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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Friday, November 30, 2018

Mars Williams Presents An Ayler Xmas vol. 2 (Soul What Records / ESP-Disk, 2018)

I abhor Christmas music with a vehemence usually saved only for climate change deniers and Cowboys fans. But yoke it to the indelible melodies of Albert Ayler and infuse is with the free jazz improvisations of some of the best musicians in Chicago and Vienna and I can be convinced to grant a reprieve. Band leader Mars Williams is a saxophonist who's work has ran the gamut from the AACM to rock and pop, but we're clearly in the free jazz realm here and he is right at home. "Xmas Medley" opens the album, with guest Jeb Bishop sitting in on trombone, the music has the ragged joy that Ayler drew from traditional tunes, but applied to seasonal fare, and then torn asunder with powerful muster. Cello saws mightily, aside threshing percussion and horns, and Williams leaps out with a very impressive saxophone solo, pushed hard by the surging band. Blustery brass and crushing drums take up the mantle and push the music even further forward in a very exciting interlude, before the music drops to a dynamic quiet for strings and bells. The horns gradually fill in, developing an excellent sounding texture with the strings, they embark up on another melody, with the horns taking point, regaining the volume and force, charging ahead and repeating the theme faster and faster to the conclusion. "O Tannenbaum/Spirits/12 Days of Christmas" has stoic bowing, bass and vocals leading the group into the performance, which then explodes into an Ayler like theme and takes off into a powerful collective free improvisation. The Vienna group is a tight five piece band and they absolutely soar with the bass and drums locked in and the horns flying overhead and subtle electronics adding heft. A sparkling trumpet solo leads the group into another powerful collective improvisation, incorporating snatches of the themes into their muscular playing as they power through a roaring performance. Williams picks apart the "12 Days" theme with a blustery upper register screech, then the band returns to slam the door on the performance. The short "Love Cry/Christmas Wrapping" is a blast, combining one of Ayler's most memorable themes with a hit by a rock band Williams played in, The Waitresses. The horns invoke Ayler's music and then tear it open, unleashing a performance that could rend space and time with the power of the horns, and the crushing rhythm. "Carol of the Drum/Bells/O Come Emanuel/Joy to the World" opens with fractured rhythm section playing, and the music gradually pulls together as the horns enter and state a theme and the full band falls in behind it, moving into Ayler's own martial like theme "Bells." The group weaves deft improvisation with the themes presented in this medley, creating a powerful group sound that resonates throughout this lengthy performance. Charging ahead and then slowing dramatically, the music is a dynamic force to be reckoned with, as raw scalding guitar rakes the ground along with rampaging horns, and a raucous conclusion. Finally "Universal Indians/We Wish You a Merry Christmas" has the band riffing on a bright Ayler theme to begin, led by Williams strident saxophone playing and some taut electronics and trumpet. They gracefully shift gears into the holiday song, even singing a greeting as the music leaves a genuine and pleasant farewell. An Ayler Xmas Volume 2 -

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Francis Davis / NPR 2018 Jazz Critics Poll Ballot

These are the choices I made for the upcoming Francis Davis / NPR 2018 Jazz Critics Poll. The usual caveats about me being a fan/enthusiast and not a critic apply. Thanks to Davis and Tom Hull for putting this together, and a special thank you to all of the musicians and music writers who continue to make life bearable.
  • Choices for this year’s 10 best New Releases (albums released between last Thanksgiving and this, give or take) listed in descending order one-through-ten.
1. Assif Tsahar / William Parker / Hamid Drake - In Between The Tumbling A Stillness (Hopscotch)
2. Andrew Cyrille / Wadada Leo Smith / Bill Frisell - Lebroba (ECM)
3. Full Blast - Rio (Trost)
4. Daniel Carter / William Parker / Matthew Shipp - Seraphic Light Live At Tufts University (AUM Fidelity)
5. Jon Irabagon - Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics (Irabbagast)
6. Mia Dyberg Trio - Ticket! (Clean Feed)
7. Rodrigo Amado - A History of Nothing (Trost)
8. Angles 3 - Parede (Clean Feed)
9. The Thing - Again (Trost Records)
10. Chris Pitsiokos CP Unit - Silver Bullet In The Autumn Of Your Years (Clean Feed)
  • Top-three Reissues or Historical albums, again listed in descending order
1. Milford Graves - Babi (Corbett vs. Dempsey)
2. David S. Ware - The Balance (Vision Festival XV +) (AUM Fidelity)
3. Charles Mingus - Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden (BBE Music)
  • Choice for the year's best Vocal album
William Parker - Flower In a Stained-Glass Window and The Blinking of The Ear (AUM Fidelity)
  • Choice for the year's best Debut album
Adam Hopkins - Crickets (Out Of Your Head Records)
  • Choice for the year’s best Latin jazz album
David Virelles - Igbo Alakorin: The Singer's Grove Vol. I & II (Pi-Recordings)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Harriet Tubman - The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside, 2018)

