Sunday, September 22, 2019

Daniel Carter / Patrick Holmes / Matthew Putman / Hilliard Greene / Federico Ughi - Electric Telepathy, Vol. 1 (577 Records, 2019)

This is an excellent collective work by Daniel Carter on saxophones, clarinet and trumpet, Patrick Holmes on clarinet, Matthew Putman on keyboards, Hilliard Greene on bass, Federico Ughi on drums, otherwise known as the Telepathic Band. The group recorded an long improvised session and then took the tapes to guitarist and producer Stelios Mihas who produced two records (vol. 2 TBA.) The opener "Flesh Dialect" is a hot nineteen minute slab of bubbling music, with keyboards and drums initially developing an eerie soundscape sounding like a futuristic science fiction processional filled with swirling incantation. The horns enter four minutes in, two clarinets adding layers of graceful sound over strata of bowed bass, percussion and keyboards which results in a vibrant tapestry and a very impressive extended collective improvisation. "Horticultural Techniques" has bass and cymbals setting the pace as the reeds enter and the full band develops their performance around the deep and propulsive rhythm. The crisp drumming focuses the otherwise dreamy music, providing a focal point around which the waves of keyboard, thick bass and floating tenor saxophone can pivot. The very short track "Ease Tease" features trumpet and clarinet framed by drums, then invaded by the keyboards, played in a manner that is much more shrill in nature than we have heard previously. "Ghost-Watch" builds carefully from spare keyboard, trumpet and bowed bass, as they create sound in an architectural formation, sounding very open and free, with jabs of electronics and and dynamic shifts in volume and tempo. The full band swings into a swirling hypnotic improvisation, before a downturn into spectral haunting conclusion. The final track, "Lust Call," opens with Carter's saxophone soloing in free space, before the drums and keyboards build in, raising the intensity of the performance through chiming keyboards and beautiful golden toned saxophone. The space that is opened at the end of the album is unique as this electrical tinged album is concluded by tenor saxophone and drums playing beautiful and subtle acoustic jazz. This album worked very well, perhaps an analogue from the past might be the dreamier work of Miles Davis like Filles de Kilimanjaro or In a Silent Way, brought into the present day through modern electronics and production techniques. The band plays lights-out, creating a unique and creative sound environment can be enjoyed by a wide range of music fans if they only open their ears. Electric Telepathy Vol. 1 - amazon.com

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Wallace Roney - Blue Dawn - Blue Nights (HighNote, 2019)

Trumpeter Wallace Roney has been leading bands since the 1980's, specializing in swinging hard bop that takes the progressive hard bop of the 1960's and brings it into the modern day. He's got a crack band around him on this album, with Emilio Modeste on saxophones, Oscar Williams II on piano, Paul Cuffari on bass and Kojo Odu Roney on drums. The main group is supplemented on a few tracks by Quitin Zoto on guitar and Lenny White on drums. The team puts together a nice mix of ballads and burners and strings them together to produce a cohesive narrative, beginning with the opening track, “Bookendz.” This is a swinging medium tempo performance with Roney developing a yearning trumpet lead that is well controlled and paced over splashy drums that are punchy and bright. Modeste's taut nasal sounding soprano saxophone is also featured against the relentless drumming which also powers the section for piano, bass and drums. The ballad “Why Should There Be Stars” has spare and open sounding piano playing setting the stage for some wonderful trumpet playing from the leader. Roney's ballad playing is very patient, arcing long lines of sound in a longing and lonely manner that is very patient and mature, the sound of an experienced musician pouring himself into a solo. “Wolfbane” goes in the opposite direction, with snappy drumming and the addition of guitar to the mix for a funky and exciting groove. There is a brash entry for saxophone and trumpet, with Roney taking a muscular solo framed against the bass and percussion, before developing the music into a excellent full band interplay, and Modeste moves to tenor saxophone for a supple and lengthy feature, which builds to a strenuous climax. The full band opens together on “New Breed” giving the solid middle of the road feeling with Roney getting a distinctive pinched tone from his horn and creating a solo that soars over light bass and nimble cymbals. The rhythm becomes more anxious as the tenor saxophone approaches, looking to reach out and improvise in a more collective manner. Overall this album worked very well, the band is tight and obviously very well rehearsed and familiar with the material which is catchy and covers a lot of ground. Mainstream jazz fans should find a lot to like in this release. Blue Dawn - Blue Nights - amazon.com

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ken Vandermark - Momentum 4: Consequent Duos 2015>2019 (Audiographic Records, 2019)

This is a collection of duet recordings with multi-reedist Ken Vandermark in collaboration with five of the most exciting musicians in today's music: Kris Davis, Hamid Drake, Paul Lytton, Ikue Mori, and William Parker. The music was recorded during performances at Vandermark’s second Stone residency in New York City during January of 2018, and at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago.
The first disc sees Vandermark meeting the great British percussionist Mark Sanders, and the two get along splendidly, playing six duets that range from fiery free jazz to spare minimalism and almost droning free improvisation. Their ability to be patient and take what the other musician is giving is the key to this encounter, whether its a percussion duet of restrained drumming and hollow saxophone popping, or unrestrained wailing, they are both perfectly in check. The dynamic nature of their improvisation is the fuel that keeps the music moving forward, there's a different sensibility at play than when Vandermark plays with his regular partners like Paal Nilssen-Love, but the spark is there and they make the most of it.
Ikue Mori is Vandermark's next partner, performing on laptop and electronics while he moves between clarinet and saxophone. They cover a wide range of territory, using long tones of reeds and percussive electronics to begin and soon Mori is branching out into strange sounds both organic and science fictional in her interactions with Vandermark's hoarse sounding clarinet. They are able to combine on a tapestry of light sounds with percussive electronics and Morse code like popping of the reeds, finally moving into quick bursts of repetitive clarinet figures around chimes like electronics. 
Kris Davis was an inspired choice for a duet, a pianist who is comfortable playing mainstream as well as avant-garde jazz, she is a force to be reckoned with. Beginning with repetitive low-end piano and increasingly loud clarinet, their improvisation builds a stark emotional appeal as Vandermark launches peals into the sky over the ever-changing piano ground work. It's not all fireworks, as Vandermark turns to saxophone for a ballad like passage that becomes more strident in tone but retains the available space as the tenor saxophone becomes rough and grating in opposition to the clearer piano. They move into a repeating figure for piano, dropping depth charge chords amid stark raw buzzing clarinet to create an alarming overall sound. Finally there is an improvisation for tenor saxophone and ascending and descending piano chords before a lengthy pause and a gentle piano outro.
Bassist William Parker joins Vandermark for disc four, with saxophone and bass creating an unflappable sense of poise, digging in and playing in an unadorned manner as if nothing else mattered. Slapping bass can create a percussive effect during a quiet and spacious improvisation building a patient and thoughtful feel. They will frame their performances with long tones of saxophone and bowed bass before switching to taut bowing and plucking. Parker can keep can keep a heartbeat like pace while Vandermark explores strong and free, blowing in a different path creating nervously atmospheric tearing sounds. 
The final disc features drummer and percussionist Hamid Drake, a long time playing partner, whom has performed with Vandermark in many different situations, but surprisingly, this is their first recording as a duet. You wouldn't know it by listening, because they are very focused, maintaining speed and rhythm as they drive their performances forward in a fast and true manner. The music has a wonderful bounce and snap with the music tumbling out at breakneck speed with multi-dimensional percussion and fleet tenor saxophone taking their music to successively higher planes. They are just as deft in the open sections where Drake can a apply a soft hand while interacting with Vandermark's skittish clarinet, which ends the performance on a quiet and respectful note.
This was a wonderful collection of very high quality progressive jazz, all five performances are meetings of equals where the musicians are at the peaks of their powers. The boxed set also has a booklet with considerable liner notes along with original photographs and artwork that provides additional context for the music. Momentum 4: Consequent Duos 2015>2019 - Bandcamp

