Friday, December 30, 2016

Dinosaur - Together, As One (Edition Records, 2016)

This is the first album from the jazz fusion group Dinosaur, led by Laura Jurd on trumpet and synthesizer, along with Elliot Galvin on fender rhodes electric piano and hammond organ, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Corrie Dick on drums. The music is bright and vibrant, combining the energy of rock music with the intricacy of modern jazz. The album begins with "Awakening," which comes forth with some nice strong brass and electric piano. There is thick, substantial bass present as well as solidly rhythmic drums which allow the music to unfold in an episodic nature. "Robin" has some freaky keyboard textures buoyed by more robust bass and sharp drums giving a choppy feel to the music. Jurd plays ripe trumpet over electric piano, bass and drums, developing a potent solo over the glistening keyboards. Swirling electronics usher in "Living, Breathing" which gives way to a majestic trumpet feature for the leader over thick bass and drums. The music becomes faster and louder, developing a powerful modern fusion sound with exciting punchy trumpet soloing over a broad groove. "Underdog" and "Steadily Sinking" are shorter tracks, which have the keyboards and electronics phasing in and out and droning, developing overdriven textures that add variety to the group's sound. The bass, drums and trumpet develop an open and parched sound when opening "Extinct" before the music slowly fills in and develops. Organ gradually builds to frame the other three instruments, as the bass and drums congeal. The organ swirls and the bass rumbles as the band awakens and begins to roar like the titular Dinosaur, becoming quite animated and dramatic. "Primordial" is rhythmic, choppy music that makes great haste in the full band's development of the theme and improvisation. There is a punching and weaving bass foundation with active drumming and strong trumpet. Raw and overwrought keyboards move the whole mass inexorably forward amidst bubbling bass and pointed drumming. This was a well done album by an interesting and dynamic band. With the strong electric element and tight bass and drums, this group has the potential to develop into a band that can reach far beyond the nominal jazz fan base. Together, As One -

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year End El Intruso Poll

The editors of the music magazine El Intruso were kind enough to invite me to vote in their year end poll. 2016 was a wonderful year for music, so after much brow furrowing and head scratching, I came up with the following:

Musician of the year: Ken Vandermark
Newcomer Musician: Anna Högberg
Group of the year: LUME
Newcomer group: Damana
Album of the year: Cortex - Live in New York
Composer: John Zorn
Drums: Paal Nilssen-Love
Acoustic Bass: William Parker
Electric Bass: Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Guitar: Jon Lundbom
Piano: Matt Mitchell
Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ: Jamie Saft
Tenor Saxophone: Ivo Perelman
Alto Saxophone: John Irabagon
Baritone Saxophone: Mats Gustafsson
Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome
Trumpet/Cornet: Rob Mazurek
Clarinet/bass clarinet: Anat Cohen
Trombone: Steve Swell
Flute: Nicole Mitchell
Violin/Viola: Mat Maneri
Cello: Fred Lonberg-Holm
Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz
Electronics: Ikue Mori
Other instruments: Heather Leigh, pedal steel guitar
Female Vocals: Leena Conquest
Male Vocals: Mose Allison (RIP)
Best Live Band: Made to Break
Record Label: Clean Feed

Check out Tom Hull's ballot here.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Howard Riley - Constant Change 1976 - 2016 (NoBusiness Records, 2016)

Howard Riley is an well-respected British jazz pianist, teacher and composer. Throughout his career he has played with some of the leading lights of the British jazz scene, such as Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Tony Oxley, John McLaughlin and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. This retrospective covers solo recordings of original music that was recorded both live and in the studio over a forty year span. The first two compact discs, “Paris / Debrecen” and “Fingerprints” are collections of shorter performances ranging from two to nearly twenty minutes and which evoke a wide range of styles, from rhythmically percussive improvisations to gentle fantasias. The remaining three compact discs entitled “Mutability One, Two, and Three” are concert length improvisations of about an hour each, which were recorded over the past few years at Porcupine Studios in London. The music is somewhat reminiscent of the fully improvised solo piano concerts that Keith Jarrett used to perform, but Riley will also take advantage of extended techniques for the piano, in addition to improvising, or spontaneously composing, using the length and breadth of the instrument. Where the first two discs were broken into discrete pieces, the final three discs flow with a grace and serenity of a musician who has spent a lifetime refining his talent and approach to the keyboard and the arts of composition and improvisation, allowing him to showcase his innovations by extending and expanding his uniquely personal approach to music. His skill and technique is at a very high level, but it never overwhelms the music which remains accessible throughout the collection, with a sense of forward motion which seems to propel the sound, texture, and shading of his music. Much like Jarrett he acts as a conduit for musical information and theory, developing the music in both a historical and modern language. This is a very well designed package with liner information and photographs, and the music leaves a lasting impression on the listener, because Riley has a lot of knowledge and experiences which he chooses to impart to the listener in a thoughtful and respectful manner. Howard Riley - Constant Change 1976-2016 - nobusiness records.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Jonathan Finlayson and Sicilian Defense - Moving Still (Pi Recordings, 2016)

