Sunday, July 05, 2020

Bobby Watson - Keepin' It Real (Smoke Sessions, 2020)

Coming out of his experience with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson formed a similar group called Horizon that recorded regularly and toured widely in the 1980’s and 90’s. This album introduces an updated version of the band, called New Horizon. Watson’s current band includes Josh Evans or Giveton Gelin on trumpet, Victor Gould on piano, Victor Jones on drums and Curtis Lundy on bass. “Condition Blue” opens the album with the tight horn section stating the theme, and Watson stepping out for a well articulated solo over a swinging rhythm section of comping piano, elastic bass and cymbal heavy drumming. Handing off to a bright and punchy trumpet interlude that keeps the sound fresh and buoyant, the horns drop out for the rhythm team to shine, playing with with excellent camaraderie, leading the full group back for a rousing conclusion. An older Lundy composition given a fresh coat of paint, “Elementary My Dear Watson 2020” is led by some urgent piano playing and tight ensemble work, laying out an intricate melody. A finely played trumpet solo breaks out, constructing a logical and well thought out solo, leading to the Watson’s tart and recognizable alto sound, carving up the heavier drumming and thick bass playing, leading to an admirable feature statement, soaring high and far. The piano, bass and drums unit simmers, playing very collectively as a trio feature, sounding like there is a three way mind meld happening. The horns return for some interesting interplay as the tune fades from view. “My Song” has a crisp beat that lays the foundation for a swaggering post bop theme, with swirling alto saxophone and trumpet breaking from the dynamic opening, as Gould adds some electric piano shading. The choppy rhythm keeps things moving as Watson’s saxophone uses quick flurries of notes to navigate at high speed, while the trumpet solo glides gracefully, shadowed by the fender rhodes, and gaining volume as the drums push the beat ever harder. Their tone on Miles Davis’s “Flamenco Sketches” is a reflective one with deftly brushed percussion and beautifully restrained saxophone playing. The trumpet echoes the mood, playing in a melodic manner with spacious bass and light piano accompaniment. Overall, it is a classy and moving performance from the band. The album concludes with the fast paced “The Mystery of Ebop” ushered in with torrid drumming, and leading to a strong and supple track that shows what a tight and talented unit this band is. The horns develop a storming fanfare that leads to Watson soloing with scorching speed and facility, and handing off to the trumpeter who pushes even further over some boiling rhythm section playing. He steps aside for that rhythm team to really shine as they push and pull at the machinery of improvisation in grand fashion. This was a very good mainstream jazz album, and can sit proudly aside any of the Horizon records from the previous century. It’s a shame that this band cannot play live currently, because that would certainly be an experience. Fingers crossed. Keepin' It Real -

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Friday, July 03, 2020

John Coltrane Quartet - My Favorite Things: Graz 1962 (ezz-thetics, 2020)

This is the second half of the Graz, Austria concert, following on from last year's Impressions, presented thematically rather than chronologically. The music is lovingly remastered and sounding much better than the many bootleg versions that have circulated among collectors for decades. This is the "classic" John Coltrane quartet with the leader on tenor and soprano saxophones, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Coltrane was always in motion, but liner note writer Art Lange does a good job setting the scene, writing about how he was pressured by his label to produce more melodic content and how that grated against his relentless desire to explore. He manages to do a little bit of both on these four selections, beginning with "Mr. P.C." which tumbles out fast and pure with sparkling piano and shimmering cymbals leading to an excellent lengthy rhythm trio section. Coltrane re-enters, and picks up the pace, testing all of the logical limits of the composition. Jones steps up and really begins to hit hard, combined with Coltrane's complex playing and deep engagement with the drummer comes to the front as Tyner hangs back. Slashing cymbals and furious tenor saxophone leads to a wonderful two minute drum solo before the full band returns to the conclusion. "Every Time We Say Goodbye" is a sort palate cleansing ballad with Coltrane's tenor stating the melody in a patient and well structured manner. There is a light and nimble section for piano, bass and drums, then Coltrane returns leading everyone back to the theme. The leader uses a lighter tone at times during the lengthy exploration of "Bye By Blackbird" which is taken at a medium tempo that gradually gains momentum. The band gradually turns to the Coltrane - Jones conjunction, with Garrison providing a firm foundation. The rhythm section gets a fine opening with Tyner dancing lightly over Jones's cymbals before opening the door for a long and intricate bass solo. Jones and Coltrane come back strong as the band takes the tune out. The final track is a massive version of "My Favorite Things" with Coltrane moving to soprano saxophone, and the song's theme sounding like a clarion call no matter how many times you hear them play it. Tyner adds waves of flowing piano as the leader probes before bowing out for the rhythm section. They are wonderful here with Tyner playing gracefully and hypnotically astride stoic bass and cymbals with the occasional percussive surprise. Coltrane comes back midway through, once again stating the melody, and then extrapolating upon it. There is more intense full band playing with Jones driving the rhythm deeply, and Coltrane developing a distinctly Eastern sounding tone to his saxophone as they glide to the finish. This was a very good example of the evolution of John Coltrane and his famous quartet at the end of 1962, staying true to himself regardless of pressure or criticism. My Favorite Things: Graz 1962 -

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Chad Taylor - The Daily Biological (Cuneiform Records, 2020)

Accomplished drummer Chad Taylor meets up with Brian Settles on tenor saxophone and Neil Podgurski on piano for an album that creates exciting and accessible music that unfurls in a focused narrative including lively bursts of improvisation. "The Shepherd" opens the album with a medium-up tempo performance which has a lightly funky feeling. There is a light and airy section of flowing piano moving gracefully throughout the tune. Taylor's drum solo mixes light and shade by alternating rumbling low tones and crisp rhythms. Nimble piano and drums come to the forefront on "Prism," with a lightly played melody that runs through the performance. The saxophone enters late, forming a thematic mid-tempo improvisation. "Swamp" comes on faster with a more defined and heavier rhythm, as Settles' unaccompanied saxophone probes at length. Piano and drums then move forward, driving the music faster in a section that becomes more aggressively complex. A circular pattern develops on "Resistance," with Taylor's drumming gaining strength and the tenor saxophone breaking out before an abrupt fade. "Matape" has very interesting interplay between the musicians, gradually building into a whirling convection of sound. Robust sounding saxophone and drums provide excitement, with raw bellows of sound and slashing cymbals playing in a complex and accessible manner. The tumbling theme of "Birds, Leaves, Wind, Trees" cascades through tight coils of tenor saxophone and light percussion, in conversation with fast free sounding piano and floating drums. "Untethered" has a more urgent theme that leads the group into action with darker piano that adds color and texture, leaning into a lean trio line that works quite well. The brief "Recife" and lengthy closer "Between Sound and Silence" concludes with a dynamic drum solo, followed by the band joining in as dark tones of saxophone engage in a free and open round of collective improvisation. The music winds down to a spare and elusive piano and saxophone section, with long tones of sounds leading to the conclusion. The Daily Biological -

