Sunday, March 31, 2019

Joshua Redman Quartet - Come What May (Nonesuch, 2019)

Tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman's most recent album features his regular touring band of Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. There is no overriding theme or concept other than four musicians who have performed together for nearly twenty years gathering to play a set of seven Redman originals beginning with "Circle of Life." This track has piano setting the pace with light sounding saxophone, bass and drums arriving on the scene. The music is not loud, but the band achieves a full presence by united playing and strong improvisation. Even when Redman's saxophone is ostensibly soloing, the rhythm team is very active, lending a hand to his churning, cascading solo statement. After the leader steps out the the rhythm section simmers around earthy bass with rippling piano and percussion that welcome the return to of the saxophone and return to the theme for a sound melodic finish. "How We Do" features a brisk full band opening, leaning right into this short but powerful performance. The group pushes forward in a more physical manner, with bass and drums firing hard and the piano moving like a piston, as they drop into their own well earned feature. Goldberg's bouncing piano solo keeps things moving very well leading to Redman returning and a quick roundup of the proceedings. A fast swirling theme with cool sounding saxophone ushers in "DGAF" while the drums play tight rhythmic patterns. The music downshifts to quieter piano, bass and drums sounding very melodic and classy, before Redman returns and develops a choppy motif along with his light and nimble sound signature. The fast and exciting theme leads them to an interesting closing section that features some very interesting saxophone and percussion interplay. "Stagger Bear" opens with piano as drums and bass fold in creating a nice medium tempo pocket that is mobile in nature, allowing the tone of the music along with the tempo and volume to shift at will. Hutchinson really shines on this track, offering some grandly swinging drums, moving into an Art Blakey like swagger at times to really give the music the boot. The music is open an and accessible, with an easy melody and sections of sunny swing that should make this very appealing to audiences. Overall, this album worked well, the group has been playing together for a long time and can intuit what is needed to keep the music flowing in an easy going and professional manner. Redman's compositions are direct and varied, giving the musicians room to explore but also providing solid melodic and thematic guideposts. Come What May - amazon.com

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Julian Lage - Love Hurts (Mack Avenue, 2019)

Recognized early on as a virtuoso in the making, guitarist Julian Lage wisely paved his own path, performing with musicians as diverse as John Zorn, Nels Cline and Fred Hersch. This album is a well played set of modern mainstream jazz, in collaboration with Jorge Roeder on bass and Dave King on drums. They perform an interesting selection of songs, that allow them to explore a wide range of moods from ballads to bop and free, creating concentrated performances that work well. The centerpiece of the album is Ornette Coleman's early composition "Tomorrow Is The Question," which allows the trio to really explore together, melding elements of the blues into a freely and collectively improvised performance that gradually builds from a skeletal beginning though an architectural midsection, like watching a building being built in fast-forward, before the payoff of their fast and true dash to the finish line. "The Windup" keeps the pace moving quickly, with a bouncy melody that allows the group to move at a quick and nimble pace with deftly plucked guitar and close bass and drums support. The drums grow more aggressive and challenge the guitar to a face off, making for a very exciting section as the sparks really fly, leading to an unaccompanied guitar section. The bass and drums come back in around the re-statement of the original theme leading to a fast and abrupt conclusion. "Encore (A)" weaves are around a unique drum figure giving the bass and drums a firm hand hold from which to climb. They pull together through a strong mid tempo performance, punctuated with slashing percussion as Lage's guitar gains power and prominence. He works very well with King, they can both be very physical players at times, and their friendly jousting can add some much needed energy and splashes of color to the proceedings. "Lullaby" is a short, well constructed ballad with some excellent bass playing and tasteful percussion that leaves space for the leader's evocative but never overly sentimental playing. He edges into Bill Frisell territory a bit here, but it works quite well, as he adds light and shade gradually and patiently uses his tools. The loping "Trudgin'" has a slow grinding groove that Lage initially paints around the edges of, becoming more prominent as the song develops and adding splatters of notes and smears of sound around the clattering drums and stoic bass. This was a very solid album of mainstream jazz, which takes a wide angle view of the concept by adding interesting songs to the repertoire and playing them with style and grace. The band played very well, and hopefully will get a chance to record again soon. Love Hurts - amazon.com

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Dave Liebman / Adam Rudolph / Hamid Drake - Chi (RareNoise, 2019)

