Game, “Wrapped” opens the album with a free-bop feel, akin to the sounds that Eric Dolphy and Jackie McLean were exploring in the mid-1960’s. Lundbom’s guitar has an exciting and tightly wound sound that is accentuated by taut bass and drums. The horns twist and swirl playfully adding an excellent sly tweak of humor to the proceedings. The band improvises collectively in excellent fashion before slowing the pace slightly to conclude the performance. There is a swing sensation that is filled with longing and yearning on “Worth.” Low temperature guitar and drums boil gently underneath the surface of the music biding their time while on top there is there is dark raw ballad saxophone baying in a hurt fashion against brushed percussion. Lundbom’s subtle guitar then edges through the understated thicket of bass and percussion with in an impressive dark toned solo that stays low to the ground and guides the music to an expressive ending. Finally the Ornette Coleman composition “W.R.U.” lifts of at a blasting pace with strong tight bass and deft swinging drums, with a saxophone entering making for some thoroughly modern jazz improvisation. The second saxophone and Lundbom’s guitar come rippling in and the music becomes very fresh and hot with the horns soaring and the guitar, bass and drums sizzling. The remainder of the track is a thrill ride featuring shimmering guitar and burning saxophones pushed forward by excellent rhythm. The Make the Changes EP opens with “MacGuffin” which has a cool swinging and vaguely Monkish feel to it, with a fine bass solo over tapped percussion, making for nice rhythm and Lundbom enters carefully, performing a solo that is fast yet well controlled and leads to a saxophone feature that is strident and biting with well articulated guitar chords underneath. “Ghost Tattoo” is subtle with the horns playing in space, one which plays a short, repetitive figure and the other interacting and moving around it. There is a gentle rise to the power and grace of the music that leads to its conclusion. Thick bass and drums and steely saxophones open “Utile” led by sparks for electric guitar. Lundbom takes a spiky solo over bass and drums that building in an exciting nature. The music here is well executed and imaginative, even more so when squalls of saxophone build up, adding a blustery air to the proceedings. Play all the Notes is an EP lead off by “Comedy Gold” which has bright saxophone accompanied by subtle bass and drums which develops a wide range of sounds. One of the horns increases the pace, developing a two horn line that is sharp and fierce. “Period” has the horns playing fast over locomoting bass and drums. Glowing guitar chords will frame one the saxophones which makes a fine statement, before bowing out and allowing guitar, bass and drums to play a lean and nimble improvisation. The horns will swing grandly on “Humpty Dumpty” in a mellow manner with gently toned guitar, bass and drums. Some lean saxophone breaks through like a ray of light, sounding gutsy and gruff. Finally, the Make the Magic Happen EP begins with “Ain’t Cha” which shows Lindbom at his most impressive, playing very hot and outrageously exciting guitar over provocative bass and drums. “La Bomb” has medium tempo horn riffs that support a quieter guitar solo, which can juxtapose its subtlety against raw and yearning saxophone. Strong solo bass underpins Ornette Coleman’s “Law Years” soloing with light percussion, and then followed by an excellent bluesy saxophone solo, which accentuates itself with rending and tearing noises making it all the more emotionally resonant. All of these EP’s clock in at around twenty five minutes and each one keeps you riveted throughout. This is an excellent group and the music that they play is both high in energy and emotionally engaging, which works well in these short compact bursts of music, and over the long haul. 2016: EPs -

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Peter Kuhn - No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn 1978-1979 (NoBusiness Records, 2016)