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sam Rivers - Archive Series Volume 3: Ricochet (NoBusiness Records, 2020)

Recorded live on January 12, 1978 at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, the most recent addition to the NoBusiness Records Sam Rivers archive is a brash and exciting recording of the Rivers trio at its peak. The leader plays tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and piano with Dave Holland on bass and cello and Barry Altschul on drums. Sam Rivers opens the performance on soprano saxophone along side thick bass cymbals, as fast swirling bounding bass links everything together. Warp speed jazz, fast and free, with taut saxophone, nimble bass and slashing percussion is very exciting. Holland witches to cello, playing stoic lines of sound, yearning and branching out back to bass. There is inherent freedom in the music played here, and following an epic bass solo, Rivers moves to piano, playing with a melodic glide that meshes with cymbals yoked together with elastic bass before moving further afield. The music becomes more free, approaching Cecil Taylor territory, fiery percussive piano, deftly mixing melody and freedom. Holland plays cello amid spare piano and percussion, then Rivers gracefully moves to tenor saxophone. Strong shrill peaks of tenor against long arcs of cello are some of the most thrilling moments on this disc, stretching out for a potent segment of improvisation. Altschul takes a lengthy drum solo, one that is expertly played, and Sam Rivers states his approval with a defiant howl and takes up his flute for the final section. A piercing blast clears the air and then he soars in collective improvisation with the bass and drums at a torrential pace. He plays the flute with such speed and facility but still in a graceful and appealing manner then trades short and witty passages with his band mates. The music is one continuous improvisation and it is a testament to the group that their energy and inventiveness never flags through the near hour long playing time. This was one of the best bands of their era, and its great that their music is finally getting its due. Archive Series Volume 3: Ricochet NoBusiness Records

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Friday, June 26, 2020

New York Contemporary Five - Consequences Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2020)

This is an excellent disc serves an important historical purpose, bringing together two sessions by The New York Contemporary Five, an admirable and unheralded unit that pushed the boundaries of the "new thing" in jazz in the early to mid 1960's with some of the freshest talent of the era. The first half of this collection is called Consequences Revisited and it was recorded in August of 1963 in New York City, with Archie Shepp on tenor saxophone, Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, John Tchicai on alto saxophone, Don Moore on bass and J.C. Moses on drums. "Sound Barrier" has raw and thrilling tenor saxophone and boiling drums, with Cherry's punchy trumpet building and intriguing statement. The music is kept at a hot uptempo throughout sounding unique and original, especially Archie Shepp, who sounds genuinely alive. A choppy rhythm introduces "We Wo" giving the music a free nature that makes the most use of the band's talented front line. Shepp responds with an emotional growling tenor solo, while John Tchicai's tart alto saxophone and Cherry's potent flight add further texture and depth to the music, leading to an excellent bass solo framed by shimmering cymbals. "Consequences" has a fast, fleet opening, very much like the Ornette Coleman music of the period, and Cherry makes the most of his tune with an explosive trumpet solo played at a super fast tempo. Shepp throws in a pop song quote and then dives in enthusiastically, with raw squalls of tenor. Tchicai's alto has a snake charmer's allure with a hint of Eric Dolphy, encouraged by agile bass and drum work. Shepp's "Rufus" has a complex full band theme, with very interesting rhythms, including thick bass woven through the drumming. The horns get plenty of of room to improvise in space, developing some very impressive solo sections with the less frenetic tempo. Part two of the disc, Archie Shepp and the New York Contemporary Five were recorded in Newark in March of 1964 with Shepp on tenor saxophone, Don Cherry on pocket cornet on the final track, Ted Curson on trumpet on two tracks, John Tchicai on alto saxophone, Ronnie Boykins on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. On tracks like Shepp's "Like a Blessed Baby Lamb" and "Where Poppies Bloom (Where Poppies Blow) you really see the that difference between the saxophonists is really one of the most fascinating aspects of this disc, with Shepp's large brash tone based in the blues and Tchicai who plays in a more angular and slashing manner. When they exchange solo sections it is a fascinating dichotomy, much like changes brought by the muscular trumpet of of Curson and the punchy, witty small brass of Cherry. This is a very distinguished compilation that shows the development of the jazz avant-garde at a time when it was evolving at lightning speed. Pulling from the music of the past and opening it up to the innovations of their present time ,while looking to the future allowed this group to expand the boundaries of jazz. Consequences Revisited - Squidco

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

John Scofield / Steve Swallow / Bill Stewart – Swallow Tales (ECM, 2020)

Guitarist John Scofield makes a barn burning straight ahead jazz album, performing the music of his friend and colleague, bassist and composer Steve Swallow, with the drummer Bill Stewart rounding out the trio. Spontaneously recorded in one afternoon in New York City during March of 2019, the trio makes these compositions come alive, and Scofield sounds absolutely inspired, playing driven and powerful solos. "Radio" is a sweet and swinging number with graceful bass and drums and a medium uptempo flavor. Scofield digs deeply into the theme of the tune, using the material to craft a short but memorable solo statement while Swallow's electric bass grooves along beside him, taking a brief solo of his own while Stewart plays lightly on his cymbals. There's a choppy introduction to "In F" with a lot of room for Stewart's agile drumming, and the band explores the territory in an interesting fashion, playing in tight formation, Swallow soloing while keeping low to the ground, and everyone returning to a fine sendoff. "Eidertown" was apparently Swallow's first composition, and they really go to town on it, stretching out with a powerful guitar solo from the leader where the overall interplay between the band members is very impressive and a fine drum solo is included to boot. There is a knotty theme on "Portsmouth Figurations" for the trio to work with, allowing them much room to move, with Scofield showering sparks on the flowing bass and drums. "Falling Grace" allows light and fleet movement throughout the melody then branching out, with Scofield adding shards of crisp notes that are very well articulated, as the bass and drums simmer too. He uses a wonderfully sharp and stinging tone at times that is a real attention grabber, as is Swallow's own solo stance patient and thoughtful, framed well by the two other musicians. "She Was Young" begins gently and in a touching manner with light brushes and soft guitar tone. The music gradually develops in pace and structure, as they stretch out their improvisation at a fine medium tempo that allows for a lot of creativity. This was an excellent album of modern mainstream jazz, with inspired playing and improvising and superb communication and empathy between the musicians. Swallow Tales -

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Chicago Underground Quartet - Good Days (Astral Spirits, 2020)