This album is from a trio of veteran multi-instrumentalists Dave Liebman on soprano and tenor saxophones, piano and wooden recorder, Adam Rudolph drums, percussion, vocals and electronics, Hamid Drake drums, percussion, vocals. Developing a set of spontaneous composition, and extended free improvisation the music works very well with the musicians having total trust in one another and their ability to come together and develop deep and thoughtful music. "Flux" has interesting hand and kit percussion weaving a double drum rhythm, while Liebman brings fast and exciting tenor playing, and the combination of the two makes for a thick groove loud volume, with high speed improvisation. The trio develops a very free sound, the saxophone pushing limits, and percussion constantly driving faster, before gradually slowing to near silence. Smears of saxophone echo out into space, looped in a spacey and abstract fashion, with the percussion gradually building back in with still leaving space for the looping to accentuate the work. They pick up speed very quickly with Liebman on soprano and the two drummers fully engaged with him in a collective improvisation that is very exciting to listen to. There is a spacious feeling to "Continuum," with gentle drums and percussion setting the pace, with a long piercing peal of soprano saxophone opening up like a clarion call, weaving through the thicket of percussion and developing a very interesting sound. They expand with very fast and intricate sounds of drums and percussion objects and the tart sound of the soprano piercing through, developing an unusual and captivating performance. "Emergence" builds fast but nimble hand percussion, light soprano saxophone and vocalizing sounds as the music stretches out nicely, allowing a strong groove to build and for the musicians to become deeply involved in the act of improvisation. The music gains intensity with the tumbling percussion met by fluttering saxophone creating a very interesting stream of sound. About halfway through the performance, Liebman moves briefly to recorder, met by gentler percussion developing a more exotic sensibility, but one that works equally well. Deftly back on tenor, he uses all of the instruments at his disposal on this lengthy track, developing a deep roaring sound as the drummers give him a solid beat in support. "Whirl" has an instrument that sounds like a bass, though none is listed, in conjunction with the percussion laying down deep groove, sounding tight as light soprano saxophone curls around this beat. Multi-phonic vocal create a rich sound, building a more completely ingrained improvisation as lower volume saxophone with rumbling low sounds and percussion, then everyone picks up the pace for a fast and exciting collective improvisation and push to the finish line. Chi - amazon.com

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

James Brandon Lewis - An UnRuly Manifesto (Relative Pitch, 2019)

This album by tenor saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis is dedicated to Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman and and the idea of surrealism. Lewis sees his music as a call to action and is aided in this quest by Jaimie Branch on trumpet, Luke Stewart on bass. Anthony Pirog on guitar and Warren Trae Crudup III on drums. "An Unruly Manifesto" builds organically with deeply furrowed bass and drums and guitar shading, while stoic trumpet cuts across the scene, and the leader's saxophone gracefully enters at a solid medium tempo. The full band has a graceful deep groove, playing together very well as Lewis launches a strong solo that sounds confident and pure, the rhythm is crisp and inviting with sparks of guitar adding further color. He reaches deep into a scouring upper register as Branch comes in, before taking the baton and beginning her solo. Framed by the rest of the band she sounds lean and taut with a sound that cuts through the music in a potent manner, leading the group into a collective improvisation which balances the muscularity of their sound with the nimble nature in which the music evolves. "Sir Real Denard" has a fast and true full band opening that births some funky electric bass and drum interplay and some cool electronics thrown in for good measure. Scouring electric guitar providing the fire and Branch's trumpet punches and weaves like the fighter she is, flitting around the heavy atmosphere. Lewis enters midway and builds a fast paced and complex solo to meet the vibe that has been set up be the rhythm team, leading for some very exciting full band improvising with everyone pulling out all stops. There is a quiet opening slow paced beginning to "The Eleventh Hour" with rhythm and mid-tempo horns setting a theme and repetitive guitar figure, while trumpet probes, allows plenty of space and patiently plays a striking feature over the hypnotic guitar and churning bass and drums. Horns intertwine, Lewis emerges playing with buoyant electric bass and drums guitar figure soloing with grace, his sound building to an excellent conclusion. "Escape Nostalgic Prisons" is a great title for a forward thinking jazz band, and they make it work with a wonderful collective band improvisation that has everyone playing together on a very high level. The music is loud and very fast, but never out of control, as the bass and drums are tightly wound and Priorg's guitar snakes through while the horns soar overhead, making this one of the highlights of the album. "Haden Is Beauty" begins appropriately enough with an excellent bass solo before moving into a fine full band theme, with a potent guitar solo breaking out and playing against some solid horns he develops a complex but quite beautiful statement leading the group as a whole into a warm and sunny improvisation that is a tribute and a statement of will on behalf of the leader and the band. An UnRuly Manifesto - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Van Morrison - The Healing Game (Deluxe Edition) (Legacy Recordings, 2019)

