Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hamar Trio - Yesterday Is Here (Clean Feed, 2018)

The Hamar Trio consists of Klaus Ellerhusen Holm on clarinet and alto saxophone, Hernani Faustino on bass and Nuno Morao on drums and percussion. The music was recorded in November 2016 in Portugal and begins with "Yellow Plum," which opens the album with spare reed sounds, and barely heard percussion using feathering brushes, clarinet and long tones of bowed bass. They create an uncomfortable, unsettling sound collage, one that grows louder, coalescing into a collective improvisation as clarinet and bowed bass undulate in constant motion, leading into a quiet middle of abstract improvisation. It's a complex, tight act of spontaneous creation, growing gradually louder with sweeping clarinet and their loud/soft, light/dark dynamic setting the pace for the album. A deep and raw toned alto saxophone leads "Sjoorm" with taut bass in music that flexes its muscles and circulates well rhythmically, rough hewn and powerful, moving to a robust free improvisation, gaining momentum and spinning with centripetal force, open and unencumbered and playing with great enthusiasm. Gales of saxophone alternating with long alarming tones of sound and earthy plucked bass are met with incisive drumming carry them to the outer edge of improvisation and the conclusion of the performance. "Sour Apple" also uses long tones of saxophone rolling out over crisply played cymbals and rumbling drums invoking a mysterious feeling as the bass bounds along. The saxophone breaks out a little more clearly, playing an unaccompanied section, sounding naked and unadorned, and emotionally free, before the bass and drums crash back in driving the music faster and louder into an exciting free improvisation with covers an impressive length of time in a performance that is filled with great enthusiasm and eagerness, gradually downshifting in intensity, coalescing around a tight drum pattern for the closing. Unexpected sounds varying in pitch and strength give "Yesterday is Here" it's ailen soundscape, sounding unsettled, urgent and stressed. The percussive brushes paint shifting and shuffling layers while the saxophone emits a piercing, arcing sound that is almost painful to hear. They have become sound scientists, looking to see how far they can manipulate their instruments, seeking inner and outer space, juxtaposing silence with harrowing vibrations. They create strange and fascinating results, one gets the feeling that Sun Ra would be proud. Give them credit: their music is powerful and bracing stuff. Yesterday is Here -

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Martin Blume - Frames and Terrains (No Business, 2018)

This is an exciting and well articulated freely improvised collaboration between Martin Blume on drums and percussion, Tobias Delius on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Achim Kaufmann on piano and Dieter Manderscheid on bass. The album was recorded in June on 2016 in Cologne, Germany and begins with "Frames and Terrains Part 1" which opens with a probing collective improvisation amongst the players, with deeply earthy saxophone following shimmering piano which prances and pounces as the intensity of the performance grows. The solo section for keyboard is stellar, with lush chords and sparkling notes, sending the bass and drums scurrying back in, followed by the saxophone. There is a portion of eerie bowed bass and subtle saxophone, leading to a level of abstraction that interweaves interesting percussion, spacious smears and growls, picking up the pace and adding complexity before dropping back and using dynamic control also adding a lonely bowed bass solo that is laced with haunted beauty. Rending tenor saxophone and fluttering percussion open "Frames and Terrains Part 2," then adding piano chords and elastic bass to achieve a full quartet improvisation. Raw saxophone and dark piano evoke dark storms on the horizons, and the rippling piano speeds up and all of the instruments bob to the surface in the course of an enticing free for all. Ratcheting down to near silence, the group explores the nature of sound in open space, with feathery percussion, stretching bass and curls of clarinet. Spare droplets of piano notes grow in size and shape as the the band's improvisation shape shifts once again, moving into a rapid and exciting piano, bass and drums trio section, of all out improvisation, soon joined by the saxophone, keeping the urgent pace and clarifying the nature of the music. The full band purrs along nicely playing a fast collective improvisation at a moderate volume to an impressive conclusion. Frames and Terrains - No Business Records.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Muriel Grossmann - Golden Rule (Dreamlandrecords, 2018)