Jonathan Finlayson’s band, Sicilian Defense, consists of the leader on trumpet, Miles Okazaki on guitar, Matt Mitchell on piano, John Hébert on bass and Craig Weinrib on drums. The band is multifaceted and sounds much bigger than a quintet, and the music is complex yet accessible. Finlayson’s compositional style is unique and allows much freedom for the players to make their mark, both soloing and as part of the ensemble. “All of the Pieces” has a gentle guitar opening, with a nice full band entry led by punchy trumpet. They develop a mysterious sound with a fine blend of instruments, and the guitar is at the center. There is excellent fast paced trumpet feature arcing through the music over insistent drumming, and the music becomes becomes lush with piano and subtle drumming.  Heavy drumming underpins the performance of “Flank and Center” creating an expansive full band experience with brash trumpet in the lead role. Slashing rhythm and taut bass also give the music a propulsive feel. “Space And” builds from stark piano chords, and develops a fine rhythm with the bass and drums and medium tempo and the leader’s trumpet gaining force. There is a strong well thought out arrangement for the full band, with guitar and piano bubbling up out of the mix, giving the music and urgent feel. The music shifts to a section for rhythmic piano, elastic bass and drumming, before there is a dramatic full band return with a trumpet fanfare that develops into a very impressive solo. The music on “Cap vs. Nim” is quite intricate and well balanced and has some darker colors mixed in to give the musicians a finer selection of options to improvise upon, like droplets of piano which fall across subtle bass and drums. Okazaki’s guitar breaks out for a muted solo and interacts well with the rhythm section. Finlayson’s trumpet builds back in with a powerful calling, sounding strong and muscular as his trumpet solo takes command. “Between Moves” has subtle strings set the pace, guitar and bass. Gentle acoustic guitar and bass make fine texture and bowed bass increases that feel. The trumpet enters and soars in confidently, keeping the stark medium tempo, and arcs over the music in a powerful solo statement, before the music fades out slowly. Finally, “Folk Song” has a medium tempo and a memorable melody from the full band. The sound is spacious and wide open for a well controlled trumpet solo over subtle piano, bass and drums. After a series of solos there is a section for the rhythm unit to increase the pace, adding tension and making the concluding trumpet solo all the more potent. The music was challenging to the players in order to keep things fresh and curious, and the band members respond in kind with a high level of proficiency. Moving Still -

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Mose Allison - I'm Not Talkin' - The Songs Stylings Of Mose Allison 1957-1972 (BGP, 2016)

It’s ironic that a musician so steeped in the sound of America should have made such an impact overseas. Mose Allison was a pianist, singer and composer of some of the wittiest songs of the modern era of jazz and blues. He was originally adopted by the mods in England and his music went on to influence a generation of British rock ‘n’ roll musicians. Allison died earlier this year at age 89, leaving an enormous footprint on modern music and this is a superb compilation of his early work, showing the wit and sagacity that his music always contained. He used to travel solo picking up rhythm sections in each city he toured. I saw him many years ago at the Van Dyck in Schenectady playing with the top bassist and drummer of the area and they were sweating to keep up with his unique propulsive piano playing and turns of phrase, and it was a wonderful concert. This album takes the highlights of Allison’s formative years beginning with his more blues influenced recordings like “Parchman Farm” a violent ode to the infamous work camp that he would stop playing in later years because he became uncomfortable with the content. “Foolkiller” shows the fast and hard piano playing that really drives the music and the lyrics forward. Allison bounced around a few labels (no one really knew how to market him) but when he landed on Atlantic in the 1960’s he produced some of his best work. Balancing the blues like “Baby Please Don’t Go” with more meditative and witty songs such as “Everybody Cryin' Mercy” and “If You’re Going to the City.” The Who were one of Allison’s biggest fans covering “Eyesight to the Blind” on the Tommy album, and then producing a ferocious version of “Young Man Blues” on Live at Leeds. What made Allison’s lyrics so special is that he moved away from the traditional tropes of blues and jazz, investigating science and philosophy in “Hello There, Universe” and “Your Molecular Structure” and delving deep into the sound of the human condition on “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” and “Just Like Livin’.” This is an excellent primer to Allison’s work, showcasing all of the aspects of this wonderful musician and also includes a fine liner essay and many images. It’s a class act all around and highly recommended. I'm Not Talkin' - The Songs Stylings Of Mose Allison 1957-1972 -

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Ivo Perelman with Mat Maneri and Whit Dickey - The Art of the Improv Trio Vol. 2 (Leo Records, 2016)

