Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Go: Organic Orchestra and Brooklyn Raga Massive - Ragmala: A Garland Of Ragas (Meta Records, 2019)

World music and jazz advocate Adam Rudolph brings his Go: Organic Orchestra to a summit meeting with Brooklyn Raga Massive's progressive Indian classical musicians to create a very interesting amalgam of sound. It's an enormous group, but one that is nimble and can break out into smaller parts, improvise like a jazz band and fearlessly combine diverse genres. "Rotations" is a very interesting blend where world music meets seventies soundtracks melded to exotica and Bollywood aesthetic points all melded into one fascinating mix buoyed by bubbling bass and percussion. Bowed instruments and vocals move "Savannahs" to great heights, building over eleven minutes also carving out space for harp and complex and complex hand percussion. "Ascent to Now" is quite atmospheric with percussion and flute building from the ground up with funky bass and drum kit and some horns adding a gritty punch. Superior sounding flute playing in both solos and support recall the soulful jazz of Lloyd McNeill or Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Slashing electric guitar breaks through on "Glare of the Tiger" initially mining a mid 1970's Miles Davis groove, where the atmosphere develops as deep bass, keyboards, and drums drive the music forward. Exotic strings and horns add further texture taking the music further afield from its beginning and showing the depth that this ensemble has as the instruments weave in and out forming a diverse tapestry of sound. "Turia" is presumably a nod to the great Alice Coltrane, with a nice sound of organ and bass with adventurous strings arcing over the soundscape and the groove rides nicely over their soaring sound, drawing in bass, drums and subtle saxophone into the mix. Bass, flute and handclaps delve into a cool area for "Chakawali" adding chanting vocals, which have a deep and emotional incantation and the track sounds like a processional, adding piano and strings to frame the singing. "Africa 21" brings some wonderful afrobeat horns, think Fela or more recently Budos Band, with some gutsy saxophone soloing over drums and percussion and the rest of the band providing propulsive riffing. Flute takes over for a throaty solo, eventually trading sections with the saxophonist and wordless vocalizing. Combining two groups this large and diverse could be difficult, but the arrangements and the playing on this album are both cohesive and very good. They cover a large swath of ground on this double album, but the music never drags and always seems fresh and invigorating. Ragmala: A Garland Of Ragas - amazon.com

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Monday, December 30, 2019

Chick Corea - Trilogy 2 (Concord Jazz, 2019)

This generous set of standards and original compositions which places veteran pianist Chick Corea in an excellent space, improvising with younger yet experienced musicians in bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade and they come together to create superior sounding live mainstream jazz. Thelonious Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie" is played in a witty yet thoughtful manner that allows the group to tinker with some of Monk's unique mannerisms like Corea adding decorative flourishes, while allowing the beauty of the melody to shine through. "Work" is is short, fast paced tune that is very impressive, showing the trio locked in tightly whatever the tempo, creating a bouncy and brisk swing that is infectious, and incorporates some tricky drum and piano interplay. "La Fiesta" works quite well, offering the trio chances to juggle complex rhythms and changes of pace that keep the music continuously entertaining. The Miles Davis classic "All Blues" is given a thorough investigation, delving deep into the implications of the theme and open ended nature of the song's structure. McBride takes a thoughtful solo, grounding the music for it's final push to the conclusion. The centerpiece of the album is "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs," the title composition of one of Chick Corea's finest early albums. The trio takes this and really runs with it, over sixteen minutes of complex and well executed modern jazz. The music develops episodically, gathering a strong kinetic energy, ripe keyboards and crisp drumming eventually making way for a taut and impressive bass solo. Blade's drum solo is a wonder of percussion, a highlight of the album which powers the trio through the end of the track. The album ends with a spirited performance of "Lotus Blossom" which quickly becomes a nimble uptempo performance, with the band swinging in a confident manner. Their three way improvisation works very well, creating a tight driven sensibility, one that presents the group in their best light. Trilogy 2 - amazon.com

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El Intruso Critics Poll 2019 Ballot

I was invited to take part in the 12th Annual International Critics Poll of the web journal El Intruso, and here were my selections:

Musician of the year: Dave Rempis
Newcomer Musician: Junius Paul
Group of the year: Matthew Shipp Trio
Newcomer group: Sun of Goldfinger
Album of the year: Dave Rempis / Brandon Lopez / Ryan Packard - The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic Records, 2019)
Composer: Angel Bat Dawid
Drums: Gerald Cleaver
Acoustic Bass: William Parker
Electric Bass: Jasper Stradhouders
Guitar: David Torn
Piano: Matthew Shipp
Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ: Matt Mitchell
Tenor Saxophone: Rodrigo Amado
Alto Saxophone: Angelika Niescier
Baritone Saxophone: Dave Sewelson
Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome
Trumpet/Cornet: Jamie Branch
Clarinet/bass clarinet: Jason Stein
Trombone: Steve Swell
Flute: Nicole Mitchell
Violin/Viola: Jessica Pavone
Cello: Tomeka Reid
Vibraphone: Joel Ross
Electronics: Christof Kurzmann
Others instruments: Heather Leigh, pedal steel guitar
Female Vocals: Leena Conquest
Male Vocals: Ben Lamar Gay
Best Live Band: Chris Potter Circuits
Record Label: Clean Feed

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Jørgen Mathisen´s Instant Light - Mayhall's Object (Clean Feed, 2019)

The band Instant Light consists of the leader Jørgen Mathisen on tenor and soprano saxophones, Erlend Slettevoll on piano, Trygve Waldemar Fiske on double bass and Dag Erik Knedal Andersen on drums. They play an accessible and enjoyable brand of modern jazz that can be enjoyed equally by those who seek melody and those who seek the freedom of unbridled improvisation. The opening track, "Mayhall's Object," features soprano saxophone with piano, bass and drums; playing very well together at a medium up tempo. Mathisen's saxophone stretches and then pulls back for the rhythm section to open up and express itself with a bright and swinging interlude. The saxophone returns, pushing the music into more intense territory, leading a gritty and potent collective improvisation that is very exciting to listen to and absorb. The leader moves to tenor saxophone for "Magellanic Cloud," developing a thicker and meatier tone, and allowing the music to take on a dynamic nature with a crisp drum beat and delicate piano. The piano, bass and drums section is strongly rhythmic with cymbal beats and piano flourishes marking the path, and the return of the tenor saxophone leading the group into freer territory, marked by squalls of raw sound and then a gentler conclusion. On "MACS0647-JD" the tenor saxophone kneads a repeating motif with spare accompaniment, and the music begins to spread beyond, with raw sounding saxophone, thick bass, sharp piano chords and drumming. The music is intense but slightly out of phase, and there is a spacious center for bass and piano with skittish percussion. Gritty saxophone reappears and the band coalesces around this dark kernel of a theme that remains unresolved. The music is fast and uptempo on "Quasar" with a ripe melody that propels the group forward, though Mathisen's saxophone quickly exits for a crisp and classy piano, bass and drums three way improvisation. When the saxophonist returns the energy spikes, he quickly pushes the tempo and sails forth with graceful energy, barreling down deeply into his horn and creating a memorable solo statement. The final track, "Neutron Star" opens with a fine solo from Fiske's bass, leading to lush piano and saxophone filling in with subtle percussion coloring the edges. The music consists of shifting hues and colors with the instruments gradually bubbling up to add further information to the program, particularly the pianist who solos beautifully, leading to a more gruff and fast paced section for tenor saxophone that burrows through the ground ably tilled by the bass and drums. Overall this album worked very well, the compositions were well designed and the musicians performed and improvised at a high level. The band members are involved in several groups concurrently, but hopefully they will have time for another album in this configuration soon, for there is music potential left to explore. Mayhall's Object - amazon.com

