Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Eric Revis - Slipknots Through A Looking Glass (Pyroclastic Records, 2020)

Experimenting in form and freedom, bassist Eric Revis assembles a stellar lineup to explore a wide ranging set of modern jazz with Bill McHenry on tenor saxophone, Darius Jones on alto saxophone, Kris Davis on piano and Chad Taylor on drums. "Baby Renfro" opens the album with a very nice bass and drums groove, allowing the horns enter to complete the theme, in a choppy rhythmic fashion. Revis employs a deep elastic bass tone near bright piano chords and spicy sounding horns to create a very interesting performance, with the whole band developing a deep rhythmic significance in a focused and tightly wound presentation. The leader's patient bass sets the tone on "SpÆ" with spare piano creating a unique atmosphere, and Taylor adding interesting percussion. Davis uses prepared piano and Taylor adds marimba along side bowed bass to create a fascinating pensive soundscape where their rhythm is complex, but exciting and enjoyable, and builds to an unpredictable finish. On "Shutter," the band comes out blazing, behind heavy drums with rippling piano and sweeping saxophones, developing and potent theme and unleashing a raw and guttural saxophone solo with the unrelenting drums pushing everyone forward. Harmonizing horns work together well, with each saxophone getting a turn to add scorching commentary to this stellar track, nearing Coltrane at Seattle level of rending, ripping sounds. Bass and drums open "Vimen," sounding abstract and probing, followed by cascading free sounding piano that enters and flows amid the channel provided, leading to a three way rhythmic exchange that is quite compelling. The horns enter late, soaring together over the established foundation, leading to a withering saxophone solo that stakes a claim to space over pointed bass and drums with piano briefly laying out, adding a corrosive air to the proceedings. Strongly played piano re-enters, fighting back, creating a maelstrom of fascinating sound that is in continuous development. The lighter toned saxophone takes the music in a different but no less intense direction with the collective improvisation coming fast and furious as the group is fully locked in and playing modern jazz at its highest level, returning to the urgent theme for an epic conclusion. This was an album that was very successful, with the musicians fearlessly moving through a wide range of musical themes and concepts, working together to create a robust and lasting statement. Slipknots Through A Looking Glass - amazon.com

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Second Sight - Tiger Tracks (Sunjump Records, 2020)

Second Sight was an excellent modern jazz band consisting of Dave Douglas on trumpet, Jeff Marx on tenor and soprano saxophone, John Esposito on piano, Allen Murphy on bass, Jeff Siegel on drums and Frederick Berryhill on percussion. This album was recorded in 1987 when the group was performing live regularly but were let down by management leaving the record to languish until now. The music opens with "Arrival," which is a brief interlude of cool percussion sounds developing an African groove. "Dai Yat Lo" comes out fast with a hard swinging post bop head sounding urgent, with cooking piano, bass and drums and featuring a robust tenor saxophone solo to boot. There is room for spacious trumpet with brushes and elastic bass, keeping spirits high. Rising tones in theme of "Fu Jow Pai" form a majestic theme followed by the full band developing a boiling pace, with crashing drums and tenor saxophone soloing amid thick bass. Douglas adds raw trumpet accents, slow and probing, becoming brisk and punchy with crisp group support. Heavy drums anchor the rhythm section, allowing everyone to stretch out, then heading back to the blustery theme. "Harlequin's Child" has a quieter medium tempo full group opening theme, developing a ballad sensibility, with descending bass and long trumpet tones, aided by graceful piano and dancing cymbals. Strong bounding piano along side cool bass and drums are key to "Point Transit" with grand reeds pushing forward strongly, and a rippling a muscular trumpet solo sounding very impressive, playing at length making this a real keeper, adding a lengthy structured sax solo with some trumpet support that is very exciting, a sweet treat for all concerned. "Pressure Makes Diamonds" features appropriately slamming drums and percussion, complex rhythm horns arcing overhead adding a deep raw tenor solo delving fast and loose among the thicket of percussion building a scorcher of a feature out of it. Douglas's trumpet builds equally strong solo with drum set driving fiercely. "Harlequin's Child Alternate Take" shows the group at a mid tempo, patiently stating the theme, as thoughtful trumpet playing evolves with fine bass support, followed by a graceful saxophone solo which weaves around the anchoring bass. Using a fast post bop theme that swings hard, "Dai Yat Lo Alternate Take" releases a strong ripe tenor saxophone to solo over urgent rhythm section for a fast paced run. The trumpet builds solo gradually, to rippling fast segment, then back to strong theme for the end. Many of the composition on the album display Esposito's interest in martial arts, and it comes through in the music, which is angular and athletic, and clearly made by a band that was deeply in tune with one another, and the results are very impressive. Tiger Tracks - amazon.com

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Matthew Shipp - The Unidentifiable (ESP-Disk, 2020)