Chicago Underground has assumed a number of guises over the years from duo to orchestra, all with cornet player and electronic musician Rob Mazurek at its center. This is an excellent entry in their discography, combining the accessibility of modern jazz with far reaching visions of free improvisation, synthesizers and electronics. This version of the band features Mazurek on piccolo trumpet, electronics and bells, Josh Johnson on synth bass, organ and piano, Jeff Parker on electric guitar and Chad Taylor on drums and percussion. The album was recorded in Long Beach in 2018 and 2019,  beginning with "Orgasm" a composition by Wayne Shorter's trumpeter brother Alan. The music develops a tight rhythm while allowing Mazurek's cornet to solo over the churning beat and create a powerful and far reaching performance. Thick bass and tight drums allow the cornet to reach out with the theme of the piece and then take off, gaining speed and agility as the performance develops into powerful improvisation, with scorching brass, and a free and potent response from his band mates. The music is rapid fire and bathed in electronics creating a wonderful and exciting sound.  "Batida" cranks heavy bass and light touch drumming to set the scene for soaring cornet, while taut guitar, thick bass and drums dredge out the bottom end. There is a light and agile beat to “Unique Spiral,” with flowing cornet along with guitar and space filling keyboards. The band creates a complex and alluring texture with rippling, echoing cornet, spare guitar and forthright sounding drums. The music arcs out under Mazurek's clarion call, soon answered by Parker's cool toned guitar along with fine drumming, keyboard and bass accents. "Westview" is a treat, one with slamming bass and drums along side harmonizing guitar and cornet. Parker's guitar shoots beams over the crisp beat, and the brass is gnarly and strangled by electronics, piercing like Dark Magus Miles, then riding on the loping bass and drums into battle. Taylor lays down a crushing beat, and Parker's guitar solo is well thought out, jabbing along side the heavy drum bombardment. These musicians have played together in different contexts for many years, and that sense of camaraderie and shared desire to explore imbues the strong and memorable music on this album. Good Days -

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

Rudresh Mahanthappa - Hero Trio (Whirlwind Records, 2020)

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa has built an excellent career, leading the jazz program at Princeton University and releasing a series of fine LP's as a leader. This album is in a lean trio configuration with him in the company of François Moutin on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. The trio plays an interesting mix of original music, jazz standards and pop tunes that allows them to make the most of the material and display some prime improvising along the way. The last time this group convened they made the impressive Charlie Parker based album Bird Calls and this one begins by nodding in that direction as well with "Red Cross" a post-modern reading of the Parker tune that has Mahanthappa blazing a complex and dynamic path that uses the original as a springboard to improvisation with a fierce rhythm section foundation. They move in a different direction with a version of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," taking the slinky melody of the rhythm and blues tune and turning it into a soul jazz come on that works well, with lithe melodic bass and flowing drums working with the leader's graceful and flowing playing. "Barbados/26-2" yokes together compositions by two of the most influential saxophonists of the post-war era, Parker and John Coltrane. The medley works well with the trio taking the groundbreaking music of the twentieth century and giving it a decidedly twenty-first century boost. They return to the realm of pop music with a short version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," staying close to melody of the original Sun single and bringing forth some of that pathos and edgy energy into their performance. The band brings things back full circle with the concluding Parker composition "Dewey Square" sprouting from its bebop roots and playing a complex trio improvisation that uses elastic rhythm and chopping, swooping saxophone. The album works well as a whole, with it's roots in the fertile past, and the branches snaking in a number of more modern directions. They glance to the past while staying firmly in the moment, playing with an gregarious nature that flows in a confident and palpable manner, creating an accessible and enjoyable album. Hero Trio -

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Whit Dickey Trio - Expanding Light (TaoForms, 2020)

Drummer Whit Dickey has certainly paid his dues, woodshedding and playing in the bands of David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp, biding his time. After gradually building a small but impressive discography as a leader, he elected to form a new record label called Tao Forms, with the inaugural releases being Matthew Shipp's The Piano Equation, and this album. Joining forces with Rob Brown on alto saxophone and Brandon Lopez on bass, they create an explosive and highly successful album of modern and free jazz. "The Outer Edge" uses solo drumming to open the album, with tight pinched sounding alto saxophone, developing a wonderfully nuanced and searching sound, and the bass acting as the glue holding things together. Their music courses into a vibrant collective improvisation, taken at a fast and gutsy pace, with the music flowing forth in a highly imaginative stream of creativity. An unpredictable drum solo takes center stage, with the band eventually returning and Dickey adding strong cymbal accents to the music, keeping everyone on their toes. A soft gradual opening for deft bass and brushed percussion eases the group into "Desert Flower" with a building sense of urgency, developing into a deep and complex duo conversation. The saxophone folds in and gradually and builds in tone and tempo and the group coalesces into seemingly free and open improvised section, with frequently piercing saxophone and cymbal driven percussion. "Expanding Light" shows the trio jumping into action right away with a full bodied performance, their three way improvising is tight and invigorating with probing saxophone, slashing drums and bounding bass, coming together in one thrilling organic process. They downshift to bass and drums, creating imaginative rhythms and leading to a fine drum solo. Brown comes back with a strong push and as the trio barrels toward a fine finish. "Mobius" makes use of excellent bowed bass from Lopez along with shards of saxophone and drums to create an enticing and progressive track. Moving into a midsection of bowed bass, feathering cymbals and abstract waves of saxophone shows the depth the music is capable of, pushing to a darkly toned conclusion. The finale, "This Opening," makes use of excellent bowed bass and emotionally stark saxophone to develop a vivid and passionate performance. Raw peals of saxophone speak to the emotional depth of the music, aided by the excellent bass and drums in driving the band through to the conclusion of an excellent and memorable album. Expanding Light -
Whit Dickey Trio - First St. Green / Arts for Art 9/28/19 (YouTube)

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and The WDR Big Band - Blue Soul (Strikezone Records, 2020)

Noted Detroit guitarist and author Dave Stryker teams up with tenor saxophonist and arranger Bob Mintzer and the famous WDR big band of Germany to create a bright and colorful program of pop songs and originals placed into a jazz setting that encourages crisp playing and creative solos. Stryker often records and tours in a more economic fashion, leading an organ trio, and it is the organ which infuses the classic Marvin Gaye tune "What's Going On." The song works really well in this context, retaining the subtle groove of the original while allowing room for spacious solos for graceful organ and guitar. They gamely try a take of Prince's "When Doves Cry" and while it it is certainly not unsuccessful, it lacks some of the snap and grit that made the original so startlingly bold. Nevertheless the horns add strong riffs, and Stryker builds a snaking and flowing solo to the mix. "Wichita Lineman" has dribbled out of AM radios for decades, and it's indelible and familiar melody gives the listener something tangible to latch onto while the leader is able to construct a guitar solo that stays within melodic boundaries, yet is able to able to explore the song's template within a jazz complex. The wide open and bluesy material at the end of the disc really finds everyone on common ground and playing very well together. "Shadowboxing" has a tight and nimble arrangement, playing at a strong up tempo with a functional arrangement that allows the band to shine and then focus their light on a well played tenor saxophone solo and Stryker's own solo which is is framed in the glow of the band's arrangement. The same takes place on the finale, "Stan's Shuffle," where Mintzer gets a well deserved moment to shine after all the hard work he put in behind the scene, with the full band playing grandly alongside the soloists creating the perfect fanfare for a sendoff. This was a very good mainstream jazz album, drawing from pop music, modern big band ideas and infused with jazz improvisation, there is something for everybody in this thoughtful, well articulated album. Blue Soul -

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Jazz Times Best Albums of the 1990's Poll

Jazz Times is working on projects to commemorate it's anniversary, one of which is asking for input about the ten best (unranked) albums of recent decades. I just caught up with this recently with the poll for the 1990's, where there are several suggested albums with check boxes, and a (too) small area for write in votes. These are the albums I came up with with a cursory off the cuff glance, with the results to be published at a later date.