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Monday, December 23, 2019

Angel Bat Dawid - The Oracle (international Anthem, 2019)

Composer, clarinetist and vocalist Angel Bat Dawid is a survivor and an innovator who makes her own way in the world. After recovering from a health scare and dedicating herself to an individual approach to music, she recorded much of this music on her own, cataloging it on her phone as she traveled the world and infusing those experiences into these deep and majestic songs. She opens the album with a short nod to a revered elder in "Destination (Dr. Yusef Lateef) which uses gentle keyboards and clarinet to create an evocative sound, which she adds spoken word meditation about the end of life and beyond. This moves directly into "Black Family" which adds a solid drumbeat to the winsome clarinet, with voices drifting in and out of the soundstage, and waves of synth adding texture. Swirling processed clarinet and electronics give the ending a psychedelic tinge as the sound gradually fades from view. "What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black (Dr. Margaret Burroughs)" is based on Ms Burroughs' poem with Dawid singing the words and double tracking them in an interesting and affecting manner, before breaking into straight spoken word, and alternating speaking and singing in a haunting manner. "Impepho" has multi-tracked clarinets playing together with percussion creating a very cool sounding instrumental texture, where reeds will bubble up or double down into the bass range, keeping the music in continuous motion. "London" combines piano and clarinet at a medium tempo, gliding gracefully through an improvised section, with the reed rising and falling in intensity over the steadily comping keyboard. This leads into the albums longest performance, "Capetown (feat. Asher Simiso Gamedze)" which adds a drummer to this impressive fifteen minute epic. Spoken word and clarinet join in conjunction with percussion, developing a very powerful duo improvisation, and Dawid sings in a powerful voice in between sections on the clarinet developing a deep spiritual jazz performance. With a fine percussion solo in the middle, the music builds an unstoppable groove, gathering speed and momentum, Dawid vocalizes with gusto over simmering percussion then returns to her instrument to lead a torrid instrumental finish. Finally, the title track, "The Oracle" floats on clarinet and vocals, creating a deeply emotional performance, as her aspirational vocals are almost pained and strongly sincere. This album worked very well, and is a testament to the fortitude that Dawid brings to her music that she could make what is essentially a solo album into something so deep and memorable. The Oracle - amazon.com

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Roscoe Mitchell With Anthony Braxton ‎– Duets (Sackville 1978; Delmark 2018)

Multi-reed instrument masters Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton have deep links to Chicago and the AACM, having been among the earliest members of that experimental music collective. They met in the bicentennial year of 1976 to record an LP that had the compositions of Mitchell on the first side and those of Braxton on the second. These two musicians were canny veterans at this point, with Mitchell having spent years with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Braxton soon to begin a series of attention getting albums with Arista records. They meet each other halfway with a collaboration that is much more designed to be working together to explore their compositions than any cliched blowing session. The Mitchell tracks start of short, with the two musicians playing saxophone and flutes moving around each other and in tandem with each other leading a ten minute track "Cards Three and Open" which allows them room to move, take solo sections, leave open space and allow the music to simmer and also work up to some screams, playing with dizzying confidence. Side two contains Braxton's compositions, most of which consist of diagrams that are somewhat akin to a circuit board drawing, and he takes the music in a different directions. There seems to be a lot of longer tones of sound used by the instruments, especially from Braxton who can use the deep dark tones of the baritone and bass saxophone to create a wider range of textures and use them to build a light and dark motif that really works well. They also move from delicate intimacy into paint peeling free improvisation at the drop of a hat, demonstrating just how dialed in they were to this project, despite how much was going on with their individual careers. The music is challenging but should be of interest to fans of either man or avant-garde jazz in general. The CD re-issue is bare bones, with one short bonus track and nothing in the way of liner notes or photographs. Duets - amazon.com

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Junius Paul - Ism (International Anthem, 2019)

Bassist Junius Paul has constructed an exciting double album that incorporates elements of not just acoustic and electric and electric jazz, but funk, soul and electronic music, creating a unique and personal statement. This album was sewn together from live and studio recordings made from 2016-2019, and he performs with a range of the finest young musical talent Chicago has to offer. "You Are Free To Choose" opens the album at a frantic pace with piano, bass and drums playing very vast and loose, with the keyboard and percussion tumbling grandly approaching escape velocity. There's a wonderful funky beat to "Baker's Dozen" with thick bass and drums and keyboards running amok, developing a cool sounding musical landscape aided by a saxophone flyover. The fast and tight piano trio returns for "The One Who Endures" playing with confidence and bravado at breakneck speed, with Paul's tick bass weaving its way between the drums and piano. The music has a feeling not uncommon to something McCoy Tyner would play on a Milestone album from the 1970's, fast, pulsating jazz. This is followed by the centerpiece of the album, the nearly twenty minute long "Spocky Chainsy Has Re-Emergred" which has echoes of the music of Miles Davis, but clearly carves it's own distinctive path. The long track gradually evolves with stoic trumpet and active drums framed by electric piano and Paul's bass, which are prominent in laying the groundwork. They trumpet lays out for a probing area that the rhythm section makes their own, with rippling electric piano and slashing drums anchored by heartbeat like bass playing. Their music develops into an atmospheric section, using spare trumpet, pastel toned keyboards, bass and light drums, the group's collective playing is very good, they are tight sounding and patient, a band of good listeners and responders. "Collant Denier" fades into a rapid rhythm section motoring along with trumpet adding thoughts and phrases, with this leading them into another lengthy piece, "Paris." This performance is initially very noir like and moody with breathy trumpet, soft percussion, and melodic bass playing. The drumbeat gets a little crisper and the trumpet consolidates around the thick and meaty bass playing, and they gradually ratchet up the tempo building to a simmering collective improvisation, with the drummer really getting into the spirit of things and driving the music forward in conjunction with Paul's bass. "Sprouts" has the drums crashing in over low to the ground bass and some ripe saxophone adding to the action, making for another exciting track. The bass and drums are locked in and the saxophone adds flavor, as the band breaks out for more free jazz styling building into "Fred Anderson and a Half." Delicate percussion and bass sets the pace here, paying fealty to a revered elder, developing a complex rhythm with bowed bass or cello adding further flavor to the music that is growing faster and deeper by the second. "Two Minute Warning" is equally impressive, the band playing in a very open manner, rhythm section plus trumpet, playing up to the minute acoustic jazz in a powerful formation, improvising with bravado. This was a very good record from a thoughtful and imaginative musician. The album flows together seamlessly and the musicians have all bought into the concept of the compositions and and the improvisational possibilities of the music. Ism - amazon.com

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Peter Brotzmann and Heather Leigh - South Moon Under (self released, 2019)