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Muriel Grossmann played in jazz, funk and world music bands across Europe, and on this album she takes a vibrant and very impressive approach to spiritual jazz, accompanied by Radomir Milojkovic on guitar, Gina Schwarz on bass and Urns Stamenkovic on drums. "Golden Rule" develops a deeply rhythmic foundation with soprano saxophone burrowing through, developing a melody for the band to extrapolate upon. Grossmann's saxophone is fleet and nimble, fluttering around the bass and drums and gaining strength, leading to a collective improvisation that works well in terms of excitement and forward motion. Muscular drumming, heavy on the cymbals and thick bass pave the way for Milojkovic to step out for a guitar solo, using sharp pointed notes played at fast speed, on a bed of splashy cymbals before the group comes together to restate the theme and lay the tune to rest. There is a tight groove on the track "Core" that supports the leader's tenor saxophone, which is played with a confident and raw flavor, riding the wave of the strong bass and drums woven with ripples of guitar. They seem to be going for the Trane/Elvin vibe, and it works as the strong drumming with the cymbal flourishes is met by equally powerful and sustained saxophone playing. The rhythm section hits hard when she steps aside, stinging guitar keeping the pace until the leader returns to take the tune home. "Traneing In" has the guitar setting the melody, and everyone else falling in around it, including explosive soprano saxophone which swirls like a whirling dervish, the band playing in a thoughtful and investigative mode, the music lively and dramatic. Grossman has a bright and agile approach to the soprano, and she is in constant motion, with barbed notes of guitar and surges of percussion and bass taking over the midsection of the performance, including a propulsive drum solo. Moving back to theme, the music retains it's joyful intensity, gradually fading out. "Trane" uses multiple saxophones overdubbed, adding different layers of texture, which leads into a full band section that gradually evolves around Grossmann's dark and potent tenor saxophone. The sound of the performance is rich and earthy, organic in its development, and their commitment to the memory and sacrifices of John Coltrane genuine, not through slavish adoration, but through using Coltrane's discoveries as waystations in their own exploratory missions. This album worked quite well, the band is a very close knit unit that works well together and Grossmann is a powerful soloist with a memorable approach to both soprano and tenor saxophone. Golden Rule -

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Saturday, December 22, 2018

El Intruso Critics Poll 2018 Ballot

El Intruso is a website in Spanish founded in 2005, which focuses on creative music, jazz and beyond, free improvisation, art-rock and all kind of experimental music.This is their 11th annual critics poll, asking writers to nominate up to three musicians in the following categories:

Musician of the year: Henry Threadgill, Daniel Carter, Mary Halvorson
Newcomer Musician: Adam Hopkins, Kevin Sun
Group of the year: Full Blast, Mia Dyberg Trio, Angles 3
Newcomer group: Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl
Album of the year: Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake - In Between The Tumbling A Stillness (Hopscotch); Andrew Cyrille/Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Frisell - Lebroba (ECM); Full Blast - Rio (Trost)
Composer: Henry Threadgill, John Zorn
Drums: Paal Nilssen-Love, Hamid Drake, Rudy Royston
Acoustic Bass: William Parker, Michael Formanek, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten
Electric Bass: Marino Pliakas, Tim Dahl, Trevor Dunn
Guitar: Mary Halvorson, Michael Musillami, Ross Hammond
Piano: Kris Davis, Sylvie Courvoisier, Mathew Shipp
Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ: Jamie Saft, Craig Taborn, Matt Mitchell
Tenor Saxophone: Jon Irabagon, Rich Halley, Chris Potter
Alto Saxophone: Akira Sakata, Francois Carrier, Mia Dyberg
Baritone Saxophone: Mats Gustafsson, Dave Rempis, Gary Smulyan
Soprano Saxophone: Martin Kuchen, Sam Newsome, Daniel Carter
Trumpet/Cornet: Jonathan Finlayson, Ron Miles, Josh Berman
Clarinet/bass clarinet: Jason Stein, Peter Kuhn, Marty Ehrlich
Trombone: Steve Swell, Michael Dease, Mats Aleklint
Flute: Nicole Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Vinny Golia
Violin/Viola: Mark Feldman, Jason Kao Hwang, Mat Maneri
Cello: Fred Lonberg-Holm, Tomeka Reid, Christopher Hoffman
Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz, Steve Nelson, Kenny Wollesen
Electronics: Ikue Mori, Christof Kurzmann, Rob Mazurek
Others instruments: n/a
Female Vocals: Leena Conquest, Amirtha Kidambi, Jen Shyu
Male Vocals: n/a
Best Live Band: King Crimson
Record Label: Clean Feed, Trost, AUM Fidelity

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Alan Braufman - Valley of Search (Valley of Search, 2018)