Harriet Tubman was a larger than life American Hero and it's understandable how she could be a guiding light for the trio that invokes her name. Brandon Ross on guitar, Melvin Gibbs on bass and JT Lewis on drums seamlessly meld jazz, rock and dub reggae in an original fashion, and use a telepathic sensibility in their improvisations honed over many years performing together. The album opens with "Farther Unknown" which builds through crisp drumming and stinging guitar playing, to develop quite a sense of momentum that bursts into a strong improvisation with shards of feedback, deep and resonant bass and muscular rhythm. Their trio improvisation is a majestic flight above the clouds buoyed by gale force updrafts of soaring guitar and and ever shifting bass and percussion groove, reaching apogee and gliding quietly for a spell with spare guitar in space, taking in the view before landing. "3000 Words" has bass building a rock solid foundation for the drums and guitar to slash the air around them like samurai locked in combat. The music is heavy and visceral, inhabiting a tight space, with large bounding notes of bass guitar taking up physical space and strong backbeat with the producer adding mysterious loops and effects. There is some great funky drumming on "The Green Book Blues" where Lewis is just in the zone, as the heavy bass and the electronics and effects swirl around him like a fever dream. Bass and guitar power through, making this track into more of an intricate and experimental soundscape, filled with fun house mirrors that reflect the sound through loops and pedals, before releasing a powerful electric guitar solo, that is eventually swallows up by the maelstrom of sound that surrounds it. “Unseen Advance of the Aquifarian” has a powerful full band theme with shimmering sparks of guitar, thick bass and slashing cymbals. The music picks up pace to a very impressive and exciting collective improvisation, as the band powers forward relentlessly, all for one and one for all, invoking the fusion of Lifetime or the Decoding Society as they reach for the cosmos in an explosive performance. Their version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" is fascinating, swathed in electronics and backward sounds, the melody is hinted at and the song is played with reverence, with stark guitar reaching out, melding and sculpting the theme along with the bass and percussion, as the song is played with a stoic and defiant beauty. "The Terror End of Beauty" has a mellow beginning of strummed guitar, which quickly grows with the addition of bass and drums, with the dynamism building energy as the volume and pace grow exponentially and the band lifts off into a powerful collective improvisation that is thrilling to hear. Ross is shedding at a Sonny Sharrock level and the drums are apocalyptic, only to have the band pull back into a bass anchored melodic section where they regain their bearings and race for the finish line. Engineer Scotty Hard was important in helping the band achieve the sound they were looking for, and this shows how committed the band is to forward movement, their songs and playing are first rate on this excellent and commendable album. The Terror End of Beauty -

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ken Vandermark / Klaus Kugel / Mark Tokar - No​-​Exit Corner (NotTwo Records, 2018)