One grew up in the shadow of a disastrous war and the other had roots in a coal mining town. However disparate their backgrounds, their can be no denying that their is a tangible musical link between Peter Brotzmann, playing tenor saxophone and tarogato and pedal steel guitar player Heather Leigh, that allows then to create extraordinary music. On the opening track "South Moon Under" Brotzmann's huge tenor saxophone grows wide, filling the available space, as the subtle and ethereal sound of the guitar builds in behind him, creating an otherworldly glow. These seemingly dissimilar instruments begin to work together, with Brotzmann's raw and coruscating saxophone in motion with the ringing and spectral guitar notes. Leigh plays solo, developing a narrative slowly with spare notes building on top of one another, creating a beautiful foci for Brotzman to return to and add blustery yet perfectly thought out gales of saxophone. Leigh sculpts feedback from her instrument, challenging Brotzmann who engages and adds quick flurries of sound to the wall of electronic noise coming his way, as they develop a fine collective improvisation, both making use of everything their instruments have to offer them. They return to a section of spaciousness, spare notes of guitar feeding the saxophone's guttural cries, and then even further emotional blowing as he moves to the exotic torogato which has a pinched sound that eerily matches the cry of the human voice. The two musicians complement each other very well in this setting with the haunting and misty guitar framing the earthy and sheer reed instrument. The closing track, "These Dark Waters" has probing guitar playing, building gradually more harsh and stinging tone that lashes out powerfully, phasing in and out with effects and creating a very creative and exciting statement. Brotzmann finally enters with intense tenor saxophone, matching her power and leading to a change in the scope of their performance. Leigh showers the playing field with molten notes and Brotzmann responds with bursts of inspired saxophone playing, making their collective duet playing an expressive and mutual improvisation. The music grows in its intensity and density and fades back just as easily, because the musicians are completely locked in on their performance and have been totally successful in their goal of making an enjoyable and completely unique piece of improvised art. South Moon Under - Heather Leigh

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Radical Empathy Trio - Reality and Other Imaginary Places (Esp-Disk, 2019)

Radical Empathy Trio is Michael Winberly on drums and percussion, Nels Cline on electric guitar and Thollem McDonas on acoustic and electric keyboards. Recorded during McDonas' 2017 residency at Brooklyn's Pioneer Works, this album shows a very tight band who is open to anything and willing to take risks in order to achieve the music they are looking for, gleefully melding several different musical genres into their own personal sound. The opening track, "Collective Tunnels," develops from with piano, drums and strong smears of electronic noises and tones. Cline and McDonas build criss-crossing and intersecting sounds sounds from electric guitar and synth instruments that are able to weave continually evolving textures. Wild collective improvising with electronics and drumming, incorporating waves of feedback, and ominous lulls of quiet keep the music moving steadily forward. They keyboards and electric guitar face off, growling and grinding along side feathered percussion, then moving into a withering experimental soundscape, where cinematic science fiction meets avant-garde boundary stretching. "Conscious Tunnels" is initially constructed from acoustic piano, sounding deep and dark, with percussion and guitar joining to fill out the sound, growing freer and more passionate, as the instruments meld their sound. The music becomes quiet, heavy with anticipated fury, with tones of electronic noises changing the nature of the performance. The electric sounds from keyboards and guitar send the music into outer space, where krautrock meets free jazz. Quickly the performance moves back to piano juxtaposed with serrated guitar and drums developing a scalding improvisation that is very impressive to hear. Quivers of electronic sounds and piano float in the void, during a dramatic shift in tempo, moving to the quietly unexpectedly ending with a whimper rather with a bang yet grandly subverting expectations the whole way. Overall, this is a very interesting album that melds a wide range of music in a confident and enthusiastic manner. The musicians played in a very thoughtful way and were willing to experiment in a live and open space. Reality and Other Imaginary Places - amazon.com

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Friday, December 13, 2019

John Coltrane Quartet - Impressions: Graz 1962 (ezz-thetics, 2019)

The John Coltrane Quartet was in the middle of a substantial tour of Europe in the late fall of 1962 when this concert was recorded for Austrian radio. Often bootlegged, it receives a classy official release, this the first of two parts, with the remainder to be released next year. Eric Dolphy had formed his own group earlier in the year, so Coltrane opted to focus on the core of what would go on to be known as the "classic quartet" with him on tenor and soprano saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. "The Inch Worm" is a delightful opener, very melodic, with Coltrane playing the theme and then moving out into exploration of the available terrain. Elvin Jones is particularly locked in, playing in a heavy yet nimble fashion, with the bright piano comping and bass playing relegated slightly to the rear. Coltrane's soprano saxophone is soaring over the percussion before the music opens up for bass and cymbals. They build a collective improvisation around Coltrane's raw and questing saxophone that carries through to a solid conclusion. Coltrane's unaccompanied tenor saxophone opens "I Want to Talk About You" building into a beautiful ballad. The band creates a patient and thoughtful atmosphere, playing with great restraint but also allowing just the right amount of emotion to come through. They build the music into a gradually more intense area, but stay close to the melody in the course of their improvisation, with another lengthy and impressive unaccompanied section for Coltrane toward the end of the performance. The surprise in the playlist is the standard "Autumn Leaves" played with nimble distinction by the rhythm section to begin, and they are swinging grandly. Coltrane enters on soprano saxophone nearly five minutes into the track, playing fast and strong over shimmering cymbals and elastic bass playing. The saxophone swoops and swirls with great flair and it is thrilling to hear the band playing together at such a level, with Coltrane out front absolutely soaring. The final track is a massive twenty minute blowout on "Impressions" with Coltrane returning to tenor saxophone, letting Tyner ripple quickly across the piano, supported by Garrison's stoic bass and Jones keeping the rhythm moving through the cymbals. The team cooks massively, leading to a bass solo played with humble grace, and Coltrane re-enters at around the eleven minute mark. The full band falls in playing like a well oiled machine as they lean into their improvisation with Jones crashing percussion and Coltrane's barreling and exploratory tenor saxophone leading the way into a scouring and fascinating performance. Impressions: Graz 1962 - Squidco

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp - Live in Nuremberg (SMP Records, 2019)

Coming on the heels of their excellent 2019 studio collaboration Efflorescence Vol. 1, tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp took their unique and constantly evolving manner of duo improvisation on the road, recording this excellent set in Nuremberg, Germany during the 2019 Art of Improvisation Festival. Just when it seems that they may have reached the point of maximum return for their partnership, they find a new dimension in which to explore. According to Perelman's quotes in the liner notes, they are interested in exploring musical timbre and the character or quality their individual instruments sounds and voices, in particular, the saxophonist's analysis of the upper register of his instrument. The music is broken down into a fifty five minute long improvisation and then a short encore. Both are very well played, the former being a lengthy spontaneous performance that evolves into a powerful narrative flow, both musicians delving into the extremities of their instruments, Perelman climbing high into the upper register of his instrument using these tones in unexpected ways to bring swaths of vivid color to their performance. He has also stated that it was his research into baroque trumpet music adapted to the saxophone provided the spark for his higher register playing. Shipp matches his partner, displaying his mastery of the keyboard throughout the performance, and he also can get loud, playing the low end of the keyboard in a remarkable fashion, dropping depth charges that resonate and sustain, often juxtaposed by delicate runs with his left hand, fast and fleet and able to provide a course correction for the improvisation if needed. Although there are some short solo features woven into the recording the vast majority of the music and the most exciting elements come when Perelman and Shipp are interacting. They are clearly playing at a very high level, adding elements of melody and cells of raw anarchy that are just parts of the full tapestry of their performance. This was an outstanding album, displaying a still growing partnership at a live peak, and offering the listener a different aspect of the duet than we usually hear during their hothouse studio sessions. The audience was deeply engaged with the music, providing well deserved enthusiastic applause after the main performance and the encore, and the sound quality for this album was top notch, allowing you to hear everything clearly as it happens. Live in Nuremberg SMP Records

