Monday, January 30, 2017

Recent Listening 1/30

John Abercrombie Quartet - Up and Coming (ECM Records, 2017) Guitarist John Abercrombie builds upon the success he found on his pervious album, 39 Steps, with another quartet album featuring Marc Copland on piano, Drew Gress on bass and Joey Baron on drums. The music is patient and melodic, and at times mild and melancholy. The musicians approach the songs on this album with a sense of calm beauty, and the music is taken at a mostly ballad or medium tempo, like on the Miles Davis standard "Nardis" or the original and intricately woven "Silver Circle" but they will then occasionally move into a faster setting as on the short and sweet "Flipside." The band is up to the challenge of this type of playing, moving with tactful restraint and developing what sounds like a crystalline latticework of notes and chords building to a thoughtful approach to melody and improvisation. The music is very atmospheric in its approach, flowing like a current of air or water, with mellow turns of phrase rather then jarring leaps.
Mats Gustafsson and Craig Taborn - Ljubljana (Clean Feed Records, 2017) This is an inspired if unexpected meeting of the minds between the pianist Taborn and milti-instrumentalist Gustafsson who opts for slide and baritone saxophone on this album, which was recorded live and unrehearsed at the 2015 Ljubljana, Slovenia Jazz Festival. They develop a two-part collective improvisation that is dynamic and free flowing, beginning with "The Eyes Moving. Slowly" which hits like a truck to begin with massive guttural waves of saxophone met by expansive and powerful keyboard playing. In the lighter moments of the music, Taborn is able to provide delicate showers of notes met by Gustafsson's percussive popping of his saxophone keys which allow to music to claim a much larger sound field than you might anticipate. The second track, "The Ears Facing the Fantasies. Again" is a more open an expansive improvisation, with the musicians finding common ground that is at times lyrical and light, and then able to probe the darker corners of improvised music.
Ballister - Slag (Aerophonic Records, 2017) The balls-to-the-wall jazz trio Ballister consists of Dave Rempis on alto and tenor saxophones, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion. They have recorded several excellent albums in the past and this one is no different, capturing a white-hot performance from Cafe Oto in London in 2015. The music is outrageously exciting right off the bat on "Fauchard" with coruscating saxophone, mutating amplified cello and ferocious drumming pinning the listener in their seat. The music is raw and so very much alive that it can even lift clinical depression, whipping from full throttle scouring to the quiet abstract passages of "Guisarme." Things come full circle on the concluding track "Glaive" where Lonberg-Holm simply outdoes himself, combining the cello and electronics to create squalls of Hendrixian feedback that just take the music over the top.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

King Crimson - Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson Live (DGM, 1999)

The venerable British progressive rock powerhouse King Crimson has issued many compilations over the course of their history to better help fans understand the unique periods of the band's career and the wide range of personnel that have served in the group during their nearly fifty year history. The sole constant in the group is founder and guitarist Robert Fripp and he chose the selections on this album with help of producer David Singleton. The first disc is entitled Neon Heart Disease and is covers the 1984-1998 period of the band where Adrian Belew joined the group as vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter, Tony Levin anchored the band on bass and Chapman Stick and Bill Bruford was the primary percussionist. This version of the band had a more nimble approach than the hulking behemoth that came before it, incorporating elements of New Wave into an intricate and powerful style. Which isn't to say that the band couldn't rock out as evidenced by the witty lyrics and skill crushing beat of the opening track "Dinosaur" and the guitar pyrotechnics of "Red." But the group changed with the times and the spritely social commentary of "Neurotica" and breakneck speed of "Elephant Talk" are offset by the weightier "B'Boom" and "Thrak." Disc two is called Fractured and gives a thumbnail sketch of the band's music in the late sixties and early seventies. Groundbreaking tracks like ""21st Century Schizoid Man" and "In the Court of the Crimson King" get rough and ready treatments that make up in intensity what they lose in sound quality. A punishing version of "Easy Money" and the majestic "Starless" highlight the peerless version of the band that featured Fripp, Bruford, John Wetton on bass and vocals and David Cross on violin and keyboards. One one ringer on this disc is the version of the burning instrumental "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part II" which was recorded with a different configuration in 1996. This collection succeeds admirably in giving the listener a taste of how formidable King Crimson was as a live act over the course of their career, and this has only become more pronounced when a version of the band featuring three drummers roared back to life in 2013, delighting audiences around the globe. Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson Live -