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Rob Mazurek - Desert Encrypts Vol. 1 (Astral Spirits, 2019)

Brass player and composer Rob Mazurek always manages to put together fascinating projects and this one is no different. He spent much of his career in Chicago and Sao Paulo before recently moving to Marfa, Texas. This album, the first of a series, is a suite based on his exploration of the desert around Marfa, and also explores his ongoing interest in the the natural world. It was presented in both written music and graphic scores for improvisation for an excellent group featuring Kris Davis on piano, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass, Chad Taylor on drums plus Lynn Xu vocalizing one track. The music was recorded live in Marfa during Mazurek's own Desert Encrypts Festival in August 2018. Opening track “Encrypt II Spiral” has a bright swinging feel for quartet, developing an impressive intertwined melody, and the group initially works with a light sound like Taylor tapping dexterously across his drums while Davis lays carefully placed notes. The rhythm team is very tight and they play at high speed without a misstep, then making way for Manzarek to carve out a solo spot on piccolo trumpet. They come back together for an exciting collective improvisation anchored by excellent bass playing before returning to the delightful melody. The group glides gracefully into “ Encrypt II” with knotty rhythmic playing and longer lines of brass that arc across the more prominent drumming. Taylor is very percussive here, adding accents and asides to his drum work that are very cool and fit in well with the over all aesthetic of the performance. The piano is reserved and thoughtful, adding just the right burst of notes when needed, leading to a dark and stormy solo interlude. Davis also opens “Encrypt IV Bird Encrypt Morning Song” with a spare skeletal framework, with some electronics added creating a beautiful and evocative soundscape. The group joins four minutes in, furthering the majestic sensibility that she so brilliantly conveyed. Bursts of brass and drums echo forth, and the band comes together to take the music to an even higher plane, including a fine spot for soloing bass. “Encrypt IV Blue Haze” introduces Lynn Xu, in a track opened by subtle bass and electronics providing open space to be filled by her voice. Brushed percussion and spare piano frame her speaking, and there is the occasional burst of trumpet, before moving into a louder, freer improvisation. The full band comes together at high speed on “Encrypt 37,” creating a very appealing sound that is earnest, before dropping down dynamically for a spacious piano, bass and percussion trio spot, including another fine bass feature. Mazurek rejoins the action as the tempo increases toward a full boil, and everybody leans into the action. He sends waves of brass outward, met be urgent piano comping and powerhouse drumming, even vocalizing at one point. The final track on the album is “Encrypt 1” which uses electronic sounds to frame the piano, bass and drums, adding in trumpet and vocalization in a very free sounding opening. This is the most decidedly experimental track with the electronic aspect fully engaged with the acoustic instruments, before dropping out into a fully acoustic quartet. The group develops a medium uptempo track that is appealing and takes it further out with powerful gales of trumpet and a percussive rhythm section break incorporating a great drum solo. This album was very successful in capturing the band playing Mazurek's compositions in a focused and powerful manner. He has always been looking for new areas to explore and this album presents a new exciting development in a long string of forward thinking movements that have made up his career. Desert Encrypts Vol. 1

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Friday, September 13, 2019

John Zorn - Nove Cantici Per Francesco D’Assisi (Tzadik, 2019)

This album is a suite of music John Zorn composed for the Frick Gallery to commemorate the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Played by the acoustic guitar trio of Bill Frisell, Gyan Riley and Julian Lage, the music has a sense of understated and meditative beauty unique among Zorn's oeuvre. "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" opens the album with gentle intertwined guitars playing at an open ended medium tempo, demonstrating deft acoustic guitar playing, leading into "Admonitions" which has a lonely and elegiac feeling to it, as the music seems to be tinged with regret. The guitars play across and above each other, creating a sense of depth, and allowing the notes an chords to ring out in a sonorous manner. "Nativity" has a spare and open cinematic climate, creating a fresh sound where jagged sparks of notes can shoot outward creating interesting dynamic shifts. There is a bright and bouncy sensation to "Laudes Creaturarum" with a happy sounding and memorable theme that builds a full sound played at a louder volume. "Poor Clares" is quiet and open with fewer notes, with a ballad like sense of longing as the clear notes ring out in a spare and subtle fashion. More pointed and craggy sounds announce "Sister Death" with sharp edged notes and chords that cut through the air. The music is palpably darker and more foreboding than what has come before, with swift bursts of notes and chords as one guitarist supports the others in the building of the imposing narrative. "Mother Earth" begins with careful probing of the available space, leading to a guitar combination of gentle melodicism, using chiming chords and quiet notes. The combination of instruments is subtle and free from ego and competition, creating a warm cohesive sound. Bass like note hold the foundation on "Le Laudi" with lighter chords strumming over the top. They build to a faster performance that pushes forward with propulsive clear notes juxtaposed against choppy chords to create a sense of forward motion and a colorful and exciting performance. "Fioretti" builds in a subtle fashion, with complex interplay between the musicians creating twists and complex angles which reflect and refract the shape and speed of the music. The album concludes with "Meditations" which is quiet and haunting, delighting in the atmospheric spaciousness as the instruments are playing together. This album worked very well as a whole, the musicians are extremely talented and the compositions that John Zorn gave them to interpret played to their strengths. The music is humble and restrained, and the personnel give of themselves for the success of the whole. Nove Cantici Per Francesco D'Assisi - amazon.com

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Book: Red Hot and Blue: Fifty Years of Writing About Music, Memphis, and Motherf**kers by Stanley Booth (Chicago Review Press, 2019)

Stanley Booth is most well known for his book about The Rolling Stones, which covered their 1969 tour that eventually ended in the disastrous concert at the Altamont Speedway. But he did much more than that, writing for a wide range of periodicals. Much of his reportage was based around Memphis, Tennessee, a city with an at times thriving music scene and never any shortage of characters to write about. He begins the book with a series of pieces about famous pre-war blues and jazz musicians like "King" Joe Oliver, more well known today as the mentor of Louis Armstrong. But he was a massive talent, who came to a tragic end just as the world was coming into the idea of recorded music. Ma Rainey was a force of nature, singing in tent shows and revivals all across the south at the dawn of the blues, and Booth composes an epic and compassionate portrait of this musical pioneer. Equally illuminating are the articles about guitar masters Blind Willie McTell and especially Furry Lewis who  the author knew and wrote an excellent two part series on his life and music. It wouldn't be a book about music in Memphis if there weren't a few stories about Elvis, and Booth includes three, one while the erstwhile King was alive in 1967 isolated amid a huge money making machine, then the story of Presley's doctor who took the majority of the blame when his patient died ignominiously on the toilet and finally a taketown of the ultra-tacky Graceland. Being a tried and true southerner, he could get right to the nitty-gritty with fellow southerners like Mose Allison and Bobby Rush, jazz and blues lifers who have seen it all and have excellent stories that can be coaxed from them by the right interviewer. He's equally well off at writing about the doomed figures as well, such as Graham Parsons who went from wealth and privilege to Harvard and eventually playing with The Byrds and The Rolling Stones before dying as an addict with people fighting over his corpse. Not every entry in this collection was a home run, but by far the most of them were excellent and leave a lasting impression. Booth has a perceptive nature that allows him to absorb the music and the people of Memphis and convey that to the reader in a compassionate and thoughtful manner. Red Hot and Blue: Fifty Years of Writing About Music, Memphis, and Motherf**kers - amazon.com