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Monday, December 09, 2019

Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson and Gary Bartz - Bird at 100 (Smoke Sessions, 2019)

The centennial of Charlie Parker's birth will occur in 2020, and to get us in the spirit comes this album led by a crew of post-Parker alto saxophonists, Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson and Gary Bartz. They pay tribute to Parker's legacy by playing his compositions along with some original compositions which were written in his honor. The saxophonists are aided in this endeavor by an excellent band that includes David Kikoski on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Carl Allen on drums. “Klactoveedsedstene” opens the album at an appropriately torrid pace, with the saxophonists swaggering through the melody before each one gets an opportunity to take a solo and place their distinctive style of playing on the proceedings. They all have uniquely differing tones and attacks, which makes this track particularly enjoyable as does the fire provided by the rhythm section. A Bobby Watson original, “Bird-ish” was based on the classic Charlie Parker track "Confirmation" and has a joyous and swinging theme. Soon the horns are out front, soloing with fluid grace over aggressive piano comping and elastic bass and drum work. The saxophonists trade the baton like a highly practiced relay team each one adding a little something special to the occasion, and incorporating a fine piano led trio section. "The Hymn” has a fast and delicate piano, bass and drums opening before the saxophones takes off in a blowing session, like something you'd hear on Prestige Records in the 1950's. There's plenty of room for everybody to stretch out with some blistering bebop saxophone, all three really get down and stoke the fire of spontaneous creation, yet the vibe is cool, friendly rather than competitive, even carving out room for a fine Allen drum solo. Herring's composition "Folklore" has a jagged theme, echoing the bop era while remaining true to today's modern jazz. Kikoski adds bright chords as the saxophonists really reach for something new, pushing the music beyond the expected into a more exploratory realm of post-bop and modern mainstream jazz. Nakamura's thick and pulsating bass and Allen's relentless drumming are also keys to this successful track that bridges the past with the present in a very welcoming manner, giving the music meaning and purpose beyond the traditional staid tribute album format. "Bird Lives" is by another alto player, one of the greatest, Jackie McLean. The music is rousing and delightful, with a grand theme which provides excellent fuel for the saxophonists to build some daredevil solo flights over a deeply swinging rhythm section. The music is fast and complex but the musicians are so talented that everything is articulated very well, and one can imagine that if Charlie Parker himself had a seat at the live gig during which this music was recorded, he couldn't help but be pleased at the disposition of his musical descendants. Bird at 100 - amazon.com

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Saturday, December 07, 2019

Dave Sewelson - More Music For A Free World (Mahakala Music, 2020)

I jumped the gun a bit on this one, but the music is special, so it is worth it. Following up on their successful recording Music For A Free World, the Dave Sewelson Quartet -- featuring the leader on baritone saxophone, William Parker on bass, Steve Swell on trombone, and Marvin Bugalo Smith on drums create a powerful and memorable sequel. "Memories" opens with a freely improvised full band playing fast paced music, with rapid drumming, strong gruff tones of baritone saxophone and rippling trombone creating a ripe and hearty performance. Trombone and saxophone twist and turn organically like a double helix then open up some room for the bass and drums, before before the horns return, sounding heady and raw. Throughout the album, short solo or smaller groupings are woven into the overall narrative. The music writhes in intensity as a fast trombone feature with bass and drums morphs into a brilliant section for Parker's bass before igniting into a torrid collective improvisation. The saxophone feature is rough, guttural and very exciting, urged on by taut bass and drums before the band uses to the longer tones that signal the conclusion of the piece. Percussion followed by bowed bass opens "Dreams," as the music moves patiently forward, deeply intertwined and growing in complexity. Sewelson's raw saxophone sounds great next to the more fluid trombone with the bass and drums developing a free yet supportive structure. They move to a more abstract manner of playing, framed by slashing cymbals but always returning to the gutbucket earthy American style of free jazz that has its deep roots in blues and gospel music. There are echoes of Charles Mingus's music when the horns come together and push behind Parker's thick elastic bass, before returning to a looser setting that indicates completion. Finally "Reflections" develops from a solo saxophone beginning, enveloping bowed bass and puckered trombone, as the music coalesces into choppy horn playing and rapid drumming, with the bass holding it all together and long tones of saxophone and trombone and the use of space invoking freedom. This was an excellent album from a deeply empathetic band, whose music builds from an organic awareness of each other and the sounds they create. More Music For a Free World - Mahakala Music

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love - AMR (Catalytic Sound, 2019)

Released just in time for their lengthy tour of Japan, this is another excellent duet album from Ken Vandermark on tenor saxophone and clarinet and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion. They have an empathetic connection that ensures creative and exploratory music that comes through in this album, which is divided into four alphabetical selections. "A" opens the album with crushing drums and tenor saxophone, playing in an exciting and immediate manner placing the music right in your face. Dark toned and knotty saxophone and drums played with great commitment and trust, levelling the music to a medium up tempo with rhythmic exchanges and light pops amid the space. Vandermark uses a lighter sound along with bare percussion, which builds the tension like great storytellers, with Nilssen-Love's drums bursting into action fast and loud, given room to shine brilliantly. The tenor saxophone re-enters and their interaction is full force improvisation at its finest, the musicians are locked in and playing with passion and fervor. Spare and quiet, "B" takes the music in another direction, with Vandermark moving to clarinet and probing areas of space with high pitched sounds. Tumbling percussion meets the reed playing with jabs and parries, waxing and waning in intensity and using long piercing tones of yearning sound. "C" has the drums building tension, gaining speed like a downhill skier, and leading to a sound of near ritualistic percussion and Vandermark's tenor saxophone, which calls out into the void as the two musicians come together in a massive edifice of sound, with dramatic crashing drums and stoic tenor saxophone. They develop a deep interconnected freebop improvisation at the end of this section which is expertly played and continuously inventive. Vandermark returns to clarinet for "D" and twirls loops of sound in open space as the drums rumble in, sounding unfettered and free making the clarient strain as the two instruments grow deeply integrated in a focused conversation of free jazz, and ending with a dramatic flourish. This album worked very well and it seems no matter how many times Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love play together they are able to create music that is liberated from any cliche, as if they are released into the zone of creativity where they have the freedom to take risks and create fresh music with impunity. AMR - Bandcamp

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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Book Review: The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 2: 1964–1977: The Beatles, the Stones, and the Rise of Classic Rock by Ed Ward (Flatiron Books, 2019)