Alto saxophonist Alan Braufman moved from Boston to New York City in the early 1970's with fellow seekers like David S. Ware and Cooper-Moore to take part in the city's burgeoning loft jazz scene. They rented a space of their own on Canal Street where they could woodshed and also perform in the first floor performance space. Originally released in 1975 on India Navigation, this album packs a punch with Braufman joined by Cooper-Moore on piano, dulcimer and recitation, Cecil McBee on bass, David Lee on drums and Ralph Williams on percussion. The opening track, "Chant" has an ritualistic feel from the (sounds like a) flute and percussion, one can imagine a religious procession as Cooper Moore begins to speak and moan in a stoic voice about spiritual matters, and bowed bass rises and falls alongside his voice, framed by bells and drums. The moaning and chanting with bells is similar to the work of Leon Thomas with Pharoah Sanders. Braufman's saxophone comes in midway, strong and potent, with the band building to a powerhouse improvisation. Cascading drums and percussion lash the bass and piano as Braufman's scalding saxophone reaches ever higher, soaring and tearing the sky around him with a blistering tone that gradually slows to conclude this visionary piece of music. The band comes out hard and fast on "Thankfulness" building on a theme that leaves them plenty of room for expression, while the leader's gravelly toned saxophone takes the lead. The percussion and drums unit with bass allow for divergent textures opening the music to flow in any direction, and with the addition of Cooper-Moore's free spirited piano, it's like a percussion ensemble plus saxophone at times. Braufman's raw saxophone solo is slightly under-recorded, but it is full of fire and vigor, driving the band forward and leading a full band improvisation that is compelling and very exciting. They come back to the theme at the end, making a strong showing, pushing very hard as a unit to the finish line, propelled by thick elastic bass and supple drums, and moving without a pause into "Love is Real." The rhythm section is tight and organic unit here, adding just a hint of funk and supporting Braufman for liftoff when he solos urgently, playing with blazing speed, and taking the whole group into the outer cosmos, adding throat rending roars that punctuate the urgency of the situation, like Coltrane/Pharoah at Seattle or in Japan. Some member of the band is blowing a whistle, which is a little weird, but they are steaming and nothing can stop the momentum, until they decide to gradually ratchet down the speed, still leaving room for soul cleaving saxophone howls and clattering percussion. "Little Nabil's March" uses pulsating saxophone from the leader and martial drumming and percussion to build a fast and fun tune that moves at a strutting pace. Braufman is all over his saxophone playing in a very populist manner over the tumbling percussion while still managing to take the music farther out a few degrees at at time, but you can still imagine him at the head of the parade. There's a nice feature for drums and percussion that is well done and very interesting, which leads the band into the final track on the album, "Destiny," where a more stoic saxophone plays over bowed bass, shimmering cymbals and shaken percussion, giving the music a sombre air. This track brings the album back full circle, with the dark oaken tone of the saxophone and the overtones of religious incantation leaving the listener realizing that this album is an unheralded landmark of 1970's spiritual jazz. Valley Of Search -

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Adam Hopkins - Crickets (Out of Your Head Records, 2018)

Active as a leader, sideman and now a label owner, bassist and composer Adam Hopkins is set to make a splash in the world of progressive jazz. To that end he is releasing his debut album as a leader with a heavy hitting crew including Anna Webber on tenor saxophone, Ed Rosenberg on tenor and bass saxophone, Josh Sinton on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Jonathan Goldberger on guitar and Devin Gray on drums. "They Can Swim Backwards But Choose Not To" opens with short swirly sax, and thumping bass and drums, invoking intense and vivid colors rotating around a common center by centripetal force by which threaten to fly apart at any time, especially during the drum onslaught. Wall of noise ushers in "Crickets Crime Of the Years" bowed instrument, bass maybe, gradually calms, and band cranks in clamping down ominous volume, with malice aforethought, heavy weighty music, horns break out and attempt a getaway, hemmed in by spokes of guitar, taut bass and drums. Music builds into a pure maelstrom of scalding guitar, ravishing horns and pummelling drums, thrilling stuff. "Mudball" employs a strong beat with bleating horns, like a traffic jam, then develops a tightly wound theme leading the music outward from that vantage point. Brawny horns refuse to back down under the weight of a drum fusillade, the sound of the improvisation is clamorous and full of life and joyous noise. They weave back into a more open section, but not for long as the band rises up like a leviathan, at full bellow, creating quite a splash indeed. A slowly developing track, "Haven of Bliss" unfolds slowly and languorously with swirls of saxophone over a light beat, the music is intricately woven among the instruments, with none achieving prominence. Definitely a slow burn gradually evolving over time, with the hues and tones becoming more stretched and distressed as time goes by as they tack further into the wind, picking up speed with blustery saxophone, insistent drumming and strong guitar and bass. "I Think the Duck Was Fine" fairly bursts out with the horns raring to go, and the rhythm section developing a cool silky groove, hoping that the horns don't blow their cover with their insistent blaring. One brave saxophonist steps out and lays down the law with a raw angular solo rearing back and howling when his territory is encroached upon. The group dives back into the crunchy theme and powers for the finish of an excellent and memorable performance. Finishing the album, "Scissorhands" has scalding electric guitar, manic and wreathed in feedback met by sympathetic horns and drumming leading to an all out free jazz performance, short and sweet to end the album. Everyone is on board and the music moves with a relentless certainty despite the inherent randomness of freely improvised music. They carreen forward pushing aside anything in their path, on a mission, faster and faster until they wink out in a burst of sheer energy. Crickets -