Pianist Matthew Shipp convened his trio mates Newman Taylor Baker on drums and Michael Bisio on bass at Park West Studio in Brooklyn in October of 2019. The group has worked for several years and the camaraderie that they have built up allow them the ability to take the music into unexpected and exciting directions each time that they meet. This album opens with "Blue Transport System" featuring spare piano descending spaciously into the cymbals and bass, with Baker's brushes clearing room for more urgent piano and beautiful sounding bass, creating a chamber/parlor like feel with shimmering and billowing music accented with bass tones and climbing piano notes, rising and falling to the conclusion. Insistent heavy piano chords are at the forefront of "Phantom Journey" alongside tight bass and drumsticks and the play of light and shade is key, with Shipp brandishing heavy bass chords and levying them against urgent fast bursts of sound and crisp drumming, developing a fascinating trajectory. "Dark Sea Negative Charge" has a wide open field for bass and piano with the slightest percussion, sounding quite handsome, as the carefully chosen notes shimmer like gems placed on velvet. Shipp takes "The Dimension" as solo piano, weaving a complex and convex puzzle, using a brisk but not impatient pace with many shades and hues, framed briefly with heavy bass chords. "Loop" features the trio in a collective improvisation that sounds very free, adding ideas playing off of one another, with fast bursts of information all coming together. Bass and drums meet with full blooded piano on "The Unidentifiable" creating near post bop swing, bright and potent beams of light, ripples of cascading piano, thick bulbous bass and weighty drums. A true centerpiece, this ties everything together in grand fashion. Bisio is featured with a well played bass solo, rich and sonorous in sound, then the piano and drums crash back in dramatically leading to an excellent conclusion. "Regeneration" keeps things moving with choppy bass, drums and strong almost brittle piano chords are added, creating an excellent counter rhythm alongside the drums. The finale, "New Heaven and New Earth" builds bowed bass and knotty piano falling in together. A galloping trio improvisation unfolds urgently from the whole group as the drama develops. The lengthy track builds an impressive narrative from all three musicians as they go for broke to the finish, creating a wonderful closing statement for this excellent album. The Unidentifiable - amazon.com

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Artemis - Self Titled (Blue Note, 2020)

Artemis is a very talented group, each one of the musicians has a successful career as a leader and collaborator, and adding this well performed album to their resumes will certainly be feathers in their collective caps. The band consists of Renee Rosnes on piano, Anat Cohen on clarinet, Melissa Aldana on tenor saxophone, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Noriko Ueda on bass, Allison Miller on drums, and Cécile McLorin Salvant on vocals. The album begins with "Goddess Of The Hunt" which has an incisive piano, bass and drums foundation, allowing the horns build in and developing a swirling theme. Tenor saxophone solos grandly over strong rhythm support, framed by the other horns, with Rosnes sounds great in support and soloing, developing interesting figures as the trumpet punches loose soaring and then turning over to clarinet flying over the crisp drumming, followed by the horns melding nicely with the rhythm for conclusion. Spacious and patient, "Frida" has saxophone over thoughtful rhythm, allowing the music to breathe in an artful way and the instruments to blend gracefully. The sounds fill in layers and stratify, with instruments like the tenor sax take the helm for brief solo sections that work quite well within the overall concept of the musical performance. Swelling and receding, the rhythm section makes the most of their centerpiece, and allowing some dynamic drumming to launch the group into the finale of the piece. "Big Top" has rippling piano and swirling light sounds which bring forth a fun and light hearted performance, with a bright and swinging theme. Bounding piano and explosive drumming push the music forward, in a very exciting flash of cascading piano and reeds, coming back to the riotously colorful theme and conclusion. The graceful "Step Forward" has a gradually unfolding opening section that allows the players room to move within the theme. The music soars followed by Cohen breaking out for a swooping clarinet solo played with vigor, with blustery trumpet cutting in to push the music into more angular territory. A well played bass solo re-grounds the music, framed by piano and light percussion, followed by some stellar piano playing that leads the group back together for a return to the original theme and sendoff. This album worked quite well and should appeal to most mainstream jazz fans. Each of the musicians also wrote for the album in addition to arranging popular pieces like The Beatles "The Fool on the Hill" and Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder." Artemis - amazon.com

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Nubya Garcia - Source (Concord Jazz, 2020)

Another excellent musician from the seemingly limitless pool of young London jazz musicians, saxophonist Nubya Garcia mixes elements of dub and reggae to her music to create an interesting and personal music that works quite well. She is accompanied by the core band of Joe Armon Jones on keyboards, Daniel Casimir on bass and Sam Jones on drums along with some special guests on an album that begin with "Pace" which has crisp drumming and dreamy sounding piano and saxophone, creating an evocative soundscape. Thick and insistent bass and drums underpin and encourage the music and the band comes together as a whole with a fine all-encompassing sound. The music drifts to a space for thick bass and saxophone to ride the thermals floating above, before re-engaging with the band in a dynamic resonance. Fast drumming and saxophone are locked in tightly, opening up to a piano, bass and drums section that weaves rippling textures, picking up speed to a rippling fast pace and saxophone re-entry that brings everyone back together for a fine conclusion. "The Message Continues" uses drums and electric piano to provide a nice groove for the saxophone to enter into, creating a solid mid-tempo foundation for the band. Garcia is patient, letting her solo grow organically and presenting thoughtful tone and pacing throughout her extended solo section. There is a pleasant area for electronic keyboard, bass and drums, playing fast and nimble, followed by Garcia coming back to slow things down a touch, giving the music a little more room to breathe. "Inner Game" has tight bass and drums with electronic keyboards setting a good foundation for the leader whose saxophone builds  in gradually, creating a performance that develops into something that embraces rhythm with complex drumming and saxophone playing. Garcia plays with vigor, pushing her instrument over the driving percussion and meeting the vigorous rhythm section, creating a strong collective improvisation, and adding longer punctuating tones and the music climaxes in volume and intensity. There is a very intricate and fast electric piano, bass and drums section when Garcia lays out, with all of the remaining musicians pushing their limits, and creating a fascinating mesh of musical ideas. Garcia returns amid cascades of electronics and percussion to rally the troops for a final push to the conclusion of a dynamic and well executed performance. This album worked quite well, and Garcia presents a wide ranging program of music with her well executed saxophone playing at the center. The music is accessible and will hopefully receive attention from a wide range of mainstream jazz fans. Source - amazon.com