The Healing Game was a very good, but somewhat forgotten album, released a little over twenty years ago. This deluxe edition is composed of a remastered version of the original LP, bonus material from the studio sessions, particularly some fascinating duet material, and his set at the 1997 Montreux Jazz Festival. The album itself consists of all original compositions, and they are wide ranging and interesting in their depth, beginning with the opener, "Rough God Goes Riding" with its evocative spiritual imagery and lyrics about plight of victims and refugees. He comes out punching on "Fire in the Belly" asking for his driving wheel, and cutting a suave rhythm and blues groove as the horns riff over tight bass and drums. "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" moves back into spiritual territory, evoking Pan and adding flutes and acoustic guitars, showing that he is still a seeker, thirty years after Astral weeks. They bounce the tempo way up with the stomping "Burning Ground" which has an excellent arrangement for the horns that really carry the excitement of the song, before breaking in the middle for a spoken word exchange about the metaphorical dumping of sadness and personal weight before a strong and driving conclusion. "Sometimes We Cry" sheds a proud man's tear in a very striking way, with some excellent background vocals that frame the leader's own gruff mannerism, invoking singer Johnnie Ray in what turns into quite a devastating performance. The bonus tracks to disc one culminate with a fantastic acoustic version of "St. Dominic's Preview" with fiddle, acoustic guitar and harmonica giving the song a beautiful rustic feeling. Disc two is titled Sessions and Collaborations, delivering an interesting mixed bag of tracks, "The Healing Game (jazz version)" among the early ones showing the road not taken as it presents a few tracks from the album in a cabaret setting rather than the rhythm and blues one of the finished product. Some fun performances of ancient tracks like "Mule Skinner Blues" and "Didn't He Ramble" lead to the main event, the collaborations. "Don't Look Back" and "The Healing Game" with John Lee Hooker are mannered but never develop a spark, but Van and rockabilly legend Carl Perkins really hit it off. "Boppin the Blues'" "Matchbox," and "Sittin'" on Top of the World" are banged out with real feeling, and devil may care bonhomie. Perkins died not long after and more's the pity, because an duet album would probably have been spectacular. The live album on disc three is a fine demonstration of Morrison's live show of the period, but the music never takes flight like it did a few years previously when he recorded the A Night in San Francisco LP. That said it does present some highlights of the new album along with some nice medleys of earlier material like "Tupelo Honey/Why Must I Always Explain" and and epic set ender that culminates with a very slow "Burning Ground" then vaults to a horn driven finish. The Healing Game (Deluxe Edition) - amazon.com

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ivo Perelman / Mat Maneri / Nate Wolley - Strings 3 (Leo Records, 2019)

Well regarded tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman's first group of recordings of the year 2019 constitute four discs of encounters with different string instrument players. I was interested to learn from Neal Tesser's excellent liner notes that Perelman's original instrument as a child was the cello, of which he was regarded as a prodigy, and that he carried a particular affinity for instruments like this as he moved to tenor saxophone and developed his unique personal manner of improvisation. For this album he chose the viola player Mat Maneri who has a considerable reputation as a improviser and an open minded musical thinker as a leader and a collaborator. In the past, Perelman often shied away from using brass instruments in his projects before coming acquainted with trumpeter Nate Wooley, who rounds out the group for this album. The trumpeter's level of malleability and focus on the needs of the music over any showmanship quickly won over the saxophonist upon their meeting. It's good that these players are wired this way, because Perelman records in a very impulsive method, booking studio time and bringing the players together with no prepared music or arrangement. With certain musicians would certainly be a recipe for disaster, but these three are clear headed free improvisers who can make use of a blank slate and compose music spontaneously and create a lasting work of art. These three particular instruments are capable of taking notes and tones and carrying them over a long period, weaving within one another or clashing against one another, and this makes the the lengthy "Track 1" very interesting as the tones rise and fall and build complicated structures within the overall group sound. The group is able to get a wide variety of color and hue from their instruments and this is a theme that moves steadily and continuously as a current throughout the record, whether they are playing flat out ripping up section of "Track 9" or weaving together like a multi colored ribbon on a particularly well wrapped present on the deep and beautiful "Track 7." It will be interesting to see where this music will go forward, because as Tresser notes, Perelman has become more aware of exploring not just combinations of instruments, but combinations of people, or as he's quoted as saying "So I've been fooling myself, thinking that I'm experimenting with instrument types. "I've really been experimenting with individuals." It will be fascinating to see which individuals come together for the next project. Strings 3 - Leo Records

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Comet is Coming - Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (Impulse, 2019)

The London jazz scene is truly having a moment. While the avant garde regiment explores the outer limits at Cafe OTO, the modern mainstream section moves in a different direction adding elements of hip-hop, electronica and krautrock to modern jazz, creating a sensual, searching music in the process. The Comet Is Coming consists of scene regulars King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings) on saxophones; Danalogue (Dan Leavers) on keyboards and synthesizers and Betamax (Max Hallett) on drums and percussion. Fans of straight ahead jazz have little to fear, if you enjoy the groovier side of Sun Ra or Archie Shepp, you will feel right at home here. On "Summon the Fire" electronic textures and rhythm are picked up by the saxophone and hard pummeling drums. Jabs of electronic hooks meet them in a pugilistic squall adding to a collective improvisation that is tight and powerful as peals of raw saxophone solo cover a crisp beat. Electronics frame the band going full bore, with a huge and all encompassing sound leading to repetitive saxophone figures over shifting beats and electronics. Featuring guest vocalist Kate Tempest, "Blood of the Past" begins with shimmering electronics swooping and grinding a crushing beat, meeting heavy saxophone and creating an oppressive atmosphere. After three minutes the sound opens up and Tempest's proud and declarative spoken word performance adds further fuel to the fire with meaningful lyrics focusing on "the scar on the soul of the world." After she steps away there is a torrid saxophone response leading to an excellent full band conclusion. This builds into "Super Zodiac" where soft, slightly wavering electronic textures seem to blow in the breeze, then break into a fast dance beat, soon met by powerful drumming and strutting saxophone playing that builds up the tension of the performance through repetition and release. The music is hot and fast, building to blinding speeds, sort of an EDM jazz that uses the virtuosity of the musicians to take the sound to unfathomable places. "Timewave Zero" works from an eerie cinematic soundscape, as fast percussion morphs into the mix and saxophone guilds in developing his statement block by block. The drummer cooks up a quick and alluring rhythm allowing the group to engage in a choppy improvised section playing together at a very impressive speed and showing the band has a firm grasp on their concept and use it to create vibrant and powerful music. Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery - amazon.com