Saxophonist Ivo Perelman is in the midst of a purple patch, releasing a series of fascinating trio recordings on Leo Records. This particular album has Perelman focusing on tenor saxophone along with Mat Maneri on viola and Whit Dickey on drums. All of these musicians are longtime veterans of the avant and free jazz scene, and they make for a very impressive group, approaching improvisation as a painter may approach a piece of canvas. Broad strokes of saxophone with sweeping violin in tow and deeply entrenched percussion make for a potent force. The musicians are able to conjure shapes and fit them together in interesting ways, and the combination of viola and Perelman’s very unique saxophone tone make for a wide open musical environment with endless possibilities for collective improvisation. Whit Dickey is the perfect drummer for this configuration, because he has years of experience playing with the likes of David S. Ware and Kurt Knuffle so he is able to tune into the music directly and provide very good rhythmic ideas that the entire trio can build off of. There is a mysteriousness to the music, an enigmatic nature that keeps it from ever becoming stale with peals of saxophone and strings bursting forth over skittering percussion like a transmission of emotional poignancy. The music moves fluidly from spare quiet sections to loud and resonating areas where Perelman summons the spirit of Albert Ayler and early Gato Barbareri with Maneri and responding with slashing motifs of his own. The album is a series of spontaneous, unprepared  improvisations, where everyone is playing in a questing and open manner. Darting strings and percussion sounds encourage Perelman’s distinctive saxophone into higher pitches and sultry lulls. Punchy, sharp squeaks and hollow clanks work also very well as the music develops. Moving deeper into the album, several of the performances shimmer in the air with quiet authority with thoughtful and sweeping viola, and the leader's notes and breath developing a interesting sensibility until they shift gears unexpectedly, and push their instrument in a powerful and muscular manner, truly developing original music with their own distinctive qualities. The flexibility of the members of the trio ensure that the music will be successful, since Perelman is always experimenting with the tenor saxophone, pushing the instrument to its limits and beyond in addition to working to control his breath and embouchure, ensuring that each one of his recordings will be like a scientific paper reporting on the evolution of the tenor saxophone in improvised music and the nature of the jazz trio. The Art Of The Improv Trio Volume 2 -

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio - Desire and Freedom (NotTwo Records, 2016)

Saxophonist Rodrigo Amado’s Motion Trio with Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums has been together for many years, playing in their original format or welcoming guests like the trumpeter Peter Evans. They are a group of musicians of considerable power, reveling in the open spirit of dialogue, and developing independently within a shared musical context. The music on the opening track, “Freedom Is a Two-Edged Sword” is very nimble with pitched tweets and honks of saxophone that are in a three way conversation with powerfully disjointed percussion and the cello which adds a much different character to the music than would an upright bass. The music waxes and wanes like it’s flexing its muscles and the collective improvisation is very impressive. Amado digs in on saxophone, sending forth swirling and swelling gales of sound amidst the thicket of cello and percussion with excellent breadth and vision. Scattered plucked cello and percussion provide open space for the music to develop on “Liberty.” The group thrusts and parries making for an uneasy skittering and clanking soundscape with Amado’s saxophone adding long tones of air to the proceedings. The music is patient and probing, developing layers of densely textured and shifting sounds that make for a meditative improvisation which slowly gains in power before the mood shifts again, to a lighter feel of rapidly plucked cello, softer saxophone and barely audible percussion. “Responsibility” has emotional calls of saxophone, creating a spare setting that dramatizes the strong and dusky tone of Amado’s saxophone. As the music gains inexorable forward motion, the approach of the musicians does not dwell in the past, or consider the future, but instead concentrates on creating anew in the present moment. There is complex interaction among the trio as the music swells forward by firing on all cylinders: thick cello, deeply rhythmic drums and gale force saxophone. Time is taken for a very cool interlude for cello and percussion, which is free-ranging and expansive. Amado dives back and the music becomes a streaming collective improvisation that drives for the finish line. The music on this album is a multi-faceted improvised performance that evolves through various settings, and the music grows to be very exciting, becoming at times a muscular free jazz workout amidst three evenly matched musicians. The trio has a deep understanding of free jazz improvisation while also having the ability to lower the power for more subtle development. Desire and Freedom - Bandcamp

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mary Halvorson Octet - Away With You (Firehouse 12, 2016)

Away With You is the first recording of guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson’s new octet, which features John Hebert on bass, Ches Smith on drums, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jon Iragabon on alto saxophone, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor saxophone, Jacob Garchik on trombone and Susan Alcorn on pedal steel guitar. This new band looks to develop a large ensemble sound from the jazz tradition, while also experimenting and communicating on a very high level. “Away With You (No. 55) has fast beats and guitar coming on strong with ripe horns filling in and making for an impressive combination. Mysterious notes of guitar weave through the music, making for an alluring sound pallette. The music drops down slightly with shards of guitar and swirling horns and then there is a fine section of collective improvisation and percussion soloing. Smears of sustained guitar in open space come out unaccompanied before subtle bass and drums join in on “The Absolute Almost (No. 52). Bowed bass and brushed percussion add to the atmosphere too, then suddenly at the halfway point the music cracks open and bright sounding horns emerge, which swoop and sway over bleats of guitar and strong bass and drums. There is a ripe and exciting saxophone solo with strong drumming making for a powerful combination as the music reaches its frenetic peak. “Sword Barrel (No. 58)” has gentler guitar bass and drums, lullaby like, with lush horns building in. The music gets pleasantly disjointed and moves down the rabbit hole to the realm of psychedelic free jazz. “Old King Misfit (No. 57) has a hard strumming bass intro, building to an epic bass solo before band moves in with a thick sounding horn volley leading the way. The intensity of the overall music begins to develop a brash full band section. Raw horns and bass create a deeply dug foundation for the music on “Fog Bank (No. 56),” as mournful trumpet weaves through the music, which has a sombre tinge. Streaks of electric guitar and brushes extend the feel of unease. Long tones of horns lead the music slowly forward in an unhurried manner to the conclusion. A jaunty beginning for guitar, bass and drums begins “Safety Orange (No. 59) and the horns evoke a pleasant fanfare. The music has a fine improvised section that develops a wade range of flavors, Mary’s guitar crawls like a spider making a spindly web across the surface of the music. The brass gives off a golden tone while soloing, and the other instruments fall in with tight support. “Inky Ribbons (No. 53) features lush horns which develop the music unhurriedly, moving in tandem, giving the music a suspended feeling. Guitar slowly sidles up and brings in slow and ponderous bass and drums. The full band fills in for a well developed sound, and becomes a powerful edifice, pushing itself forward. A saxophone breaks out for a thoughtful solo, thriving in the open ended environment, before the guitars come together to intertwine and the trombone seals the deal. The band has grown steadily from recording to recording, guided by Mary Halvorson’s instincts and her development as a composer and arranger. The rhythms mirror the band’s sound, slightly off kilter, yet subtle and strongly pulsed and always interesting. Away With You -

