Friday, February 28, 2020

Andy Bianco - NYC Stories (Next Level, 2020)

Andy Bianco is a New York based guitarist and teacher who has played widely in the jazz and pop spheres. This album has a decidedly jazz approach balancing modern post bop, fusion and a hint of avant-garde. He is accompanied by Wayne Escoffery and Glenn White on tenor saxophone, George Burton on piano, Paul Wells, Allan Mednard or Wayne Smith Jr. on drums and Nathan Peck on bass and percussion. Inspired by Bianco’s empathy for those who suffer from addiction and mental health issues, “For Those Who Battle Demons” is a medium up tempo and propulsive track with guitar weaving an urgent theme with the rhythm section and saxophone falling in solidly behind. Bianco steps through with a taut solo, carving through the available space and using quick flurries of notes to mark his improvisational statement, stretching out to a very impressive creative length. There is ample space for a saxophone to probe and build, developing a complex and exciting post bop solo with strong fast drumming along side, keeping the pace high. A full band section leads to a percussion feature that develops slashing momentum into a hard stop. “Bottom Dollar” builds an interesting rhythmic foundation, with the guitar branching out building momentum through a repetitive figure and then launching into a graceful featured section with a distinctive tone. This is then handed off to a slinky and well articulated saxophone solo, which is played over really interesting drumwork and propulsive piano comping. “Politricks” has a medium tempo opening for the full band developing a subtle theme before branching out into a saxophone section backed by light percussion. Saxophone leads to nimble and pithy guitar playing, with sharply turned notes cascading over brisk drumming. “Get to the Chopper” has a lighter feeling adding wit to the proceedings with a taut post bop sensibility at play. Bianco’s solo is subtle, with a gentler feeling, shading around the edges of the tune with a colorful tone, gradually gaining speed and energy, becoming the focus of attention. Saxophone snakes its way through, building power and speed and stacking them together to conjure an excellent solo. After a fine cell for the rhythm section the full group reconvenes to conclude this fine performance. Overall this was a well played mainstream jazz album, the musicians played very well together on the ensemble sections and the solos were well done without going overboard. Bianco’s themes were well written and his guitar playing was consistently interesting. NYCStories -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Sun Ra Arkestra - Heliocentric Worlds 1 and 2 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2020)

Sun Ra moved his Arkestra to New York City in the early 1960’s, recording this extraordinary pair of albums in April and November of 1965. While Ra was seen as a leader of the jazz avant-garde throughout his life, this group of recordings is unique for its use of extra, often symphonic percussion, and the stoic beauty of the performances. Volume One has seven relatively brief tracks beginning with “Heliocentric” which sets the tone immediately with it’s openness and the huge sound of Ronnie Boykins bass as the band falls in with assorted percussion instruments. This carries over into “Outer Nothingness” which is anchored by massive percussion and a wave of brass led by urgent saxophone and drums. The dynamism of the group plays with expectations as vivid sections of torrid collective improvisation give way instantly to lone bowed bass or long evolving tones. “Other Worlds” has Sun Ra using his electronic celesta to inject randomness into the proceedings with scattered notes leading to the group erupting into a rampaging full band blowout, with Ra subtly twisting the keyboard as the band rages around him. He stays on this electronic instrument with Boykins' bowed bass for accompaniment on “The Cosmos” developing intricate interplay as the band builds in and the tempo begins to increase. This sounds more like a El Saturn Sun Ra release, with percussive cymbals dancing around the electric keyboard and bowed bass and reverberating deep drums adding texture and context. “Heavenly Things” has the great tenor saxophonist John Gilmore doubling on tympani, adding a new dimension to the music as horns and flute swoop and dive over a thicket of brass and percussion. Volume Two opens with the epic track “The Sun Myth” where bassist Ronnie Boykins, the unsung hero of these sessions, plays and exquisitely mournful opening that is soon met by several band members with percussion instruments. The switch to horns keeps the emotion level high, with complex interactions developing between the saxophones, bass clarinet and trumpet. There’s a subtle arrangement that keeps things moving and avoids a pileup while allowing for wrenching dynamic shifts and a thoughtful deployment of musicians for maximum return. “House of Eternity” is a short piece showing Marshall Allen on piccolo and flute, juxtaposing him against the bass along with baritone saxophone and bass clarinet for a wide dynamic range. The album concludes with the lengthy “Cosmic Chaos” which hits the listener with a lot, opening at full volume, followed by a wonderful tenor or baritone saxophone saxophone solo encouraged by slashing drums and aggressive Ra piano comping. Huge slabs of full band power alternate with percussion sections, and a final dynamic shift from crushing volume to quiet bass clarinet and bowing. These albums were originally released in 1965 on the ESP label, and this re-issue is part the the HatHut ezz-thetics line with an excellent remastering job leaving the music sounding as good as anyone could reasonably expect. These records are integral to the development of American avant-garde jazz, and having them on this one disc remastered edition is a boon that should not be missed. Sun Ra Arkestra - Heliocentric Worlds Vol. 1 and 2 Revisited - Squidco