Saxophonist and clarinetist Peter Kuhn receives some much deserved attention on this two disc set which has a reissue of the out of print 1978 album Livin’ Right, plus a previously unreleased 1979 live session. The album has Kuhn in the company of Toshinori Kondo and Arthur Williams trumpets, William Parker on bass and Denis Charles on drums. "Chi" opens the album, with the band quickly moving out of the gate and then making way for an extended percussion section where Charles plays a variety of interesting rhythms before the full group coalesces and closes the piece. At twenty minutes in length, "Manteca, Long Gone, Axistential" develops a free suite like structure. There is some exciting freebop in the opening section, including some fierce growls and spritzes from the reed and brass. Rolling drums help the music to exhale to a slower and more open feel, marked by abstract smears of bass clarinet with dark and moody bowed bass. The full group rears back up in the final section, playing a strong collectively improvised section which also allows spots for a nimble bass solo framed by shrill trumpet and clarinet. "Red Tape" concludes the original album with some surging full band interplay featuring steaming trumpets, motoring bass and punchy drums. Kuhn's clarinet swoops and swirls in a nimble fashion, egged on by driving bass and drums. The brass returns, adding sparks of trumpet amidst subtle bass and percussion teamwork. The second disc is a live recording of a duet between Kuhn and Charles at the New England Repertory Theatre in Worcester, Mass. "Stigma" opens the set in a manner that is punchy, probing and even a bit funky. They develop a communication that is loud, raw and immediate, with bird call like clarinet in open space and then Charles responding with a cool and rhythmic pattern that gives the music quite a bit of dynamic tension. Charles is at the center of "Drum Dharma" and Kuhn switches to tenor saxophone and releases some stark cries. The understated but insistent rhythm Charles employs is very nice and Kuhn's reeds move in and around the percussion in subtle, shifting patterns. High pitched clarinet is offset by harmonious percussion in an interesting fashion as this improvisation ends. "Headed Home" closes this album with a very lengthy performance, opening with saxophone and drums rising to a scream in a powerful and exciting section, making for an excellent combination. Charles employs ever changing percussion techniques which develop with power and grace, and Kuhn's saxophone is strident in its approach before the music abruptly cuts off leaving the listener wishing for more. No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn 1978-1979.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Angelika Niescier / Florian Weber - NYC Five (Intakt, 2016)

Looking to re-create the excitement of New York City’s vibrancy in music, the group consisting of Angelika Niescier on saxophone, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Florian Weber on piano, Christopher Tordini on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, create colorful and spirited music on this album. “The Barn Thing” opens the album with choppy horns and spirited rhythm accompaniment. The full band interplay is fast and intricate with heavy drops of piano and rapid drumming. The leader’s saxophone comes into the frame, soloing and keeping the fast pace going. There is an excellent quartet section with everyone just playing lights out, made even more intense by the entry of Alessi’s trumpet. The music is relentless and very exciting and the group runs full tilt to the finish line. Swirling saxophone and trumpet keep the music moving briskly forward on “And Over” and the group brings music forward in waves, before it crests and Weber’s piano takes over, casting the music in a more delicate and thoughtful manner. Light and nimble saxophone is added, and the trumpet joins in adding lyrical qualities to the proceedings. The music drops dynamically to spare piano and cymbals before coalescing at the end. “Invaded” slows things down a little bit with a open ballad type feel. There is gentle and light toned saxophone over spare piano, bass and brushes. They develop a melancholy air to the music, which changes markedly on “The Liquid Stone” where the leader’s strutting saxophone is framed by trumpet and cymbals and cultivates music that is characterized by nervousness and unease. There is a spacious interlude for the rhythm section that gradually gathers steam aided by smears and sparks of brass that enter the stream of the music. The strong drumming and piercing trumpet are very impressive, and Niescier engages with her fellow musicians setting up a powerful collective group improvisation. “Parsifal” brings the intensity back down to a simmer, with light trumpet and spacious rhythm accompaniment. Saxophone and trumpet gently probe the music while delicate brushes and bass provide a subtle backdrop. The swirling brushes plus the thick and ever present bass provide a quiet focus for this track. The concluding selection “Für Krefeld” sees the band opening together nicely with the saxophone building over piano, bass and drums with trumpet riding shotgun. The horns push the tempo over taut rhythm of strong piano and drums and stoic bass. The piano and drums are very strong and exciting, making for a complicated and interesting rhythmic foundation allowing the horns to blast back in and enjoy the fun. This leads to an exciting saxophone and drums based conversation, before Alessi takes the baton and drives home a very powerful statement of his own. NYC Five -