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Rolling Stones - Blue and Lonesome (Polydor, 2016)

The Rolling Stones were always enthralled by the blues, from the very beginning. While their contemporaries The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who were fascinated by Motown and the English music hall tradition, the Stones proudly flew the flag of electric Chicago blues whether they were inviting Howlin’ Wolf to join them for a TV appearance or recording at Chess Studios. So it is very interesting to hear the group come full circle. They are old men now, wiser in some sense, and through triumph and tragedy able to connect with the blues on a deeper level than in their youth. Recorded in just three days about a year ago, the music sounds spontaneous and fresh and the band sounds fully alive and locked in like they hadn’t sounded in the studio for many years, ripping through a set of classic Chicago blues, in a no-nonsense, nothing to prove style. Mick Jagger in particular sounds genuinely thrilled, singing with great fervor and playing excellent harmonica to boot. Longtime bassist Darryl Jones (a Miles Davis band alum) and the immortal Charlie Watts provide an epic pocket, and Keith Richards is his own fine self with slashing rhythm guitar and soaring leads. “Just Your Fool” comes blasting out of the speakers to open the album, with a ferocious beat and powerful vocals driving the music forward. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime” burns with genuine menace, the danger and sense of longing and danger cutting like shards of glass. Fellow traveller Eric Clapton sits in on slide guitar for the swinging "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" and lead guitar for an incendiary run through the epochal Otis Rush song “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” The group shows superb taste in the music they cover, from Memphis Slim’s piano laced “Blue And Lonesome” taking the title track and pouring emotion and fervor into Magic Sam’s legendary “All of Your Love.” While the Stones’ versions of these classic songs won’t make you forget the originals, they certainly have to bona fides to pull off such a venture. They are able to take these songs and make them their own, paying respect to the musicians that inspired them, and hopefully in turn inspiring listeners to investigate the original versions of these classic songs. Blue and Lonesome -

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bob Dylan - The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert (Sony Legacy, 2016)

1966 was an amazing yet trying time for Bob Dylan. He was at the height of his powers, releasing one groundbreaking LP after another, but exhaustion was setting in. On the boxed set that this two cd set is taken from you can see that he was on a grueling tour from Australia to Europe, and was facing dissent at every turn from longtime fans who felt that he had sold out his values as as a singer of acoustic  protest songs to embrace heathen rock ‘n’ roll. This led to the famous “Judas!” catcall at the Manchester Free Trade Hall concert and even in cosmopolitan London he had to confront a rowdy crowd who didn’t understand that he was a rock ‘n’ roller from the beginning, even expressing a desire to join Little Richard’s band as a teenager in the 1950’s. Regardless, this is a fine show and seems to be a good representative sample of the music that Dylan and the musicians that would soon become The Band were playing on this tour. The first half of the concert and the first disc of the set is made up of a very well received acoustic set with Dylan solo on guitar, harmonica and vocals. This was Dylan in troubador mode and was a favorite of longtime fans, and while his protest songs of the past are absent, the crowd cannot help to be impressed by the sheer wordplay of Dylan narratives like “Visions of Johanna,” “Mr. Tamborine Man” and “Desolation Row” which pile verse upon verse in a poetic fantasia of song, something which had no precedent in popular music at the time. After an intermission, disc two contains the electric set, and while the sound quality is not as good as the previous set, it still captures Dylan now on electric guitar, piano, harmonica and vocals with Rick Danko on bass and backing vocals, Mickey Jones replacing Levon Helm on drums, Robbie Robertson on guitar, Richard Manuel on piano and Garth Hudson on organ. The music they make is rough, raw and very exciting. “Tell Me Mama” and “I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” wave their electric banner proudly, and Dylan bellows from deep down, sounding hoarse but unbowed. The folkie crowd no doubt had a conniption over the electrified remake of “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” and he starts to lose part of the crowd at this point, finally having to plead “They’re all protest songs, now c’mon!” But he’s an old pro at this point and the band rallies for a bluesy “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat” and an ominous piano fueled “Ballad of a Thin Man,” before barrelling to an excellent conclusion with a powerful rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone.” This was a fine concert, and makes for a more economical purchase than the entire boxed set, particularly if you already own The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 which has the Manchester Free Trade Hall concert on it. Play this for any doubters about Bob Dylan’s eligibility for the Nobel Prize, if it doesn’t change their mind than nothing will. The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert -