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Pat Metheny - From This Place (Nonesuch, 2020)

Guitarist Pat Metheny's newest album is his first album of all new compositions in some time and shows him joined by a very talented core band: Antonio Sanchez on drums, Linda May Han Oh on bass, Gwilym Simcock on piano and Luis Conte on percussion. This band is augmented on most if not all tracks by the Hollywood Studio Symphony conducted by Joel McNeely, and there are special guests that join the group on a few tracks. “Wide and Far” is a performance which is focused on the core jazz group with an upbeat theme and improvisation, while “Same River” enters deeply melodic territory with evocative piano playing, Methey's own distinctive use of guitar synthesizer, while the performance stays rooted with bass, drums and percussion and framed by soaring strings, all of which give the music the majestic CTI / cinematic flavor that Metheny discussed in a recent Downbeat cover profile previewing the album. A ballad performance guest starring harmonica player Gregoire Maret, “The Past In Us,” presents him in lush surroundings for the core band and the leader on acoustic guitar. The music is quiet and meditative, but still has a filled in quality owing to the subtlety of the string arrangement, and the deft playing of band. “Everything Explained” is a fast paced jazz performance with a complex rhythmic structure especially from drums and percussion plus excellent solo features for guitar and piano who combine rhythmic strength and melodic energy in excellent fashion. “Sixty-Six” is built around Linda May Han Oh's bass playing with her graceful ensemble playing and excellent soloing, in a gradually evolving track that provides room for guitar playing and drumming which shows skill and cleverness. This album actually worked quite well, Metheny's new songs have strong melodies and the band makes the most of them, playing very well with inventive solos and ensemble passages. The strings were not overwhelming for the most part, except for a few ballads, and were able to add some color and texture that added to the music without smothering it. From This Place -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

John Zorn - Beyond Good and Evil: Simulacrum Live (Tzadik, 2020)

After recording six studio albums in two years, John Zorn decided that his power trio, Simulacrum, was best heard and recorded live. This concert was recorded at Firehouse 12 in New Haven in July of 2019 and shows the band, John Medeski on organ, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar drawing on compositions from four different studio releases. It demonstrates how action packed and exciting that a live performance by these three very talented musicians playing the music of a maverick composer can be, blending heavy metal and jazz in the crucible of improvisation to create a interesting and successful live recording. The group leads off with the epic composition “The Illusionist” which unfolds episodically, with a grinding and ominous organ sound, met by crushing guitar and drums leading to the building of a massive edifice of riffing sound. Hollenberg alternates his crushing sound with intricate threads of notes, and Medeski adds bubbling organ sounds as the music breaks to slightly lesser volume. They alternate massive Sabbath like stomps with very articulate and intricate passages either for soloist or the unit as a whole, building to apocalyptic heights and then slowing to near silence, with perfect clarity. “Ravens” uses billows of organ to build the scene, with nimble guitar notes adding mightily to the nature of the music and subtle drumming keeping pace. The music grows a little greasy, nodding to the soul jazz roots of the organ trio even if they are miles away from it, with a scorching guitar solo lighting up the stage going over the top in a good way, leading to a fine drum interlude framed by organ splashes. There is an urgent theme hitting you in the face on “Plague,” which then turns to lead into a full band blowout that re-imagines early '70's King Crimson at their fiercest followed by the band  doubling down on the guitar pyrotechnics and sand blasting drum work. “Dark Pageant” jumps right off, powering into a fast and muscular groove. Swirls of organ add color to the gritty and grinding guitar and drums, which sound like heavy industrial machinery, before Hollenberg jumps ship on a starry eyed prog/fusion guitar solo with all of the trimmings. “Angelic Voices” picks right up with scouring guitar and drums barreling forward with no thought for health and safety before the music shifts to a more dynamic nature where the three instruments can interact with each other on a more level playing field. Medeski provides swathes of color, which is much needed amid the pneumatic grind of the guitar and drums, pushing a heroic tempo to the breaking point. The closing track, “The Divine Comedy” is another long and evolving performance, which suits the band well, not forcing them into a smash and dash short cell, but allowing the crushing heaviness to be eased by moments of graceful and melodic playing. It is the dynamic side of the band which is shown in this performance that is most compelling, where they are able to interact with one another and the materiel in thoughtful and creative ways. Beyond Good and Evil Simulacrum Live -