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Book: CSNY: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young by Peter Doggett (Atria Books, 2019)

The story of CSNY is a microcosm of rock and roll in America in the sixties and seventies, beginning in a burst of camaraderie and goodwill and ending in acrimony and spite. Doggett focuses on first five years of the group's existence 1969-74, but begins by providing a thumbnail biography of of each member leading up to their prior brush with stardom. David Crosby spent three years with The Byrds, singing and playing guitar on some of their biggest hits, while Stephen Stills and Neil Young were twin guitar leads in Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash had a long term in the successful British pop group The Hollies. No one quite remembers how they came together (most suspect Cass Elliot to be the catalyst) but soon they were demonstrating their harmonizing to anyone who would listen and after scrambling to work out the logistics of contracts, they signed to Atlantic Records and released their self titled debut record in 1969. It was a massive hit, but Stills felt something was missing and with the backing of label boss Ahmet Ertegun, Young was added to the mix for the group's first second concert before the untold thousands at Woodstock. They toured festivals throughout the year including the doomed Altamont gig, and went on to record their first album as a quartet, the massively successful Deja Vu. But success doesn't always breed contentment as egos fueled by copious amounts of cocaine, marijuana and alcohol began to take their toll. The 1970 tour was lucrative, but also marred by band friction, fired sidemen and fans boycotting over high ticket prices. Atlantic scraped together a live album called 4-Way Street, which would have to tide fans over as the sniping and backbiting led to a series of solo albums, Stills putting out solo work plus his band Manassas, Crosby recruiting members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane to create an unheralded masterpiece in If I Could Only Remember My Name and Neil Young mining a massive seam of brilliance from the pop friendly Harvest to the bleak beauty of On the Beach. By 1974, the money became too big to ignore, and the four re-grouped to perform a massive stadium tour, despite the fact that stadiums aren't the most conducive environments to acoustic guitars and close harmony singing. Young and Stills would battle it out on electric guitars during the plugged in section of the performance, with complaints that staying in tune or in key going by the wayside. Self indulgence, egotism and excess doomed the tour which finally sputtered to a halt in London, where the narrative leaves off. Doggett did very well presenting this story, telling the facts of the band's existence, the ups and the downs, leaving out some of the most salacious gossip, and trying to keep the music in focus when there are four very different characters moving in different directions. CSNY: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - amazon.com

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Saturday, September 07, 2019

Brötzmann / Schlippenbach / Bennink - Fifty Years After... (Trost, 2019)

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the recording of Peter Brotzmann's infamous Machine Gun album at the Lila Eule in Bremen, this trio of legendary progressive jazz musicians gathered to perform live. With Brotzmann on tenor saxophone, b-flat clarinet and tarogato, Alexander von Schlippenbach on piano and Han Bennink on drums and percussion, they created a stellar performance that ranks with that classic album in terms of intensity, but also displays all of the hard won knowledge and wisdom that fifty years in the musical trenches can instill. “Fifty Years After” opens the album with raw saxophone, ripe piano, crisp drumming sounding free, full, boisterous and thrilling, with Brotzmann's magisterial saxophone sending billowing clouds of sounds aloft met by riveting piano and Bennink's always unpredictable percussion. The music builds to a withering intensity, easily matching the ferocity they achieved in their youth. Space is made for a piano solo, spacious and crystalline, with drums framing and jostling, building faster as the off kilter duo improvisation is filled with dynamic shifts and surprising turns. Brotzman returns with withering sounds playing off Bennink's crushingly loud drums, then leaving him room to expound in open space with a massively raw and scouring tone. They come together into a towering collective improvisation that is loud and thrilling with each member full represented in the texture of their sound, weaving in and out of more spacious sections that allow Bennink to feather his drums beautifully, and support another stellar Schlippanbach piano solo. They re-group for “Frictional Sounds” with Brotzmann shifting to the exotic sounding torogato which has such a beguiling tone, with the piano and drums gradually turning up the heat to a boiling level and creating a wonderful setting. Their improvisation is fast, nimble and very colorful with Bennink using his cymbals to great effect and Schlippenbach providing showers then storms of well articulated notes. The trio shows a tremendous amount of stamina, spooling out these long and intense spontaneous performances, with Schlippenback and Bennink slipping out into an impish Monk inspired duo section, before Brotzmann returns on tenor saxophone, booting the intensity back up to a head spinning level as peals of saxophone arc out over rumbling drums and dark piano, driving the music to a ferocious finish. “Bad Borrachos” opens with some wonderful drumming, developing a fascinating rhythm that seems to be everywhere at once. Soon joined by piano and then Brotzmann on b-flat clarinet, the group builds a supple improvisation of widely varying textures and colors. It grows faster with squalls of reed, and crashing drums and piano and Brotzmann taking the clarinet to places it has seldom scene. Bennink is all over his cymbals as Brotzmann squeals with delight, pushing the clarinet ever higher in a great reed and drums duet. Schlippenbach is is given space at the start of “Street Jive” and responds with some of his distinctively dark and fractured playing in conjunction with Bannink's enveloping percussion. Brotzmann barrels in completing the circuit and the electricity really flows through the unit, coursing through a stark and powerful performance that exemplifies the significance of the music that these men make together. Schlippenbach hammers the keys in a percussive fashion as Bennink dances on the cymbals and Brotzman blows massive waves of tenor saxophone. The brief concluding track “Short Dog of Sweet Lucy” has a torrid drum introduction, then scalding tenor saxophone matching the fast pace as they are pushing things into the red before drifting to a quiet and stately finish, leaving an astonished and delirious crowd in their wake. Fifty Years After... - amazon.com

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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Rich Halley - Terra Incognita (Pine Eagle, 2019)