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

John Coltrane - 1963: New Directions (Impulse, 2018)

Earlier this year, there was a welcome addition to the discography of John Coltrane with the release of the album New Directions, a previously unreleased 1963 session from the "classic quartet" of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. This follow up collection gathers all of the music from that collection with the rest of the music Coltrane recorded in 1963, including the albums John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, Live at Birdland and selections from Dear Old Stockholm and Newport ’63. So it does offer the chance to see Coltrane in motion, the year before he would really begin to burst out with a wave of creativity that would only stop with the the ending of his life. The first disc and a half of this collection is made up of the Directions material, and it is truly fascinating to be a fly on the wall at a hitherto unknown Coltrane session, as they work through some untitled original compositions, four takes at the indelible "Impressions," and the standard "Nature Boy" which would turn up radically changed a few years down the road. The very next day, March 7, they were back at Rudy Van Gelder's studio to record one of my least favorite John Coltrane albums, his collaboration with vocalist Johnny Hartman. Look, I know the suits at Impulse wanted to make him more approachable and that he chose Hartman himself, but it's just not my thing. Hartman sings/croons smooth and slick, you can imagine the cocktail in one hand and the cigarette in the other (he died of lung cancer) just as easily as you can see the record spinning in the background of some hip Mad Men knockoff. But I digress. The band plays with the epitome of subtlety and tact, and Coltrane sneaks in some beautiful if truncated solos. "Dear Old Stockholm" and "After the Rain" come from April 29 with Roy Haynes sitting in for Elvin Jones who was incarcerated, giving the group a slightly lighter and more straight ahead feel, but Haynes is a master under any circumstances, so it's like replacing Bob Gibson with Sandy Koufax. The former is a nice blowing vehicle for the group, but "After the Rain" is one of Coltrane's finest ballads, a performance of heartrending beauty that is a wellspring of emotional resonance. Fast forward to July 7 at the Newport Jazz Festival (Newport '63 Impulse CD) Haynes still on drums for a very exciting set beginning with a wistful "I Want to Talk About You"  incorporating some breathtaking unaccompanied tenor saxophone, and lengthy excursions on "My Favorite Things and "Impressions." Jones finally returns for the Live in Birdland sessions recorded during October and November, and his presence is immediately felt in the live tracks, beginning with a powerful version of "Afro Blue" with a cruising rhythm section interlude before Coltrane returns to put the hammer down and develop a scalding collective improvisation that is felt as much as heard. "I Want to Talk About You" is repeated, once again adding a daredevil solo saxophone improvisation that is vibrant and thrillingly alive, and "The Promise" is the final live track, where Jones effortlessly develops beautiful rhythms, and Tyner sparkles aside Garrison's weighty bass and Coltrane's extraordinary soprano saxophone towers over it all. As impressive as the live tracks are, the most extraordinary track on this "live" album was recorded in the studio. It's another ballad, "Alabama," written after the racist church bombing in Birmingham killed four African American children. It is a sad, quiet tune, but the power and the grace that it represents goes far beyond the world of music and remains one of John Coltrane's towering achievements.1963: New Directions -

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Howard Riley - Live in the USA (No Business, 2018)

The British pianist Howard Riley spent time studying, teaching and playing in the States as well as in his home country, and it is this nomadic spirit that allowed his playing and technique to develop continuously throughout his career. Riley notes in the brief liner section that he was experiencing a period of transition when these solo performances were recorded in New York City and Buffalo during the mid 1970's. The sound of the album is crisp and clear allowing the listener to hear Riley explore the entirety of they keyboard, beginning with the opening track where he frames his improvisation by playing inside the piano for a bit, creating unusual sounds that are then absorbed by his more conventional piano playing. Conventional doesn't mean stilted though, given the strength and the imagination that Riley can call upon in developing improvisations that are capable of building hypnotic narrative structures and sections of freedom that can last twenty minutes or more. The music is somewhat reminiscent of the fully improvised solo piano albums and concerts which Cecil Taylor used to perform, like Silent Tongues or For Olim. The warm accessible sections will be mixed with bracing cascading cells of freely improvised piano, and the dynamic nature of these yin and yang opposites provide the locomotion that drives the music relentlessly forward, or spontaneously composing, using the length and breadth of the instrument. The second two performances show the exciting exploration of a musician who is in the process of refining his talent, approach to the keyboard and the arts of composition and improvisation, allowing him to adjust his performance by extending and expanding his personal approach to the instrument. His skill and technique are at a very high level, but they don't overwhelm the listener and the music remains thought provoking throughout the disc, with a sense of narrative which seems to propel the sound, texture, and shading of his music. Riley is a channel for the musical information and technique to flow, refining his music as both a concept and a language, and is is fascinating to hear. This is a minimally designed package with a brief statement from Riley and discographical information. The music contained within is memorable, that of a major player during a period of growth and renewal. Riley's music is complex but never overwhelming, and fans and students of modern improvised piano should take note. Live in the USA - No Business Records