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Dan Rosenboom - Absurd in the Anthropocene (Gearbox, 2020)

Trumpeter and composer Dan Rosenboom makes a bold statement, by combining a strong acoustic group sensibility with copious amounts of electronics, creating a powerful modern jazz collection that shows off the talent of the large amount of performers he has gathered around him. The album begins with "Mr. Lizard Said," which yokes grinding keyboard to heavy drums and punchy trumpet, all of which are played fast and well, the leader performing especially well with highly articulated trumpet playing amid the ground level synth and crisp percussion. "Lemonade" combines electronics, guitar and drums in a massive edifice of sound with rockish snarls of electric guitar snap through. Taking a different approach, "Pushed to the Edge of Ideas by Dispassionate Bias-Algorithm Bots" uses a more subtle approach with horns and percussion providing the driving force, creating a complex post-bop rhythm that get quite intricate. a well played trumpet and drum dialogue is eventually folded back into the full group demonstrating that Rosemboom is really pushing himself, followed by a loose and fast saxophone solo to keep things moving at a scalding pace. "Heliopteryx" develops smears of percussion which slide in followed by quicksilver keyboards and more starkly rendered guitar. Fast withering tones of trumpet join in firing quick rapid notes and longer tones into the mix, with raw peals of saxophone increasing the emotional content of the performance. Fast full band intro keeps "Apes in Rapture" sleek and futuristic sounding, with extra horns added to give the performance a big band / large ensemble feeling with tricky ensemble playing and nimble solo sections. Beginning with a twisting and turning saxophone nod, it's a lengthy and impressive section buoyed by crisp ensemble riffs. Rosenboom begins his own section slowly, gradually ramping up and crafting a majestic feature. "Forget What You Know" develops a crisp electronic and acoustic combined beat to set the table for the brass with the saxophone flying over the urbanized post-modern soundscape quickly. Rosemboom's gliding trumpet is framed by excellent drumming soon taking over, and giving the whole spectacle and action movie soundtrack vibe. Electric piano and yearning horns in unison converge over an understated beat on "Green Moon." The performance builds a dynamic drive between carefully constructed sections and moments of abandon, where the horns cry out and the drums push the action continuously forward. "Obsidian Butterfly" melds abstract electronics to meet crushing volume allowing the horns to enter and the stack to gather steam. Moments of uncomfortable rawness resolve into a gritty full band improvisation that grinds against the wheel and a heavyweight conclusion. Overall this was an impressive album, Rosemboom is a memorable trumpet player and writes interesting situations to improvise upon. He's equally comfortable in electronic fusion, post-bop or large ensemble work, and leads a cast of dozens with a keen hand. Absurd In The Anthropocene -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Albert Ayler Trio - 1964: Prophecy Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2020)