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Illegal Crowns - Illegal Crowns (Rogue Art, 2016)

This was a very exciting and well played album by four of the best players on the progressive jazz scene: Mary Halvorson on guitar, Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Benoit Delbecq on piano and prepared piano and Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet and flugelhorn. Together they explore six knotty and compelling improvisations, filled with uniformly excellent ensemble playing and imaginative soloing. The musicians are long time collaborators in each others groups and this idea to come together under a common banner is an inspired one. Mary Halvorson’s flinty and sharp guitar playing is a perfect foil for the lyricism of Delbecq and Bynum and Fujiwara’s complex and ever shifting rhythmic patterns offer a wide range of opportunities for the band as a whole. The musicians share a similar aesthetic approach to the music which is to explore, and their curiosity is rewarded throughout the disc. “Colle and Acrylique” has a mysterious and alluring feel, open to interpretation and embellishment via deftly picked guitar and subtle brass and percussion.There is a further example of the band’s intricate interplay on “Solar Mail” where there is an abrupt and dynamic shift from a section of very busy movement to one of relative quiet and the push and pull of these opposing forces make for a buildup of friction and a very interesting listening experience. Musicians nudge each other, setting up a collectively improvised section, aided by Bynum’s trumpet developing a conversational sound. There are solo sections for trumpet and piano, shaded ably by Mary Halvorson’s guitar. The selection of collective improvisation takes on a shape-shifting quality where everything is not quite what it seems. This album worked very well as a whole, the musicians seemed to arrive for the recording with no preconceptions and responded to the music in the moment, creating a powerful statement in the process. When there are musicians with different backgrounds and skill sets playing music with compassion and dignity, their sense of togetherness is really borne out by the playing on this album, propelling the interesting and complex compositions into unexpected areas. The music often changes so rapidly that it seems to be in continuous motion, and it is impressive in its complexity and quite immersive as each member of the band is attuned to the others. This is a very interesting group that makes the most of their long time together by developing a unique group identity and manner of performing. Illegal Crowns -

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Books: Stephen Witt - How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking, 2015)

This was an interesting history of pirated music in the digital era. Although the music industry was rattled by home taping in the 1980's, that was nothing compared to the seismic changes that would come with the explosion of the internet. The author follows multiple plot lines, starting with the development of the MP3 format by German scientists. Although the format was initially scorned, it slowly gained prominence. He follows the story of Dell Glover, an employee of Universal Music at a cd pressing plant, who smuggled thousands of discs and became legendary for uploading hip hop albums weeks ahead of their release schedule often in the company of the enigmatic pirate leader "Kali." Dissemination of pirated music moved from napster to bittorrent and private groups and it began to be matched by legal services led by Apple with iTunes and the iPod and then eventually to streaming via Spotify and You Tube. Eventually the day of reckoning came for the music pirates. The music industry and the FBI launched a series of lawsuits that attacked the major players on the pirating scene. Glover and a few others faced nominal prison sentences, but even with the adoption of streaming services (which are a study in contradictions in their own right) piracy is still in the whack a mole status, because as one service is shut down, two more will open. What made the book particularly interesting was the human approach the author used. Instead of getting overly bogged down in the technology, he would introduce the reader to the key players: scientists, pirates, industry moguls and law enforcement are all presented as people involved in a large and complex drama. How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy -

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Naked Wolf - Ahum (Clean Feed, 2016)

Naked Wolf is a very interesting band that balances exciting outbursts of free improvisation and indie rock with moments of melodic and fragile lyricism. The group consists of Luc Ex on bass, Yedo Gibson on baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones plus clarinet, Gerri Jager on drums, Felicity Provan on trumpet and vocals and Mikael Szafirowski on guitar and vocals. “Wugiwoo” opens the album with a quasi-funky beat and airy female vocals, then incorporating toots of saxophone and snarls of guitar, which move the music forward by creating a nice tight groove. Ominous atmospheric noise sets the stage for “School Der Poëzie” building a droning and pneumatic beat before shifting to a rockish groove with strong vocals. Provan’s trumpet arcs over the busy groove, building to powerful intensity as soprano saxophone breaks out and swirls. “Trust Don't Rye” has metallic guitar riffs, and strutting horns. Spoken male vocals chant, goaded on by the band, strong drumbeat and snarling guitar drop down in tempo, making emotional space for the plaintive vocals. Open sounding female vocals are the centerpiece of “Coloured Gold” and the pace of the music picks up and fills in via strong bass and drum beats, guitar and soprano saxophone, squeaky reeds and brass accent the band’s sound. There is a fast paced full band feel on “Pied Aérolithe” and then female vocals boosted by stuttering guitar and drums and Provan’s trumpet rips against heavy backdrop.  A crushing beat on “Nudge” lurches forward amidst shards of guitar and bleats of brass and reed. With a quality full band improvisation being developed, sounding flinty and progressive, and featuring excellent guitar playing. They make a dynamic downshift to breath sounds from the saxophone and drums before rising again to the conclusion. The title track “Ahum” has vocalizations and bass which move into intricate full band improvisation. Smears of horns, and funky bass drums harken back to Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic music before a shift to a quieter more melodic section is taken. There is a quote from Charles Mingus to begin “Eric Wolfy,” then the group breaks out for streaks of guitar and drums with thick bass and jabs of horns making for a solid collective improvisation, which gains volume and strength impressively and sports a very good solo sport for raw unaccompanied saxophone. Finally, “Sau Sage” features scattered sounds and stuttering horns climbing higher with bass and drums filling in, and culminating in stark guitar riffing intense, before throttling down to quiet and introspective ending. The music on this album is unpredictable, twisting and turning with grace and creativity. The group touches on a number of musical styles and succeed in making them into a personal statement. Ahum -