Don Pullen - Random Thoughts (Blue Note, 1990)
John Zorn - Naked City (Nonesuch, 1990)
Sonny Sharrock - Ask the Ages (Axiom, 1991)
Bill Frisell - Have a Little Faith (Elektra, 1992)
Ginger Baker Trio - Going Back Home (Atlantic, 1994)
Franklin Kiermyer - Solomon’s Daughter (Evidence, 1994)
Gateway - Homecoming (ECM, 1995)
(Write-in) Thomas Chapin Trio - Sky Piece (Knitting Factory, 1997)
(Write-in) Sam Rivers - Concept (Rivbea, 1997)
(Write-in) Dave Holland Quintet - Prime Directive (ECM, 1999) 

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Dave Douglas - Dizzy Atmosphere: Dizzy Gillespie At Zero Gravity (Greenleaf Music, 2020)

Trumpeter Dave Douglas has made some interesting albums that were dedicated to other composers during his career like Stargazer for Wayne Shorter and Soul on Soul for Mary Lou Williams. On this set, he pays tribute to the great trumpeter and one of the founding bebop musicians, Dizzy Gillespie. Douglas plays original songs and Gillespie classics in the company of fellow trumpeter Dave Adewumi, Matthew Stevens on guitar, Fabian Almazan on piano, Carmen Rothwell on bass and Joey Baron on drums. "Mondrain" has a mellow opening with jabs of guitar and trumpet arcing across the soundscape. The brass sounds strong and agile amid rich complex piano playing and solid bass and drum providing rhythmic pulse. Trumpets reach and soar when given the opportunity, pushing the music skyward, then laying out for a well articulated bass solo, before the band comes together for the theme and ending. A Gillespie staple, "Manteca" is taken at a respectful medium tempo, clearly stating the melody, and Baron is excellent at creating a multi-faceted Cuban like percussive base for the performance. The trumpets make way for a pulsating guitar solo with surprising fusion overtones, then the horns really make their presence felt, doubling up and then playing off one another in a very exciting fashion. "Pickin' the Cabbage" has some raunchy old time trumpet playing adding an effervescent accent, coalescing into a punchy theme, and really featuring the brass players with minimal accompaniment, to which they respond very well. The focus shifts to the rhythm section who keeps things moving before unleashing the guitarist for a laser pointed solo feature. Baron is an old hand at this and gets a well deserved spot before the horns crash back in and lead the group to a rousing finish. "Subterfuge" has a full band melody that is brisk and modern, leading to a complex group sections that involve more lilting emotion and others of brisk swagger, arranged like a little big band for maximum effect. Overall this album works well, the band is well rehearsed and integrated, they are inspired by Gillespie, but make no attempt to imitate his musical conception, but assimilate his message across the years by playing their own unique music to the best of their ability. Dizzy Atmopshere: Dizzy Gillespie At Zero Gravity -

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Gary Bartz & Maisha - Night Dreamer Direct​-​To​-​Disc Sessions (Night Dreamer, 2020)

Legendary American alto and soprano saxophonist Gary Bartz and British world jazz ensemble Maisha combine for an excellent meeting of the minds. Playing two Bartz compositions and three collaborative performances, this album goes well beyond group and featured soloist to a truly integrated setting where the music evolves organically where age is no boundary. "Harlem to Haarlem" has bubbling drums and percussion that produces an infectious rhythm, with bass and guitar and finally horns folding in for a sweet and dynamic theme. Bartz has a light and agile sound that floats and weave around the group in an impressive fashion, with everyone locked in on a fine groove. He solos over keyboards with the band framing him, playing in a sly and genial fashion, spooling out a lengthy feature that works very well as the band keeps a feisty beat moving around him. A brief yet strong trumpet interlude rings true before everyone comes back to the alluring theme and concludes a very fine opening performance. The bounding and soulful theme of "The Stank" works very well to propel the music forward with interlocked horns and choppy guitar and percussion leading the way. Bartz breaks out with a joyful sounding solo leaping over the deeply rhythmic backdrop, everything is played in a bright and accessible manner that should entices jazz fans new and old. The guitarist comes to the forefront, adding sparks to the heavy percussion vibe, before lashing into a driving solo that fits in well with the urgent drumming before leading back into the theme that sees everyone returning for a safe landing. "Dr. Follows Dance" concludes the album with an abstract opening, closer to free jazz than anything else on the album, before everything falls into place with bubbling percussion and riffing horns and the music develops into a deep and funky feeling with guitar leading the way, developing a dynamic and expressive feature. The horns riff and joust over rolling hand percussion, Bartz solos in a genial fashion floating over the block party that has broken out underneath him and playing with spirit and grace. Everyone returns to a collective improvisation that fades out while sounding like it could go all night. This was a very successful project, hopefully one that can be continued in the future. The London jazz scene is so fertile with young jazz talent, pairing them with jazz masters from the US and beyond could only be a boon to both parties. Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions -

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Sunday, June 07, 2020

Peter Brötzmann / Maâlem Moukhtar Gania / Hamid Drake - The Catch of a Ghost (i dischi di angelica records, 2020)

This wonderful amalgamation of free jazz and world music was performed live in Bologna, Italy in May of 2019, featuring Peter Brötzmann on tenor saxophone and tarogato, Maâlem Moukhtar Gania on guembri and vocals and Hamid Drake on drums and percussion. The melding the of European and American strains of free jazz and improvisations with the open ended and hypnotic North African sounds make for a beguiling and compelling album that stands as one of the finest of this blighted year. “To Catch a Ghost” is the opening track and stretches over thirty fascinating and trance inducing minutes, and the guembri played by Gania is a is a three stringed skin-covered instrument that can take the place of a guitar or a bass, anchoring the music and providing a deep rhythmic tone that pulses throughout the performance. Hamid Drake is totally in his element, having a lot of experience in playing reggae and free jazz around the world, he constructs free ranging rhythms, patterns and forms that dance around the music in a delightful fashion, engaging and reaction to the other two musicians. Brotzmann himself is remarkably inspired, focusing on tenor saxophone in this situation, playing long brisk and deep tones that integrate very well with the strings and percussion and the voice of Gania which has a yearning and reaching cadence. This is carried further on “Almost With The Sun” with Brotzmann laying down some withering lines of tenor saxophone with Drake providing a propulsive beat and Gania framing him with bass like lines and vocalizations. The music gets even more exciting and exotic on “Sound That Shimmers” when Brotzmann moves to the Eastern European reed instrument the tarogato which provides a sharp, pinched sound which is thrown into sharp relief when it is framed by the guembri and Drake's atmospheric percussion. Gania's strong vocalizations also a further dimension to this track, creating a multi-cultural delight that proves that jazz and improvisation truly know no bounds. After a resounding round of applause from the audience, the trio completes their performance with “Dip and Dive” where Brotzmann returns to the tenor saxophone and the three musicians perform a rousing collective improvisation that sums up a powerful and extremely successful performance that transitions well to a well recorded and timely album.The Catch of a Ghost -