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Various Artists - The Rough Guide To Ethiopian Jazz (World Music Network, 2016)

It seems like an odd place for jazz inflected music to flourish, but Addis Ababa in Ethiopia was once the center of a thriving music scene, in the years before and after a Communist junta took power and years of endless warfare and famine laid waste to all that came before it. As with most of the Rough Guide compilation albums, you get a brief taste of the music that the bands and the people of the region recorded, beginning with "Gamo" by Mulatu Astatke, the patron saint of Ethiopian jazz, who left home to study engineering, but wound up entranced by jazz and improvised music at the Berklee School of Music, before returning home to fuse the improvised music of the United States with the rhythms and traditions of his homeland. He would become a hero to musicians in both countries, even playing host to Duke Ellington before the maestro passed away in 1974. Saxophonist Gétatchèw Mèkurya is joined on this album by the anarchist Dutch punk rock band and relentless musical explorers The Ex and other musical friends on "Ambassel" making for a riotous cross-current of powerhouse rhythm and freely improvised music that knows no boundaries. The final track on the album is the elegiac solo piano improvisation "The Homeless Wanderer" by Emahoy Tsegue-Maryal Guebrou. The music is sad yet defiant, seemingly symbolizing the triumph and heartbreak that musician and citizens of the country as a whole have endured in the post World War II era. This album makes for a fine introduction for the curious, and the music of Ethiopia has entranced progressive American jazz musicians like Ken Vandermark and the Either/Orchestra, so it makes for an inexpensive starting point to explore the rich tradition of Ethiopian jazz. There is a solid and informative liner essay and a few photographs of the musicians. For a deeper dive, the multi-volume Éthiopiques series of albums is the logical next step, with albums that cover the major periods and styles of music in fine depth and is a voyage well worth taking. The Rough Guide To Ethiopian Jazz -

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Aki Takase / David Murray - Cherry - Sakura (Intakt Records, 2017)

Coming hard on the heels of the excellent collaboration album Perfection, saxophonist and bass clarinet player David Murray teams up with pianist Aki Takase for a stellar album of duet performances. They open the album with the dark and moody "Cherry - Sakura" which is dark and lonely, yet romantic. There are solo spots for each musician and some lush collective playing. "A Very Long Letter" is fast and bouncy with a buoyant pulse. Murray plays some very exciting and scouring tenor saxophone which is balanced by rippling and dynamic piano. The music is reflexive, powerfully strong and rhythmic, with solo spots for squalls of muscular saxophone, and clashing notes and chords. The Thelonious Monk composition "Let's Cool One" is a real treat with swinging bass clarinet and piano developing into a great keyboard solo which has a touch of the stride style, and then a return to a dancing and swaying duet. The lush tenor saxophone and piano ballad "To A.P. Kern" has a soft, sultry and very patient form, with well executed solo sections for each musician. "Stressology" is a very nice medium to up tempo song that evokes powerful peals of sound from Murray's saxophone, which sounds truly inspired, and he is met with a classy statement from his partner. Murray develops a scratchy, raw and immediate tone on "Nobuko" which is met with a full and serious tone from the keyboard, developing into a patient and spacious improvised section. They return to a bright and swinging feel on "Blues for David," making for a rich sounding conversation amongst friends, and a patient and thoughtful piano solo. Finally, "A Long March to Freedom" ends the album in sparkling form, beginning at a medium to low tempo, approaching a ballad format, with Murray's huge tenor saxophone tone engaging Takase's deep and emotional piano chords. The music evolves into a soulful and gentle duet with spacious piano playing and lustrous saxophone. This music has the makings of an inspired partnership, and the album will be released next month marking a bravura performance that should not be missed. Cherry - Sakura - Intakt Records