Recorded at the Cellar Cafe in New York City in June of 1964, the music presented here is simply devastating, with the trio of Albert Ayler on tenor tenor saxophone, Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums providing a foundational text that would go on to influence generations of musicians. This was originally released as a single LP in 1975 and according to Brian Olewnick's excellent liner notes, but Murray wasn't happy with that album, and had higher quality recordings of his own that eventually became this album with the full approval of the Ayler estate. Regardless, the music is otherworldly, and one can only imagine what it must have sounded like to listeners at the time. Ayler is playing his repertoire of themes that he stuck to for the majority of his career, short simple motifs that echoed early jazz, deep blues and speaking in tongues type spirituality. These themes are not only memorable but they also offered the best springboards for launching the band into the kind of unfettered free jazz that they were best known for. The group has amazing stamina, playing at their highest level for over and hour and a quarter on three versions of the extraordinary “Ghosts” where Ayler not only takes the memorable thematic statement and derives two different versions of the song as well as a reprise, but is able to build different improvisations from each performance of the song, with the theme providing just enough guidance for the group to take off and explore different dimensions each time. The trio plays together beautifully throughout the concert, with Peacock deftly moving between bowing and plucking the bass in a virtuoso manner and Murray’s drumming seemingly everywhere at once, but never overwhelming the music, proving that it isn’t just brute force that drives a free jazz band but empathy and generosity as well. Further proof can be found during their performances “Wizard” (twice) and “Spirits.” Where Ayler’s yearning and haunting control over his horn allows the music to take on a unique feeling, as the tempos become faster and the musicians converse on protean collective improvisations. This is a very special disc, presenting all of the music recorded that evening except for one track excised due to time constraints. The mastering is excellent giving the music a very immediate and visceral sound that perfectly matches the contents. 1964: Prophecy Revisited - Squidco

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Tim Berne's Snakeoil - The Fantastic Mrs. 10 (Intakt Records, 2020)

This is the sixth album by alto saxophonist Tim Berne's wonderful band Snakeoil, and the first one to add guitarist Marc Ducret to the ensemble. This rest of the talented group is rounded out with Matt Mitchell piano, tack piano and modular synths, Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet, b flat clarinet and Ches Smith on drums, vibes, glockenspiel and Haitian tanbou. "The Fantastic Mrs. 10" opens the album with a bouncy joyous horn theme, allowing the rest of band to storm in uptempo, as clarinet and piano engage with snarls of guitar in a very complex interplay. There are longer waves of saxophone amid thunderous percussion, then piano and strangled guitar electronics pushing a huge and impressive alto saxophone solo. Guitar and piano slow the pace across a dreamy soundscape that grows alternately harsher and more melodic. The full band finally comes together in a very colorful fashion, playing fast and true to the end. Spare piano with vibes alternating dark and light opens "Surface Noise," and the music becomes more complex as further instruments like saxophone are added. The speed becomes near manic, a cacophony of sound before gradually resolving into an excellent collective improvisation. Clarinet breaks out with guitar to slow things into an abstract setting, where sheer piercing electric guitar is met by reed responses, both saxophone and clarinet. The music is free and open with raw saxophone cries and dark piano chords, eventually regaining momentum and making a full on dash with the full band at very high speed. "Roto" uses a choppy theme that grows fast and intricate, and it's unbelievable how the musicians can stick together at such a fast tempo, before breaking out into alto saxophone and excellent drumming focus, an excellent duo throwdown. Mad sounding musical shards and dark piano figures, squalls of reeds, thick bed of rhythm creates a wild combination of sounds in the midsection. Piano and guitar develop interplay, opening up the music to breathe before closing with a bang. Percussion and guitar creates an abstract setup, and piano adds dark touches to "The Amazing Mr. 7" launching a vibrant improvisation; and the reeds fold in cleanly as the sleek and powerful full band song reaches full flight. Strong piano chords and hand percussion push Berne's alto saxophone into orbit, with clarinet close watch. "Third Option" is an epic track where reeds mix, twist and turn around each other, while piano and drums enter, swirling increasing complexity for fascinating full group interplay, sounding bright and fast. The music is very colorful and exciting with the electric guitar adding even more energy to the mix. There is then a shift into a spacier section snarls of guitar and imposing piano chords, sounding abstract and free with tumbling percussion added followed by raw gales of saxophone. The band has delivered another excellent album, using composition and improvisation, creating acoustic jazz with just the right jolt of electricity to keep things fresh and inspired throughout. The Fantastic Mrs. 10 -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Ross Hammond - Our Place On The Wheel (Ross Hammond, 2020)