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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn! (Columbia, 1965; re-issue Legacy, 1996)

The album's original liner notes talk about the troubled birth of this album, with take after take ad infinitum, and the added pressure of a couple of Beatles looking on from the sidelines for good measure. But that hothouse environment was worth it as the band avoided the sophomore slump with another excellent album of strong covers and a growing collection of original tunes to bring into the suddenly competitive California rock 'n' roll scene. At this time The Byrds were still in their original configuration with Jim "Roger" McGuinn on lead guitar, acoustic guitar and vocals, Gene Clark on rhythm guitar, harmonica, tambourine and vocals, David Crosby on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Hillman on electric bass and Michael Clarke on drums and the album was produced by Terry Melcher. The title song "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)" was a capsule version of Pete Seger's reading of scripture, and by setting it to a soaring and immediately memorable melody with wonderful harmony, it became a number one smash hit in the United States and a minor hit overseas, propelling the band into the truly big time. The rest of the album is filled with quality material, with two interesting Bob Dylan covers, the more ballad focused "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" and poppier version of "The Times They Are a Changin'" that was originally intended as a single before being shelved. On this album Gene Clark really comes into his own as a songwriter, contributing three titles, with strong vocal performances and increasingly complex collaborative music. The Legacy re-issue is very well done with liner essays and period photographs included in the booklet along with seven bonus tracks that flesh out the sessions with singles alternate versions and mixes acting as the icing on the cake of a highly recommended album and reissue. Turn! Turn! Turn! -

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Monday, June 01, 2020

Whit Dickey - Morph (ESP-DISK, 2020)

The drummer Whit Dickey meets up with his frequent teammate pianist Matthew Shipp for an exciting and impressive two disc set, playing the first disc a duo, and then inviting trumpeter Nate Wooley for the second disc. The opening track "Blue Threads" has bright and engaging piano with crisp drumming, with both musicians comfortable and playing well at a swinging medium tempo. The music ripples and cascades in an appealing manner, with focused and thoughtful playing. Subdued percussion opens "Dice" along with skittish spidery piano playing, which makes the music feel free yet in control, light and agile. Massive crashing piano chords on "Thick" are met with a strong percussive response as the two musicians create an extremely powerful performance, one of withering strength and unity. They push the music forward, moving with great speed and ferocity on this memorable performance. There is a stoic presence to "Steps" with excellent use of cymbals and varying hues and textures of piano. The pace and intensity of the music picks up and falls as they use the full dynamic range of their instruments to excellent effect. "Morph" develops gradually, not rushing into the moment, building an open approach and placing meaning into music. Nate Wooley joins them beginning with "Noir 1" adding his energy and creativity to a fast and wide ranging improvisation, connecting together to send the music to a special place. Wooley adds raw guttural effects to the dark resonating piano to drive the music into an altogether deeper dimension. "Take the Wild Train" places raw scouring trumpet with spare percussion in a free sounding context, Shipp enters after a couple of minutes, adding further texture. The music becomes more rhythmic with strongly played piano and percussion squaring off, and Wooley's trumpet flying free over and around the piano and drums. This was an excellent set of music, showing Dickey's quality as a drummer and music conceptualist, truly coming into his own with not only this collection but his new label Tao Forms releasing albums by himself and Shipp. Morph -

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Matthew Shipp - The Piano Equation (Tao Forms, 2020)

Over the course of his career, Matthew Shipp has built a collection of solo albums to rival any pianist of the age. His most recent album introduces the Tao Forms label, founded by his longtime colleague Whit Dickey. The title track "The Piano Equation" opens the album with mysterious and spare droplets from the keyboard balanced by dark, resonating chords that are cut short quickly, allowing the crystalline higher notes to shine. "Swing Note from Deep Space" follows with a disjointed Thelonious Monk like feeling, mixing strata of notes and chords, churning in a potent fashion. The dark rumbling visceral presence of bass notes and chords imbues "Vortex Factor" with a knotty and gnarled sensibility. This is mined for a unique and unearthly sound, creating and uneasy and anxious performance. "Clown Pulse" is laser focused and swinging, and despite the short length of the song, Shipp is patient in the music's development, creating a piece that is brief, melodic and memorable. Emerging from a sketch, "Radio Signals Equation" gradually fills in with the low end bass and carefully chosen notes played with great strength. Shipp uses repetition that becomes nearly hypnotic, adding more depth for a wide ranging performance concluding with complex coded piano. The concluding track "Cosmic Juice" gradually swells louder and faster with deep waves of dark tones, creating a lush and ripe setting with stark velvety chords. The music then evolves to bruised sounds and a blustery conclusion. This album worked very well, Shipp is in excellent form, and in complete control of his instrument. He has the complete history of jazz at his fingertips, and can allude to bop or free jazz, while maintaining his own unique sound and musical conception. The Piano Equation -

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Abbey Rader and John McMinn - Duo from the Heart (Abray Records, 2020)

This is an exciting and bracing fully improvised jazz album with the duo of Abbey Rader on drums and percussion and John McMinn on tenor saxophone and piano, which was recorded at McMinn’s home studio in Miami in November of 2019. "Late Opening" is a torrid performance for drums and piano moving together like a force of nature throughout the improvisation, with crashing drums and cymbals meeting elemental piano that weaves dynamically into a brief reprieve of abstract cooperation. McMinn moves to saxophone for "Deep Seeing" setting a strong and vibrant tone, meeting Rader to gradually scout the territory, as the sound fills in and develops a strong spiritual jazz feeling, with withering saxophone lines and powerful percussive accompaniment. "Skimming Over and Forgiving" returns to the piano and drums format, strumming inside the instrument to provide some Alice Coltrane like harp sounds in the beginning. The music stretches out gracefully, free and untethered with the mixture of inside and out piano giving the music a unique sound. "Freedom with Roots" returns to the saxophone for a fast and free dialogue that is brimming with texture and color. Both musicians dive deeply beneath the waves of sound to create a challenging and intriguing dialogue, making way for a powerful and impressive drum solo before ratcheting back up for the conclusion. Staying with the saxophone, "Prayers at the Wall" keeps the intensity high with long rolling drum patterns and keening saxophone. Both players are deeply locked in with one another developing a rhythmic sense and conception of time and space that keeps the music free yet well controlled. This was an excellent album of spontaneous jazz, between two musicians who clearly have a deep bond with each other as friends and kindred musical spirits. Duo From the Heart - Bandcamp

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dinosaur - To the Earth (Edition Records, 2020)