Saxophonist Rich Halley has produced a series of excellent progressive jazz albums with his own coterie of fellow travelers on his Oregon based Pine Eagle Records. This time he changes things dramatically, flying to the east coast to play with some of the brightest lights of the New York scene, Matthew Shipp on piano, Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. The summit meeting was quite a success with six well built tracks that offer a lot of room for both individual and group expression. "Opening" is subtle and free, with Baker's probing cymbals laying the groundwork for the group's entry, as Shipp and Halley swirl and offer notions before delving deeper into the available sound. Halley has a raw and unadorned tone to his instrument recalling the great new thing tenor players, and Shipp's engagement with him is excellent adding heavy low end chords and colorful notes to the overall tapestry. Baker has a lighter touch, playing all over the soundscape with shimmering cymbals and taut drumming, while Bisio's bass anchors the music together. Halley steps aside for an excellent interlude for the piano, bass and drums group coalescing around Bisio's driving bass, then the saxophonist re-enters, propelling the narrative of the music even faster, pushing to the conclusion with a storming collective improvisation. Baker builds an excellent rhythmic foundation on "Centripetal," setting the table for the rest of the group to come storming in at high speed. Halley is peeling off fast short sections of exciting raw toned saxophone neck and neck and with Shipp's boisterous and percussive piano playing and Bisio's propulsive bass. The group is thrilling to hear when they are locked in like this and improvising at high speed, as they complement each other and can anticipate each other, creating a surprising and continuously energetic sound. Halley accents his playing with over the top flourishes that work well to keep is playing fresh, and the band shifts the dynamism of the piece, gathering momentum and using it for further explorations. The title track, "Terra Incognita," has Shipp and Halley weaving their sounds together framed by bass and feathery percussion, slowly gathering speed and greater structure while retaining an open texture that works well with the improvisational nature of the music. The focus of this track is patience and genuinely exploring a new land, expanding the group's sound the fill the available territory, Halley reaches deep and builds from longer harsher saxophone sounds, with tones that are gritter and more in contact with the Earth. A very nice section for bass and percussion develops building a conversation in quiet tones that still manage to convey quite a bit of information, leading to a gentle conclusion. Overall this album worked very well, Halley's busman's holiday on the east coast was very productive, falling in among a sympathetic group of musicians to create a very impressive piece of work that will stand out among a discography already crowded with triumphs. Terra Incognita - amazon.com

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Monday, September 02, 2019

James Carter Organ Trio - Live From Newport Jazz (Blue Note, 2019)

It's been a long time since we have seen an album from James Carter, the phenomenally talented saxophonist who burst onto the scene with the young lions in the early 1990's. Despite some undeniably great records, he could never get a label to go to bat for him, and prior to this, had not released a record since 2011. Blue Note hedges their bets a little bit here, recording Carter live with his excellent road band, Gerard Gibbs on Hammond B3 organ and Alexander White on drums. They also have Carter play the music of Django Reinhardt, reprising one of his best albums, Chasin' the Gypsy. Despite all that it works quiet well, Gibbs and White are really quite talented and Carter is just as good as you remember him. “Le Manoir de Mes Reves” comes out as a gentle swing for deep toned saxophone and grooving organ, a long track with plenty of room to develop, Carter's tone brash and immediate and the drums crisp and supportive. The music picks up the pace with Carter blowing fiercely, along side long tones of organ reaching high into his horn's upper register for emphasis. He steps aside briefly around the halfway point, giving the organ and drums team some much deserved space for a grooving duo section, digging way deep and getting very soulful. When Carter returns, he trades pithy phrases with the organist, then the three work into a closing improvisation bringing things to a rousing conclusion. There is a respectful organ foundation on “Anouman,” which then drops into a funky groove with plenty of open space. Carter enters with a cutting tone, slicing through the thick keyboard and drums with aplomb, with the drummer adding a nice subtle rhythm, leading into a very full sounding organ and drums section. Carter returns, gentle at first playing some greasy soul-jazz funk, leading to some unaccompanied blowing that is far into the avant-garde area, teasing the audience with squeals and overblowing, then returning to a trio outro. “La Valse Des Nidlos” is steaming right out of the gate with waves of organ and percussion, developing into a fine drum solo that sets an excellent foundation for Carter to enter on soprano saxophone, playing light filigrees at first, getting an extraordinary sound from the instrument, and leading the group into a fast paced trio improvisation. Chopping up his sound, then splaying spirals and spraying colors and tipping his hat to”My Favorite Things” gets the audience on their feet. Sure he's a ham, but the guy can play anything, so why not? The final track of the album is “Fleche d'Or” with Gibbs laying down some grinding organ and White responding with flashy drumming, Carter zooms right along with them, playing a very funky sounding version that is undeniably exciting. The organist digs in deep, and the drummer provides a stellar rhythmic foundation as Carter lays out, returning to introduce the band and thank the audience and then lead the band to the conclusion of what was a very entertaining concert. Live From Newport Jazz - amazon.com

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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Steve Lehman Trio Plus Craig Taborn - The People I Love (Pi-Recordings, 2019)

This is an inspired pairing, taking the Steve Lehman Trio which features the leader on alto saxophone, Matt Brewer on bass and Damion Reid on drums, and joining them on this album by the renowned pianist Craig Taborn. He fits in really well with the group, and they sound like an organic quartet rather than a trio with guest. The music the group makes is angular and fresh with Lehman seemingly taking cues from masters like Eric Dolphy and Arthur Blythe, but expanding them into a unique and personal sound signature. This is especially true when he is playing at high speed, when he emits flurries of notes at seemingly superhuman speed. However complex the music may be, it unfolds logically like on "Ih Calam and Ynnus" which follows a short opening prelude. The music twists and turns very quickly and the improvisation that the band conceives and expands upon is very impressive, making room for a sparking piano solo that takes the possibilities that are made available and uses that to mold a brisk and bracing performance, alternating depth charge comping with crisp single note runs and leading into a finely tuned bass feature. The following track, "Curse Fraction" allows the group as a whole to knead the space and time around them, slowly gathering their material and focusing their gaze with Lehman adding short bursts of saxophone each containing a lot of information coded within. Surprisingly gentle piano with soft bass and drums emerges, followed by the group reconvening in a tight and restrained full band improvisation. Kurt Rosenwinkel's composition "A Shifting Design" is a very exciting and fast paced track, introduced as a scalding saxophone and drums duet, sounding raw and immediate. Lehman has an acidic and biting tone on his horn that allows him to cut through just about anything, and Reid sounds uncharacteristically heavy here, really muscling the drums as they two come together and drive through and adding taught elastic bass to the mix to create a tight expressive example of what the trio is capable of. The longest track on the album is "Beyond all Limits," beginning with an excellent extended bass solo, with the remainder of the band coming in after about two minutes. Lehman plays raw and scouring saxophone leading to a lighter tone and a brisk and nimble soloing around the rhythm unit. The bright and supple playing of the piano, bass and drums team is very interesting, leading to the return of the leader who adds bursts of vibrant sound and volume, met by the remainder of the group in a thrilling dynamic response. "Echoes / The Impaler" keeps the pace high with riveting interaction between the saxophone and drums along with flourishes of piano and deep anchoring bass playing. The performance is dynamic and ever changing with excellent rhythm playing driving the changes, and allowing the sound of the improvisation to stretch out and find its own level. For this album, Lehman wanted to present his vision of the post-modern saxophone quartet and present ideas for future exploration. He and the group succeed in fine fashion in both of these goals, creating and album that is both accessible to jazz fans and inspirational to those who wish to go further. The People I Love - amazon.com

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

From Wolves to Whales - Strandwal (Aerophonic Records, 2019)