Ward's history of rock 'n' roll is an admirably inclusive one, albeit a American-centric high altitude flyover where even the name checked Beatles and Stones aren't the center of attention. He writes in an engaging manner, with a breezy tone that keeps the pages turning, beginning with the trade magazines getting rumors of four mop-topped musicians from Liverpool who were coming to America. But there was already a home made revolution on the rise, with the Tamla-Motown singles coming to dominate the rhythm and blues as well as the pop charts. Ward dives deep into the soul and rhythm and blues music that develops during this period, following Motown to it's heights with the likes of Marvin Gaye and then controversially moving the organization to LA and losing massive talents like Stevie Wonder. Ward's willingness to delve deeply into black music is to his credit, taking the long view of rock and roll and the influence of soul music whether it is from Stax in Memphis with Otis Redding and Booker T. and the MG's or the smooth sounds that came out of Philadelphia in the 1970's. He also takes a deep dive into reggae, moving well beyond the popularity of Bob Marley with rock musicians to show the development of the music and its many sub-genres from vocal groups to dub. Running in parallel with all of this is traditional rock and roll as most people would understand it, and Ward covers the San Francisco scene whether at Bill Graham's Fillmore or Winterland with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds and all of the other usual suspects, eventually moving into the Topanga Canyon scene with the singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and others moving into the 1970's. The major producers and executives are followed as they wheel and deal looking to cash in with MOR cheese like The Eagles, while underground in New York and Detroit the revolution was rumbling with The Stooges and The New York Dolls. The book ends in the mid-seventies, not with punk, but with the death of Elvis Presley, a watershed event even if he was a non-factor in this book while alive. Overall, this was a solid overview of popular music during this time period with particular praise due to Ward for showing how important the black music of the period was to the overall narrative of the time.The History of Rock and Roll, Volume 2: 1964–1977: The Beatles, the Stones, and the Rise of Classic Rock - amazon.com
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Monday, December 02, 2019

Sam Rivers Quintet - Zenith (NoBusiness Records, 2019)

This is the second release in NoBusiness Records series of archival recordings by the great multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser Sam Rivers, the recording having been made in Berlin, Germany in November of 1977 with Rivers in the company of Joe Daley on tuba and euphonium, Dave Holland on bass and cello and Barry Altschul and Charlie Persip on drums. The music is uniformly excellent as they perform a continuous fifty-three minute collective improvisation called "Universal Message" with Rivers cycling through his instruments in nearly equal measures, creating a suite that where he moves from tenor saxophone to flute and finally to a mix of piano and soprano saxophone. The sound of the album is clear and transparent, allowing you hear all of the instruments, opening with River's raw tenor amid the bass, tuba and drumming creating a unique and fascinating soundscape. They build a caustic and exciting free improvisation with many layers that can be explored, with the drummers combining to create interesting rhythmic patterns and textures that push Rivers' saxophone into even higher realms as the music becoming witheringly intense at times. There is a brief abstract period for percussion and longer tones of sound, bass and tuba melding like molten liquid, and Holland taking a very impressive solo. Rivers moves to flute, beginning in a subtle manner with brushed percussion and Holland's thick bass for support, with the music gradually gathering steam, building to an inspired improvisation, the musicians playing at a breakneck speed without missing a beat. The sound of flute amid tuba, buoyant bass and double drums is daring and Rivers breaks into vocals exhortations that frame the visceral nature of this music. Holland uses his bow effectively engaging Rivers flute in a way that changes the nature of the music, allowing it to follow a different path, one that is quite melodic and beautiful. After an interlude of applause, Rivers moves to piano, beginning unaccompanied, developing his own percussive concept, as the band falls in beside him. He plays freely around Holland's stoic bass and the skittish drumming, creating a powerful atmosphere. The tuba takes flight for a very well articulated solo backed with rich bass and drummers playing cymbals along with spare piano chords, Daley has a lovely tone on the instrument, and is rewarded with applause from the audience. Rivers moves to soprano saxophone as the concert nears its conclusion, playing with sleek elegance, meeting urgent bass and drums with sharp peals of sound. The music undulates like a tempest as the drummers trade ideas in a titanic duet, with the band coming together for one final glorious sprint to the finish, ending this fantastic album with an excellent flourish. Zenith - NoBusiness Records

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Friday, November 29, 2019

NPR / Francis Davis Jazz Poll Ballot

I was invited by jazz writer Francis Davis to participate in his end of year poll, hosted by NPR music. We still have a month to go before the end of the year, but the deadline for ballots was December eighth and he was asking for ballots to be returned sooner than later. The final results of the poll will be posted on the NPR Music around new years.

•Your 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. Dave Rempis / Brandon Lopez / Ryan Packard - The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic Records, 2019)
2. Gerald Cleaver / Nels Cline / Larry Ochs - What Is To Be Done (Clean Feed, 2019)
3. David Torn / Tim Berne / Ches Smith - Sun Of Goldfinger (ECM, 2019)
4. Paul Dunmall Sun Ship Quartet - John Coltrane 50th Memorial Concert At Cafe Oto (Confront, 2019)
5. Brötzmann / Schlippenbach / Bennink - Fifty Years After... (Trost, 2019)
6. Made to Break - F4 Fake (Trost Records, 2019)
7. Matthew Shipp Trio - Signature (ESP-Disk, 2019)
8. Boneshaker - Fake Music (Soul What Records, 2019)
9. CP Unit - Riding Photon Time (Eleatic Records, 2019)
10. Teodross Avery - After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (Tompkins Square, 2019)
(11). Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp - Efflorescence Vol. 1 (Leo Records, 2019)

•Your top-three Reissues or Historical albums, again listed in descending order

1. Sam Rivers Trio - Emanation (NoBusiness, 2019)
2. Eric Dolphy - Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance, 2019)
3. Albert Ayler - Quartets 1964: Spirits To Ghosts Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2019)

•Your choice for the year's best Vocal album
Heroes Are Gang Leaders - The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes, 2019)

•Your choice for the year's best Latin album:
1. Poncho Sanchez - Trane's Delight (not reviewed)

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Gorilla Mask - Brain Drain (Clean Feed, 2019)