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Sun Ra - Pathways to Unknown Worlds (Modern Harmonic, 2019)

Pathways to Unknown Worlds was one of the albums that eventually came through on a highly anticipated deal with ABC/Impulse that was doomed to fail. Released in a truncated format in the early 1970's with less then thirty minutes of music, this reissue presents restored tracks and additional selections from the session that was recorded in New York City in 1973. It's also the full Arkestra of the period with Ra playing a raft of electronic keyboards and featuring a horn section anchored by stalwarts John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, anchored by Ronnie Boykins on bass and Clifford Jarvis on drums. "Pathways To Unknown Worlds," the title track is a spacey Ra special, with the leader playing Yamaha YC-45D combo organ which allowed increased pitch and tone control, making this a long and droning space jazz track with bowed bass and mellophone, giving the music an unusual and fascinating sound. “Extension Out” has it's complete version on record for the first time, including the opening five and a half minutes that were inexplicably culled from the Impulse version. It's a wonderful performance, allowing the saxophonists to really stretch out with Danny Davis joining Marshall Allen on alto saxophone for raw and exciting solos and duos, as the band rumbles beneath them, and bass clarinet and oboe add further color to this vivid and exploratory performance. The last two tracks on this album originally came out on the Of Mythic Worlds LP, included here because they were recorded at the same session. “Intrinsic Energies” develops long tones of shimmering keyboard, drums and percussion, soon joined by stark and wrenched horns which play out over the sound stage, with ripe alto saxophone tart and citrus against the pastel toned keyboards. The juxtaposition of raw reeds and subtle keyboards is especially moving, while stoic bass (Ronnie Boykins in the secret sauce on this whole album) and drums keeps the music from flying off into infinity. Really interesting textures of percussion are at play on "Of Mythic Worlds,” with jabs of Ra's space organ and wonderful tenor saxophone playing from the incomparable John Gilmore. Seriously, imagine and organ and tenor jam session that instead of a Prestige blowing date (nothing wrong with those, mind you) it's a Sun Ra and John Gilmore free jazz blowout, and it's just as remarkable as you can imagine. After that mindblower, Ra takes a skittish caterwauling solo with wonderful bass support, before handing back off to the horn players who carry the group to a righteous conclusion. Pathways To Unknown Worlds - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Paal Nilssen-Love - New Japanese Noise (PNL Records, 2019)

Epic drummer and musical explorer Paal Nilssen-Love brought an incredible crew to the 2018 Roskilde Festival, including Akira Sakata on alto saxophone, Bb clarinet and vocals, Kiko Dinucci on electric guitar and Kohei Gomi and Toshiji Mikawa on electronics. The sound they created was staggering, a triumphant amalgam of free jazz, noise rock and unrecognizable chaos that is an absolute joy to hear. "Stiff Upper Lip Jeeves" opens the album with savage drums and raw scouring saxophone, a massive sonic outpouring with electronic squiggles framing the over the top bombardment as the guitar adds further sparks to the developing vortex of pure sound. At times the noise stratifies into layers, while during others, it mixes into a mad psychedelic free for all, with Sakata playing in typically excellent fashion wailing saxophone atop the tumult. Spaciousness opens on "Up the Line to Death," where the saxophone improvises freely supported by crashes of percussion and clanks of guitar. The sound of the piece will fill and fall back in a manic fashion hinting at dynamic power around a madly strummed guitar feature. "Eats, Shites And Leaves" initially throws a feint with Sakata moving to clarinet backed by brushed percussion. The group plays a quieter, more abstract improvisation through the first half of this lengthy performance before turning up the heat in a major way. The overall sound grows through smears of electronics, plus some all encompassing drum set playing which are then enveloped by fierce and violent guitar squalls leading the piece to conclude as over the top noise rock. Sakata takes to the vocal mic for "The Bone People," vocalizing in growls and barks and speaking in Japanese, as roaring guitar and powerful drums fly around him. It's just mad stuff, he's howling, the entire band is erupting his gruff deep vocals are just so heavy - he could be singing about teddy bears riding unicorns and it would still sound like a man trying to open a portal to hell with just the power of his bowels. Sakata is 73 years old and this track sounds like a group of next level free improvisers is playing My War era Black Flag. I Love It. Where can they possibly go from here? "Birdsong" is a three minute finale that works pretty well encapsulating what makes this band so great, Sakata back on saxophone, at his free jazz best, PNL crushing the drums as shards of deadly saxophone and guitar battle it out while being strafed by drums and electronics. New Japanese Noise - PNL Bandcamp