This is a very exciting creative improvised jazz album by a trio featuring tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, drummer Klaus Kugel, and bassist Mark Tokar, recorded in Krakow during 2016. "Left Sided Driver" opens the album with raw tenor saxophone astride tight bass and drums playing a very hard and exciting improvisation right out of the gate, their sound is lacerating and powerful with scouring saxophone, thick sounding bass and shattering drumming creating a thrilling overall sound that sweeps the listener away, with seemingly limitless creativity at a very high speed. There is a powerful brief drum solo that develops a mighty rhythm, which is then melded into their overall muscular free jazz blowout. The music eases into a well articulated bass solo, played with well grounded patience and style, and framed by cymbals, then the group reestablishes its communication, coming together to improvise as a cohesive unit, driving relentlessly toward the performance's conclusion. There is a slippery bowed bass introduction to "Everyday Fabric" that is very well played, introducing textures and hues with percussion and horn gradually edging in. The music is spare and abstract, with much open space, that builds in pace and volume ever so slightly, leading to a more forceful and frenetic improvisation with gale force drumming and howls of saxophone anchored with stoic bass playing. The band roars forth like an unstoppable train roaring down the tracks, only to drop off for an abstract section of sculpted little sounds, proving that this band doesn't have to simply roar to get its point across. "Objective 49" has quicksilver clarinet, skittish percussion and bowed bass setting an interesting tone for the forthcoming performance, the improvisation is very interesting, with shorter jabs, and longer held tones creating an unfolding, unpredictable feat with wonderful bowed bass and pops of clarinet and chimes. Another short track, "Split Hinge," has a fast pace and a torrential free improvisation that is very exciting to listen to, with the raw and powerful tenor saxophone's dark and cutting tone meeting up with sand blasting drumming and strong bass playing to generate a quick jolt of powerful excitement, the free jazz equivalent of the Ramones going 1-2-3-4 and then pinning their ears back and howling. The final track, "Message to the Past," has a quieter and more reverential focus with spare cymbals and chimes and cello like bowing. A circular sound builds along side them, with Vandermark on clarinet, adding color and texture to the slow and spare performance. The music develops faster with swirls of artistic clarinet then saxophone around bowed bass and washes of cymbals creating a unique atmosphere, turning it into a classy and cunning collective improvisation that makes the most of everyone's talents, and marks the perfect ending to a compelling and successful album. No-Exit Corner - Bandcamp

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Trio Heinz Herbert - Yes (Intakt,2018)

Trio Heinz Herbert is an electronic jazz band consisting of Dominik Landolt on guitar and effects, Ramon Landolt on synths, samples and piano and Mario Hänni on drums and effects. Mixing free jazz with psychedelic rock and aspects of modern electronic music to create a true modern  fusion, driven by energetic improvisation. The opening track "J" has scattered beats and electronic passages with acoustic piano layered within them. They create a wide soundscape, where the atmosphere has breathing room, pulsating electronic beats upping the pace, with crisp drumming creating a full undulating sound for the band. Swirling arcs of electronic sound weave around the beats and chattering sounds, leading into pummeling percussion, as the never still music marches on. "J++" bursts out with the full band creating a vibrant and in your face sound of electronics and drumming that beats like the heart of an animal and cries with snarling electric guitar over its short running time. "Kohasion" develops a subtle guitar groove, that soon meets thick drumming and resonant piano in an ominous performance that would be perfect in a Scandinavian crime drama. They reach out melodically and rhythmically, developing the piece thematically as it gradually increases in pace and volume. They meet a glitchy section that clanks and whirrs alarmingly before gaining strength for the conclusion. "Silo Partikel" leads with crunchy electronics grinding their way forward, developing a tight rhythm, and an enclosed atmosphere that borders on claustrophobic. bursts of sound, static and oppressive marching beats bear down upon the listener, opening into beams of electronics and heavy drumming, building a swirling miasma of sound. Their mastery of dynamic flow allows the trio to blend in areas of uneasy calm to the overall sound sculpture, providing definition of the whole of their creation. Lightening the mood a bit "Gravity" inserts a solid rhythm against a keyboard motif, before taking flight in a fast paced krautrock meets alt-rock flight into the upper atmosphere. Hanni's tight beat is the key providing a fulcrum around which the loud and strange electronics can ply their wares. "Darkspace" has a haunted ambiance of a science fiction film or video game, with spare electronics and guitar providing the atmosphere of loneliness, exploring a derelict spaceship orbiting a distant planet, with smears of electronic noise and melancholy piano used to chilling effect. If you're into post-modern fusion, this is definitely an album worth checking out, these musicians have the benefit of the most up to date technology and use it to create music that defies easy categorization. and challenge their audience to listen and explore with them. Yes -