This is the second album from the cooperative group From Wolves to Whales, which consists of Nate Wooley on trumpet, Dave Rempis on alto and tenor saxophones, Pascal Niggenkemper on bass and Chris Corsano on drums. It is a two-disc album which was recorded live in November of 2017 in Haarlem, Netherlands and consists of four very long tracks that allow the group to really branch out and explore their surroundings and the interactions between the instruments and personalities of the band members. Part of what makes this album so interesting is that the group develops a narrative flow that is as subtle as it is strenuous, drawing on torrential free jazz and understated free improvisation – from carnivorous wolves to krill distilling whales indeed. Both discs take on the similar format with one long and one short track, a format that allows the musicians the freedom to create in a thoughtful and unconstrained manner. Their sound can burst into focus, coming on quickly and capturing the listeners interest, with quick jabs of trumpet and saxophone and loose sounding bass and drums. The music then evolves patiently and organically, gaining fast paced excitement early on, before trading some of that energy for an exploratory urge that carries them over the long haul. Niggenkemper adds some beautiful bowed bass sounds, playing unaccompanied creating a wide array of frenzied textures, that are folded into the group improvisation. Weaving though an open ended collective section with raw growling brass and wrenching saxophone sounds, leading to a stellar section of fluid fast with the focus occasionally shifting to one instrument for a featured section. Wooley makes the most of his instrument, burning, buzzing and playing clean golden lines at will, joined by Rempis who uses his saxophones in similar ways able to create a wide range of tones and hues that can range from piercing to something akin to full throated menace. Corsano keeps a rhythmic foundation that is marked by continuous and propulsive activity and change, which allows the music to keep moving forward no matter what the pace or density may be. The group is also capable of playing with quiet dignity, allowing room for open space to emerge and engulf the individual musicians and allow them to play quietly and communicate with each other and the audience on an almost subliminal level. While there are some excellent sections of individual performance for each musician, the focus of the entire performance is the quality of the music performed by the band as as a whole and this egoless quality of the sound is perhaps the most alluring of all. All four lay aside any vanities that they may have an subsume themselves in the act of creation as a whole, improvising to will something from nothing as a collective act of spontaneous creativity. Strandwal - Aerophonic Records Bandcamp

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Richard Thompson - Across a Crowded Room: Live at Barrymore's 1985 (Real Gone Music, 2019)

The extraordinary guitarist and gifted singer songwriter Richard Thompson had just released one of his finest solo records to date, Across a Crowded Room, when this fine concert recording was made in Ottawa in April of 1985. Originally released as a VHS tape (!) this audio version may not have pristine sound, but it is good enough to capture his band in high spirits playing a wide cross section of material with Thompson accompanied by Clive Gregson, Christine Collister, Gerry Conway and Rory McFarlane. They are a tight group, capable of boosting his electric rock and roll based material into the stratosphere like on opening track "Fire in the Engine Room" where the rhythm is fast and furious and there is no room for error, the bass and drums are on the mark and Thompson barks out his vocals like a caffeinated auctioneer. His guitar work is particularly impressive on "Shoot Out the Lights" with it's dramatic use of light and shade and the angular slashes of electric guitar driving the anguished lyrics home, creating a particularly memorable performance. Collister's background vocals are quite beautiful and add just the right touch, harmonizing with Thompson's voice on "Wall of Death" before dropping out and leaving room for another excellent guitar interlude and then chiming in on the chorus for a devastating version of "When the Spell is Broken." Some of the best songs from the new studio album show up on the second disc, along with old favorites like "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" which is given a crisp and surprisingly funky reading. The haunting "Love in a Faithless Country" opens with spectral guitar and enigmatic lyrics, evolving into a towering electric guitar solo over thick bass and drums. They also throw down on some exciting uptempo tunes like the stomping "I Ain't Gonna Drag My Feet No More" with its tight drumming and call and response vocals, and a wonderful blowout on "Tear Stained Letter" which would become a mainstay for his full band concerts, tearing through the amusing lyrics and then erupting on a fantastic jaw dropping guitar feature. Overall, this album worked very well, providing a showcase of the music that Thompson was playing at this point of career, when he was already an amazing triple threat as a guitarist, songwriter and vocalist. Across a Crowded Room--Live at Barrymore's 1985 - amazon.com

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Interesting Links

*Phil Freeman went on an excellent run at the end of the month, publishing a three part series in the great saxophonist Arthur Blythe, posting is monthly column for Stereogum, Ugly Beauty and presenting a podcast with singer Bernard Fowler.
*Polyphonic posted an interesting video entitled: Time Out: How Dave Brubeck Changed Jazz
*NPR interviews Christian McBride about Miles Davis and the impact of Bitches Brew 50 years on and Sweetwater produces a video about the 60th anniversary of the Davis album Kind of Blue.
*JazzSpeaks presents an interview with Kris Davis and Julian Lage.
*PopMatters looks at Captain Beefheart's classic album Trout Mask Replica on it's 50th anniversary.
*There's another "new" long-lost John Coltrane album coming out next month.
*WBGO's The Checkout focuses on the music of the great saxophonist and bass clarinetist David Murray.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker - Apsis (Aerophonic, 2019)

This is a fascinating group, at once deeply experimental and also anchored in the here and now. Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Jim Baker on piano and synthesizer, Joshua Abrams on bass and Avreeayl Ra on drums and percussion combine free jazz and electro-acoustic improvisation on a far reaching and very successful album. On the opening track “Exedra” there is baritone saxophone playing brawny and detailed amid a lush and intricate ecology of piano, bass and drums, building quickly and dramatically, creating deeply integrated and powerful full band music that soars. Open spaces develop over the course of the lengthy improvisation for flowing streams of piano and bass framed by ever present percussion as Remps briefly steps aside. He returns on another saxophone, deftly moving with a lighter and nimbler tone, and the music becomes open ended and searching. He is playing alto saxophone in a unique and forceful manner creating a dark and piercing tone, casting out long ribbons of curling sound and stepping back to allow them to fade. The rest of the band is equally potent, with the bass and drums creating ever shifting patterns of rhythm and Baker adding just the right notes and swelling chords. There is a quietly meditative bass solo that re-grounds the group in the here and now, they regroup in a dignified manner, growing faster and faster, like a whirling dervish with taut bass and scouring saxophone leading the group on an exploratory charge and performing in a relentlessly thrilling manner. Rempis plays fast twists and turns on his instrument like a veteran bop musician, leading to a final lush and bright conclusion. On the second track “Mithrab” Baker moves to the synthesizer, and using it and the deep saxophone to move huge swathes of sound, adding waves of bowed bass and percussion to create a unique and compelling sound. Their free improvisation is unusual but works very well, delving into the unknown without reservation, incorporating different aspects of experimental music from jazz and beyond. Baker’s use of the ARP synth recalls Sun Ra, but a thoroughly post-modern version, as the tones drone and cry, quaver and oscillate, provide feedback and fodder for the other members of the band. Drifting into a quiet almost ballad like section, brushes and gentle saxophone meet a weird synthesized tone, offset by acoustic bass, allowing the band to really stretch out and explore. The group is as effective playing quietly as they are when playing loudly as their music reveals deeper levels of hues and colors in skittish sections for bowed bass, electronics and saxophone, as does the use of repetition and release allowing the musicians a very wide foundation to construct their improvisation. Apsis - Aerophonic Records Bandcamp

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love - Screen Off (PNL Records, 2019)

Multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love have been playing together for many years in a score of bands and are especially potently as a duet, having completed many tours and albums including a multi-disc boxed set together. So instead of releasing another duo concert album, this one comes with a fascinating twist: the musicians teamed up with producer Lasse Marhaug who trolled through hours of recordings that fans have uploaded to YouTube, raw audience recordings, compressed and occasionally distorted by the web site's format. The took their ideas from experimental film directors to make a audio collage, using only about a two minutes from each source, stitching together a forty-two minute album filled with jarring jump cuts and witty handoffs. They use a musical version of a William Burroughs cut-up novel, by piecing the album together with the idea of creating a musical narrative at the forefront, so there my be snippets from different concerts even from different years sewn together, creating a cohesive flow for the music to follow. It works very well, one section tumbles into the next with gleeful abandon, twenty-one in all, demonstrating that the two musicians have a uniquely compatible relationship playing together, understanding their relationship in speed, tone, complexity and use of space and time. That fact is demonstrated throughout this project, as Nilssen-Love remains an ever-potent force on drums and percussion, while Vandermark deploys his saxophones with great facility. The entire album comes through like an imaginary concert of the mind, where powerhouse squeaks and crashes demonstrate the potency of the duo, making way for high pitched reeds and rolling drums, clearing the path for spacier sections which themselves only to take flight again, soaring high into the next gear shift. This album is highly recommended, but very difficult to explain, it really must be experienced to be fully understood. It is an interesting way to move forward for the music, using avant-garde techniques from other artistic disciplines and folding them into progressive jazz in a very thoughtful manner. Also, it is a collaboration with the fans, giving a nod to the audience who love the music and go to the concerts, recording them for posterity sharing their music with other fans who don't have the opportunity to see these great musicians in action. Screen Off - amazon.com

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

CP Unit - Riding Photon Time (Eleatic Records, 2019)

This is a smashing live album from the CP Unit: Chris Pitsiokos on alto saxophone and electronics, Sam Lisabeth on electric guitar, Henry Fraser on electric bass and Jason Nazary on drums and electronics. The music was recorded at the Moers Festival in Germany and at the Unlimited Music Festival in Wels, Austria in 2018. The opening track, "Once Upon a Time Called Now (excerpt)," begins with probing saxophone and drums, gathering steam with the saxophone tearing at the air with rending sounds. The guitar and bass bound in, livening the mood, thick bass and snarling guitar leading the music in a different direction, toward a free funk with squealing saxophone section that is very exciting to hear. Their collective improvisation is dynamic and multi layered, playing with time and space to keep the music unpredictable and compelling. "Positional Play" is a short and fast track with the group in a nimble full band sprint, playing full out with the saxophone sending swells of sound to play off against the choppy rhythm section that responds with jabs of bass and snorts of electric guitar, while the percussion is light, keeping an open and inviting environment. Funky bass opens "The Tower" with filigrees of saxophone and drums keeping things light while gaining speed as the guitar gradually folds into the mix. They are repeating a motif, getting stronger and stronger, kneading it, building from it and then finally using it as a launch pad for a deeper and more complex ending. "A Knob on the Face of a Man" has some interesting solo saxophone, with Pitsiokos playing super fast bebop like sounds that soon turn into a very happy sounding melody with thick buoyant bass and drums and bouncy and swinging cadence, almost like an island melody that Sonny Rollins would use. Laser splashes of guitar and blobs of bass rotate around the drums as flashy saxophone frames all of the action and the group convene for a stellar improvised section with Pitsiokos playing some absolutely blistering free saxophone howls. The juxtaposition between the jagged saxophone and the bright and melodic backdrop is jarring but fascinating and works very well. The delightfully titled "Dirt is the New Clean" bursts out of the gate with everybody playing fast and hard, coiled together like thick braided cable, and providing a taut focused full band performance. Guitar provides quavering lines above the scene like heat lines shimmering on a highway as the bass and percussion burrow into the ground for support and the saxophone powers through with grit and perseverance. The electronics really come into play here, taking the music and shape-shifting it into something unusual and interesting. "Orelius" has a strong guitar, bass and drum feature, going for it in a hard fusion style, before the saxophone enters and ups the excitement even further. Everyone comes together for a lightning fast over the to free jazz sprint which is very exciting to hear, weaving the instruments together allowing the dynamic to fade in and out and pushing the music to move continuously forward. Riding Photon Time - amazon.com

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Cat in a Bag - Cat in a Bag (Clean Feed, 2019)

Cat in a Bag is an exciting new group consisting of Bruno Figueira on saxophones and effects, Duarte Fonseca on drums, João Clemente on guitar and magnets and João Lucas and bass and effects. They are not afraid to take liberties with their music, melding free jazz, fusion, progressive and experimental rock to their crucible. Much of their work turns out to deal in texture and hues, allowing the music to develop through exploration and improvisation. Often a track will begin in one direction and then shape shift and morph into an new beast entirely. The group works very well together, weaving their own instruments and individual approaches into a collective whole and then patiently allowing the music to percolate as it does in the opening track, "Smiling as a Rite of Exorcism" where the band develops a distinctive flow that leads them to a stinging payoff several minutes into the track that is surprising to the listener but also very exciting as they lash out and use forward moving dynamics to drastically move their sound ahead. "Obscure Objects" heads in the same direction, with guitar and percussion achieving an ominous clanking and ghostly rhythmic scratching, dragging chains like a specter across the sound of the track while the saxophone alternatively offers savage wails or pained asides. Starting with a thoughtful and pleasant melody, "Beauty Melted in Secret" builds to a more savage mid-section with stellar electric guitar playing ripping at the scenery and crisp but subtly played percussion keeping a chugging rhythmic line going throughout the performance. There are interjections of saxophone that add to the unnerving nature of the piece and tangled webs of melded instruments as if it were all some kind of collective dreamscape. "The Decay of Manners" is the lengthiest track of on the album, beginning with interesting juxtaposition between snarls of electric guitar and high pitched saxophone playing with active drumming making sure everything is on the move. They double down and really start to dig deep creating a very compelling collective improvisation of scalding guitar, bright saxophone reaching out for long wails and tones and stoic heavy drumming. Slowing down to an open experimental section of electronic tones weaving all around then blasting right into the following tune "The Blind Art Collector." Manic free jazz at it's most thrilling in interspersed with sections of open eerie electronic growling feedback. The electric guitar is clearly the focal pint here as the other instruments weave in and out of the sound stage, framing and engaging with this snarling beast. This album worked quite well, and this group has a unique sound and approach to the music they are building. Hopefully they will be able to stay together as a unit and produce more music soon. Cat in a Bag - amazon.com

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Stan Getz - Getz at the Gate (Verve, 2019)