Over their ten years as a band, Dinosaur have carved out a distinctive niche in the competitive London jazz scene, lauded for their albums and performances and even earning and Mercury Prize nomination in 2017. The group consists of Laura Jurd on ​trumpet, Elliot Galvin on keyboards and ​piano, Conor Chaplin on bass and Corrie Dick on ​drums, and they reconvene on this album to both celebrate their milestone and stake out new territory via composition and improvisation. “Slow Loris” has a heavy fingered Monk like piano groove that moves throughout the track, setting the table for splattered trumpet. Thick bass and drums make things all the better, leading to a strong and bracing performance. An appealing melody kicks off "Mosking," leading to some excellent bass playing that underpins everything. The music flows gracefully through lush piano and trumpet playing leading to an accessible and admirable result. "Held by Water" is much shorter, a brief blast of music, propelled by an urgent and complex drumbeat that has the piano and brass framing and commenting on the action. A late light feeling pervades "Absinthe" with tumbling piano playing and strutting and stumbling trumpet making their way over the stoic bass and drums. "Banning Street Blues" is the centerpiece of the recording, bouncy and fun with the players making use of a brisk theme that undulates in an appealing fashion leading to an excellent trumpet solo fortified by bright percussive piano and rippling drums. The group ends the album on  a slower and more meditative note with "For One" which has subtly played brush work and spare piano and bass. Jurd picks her spots well, never overplaying her trumpet, leading the song to a gracious and genial conclusion. To The Earth -

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tim Berne - Sacred Vowels (Screwgun Records, 2020)

The circumstances with which spring 2020 has presented itself has allowed musicians more time to ruminate on projects that they have always wanted to tackle. For saxophonist Tim Berne, that has been a recording of solo saxophone, and he writes in a brief introduction on his Bandcamp page that he began writing some of the music as an exercise, but was always reluctant to make the actual recording. Berne has been a force for good in creative jazz and improvised music for decades in many settings, beginning as an acolyte of the great Julius Hemphill and developing fruitful relationships with John Zorn and the downtown scene among many others. His music was as accessible enough to get a major label contract with Columbia, and so restless that he had to form his own record label just to get his albums released and hope they get the attention they deserve. This particular record is deserving of much attention. Berne needn't have been reticent about recording a solo saxophone LP, because the the resulting music is impressive not only in its technical facility and his creative use of the saxophone, but in the beauty and sheer joy of the music that he creates. Taking forty plus years of experience and distilling it into just one man and one horn is a brave and intimidating prospect, but Berne rises to the challenge. The tone of his horn is honest and unique and the themes that he has written allow him to show the different aspects of his musical concept in and approachable manner. Berne has been releasing a great deal of work lately for a different bands and duos, but this album shouldn't be overlooked, it is a milestone recording from a remarkable and uncompromising artist. Sacred Vowels - Bandcamp

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tim Daisy and Ken Vandermark - Consequent Duos: series 2a (System vs. Artifacts, 2020)

COVID-19 has wrecked havoc on recording and touring with artists responding in creative and courageous ways. Musician and label head Ken Vandermark is responding by releasing a series of new digital albums on the System vs. Artifacts imprint from his own label, Audiographic Records. This album was recorded in August of 2011 at the Hungry Brain in Chicago, and the music has a high energy feel that crackles in the spontaneous creativity of the overall sound. The music is nearly telepathic in nature as befits longtime collaborators, with Vandermark alternating between saxophones and clarinets and Tim Daisy matching him every step of the way  showing remarkable facility on drums and percussion. They lock in together and develop a series of long, spontaneous improvisation that are rooted in the new thing American free jazz of Albert Ayler and Marion Brown, but also explore the more intellectualized territory blazed by Jimmy Giuffre and Anthony Braxton. The first set consists of three numbered performances, the first one being a very exciting saxophone and drums duet where they are able to build a strong and powerful improvisation that leaps into action quickly and maintains the energy for the length of the performance, easing into some dynamic dips and peaks along the way. They move into a different area on set one track two with Vandermark moving to clarinet, employing some wonderful long looping tones and sweeping curls of sound leading to brief unaccompanied passages and stellar percussive additions to the conversations. Bass clarinet is Vandermark's focus for the first track of the second set, with Daisy using the depth and breadth of his drum kit to urge him into some really interesting places, as the deep hollow sounds of the bass clarinet allows him to achieve some remarkable sounds and musical textures. The second and concluding track of the second set is an extraordinary journey of over twenty minutes with undercurrents of saxophone and gradually building percussion leading to a towering section of scalding saxophone, which sends out massive peals of sound alongside thunderous drumming before gradually easing off with ultimate control, leading to a perfect touchdown. This was an excellent live album, very well recorded at one of the most important landmarks of progressive jazz and improvised music in Chicago. Live performance may be on hold as of this writing, but wonderful archival recordings like this keep the music fresh and allow fans to support the people who create this extraordinary music. Consequent Duos: series 2a - Bandcamp

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Monday, May 18, 2020

The MacroQuarktet - The Complete Night: Live at the Stone NYC (Out of Your Head Records, 2020)

Trumpeters Herb Robertson and Dave Ballou have collaborated with a who's who of mainstream and avant-garde jazz musicians from the 1980's to today. Deciding that they wanted to play together and stretch out, improvising at length in a small group setting, they met up with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey to form The MacroQuarktet. This double disc set is a complete account of their first live performance from June 30, 2007; disc one is a reissue of the album titled Each Part Whole, originally released on Ruby Flower Records in 2009, while disc two is the second set from the night, released for the first time. The music unfolds in a series of lengthy long-form suites that are time stamped on the discs, though the music flows seamlessly and without interruption. Although the music may seem abstract on the surface, but deeper listening reveals layers of depth. The two trumpet players are capable of a wide range of sounds, textures and abrasiveness, playing together for a powerful punch or soloing individually to produce growing, pecking and hauntingly lyrical passages of music. The bass playing of Drew Gress is equally versatile, particularly when he creates bowed movements that allow the music to develop a different cadence and brings further emotional depth to the performance. As does the drumming of Tom Rainey, particularly the subtle majesty that he brings to his cymbal playing that can add a feeling of nervous energy to the music but also offer a aura of shimmering otherworldliness when combined with the processes mentioned above. The music is complex and challenging, but never unnecessarily so, the camaraderie that the musicians share an their skill at their instruments and the art and science of improvisation ensures that even the knottiest passages are accessible to the attuned listener. The Complete Night: Live at the Stone NYC -

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Alexander Hawkins and Tomeka Reid - Shards and Constellations (Intakt, 2020)