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Dan Weiss Starebaby - Natural Selection (Pi-Recordings, 2020)

Natural Selection takes up where drummer and composer Dan Weiss left off with 2018's Starebaby, melding metal, math/prog rock, mid-1970's dark Miles and modern jazz into a potent and unexpected potion. He is joined on this album by Ben Monder on guitar, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Matt Mitchell and Craig Taborn on keyboards, electronics and piano. They open with "Episode 18" which develops a complex progressive rock vibe that includes spacey areas to build an interesting dynamic flow with music that is exciting if a bit imposing. Thick layers of sound are built upon, electronic and percussive with the speed reaching hyperkenetic levels. Monder's guitar breaks out for a late solo before the musicians come together for a towering climax and long fade. "Dawn" changes the pace with brushed percussion and piano weaving together before gradually getting faster and more intense. Long electronic tones beam out along side bass and drums and smear in space arming electric piano and bass. Galloping drums and guitar usher in "The Long Diagonal" adding in keyboards and loping bass to fill out the sound. The music is in constant motion, whether shifting to acoustic piano and drums or back to a powerhouse guitar solo, back to slinging some more head-spinning piano and elastic bass. "A Taste of a Memory" slows the tempo even further, opening quietly with spare, pale sounding piano. After a few minutes the music begins to unfold episodically, with gritty guitar and drums coming to the forefront, and electronics cascading in flourishes. Weaving back to an acoustic piano focus, the music slows again before developing groove and punch for the finale. The leader's drums develop deeply rhythmic energy on "Bridge of Trust" with synth and piano joining, creating some interesting electro-acoustic textures where the weight and tone of the electronics shift to an intricate and interplanetary improvisation. "Accina" finds the piano and drums developing a shimmering sound signature, followed by a head-snapping switch to a crushing rock-like sound, dynamic changing trough tempo and sheer heft. Monder's guitar snakes out on patrol with a laser like tone amid long electronic sounds and hard drums. This as another lengthy performance that moves trough many moods including a piano trio conclusion. The final performance on the album is "Head Wreck" which presents a track of grinding jazz rock to form a fine bookend with the opening track. They balance darkness and light deftly here where acoustic piano and electric guitar, using pounding piano, scouring electronics leading to a caustic full band interplay that is very hot, with drums of imposing force as an exclamation point. This was a very creative and fearless album from a great group of musicians, who recorded this music right after a series of live engagements and were able to carry that spontaneity into theses sessions. Anybody with an interest in forward thinking or experimental music whatever the genre would do well to check this recording out. Natural Selection - amazon.com

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Don Braden / Joris Teepe Quartet - In the Spirit of Herbie Hancock (Live at De Witte) (O.A.P. Records, 2020)

Saxophonist and flutist Don Braden and double bassist Joris Teepe have been collaborating in many different musical situations for more than twenty-five years, most recently on the 2016 album Conversations. This album presents a live performance where they are joined by Rob van Bavel on piano and Owen Hart Jr. on drums in a live performance recorded during November of 2019 at The Hague in The Netherlands. They focus on the music of the great pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, arranging a cross-section of his compositions to form a varied program, adding two of their own compositions that were strongly influenced by Hancock as well. "Maiden Voyage" works well as a lead-off tune, it is a familiar theme that the jazz savvy in the audience can immediately grasp, and the enigmatic nature of the composition allows the players a lot of room to develop individual and group expression. Pianist Rob van Bavel does yeoman's work here and throughout the concert, not trying to be Hancock by proxy, but playing the music with imagination and vigor. Braden takes an excellent tenor saxophone solo that he is able to develop at length, aided admirably by an alternately swinging and seeking rhythm section. They follow with "Watermelon Man" which admirably displays the funky and populist side of Hanocock's work. van Bavel's piano is bright and strong and the whole infectious performance is buoyed by Hart Jr.'s crisp drumming. The band as a whole really dives into this performance with a great deal of energy and the crowd just eats it up. The group works well on some of Hancock's more impressionistic music as well, developing a speculative full band theme and improvisation on "Speak Like a Child" that glides through that mysterious and atmospheric sound world in a confident and imaginative manner. Braden moves to flute on "Butterfly," which he plays in a lithe and nimble fashion, gracefully floating over the piano, bass and drums unit which plays with the utmost refinement. Overall, this album worked very well and the fans assembled at the jazz club were treated to a concert of excellent music from a band that was dialed in and ready to play, and this disc should be enjoyed by anyone who has an affinity for modern mainstream jazz. In the Spirit of Herbie Hancock (Live at De Witte)

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Dave Rempis / Elisabeth Harnik / Michael Zerang - Triple Tube (Not Two Records, 2020)