Back in the United States after three years spent abroad, saxophonist Stan Getz found that the homeland scene in flux with the exploration of Ornettte Coleman and John Coltrane proceeding along side traditional swing and hard bop. Though he had just recorded his famous saxophone with strings album Focus, this album features his working quartet of the period: Steve Kuhn on piano, John Neves on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. When the group is focused, the results are very impressive – Getz is at his most forceful as the band powers through the upbeat performances, but remains his emotional and thoughtful tone for the ballads. The band gets a particular kick from Roy Haynes who is on fire throughout this concert, fueling the band, trading phrases with the leader and taking explosive solos. The music is very well recorded for the time period and the selections are familiar, alternating between jazz standards and pop standards from films and Broadway shows. After the band introduction, they launch into “It's Alright With Me” which sets the foundation for the performances to follow with a crisp reading of the melody, followed by strong and ripe soloing from the leader, and Getz sounds clear headed and deeply engaged, moving briskly through the tune and leaving room for the rhythm section to take their turn with some sparkling piano and drums before he comes back to lead everyone to a rousing conclusion. Getz announces a feature for the piano, bass and drums unit to be the Miles Davis tune “So What,” though this is listed on the tracklist as John Coltrane's “Impressions.” Perhaps the latter was based on the former, leading to the confusion, regardless there is a lengthy trio improvisation with solo sections for each musician. Getz rejoins the group for the following track, one of the highlights of the set, a storming version of Sonny Rollins' “Airegin” that shows the saxophonist throwing caution into the wind and producing a daredevil saxophone solo over roiling rhythm backdrop. While hearing Getz with Haynes isn't exactly Coltrane with Elvin Jones, there is still an generous amount of power at play, also shown on the bebop chestnut “Woody ’N You.” Haynes got in on bebop at the ground floor with Charlie Parker, and he is particularly explosive here, and the leader is with him the whole way playing with a speed and alacrity that might surprise people that only see him as a swing and ballad player. The second set starts to drag a little bit, livened up by a bright and exciting performance of “It's You or No One” with the band swinging together grandly and breaking out into solo and duet settings that work quite well. The final two standards “52nd Street Theme” and “Jumpin' With Symphony Sid” are a bit overlong at nearly fifteen minutes each with lengthy solos for all of the rhythm section that even Haynes can't rescue, but on the whole the concert was quite successful and provide an interesting historical look into jazz in the early 1960's. Getz At The Gate - amazon.com

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Trigger - Pull (Shhpuma, 2019)

The title may be cringe-worthy for Americans after the past few weeks, but this album is just too good to ignore. Trigger is an uncategorizable band featuring Will Greene on electric guitar, Simon Hanes on electric bass and Aaron Edgcomb on drums. They fell into John Zorn’s orbit, playing some of his original works and compositions, and then re-combining to form their own group which mashes up hyper kinetic jazz fusion, prog or math rock and experimental composition and improvisation into a very impressive and cohesive whole. The epic “Lockjaw” opens the album, with the group showing their chops by playing outrageously fast, building an intricate and explosive blend which may creak and groan at times but always bursts back to life under the weight of scalding drumming and guitar playing. Shifting rhythms and heroic clusters of beats keep the music from being a slog with the bass modulating up and slithering like a snake being chased by the drums and the snarling guitar overhead. Coded messages within the music broaden the sound and keep the overall approach mysterious and strange even when the trio is playing at their most over the top and outrageous. “Whiplash” throws a feint in the beginning, with some trippy dub like mixing, before then tossing everything into a blender, melding electronics like an out of control numbers station being crushed by pummeling drums. This sets up a wild and deep improvisation that goes way out into the open. The bass and drums team up, hitting hard as the guitar throws up sparks all around them, as their all out collective improvisation gradually slows down and returns to Earth. A scattered opening is quickly pulled together on “Gun Pharmacy,” with tough drums taking an active solo framed by the occasional electronic grind or spurt. The music coalesces in a proggy soup, building to a mind melding electronic stew with drums that grow more sharp and focused by the second. Sounds become a serrated and jagged improvisation with a steely edge where taut bass and drums engage flinty guitar in a stoic collective improvisation, building faster and stronger, flexing the muscular power and single minded and relentless drive that makes this music so impressive, finally building to a singularity and dissolving into silence. This album worked very well, and despite its violent connotations, there’s actually much more depth and complexity here than meets the eye. All three musicians have worked in a wide variety of settings and they bring this experience as well as a deep seated commitment to freedom and desire to explore to this project. Pull - amazon.com

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Simon Nabatov Quintet - Last Minute Theory (Clean Feed, 2019)

Simon Nabatov is a well regarded Russian - American jazz pianist who has made scores of records, primarily on the English Leo label, but here bouncing to the excellent Portuguese outfit Clean Feed for this meeting with American heavyweights Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano saxophones, Brandon Seabrook on guitar, Michael Formanek on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The music was recorded in September of 2018 in Brooklyn and begins with "Old Fashioned," which has a deep and rich swinging sound, and medium tempo with some cascading piano and clusters of saxophone moving around thick bass and grounded drumming. Squiggles of guitar electronics break things up a little bit as the saxophone drops out and the piano trio takes off for a stellar feature. Malaby's saxophone returns along with the jolts of electronics giving the music a delightfully skewed nature while still remaining a strong identity of its own, as droplets of pure electronic sound rain down amid the saxophone, coalescing into a more recognizable electric guitar sound, allowing the full band improvisation to gain a more intense feeling toward the end of the performance grinding relentlessly toward the conclusion of this successful piece. Light and loose percussion and guitar give "Rickety" it's skittish sensibility in terms of rhythm, with and saxophone fluttering this way and that, sounding like one of the freest performances on the album. Malaby's tenor is deep and wide, providing a focal point for the music, abetted by snarls of guitar, clusters of piano and free floating percussion. The music gains a momentum that hustles forward in an impressive collective improvisation, where everybody has an individualistic sound, but is using it to pull in the same direction for exciting and unexpected results. The band develops a rich and colorful palate and uses this to create a wonderful spontaneously created performance. "Marching Right Along" uses a very interesting rattling drum solo to open the performance along a martial beat, with the rest of the band eventually falling in line for a melodic opening. Malaby moves to soprano saxophone, giving the music a more wistful sound, around the crisp drum centered performance. The group tumbles into a free improvisation of varied shades and colors between saxophone, guitar and piano, giving the overall performance a aura that is kaleidoscopic in nature, becoming very free as the drums add waves of cymbal play and the saxophone screeches. The drums finally call everyone back into line around the marching beat and then leads them off into the conclusion of the song. Last Minute Theory - amazon.com

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Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Loren Connors and Daniel Carter - The Departing of a Dream, Vol. VII (Family Vineyard, 2019)

For almost two decades Loren Connors has been fascinated by the Miles Davis' epic performance "He Loved Him Madly" written and performed to mark the passing of Duke Ellington. in this case he uses electronics and guitar and is joined by the multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, using decaying trumpet drones and slashing sheets of electric strings. The music evokes the electric bands of Miles Davis, particularly on the emotional level, beginning on the first track where wounded trumpet will be juxtaposed against waves of almost industrial sounding noise, using grinding slabs of sound and then opening up for an uneasy moment of calm and peace. There is a cinematic moment where the mind camera focuses on the trumpet as if it is this beautiful flower that at any minute could be overwhelmed by the encroaching machine, crashing and grinding like an ever approaching maw of destruction, whether that represents industry, greed or avarice, there is a sense of lonely haunted fear that pervades the music. The second piece goes into more ethereal territory, with guitar and electronics and saxophone taking an artistic almost painterly approach to the music. Miles' electric music wasn't just a blowout of sound and fury, he maintained the lyricism that had been a hallmark of his sound all the way back to the Birth of the Cool Days. So when it came time to honor Ellington, he approached the color palate and tonal control of the maestro, while maintaining his supernatural patience and tonal control. There is a quiet moment for spare saxophone improvising purely is the moment with just the bares backdrop of electronics, evoking the beauty tat is possible in this context. This is what the second piece examines using guitar and saxophone, instruments that were important to the original Davis piece, but they go in a different direction, using the piece as a jumping off point for a surreal reimagining of the music, with gentle curves of saxophone and shades of colorful and flowing guitar creating a wonderful and evocative performance, they reach into the darkest areas of music and shine a light that fades behind the drones and decaying sounds of the music. Departing Of A Dream VII - amazon.com