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Wadada Leo Smith and Sabu Toyozumi - Burning Meditation (No Business, 2018)

This is a sublimely beautiful duet recording featuring Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, koto, bamboo flute, voice and percussion and Sabu Toyozumi and drums and percussion. It was recorded in Yamaguchi, Japan in March of 1994 and saw a limited release at the time before being picked up by No Business for a wider release in 2018. It does not take long for the music to elevate to a high degree of clarity with Smith's excellent trumpet playing meeting Toyozumi's stellar drumming on the opening selection, "Creative Music -1- Red Mountain Garden, Wild Irises and Glacier Lines" a very lengthy selection, like the following performance, "Burning Meditation – Uprising" selections which are are played with a strong sense of creative consciousness, even when the music is at its most intense it is never shrill or overbearing. The music was composed spontaneously, but proceeds with a sense of grace that is ever present in their music. Smith is mostly known for his trumpet work and justly so, but it is fascinating to hear different sides of his musical personality come into play on tracks like "Don Cherry, A Silver Flute Song" where he plays large and small bamboo flutes. Like Smith, Cherry was originally known for his trumpet playing with Ornette Coleman, but toured the world, adding flutes and many other instruments to his repertoire. Smith plays quite beautifully, improvising with a light, dancing sense of fluid elegance that carries into the next track, "There are Human Rights Blues," where he sings, chants, and speaks with a shy yet authoritative voice allowing pauses for breath and to allow Toyozumi's evocative percussion work to weave its way into the performance making for a powerful and memorable duet that leads into their final track, "Stars, Lightning Bugs and Chrysanthemum Flowers." This is an excellent album, and it is wonderful to have it more widely available, with new liner notes in English and Japanese from the original record producer and some nice period pictures included. The remastering is excellent, this is a delicate album, one you want yo get close to, and the transparent warmth of the sound makes that possible. Burning Meditation - No Business Records

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Nick Millevoi / Desertion Trio w/ Jamie Saft - Midtown Tilt (Shhpuma, 2018)

Melding genres and subgenres into a melting pot of fascinating music, this group consists of Nick Millevoi on guitar, Johnny DeBlase on electric bass, Kevin Shea drums, Jamie Saft on organ and Ashley Tini on vibes and shakers. Using the kaleidoscopic fantasia of psychedelic rock and the intricacy of highly improvised jazz, the group creates a very successful and unique amalgamation of sounds and imagined images. Opening with the title track, "Midtown Tilt," which has a genteel almost country-ish feeling from the guitar and keyboard, like something The Band would jam on as the music swells and relaxes before finding its level as the group reaches out to explore the groove it has created with tendrils of organ and lashing percussion clearing the path for some snarling guitar leads. The music reaches a powerful crescendo coming in great waves before breaking into final surge to an epic conclusion. "Numbers Maker" has a tight and slinky groove for the organ and percussion, and the addition of grinding guitar pushes the music further along, into spacey cinematic territory. The insistent organ with the bass and drums carry the groove allowing the guitar to act at will, soloing across hypnotic, repetitive keyboards and slashing drums, or gliding along an organ groove into inner space. "Jai Alai Noon" comes across like the theme to a spaghetti western of the mind, as the group cuts an ever changing groove through the dusty desert sand, with long waves of organ anchoring slashing electric guitar and rumbling bass, creating music that would be just as much at home at the Fillmore in 1968 or the Vision Festival in 2018. Millevoi cuts loose in a devastating guitar solo, Neil Young by way of Sonny Sharrock, and the rest of the group teases such bands as Lifetime and Love Cry Want. Saft takes on the trickster role throughout the album, playing the organ with authority and devastating wit. Rocking hard, "The Carideon" comes out blazing, the full band tightly wound as the group looks for new vistas to explore led by spindly guitar and waves of droning organ, while thick bass and slashing drums stoke the fire. A strong electric guitar solo is seen really pushing the group outward, beyond boundaries out into space and beyond, with colorful organ lighting the way, Saft takes over with a passionate display of keyboard technique and interplay. The band returns for a driving collective improvisation to the finish line of this excellent and highly recommended album. Midtown Tilt -