This excellent freely improvised modern jazz concert was performed by a trio consisting of Dave Rempis on alto saxophone, Elisabeth Harnik on piano and Michael Zerang on drums and percussion. The music was recorded in Graz, Austria in 2019 at the club Tube's, and was broken into three sections for reference. "Triple Tube, Vol. 1" features a probing opening for the three instruments, with curls of saxophone, fractured percussion and light piano notes and chords. The music will swoop and jab, gathering strength and momentum, followed by periods of near silence. These two approaches create an appealing sense of dynamism as the performance develops, with raw, harsh sounding saxophone meeting increasingly free and abstract piano playing for a cavorting duo section, then developing into an excellent free jazz collective improvisation for the whole trio. The piano and percussion are able to cover a huge area of the soundstage, as Rempis takes a stark pointed tone which he then drives straight ahead. They returning to an abstract section of long saxophone tones with spare piano and percussion, resetting themselves for the final push through the conclusion of the performance. The sound fills out with potential energy from each of the musicians and they develop a blistering final approach to a safe landing. With another gentle opening, "Triple Tube, Vol. 2" uses light strumming inside the piano for added texture, with peals of saxophone emerging as the music begins to coalesce. The music strikes a fast pace with the three instrumentalists playing together very well, creating a colorful and interesting performance, then easing out into a quieter more subtle section of interaction. The unpredictable rising and falling of the music's volume and tone keep it continuously surprising and compelling, as when their integrated instruments seem to roll like waves, ebbing and flowing inexorably like a force of nature. "Triple Tube, Vol. 3" uses abstract noises to set an experimental edge to the final track, with swirling percussion and saxophone laying the foundation for the performance to come. Dropping down to atmospheric quiet of piano notes and low toned saxophone the music takes on a noir like sensibility. After an interlude of applause, the group returns for an encore, continuing the quiet and haunting atmospheric edge to the music, but with raw saxophone welling up amid scratchy percussive sounds and finally piano. They are at their freest and most unfettered here, developing soundscapes through trust and sheer imagination, then falling into a sharp powerful concluding performance. Triple Tube - amazon.com

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Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Bill Frisell - Valentine (Blue Note, 2020)

Guitarist Bill Frisell has played with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Rouston in many situations, but until now they have never recorded together. This album rectifies that situation with a wide ranging song set that mixes originals, standards, traditionals and cover songs. The music works well, with deep sense of structure along with and occasionally exploratory approach to making music. They lead off their their best song, the West African influenced "Baba Dame" which develops a mysterious and inviting sound with percussion and unusual guitar tones and effects creating a fascinating opening. Supple bass and the wonderful rhythm that was developed by Royston create an excellent foundation, while Frisell deftly uses pedals and loops to modify his sound, but their presence does not overwhelm the overall progress of this performance, which works very well overall. The title track "Valentine" has the drums opening before Frisell joins, developing a prickly Monk like theme which evolves into a knotty trio performance. Taut bass support allows Frisell to move at will, and he rewards both Morgan and Royston with solo sections of their own which hare shaded by guitar accents. "Levees" has an enigmatic beginning, with probing guitar leads Frisell to digging a deep bluesy furrow, and the music accretes around a strong rhythmic foundation with shards of guitar and drum rolls punctuated by cymbal crashes. The leader uses a light guitar tone on "Keep Your Eyes Open" with extensive use of electronics and looping amid airy bass and drums to create a very solid trio performance, mixing a somewhat mannered approach with splashes of color. The album is concluded with a song that is often performed in times of strife "We Shall Overcome" and as the bass and percussion fold around the spokes of Frisell's guitar, thoughts cannot but be wrenched back to shots in the back, illness run amok, government ineptitude and deep despair. Regardless, this is an unfailingly pleasant album to listen to as every Frisell album on a larger label is (he really lets go when he records for John Zorn's Tzadik label.) The three musicians play immaculately, and on the above tracks, they rise above to make genuinely creative and powerful music. Valentine - Amazon.com.

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Sunday, September 06, 2020

Brief siesta

 Health related break, nothing serious. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Teodross Avery - Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk (WJ3 Records, 2020)

Coming hard on the heels of last years excellent collection of John Coltrane compositions, tenor and soprano saxophonist Teodross Avery turns to the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk with the support of two different quartets. He is accompanied by pianists Anthony Wonsey and D.D. Jackson, bassist Corcoran Holt, drummers Willie Jones III and Marvin “Bugalu” Smith and percussionist Allakoi Peete. The band looked to present this album as analysis and interpretation of Monk's music, rather than tribute, beginning with "Teo," which has a fast strong full band attack, while Wonsey's piano sounds very un-Monk like, lush and fluid, punctuated by short drum bursts and Avery's inspired sounding saxophone playing. "Monk's Dream" has great propulsive bass, and appears to be much closer to the monk orthodoxy, but sounding mighty fine. The tight piano, bass and drums unit swings admirably, and Avery solos with impressive vigor over comping piano swelling bass and drums, adding a fine and well deserved bass solo to boot. The group kicks back into overdrive on "Evidence" with full band's powerhouse playing taking off from the melody and just flowing, until Avery lays out for a frisky piano trio segment, with rippling fast keyboard and drums letting loose, before the leader dives back in for the finale. "Rhythm-a-Ning" takes the jaunty theme at a breakneck pace leading to a thrilling bebop laced solo from Avery over boiling accompaniment.  Piano bass and drums at a lightning pace with the keyboard teasing the theme, motoring bass and brushes are very impressive. Incorporating some interesting stride like piano, "In Walked Bud" has an attention getting sound even before Avery nails the theme with a strong robust saxophone tone, leading into a stellar narrative rich solo. The pianist (Jackson) really shines, digging deep into the melody to craft a towering solo framed by strong bass and drums, and stepping aside for another fine round of solos for bass and drums. On "Ugly Beauty," Avery moves to soprano saxophone, adding a different texture and hue to the proceedings, playing with a lighter touch, sliding around the deft drumming and subtle cascades of piano notes with aplomb. "Trinkle Tinkle" is short and bouncy track with everybody getting on on the fun and sounding like they are really enjoying themselves. The piano  is brisk and prickly, delivering a taut solo that nods to the master while setting in its own path, and Avery's tenor saxophone carves up a fine featured statement as well, leading to an excellent overall performance. This album worked very well, and the musicians achieved their goal of presenting their own personal interpretation of Thelonious Monk's music. Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk - amazon.com