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Donny McCaslin - Beyond Now (Motema, 2016)

Taking the lessons he learned from playing on David Bowie’s Blackstar album and applying them to his own music, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin enlists longtime colleagues Jason Linder on keyboards, Mark Guiliana on drums and Tim Lefebvre on bass to build a well crafted electric jazz fusion album. “Shake Loose” opens the album with hard hitting modern jazz, and while the extensive use of the keyboards may eventually date the music they do nothing to blunt the hard charging tenor saxophone and strong complex rhythms which are timeless. Multiple keyboard and electronic textures are used on “A Small Plot of Land,” and strong stoic vocals are added to the mix. McCaslin comes in about halfway through and whips up a storm. “Beyond Now” has a subtle and probing opening where the music evolves in a patient fashion, becoming sharper and more focused as time goes on. The electronics rise up buoyed by powerful drumming and slashing saxophone weaving in and out of the electronic force field. The intensity is white hot with ripe saxophone and wailing drums putting the music over the top. “Bright Abyss” opens with a silky beat and predatory saxophone looking for an opening, moving in slowly amidst the electronic backdrop. The music develops a deeper identity, and surges forward. McCaslin’s saxophone starts climbing steps from low to high and then taking flight amid mysterious electronic sounds with sharp drumming, which leads to a majestic full band conclusion. There is fast and true tenor saxophone blasting over muscular drumming on the surging “Faceplant.” Shards of electronics buttress the storming saxophone with rhythm and thick electric bass, and then the full band charges ahead like a beast. “Warszawa” is a David Bowie original from his Berlin period. There is a haunting air to the music and McCaslin makes the most of that playing yearning saxophone which cuts across the moody backdrop. His saxophone gains gradient and strength with buzzing electronics and scattered drumming. Cymbal taps and piano with electronics frame mellow saxophone on “Glory.” Acoustic piano provides a respite from the electronic onslaught before the leader’s strong saxophone edges back into the spotlight for a powerful drum propelled solo. “Remain” ends the album with low tones and probing saxophone. Things are pretty mellow, but there is a groove building and the saxophone slowly rises in intensity and soon the drums are crashing in, hitting cymbals hard leading into a distinguished full band buildup. The once in a lifetime opportunity to record with David Bowie has really galvanized Donny McCaslin, simultaneously opening new vistas to explore and focusing the unique electric jazz he has been honing for the past several years. Beyond Now -

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Peter Brotzmann/William Parker/Hamid Drake - Song Sentimentale (Otoroku, 2016)

You might think with a title like Song Sentimentale, that this album could be a victory lap for three of the most important players on the free jazz scene, Peter Brotzmann on tenor saxophone, B flat clarinet, tarogato, William Parker on double bass, guembri, shakuhachi, shenai and Hamid Drake on drums, vocals and percussion, but there is little sentiment on display here. The musicians are very familiar with one another, and their paths have crossed many times over the years, particularly on the superb double album Never Too Late, But Always Too Early. The music on this album is strong and focused, creating a free jazz set that becomes suite-like due to the near telepathic interplay of the musicians. The music develops organically on “Shake-A-Tear” with very powerful tenor saxophone, bass and drums advancing a powerful collective improvisation. As the music moves into “Stone Death” and particularly the concluding "Dwellers in a Dead Land,” which is the longest track on the album, their aptitude shines through with a near incandescent light. The very long concluding improvisation begins with Drake developing a subtle rhythmic foundation and vocalizing in a hypnotic manner. Parker plays an exotic string instrument and Brötzmann, moves to the Hungarian reed instrument tarogato, and the music is completely fascinating at this point, moving away from traditional free improvisation into cutting edge world music. Brotzmann will move further out into his clarinet and tarogato, Parker will move into improvising on his exotic instruments and Drake provides further inspiration with voice and ever shifting rhythm. The texture of the music on this album is ever shifting like sheets of rain and sand on a distant shore. This is an excellent album from three masters that have nothing to prove. They pursue a greater goal and succeed grandly in making excellent music. Song Sentimentale -