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Larry Grenadier - The Gleaners (ECM, 2019)

There have been innumerable solo albums by every conceivable instrument in jazz, most notably piano, but the acoustic upright bass, despite (or perhaps because of) its unwieldy nature has seen relatively few. But those have been quite memorable, career milestones from the likes of William Parker, Dave Holland and Peter Kowald have expanded the role of the instrument in jazz, taking it far from the role of timekeeper into the world of improvisation and composition. Larry Grenadier is a veteran bassist, who came up in the explosion of modern mainstream jazz talent of the early 1990's developed over a longtime collaboration with pianist Brad Mehldau among many other talented musicians. This album is a thoughtful and impressive album for solo double bass, mixing originals by Grenadier, along with well thought out interpretations of numbers by George Gershwin, John Coltrane and Paul Motian. On tracks like the centerpiece "Compassion - The Owl Of Cranston" he appears to ask himself questions like how do you interpret a person through music? How do you evoke their being through sound, timbre and feel? Putting together compositions by legendary figures like John Coltrane and Paul Motian is an audacious idea but it works very well, creating a medley that is challenging and stimulating, while presenting itself to be worthy of careful consideration and attention. He is able to inhabit the whole of the instrument, playing the length and breadth of it and keeping the music continuously interesting. There is an introspective aspect to the music as there would be with any solo performance, but it never devolves into an exercise in navel gazing or playing for its own sake, but the music is constructed to engage the attentive listener as well. Aspects of classical music and jazz appear at times, as he displays a great deal of technique without trying to be overwhelmingly flashy, like on the wonderful bowing on "Vineland" which flows continuously without a break from beginning to end. The fascinating mixed version of Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" brings everything together, with a fraught bowed introduction and a deep plucked improvised middle section, giving the timeless standard a fresh and supple reading. All things considered this is a humble and well played offering, displaying all of the talents that Grenadier has developed over the course of has career, distilled into distinctive and commanding album. The Gleaners - amazon.com

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Friday, March 15, 2019

Interesting Links

Dave Douglas invites Tomeka Reid to his most recent podcast.
Drummer Dan Weiss's band Starebaby was featured in Bumhuis Radio.
Bandcamp Daily profiles NoBusiness Records.
Issue 66 of the web journal Point of Departure is available.
The New York Times asks: Is This the Greatest Photo in Jazz History?
The New Yorker publishes a lengthy interview with Buddy Guy.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Cecil Taylor - Silent Tongues (Org Music, 2019)

Silent Tongues is one of Cecil Taylor's most compelling albums, which is saying something considering his wide ranging and voluminous discography. A tremendously well received live solo piano recording from the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1974 drew widespread critical acclaim, including Downbeat's album of the year the following year. This album release has gone through several iterations from Arista Freedom to 1201 Music, and this particular one is a vinyl version remastered at Infrasonic Mastering and pressed on audiophile-grade vinyl at Pallas Group in Germany. The release was previously available as Vinyl Me, Please exclusive via ORG Music. The music itself is an explosive five section suite along with two encores. Listening to this recording is best if the listener gives themselves over to it, as the music comes in waves of complex chords and lightning fast runs of notes. Taylor's famous notion of the piano as a set of "eighty-eight tuned drums" can really be heard on this recording which is clear and vibrant with a you-are-there kind of feeling that can be nearly overwhelming at times. While Taylor played with many ensembles ranging from duet settings to the largest big bands, it is his solo work that has always has the emotional resonance for me with works like For Olim, Live in Willisau and others developed a lifelong thread of continuous exploration on piano. Some of the more accessible sections of the suite will be mixed with bracing and cascading cells of freely improvised piano, and the dynamic nature of these yin and yang opposites provide the locomotion that drives the music relentlessly forward, whether this can be considered spontaneously composing, or freely improvising Taylor is using the length and breadth of the instrument to create thunderous and vibrant waves of sound that is full of energy and boundless enthusiasm. His skill and technique are at the highest level, but he carries the listener with him and the music remains completely original throughout the album, with a sense of connected events which seems to fuel the sound, texture, and shading of his music. Taylor is a conduit for the sound and amazing technique to flow, where he refines and channels his music as unique concept and a language. The two encores are met with rousing and rapturous applause, as short cells of improvisation, they are the icing on the cake the and a perfect ending to a recording of rare skill and energy that stands as one for the ages, a recording of great significance and value. Silent Tongues - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Matthew Shipp Trio Invites Nicole Mitchell - All Things Are (Rogue Art, 2019)