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Monday, August 31, 2020

Full Blast - Farewell Tonic (Trost, 2020)

Giving a Viking funeral to a much loved New York City venue for improvised and experimental music was the great free jazz ensemble Full Blast, consisting of Peter Brötzmann on reed instruments, Marino Pliakas on electric bass and Michael Wertmüller on drums. They tear through a short sweet set that is given five sequentially numbered marking points. "Farewell Tonic 1" lifts off with the power of a Falcon Heavy rocket, as Brotzmann envelops the club in sheer gales of raw saxophone sound, aided by booster rockets of pummeling drums and scouring bass. The full group arrives at a free improvisation that is harrowing, yet remarkably clear and well integrated. No matter how savage the music may be the three musicians are completely locked in and focused, with Brotzmann taking unaccompanied solos of stark beauty amid the feverish interplay. The full trio returns to group spontaneous improvisation around the mid point of the track, embracing a unique dynamic free improvisation that would carry them through the remainder of the performance, allowing space for a thunderous drum feature that is woven into the groups distinctive fiery improvisation and leads to a nearly apocalyptic conclusion. "Farewell Tonic 2" fades in on Brotzmann in mid flight on tenor saxophone with torrential bass and drums folding into the fervor and continuing to evolve, building intense heat like a musical furnace or crucible and creating a gritty, industrial texture. Brotzmann switches to a different reed instrument for ""Farewell Tonic 3," achieving a mysterious and exotic tone. Low quiet tones are a marked change from the previous tracks to the point you can hear people talking in the background. This changes as the drums enter and Brotzmann's playing becomes more feverish, creating piercing sounds over an increasingly loud avalanche of rumbling drums. With the bass becoming more pronounced, the music evolves into a torrid and thrilling free improvisation taken at an astonishing pace, seemingly headed for self immolation. "Farewell Tonic 4" has everyone going flat out from the beginning, with crashing drums howling reeds and bubbling bass creating a cascading flow of music. Continually doubling the speed and expanding the scope of their improvisation, the group threatens to bid adieu to the building by simply tearing it down with their incredible force of will. A short encore "Farewell Tonic 5" would be considered showing off it were any other band, as they put the hammer down, playing as fast and loud as humanly possible for a couple of minutes, enough to make any NYC hardcore band blush before bowing out to lavish applause. This band has put out a number of excellent albums over the course of the last several years, but this might be their crown jewel. Whether it is uncompromising speed, or dynamic textural shifts, they are able to weave it all together with grace and supreme control. Farewell Tonic - amazon.com

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

John Zorn - Baphomet (Tzadik, 2020)

Baphoment is another fine entry for the long running Simulacrum Trio, in which John Zorn composes from the group consisting of of John Medeski on clavinet and organ, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on electric guitar. This is a power trio that has a lot of range from spacey trance music to full on metal, and which allows Zorn a wide palate from which to write. It’s not clear how much of the thirty-nine minute single track “Baphomet” is composed and how much is left to improvisation, because all four men have worked together for many years in various ensembles and are very well familiar with each other’s approach to music, which blends seamlessly on this particular album. Regardless, the LP length performance is wonderful to hear, moving from intricate high speed thrashing guitar and drums to droning church like organ tones (Baphomet dates back to the Knights Templar) and everything in-between. The playing from the three instrumentalists is top notch and they are interact very well with each other at high speed no matter how sharp the centrifugal force of the dynamic shifts may be. Zorn supplies motifs that emerge during the course of the performance that are surprising and interesting and keep the pace of the music moving relentlessly forward while providing enough thematic material to make sure that the music doesn’t become stale. Overall. this is a top notch entry in this group’s collaborative history, with John Zorn providing the direction and material and the Simulacrum Trio providing the relentless energy and drive to bring that material to life. Baphomet - amazon.com

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Ballister - Znachki Stilyag (Aerophonic Records, 2020)

Ballister may be the flagship of the many groups that milti-reed instrumentalist Dave Rempis leads or collaborates with. The trio, with Fred Lonberg-Holm on electric cello and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums has released nearly a dozen albums that have explored the intricacies of jazz, free improvisation and post rock exploration. Celebrating their ten year anniversary, this album was recorded on tour in Moscow during October of 2019, and comes out fast with a ferocious, nearly forty minute performance called “Fuck The Money Changers.” Piercing saxophone and cello are met by powerful drumming leading to a dynamic and never flagging performance. The beginning portion features a full fledged three way burnout that is very exciting to hear, and the music is just scalding hot, but this leads to a section for electric cello and bass that is very interesting, producing wild tones and rhythms. After another section of white hot trio improvisation, Rempis lays out again for a much more abstract meeting of cello and percussion, creating quieter but more ominous soundscapes. The saxophonist returns for a free duet with cello that yields interesting textures. They are able to play with dynamics very well, slowing tempos and volume at will without losing any of the momentum that was built up earlier, and the sound of saxophone and cello is particularly beguiling. After an unaccompanied section, Rempis leads the trio back for the final push through the end of this amazing epic performance. “Hotel Mary Poppins” follows, beginning in a quiet and probing manner which gradually gives way to a towering collective improvisation, with everything fitting perfectly, from the tart toned saxophone, to the sawing electric cello and pummeling drums each contributing to a very exciting track. Slashing drums and cello open “Old Worms” soon met met by overblown saxophone in an apocalyptic throwdown, that soars to new heights by the second. The midsection has excellent drumming as cello flashes erupt and the two develop a righteous duet section of their own. Rempis returns and the three lock in tightly, gliding to the finish line of a fantastic album. Ballister - Znachki Stilyag Aerophonic Records Bandcamp