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Arthur Williams - Forgiveness Suite (No Business, 2016)

Little seems to be known about the leader of this recording, trumpeter Arthur Williams. He played with a wide range of musicians in New York City in the 1970’s including Steve Reid, Ahmed Abdullah and in the great band Muntu with Jemeel Moondoc. On this rare recording, a limited edition of 400 records, he is joined by Toshinori Kondo on trumpet, Peter Kuhn on bass clarinet, William Parker on bass and Denis Charles on drums. The music was composed by Arthur Williams and was recorded on December 19, 1979 at WKCR in New York City. The first part of the “Forgiveness Suite” features bubbling horns and reed, with percussion forming the frame which surrounded it. The music is subtle and thoughtful, with low key bass providing support and a brief solo. The players embrace the music, developing a strong thematic structure. There is a move to bowed bass adding solemnity, while trumpet and saxophone pushing across it along with tumbling percussion creating an appealing message. They press ahead and then lay back, developing a fine dynamic feel and rhythm. Waves of trumpet and clarinet surge forth, followed by open sections for bass and percussion. Parker is the unsung hero of the group and plays brilliantly throughout both bowed and plucked. The horns improvise very well, playing in a controlled and at times melodic fashion, this is far from a free jazz blowout, it’s a meeting of equals playing and improvising over interesting themes. Williams develops a potent solo over bowed bass, using a strong, muscular tone to lay the groundwork for his fellow musicians to join him in a collective improvisation. Kuhn takes a raw toned and deep solo on bass clarinet, with sawing bowed bass along for the ride. They expand a powerful improvisation that leads to the end of the first section. Part two of “Forgiveness Suite” is reverent and almost prayer like with dignified horns and respectful bass and drums. The whole group rises as one, getting louder and exclaiming their message with great strength. Williams’s trumpet playing is raw and coursicating, and he delves into a duet with William Parker. He sounds great, growling and playing with guttural heat, with Parker supporting every step. The whole band comes in for a theme statement punctuated by Charles’ excellent percussion. Kuhn’s bass clarinet bursts forth and Parker takes a patient and thoughtful solo. This is excellent music, with a memorable theme and some fantastic improvisation both in the group and individual format. There is an epic collective improvisation that is thrilling to hear as the band really goes for broke, moving into a stoic form which takes the music into a quiet percussion feature, before regrouping for a strong finale. The album clocks in at barely a half an hour, which leaves the listener wanting more. Hopefully there is another trove of music out there to shed further light on this talented and enigmatic musician. Forgiveness Suite - No Business Records.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Bobby Bradford, Hafez Modirzadeh, Mark Dresser, Alex Cline – Live at the Open Gate (No Business, 2016)

This is a very impressive collective group consisting of Bobby Bradford on cornet, Hafez Modirzadeh on alto saxophone, Mark Dresser on bass and Alex Cline on drums. The album was recorded live on March 3, 2013 in Los Angeles as part of the Open Gate Theatre concert series. “Steadfast” begins the album with gentle bass and brushes. The brass enters slowly with a rending sound over skittering percussion, and they develop a longing and intensely personal sound as they gaze across the musical landscape. The horns climb in intensity, and intertwine in great control of their sound. There is a stronger sound to “Facet 5” with the saxophone and cornet taking a raw angle over the nimble bass and drums. There is a nice section of collective improvisation with the two horns weaving into the rhythm, and the louder and richer sound suits them well. “Facet 17” opens with a fast and choppy feel to it, with Modirzadeh improvising with the bass and drums, developing a solid Ornette Coleman type feel. Bradford’s cornet bursts in and plays very well, adding fine contrast to the deep blue tone of the alto saxophone. Bradford takes command with an excellent solo statement of his own, finally aided by swirling saxophone over delicate percussion. “Dresser Only” is a feature for the bassist, who plays an open, thick and resonating solo. His instrument is very well recorded, making this one of the most intimate moments of the album. The full band returns with a collective improvisation on “For Bradford,” with a clarion call of cornet leading the way. Subtle bass and drums keep the pace steady as there is a handoff to the saxophone which is featured over fast tapping percussion. Modirzadeh makes a powerful solo statement on saxophone before everyone returns and and ends this excellent performance as a team. “HA^BB” is a short interlude for scatted vocals and horns improvising in open space. Horns swirl around one another on “Song for the Unsung” playing patiently and developing themes. Well thought out ripe saxophone and strong cornet lead the charge, over very good rhythm accompaniment with siren like saxophone met with slender ribbons of bass. “Reprise” concludes the album with low toned cornet and saxophone keeping a loose feel, pushing the air about them while shimmering cymbals frame the horns. Live at the Open Gate - No Business Records.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book: Bitches Brew by George Grella Jr. (Bloomsbury, 2015)