Pianist Alexander Hawkins and cellist Tomeka Reid bring a rich history into their duet session, with each musician well versed in jazz, classical and freely improvised music. This makes for a surprisingly varied and intricate program of music, with each musician making the most of their instrument. Half of the performances on this album were developed completely through improvisation, employing differing measures of hue and texture in real time to create fascinating off the dome structures. Reid is a joy to hear bowing long hypnotic tones or short bursts of sound while also plucking her instrument to provide bass or guitar like accompaniment. She gained much of her experience after moving to Chicago and joining the AACM, so it is no surprise to hear two tracks by Association legends Muhal Richard Abrams and Leroy Jenkins secure pride of place on this album. Hawkins is an excellent pianist, adept at creating languid impressionistic soundscapes as well as diving into freely improvised sections and providing ample support for some of Reid's more daring flights. His development was something of a mirror image of Reid's receiving his post-graduate education so to speak playing with European avant jazz masters like Evan Parker, Jon Surman and Han Bennink. Together, Reid and Hawkins are able to conjure some delightful moods that range from a lilting, near spiritual ballad to more experimental fare that sees both musicians stretching themselves from mirrors within mirrors levels of abstraction to fast paced duo chase sections. Though they come from different scenes it is the pull of jazz and the lure of improvisation that pulls these two musicians together. Together they are able to create a very good album, one with a sense of adventure that looks beyond boundaries and heeds the call of exploration. Shards and Constellations -

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Broken Shadows - Tower Tapes #2 (Jazzclub Ferrara, 2020)

Broken Shadows was originally an Ornette Coleman composition and the name of an album put out by Columbia, issuing previously unreleased material from the sessions that produced the epic Science Fiction LP, all of which later captured in The Complete Science Fiction Sessions. Taking this as their band name is a bold move, but considering that they are some of the best players on the modern jazz scene, the payoff is worth it. Consisting of Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Chris Speed on tenor saxophone, Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums, the band has the firepower and the flexability to follow their muse however they choose. Inspired by the music of Coleman, Dewey Redman and Julius Hemphill the group began playing concerts in Brooklyn and eventually recorded a self titled debut album for the elite vinyl only subscription service which retails for $400. With the Covid-19 nightmare pushing all bands off the road and looking for alternate sources of income, Jazz Club Ferrara dipped into their recorded archives to create The Tower Tapes, sets of live recordings where the proceeds from sales will be equally donated to the musicians involved and to proprietor. The Broken Shadows performance consists of two generous sets recorded on February 1, 2020 clearly demonstrating that this is an important band whose music should be documented for all to hear. The music is adventurous and exciting, stringing themes together and using them as springboards for fascinating passages of collective improvisation makes this group sound like a true successor to the early seventies era Ornette Coleman band. The saxophones work in tandem beautifully as well, with Speed's lighter tenor saxophone tone an excellent foil for Berne's more tart alto as they bob and weave through the thematic sections and improvisations. Anderson and King are two thirds of the mighty Bad Plus and have been playing together for decades, bringing that unique sense of rhythm and structure to this album with Anderson especially featured on several excellent bass solos. This was an very good album and is highly recommended, each one of these musicians is busy with other groups, but hopefully we will hear more from them soon. Broken Shadows - The Tower Tapes #2 Jazzclubferrara Bandcamp

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Saturday, May 09, 2020

Sabir Mateen, Patrick Holmes, Federico Ughi - Survival Situation (577 Records, 2020)

The three musicians on this album, Sabir Mateen on saxophones, clarinets, flute, farfisa organ, and vocals, Patrick Holmes on clarinet and Federico Ughi on drums have traveled in the same circles for years, but hadn't recorded as a trio before meeting in Tuscany where Sabir Mateen has been living for the last few years. They created a freely improvised session, then took the tapes back to the studio for post production and crafted this album, which is strongly influenced by Sun Ra, whom Mateen played with in the 1980's. "Freedom of Souls" has long held tones of reed, with clarinet and ghostly percussion and organ; they soon pick up pace with swirling swooping clarinet curls, electric organ certainly recalling Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra. Combing for an interesting collective improvisation, Mateen adds mysterious echoed vocalizing, further provoking the atmosphere of this unpredictable performance. Smears of organ, electronically altered and channeled to provide a near psychedelic tinge give way to drones providing a baseline for reed and drums to improvise around, creating a very interesting trio improvisation that spools out to the conclusion. A subtly played opening for clarinet and the other reed begins "Souls," tangling and diffusing, circling and swooping. Drums enter and alter the pace, engaging with tenor saxophone, establishing a free sounding dialogue. "Layers of Sound" has flute and light saxophone stratified above and below creating an interesting dynamic, while the drums rumble quietly underneath. The drums move to engage the reeds, making for a more strident improvisation, mixing the gradients and adding a hint of the unexpected. Stark sounding clarinet pierces the proceedings, with jabs of overdriven organ seemingly at random keep things moving. Mateen's light sounding unaccompanied saxophone improvisation sounds great, opening "Clarifying" and the other instruments soon glide in as clarinet and percussion filling out the space. The drums create an interesting fractured rhythm, engaging the reed players, one moving to flute to nudge the improvisation in a different direction. Clarinet and flute are an interesting blend especially in the company of dynamic percussion that waxes and wanes in intensity. Mid piece there is a shift to saxophone and clarinet in open space, with Ughi's drums moving in to create crisp rhythm for a riveting saxophone solo, and then finally a powerful three way free improvisation. The digital bonus track "You Can’t Touch That Because It Didn’t Hurt" opens slowly with raw ominous saxophone and clarinet framed by cymbal accents, and drones of sound from one reed with the other jabs and pierces. There is a complex system of language and conversation between the three musicians which yields strong results, with three instruments boiling and simmering in close contact creating excellent music in this crucible of creativity. Survival Situation -

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Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Shabaka And The Ancestors ‎– We Are Sent Here By History (Impulse, 2020)

A mainstay on the fertile London jazz sense, British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings leads a group of South African musicians on this interesting and forward thinking album. The band features Mthunzi Mvubu on alto saxophone, Ariel Zamonsky on bass, Gontse Makhene on percussion and Tumi Mogorosi on drums, along with guests on certain tracks. "They Who Must Die" opens the album with percussion, thick bass, vocalization and melodic saxophone which emphasizes a hypnotic theme. Tension and release allow intense and exciting percussion and saxophone with vocal encouragement. Loud - soft dynamics, repetition and release allow the group to stretch out providing their statement of purpose over the percolating rhythm. "Go My Heart, Go To Heaven" features taut bass, harmonizing horns at a medium tempo, vocals and complex percussion. The music flows together well becoming faster with insistent horn playing and an impressive saxophone solo. Spare electric piano droplets with light percussion usher in "Behold, The Deceiver" with soft and subtle horn playing, gradually building a powerful rhythm with percussion and saxophones. A saxophone solos with excellent bass support, flying high and soaring, while deep thick bass underpins all vocal samples and keyboard playing, pushing fast to the conclusion. "The Coming Of The Strange Ones" uses thick, elastic bass and drums with riffing horns develop a fast pace, easing into an urgent theme with everything bubbling and boiling quickly with purpose. Tart sounding saxophone breaks out for a fine solo playing off the excellent bass work for a scorching feature, stretching out, taking things to a higher level. Withering free sounding improvisation fades in on "Beast Too Spoke Of Suffering" creating a fast and exciting blowing session with torrid horns and percussion, coalescing around a raw theme which then leads to spare wounded sounds. "Til The Freedom Comes Home" conjures tight rhythm and saxophone with vocal chanting, building a deep groove, exuberant hand percussion music grows faster and more intense, with ripe saxophone accents channeling the music. Slinky saxophone groove is inciting on "Finally, The Man Cried" as the bass and drums fall in around and in support. Strong and gutsy performance moving forward, with vocalizing adding further texture to the music, leading to the finale, "Teach Me How To Be Vulnerable." Hutchings solo saxophone, breathy and calm, meets with piano to create a beautiful ballad to close the album. There is so much history between the South African and British jazz scenes with the likes of The Blue Notes and Brotherhood of Breath in the 60's and 70's and this fine group is continuing that cause of thought provoking spiritual jazz today. We Are Sent Here By History -