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Threadbare - Silver Dollar (NoBusiness Records, 2020)

Threadbare is a bracing and frequently thrilling modern jazz trio consisting of Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Ben Cruz on guitar and Emerson Hunton on drums. They recorded this album early last year in Chicago and it kicks off with “And When Circumstances Arise” which has fresh and invigorating horn, guitar and drums releasing at speed. Stein’s bass clarinet sounds woody and hollow, guiding the collective through a great fast improvisation. Some squeak and avant tinges are present but the group is fully in control, playing brash sounds with no holding back. “Threadbare 02” takes a while to get going, exploring low tones and open space, full of abstract ominous waiting and patience. Restrained drums gradually push to a strong full band improvisation, with shimmering guitar, plowing drums and bass clarinet setting up the big push at the end. “70 Degrees and Counting Down” opens with guitar strum bringing the band together using an imposing growling dynamic that is able to shift tempo and mood at will. Swirling potent sounds from the group work like a churning engine, and a well oiled one at that, firing on all cylinders. There are mysterious sounds on ‘24 Mesh Veils” emanating from the bass clarinet as the music gets raw, with shards of guitar, deep clarinet and drums creating stark swaths of sound leading to a jazz - metal stomp, alternating with fleet guitar and building a massive footprint. Abstract, barely audible clarinet, spare drums and guitar open “Threadbare,” where the sounds gradually develop and fill the available space, becoming more recognizable. Picking up speed with piercing guitar, heavy drums and scouring clarinet the group comes together for a torrid collectively improvised peak. “Silver Dollar” returns to the definite metal vibes with slamming guitar, drums and guttural clarinet. The band ruthlessly grinds forward, like an instrument of doom. Raw clarinet peeks out with a solo barely above the noise, with a thrillingly free statement, shaking his fist at the very void itself. Raw, spare and atmospheric, “Untitled” has lightly played music with a hint of the unknown. Their performance gradually develops, sending out tendrils of sound, getting stronger and gathering form. Strong and agile guitar solo pushes the trio faster adding complex texture to the end. This was a very good album, full of nimble and complex group performances, featuring great interplay between the instruments, and wonderful communication. The trio sets a thrilling pace and keeps it up through the length of the disc with no letdown. Threadbare - Silver Dollar - Bandcamp

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Joe Morris and Ken Vandermark - Consequent Duos 2b (Audiographic Records, 2020)

Guitarist and sometime bassist Joe Morris and multi-reed instrumentalist Ken Vandermark have been at the forefront of creative improvised music for decades. Whether through constant touring or teaching the next generation of improvisers, their mark on modern music has been immense, and the pause during the current circumstances has allowed for deeper appreciation of the great musicians in our midst. This brief but exciting concert was recorded live in concert at Elastic Arts, Chicago in august of 2019, with Morris sticking to guitar throughout and Vandermark naming each of these pieces through which instrument he was playing at the time. They open the performance with “Tenor Sax” and it really sounds great, the open space gives both musicians plenty of room to explore and interact with one another. The deep and stark tone of the tenor saxophone is well matched with the swiftly played guitar, and the improvisation that the two musicians develop quickly builds to a fever pitch that is very exciting to listen to. “Baritone Sax” offers a different approach, with the saxophonist burrowing down even deeper into his sound zone, while Morris plays around and against him, challenging him with a different mannered instrument and improvisational approach to excellent effect. Vandermark’s moving to the lighter toned “Bb Clarinet” makes for a curious and engrossing duet improvisation, with the guitar and clarinet seemingly taking flight like hummingbirds and fluttering about in space and time, adding waves of sound and color as they explore their shared territory. The duo concludes with a second version of “Tenor Sax,” with Vandermark’s robust tenor saxophone once again meeting the guitarist in an improvisation that can be loud and harsh in tone but retains the well earned grace no matter how rough and grating the music may become. This album worked very well, and it was a treat to hear these two talented musicians to meet face to face in collaborative, creative music. Consequent Duos: series 2b - Bandcamp

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Larry Ochs / Aram Shelton Quartet - Continental Drift (Clean Feed, 2020)