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Charles Mingus - Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden (BBE, 2018)

2018 has given jazz fans a wealth of interesting historical performances, from a long lost John Coltrane studio session to stellar live sets from Milford Graves and David S. Ware. This is a sprawling 5-CD collection of the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus, selected radio broadcasts drawn from a week long residency at the Strata Concert Gallery in Detroit recorded during February of 1973. The Mingus band at this time was made up of John Stubblefield on tenor saxophone, Joe Gardner on trumpet, Don Pullen on piano and Roy Brooks on drums. Mingus had gone through an intense period of personal hardship and mental illness in the late 1960's and early 1970's, but was on the comeback trail, recording with Columbia and Atlantic before finally passing away far too young from ALS in 1979. He sounds tired and somewhat subdued in his spoken introductions for the band on these recordings, but belies that with the stamina that still existed in his performing ability, as his thick and resonant bass is the fulcrum around which the band revolves, remaining as massive a presence as he had been since the 1950's. Pullen is a joy to hear on these recordings, and a perfect selection for the group (his confederate George Adams would replace Stubblefield on the Changes One and Two Atlantic LP's.) His knowledge of and ability to tap into the entirety of of jazz history with an unusual technique made him something of a modern update of Jaki Byard's post in the classic 1964 Mingus band. Another surprise is that longtime confederate Dannie Richmond had temporarily split from Mingus, so the talented hard bop drummer Roy Brooks (who is also interviewed at length) keeps the rhythm percolating. The repertoire that the band plays over the course of the recordings draws predominantly from Mingus original material, with two versions of his groundbreaking composition "Pithecanthropus Erectus" which musically depicts the rise and fall of mankind. The two versions here clock in at twenty five and nearly twenty minutes apiece and allow the musicians to explore the arrangement, and allow for excellent solo space for Stubblefields's gruff tenor and Pullen's cascading piano. Two takes of the Gillespie nod "Dizzy Profile" show the group experimenting with waltz time and feature stellar and patiently constructed trumpet features. "C Jam Blues" takes the Ellington piece into the stratosphere, playing off of the famous riff and developing into a series of explosive improvisations and developments, particularly a brawny section for Stubblefield and Brooks to throw down with Mingus and Pullen framing the action, before Brooks takes over for a hell raising drum solo. Overall, this is an excellent collection, the music may be familiar in its melodies, especially for Mingus fans, but the musicians relentlessly improvise and explore creating creating new ground as they grow. For a brief time you are a fly on the wall at a small club gig from one of the music's finest ever practitioner's. It's hard to turn that down. Jazz In Detroit / Strat Concert Gallery / 46 Selden -

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Monday, December 10, 2018

John Zorn - Salem 1692 (Tzadik, 2018)

One of the darkest yet most fascinating eras of American history was the brief, incandescent burst of mass hysteria known as the Salem Witch Trials. Composer John Zorn taps an excellent quartet consisting of Trevor Dunn on bass, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg and Julian Lage on guitars to play his evocative music based on this event. "The Devil Bid Me Serve Him" opens the album with a rush of barbed wire guitar and bass and explosive percussion, the music thrives on the tension that it can build and resolve with fast paced and complex music that is intricate yet still carries the heaviness of the most powerful fusion or progressive rock. Scalding guitars meet relentless drumming which takes the performance unto overdrive, in a very exciting and passionate manner. "Tituba" was one of the first women to be accused of witchcraft, race hatred and misogyny represented by powerfully heavy riffs, and slashing drums, that evoke some of the madness of the period. Fast and very complex interplay between the four musicians take the guitars showering sparks as  they cut through the thicket of bass and drums. Blasting drums solo and in consort, erupt into a mind bending dialogue with the other musicians take the music into psychedelic overdrive. "Witness to an Invisible World" keeps the pace fast and frenetic as the music plows relentlessly forward. Scalding fast guitar over bubbling bass and overloaded drums push everything into the red, and the music will shrift into different sections with a beat of silence between each one, but the main theme of the performance remains faster, harder and it is very impressive to hear. A witch hunting manual, "Malleus Malleficarum" is led by ferocious drumming and a domineering and vicious overall attack by the musicians at their loudest and most brutal. The amps may be cranked, but there are still interesting sub-themes and riffs that are present throughout the performance that give the group energy to burn as they roar through the short but memorable track. Tracks like "Dark of the Moon" and "Spellbound" show the band creating quieter, ethereal and appropriately haunting music evoking specters and creatures from realms beyond, while, "Under and Evil Hand" is a blistering jazz-metal track that shows the harsh and often arbitrary punishment given to the accused. The band builds monstrous riffs along with slashing cymbals, with guitar that sounds like the rending of souls. A memorable line from witness deposition is the title of the final piece, "I Will Not Write in Your Book Though You Do Kill Me!" and the trio echoes the this defiant statement with crashing, deeply focused waves of sound that seem to break upon a rocky shore like a tempest, with cyclonic drumming and layer upon layer of guitar riffing. Salem 1692 -