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Interesting Links

There is a new issue of the great web magazine Point of Departure available.
Tom Hull has posted new Music Week and Streamnotes columns.
Saxophonist Colin Webster is profiled on Bandcamp.
The NYC Winter Jazzfest has developed a fascinating blog interviewing musicians about social justice in music and society.
Here is a great essay by Matt Lavelle about individuality.
Jazz Times profiles percussionists Andrew Cryille and Tyshawn Sorey.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Books: Never a Dull Moment: 1971 - The Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth

The author makes a pretty convincing case that the year 1971 was a watershed in the history of rock 'n' roll and popular music. He takes a month by month approach, with many interesting diversions along the way. This project meant a lot to him, as he was 21 during that epochal year, and don't many music fans think the music of their young adulthood was world changing? It was a different time, when the lack of social media pressure allowed record labels to take risks, where the shadow of The Beatles recent breakup was a scar on the musical landscape that refused to heal despite individual solo albums by each member only fueled more speculation. In many ways it was the year of the singer-songwriter, Carol King's Tapestry, David Bowie's Hunky Dory and works by Cat Stevens, James Taylor and Neil Young as in contrast to The Who's masterpiece Who's Next, which rose from the ashes of the impenetrable Lifehouse project, the swaggering cock-rock of Led Zeppelin IV and Black Sabbath's Master of Reality and Paranoid and the rest of the nascent hard rock being produced. There are a number of interesting vignettes, like the amusing section about the wedding of Mick Jagger in France, as The Rolling Stones had to flee England to become tan exiles on the continent, hammering out new records deals and lawsuits agains the omnipresent Allen Klien, and it would lead them to create some of their finest music in that hothouse environment. It's a clear-eyed look back and a canny reassessment of the music that was created that year and that massive hold that it would gain over popular culture, as those evergreens are the foundation of the re-issues that are released today on a regular basis. Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded -

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Steve Noble and Kristoffer Berre Alberts - Coldest Second Yesterday (Clean Feed, 2016)

This is a very exciting no holds barred duet between Steve Noble on drums and Kristoffer Berre Alberts  tenor saxophone, and they create mighty waves of music over the course of three lengthy selections. Noble has had many superb collaborations with luminaries including Derek Bailey and Peter Brotzmann and Alberts is a rising star who plays with great groups like Cortex and Starlite Motel. The album opens with “Animal Settlement” which bursts into being with crashing drums and wailing saxophone and the improvisation that the two musicians are able to weave together is a very exciting and powerful one. They are able to use sense of dynamism to their advantage, raising and lowering the intensity in an unpredictable fashion and reacting to each other and the music in real time. There is a certain quality of the unknown always present, and Alberts responds with a raw and rough toned patina to his playing which is very evocative in the context of Noble’s powerful drumming and they combine to be a considerable force. Noble’s drums roll and crash, flexing and warping the rhythms he produces. There is a more open and spare sensibility to “Inclination” with Albert’s quavering tone reminiscent of the mid-1960’s tenor saxophone tone of Albert Alyer. The music is deeply free and the musicians are interacting in a very mindful state. Pleas and bleats of air meet with scattered percussion, making the music seem suspended in space, all with a distinct lack of ego. The music builds back up to a thrilling pitch as the musicians explore the widest possibilities for freedom of expression in non-judgemental and unfolding explorations. The penultimate track is “Order Left Behind” which evolves over sixteen minutes into a fantastic improvised journey. Peals of saxophone and poten percussion open the piece strong but the music continues to evolve throughout. The playing is cliche free throughout and riveting to listen to. The music is dense and intense, seeming to drag everything that happens to be in their path dense like a black hole, yet it still producing a raft of little details, inviting close and intense listening. Noble and Alberts Live Kulturhuset, August 4th 2015 (You Tube) Coldest Second Yesterday -

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Damana - Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed, 2016)