Co-led by Larry Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones and Aram Shelton on alto saxophone and supported by Kjell Nordeson on drums and either Mark Dresser or Scott Walton on bass, this excellent modern jazz album was recorded in two sessions that took place five years apart. The music is consistently adventurous, both thematically and in terms of improvisation, beginning with "Another Night" where the second saxophone solo picks up the pace along with the bass and drums, adding raw vigor to the performance, and featuring a biting tone that pushes with might, while acknowledges the nudging bass and drums which things moving. Unadulterated saxophone and percussion create wounded sounds on "Slat," with nearly strummed bass and cymbal playing adding depth and texture. The second saxophone enters, fluttering nervously, and giving the music the frenetic sound of two saxophones together in this setting, which works well. A section for unaccompanied piercing saxophone, followed by saxophones of different hue providing contrast, and a climax of torrid meltdown full band improvisation. "Switch" has propulsive bass playing, underpinning a chugging full band theme with swaggering broad shoulders. Raw saxophone barrels out alongside deep bass and taut drumming, while the second saxophone employs a cleaner tone, the group develops a really nice fast paced performance that incorporates fine rhythm playing throughout. The title track, "Continental Drift" uses bowed bass and raw saxophone to create deep and thoughtful music, free sounding with skittish drumming and untethered saxophone, with patches where the drums lay out for bowed bass and long toned saxophone. On "Strand," bass and drums pick up a very interesting rhythm, where harmonizing saxophones break apart and joust, leading to an exciting collective improvisation, that swirls in a very fast and potent manner. One saxophone solos over complex rhythm, as the horns can weave in and out and then break apart at high speed  creating a group interaction that grows in excitement to a whirling dervish of speed but stops on a dime for a light percussion. solo.Unaccompanied percussion opens "Test Shots" with the horns entering, playing a darker tone, stark sounding and offering a different narrative, as they tack in another direction with a saxophone duetting with beautiful bass playing, bowed and plucked, to develop an interesting mesh of sounds. The massive concluding track, "The Others Dream," builds from a withering saxophone sound with framing drums, with the high tone saxophone snaking through the drumming, as bowed bass joins and adds further depth, and it's resonant sound fills the available space. Saxophones approach as the musicians coalesce in the traditional sense, yet the manner remains very free. Saxophones, bass and drums drums are creating a powerful performance that develops its own arc. There are more open ended percussion sounds just after the midpoint, resetting the performance to a strong full group improvisation with everyone pushing forward in a free but accessible manner, boiling up to a wonderful fast pace, and strong conclusion. This album worked very well, presenting a group of like minded musicians in a setting where they can create without hindrance. The respect they have for the music and for each other and the creative process leads to wonderful and challenging music. Continental Drift - amazon.com

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Martin Küchen and Landæus Trio - Mind the Gap of Silence (Clean Feed, 2020)

This is a very interesting collaboration between the Landæus Trio: Mathias Landæus on grand piano, analog delay, Cornelia Nilsson on drums and Johnny Åman on bass; and the iconoclastic saxophonist Martin Küchen, heard here on soprano, alto and tenor saxophones. I'm not sure if "Old Harriot Hat" was meant to be dedicated to the great Jamaican/English saxophonist Joe Harriott or not, but regardless Kuchen sounds very inspired on this track. He has a lush and hearty attack on whatever horn he plays that imbues great emotion into the music, cutting to the core of this track and every song on the album as a whole. The rhythm team swings madly with wonderful bounding bass, cascades of piano and potent drumming, goaded on by vocal encouragement. Kuchen rejoins the trio at the end of the performance playing angular yet scalding lines of saxophone, that fit in with the trio like hand in glove. Kuchen is equally amazing on "Love, Flee Thy House (in Breslau), particularly in the opening section, where he is playing his guts out with pure emotional vigor. The raw energy that he emits is so genuine and so personal, that you almost want to turn away, but if you do than you'll miss how he interacts with the trio and his sound coalesces with this outfit in a genuine way, as they interact and with this instrument of withering intensity in spectacular fashion. The album works well, the Landæus Trio at times works as a foil for Kuchen's tremendous saxophone explorations, but this shouldn't be mistaken for reticence. The trio plays Kuchen's compositions with imagination and mindfulness, keeping the music in the moment, as it should be. Mind the Gap of Silence - amazon.com

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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Kidd Jordan - A Tribute to Alvin Fielder: Live at Vision Festival XXIV (Mahakala Music, 2020)

Drummer and educator Alvin Fielder was a musician who touched many people during the course of his career and his passing was lamented my many. One of those was his longtime friend and musical compatriot, saxophonist Kidd Jordan. During the 2019 Vision Festival, Jordan brought together an excellent group featuring Joel Futterman on piano, William Parker on bass and Hamid Drake on drums and percussion to pay tribute to Fielder and celebrate his accomplishments as a musician and as a human being. This is a group that is very familiar with each other, having played together in many different bands and configurations, and that familiarity and camaraderie along with the focus on honoring Fielder galvanizes the music and leads to a very rewarding performance. Jordan is in fine form, playing far up into his saxophone, blowing with great exuberance, supported by the band who is rock solid along side him. This sets the pace for the rest of the album, and it is a beautiful and flowing collective improvisation, where the musicians playing in the moment, but there are also moments where an individual musician will become the center of attention. Parker's rock solid bass is a source of gravity and anchoring, but his bowed bass playing later on in the recording has a sense of beauty and grace to it that adds a pleasant cascading texture to the music, one that is constantly evolving. Futterman and Drake are consistently excellent throughout the recording, keeping the rhythm flowing and changing dynamically throughout the course of the music's length. It all comes together for an outstanding performance, four great musicians playing in honor of a fallen friend, and Jordan speaks for a while after the performance, noting his connection to the honoree, thanking his widow for attending and even quoting some blues lyrics in defiance of the end that waits for us all. A Tribute to Alvin Fielder: Live at Vision Festival XXIV - amazon.com