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Kaja Draksler / Petter Eldh / Christian Lillinger - Punkt.Vrt.Plastik (Intakt, 2018)

This was a very impressive modern jazz record by Kaja Draksler on piano, Petter Eldh on bass and Christian Lillinger on drums. They first met at an improviser's summit in Amsterdam where their musical chemistry clicked, eventually recording this album in February of 2018 in Cologne. "Nuremberg Amok" has snappy drumming and thick bass playing, allowing the piano to reach out and range widely, adding clusters of notes that are interesting, and providing color for a collective improvisation that floats grandly. Wonderful filigrees of piano notes lead into a brisk and exciting solo, egged on by insistent bass and drums. There is a deep robustness to the bass that anchors the trio to the world around it, and the drumming is passionate and unpredictable. Gliding warmly out, "Punkt Torso," displays the three musicians engaged in a bright and thoughtful performance. Bursts of fast drumming alternate with dreamier sections, creating excellent dynamic range. Draksler carefully picks out her notes and chords, gently lining them up over the ever shifting rhythmic foundation. "Azan" has a medium fast speed that suits the trio well, with dry sounding clattering drumming and thick bass developing an interesting rhythm in duo format, by kneading and stretching the sound. The piano re-enters carefully, deftly engaging with the bass and drums, then moving the improvisation into the three sided space gradually reeling out long lines of cascading notes that work perfectly amid the churning bass and drums, as the band leans in as one for the conclusion.There is a quieter notion to "Veins," a sense of mystery to the sound, with its probing and slightly obtuse feeling, the musicians moving separately yet pulling together in the same direction. The music is subtle and stretches like taffy, according to the whims of the musicians, developing long cascading layers of piano, before morphing back into a group sound. "Body Decline" has deep low end piano with elastic bass and drums creating a dreamscape or fantasia of dark colors, like heavy dark red velvet, evoking the crushing weight of age and illness. They exit this room into a lighter more nimble section of taut bass, feathering percussion and deft runs and pulsating piano chords, creating a very exciting atmosphere. The combination of the tree trunk strong bass and hummingbird fast drumming is very alluring, and gives the pianist a wide area to express herself. There is a quickness to "Momentum" that is a joy to hear, it is subtle and not overbearing, percussive piano, steady bass and rapid drumming, moving briskly and never breaking stride. This group was very impressive, it was difficult to understand what was improvised and what was composed, because the music melded together so well. I hope this group has opportunities to perform live and record live because they are clearly onto something special. Punkt.Vrt.Plastik -

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

David Virelles - Igbó Alákọrin (The Singer’s Grove) Vol. I & II (Pi Recordings, 2018)

Pianist David Virelles has long wished to record in his birthplace of Santiago, Cuba and that dream comes alive vibrantly on this album where he presents a wealth of large band arrangements and intimate duo performances on this very successful album. On the first part of the collection, Virelles leads the big band Orquesta Luz de Oriente, which plays music that is associated with the the musical history of Santiago. "El Rayaero" uses bright piano, ebullient vocals and horns with crisp rhythm, as the music swings graciously. The large group shows its many layers as the warm singing and horn playing invite the listener into their unique sound world. There is some call and response between the strong lead singer and the background chorus, and a break for deep piano and percussion that propel the music forward, soon rejoined by all hands as the group pushes the strong groove to the finish line. There is a strong swaying groove to "Echa pa' Allá" with a warm saxophone solo over riffing horns and rippling rhythm section, with extra percussion adding wonderful flavor. This may be the jazziest track on the album and it works very well, melding mainstream jazz with the wonderful rhythmic possibilities inherent in Cuban music to excellent effect, as the vocal chorus coming in at the end to help carry the tune home. "Sube la Loma, Compay" has an exciting rhythmic sensibility with unexpected flourishes that keep things moving briskly. Virelles piano has a full and rich sound that fits in well with the ride range of percussion that surrounds it, with the music filling in considerably with the introduction of the horns and vocal chorus. The second half of the album is an intimate duet between Virelles on piano and Rafael Abalos on guiro, a Latin American percussion instrument. "Tira la Cuchara y Rompe el Plato" is a good example, where the ringing and classically inflected piano meets the scratching percussion to excellent effect, creating a romantic sounding yet resonant music. The sound of the music seems to be heavy with emotion and it is easy to imaging this being played at a cafe as it was originally was, waxing and waning through more yearning and subtle moments. The finale, "Tres Lindas Cubanas" has a tight and nimble rhythmic foundation for the two musicians playing together, dynamically shifting from quieter, softer shading, into louder and more grand statements. The music evolves organically and naturally, with the performance unfolding fluidly and with grace that is the hallmark of this fine album as a whole. Igbo Alakorin (The Singer's Grove) Vol. I & II -