This is a fascinating interlude between free jazz and deep blues that moves into a slipstream area beyond genre that is not so easily pinned down. Alto saxophonist Oliver Lake is a wily veteran, one who has been through the BAG Collective in St. Louis, joining the World Saxophone Quartet and Trio 3 in addition wonderful solo career. Mike Pride is an excellent drummer and label head who is active in the fertile New York jazz scene, and the bandleader in Ross Hammond, a very talented guitarist and composer who can play jazz blues and music from around the world with equal skill. All of these elements come into play here for music that is full of adventure, based in the blues but ranging far and wide. “Mosaic” has beautiful slide guitar playing probing the open space, stretching and setting the scene as the percussion slowly enters developing a mysterious vibe. Lake's saxophone is naked and unadorned playing short lines and phrases, as the drumming and guitar become more urgent. The collective improvisation is torrid and then breaks dynamically into squalls of sound, then long longing tones of saxophone and slide, reaching out in and emotionally resonant manner. The title track, “Our Place on the Wheel,” builds gradually, with yearning, very human tones of saxophone giving the music a deep spiritual sound framed by Pride's chimes and Hammond's subtle guitar. Lake's tone is raw and haunting, cutting to the bone and fearlessly searching for the truth in his music. The music is patient and thoughtful, with each member of the trio adding just the right amount of sound to carry this unusual and spectral music forward, with Hammond's slide sounding otherworldly in this light, followed by long cries of saxophone and crisp drumming coming like a defiant cry against the darkness. “Gratitude” is shaded with spare slide guitar, quiet and comforting after the somewhat harrowing journey that made up much of the album, aided by soft cymbals. Then things shift to a sharper focus of shimmering guitar, long tones of saxophone that rise and fall like a defiant call, while shaken percussion that adds an excellent touch to the overall sound of the performance. The music takes off and really flies with gliding slide guitar, deeply rhythmic drumming and tremendous saxophone interjections leading to a soaring finish. This album has an unusual sound that may take you a few listens to get acclimated to, but when it does the music can give you chills. Hammond writes in the notes that the album's themes were built from the sounds of blues masters like Charley Patton and Fred McDowell, but melded into a jazz format. Everything was on the album was a first take with no overdubs, demonstrating the amount of trust that the musicians had in one another. It was a very courageous album to make, but one that paid very high dividends for all concerned. Our Place on the Wheel -

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Drive-By Truckers - The Unraveling (ATO Records, 2020)

Over twenty years since their foundation. The Drive-By Truckers remain one of the finest straight up rock 'n' roll bands in the United States. This version of the band consists of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley on guitar and vocals, Brad Morgan on bass, Matt Patton on drums, and Jay Gonzalez on keyboards and  guitars. They have never been shy in the past about speaking out about social and political issues that have been controversial, and this album continues the trend, melding thought provoking lyrics to gritty rootsy rock music. The unusually somber opener, “Rosemary With a Bible and a Gun” incorporates subdued playing and a subtle touch of strings, as it looks at the American south, the middle and the working class, transient and on the move, name checking the great photographer William Eggleston who chronicled southern life, but where there once was hope now where is there is only unease and uncertainty as people look for the comfort of religion or even violence. "Armageddon’s Back In Town" is a blistering rocker, something you might expect for a gotcha leadoff track, with scouring guitars and powerhouse drumming. The sense of desperation in the lyrics is the key to the performance, the feeling of just barely hanging on by your fingernails and a feeling of guilt and shame for deeds done or perceived, and a foreboding sense that the other shoe is about to drop no matter what. The brutal retelling of the Parkland, Florida high school mass shooting that begins “Thoughts and Prayers” is strong medicine, and the words are spoken clearly against an acoustic almost folky / protest song backdrop. Linking the politicians who refuse gun control to flat earth theorists is witty, and the band clearly means business, although the song may lack in shading and nuance, telling politicians to stick it up their ass is gratifying, but an easy way out. “Heroin Again” is a tighter and more successful song, because members of the band past and present have either struggled with the drug or know people who have. The strong music and lyrics mesh well, referring obliquely to famous overdoses in the past, and asking the characters in the song if they knew the risk they were facing when chasing that drug's fleeting reward. Another political number, “Babies in Cages” refers to the internment camps on the US southern border where migrant children are kept in often appalling conditions. Short verses make for a pithy and effective song, laying out the frustrations and sense of hopelessness that citizens feel when they see these pictures on TV or the internet. This may not be one of their best albums, but it does deserve respect, few bands are so willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves in such a fashion and take chances with losing fans by taking such a political stance. The Unraveling -

Send comments to Tim.