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Friends and Neighbors - What's Wrong (Clean Feed, 2016)

Friends and Neighbors is an up and coming modern jazz band from Norway that took their name from an Ornette Coleman LP called Friends and Neighbors: Live at Prince Street. This is appropriate since they have a wonderful free-bop sound which recalls the classic Coleman quintet and combines post-bop jazz with sections of free improvisation. The band consists of Andre Roligheten on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Oscar Gronberg on piano, Jon Rune Strom on bass and Tollef Ostvang on drums.  The band comes out hard on the opening track, "What's Wrong" with a strong horn fanfare and powerful rhythm section play of rippling piano, bass and drums. Johansson's trumpet reaches forth into silence, and then is met by strong riffs from the group, and develops a spitfire solo statement. Roligheten's saxophone is next to branch out for a solo, powerfully moving amidst the band's accompaniment, making for a suspenseful, constantly evolving journey. "Fool's Pay" features a brash opening section for horns and drums with some excellent fluid and flowing piano playing making up the middle section, where Gronberg dances mightily across the keys at times recalling Don Pullen or Cecil Taylor. Another interlude for trumpet and band interaction follows, followed by a turbulent saxophone based section which gets get deeper and deeper as the music goes on, resonating across the music in a very potent fashion. The horns sputter and squeal in an exciting fashion on "Friends," twirling around each other like ecstatic dancers in open space. The whole band crashes in and things really take off, before cutting out for a bass solo, then building back up with strong and rhythmic drums and piano and then the full band comes together for an excellent conclusion. "Jaguar" has a punchy and bracing theme, that opens up for piano and bass clarinet, which traverse the wide open sound field. Things slowly fill in, let by trumpet and deep seated bass and the full band pulling together for some excellent collective improvisation. This was a fine album from an exciting band. Their debt to Coleman's music is clear, but his music is only the starting point, and this excellent band is making fine original music on their own. What's Wrong? -

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Francois Carrier with Michael Lambert and Alexey Lapin - Freedom is Space for the Spirit (FMR Records, 2016)

This is a well performed modern jazz album, which is led by Francois Carrier on alto saxophone and Chinese oboe, with Michael Lambert on drums and Alexey Lapin on piano. This is their sixth album as a trio (with number seven on the way!) and the empathy between the musicians is palpable in their interactions and support for one another. The music is entirely improvised and was recorded live at the Experimental Sound Gallery in St. Petersburg in 2014. Their sound is open and spacious with the improvisations developing slowly and then blooming into wide ranging music. Carrier has a full bodied saxophone tone and leads some bracing improvisations that are taken at an exhilarating pace. He moves the saxophone through a number of filigrees and structures that coalesce into a free and unencumbered flight. The group develops a crystalline sound which builds in abstraction, akin to the ambiance of a lonely night in a big city, but still remains accessible with the musicians in full support of one another. When the musicians move dynamically through a number of textures and tempos they keep the music interesting, performing exploratory jazz that continuously evolves as it proceeds, developing layer upon layer in the process. The lack of bass allows the music to float freely and not be pinned down, giving space for the improvisations to develop organically. Carrier's oboe adds an interesting tinge to the music, allowing an Eastern feel to add to the overall texture of the music. This was a fine album, of interest not only to for free jazz fans, but modern jazz fans in general. It goes beyond strict musical boundaries into a form all of its own. Using a blend of modern jazz and free improvisation, the group is able to create space for spontaneous and soaring interactive playing. Freedom is Space for the Spirit -

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Ivo Perelman with William Parker and Gerald Cleaver - The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 4 (Leo Records, 2016)

Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman releases another excellent album in this ambitious series of trio recordings with this very exciting encounter between himself and the incomparable William Parker on bass and Perelman's go-to drummer, Gerald Cleaver. This is a great recording, a three section collective improvisation that allows the trio an expansive arena in which to express themselves. "Part One" begins the movement in a patient and thoughtful manner, gradually developing the improvisation in a rich fashion. The main event is "Part Two" which is a very impressive forty minute performance that moves forward at a very nice pace. Cleaver is the perfect drummer for this type of free jazz, and he guides the music into developing episodically, moving waves of percussive sound that ebbs and flows, adding color and shading to the music. Parker's bass playing is on a grand scale with a huge tone and the dexterity to move all around the sound landscape, supporting and accenting the music. Perelman is particularly inspired in this section, reaching deep within himself for some of his most lyrical, yet unfettered playing to date. The masterful support of Parker and Cleaver allow Perelman to to manipulate the time and space of the music, moving in three spacial dimensions plus time to create music that moves from raw and unfettered to abstract and spacious. "Part Three" wraps up the music nicely, providing a logical and thoughtful conclusion to a well played and recorded performance. This is vibrant and exciting jazz that is made up of the sound of surprise and collaboration between like minded souls. The Art Of The Improv Trio Volume 4 -

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Keith Jarrett - A Multitude of Angels (ECM, 2016)

Keith Jarrett has been releasing archival sets of his work for quite a while now. This is one of his most ambitious projects, a four-disc set of recordings from a series of solo concerts recorded in Italy in October 1996, which documented four nights of performances from Modena, Ferrara, Turin, and Genoa. These were the last concerts he played having no breaks within each set and after these concerts were recorded, Jarrett fell quite ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, and retired from concert performance. Thankfully, his health has recovered and he is actively recording and performing again. The music stands as some of the best solo performing he has released, at times as populist and approachable as the Koln concert or as exploratory as the Bremen/Lausanne performances. Jazz improvisation is at the forefront here alongside touches of classical music. These performances are mostly spontaneous improvisations, and the music is free flowing with a sense of wonder to it, as if he is delighted at the potential paths that are revealed to him as the music develops. Jarrett tosses of a couple of standards, "Danny Boy" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as encores, showing wit and humor along with the more serious music, which in itself can range from a meditative state of grace to a percussive groove. The main performances vary in length from twenty to forty-five minutes and it is very impressive that Jarrett is able to reel the listener in and invite them into what is a very personal sound world. He has been quoted as saying that he just lets the music flow as a river would and this is an apt analogy. The concerts on this album, were recorded by Jarrett himself on a DAT machine, and the sound is very good and immediate, however it does capture quite clearly Jarrett's vocalizing along with his improvisations and this could be a potential turnoff for some. But if you can compartmentalize that and focus on the music, the improvisations are very impressive and rewarding, worthy of the investment spent listening to them. A Multitude Of Angels -

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Paul Dunmall Quartet - Underground Underground (Slam Productions, 2016)

This is a very exciting small band free jazz album with Paul Dunmall and Howard Cottle on tenor saxophones, Olie Brice on bass and Tony Bianco on drums. Dunmall and Bianco have created a series of stellar John Coltrane tributes over the past few years and this album expands on that idea as this time the music is composed by Dunmall, though inspired by Coltrane, specifically his posthumously released Sunship LP. “Underground Underground” opens the album with storming full throttle music, with deep throaty saxophones in full gear rolling over torrential bass and drums. Two saxophones raise the intensity to hair raising levels with squalls of bass and drumming keeping pace. Swirls of noise and bursts of drums, move to a thrilling over the top conclusion that is stunning its power. They come out of the gate storming at full throttle on “The Inner Silence Was Too Loud” with deep guttural saxophones in full gear roaring over torrential drumming which blooms into a full rich sound. Raw peals of sound with a diamond hard tone, and a foundation of bass and drums all working in consort, developing shadows and light. Soloists shift from one saxophone to another, each with unique tones feeding a dark reverie and pushing forth. “Sunup” keeps the pressure on, with the two saxophones plus bass and drums developing a sound that belies the quartet format. The bass and drums ripple in a muscular fashion, supporting the saxophones which stalk the music like predators at the top of the food chain. There is a collective blowout with all instruments at maximum and then making way for a rattling drum solo. After the epic drum solo, the group displays amazing stamina which builds to a massive brawl of noise and excitement and collective caterwauling. The epic performance “Timberwolf” begins with a taut bass solo, which is eventually met by blasts of scalding saxophone roaring across the musical landscape. There are sharp needles of sound pushing forth waves of energy. The saxophones become intertwined above the roiling drums. The music is very exciting but nearly excausting in its unrelenting power. This was a very successful album which takes the lessons that John Coltrane taught in the min-1960’s and brings them into the present moment with great vigor. Fans of dynamic free jazz will be very satisfied with this album. Underground Underground -