Bitches Brew, the seminal double album by Miles Davis, was a watershed moment in jazz and rock 'n' roll history. In this compact volume, Grella charts the development of the recording, taking the long view describing the development of Davis's career, and his approach to making music. Critically, this changed toward the end of the 1960's, when Davis began moving from the traditional way of recording jazz in the studio, with full takes of the songs included warts and all with little editing, into the format that was favored by pop and rock recordings, one of many cuts, and overdubbing to make for the best take possible. Grella describes the manner in which Davis and producer Teo Macero took in the studio where they allowed the musicians to play at length with minimal direction, and then cut and spliced the album together in post-production, making for a full document that surprised even the musicians that played on the sessions. The actual sessions are described in great detail, with the "nuts & bolts" data may apply more to fellow musicians, like the time signatures and keys the musicians were playing in during sections of the session, Grella never gets too bogged down in the minutiae and makes this book enjoyable for non-musicians as well. He is also able to place the album in the overall context of jazz and popular music of the period and this makes for a welcome addition. Miles Davis' Bitches Brew -

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Eri Yamamoto Trio - Life (AUM Fidelity, 2016)

Pianist and composer Eri Yamamoto has developed a strong following among jazz fans and critics with a series of interesting releases and a residency she has held together for the past seventeen years at Arthur's Tavern, one of the longest running jazz clubs in New York City. This has given her ample opportunity develop her original material which she unleashes on this album that was recorded live at the Systems Two Studios in Brooklyn in June of 2015. The music on the album is presented in the form of two virtual sets, much like the trio's live performance format. As the album title suggests, the material moves through a far range of emotional evocation, from ebullient to thoughtfully introspective, reflecting the absolute vibrancy of her long-time adopted home, New York City, and the importance of finding space within the perpetual motion of the city for moments of reflection and meditation. The music works quite well throughout the album, with excellent interplay between the musicians who make the most of the material and the experience that they have built up while playing together for so much time. On this album she is joined by bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi whom have worked with her for a long time and fully support her musical statements. The music the three make is very thoughtful and patient, and you can tell by listening that they spent a lot of time honing their material. The opening track “I Love” is quite fascinating with cascades of piano notes, and taut and understated bass and drums, and is juxtaposed by some of the lighter and airier material. "New York Time" and "Ground" have a good natured swing and while there is a touch of melancholia to the music at times, on tracks like "Remembrance," the music is emotional resonant throughout, emotionally reminding the listener about the possibilities of the piano trio. Life -

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Monday, October 10, 2016

John Zorn - 49 Acts of Unspeakable Depravity in the Abominable Life and Times of Gilles de Rais (Tzadik, 2016)