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Saturday, December 08, 2018

Fred Hersch Trio '97 - @ the Village Vanguard (Palmetto, 2018)

Pianist Fred Hersch had played at the Village Vanguard as a sideman since 1979 but it wasn't until the summer of 1997 that he led a group at the famous venue with Drew Gress on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. This trio had been playing together for five years at that point and that experience shone through beginning with "Easy to Love," which opened the set at a nimble and fast pace, with deft brush work and strong bass playing grounding Hersch's dynamic leaping from loud flourishes to softer asides. The melodic nature of the music really takes hold, and however far they may roam in their improvisations, the melody remains the guidepost for the performance. The excitement developed by crashing, cascading chords and lightning fast runs down the piano is not to be underestimated, and the crisp play of the bass and drums is the perfect accompaniment and partnership. The bass and drums take a subtle bow of their own during the middle of the performance a subtle dance with light piano comping shifting the attention toward the rhythmic end of the performance. Surprisingly powerful drumming leads the group back into the melody and the final push to the conclusion of a delightful performance. Unfolding at a brisk clip, "Three Little Words" has a sense of lightness and danceability aided by the gentle percussion and pulsating bass and the careful way Hersch picks out the notes he chooses, even at high speed. The improvisation unfolds in a bouncy and bright manner, very accessible and forthright, the band playing very well together as they deconstruct the song and leave their own imprint upon it. Hersch bounds joyously over the upper register of the keyboard, trading phrases with the ever inventive Rainey, like two old friends having a witty conversation. "I Wish I Knew" has a subdued piano opening, solo is but soon joined with bass and drums which quickly liven up the emotional nature of the music, settling into a stately medium tempo. The trio swings grandly, gradually working the music into their own shape with the piano developing a deeper and more resonant sound, with elasting bass and drums allowing their trio improvisation to evolve in an impressive fashion. Hersch tumbles into "You Don't Know What Love Is" as the sets finale with wonderfully fractured sounding drumming allowing the music to stretch and breathe but keep its thematic center at the same time. Rainey is a wonder, subtly twisting the rhythm and changing things up, while the piano and bass charge ahead in a very exciting manner. There is a fine bass solo backed by fast light cymbal play, then the band coalesces once more before charging for the finish line. Trio 97 @ The Village Vanguard -

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Thursday, December 06, 2018

Thelonious Monk - Straight, No Chaser (Columbia 1967, 1996)

Composer and pianist Thelonious Monk's Columbia Records recordings are occasionally disparaged as not being quite as vital as the records for Riverside and Blue Note that came before them. This is unfortunate, as it was Columbia that allowed Monk's stature to increase beyond musicians and die hard fans, gave him a chance to tour the world and appear on the cover of prominent magazines and add a stable income to what his heroic wife Nellie was bringing in. This album, not to be confused with the Monk documentary of the same name (which is well worth watching) this is the 1996 extended edition of the album originally recorded in November of 1966 and January of 1967 with his stalwart group including Larry Gales on bass, Ben Riley on drums and Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone. The 1996 version is markedly different than the original LP that was released in 1967, at that time, significant editing needed to be done to the performances to have them fit into the LP format. With the technological and format advances of thirty years later re-issue producer Orrin Keepnews (Teo Macero produced the original album) restored three titles to their unedited length and added two extra contemporaneously recorded performances to fill this compact disc to it's 1996 limit. The booklet contains a few period photographs of Monk, but it mostly given over to Keepnews' original 1967 liner essay and a new set of 1996 reissue liner notes. The music is a joy to listen to, being a mix of Monk originals (he wasn't writing as much new material at this stage, but was still producing) and his unique take on the music of Duke Ellington, some well worn standards and a very interesting extended exploration of a Japanese folk song. A lot of Monk material, notably on the live albums, but also studio sessions fell under the editor's blade, none more than "Japanese Folk Song (Kojo No Tsuki)" which is restored to a near seventeen minute running time with the bass and percussion interludes included. It's necessary to hear the performance as a whole, to understand the organic level in which the whole group worked together to create their music. "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and the brief "This is My Story, This is My Song" are lovely unaccompanied Monk performances, Monk's angular approach makes even the oldest standard fresh, while keeping the melody and thematic story well in mind. Of the Monk compositions, one of his last, "Green Chimneys" is included as a bonus track, while the band delivers wonderful treatments of "Locomotive," "We See" and the title track, playing at an inspirational level as they as they are on the two takes of the Ellington number "I Didn't Know About You." There's a lot to unpack on this album, one of his last for Columbia and not long before he would fade from public view altogether. It's definitely worth checking out, the CD can be had for a song or through your streaming service of choice, and Monk's music is the gift that keeps on giving. Straight, No Chaser -