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ivo Perelman with Joe Morris and Gerald Cleaver - The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 6 (Leo Records, 2016)

Saxophonist Ivo Perelman saves one of the best albums of this series of trio recordings for last with this very exciting encounter with Joe Morris on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. This is a live recording which adds to the listener's anticipation, recorded at the Manhattan Inn in New York City. The music consists of an expansive forty-two minute collective improvisation and then a shorter encore. Although Morris may be best known as a guitarist, he has been recording on bass for several years and has developed an admirable approach to the instrument, bowing and plucking with aplomb, and he is at the center of the music that is created on this album. Cleaver has a unique conception his instrument as well, developing swathes of percussive sound that seem to shift and sway like desert sands, adding color and shading to the music. The leader sounds particularly inspired by their company and he is very comfortable in the live setting and with the sympathetic audience which allows him to stretch out with great gales of sound, encouraged and challenged by his colleagues. The music is light and lithe despite its power, which is considerable. The three musicians are truly in the moment working together collectively in real time to produce music that waxes and wanes, from torrential bursts of sound to abstract and quieter tones that frame the overall soundscape of the music. They work together in consort, laying the building blocks for their music and then setting the catalyst free that gives them the spark of life and the energy needed to improvise at such a high and courageous level. The musicians are in the act of creation live, not only are the members of the trio dependent on each other for the success of the endeavor, but a crowd of onlookers is also hanging on every note. This is jazz in it's purest sense, shorn of artifice and laid bare for all to see. The Art Of The Improv Trio Volume 6 -

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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Momentum - Momentum (Clean Feed, 2016)

Momentum is a Norwegian collective jazz group featuring Jørgen Mathisen on soprano and tenor saxophone, Christian Meaas Svendsen on bass and Andreas Wildhagen on drums. This album was recorded in Oslo on October 1st 2015, Mathisen composed the first two tracks and the final two were collective improvisations. “Gaining” opens the album with raw smears of sound, using scrapes of drums, fluttering saxophone and ominous bass. The music moves slowly forward as the musicians engage one another, moving massive blocks of sound and building with them. This evolves into “Maintaining” which develops the excitement with a choppy sound, building the suspense as the tempo rises. Short bursts of sound are carefully piled upon one another connoting forward motion as the urgency of the playing becomes frantic. The interaction between the musicians is very impressive and they hold fast to the theme that they have developed as it becomes nearly overwhelming. “Momentum” is the longest performance on the album and it opens with an exciting free jazz squall of torrid music. Raw, scouring saxophone in league with sawing bowed bass and thunderous drumming makes for a potent package and gives the group a raw and gutsy sound. The develop a very exciting and delightfully loud group improvisation of harrowing intensity as if all of the kinetic energy that had built up previously was being released. They throttle back the intensity to an open and abstract section for bowed bass and scattered drumming, with skittering saxophone commenting. The dynamics of this epic performance begin to rise again as they gain in volume and forward motion, and they are able to develop a big and brawny sound which is immediate and hard hitting with scalding saxophone atop thrashing bass and drums, nerve wracking yet thrilling. Fast trills of saxophone in space open the concluding track, “Snake Ballad” and the saxophonist develops a very nice sound somewhat similar to Peter Brotzman’s exotic tárogató calling out piercing tones over deep emotional wells of bass and drums. The music evolves episodically with open space for thick bass and subtle percussion. Mathisen’s saxophone renters as the group moves to a majestic conclusion. This was a very well done and unpredictable album that fans of modern jazz will enjoy. Momentum -