John Zorn's Simulacrum band, John Medeski on organ, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar have created a unique aesthetic over their their release history, acting as something of a post-modern doppelganger of the classic Tony Williams Lifetime band which had Williams on drums, Larry Young on organ and John McLaughlin on guitar. With Zorn's compositions to draw upon, the characteristics that Simulacrum take inspiration from do include jazz but more specifically dark heavy metal and it suits this ten-movement suite which is evoking a sick and decadent descent into madness. "Scene One: At the Very Gates of Hell" opens with muscular guitar riffing and pummeling drums that are soon framed by Medeski's organ. The music is right up front and in your face, with the organ swirling around like a wraith while the the guitar and drums do the heavy lifting. The pace gets even more frenetic on the following track, "Scene Two: Angelic Voices" with very intricate and rapid fire guitar and drums salting the ground before Hollenberg breaks out for a pyrotechnic solo over short bursts of organ and percussion. Grohowski's drums are crushing everything in their path including a short featured spot and there are stark screams of organ during Medeski's solo. "Scene Four: Dark Pageant" has a burst of theatrical riffing from the guitar and drums that is extremely potent, before the organ comes in and the music really begins to spread its wings. Swirling gales of organ overlook a taut guitar solo and fusillade of percussion. The scorched Earth nature of the music drives the trio to make a final dash to the finish line. There is a devastating opening to "Scene 6: A Cruel Ecstasy" with the trio bursting in together and clearly stratified with upper range organ soaring over the smears and snarls of electric guitar and the relentless battering of the drums. The organ is quite majestic here, encompassing the entirety of the music in its grasp. "Scene 7: Image of the Beast" begins deceptively with bass like drops of organ before the guitar and drums come crashing into the picture. There is a blistering collective improvisation to follow, creating a very powerful performance that Hollenberg takes to the next level with squalls of electricity. While much of this album is made of apocalyptic blast of raw energy, there is subtlety to be found in passages throughout the record. The group is far from a one trick pony and makes a very impressive statement throughout the suite. 49 Acts of Unspeakable Depravity in the Abominable...

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Saturday, October 08, 2016

Kris Davis - Duopoly (Pyroclastic Records, 2016)

Over the past several years Kris Davis has emerged as one of the most interesting piano players on the contemporary jazz scene. She is fearless and willing to work and prepared to improvise in any situation ranging from solo piano to large group. After casting about for ideas for her next project, she came up with the challenging idea of duets, some which were minimally prepared and some of which were completely spontaneous. Upping the ante was the idea of meeting fellow musicians that she had long admired but had never recorded with in the past, a risky strategy, but one that was guaranteed to enhance the freshness of the music. This album presents one audio disc of the minimally arranged materials, originals and a few rare standards, and then there is a second disc of Davis freely improvising with the said colleagues, recored in stark black and white video, split screen to show each musician and the way in which they interact while improvising in real time. This is a very intimate album, you feel like you are very close to the musicians as they work together. It is very interesting to hear how she interacts with different musicians and musical instruments, whether it is the likes of Bill Frisell and Julian Lage on guitar, Marcus Gilmore and Billy Drummond on percussion, fellow pianists Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez or reed players Tim Berne and Don Byron. The music develops as a sound collage, with the musicians probing and developing their art in particular and challenging ways. The pieces that are ostensibly free are in a real sense instant compositions where two minds meet with logic and reason to explore a larger canvas. a larger space/time dynamic, which allows the music to move in any dimension at will. This was a very courageous recording, one which allowed listeners and viewers into the music at an almost atomic level, and allowing the audience profound access into this artist's mind and also showcasing how she can be a catalyst into the minds of others. Duopoly -

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

John Lindberg BC3 - Born in an Urban Ruin (Clean Feed, 2016)