This is a wonderful and overdue meeting of the minds between Matthew Shipp on piano and Nicole Mitchell on flute and alto flute, with Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. Recorded one hot summer day in Brooklyn it's a masterful session, each recording a first take and demonstrating the unique symmetry of this group of musicians."Elements" has spare piano with bass and percussion with spacious flute entering and gradually integrating itself within the performance. There are dark undertones to the music, and the pace picks up with percussive piano playing, whirling flute and crashing drums before dynamically downshifting to crystalline piano and flute weaving through trills and full breaths leading to a cascading improvisation finale for the full quartet. Piano and flute converse in a mid tempo dialogue on "Well Spring" and Mitchell's flute flutters as Shipp hits bass end chords on the piano, leading to an organically evolving improvisation, adding long tones of flute and gentler keyboard resonance. "It" has flute holding notes in space, amid slight percussion and bowed bass, developing a very affecting and appealing sound. The piano sits out allowing the sound to open further, giving room for the evocative bowed bass and free sounding drumming, and the long tones of flute and arcing bowed bass compliment each other particularly well. "Void of Ground" features bounding piano, bass and drums tempered by a hint of darkness. The flute blends in and works from a repetitive figure, and Shipp alternate between crushing low end chords and urgent comping, creating an explosive dynamo which helps to power a fast paced flute improvisation. The juxtaposition between the lighter sounding flute and the heavier piano, bass and drums is very present, and one of the driving factors in the success of the performance. Quiet tones of flute with piano are at the center of "Water and Earth" as Shipp's notes just seem to hang in the air. The music is very free sounding, adding the slightest brushed percussion, the group plays with great patience communicating gracefully together. "Fire and Air" develops from ripples of percussion and mysterious sounding flute, jumping and diving in a bird like fashion, and building to a spellbinding solo with melodic elements. Full bodied piano with thick bass move in tandem on "Blossom" driving forward and pushing the tempo further upward as Shipp's piano becomes more percussive and develops a more linear approach, leading to a wonderful conclusion. Finally, "All Things Are," features bowed bass with flute and piano in a dark and ominous yet fascinating improvisation, building ever stronger through the application of muscular drums and piano, Mitchell is undeterred, flying through and around, finding spaces in the huge structure and soaring right through them leading to a righteous unaccompanied flute conclusion. All Things Are - amazon.com

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Saturday, March 09, 2019

Jim Snidero - Waves of Calm (Savant, 2019)

Humbled by his father's battle with Parkinson's Disease, the veteran alto saxophonist Jim Snidero delivers a thoughtful and contemplative album, split between tender acoustic ballads and medium to uptempo hard bop songs. Joining him are veterans Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Orrin Evans on acoustic and electric piano, Nat Reeves on bass and Jonathan Barber on drums. The opening track, "Waves of Calm," is a ballad for gentle saxophone, brushed percussion, subtle bass and piano accompaniment, creating a brief melodic track that moves into "Truth" which is much stronger and heavier. The configuration shifts to electric piano with some ripe trumpet playing developing an extended and well constructed solo aided by forceful drumming. Snidero's own solo leaves room for the rhythm section, building fast and true into an excellent four way conversation of bright and ringing sound. "Old Folks" has spare acoustic piano, and beautiful ballad saxophone entering around anchoring bass. The cries of the saxophone lend a sense of warmth, but also one of sadness framed by soft droplets of piano and touches of bass, as they group plays at a quiet level. Electric piano and drumming change the pace again on "Visions" developing a different texture as the saxophone and percussion develop a choppy beat that keeps things moving nicely, and the leader alternate quick flurries of notes with long peals of air alongside the heavy and insistent drums to give the music some real emotional heft. This is the longest track on the album and it also includes an explosive trumpet break and drum solo. "I Fall In Love" returns to the land of ballads, with yearning saxophone supported by deftly brushed percussion in a well paced performance. The music is melodic and thoughtfully presented, led by wistfully toned saxophone that works well within the spare accompaniment. Saxophone and trumpet harmonize over a tough boppish beat on "Dad Song" with the saxophone peeling off to solo at a medium pace, sounding fine with elastic bass and drums in support. Pelt takes the baton and continues the medium boil, building a fine statement and rippling across the sound stage. "If I Had You" has bright, sharp toned saxophone which immediately gains attention, falling back on a bed of swirling brushes, deep bass notes and subtle piano chords. The overall feeling is patient and warm and the sharpness of the horn doesn't effect the overall vibe. Finally, "Estuary" closes the album, a mid tempo quartet performance with a snappy theme, and a strong trumpet statement from Pelt as the electric piano glides over bass and drums. The leader's saxophone takes a nuanced and well rounded solo including a fine bass and drums section before leading everyone in for a safe landing. Snidero's father passed away shortly after this recording was completed, making it all the more resonant, but you are able to hear the music as a celebration rather than an elegy. The mix of ballads and hard bop keeps the set nicely varied and the band is more than up to the task of creating both a fine jazz album and a heartfelt personal statement. Waves of Calm - amazon.com