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The Who - A Quick One (Decca, 1966; MCA, 1995)

The Who's second album saw them proceeding from the rhythm and blues roots of their first album and the Maximum R and B motto of their mod beginnings into a mixed bag that might not completely cohere, but was vital for the band's successes that lay right around the corner. The album itself was a top five hit in the UK, and the single "Happy Jack" (which was the name of the album in the USA, where the record company objected to the double entendre nature of the original title) was a pop hit in both England and America. And the group is definitely turning in a pop direction on this album, with most songs written by Pete Townshend, but the other members chipping in, particularly John Entwhistle, who contributed two of is best and most enduring songs "Boris the Spider" and "Whiskey Man." Seeing that the album was running short of material, Who co-manager Kit Lambert challenged Townshend to think bigger and extend rock and roll beyond the three minute song. The result was their "mini-opera" a tentative step that would eventually come to fruition wonderfully on future albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia, but at the time a suite of six short songs condensed into one nine minute narrative suite was virtually unheard of in pop music. It's a unique piece in their studio output, but one that would really come awake when played live, like the devastating performance on the Rolling Stones Rock 'n' Roll Circus. The extra songs on the extended CD version of the album also show some of the band members influences, particularly Keith Moon's love of surf music in the band's versions of "Barbara Ann" and "Bucket T" as well as powering the band through a ripping cover of the Batman theme. They are developing a signature sound on "Disguises" and "So Sad About Us" that display emotional growth far beyond the primarily cover band of a year or two prior. They retain their muscular virility, but are produced well enough to make this powerful music palatable to the pop audience and playable on the radio.The end of the disc features some interesting curios like "I've Been Away," the B-Side of Happy Jack and "In the City" the B-Side of one of the great Who 45's, "I'm a Boy" featuring only Moon and Entwhistle due to a scheduling snafu. Finally, there's an unusual version of "My Generation / Land of Hope and Glory" that takes the music in a vivid, new direction. So you can see that what at first can be viewed as a hodgepodge of tracks is really the first step, however faltering, into The Who's glory years, as they work toward mastering the pop single and long form composition, with witty and distinctive songwriting. A Quick One (Happy Jack) - amazon.com

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Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Sounds of Liberation - Unreleased (Columbia University 1973) (Dogtown Records, 2019)

Sounds Of Liberation was a band formed in 1970 in Philadelphia, consisting Khan Jamal on vibraphone, Byard Lancaster on reeds, Billy Mills on bass, Dwight James on drums, Monnette Sudler on guitar and Omar Hill and William Brister on percussion. The group released one album, New Horizons in 1972, on their own label, then this five-song session of original music was recorded in New York City but lay unreleased for over forty years. “Thoughts” has warm vibes leading the group into the song, with guitar and percussion gradually filling in. The music has a quiet and steady groove that works well, supple bass grounding everything, even as the pace and intensity begins to increase. Guitar and bass have percussion dig in deep as vibes shade the performance with beautiful hues before taking on a more percussive tone as the music drives forward with a  greater sense of urgency to the fade out. On “Keno” flute and vibes are met by hand percussion and guitar creating a jaunty and upbeat full band performance. Vibes become prominent over scratching guitar lending a dreamlike quality to the music which still moves along at a pretty good clip. Solo section for nimble and fast paced percussion juggling rhythm and time before the flute returns leading the band back to the conclusion of the track with a restatement of the theme. “Sweet Evil Mist (Rib Crib)” definitely sounds of its time with some cool sounding funky effects scenting the bass and guitar with drums and percussion bubbling intently underneath the excellent flute and saxophone front line. The music becomes a heady and complex texture operating on several interacting levels, melding into a collective improvisation of merit. Lancaster's saxophone stretches out with an emotionally resonant solo framed by vibes and bubbling percussion as the horns flutter and shriek and the guitars bend like rubber bands allowing for the elasticity of the music to embrace both free jazz and groove jazz simultaneously. Opening fast and melodic“Badi,” has flute and vibes again taking center stage, and some excellent bass holding everything together. A flute solo with echo effect works well, flying free and some choppy guitar adding further texture. Rounded vibraphone notes sustain their tones and ring around the soundstage, sounding like chimes left out in the wind while the bass, guitar and percussion quietly yet feverishly work on rhythms and grooves. “New Horizons (Back Streets of Heaven)” introduces vocals, both male and female, singing in an appealing soulful style, while there is a strong pinched saxophone solo breaking free and bouncing vibes simmer over a tight and accessible rhythm, while the full band pitches in for a solid and lengthy performance. The singers return with their message of hope as the tune winds down with a funky and peaceful conclusion, aptly demonstrating the state of jazz in Philadelphia in the early seventies. Unreleased (Columbia University 1973) - amazon.com

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Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Paranoid Style - A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life (Bar/None, 2019)

The Paranoid Style present some of the wittiest lyrics in music today, not really surprising considering that they are named after a famous article from Harper's in 1964 entitled “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Led by the wife and husband duo of Elizabeth Nelson Bracy and and Timothy Bracy, their band of fast paced rock and roll music welded to tumbling and cascading wordplay works particularly well and despite some heady subjects it never comes out as stilted or pretentious, just good old rock and roll that just happens to make you think about the state of the world. The opening “Turpitude” mines some rockabilly, with a strong propulsive beat and lyrics that are a mash up of pseudo biographical memories and name checking music and political figures like Mojo Nixon and Leon Trotsky. There is a thoughtful look into history on “A Marked Man on a Marked Man Occasion” carried forth by a blasting rock and roll backdrop for a song about the Easter rebellion in Ireland in 1916, the guitars echoing the pulverizing violence and the resulting crackdown. “Murder: The Experience” rolls in mid story with the protagonist on trial, moving into what seems like a take down of the genre of true true crime with its endless podcasts and TV reenactments. And the fiery, bright rock and roll guitars enigmatic meaning “An Endless Cycle of Meaningless Behavior” are a genuine hoot to listen to as blasting blasting guitar bass and drums frame pouting ennui, recalling Alan Greenspan years at Julliard playing clarinet and saxophone with Stan Getz and even working in a wink toward The Jam mentioning All Mod Cons as the words and guitars go hurtling by at warp speed, before giving the boot to Ayn Rand and her objectivist nonsense. Taking the musical focus to its logical conclusion, “The Peculiar Case of the Human Song Generators” moves into hardcore territory with the words lost in the pile driving music which sends everything hurtling relentlessly forward, go faster and faster and all subtlety is lost amid the tumult.  The centerpiece of the album is the title track, “A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life,” which recalls a concert by The Who in Cincinnati, which resulted in a massacre of eleven patrons, killed in a scrum for general admittance seats, with the band not told until after the show. She raises other trial balloons about the rock and roll lifestyle adding in Neil Young at the Last Waltz and quoting "Tired Eyes" then using slower music to showcase the words and the hinting at lyrics of songs by The Who and other bands. All of these songs blaze by in a svelte thirty minutes, giving you the feeling of standing on a train platform as the express barrels down the track toward its next stop. Both the music and the lyrics are uniformly excellent on this album, and pure rockers will have a blast turning up the raucous guitar, bass and drums with splashes of organ, while  history trainspotters will have a ball picking out all of the references to famous or infamous musicians and dignitaries. A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life - amazon.com

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