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Monday, May 04, 2020

Decoy with Joe McPhee - AC/DC (Otoroku, 2020)

After a eight year wait, it is great to year from Decoy: the trio of John Edwards on bass, Steve Noble on drums, and Alexander Hawkins on organ, reunited with the legendary pocket trumpet and alto saxophone player Joe McPhee. This album was recorded on the closing night of his four day residency at Cafe OTO in May of 2019 and really catches fire in a bottle, as the four musicians come together to explore the entire history of post bop jazz over the course of eighty minutes. On the opening track "AC" you really get a sense of what the group is capable of, when they are branching out with McPhee playing punchy trumpet or strong postbop and free tinged saxophone. There are ballad and open ended improvised sections that wouldn't sound out of place on a 1950's Prestige blowing session or Blue Note modal jam, but the band only nods briefly in those directions, passing them on the highway to their true destination which is creating unique original improvised music. In that fashion, "DC" opens in a much more abstract manner, with bowed bass, skittish drums and droplets of molten lava lamp keyboards, setting an out of this world vibe that gradually builds to some enthralling free improvisation. Tightly wound tension and intense release involves exciting percussion and saxophone with vocal encouragement from McPhee driving the music ever deeper, moving to a wicked bass and drums duet improvisation at one point. Hawkins fits right in with these free jazz masters, adding hints of Love Cry Want and Lifetime, manufacturing bold waves of sound from the instrument that fit in well and encourage the bass and drums to evolve and adapt. McPhee sounds great on both of his instruments, attacking every opportunity for improvisation and using gradations of texture to develop the music and make for exciting listening. AC / DC -

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Saturday, May 02, 2020

Gard Nilssen´s Supersonic Orchestra - If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours (Odin Records, 2020)

Always on the lookout for something fresh, Norwegian drummer and composer Gard Nilssen formed this sixteen piece ensemble featuring three drummers, three bassists and ten horn players, most of them saxophonists. Recorded live at the Molde International Jazz Festival in 2019, where Nilssen was artist in residence, this album packs a powerful and exciting punch, straddling the line between composition and pure improvisation. "Premium Processing Fee" opens the album with a proud exciting blast off theme from the horns, providing a section of freedom resolving into a brazen opening for the saxophones. Taut driving solos over strong bass and drums are key, with riffing horns for support, creating an exciting powerhouse of a performance. A bold trumpet solo backed by raging drums emerges making the music simmer and boil with intensity, falling back to a cacophonous full band blowout. Their sound becomes abstract as the horns blow quieter sounds without the rhythm team, as the group eases into "Bøtteknott Elastic Circle," which moves in subtle waves before the drums and percussion crash in, sparking everything to life. Proudly riffing horns announce a saxophone soloist, who nimbly joins the excellent bass and drums to create a strong and rhythmically intense feature. "Teppen Dance" features an excellent lengthy bass solo to open, with the band slowly entering after four minutes. Stolid and defiant sounding waves of horns are constructed, as a provocative saxophone solo framed by towering horns and constructive percussion carves the air. Subtle percussion, becoming more complex, horns sway in creating a flowing sensation as "City of Roses" emerges. Light horns dance around, swelling into a more complex formation, then signing off. There is a subtle patient opening for basses on "Jack" with complex percussion added. Everything comes together with a potent rhythm that invigorates the horns, and tenor saxophone leaping out for a solo backed by the percolating rhythm, building to a fast and exciting collective improvisation with excellent dramatic playing from the whole group. Finally, "Bytta Bort Kua Fikk Fela Igjen" develops percussion filled with potential energy, building every faster as the horns slide in, leading to a storming section of swaggering brass in a wonderfully exciting concluding section. Their collective improvisation leads to an excellent conclusion of this very successful and well executed modern jazz album. If You Listen Carefully the Music is Yours -

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Anna Hogberg Attack - Lena (Omlott, 2020)

The second album by alto saxophonist Anna Hogberg is as  blistering and inspiring as her first one. Leading a sextet that also Elin Forkelid on tenor saxophone, Niklas Barnö on trumpet, Lisa Ullén on piano, Elsa Bergman on bass and Anna Lund on drums, the music the group creates is a fresh look at modern and avant jazz. The opening track, "pappa kom hem" uses a long burst of deep saxophone to clear the decks for what is to come, with the other saxophone and bombarding bass and drums joining for a full frontal assault of extraordinary free jazz that sounds wonderful and bracing. "det är inte för sent" has chattering percussion finely textured with cymbals with drops of open percussion and piano. Barnö's trumpet arcs around the other two instruments, keeping the mysterious sound going, with other horns coming in to create a powerfully granular full band sound. Full bodied rhythm section with saxophone ushers in "dansa margit" where an excellent theme launches the musicians into a series of solos beginning with tenor saxophone backed with ripe piano, bass and drums, and then ditching them for a raw and exciting unaccompanied section. The band comes together for a withering collective improvisation that is uniformly excellent, including a return to the powerful thematic statement. "tjuv" uses manic piano, bass and drums to excellent effect, and the horns come swaggering in righteously with a quick memorable theme. A wild piano interlude backed with bass and drums creates a really out of sight trio improvisation, with the horns riffing along. The focus shifts to the horns without rhythm, improvising together in space beautifully, and this episodic performance then turns to the full band integrated and led by a fine alto saxophone solo that digs in grandly. A powerhouse collective improvisation evolves from here, with everyone pulling in the same direction and achieving outstanding results. Abstract inside/outside piano and percussion is used on "pärlemor," with the horns working together for a lush sound. Ullén's piano dances around bowed bass and skittish drums framed by horns. Finally, "äntligen" focuses on trumpet and thick bass, as strong delineated trumpet with sharp swarm of bass and drums play, followed by the full accompaniment a more stately pace, gradually slow things down, allowing room for individual instruments to be heard. This album worked very well and was a success on every level. The band played very well together and solos were exciting and invigorating. This prismatic burst of light and color is just what we need during these difficult times, and it stands as one of the best albums yet of this strange year. Anna Hogberg Attack - Lena - Bandcamp

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