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

Ken Vandermark and Lasse Marhaug - Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) (Catalytic Sound, 2016)

Reed player and composer Ken Vandermark is a relentless and courageous musical explorer, and this album may be one of his most experimental albums yet. It is a duet performance, playing one forty minute improvisation, “Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami)”, and he is performing with Lasse Marhaug on electronics, recorded live in Oslo in May of 2016. Abbas Kiarostami was an Iranian filmmaker, and his work deeply influenced Vandermark who is both a cinephile and film scholar. The music is a torrid free improvisation, with Vandermark using saxophones and clarinet and Marhaug using a battery electronics to challenge and explore. Vandermark’s playing is appropriately raw and powerful, bursting peals of wounded sound that engages and embraces the electronics, taking the music in unexpected directions. The music weaves dynamically through sections of ominous abstractions and epic blowouts. Both musicians show a great deal of stamina, while improvising and creating the music in real time, reacting to one another and pushing the boundaries of their respective instruments. Their creation goes beyond the bounds of music and develops the ideas of painting or sculpting with sound or in this case perhaps trying to present an aural cinematic experience, an improvised film of their soundworld at this time and place which creates a powerful emotional response. Blocks of electronics and sheer sound met by the reed instruments sound like the transmission of an alien civilization, calling out into the void. There is a strong sense of motion in their collaborative improvisation, bursts of pure noise and lines of music that intertwine at an almost molecular level. The electronics have a gritty distortion which aggressively grates on the music and using the electronics in very different ways, laying down a sonic foundation for Vandermark in improvise over or moving in the opposite direction. This music is tremendously exciting and almost overpowering, fans of adventurous music would do well to check it out. Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) - Bandcamp.

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Friday, January 06, 2017

Tisziji Muñoz - When Coltrane Calls Session 1: Fierce Compassion (Anami Music, 2016)

The prolific guitarist Tisziji Muñoz is developing a series of albums that look into the music and the legacy of John Coltrane. This is the first release of the series where the accompanying musicians included John Medeski on piano, George Koller, John Benitez and Don Pate on bass and Tony Falco, Bob Moses and Adam Benham on percussion. The band comes forth with a great sense of urgency on this album and the music has a very exciting sense of burning free form jazz fusion with extended electric guitar playing that recalls Sonny Sharrock and Jimi Hendrix along with Coltrane. "Wise One" opens the album with scalding electric guitar, and drums keep pace, and Munoz plays with a terrific sense of immediacy and the musicians accompanying him feed this fire. The brilliant and haunting dirge of Coltrane's "Alabama" is met with deep empathy by the musicians as they use the melody to carve their own path through the music. "Ogunde 1" was from Coltrane's last album and explored freedom in his most personal way. The musicians on this album stretch and meld the music in their own manner with gales of scalding guitar, rippling piano and slashing drums. They take the music far out and explore the freedoms offered by the music in a dense and exciting manner. They develop one of the masters most enduring melodies on "Lonnie's Lament" with fine solo statements and ensemble playing, especially by Medeski who seems especially attuned to the music. The music has the feeling of questing, as if the musicians are searching for a new dimension of musical time and space. The sound multiple drummers and bassists with piano develops wide ranging sense of rhythms. This was an excellent if a little lengthy album, and fans of electric guitar in either a jazz or rock setting will be thrilled. Medeski’s contribution is quite fine, and he does make his presence known, and this affecting of modern spiritual jazz is highly recommended. When Coltrane Calls Session 1: Fierce Compassion -

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

John Zorn - The Classic Guide to Strategy - Vol. 4 (Tzadik, 2016)