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

VWCR - Noise Of Our Time (Intakt, 2018)

During Ken Vandermark's very productive 2016 residency at The Stone he formed the idea for this group, but it took over a year to get everybody into the studio to record. Bringing together this collective unit, indicated by their are initials, they are Vandermark on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Nate Wooley on trumpet, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano and Tom Rainey on drums. The album opener "Checkpoint" features fleet solo saxophone soon joined by the remainder of band in a bright and nimble performance. There is fast paced strong tenor saxophone, nimble piano and drums and shading trumpet. Wooley's trumpet soars with piano and drums in open space, filling in with fascinating and unpredictable rhythm leading to excellent rapid piano and percussion feature with horn accents. Evolving to a full band collective improvisation, which is very exciting and filled with unexpected angles to be explored, then returning to the original theme for a brief pass. Gradually building up to "Track and Field" with instruments slowly entering, the group is adept at establishing a drumbeat and arcing short and long lines of horns as the piano starts to stoke the engine of the music. The sound begins to gather pace and volume through fits and starts, spidery sounds from piano and drums open up the space and allow the group to let their ideas fly like in a piano supported horn conversation that operates on multiple levels. "Sparks" develops quickly into a melodic forward moving performance that embraces the freedom available, with some absolutely vibrant piano playing leading the quartet into an appealing collective improvisation. Short bursts of horns playing accents punctuate the music as Rainey's drums fill, and also lay out, adding further drama to this short but excellent performance. Crisp drumming underpins "Tag" with strong horn playing and spare piano creating an emotional edge, as the music gathers strength and Vandermark launches on a scouring and soaring tenor saxophone solo, adroitly supported by the remainder of the band. The piano solo that follows is angular and exciting, locked in with Rainey's unpredictable drumming, and they add an interesting twist that Wooley picks up upon and uses as fodder for an excellent feature of his own. "Song of Innocence" is a textured and layered performance that uses a dreamy theme to set the players in motion and allows them to improvise upon this setting. The music becomes tense before Vandermark's clarinet breaks free for a drum fueled escape that is exciting yet seemingly fraught with danger. 'VWCR" has sound effects from the horn mouthpieces, met with piano experiments giving a very abstract and experimental feel, before the band clicks and comes together as Vandermark develops a brawny tenor saxophone solo that roars and grows menacingly. The horns flutter and drums and piano shimmer, exploring the shadowy borderlands between abstract experimental music and modern free jazz where this intriguing band ply their trade. All of these musicians lead or co-lead many other groups, but hopefully time will permit them to reconvene soon to build upon the foundation begun by this provocative album. Noise of Our Time -

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Milford Graves - Babi (Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2018)