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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Daniel Carter / Patrick Holmes / Matthew Putman / Hilliard Greene / Federico Ughi - Telepatia Liquida (577 Records, 2018)

This is a fascinating and well executed album by the collective group of Daniel Carter on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones plus trumpet, Patrick Holmes on clarinet, Matthew Putman on piano, Hilliard Greene on bass and Federico Ughi on drums. Recorded at the 2017 Forward Festival the concert opens with "Deluxe Light," which has a patient beginning where the musicians are getting their bearings, and developing a balanced and clear sound. The music is brought forth with passion and skill, with clarinet and trumpet balancing the crisp playing of the rhythm section. Carter is a wonder, cycling through his instruments as the music calls for them gracefully and playing each one with natural dignity, alongside cells of slashing percussion and vivid piano. There's a quiet open spot for clarinet and bass in a delicate duet, joined by spacious drums and saxophone that invoke the joy of the rising sun as droplets of piano notes complete the scene. They establish aspects of melody and then explore from there, ranging quite far afield, but never at the expense of creative expedience, as they approach the finish, the pace quickens, with cascades of notes and a subtle exhale. "Shine-a-Town" has a drum led beginning, with squalls of free jazz saxophone soon joining and the rest of the band falling in for a thrilling all out collective improvisation. The music adds space but maintains its freedom, the players invoking different shades of sound and volume, gathering like layers of cloud before an impending storm. Bowed bass along with the horns adds a sense of rawness and propulsion to the music which drives it forward, with propulsive piano and skittish drumming, they creating a very interesting and memorable overall sound. There is a yearning sound to open "Throne," with a relatively sedate piano trio flanked by crying horns, developing emotionally resonant music. Clarinet and saxophone meld well together creating a fine texture with the rhythm team to bring forth a beautiful collaborative feeling. The group is very patient, allowing the music to develop though its own fundamental means, and their resulting improvisation is compelling and enchanting, especially when listing to the way each instrument makes up a much greater whole. The music is fast and complex, but played with great refinement and poise, every note or passage has a meaning, and each is part of the crucible of creation. Telepatia Liquida -

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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Myra Melford's Snowy Egret - The Other Side of Air (Firehouse 12, 2018)

Taking inspiration from creators in fields from art to spirituality, pianist and composer Myra Melford wrote ten original pieces for her Snowy Egret group which features Ron Miles on cornet, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Stomu Takeishi on bass guitar and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. The intricate and thought provoking music works very well, and the sense of group dynamics and trust between the musicians is palpable on this very successful album. "Attic" has a wonderful percussion introduction with complex rhythms soon joined by bright piano, guitar and cornet. They move to a more complex abstract percussion led section which is quiet but still urgent, with the group alternating between these freer cells and more melodic, thematic material. The music begins to tumble and cascade faster and faster in a madcap and exciting collective improvisation that gradually ebbs as the group's loud/soft dynamic keeps the music fresh and allows space for a poignant cornet solo. The rhythm section develops a complex and ever shifting series of patterns as the track comes to a crisp and impressive conclusion. "Small Thoughts" has enticingly bouncy piano with a jaunty theme developed by the group at a quick pace with buoyant bass guitar and nimble drumming. Tight guitar notes and cornet add further color amid with cymbal splashes making this a continuously interesting and compelling track. The tempo of the music gradually increases to a simmering boil, where no one instrument dominates, but everyone is really pulling in the same direction and creating a fascinating sound landscape. Stretching over ten minutes "Living Music" unfolds slowly with percussive piano, drumming and choppy cornet setting the pace, as the group gradually fills in their sound which is nimble but not especially loud, with a spidery guitar feature, moving around the shape shifting percussion where the music flows in an organic fashion like a stream meeting the contours of the landscape. The group is capable of producing abundant variations of the themes they choose, allowing for a wide variety of sound and rhythm, untethered to traditional jazz roles, they can vary the pulse, hide it and play freely, creating and excellent and powerfully affecting performance. "Dried Print on Cardboard" has an undulating rhythm and with subtle cornet, creating a fine thematic statement, the music drops to near silence, where a dynamic pause that throws the performance into stark relief. Carefully gathering volume and speed the band's improvisation works well, and consistently deals surprises and a sense of the unexpected. The Other Side Of Air -

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