I have often thought that as much as I enjoy John Zorn's composing that I miss the sound of his saxophone. This album slakes that thirst in an extraordinary fashion. This is one of his most personal projects, solo saxophone improvisations, which have been developing over the course of more than forty years. Using the instrument as sound creation device, he builds a musical language of amazing versatility. "The Wind Book 1" has raw and scouring bleats and squeaks that create their own individual sound universe as Zorn's saxophone plays off against the empty space, and uses it as a dueling partner. Long blasts of sound are exciting in a frightening manner. Quick bobs and flutters are played and then the almost impossibly high pitches of the longer tones as the music becomes devastating in its intensity. He is able to create percussive popping sounds, that are like hollow percussion and juxtapose them against long slow foghorn like tones. Circular swathes of sound rotate faster and faster, building up centripetal force that is very powerful, using kinetic energy and potential energy to create a unique improvisatory sound, while also tapping and lightly playing the keys of the instrument to create a percussion sound. There are longer tones of sound on "The Wind Book 2" and shorter bursts that play off against the earlier vocabulary, with fluttering gasps and windy squeals. Sounds like metal rending, and softer sounds give the music an incredible variety, and stark growls evoke monstrous pain. He uses silence as a way to sculpt his sound and hone it to a razor sharpness, creating his own styles and situations, whether referencing jazz or music from beyond any conceivable category. "The Wind Book 3" is where scarred vocal like sounds stretch the music as arcs of pure sound rip overhead.  It's possible to hear the sounds of insects, birds, and other animals big and small clamoring about within the music. Stark and spacious darker tones begin "The Wind Book 4" and the sounds evolve and dissipate in a brooding and melancholy fashion, creating a haunted and cinematic landscape. There is space to allow saxophone to resonate with stark cries filling the air, with spacious lines of sound that come as a surprise considering what had come before. Finally, "The Wind Book 5" expands the music with sheer volume and dense energy, with shapes and figures blending into one massive edifice. It's hard to believe that this is a continuous solo set from one individual creating in real time. The music is shocking to hear, but it is not played for shock value. This is one man crying out in a unique voice that he has spent a lifetime honing. The Classic Guide to Strategy - Vol. 4 -

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Chicago Plan - self titled (Clean Feed, 2016)

The Chicago Plan is an exciting new project that brings together longtime creative partners Steve Swell on trombone and Gebhard Ullmann on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet and matches them with Windy City stalwarts Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Michael Zerang on drums. The results are very positive, with brawny modern jazz being combined with an experimental tinge culminating in excellent results. The album begins with “Variations on a Master Plan, Pt. 3” with brisk playing from the horns on the frontline, and solid cello and drums underneath. The music is brawny and focused, opening up space for a saxophone and trombone dialogue, before stronger drums and bowed cello reenter the picture and have their own moment in the sun, then developing a fine full band collective improvisation. The massive eighteen minute edifice of “Composite #10” begins with an very impressive open ended percussion solo, which develops a wide range of rhythmic possibilities. The music then unfolds like in a suite like fashion, with the horns and cello barrelling in forcefully, making for an exciting and slashing improvised section for the whole group. Sawing cello and saxophone duel in a stark and unadorned manner, then lead the music to a more subtle and abstract arena. The music boldly moves between abstraction and full throated improvisation, weaving the threads together seamlessly. “Rule #1 Make Sure You Can Play Your Own Tune” comes out hard with a beefy theme that the musicians then develop variations upon, with rough, tough horns muscling through strident drums and cello. Ullman breaks free for an exciting saxophone solo aided by fast paced drums and cello, which take the deep structure of the music and pull it together. Swell then steps forward for a fine feature of his own, followed by a raw and scouring cello section, before everyone comes together to power forward to the conclusion. This is exciting modern jazz that stretches across broad swaths of improvised music, it is strong, and occasionally abstract but ultimately riveting. The music makes for a set of challenging musical sensibilities but remains accessible to the listener, and make one hope that this is the first of many albums from this excellent band. Chicago Plan -

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