Drummer Milford Graves self-produced 1976 album Babi with saxophonists Arthur Doyle and Hugh Glover was a milestone of mid seventies free jazz, reflecting the proud DIY aesthetic of the New York City loft scene. The original master tapes of this album have been lost in the intervening years, so this reissue was carefully pieced together from unplayed copies (!) of the original run of the LP, done with Graves' blessing. The original artwork and photographs are restored and a second disc of previously unreleased music has been added, with the same trio playing in an unknown New York City location in December of 1969. The restoration of the original album on disc one is excellent, the music sounds bright and vibrant, and you would hardly know that it was mastered from an LP. The music itself is flat out extraordinary, with all of it composed and led by Graves, you will hear him count out and play these complex beats and rhythms and scat their sounds which become folded into the fabric of the music itself. The record is very hot, Graves is loud and thrilling to hear, his playing is a cascade of sound that defies explanation but never seems out of control or out of place. The two saxophonists play with explosive intensity, digging in and boiling on the lengthy "Ba" and "Babi" and allowing Graves more space on the shorter "Bi." Everything really comes together well, making for a short compact album that hits like a haymaker. The provenance of the 1969 tapes is unknown, they may be rehearsal tapes, with the trio playing four lengthy spontaneous improvisations, beginning with the sprawling "1969 Trio 1" that clocks in at over twenty eight minutes. The recording quality is a few degrees poorer than the previous disc, but once you dial your ear in, it ceases to become a problem, and you essentially become a fly on the wall listening in to the evolution of this trio. The music is a little more raw, but the seeds are there, Graves is astonishing, playing with ceaseless energy and innovation, and continuously feeding sparks to the saxophonists who run with them in interesting directions. Their energy and commitment is admirable and makes this session well worth listening to. This is a very exciting two disc set that is highly recommended to fans of high energy American free jazz; Graves is a master of the form and deserves recognition as such. Babi -

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

William Parker - Flower In a Stained-Glass Window / The Blinking of The Ear (Centering / AUM Fidelity, 2018)

Recorded during a burst of creativity during 2017 and 2018 bassist and composer William Parker led a medium sized ensemble in creating this very impressive double disc set. Disc one is called Flower In a Stained-Glass Window and features the amazing vocals of Leena Conquest, and a powerful seven piece band and all compositions (music and lyrics) are by all Parker. "Fallen Flower" is a spoken word piece with subtle accompaniment, the words are focused social commentary and are recited with lacerating effect. Bowed bass and trumpet support sung vocals longing for peace on "Gone," invoking nature and the futility of war in a haunting manner then moving into a free jazz squall of "Emmett Till"as Conquest implores the lynching victim's name. "Broken Earth" features bowed bass as there is spoken word recitation about climate change framed by ripe piano, leading into the gospel flavored hand claps of "I Had a Dream Last Night" as shaken percussion leads Conquest to invoke a dream of a female Jesus who absorbs the pain of the downtrodden, with her beautiful soulful singing as the lyrics invite pantheism, and a multi-ethnic, all inclusive peace. The short "Flag" speaks of blood and revolution, and the refusal to pick cotton, moving into "Give Me Back My Drum" which uses the full band and demanding vocals, strong full bodied piano, great horn arrangement and rhythm section playing, which develops into a wonderful collective improvisation that really takes off and soars. "Living Hope" sees the band playing darker but not despondent tones of music, along with well articulated spoken word, every word defiant in hope with the realization that the people you ask for freedom are not free themselves, and the very judges are criminals themselves. Thick propulsive bass powers "Children" leading with the story of the bomber the Enola Gay and the dividing line between soldier and murderer. The music rises to meet the strong speak singing, where politics equals death, and generations of children are lost. Storming brass and rhythm section fly then downshift for vocals, and all the while deep and resonant bass shows the way. "What is That About?" has bright and bouncy piano, scatting vocals, and a manic feeling of excitement though the Earth is dying. Impressionistic vocals, speaking and singing in complete control, about ecology, freedom and civil rights, the music frames the words and singing perfectly as sawing bowed bass and droplets of piano fall, punchy brass leading to another wonderful full band conclusion. The delicate flute and chimes of "Music Song" recount the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. from a spiritual perspective and the first disc ends on a positive note with "Samba," where spoken word pleads with listeners to wake up and change alongside great rhythmic drums and percussion Conquest appealing for change from the inside out, freeing yourself from yourself. Disc Two is called The Blinking of the Ear and it features mezzo soprano AnnMarie Sandy singing Parker's lyrics with a tight modern/free jazz quintet. "Meditation on Freedom" opens with piano, bass and drums creating a subtle and stable foundation, as the horns ease in, the music begins to gradually build in volume and intensity, the band sounding resourceful and playing with a purpose. The singer cries for freedom halfway through, her operatic voice is a dramatic change from the previous disc, ending with a lengthy well executed band improvisation. The singer reaches and holds notes on "Without Love Everything Will Fail" as the band rotates around her, light and nimble percussion and trumpet, a supple bass solo with piano comping and her voice intoning freedom and love, gradually evolving into a full band performance. "Dark Remembrance" features stark singing seeking spiritual grace, with leaps of voice, and lyrics about lynching and racism - powerful metaphors met my stoic music, haunting and graceful. "Heavenly Home Meditation on Peace (Part One)" has bass and horns uneasily building to a potent full band momentum and playing in tight formation. The singer cries free at last, her emotional voice framed by gentle horns, and swinging drumming then a fine piano feature leading to more operatic singing. "(Part Two)" uses slowly opening music, the singer's soaring voice reaching for the sky framed by piano, as the music fills in gradually, yet still open and lonely as the singer becomes well integrated with the group, her voice an instrument in the ensemble. This is a very well performed collection of music, which is continuing Parker's interest in vocal music. From gospel, jazz, or poetry to classical music, the compositions and improvisations in this are natural and  organic and the musicians are deeply focused with one another, creating graceful and profound music. Flower in a Stained-Glass Window / The Blinking of the Ear -