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Friday, March 08, 2019

David Torn / Tim Berne / Ches Smith - Sun Of Goldfinger (ECM, 2019)

This explosive band consists of Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Ches Smith on drums, electronics, and tanbou and David Torn on electric guitar, live-looping and electronics. They created three spontaneous group compositions with live electronics by Torn and Smith expanding their palate. On the composition "Spartan, Before It Hit," they extend the ensemble with two extra guitars, keyboards and a string quartet. The opening track is "Eye Meddle" which unfolds in layers of sounds and almost tribal sounding percussion, developing an alien atmosphere and soundscape. Breathy saxophone and alternatively heavy and light percussion creates a wide sound stage and allows Berne's saxophone to move sneakily among the thicket as the volume and tension rises. The trio creates a collective improvisation the seems to curve spacetime around itself, altering relativity at will, and Berne is particularly excellent here, playing with a wonderful sense of tone and pacing, building to raw squeals over powerful beats. The group incorporates massive squalls of electronics, hammering beats and stoic saxophone as they drive relentlessly forward with Torn invoking epic snarls of electric guitar over bracing percussion creating a mirage as if they are shimmering in the distance on a hot day. The extra instruments come into play on "Spartan, Before It Hit," which develops gradually, forming long beams of sound, that are used as a foundation to build a deep texture as the group suddenly blasts off in an explosion of vivid color. Strong saxophone with surging percussion and guitar creates a tsunami of potent and fearsome sound, in an attack where all the forces are truly engaged. Including a massive blowout for full bore saxophone, Berne's raw and immediately identifiable playing from both the heart and the gut, with long piercing tones of sound added that threaten to shatter eardrums. The long tones become alien transmissions, eerie soundscapes haunted cinematic post-apocalyptic drones that gradually just end. "Soften the Blow" builds from horns swirls, with electronic echoes that slowly take on a grittier or more gravelly element. Soundscapes drawn from the imagination and tinted with hint of loneliness. This soon changes with the introduction of tart and loud saxophone and mighty drums and electronics kicking in to boost it into orbit with a sense of mystery and intrigue. A torrid full band improvisation ensues, taking the music to unimaginable levels of volume and intensity, as massive waves of pure sound emanate from the group consisting of squalls of electronics, complex drum rhythms and saxophone scouting the territory. Torn's guitar is astonishing, using pedals and electronic manipulation to sculpt his sound to an extraordinary degree as drums slash and slap and Berne's saxophone crawls through the maelstrom like a soldier on one final mission. They come together in the final act for a collectively improvised blowout that seemingly goes beyond what is feasible. This is a dangerous group. If they can commit something this jaw dropping to disc, imagine what else could be done. It is said that Larry Young's group Love Cry Want was denied a permit to play in DC for fear of "levitating the White House." With the talent and the ability that this group has? The sky is the limit. Highest possible recommendation. This is it. Sun Of Goldfinger - amazon.com

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Thursday, March 07, 2019

Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research - Impromptus and Other Short Works (WhyPlayJazz, 2019)

The most current lineup of Basement Research is leader Gebhard Ullmann on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Steve Swell on trombone, Julian Arg├╝elles on baritone saxophone, Pascal Niggenkemper on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. They recorded eleven Ullmann compositions, blending modern jazz and contemporary methods of composition. "Twelve Tones - Impromptu #5" has abstract sounding horns with saxophones swirling about like predatory birds as the bass and drums kick in. They build an uptempo five piece improvisation with trombone and one saxophone in each stereo channel, and the bass, drums and remaining saxophone in the middle, making for a wide sound stage for a powerful collectively improvised section. Ullman takes a nice tenor saxophone solo supported by sturdy bass before leading the full band to a rousing conclusion. Fading in already in progress, "29 Shoes" finds the band chugging away with slashing drums and strong horn riffs. There is a fine use of tension inducing loud / quiet dynamic sections, pulling into a faster and meatier section for tenor saxophone and taut bass framed by the other horns and leading to an exciting full band section taken at high speed. Space opens up for a crackling drums and bass duet section, with the horns re-entering in a brawny fashion to help ease the tune out. "Lines - Impromptu #2" has choppy horns and and rhythm in a tight formation, alternating with spacey sections that have an edgy, uneasy calm. The horns and percussion stomp mightily, playing in a highly reactive manner, while the hushed quiet will fall for an instrument, in this case puckered trombone, nudged by spare percussion and bowed bass. Strong horns try to wrestle away the moment but are they are denied as the piece closes with a sense of quiet abstraction. A tight, fast thematic statement opens "Sticks - Impromptu #4" with the bass and drum developing from the expansive theme to a powerhouse drum solo that slaloms around jagged horn interjections, and the horns harmonize together achieving a deep and weighty sound, allowing the drums and bass freedom to roam. "Almost Twenty-Eight" closes the album with a swirling horn theme, as crisp bass and drums drive forward the angular but exciting formation. The rhythm section will occasionally cut out to allow the horns to soar, particularly Ullman's dramatic bass clarinet playing, which provides a vividly colorful solo over bass and drums while the remainder of the horns keep pace. This was a well done and exciting album, the group's eighth over the course of twenty five years with little sign of fatigue. Inspired by the likes of Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and Charles Lloyd the band uses their accomplishments as a challenge to explore the unknown and carve out their own path. Impromptus and Other Short Works - amazon.com