Gorilla Mask is Peter Van Huffel on alto and baritone saxophones plus effects, Roland Fidezius on electric bass and effects and Rudi Fischerlehner on drums and percussion. They are a seriously talented modern jazz band who still remembers how to have fun and make enjoyable and provocative music, unafraid to meld their jazz with a generous helping of punk and metal. "Rampage" opens the album, with some predatory bass and drum action, leading to clusters of ripe saxophone notes, with the group developing a tight groove. The bass takes on different textures and colors with distortion interacting with splashy cymbals and raw horn, as they dig deep and push hard in a riveting fashion. The title track "Brian Drain" has a deep and subterranean bass sound with urgent saxophone, as they build a fantasia of sound with the saxophone echoing over the bass and drums, which plow ahead relentlessly. The bass and drums section is very fast and complex with rhythmic surprises and deep interplay, and the elasticity of the performance is very impressive. "Forgive Me, Mother" features fast bass and drums locked in, with the horn arriving and the trio carving a deep pocket. They construct a fast paced collective improvisation, they flip the script into an abstract mid-action, making the remainder of the music raw and immediate. Van Huffel lays down some funky deep baritone saxophone on "Caught in a Helicopter Blade" aligned with heavy, aggressive drumming to creative a forceful and propulsive groove, especially when the bass kicks into gear. The music grinds appealingly as the players stretch out with a tightly knotted bass and drums feature in the middle. Shrieking accents frame the saxophone as the band crushes it moving hard to the finish line. "AVALANCHE!!!" is a fast and intricate trio improvisation with the musicians working closely together to unlock this complex music. The sound has a free-bop feeling and clearly displays the level of technique the musicians have on their instruments. The fast grinding groove returns for "Barracuda" with a withering pneumatic theme building speed and potency through repetition and gradual change. They break out fast and loose with a collective improvisation that is quite compelling with the scalding saxophone meeting locomoting bass and drums. Finally, "HOSER" is a fun and fast paced track where the band sets a fast paced choppy theme and then gradually stretches out from there with great muscular drumming and riff heavy bass and saxophone, ending this excellent album on a fine note. Brain Drain - amazon.com

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Ellery Eskelin / Christian Weber / Michael Griener - The Pearls (Intakt, 2019)

The collective group of Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone, Christian Weber on bass and Michael Griener on drums develop an interesting album that mixes interpretations of ragtime songs from the dawn of jazz with free improvisations that are as fresh as tomorrow. “Magnetic Rag” by Scott Joplin is a fast and jumpy tune with the group’s playing sounding happy and upbeat. Eskelin’s saxophone takes the lead, sounding gracious and accessible, playing in a lyrical fashion alongside witty bass and drums. Everybody plays the danceable song joyously, with these postmodern musicians playing this music from over a century ago without missing a beat, as they take the jaunty theme to a fine conclusion. Going in a different way entirely, “La Fée Verte” opens with spare percussion and probing bowed bass. They develop a moody vibe of bowed bass with cymbals as the saxophone enters melding their tones and twisting the music which gains density as the improvisation gets faster and freer. They weave a complex texture among the three instruments, as Weber changes to plucked bass, developing a hypnotic figure, and the trio advances an excellent collective improvisation that never falters. Jelly Roll Morton’s classic composition “The Pearls” expresses a lively, cheerful, and self-confident manner of playing, taken at a medium tempo with excellent brushed percussion. The band plays in a very tight formation, performing with great empathy and dignity. “Eccentric Rag” ramps the tempo up, cooking in a more rhythmic manner with a nice melody and crisp drumming. The final track, “Black Drop,” is a long abstract improvisation, beginning quietly with nearly silent percussion. Bubbling saxophone and probing bass enter the picture as the band gradually builds volume and speed to an imposing collective improvisation that eventually fades into the silence from which it came. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Beaver Harris’s From Ragtime to No Time and Air’s Air Lore, this trio is able to forge a link between the beginning of the music’s history and the present day without giving the listener auditory whiplash. Both the rags and the free performances are played with grace and humility and a great deal of skill leading to their success. The Pearls - amazon.com

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Keith Jarrett - Munich 2016 (ECM, 2016)

Pianist Keith Jarrett has recorded many solo albums over the course of his career, it is a challenge that continually calls to him. This particular concert was recorded on the last night of a 2016 European tour in Munich, the hometown of his longtime record label, ECM. Jarrett spontaneously improvises a twelve part suite that incorporates elements of jazz, classical and soul music into a successful performance. Despite recent health issues, the pianist is clearly feeling strong and in his element. On "Part I" he comes out with his foot on the gas, building and coalescing form from a nebulous opening into showers of notes developing a complex web of improvisation. Like gravitational waves emanating out from this original burst, the music undulates and flows with its own unique language and logic. The music tumbles relentlessly forward with Jarrett making use of the entire instrument, kneading the lower end of the keyboard to produce darker chords mixed with bright fast single note runs from the upper end of the keyboard. "Part IV" has elements of soul and the blues which were present in his earlier playing and the music swings pleasantly, along with his raspy vocalizations. It's a short piece, but interesting in that it seems to be a personal one to him in that he is pushing his feelings into it , he raises the volume and the syncopation of the performance, really driving himself to the conclusion. By contrast, "Part V" is a spacious ballad piece, with the very notes hanging in the air, the music is gentle and patient and he allows the performance to develop in its own time. Jarrett gracefully develops it further adding more lush elements to what has become quite a romantic undertaking, but it never becomes cloying or sentimental, but dances gracefully to its conclusion. "Part VII" is very short but memorable, as he once again hits the ground running, creating on the fly at high speed, playing at a very fast pace, up and down the keyboard in a most impressive and exciting manner, but before you have time to catch your breath, its over. Returning to the more accessible swing "Part IX" shows Jarrett playing what amounts to soulful hard bop, perhaps a flashback to the music he made for Atlantic and with Charles Lloyd in the 1960's. Regardless, it's enjoyable, and moreover, he sounds like he's having fun, which is something that doesn't always come through on his albums. Rock solid bass chords underpin an exploratory right hand, creating good stuff. Rippling piano like waves of water or desert sand are the metaphor for "Part XII" played with great dexterity and facility, Jarrett keeps the music in continuous motion and played very fast, his skill in performing is undeniable, and his hands must have been a blur of motion. He finishes the performance with three with three rather sentimental standards, the finale, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" being particularly poignant as he gradually introduces the familiar melody playing on the razors edge of sentimentality with out tipping into mawkishness and closing this excellent concert in fine style. Munich 2016 - amazon.com

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Avram Fefer - Testament (Clean Feed, 2019)

Alto and tenor saxophonist Avram Fefer is a well regarded member of the New York City jazz scene, having released albums as a leader and as a sideman for many years. For this album, he has assembled a stellar band featuring Marc Ribot on guitar, on Eric Revis on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. The opening track “Dean St. Hustle” has the full band jumping in with a great modern jazz theme which allows them to come out swinging hard. Fefer’s saxophone rides hard adding gritty asides along with fast drumming, sparks of guitar and elastic bass as the full group is just steaming at high speed. The saxophone lays out, leaving room for an excellent guitar, bass and drums section, where Ribot applies an appealingly jazzy tone and the bass and drums are deeply rhythmic and propulsive. The raw and emotional melody of “Testament” is taken at high speed, developing quickly with savage electric guitar and percussion interplay. The band plays loud and fast as Fefer weaves his saxophone through the thicket of pulsating guitar, bass and drums, and the collective improvisation they develop is scouring and very exciting. Ribot is amazing, snarling and hissing alongside the pummelling drums and relentless bass playing as he engages with the bassist and drummer to create undomesticated, yet beautiful music, that becomes even more minimal with an excellent bass and drums duet. “Magic Mountain” builds from open ended cymbal shimmers as saxophone and guitar intertwine, giving the band the light and nimble feeling of being uprooted. Their improvisation turns into a choppy freer improvisation, playing in a complex and forward thinking fashion, flowing and in the moment. Ribot shoots out laser like guitar tones over undulating bass and drums, creating a fine rhythmic feature. Gently played guitar opens “Parable” with everyone coming together in a ballad formation, featuring soft brushed percussion and gruff but kind tenor saxophone. The musicians gradually meld together gracefully and the music is played with tact and dignity, building in intensity until it becomes something grander as the raw, enveloping sound of the group fills the available space and pushes to a strong finish. This album worked very well, the compositions were well designed and the musicians are some of the best on offer. They take the material and shape and mold it in fascinating and invigorating ways, making for a fresh and exciting musical experience. Testament - amazon.com