Damana or the Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet is a very exciting mid-sized ensemble which assembles some of the very best jazz musicians in Norway, including Kristoffer Alberts on alto saxophone, Jørgen Mathisen on tenor saxophone, André Roligheten on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Hayden Powell on trumpet, Kristoffer Kompen on trombone, Øyvind Dale on piano, Adrian Myhr on bass and Narvesen on drums. The music begins with “Tapatapa” which jumps right out of the starting gate with a punchy theme for the horns and piano to extrapolate upon. Narvesen’s roiling drums keep the music moving forward and there is a very ripe saxophone solo at its center. The rest of the band builds the intensity in excellent fashion, making for a very exciting opening statement. Raw saxophone introduces “Dalbrecht” in tight conversation with potent drumming. There is a taut and impressive duo of saxophone and drums, clearing the path for the rest of the group to blend in, making for a vibrant and colorful performance where everything is interconnected. “Karnivalissimo” opens with simmering piano, bass and drums and the horns form a bold and dramatic frame. There’s an unexpected downshift and space opens for an excellent saxophone solo, connected to the bass and drums with spirit and empathy. Superb bass playing is the foundation of “Suynomi Lettre” and the rest of the band responds in kind with a lush and powerful full band statement of the theme. The three saxophonists intertwine on “Palettfasett” while the band riffs around them creating a Mingus like kaleidoscope of musical color. The brash theme makes way for subtle brass and rhythm section, and then developing a funky section for all of the musicians to enjoy. “Mannen I Tårnet” ends the album in a very exciting fashion with splashy riffs and torrential drumming. A crashing piano chord sends the music into an unexpeted shift with taut bass and drums improvising in consort. The excitement builds back up quickly to a brash and cohesive finale. The compositions on this album are fine and varied, offering a wide array of settings in which to express the band’s talent and they create music it is a uniformly interesting and moving experience. Cornua Copiae -

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Nick Millevoi - Desertion (Shhpuma Records, 2016)

Nick Millevoi is a Philadelphia based guitarist who explores and expands upon the sound of the electric guitar through frequent use of jazz improvisation, feedback and raw noise. He is a member of the groups Many Arms and Haitian Rail, as well as developing projects on his own as a solo guitarist. (YouTube, NYCTaper) On this album he is in the company of Jamie Saft on hammond organ and piano, Johnny DeBlase on acoustic and electric bass and Ches Smith on drums with Dan Blacksberg on trombone and string arrangements and June Bender on violin sitting in. The music on the album is an amalgam of jazz and rock and also travels the folk, country, and blues roots of present day American music with Millevoi exploring the territory in unpredictable ways. “Desertion and the Arsonist’s Match” leads off the album with a lengthy and ominous performance that is moody and exploratory as the thick bass, organ and nimble percussion make for an exciting accompaniment to Millevoi’s open ended guitar explorations. There is a hint of the blues on “Just for a Moment I Stood There in Silence” and the music has space to breathe and develop in an organic fashion. “Where They Do Their Capers” has a cinematic sweep to it, music for a film noir set on a dark and rainy night, with smears or distorted electronics and cymbal washes reverberating across a lonely soundscape. “Disneyland in Hamtramck” has a quieter vibe, with lush organ framing the guitar and drums, and the trio branches out for a lovely improvised section. A sparse acoustic interlude, “The Big Moment Is Always Out There Waiting” has a stark beauty to it, recalling iconoclastic guitarists like John Fahey and Jack Rose. “The Fire That Partially Damaged City Hall” concludes the album in an epic fashion, melding post-rock exploration with jazz improvisation. Swirls of sound branch out like a whirlwind, enveloping Millevoi and whipping his guitar up into a fever pitch, then making way for a fine drum solo. The music on the album develops into a rewarding journey of surprise and discovery, with a wide range of the emotional contexts that reference the jazz and rock of the past while pushing relentlessly forward. Desertion -

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Friday, December 09, 2016

Mats Gustafsson and Christof Kurzmann - Falling and Five Other Failings (Trost Records, 2016)

This is an interesting album of experimental music with Mats Gustafsson playing tenor, baritone and bass saxophones along with the piano mate and Christof Kurzmann using electronics, loops and vocals. The music on this album began as studio based free improvisations with a part of each improvisation that the musicians were most excited by from a musical standpoint was lifted out and kept as an individual composition. The studio was used as a starting point, to create the kernel that would be further developed be the musicians adding and extrapolating upon it. The music that is explored on this collection of recordings is open ended pulse, moving away from the rhythmic nature of jazz and free improvisation. Gustafsson has developed these seeds through his unique approach to his instruments, and the development of pulsating frameworks and volume. The music becomes like an improvised suite between the two musicians, with Gustafsson employing a number of slurs, smears and other techniques that give his saxophone playing an otherworldly quality and Kurzmann returns the favor by adding an electronic soundscape using his laptop and the software that he runs on it, called ppooll and other technology that alternately frames and challenges the music to move forward, looping and distorting the sounds to create a unique atmosphere. The software gives Kurzmann nearly infinite manufacturing possibilities for sound, from creating new material that's used later in performance, and processing sonic events in real time. Kurzmann also sings and vocalizes on “Falling” which adds a different aspect to the music and gives his partner a chance to play some thoughtful and compelling music to support the voice. They bring an interesting conception and approach to experimental music that will hopefully yield further collaborations. Falling and Five Other Failings -

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Nate Wooley, Hugo Antunes, Jorge Queijo, Mário Costa and Chris Corsano - Purple Patio (NoBusiness Records, 2016)