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Sunday, August 09, 2020

Adam Caine Quartet - Transmissions (NoBusiness Records, 2020)

Guitarist Adam Caine states in the liner notes to his excellent new album that "Nothing makes a guitar sound better than another guitar." To that end he is joined by fellow guitarist Bob Lanzetti, Adam Lane on acoustic bass and Billy Mintz on drums. Caine also adds synthesizer, electric bass, percussion  to his arsenal. "Night Driver" opens the album with mysterious guitar and bass playing patiently in space, displaying thick sounding bass notes and clear toned guitar, and the drummer's spare cymbals barely audible. Shimmering cymbals usher in "Cloud Over," playing aside the bass beat electric guitar chords, coming together in a complex performance. Over the sound of bounding bass in the middle, guitar becomes more cutting and angular, improvising in an impressive way over the supportive rhythm of bass and drums. A guitar sparks and reverberates creating a unique form of messaging that is pleasing to hear, developing a lengthy solo filled with imaginative playing. Caine uses synthesizer and electric bass on "Alien Flower," adding new texture to the music, bending and shifting time and space, music has a slow syrupy feeling to it, the guitar playing alongside slow blobs of sound as the drums resolve and move slowly forward. Nick Lyons guests on alto saxophone on "Secular Expectorate," as the group evolves curious sounds on guitar and bass framed with soft cymbals creating an enigmatic theme. The saxophone joins, in filling out the theme and adding further texture to the music, while a guitar embarks on a more emotionally resonant solo, picking carefully as if through a minefield. The saxophonist plays in a lilting and graceful fashion, before everyone comes together to extrapolate on the theme and close. "The Core" is straight up jazz fusion / prog rock, with blazing guitars and hammering drums, the group cuts loose in grand style and they sound great doing it. Collective playing in this format suits them well, it's not an exercise in ego, but an integral aspect of their overall sound. The guitars are out of sight adding in some effects to alter the sound and head for Sonny Sharrock / Pete Cosey territory, and while the bass is lost a bit, the drums are clear and playing with a virile swagger as the track fades all too soon. Raw distortion and drumming go for pure abstraction on "Hell Awaits," while the bowed bass adds further depth and raw snarling electric guitar stings through all of the assembled sounds. The collective improvisation is very impressive, taking the raw ingredients of sound and molding a truly original one-time only performance requires a lot of nerve. "Heavenly Bodies" shift to softer more melodic tone for the group, with wonderful bass playing intertwined with the guitar the music developing a series of moods that are deftly played, adding a slight edge to the guitar's sounds or a dreamy delay keeps the performance in continuous refinement and development. The closer, called "The Spiral" has raw toned guitar and snappy percussion, with a guitar snaking through with a piercing sound and a ragged edge, soaring over basic and subtle bass and drums. This leads to deeply felt bowed bass performance and the conclusion of the performance. This was a very well played album with a lot of diversity between the tracks. Caine states that between the recording of this album in 2018 and the shuttering of venues in 2020 he has played at least 100 hours of live performance with Lane and Mintz (and occasionally Lanzetti.) The band has developed even further, and he hopes to have new music released soon, which should be a treat for forward thinking jazz fans. Transmissions - Bandcamp

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Saturday, August 08, 2020

Horace Tapscott With The Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra - Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (Dark Tree, 2020)

Pianist and composer Horace Tapscott led the Pan African Peoples Arkestra in Los Angeles for nearly thirty years, unjustly flying under the radar of the jazz establishment. This album details the first studio recordings of the band and they sound vibrant and fresh at a time when most large ensembles were folding their tents. The lead-off track, "Ancestral Echoes," features solo piano and poetic recitation with the band entering after five minutes, developing a stoic Afrocentric spiritual jazz feel that has a deep rhythmic foundation. The group quickly builds speed and power, as a trumpet solo breaks out over hand percussion and heavy drumming. Light and nimble saxophone takes over with a piercing sound over volcanic rhythm. "Sketches of Drunken Mary" has a gentle and spare piano introduction and percussion, as the horns enter to add a somber texture. Saxophone and then flute break loose adding light and then color splashes to the performance, along with strongly comped piano before the band returns to the gray melancholy theme. Tapscott's bouncy piano with waves of sound on "Jo Annette" and then deep toned saxophone saxophone digs in along side rattling hand percussion, developing rich textures, as the saxophone blows hard over an ever evolving backdrop. Dry brass adds a further dimension, embracing stabs of piano chords and hypnotic percussion as small group cells form and dissolve over the course of the track. The final track is the massive "Eternal Egypt Suite" begining with beautiful clear piano, with breathy and enchanting flute joining and developing an unaccompanied space. The full band then comes together with excellent group interplay, providing a bracing uptempo swing with swirling horns and crashing drums and percussion. Angular piano figures keep the music in motion, with horns and flute, then the saxophone takes over and spools out a lengthy and memorable feature that is urged on by potent piano chords and propulsive bass and drums, climaxing with some epic and scalding overblowing, closing the album on a truly high note. This is a wonderful set of music, shedding much needed light on one of the most overlooked ensembles of the 1970's, and in Horace Tapscott, one of the unsung heroes of American jazz. Dark Tree does a great job with the mastering, creating a vibrant sounding recording and matching it was a wonderful booklet filled with discographical information, photographs and essays. Ancestral Echoes - Bandcamp

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