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Monday, March 04, 2019

Heroes Are Gang Leaders - The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes, 2019)

Heroes Are Gang Leaders was co-founded by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and they are joined by a wide range of instrumentalists, singers, readers and rappers to pay tribute to the legendary poet and activist Amiri Baraka. The vocalists interpret that work into new ways to challenge and explore the material as much as their musical counterparts improvise accompaniment. "Superstar" opens with female vocals shifting to spoken a word riff between two men about  basketball as the female vocalist chants, interjecting names of ESPN programs, and the instruments play in the background. Basketball is used as a vehicle for social commentary, and the female vocalist rhymes impressively with the words and the instruments well integrated into each other. The long performance shifts to singing about the nature of stardom and the effects it has on people, framed by fine saxophone and piano. "Land Back" features solo trumpet, then bass and drums with male and female singers and strong saxophone. Confident female spoken word about the racist treatment of African Americans in the United States, the flow of words and their stinging meaning is very impressive. The performance stretches out with instrumental interludes, scatting vocals with improvising jazz band, mocking the stand your ground ideal that killed Treyvon Martin, as male vocals asked if African Americans were better off as outsiders, a provocative question in a country where black men are routinely gunned down by the police. "Amina 2" is an excellent solo saxophone interlude, short but eloquent improvisation of raw beauty, reaching for the dark places and shining the light of music into them, it's a wonderful piece. "Leautoroiograghy" develops stark piano and female vocals, with the extraordinary refrain "if capitalism don't kill me, racism will." Adding more singers, male and female but coming back to this theme, of the dissolution of race relations, leading into "Forensic Report" an interlude for jazz band with supple trumpet and drums, building fast and loose as a male voice deconstructs the words. "The Tender Arrival of Outsane Midget Booker (Ts Who Kill Drums Runnin' da Voodoo Down)" has soulful vocals and electric bass, asking if hope as an illusion, crisp drum accompaniment, gospel feeling, full band blasting in driving the music forward and then acting as framing mechanism for the vocalists, storming hip hop rhymes as singers repeat phrases in the background, the whole formation of the performance is very deeply affecting. Album finishes with a wonderful solo saxophone performance, "Anima 3" where Lewis really bares his soul, allowing for a brief free improvisation that reaches into the territory of David S. Ware or Archie Shepp at their most inspired. It is a fine way to end a fascinating experimental album that was very successful in melding poetry and song to first rate modern jazz improvisation. The Amiri Baraka Sessions - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 03, 2019

Jessica Pavone - In the Action (Relative Pitch, 2019)

Composer and milti-instrumentalist Jessica Pavone is well known on the downtown music scene as a formidable performer and collaborator. This is her third album for solo viola, playing the instrument and interfacing with a small group of pedals and electronics. On this fascinating album she takes a variety of tones that she can create on her instrument and use them as starting points for improvisation either solo, or incorporating the pedals and loops she has at her command. "Oscillatory Salt Transport" begins with one such lengthy yearning tone, sweeping through the silence that surrounds her, doubled, by a loop which can be played with or against, giving the music a piercing emotional resonance. It is a sound that patiently builds, the construction of which is architectural in nature, adding pieces, bit by bit, and drifting back into stark solo cries. She uses short, staccato jabs to increase the speed of the performance gathering motion and powerful kinetic energy that seems to lift from the strings. "and Maybe in the End" opens with gentle plucking and bowing, giving the music a folkish tint, thought one modified that is by electronics and pedals. The more ominous bowed sounds, altered by the electronics are juxtaposed against the gentle guitar like strums, creating a rich and uneasy dynamic flow. "Look Out - Look Out - Look Out" is an amazing piece for viola and extreme electronics, sounding like a wonderful mashup of Metal Machine Music with Tony Conrad and Faust's Outside the Dream Syndicate. The music is pummeling in its industrial beauty, forming harsh, uncompromising music that is absolutely compelling, strafing the ground in waves of sustained fire and then flying off into the sky to prepare for another sortie, and leaving on the wings of a massive sustained drone. The final piece is "In the Action" with almost country flavored opening sounds, patiently developed and gradually extrapolated upon through repetition and rumbling looped sounds that gradually develop in the background. Repeating figures through the loop and the viola are fascinating and attention grabbing, creating and focusing the music in this experimental manner is quite successful, and encapsulates the nature of the album as a whole which is filled with exciting ideas and deserves to be widely heard. In the Action - amazon.com

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