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ingrid Laubrock / Tom Rainey - Utter (Relative Pitch, 2018)

This is a very well played and consistently interesting album with Ingrid Laubrock on soprano and tenor saxophone and Tom Rainey on drums. Normally on their tours they play freely with minimal forms, but on this album, they composed music for several of the tracks. "Flutter" opens the album with a bouncing saxophone theme and dry sounding drumming that seems tight and claustrophobic. The music opens up nicely with a lean and taut improvisation that sees the saxophone deve deep into the music and the strong drumming become the foundation and an rhythm base that melds the shape of the music which builds to a conclusion of gruff tenor and powerful drumming. A combination of complex subtle percussion rhythms and discreet saxophone mumbles ushers in "Murmur" with the skittish improvisation moving unpredictably forward, before the saxophonist offers unexpected long tones of sound, which are met by rapid fire drumming, the musicians seemingly on a different plane from one another, but the combination works very well. They reunite in a strong collaborative improvisation that is a thrilling race to the finish line. "Chant II"is the only spontaneously improvised piece on the album, and is works quite well, opening with piercing saxophone and unique sounding percussing which makes use of the entire drum kit and more in creating a sound world that is fascinating and at times alien and wild. Pops of saxophone and then blasts of sound provide the dynamic yang to the spacey and open ying on this performance. A complex opening of fast and spiraling sound begins "Riddled" developing a complex rhythm, but through a very exciting and disciplined duet performance. Laubrock devises a great brawny tenor sound, astride explosive drumming which seems to be everywhere at once. There is a compelling section for solo saxophone, long textured passages of breath, varying in character and essence, but consistently compelling. This builds patterns for the duo to explore gathering room to develop context for the explosive finish. "Dusk" has a medium tempo opening for skittish cymbals and fast percussion, saxophone engaging and roughing things up as the music grows faster and deeper, becoming a brazenly fast episode with a tough sandpaper edge. The choppy feeling of "Clickety-Smash-Boom" recalls Eric Dolphy's leaping saxophone, as Laubrock's soprano saxophone is rhythmically charged by excellent drumming and maks for a very exciting performance that is full of heart. "Shutter" concludes the album, with wild and exciting dynamism allowing the musicians to take the music from a relatively calm placid place and blast it into orbit, continuing to make the sound of surprise the most important thing in this compelling album, one the musicians are committed to playing in the moment where their sense of curiosity and delight extends to the listener. Utter -

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