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Peter Brotzmann - I Surrender Dear (Trost, 2019)

Peter Brotzmann had recorded over seven hours of material for his solo album, and ultimately to whittle it down, so he decided to just focus on the tenor saxophone. He was looking for a connection to the past, standards he played while learning his instruments and still whistles to himself today and their ties to music and art that are being made in the present moment. Title track "I Surrender Dear" is played patiently and with great tact and subtlety. Brotzmann's unique tone is still there but dialed back to make room for the melody. The music is played in a very dignified and thoughtful manner, eventually adding some tactful high register accents. This moves directly into "Lover Come Back to Me" which sees Brotzmann improvising a little more freely, but "Lady Sings The Blues" is a marvel of economy and taste, as he keeps the notes to a minimum and the touch and feel of the music is deep and powerful. "Nice Work If You Can Get It" backs into the familiar theme and then uses it to develop swinging saxophone that continually refers back to the theme before starting to dissemble it. Quiet and understated, "Crurchsong" feels like listening in on Brotzmann during a quiet moment alone, as he plays music that is unadorned and quite beautiful. "Shumpin" adds some of the more raw and grating sound that people may be accustomed to hearing, he plays rising tones like a call to action, and then builds a questing improvisation off of this opening, wonderfully reminiscent of early sixties Albert Ayler. This rawness is also at the heart of "Brötziman" where he takes his saxophone and shows the unique tone and approach that he has built over the course of his career. The imposing serrated edge of his sound cuts through the air, and he creates a spontaneous improvisation of immense quality. "Love Poems Nr. 7 and Dark Blues" stretches out over ten minutes, building a moody and earthy beginning, and gradually picking up the pace with his overall sound getting wider and broader, and he will dynamically shift the softer more melodic portions and the harsher toned areas. The final piece is a second version of "I Surrender Dear" with this one developing in a more abstract direction than the first one, though its clear that this composition touches him and he plays in a sensitive  in both the theme and subsequent improvisation. While this may not be the typical Brotzmann performance (if such a thing even exists) it is the vulnerability that he shows on these tracks that make them so appealing. He is exposed in the solo format, but the openness suits him, allowing him to clearly present his approach to music for all to hear. I Surrender Dear - Bandcamp

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Marc Edwards and Guillaume Gargaud - Black Hole Universe (Atypeek Music, 2019)

There is a charming story behind this impressive recording, where seasoned free jazz and experimental rock drummer Marc Edwards was contacted via social media by a hitherto unknown French guitarist named Guillaume Gargaud who asked out of the blue if they could perform and record together. Edwards was skeptical, but after learning that the guitarist was coming to New York soon and seeing a youtube clip of him in action, he decided to give it  a shot. It was a wise decision, after playing a live performance together that went well, a recording date was scheduled as they locked in well together, the live session flowed smoothly for the duo and they transferred their energy to the studio creating spontaneous creative improvisations, harvesting that energy they had discovered playing together live a few days prior. The music comes out white hot, beginning with "Volcanic Eruptions on Io" as the duo creates an exciting amalgam of free jazz and progressive rock that is played at a very fast tempo and demands great stamina and technical expertise from the performers. Both musicians are more than up to the task and engage with each other completely, exploring the available territory as Gargaud extends the playing field with guitar effects and rapid fingering and Edwards uses a wide range of percussion instruments in addition to a traditional drum kit to vary the texture and granularity of his sound. The title track "Black Hole Universe" takes us even further out moving from modern psychedelia to the spiritual jazz realms and resolving to a pummeling duet performance that doesn't let up. Eventually, the sound opens up and they played music using softer dynamics, on the track "Supernova Aftermath" which allows more space into the music and gives the musicians a chance to take their improvisation in a different direction, one that involves gradation of sound rather than full out squalls of noise. This works well as a change of pace, allowing this section to be characterized by constant change and progress, allowing them to set up for the final push to the finish line. "Electrical Acoustic Synapses" ends the album in excellent fashion, with increasingly developing music that is complex and intricate, inhabiting outer and inner space, gradually unfolding like a time lapse flower, with pulsating rhythms around the guitar and drums that evoke a sudden storm. The duo plays with frenetic abandon, in a wildly excited and enthusiastic whirling dervish like maelstrom of sound, creating magic seemingly out of thin air. This album worked very well, and it's hard to believe that the musicians had only played together once before heading into the studio to record this album. Things went so smoothly that their spontaneous performances from the recorded session are presented here in their entirety, without any editing. Fans of avant garde jazz or experimental rock music should definitely make time to check this album out, the music is fresh, the performers are deeply engaged and the results are very impressive. Black Hole Universe - amazon.com

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

David S. Ware New Quartet - Theatre Garonne, 2008 (AUM Fidelity, 2019)

This entry in the David S. Ware Archive Series shows the great saxophonist at a crossroads. His legendary quartet had dissolved after a seventeen year run and he was also managing health difficulties, neither of which would keep him from making the music he loved. He convened a new group, keeping stalwart bassist William Parker and adding guitarist Joe Morris and percussionist Warren Smith. They recorded the music for the album Shakti on May 9, 2008, and then flew to France to present this concert of new material on May 24. “Crossing Samsara, Part 1” has a saxophone led theme with the guitar following Ware building into a collective improvisation with Smith and Morris adding a fresh approach and exciting new dimension to the Ware quartet. The music is potent and flexible, and the saxophonist mixes long bellows and quick filigrees of notes. Ware drops out, leaving space for the guitarist’s well articulated and prickly approach to combine with bass and drums playing fast but not very loud. The intricate mix of guitar, bass and drums allows complex rhythms to build back to the theme and conclusion. Ware develops an urgent new theme on “Crossing Samsara, Part 2” taking a long and unaccompanied solo that is very impressive, before the rest of the band returns to say their piece, playing faster and more complex, creating an intricate web of sound that constructs its own unique infrastructure. “Durga” is a slower paced performance that probes forward, gradually increasing in pace with subtle guitar, bass and shimmering cymbals. Ware uses a more raw and course tone on his instrument to excellent effect, weaving through Smith’s powerhouse drumming, digging in and wailing and leading a confident improvisation that pulls the band in on his coattails. Parker uses his bow wonderfully on this particular performance, adding an excellent sense of texture to the music as well. The drums and bass carry on their intuitive interaction on “Namah” with their communication building suspense in a subtle and deep manner. Saxophone and guitar enter, growing progressively more strident, Ware unleashing provocative and long piercingly held tones through circular breathing that are wonderful to hear. The performance wraps up with “Samsara (Reprise)” where Ware introduces the band and leads theme through a brief but enthusiastic instrumental finale. This was another wonderful entry in the Ware Archive Series, a timely reminder of what a titan the saxophonist was, and how he was always reaching for new sounds, new experiences and new ideas. Theatre Garonne 2008 - amazon.com