This group represents some of the cream of the American and European improvised music scene, including Nate Wooley on trumpet, Hugo Antunes on bass and Jorge Queijo, Mário Costa and Chris Corsano on drums. All of the music was collectively composed and improvised and this album was recorded May 12, 2012 in Portugal. “Parturition” begins the album in an explosive fashion with fast and hard drums and slashing trumpet making for a very exciting performance. There is a ferocity here that is found nowhere else on the album, and even when they throttle back, it’s just to marshal forces to surge forth once again with gales of percussion and trumpet rushing to the finish in a thrilling and life affirming performance. Long tones of trumpet usher in “Aurora” which is punctuated with streams and squeaks of sound. The bass builds in both bowed and plucked and the percussion develops in a skittering, nervous fashion. The group slowly gains velocity in an elusive and ride ranging improvisation. “Animals” envelops the listener in subtle interplay between Wooley and the percussionists. The music is tight and the development of the collective improvisation between trumpet, bass and drummers is unhurried and thoughtful. Bowed bass and rumbling percussion are the foundation or “Triangle” making way for a lengthy percussion dialogue that is subtle and nuanced. Finally, “Sueca” has deep bass and rolling percussion backed by strong trumpet playing. The group gets a respectful clean sound that is well articulated with Wooley’s horn juxtaposed against the thicket of percussion and bass. The music ends strong with piercing trumpet and thick bass resonating against the ripening drumming in a very exciting fashion. Purple Patio - NoBusiness Records

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Sao Paulo Underground - Cantos Invisíveis (Cuneiform Records, 2016)

Cornetist and electronic musician Rob Mazurek is one of the most consistently interesting 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 features Mauricio Takara on drums, electronics and voice and Guilherme Granado on keyboards, percussion and voice. They’re joined on several tracks by Thomas Rohrer on reeds, percussion and voice. The band sounds much bigger than three musicians with their use of electronics and strong percussion recalling Sun Ra’s most progressive records like Atlantis and The Magic City. This album truly sounds like a collaborative effort and the personalities of the group shine throughout. The music on this album works very well, and the group supersedes any easy genre description in developing a broad and resonant sound which is pushed forth with an energetic vigor. The music on this album deftly mixes influences: contemporary Brazilian music, electronics and spiritual jazz like an updated version of Impulse Records early 70's groove and free jazz LP’s by Archie Sheep and Pharaoh Sanders create a sound that moves like a dreamscape and every track works well as its own self-contained sound world while melding into the cohesive whole of the album. Mazurek, who has worked in several different musical contexts plays very well here, accenting the music and the electronic sculptures and punctuating the music with solo cornet breakouts. The group’s music here defies any particular box or category, drifting on a wave of freedom and possibility and making extraordinary music throughout with a unique approach to structure.Cantos Invisíveis -

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Barry Guy - The Blue Shroud (Intakt Records, 2016)

British bassist and composer Barry Guy has produced a large, expansive, progressive recording which melds spoken word, vocalization, strings and best of all some torrid sections of large group improvisation. This longform composition by Guy was recorded October 17 and 18, 2015 during the Ad Libitum Festival in Warsaw. Guy has written many compositions for the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and his own New Orchestra, and this is a large scale work designed for a new international ensemble. Guy's work The Blue Shroud was influenced by the paintings of Pablo Picasso. Not only is the music designed to commemorate the people of the Spanish towns who were victims of the Nazi German air force bombardment during the Spanish Civil War but also Guy wants to remind listeners of the sad episode when the Picasso’s work at the United Nations Security Council was covered by a blue drape during the discussions that led to the ill fated war in Iraq. Guy looks to use the healing power of music to take on the sadness of these historical events, making pains to call into account the impact of the military might, governmental folly and the media blindness. Barry Guy uses the techniques of new music and jazz improvisation, as well as fragments of classical music and a section of poetry. It results in a powerful and imposing piece of music. The voice and song of Greek singer Savina Yannatou is at the center of much of the music, providing a deep sense of gravitas, but also rays of hope and the presence of humanity. The band is anchored by the leader’s bass along with four reeds, brass, piano, strings and two drummers. The instrumentalists are able to provide the sombre music necessary to support the vocalizations, but is also able to break out with some fantastic and torrential playing the exemplifies the futility of war, but also provides the catharsis to move beyond it. The Blue Shroud -

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Abbey Rader West Coast Quartet ‎– First Gathering (Abray Productions, 2015)

Drummer Abbey Rader has made a major resurgence over the past year with his excellent Reunion title which featured Kidd Jordan and this album which places him with Drew Ceccato on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Peter Kuhn (who put out two excellent albums of his own this year) on alto and tenor saxophones, plus bass clarinet and Kyle Motl on bass. The music on this album consists of four very exciting and open ended performances, which allow the group to explore a wide range of dynamic ranges and feelings. “Foreign Dust” opens the album in a very exciting manner with the twin saxophone front line putting together a series of relentless improvisations solo and duet with the rhythm section of bass and drums keeping the pressure on as the music boils mightily. Motl plays some excellent bowed bass on the following track “Inward Light” which does build a more introspective examination with haunting reeds and spare percussion. The group takes action in traveling through an undefined musical area in order to learn about it. The concluding tracks, “Enduring Mind” and “Realization To Truth” take a path of constant motion between the two extremes. Kuhn’s bass clarinet is particularly impressive in adding color and depth to the music which is characterized by unpredictable change, activity, and progressive exploration of the improvised music format. Rader’s music is a force that stimulates change or progress within modern jazz thorough analysis of a composition or theme and hopefully these albums will get him some much deserved attention in the jazz world. First Gathering -

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