Sunday, September 29, 2019

George Coleman - The Quartet (Smoke Sessions, 2019)

Tenor saxophone legend George Coleman has built an enviable multi-decade career as a leader and in-demand sideman. On this recording, he is joined by Harold Mabern (who has since passed away) on piano, John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. This was the group's first recording together, but they sound very tight and locked in, playing a nice selection of standards and occasional swinging original composition. "I Wish You Love" is a bright and nimble performance all around, with Coleman sounding excellent and receiving support from a bouncy and buoyant piano solo from Mabern, which soon returns to a lengthy and turbulent jam for the entire band. Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" is played as a fine ballad with an appropriately old-timey feel, with brushed percussion and a bed of lush piano chords and notes. The music evolves gradually, with the drummer moving to sticks and Coleman developing the pace into a more spirited performance. "Lollipops and Roses" is a well articulated medium tempo tune with the band playing a tight theme and swinging grandly over brushes and allowing time for very well played piano and drum solos. Clocking in at over twelve minutes, "East 9th Street Blues" is the longest track on the album, a strong mid-tempo swinger with cymbal accents that frame the action and heavy piano comping that keeps the forward motion in check. This pace seem perfect for the band and they are very comfortable, with a rolling section for the piano, bass and drums and a thick and fibrous bass feature. This is followed by a wonderful area where Coleman and Farnsworth trade phrases in an excellent and witty fashion. "When I Fall in Love" is a counterweight ballad with light saxophone and brushes setting a melancholic air, but Coleman's slightly acerbic tone and attack on his instrument keep things from getting maudlin, slowly building the tempo and bouncing the feel up a bit to its conclusion. This is very solid mainstream jazz, where you take a couple of distinguished elders who are still playing top flight jazz and hook them a malleable bassist and drummer a few decades younger and let the sparks fly. And they do. BTW, Mabern sounds great - he was playing tip-top to the end. The Quartet -

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

John Coltrane - Blue World (Impulse, 2019)

More forgotten than lost, John Coltrane's music for Gilles Groulx's film Le chat dans le sac, was recorded with his classic quartet of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass on Elvin Jones on drums. The band didn't play along with the film, Groulx asked for certain songs, and Coltrane only played original tracks which he had written. "Naima (Take 1)" opens with that song's gentle and beautiful melody with yearning saxophone and piano, taut bass and gentle cymbals. The music wouldn't sound out of place on Coltrane's Ballads album from a few years before, especially when he steps aside and for the rhythm section to shine in a nicely dialed in and quiet manner. The leader returns to close the performance by repeating the theme with some subtle embellishments. An appealing rhythm is set up from the opening of "Village Blues (Take 2)" setting a nice foundation for Coltrane to join in and gradually build short phrases of dark toned saxophone. He keeps the music interesting by dynamically shifting his solo, from powerful bursts of notes to straight ahead melodic playing, careful not to overdo it. "Blue World" has bass and piano creating a hypnotic groove, with tenor saxophone and drums sensing the opening to gather strength and allow the group to stretch out in a way that they would do in the music to come following this session. A light touch on piano and cymbals opens "Village Blues (Take 1)" and the band is very patient, no one rushes, even when Coltrane takes off with cells of louder and faster notes, similar to "Village Blues (Take 3)" where Tyner adds notes and ornaments to the overall sound and theme, and Elvin hits a little harder, trying to push the beat. Coltrane's solo is unaffected though, hewing close to the melody. "Like Sonny" has a nimble and faster thematic statement, with a cool rhythm anchored by excellent bass, the perfect setting for Coltrane to open up with a brief but intense solo playing with a wonderfully focused sound. The lengthiest track on the album is "Traneing In" which features a lengthy bass solo which is very impressive, leading to a section for the full rhythm section. Coltrane takes over for the final two minutes, pushing confidently into his hottest solo of the album. The album concludes with a bookending version "Naima (Take 2)" with the same endearing theme, but altered slightly with more strident saxophone and piano comping than the first take, and slightly heavier drum emphasis. This was an an enjoyable album, not a revelatory discovery, but it is important to remember that Coltrane was trying to providing music to set the mood of a film he hadn't even seen, and this music was taken from what is essentially an in studio jam session. It can also be seen as Coltrane taking one final look back at some of his earlier more melodic material before he began the headlong rush of his final three years. Blue World -

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Albert Ayler - Quartets 1964: Spirits To Ghosts Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2019)

In 1964, tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler was at the height of his power, at the forefront of the free jazz “new thing” and playing his instrument in a unique manner that made the most use of simple themes and a completely individual tone and instrumental attack. This was the year of Spiritual Unity, his magnum opus on the ESP label, and these recordings are of a similar level, consisting of two sessions, the first from February with Norman Howard on trumpet, Sunny Murray on drums and either Henry Grimes or Earl Henderson on bass. Their playing on “Prophecy” and Witches and Devils” is extraordinary, with Ayler's massive tenor saxophone tone enveloping the whole proceedings and the imagination of his improvisations is completely unfettered, he is playing at a high speed, using these brief and memorable themes as a jumping off point and then taking the music off into the most imaginative places possible. Sunny Murray and Henry Grimes are excellent in this role, playing in a very free and unfettered manner that is supportive to the saxophonist and the collective improvisations that the band convenes as well. The second session is from November of that year with Don Cherry on trumpet, Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. They would play two excellent versions of one of his most well known songs, “Ghosts,” with it's longing and spectral melody. There is a longer one at the beginning of the session that stretches out nearly eight minutes in length and allows Alyer's billowing saxophone to fill the chilling theme to the point of giving goosebumps and then, extrapolating on it in unexpected ways. Cherry was an open vessel, whether playing with Ayler, Coleman, Coltrane or Rollins, and he's typically excellent here as a foil to the leader's playing and also soloing in an excellent fashion on “Vibrations” and the beautiful closer “Children.” The whole band is improvising at a fantastic level on Ayler's speaking in tongues special “Holy Spirit” where he channels a spiritual upbringing, the deep blues and the music of the spheres to lead the band into the unknown on a fearless performance that encapsulates his art and vision. This was an excellent album, one that illuminates and frames the brilliance of the music that was made on Spiritual Unity, and shows that far from a one-off, he was having the finest year of his all to brief career. This album is from a new subsidiary of HatHut Records called ezz-thetics (a nod to the composer George Russell) and comes in a nice sleeve with excellent liner notes from Art Lange.  Quartets 1964: Spirits To Ghosts Revisited -

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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 -

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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 -

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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 -

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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 -

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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 -

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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... -

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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 -

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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 -

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