Bassist and composer John Lindberg has travelled the world playing wide range of music and he has released many albums as a leader and collaborator which feature his singularly identifiable bass playing. But on this album, he comes back to the beginning - literally - creating a meditation on Detroit, the broken and collapsed city of his birth. This is a personal and thoughtful album where he is joined by clarinetist Wendell Harrison and by vibraphonist and percussionist Kevin Norton. Lindbreg, whose epic bowed and plucked bass combine with clarinet, shades of vibraphone and subtle percussion to create a stark and haunted landscape. The music is dark hued and somber, melding classical influences with jazz that transcends the musical form as crystalline vibraphone notes swirl colors and clarinet can respond with submerged gurgles like a drowning man, which is an apt musical metaphor for a city in chaos. There can be potent sections of long held notes, accompanied by sawing sawing strings. Vibes will rattle and clank, but also chime beautifully. Lindberg develops a thick and truly present plucked bass sound that fits well with the clarinet and interacts with the vibes and percussion on a high level. Norton's vibes also resonate very well in open space. There are also sections of lonely and almost desolate bowed bass sounding like a cello solo in open space, sad and mournful. A tribute in three parts to the late Roy Campbell is included, “The Left Wrist Parts 1 - 3” and this juxtaposes the decay of the earlier music and provides a reminder (along with the recently passed anniversary of his birth) of what a powerful impact Roy Campbell had on the music scene in his all too short life. Born in an Urban Ruin -

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Battle Trance - Blade of Love (New Amsterdam Records, 2016)

The four tenor saxophonists that make up the band Battle Trance: Travis Laplante, Patrick Breiner, Matt Nelson and Jeremy Viner have coalesced as a strong and distinctive unit through heavy touring, performance and practice. During this period they developing their own unique sound that draws on the history of the tenor saxophone in jazz as well as classical and other experimental types of music. The album consists of the composition "Blade of Love" which is a suite of three movements that attempts to expand the notion of the tenor saxophone as an ensemble instrument. The group looks to tear down the separation between the human spirit and the instrument itself, melding it into one primal force and the music resonates with unusually deep emotional impact. Battle Trance sounds like a quieter, more meditative version of the World Saxophone Quartet. Where the other band may take its cues from bop and blues, they have a very textural sound with no one dominating the music, making it a truly cooperative effort. Much of the music is woven into solemn tapestries of sound, allowing experimental drones to wash across the soundscapes. The haunting sound of breath weaves through the third and final track, making for an ominous and spooky feel, before the music develops in an imaginative fashion with the musicians circling around each other as the volume rises. At times, the four players sing while exhaling through the saxophone tubes, using the instrument's keys to alter the sound of their voices. There are many layers to the music that are explored throughout their improvisations, with more intense situations that are abruptly cut off in exchange for near silence which increases their dynamic range. Blade of Love -

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Monday, October 03, 2016

King Crimson - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind (DGMLive, 2016)

Recorded during their 2015 world tour, the most recent incarnation of King Crimson has become an aggressive septet consisting of leader Robert Fripp on guitar and keyboards, Jakko Jakszyk on guitar and vocals, Mel Collins saxophones and flute, Tony Levin on basses, Chapman Stick and backing vocals and the three percussionist lineup of Gavin Harrison, Bill Rieflin and Pat Mastelotto on drums and electronic percussion. This box set contains recordings from the group's 2015 tours of Japan, Canada and France. It is interesting to hear some of the oldest material in the band’s catalog mixed in with brand new instrumental compositions. While the music on this set was all performed live, the audience noise has been removed creating a “virtual” album in three movements. There are also DVD’s or Blu-Ray’s with video and high definition audio included in the package. Disc one is focused on instrumental material, bookended with the first two versions of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” which demonstrate both the subtlety and power of the band. “Meltdown” is a muscular song and a vocal feature for Jakszyk. Disc two looks at some earlier material from the band’s tenure with relative obscurities like “Pictures of a City” and “Sailor’s Tale” paired off against a mighty version of “Easy Money” and the newer “Suitable Grounds for the Blues.” Disc three powers through some of the band’s most famous repertoire with excellent versions of “Red,” “One More Red Nightmare” and “Starless” from their epochal 1974 album Red. Excellent versions of two of the band’s earliest and most famous songs ″The Court of The Crimson King″ and ″21st Century Schizoid Man″ round out the album with a ferocity of instrumental prowess and excellent singing from Jakszyk who has really grown into the vocal role. This is a very successful and exciting package, with material old and new played with great gusto. The music is intricate and focused, proving that this is far from a victory lap, but a fantastic band nearing the height of their powers, standing toe to toe with any other incarnation of the group's storied history. Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind -

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