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Nick Dunston - Atlantic Extraction (Out of Your Heads Records, 2019)

Nick Dunston is a bassist and composer of some renowned, having received grants that have allowed him to compose the unique and genre-combining music found on this album. He is able to interweave intricate melodies with spots of freedom, full band interludes with exposed solo locations for each member of the band, and in doing so, craft a thoughtful and successful album that pulls disparate pieces into a cohesive whole. Aiding him in this endeavor are: Louna Dekker-Vargas on flute, alto flute and piccolo, Ledah Finck on violin and viola, Tal Yahalom on guitar and Stephen Boegehold on drums. The album is an intriguing mix of jazz improvisation, new music / contemporary classical and even some rock like passages. It opens with a spare section for violin or viola and percussion really building a mysterious and melancholy composition that takes this motif and uses it to explore different areas of slow, gradual progression. Other sections of the album see bowed bass or viola and flute in scouring sections of collective improvisation with free sounding percussion creating a whirling and kaleidoscopic soundscape, and other parts where gritty electric guitar can elbow in to the performance, carving sharp peaks and valleys into the flow of the music while also flaring out  long lines of neon hued sound. The sound of electric guitar and flute is unusual and creates a very appealing texture, reminiscent of certain iterations of King Crimson, weaving into a section for solo unaccompanied electric guitar, morphing into a complex improvisational section where the individual instruments and their notes and sounds reflect and refract like inside a funhouse full of mirrors, and culminating in a solo colorful and vibrant violin feature. Dunston sings on a track, developing a very effective vocal tone, low and laconic, keeping his tone and lyrics succinct amid the low violin and spare percussion. The final track is a full band blowout, very exciting and having effective and varied musical color and tone, with the musicians coming together to achieve a churning, writhing mass of improvisational excitement. Atlantic Extraction - amazon.com

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Entr'acte - Soigne Ta Droite (Audiographic Records, 2019)

This bracing album is the first from a new large ensemble led by multi reed instrumentalist Ken Vandermark. It features some of the best improvising talent from America and Europe, including Nate Wooley on trumpet, Mette Rasmussen on alto saxophone, Jasper Stadhouders on electric bass and guitar, Terrie Hessels on guitar, Joe Williamson on acoustic and electric bass, Elisabeth Harnik on piano, Steve Heather and Didi Kern on drums and Dieb13 (Dieter Kovačič) on turntables and electronics. The music that this group creates over three long performances is a rich and exciting mixture of electric and acoustic music, blustery gales of reeds and brass, imposing squalls of guitars and electronics and abstract, spacey interludes for piano and reeds. "Perpetual Desk (For Ikue Mori)" dedicated to the no-wave drummer turned laptop pioneer comes barreling out of the gate, allowing the group to make a statement right away, mixing piano with raw sound and allowing the music to unfold gradually. Guitars intertwine to build a different texture and the music shifts, with the horns building in on top. Bright and immediate saxophone solos amid feathered percussion and bowed bass sounding wonderful, building to squalls of vividly colorful sound. The horns riff before letting loose another saxophone with exemplary rhythmic accompaniment, constructing raw and rending sounds. There is a spacey interlude, as synth sounds slink around in the dark, cut off by massive chunks of full band sound. Spare sounds open "Foundry (For Richard Serra)" growing into an imposing web of guitars and electronics, then drums crash in taking things way out in a thrilling and uncompromising manner. Horns fold in, filling out the sound to a massive gale, relaxing to allow piano to improvise with guitar and percussion. Invigorating and blustery horns fall in toward the middle of this lengthy presentation, playing together in a fine formation, before disgorging a saxophone for a powerful solo flight over vivid computer electronics and powerful drumming, creating an all out improvisation that is enjoyable to hear. Horns trade ideas with Harnik's piano in a witty section leading to her remarkable solo section, then the spaciousness comes back with bowed bass and long tones in eerie near silence, then adding instruments slowly as they close the performance. "Telegram (For Francis Picabia)" has ripe and passionate horns with thick bass and drums, and electronics adding further texture. The music is brash and swaggering, moving confidently forward, with a saxophone branching out for a piercing solo cutting through the accompaniment and sounding excellent with a penetrating tone and outstanding presence. The drummers take center stage with a laudable feature, stretching and pulling the rhythm to the breaking point, resolving to a full collective improvisation, praiseworthy and a lot of fun to hear. This album worked very well, it was exciting and deserving of respect and support. The compositions were well designed, allowing the band along with smaller sub-units and soloists excellent opportunities to shine and they made the most of it, deserving approval and admiration. Soigne Ta Droite - Audiographic Bandcamp

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Miles Okazaki - The Sky Below (Pi Recordings, 2019)

This is guitarist Miles Okazaki's fifth album of original compositions, coming after his ambitious 2018 project where he recorded the Thelonious Monk songbook for solo guitar. He is accompanied by Matt Mitchell on piano, Fender Rhodes and Prophet-6, Anthony Tidd on electric bass and Sean Rickman on drums. "Rise and Shine" houses nimble guitar, subtle bass and piano, and as the drums enter the band kicks into gear with the full group developing a complex interaction. Mitchell moves to electric keyboard to interact with the bass and drums at a fast pace, and the guitar returns for a tight and well controlled feature, with Mitchell deftly moving back to acoustic piano and anchoring the closing section. Funky electric bass opens "Dog Star" with keyboards and slinky guitar creating an interesting groove, and the music drives forward with Okazaki's guitar leading the charge with the drums providing powerful accents. The band is really locked in and playing very well together, supporting the leader who is pushing headlong through the performance in a very impressive manner. "Seven Sisters" has acoustic guitar sounding bright and clear amid muted but active percussion, with Okazaki then moving to electric guitar in conjunction with electric piano, creating abstract sounds that seem to hang in the air. The music builds from the nebulous nature to something more solid with stronger electric guitar lines meeting crisp bass and drums. "Monstropolous" uses heavy drums, electric bass, manic electronic keyboards and guitar going all out in a collective fusion improvisation, which is very exciting and free sounding. The music is wild and rambunctious, and Mitchell and Okazaki t stretch out, reveling in the interplay and the freedom that the enhanced instruments allow. "The Castaway" mellows the mood a bit, medium tempo blending ideas from each of the instruments, with the guitar developing a more piercing, laserlike tone. This gives the performance focus and the guitarist crafts a fine feature, leading into a section of acoustic piano, bass and drums. There is a bouncier feeling to "The Lighthouse," with the band playing together closely on the theme in a very intricate pattern, Okazaki breaking out for a well articulated guitar solo and building it slowly and patiently creating an architectural marvel. Mitchell plays a lush and rippling piano feature over bubbling bass and drums, and the band returns together closing a wonderful modern jazz performance. "To Dream Again" is the closing piece that uses guitar and drums creating an atmospheric sound that gradually develops in unexpected ways. Sounds bend and twist with the guitar eventually becoming more prominent, with a pinched stinging tone cutting through the keyboards and muscular drumming. This was a very good album of modern jazz played by a band of thoughtful, open minded musicians. The music is complex but compelling and the performances that the band develop are consistently interesting and worthy of merit. The Sky Below - amazon.com

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