Aly Keita / Jan Galega Bronnimann / Lucas Niggli - Kalan Teban (Intakt Records, 2020)

Aly Keïta, Jan Galega Brönnimann, Lucas Niggli come together to produce a fascinating album of world jazz, that pulses with interesting swirling bands of sound and improvisation. While this can be considered an unusual combination of instruments in jazz, it makes for an exotic sounding album that is very enjoyable. The band consists of Keita on balafon, which is a large xylophone with hollow gourds as resonators, normally used in West African music. Brönnimann plays bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet and soprano saxophone, and Lucas Niggli is on drums. It is the sound of these instruments playing together that is so alluring, the balafon has a lighter sound than might be found in traditional jazz instruments like the vibraphone with much less of a ringing sustaining sound. This higher pitched and slightly rounded sound meshes very well with the lower tones of Brönnimann's bass and contrabass clarinet, with the light and shade created by those two instruments creating passages of wonderfully colorful improvisation. Niggli's percussion adds even more rhythmic possibilities that allow the performances to flow in unexpected directions as the musicians come together for complex improvisations. The music can be hypnotically beautiful, spiraling out in melodic formations, whether supporting one another, flying free on their own or improvising as a team they are always in excellent formation. "Djafa-Nema" is an excellent example with an urgent and repetitive theme first developed on the balafon, then spread to bass clarinet and percussion, which then moves into a fast and fleet collective improvisation that involves each of the three members of the group playing at their peak. Brönnimann solos confidently as the other two musicians develop a complex percussive rhythm behind him, and the music is able to develop dynamically as Keita's solo evolves organically out of the music that they had been creating. Niggli has room for a muscular drum solo that is framed by his two colleagues and serves to drive the music to a very successful conclusion. The balafon is a beautiful instrument with a wonderful tone and sound that deserves to be used more often in jazz, and hopefully the success of this this album will serve to turn some heads and see it incorporated into more ensembles. Keïta’s plays the instrument with great confidence and clarity, and his bandmates are no less powerful in their respective instruments, coming together to make very enjoyable music. This was a very good album, which demonstrates another path available for jazz music to grow, by inviting and investigating the music that is all around the world,  broadening minds to the limitless possibilities of improvised music. Kalan Teban -

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis featuring Wayne Shorter - The Music of Wayne Shorter (Blue Engine Records, 2020)

This album was recorded in 2015, as the honoree was sitting in on soprano and tenor saxophone, with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis. The members of the orchestra arranged his compositions for the large ensemble from a cross section of his career, although most were written in the first decade of Shorter's career, when he was an enfant terrible, writing amazing compositions and turning heads while playing with Art Blakey, Miles Davis and producing an epic run of solo records for Blue Note. On this album he is presented more as the éminence grise, receiving fealty from the younger musicians who have learned by playing with him or by learning his compositions. “Hammer Head” has a fast and punchy big band intro, its girth working in its favor this time, developing a swaggering swing that is like a fat man waddling with purpose down a crowded sidewalk. Nimble saxophone breaks out for a deft solo section, backed by a subtle rhythm section gradually framed by some of the other horns and handing off to a compatriot who develops a more complex statement out of the raw material provided. The music simmers down a bit for a milder trombone led interlude, eventually engulfed by the riffing whole group, and returns to the more urgent lead melody that struts proudly out. “Endangered Species” has a complex theme that is drawn out and expanded upon, with strong interplay among the musicians of the orchestra and soon a soprano saxophone emerges to fly above the undulating horns and piano led rhythm team. The music is patient and dynamic allowing the energy to flow with the soprano soaring high with an unusual pitch at times that takes the music to unexpected places and breaks up the buttoned down mood before yielding to more intricate full band play. “Lost” uses sharp descending peals of horns leading to subtle rich tones, mixing and melding at a medium tempo, with a saxophone gradually peeking out, and developing an open ended solo, gradually adding darting and juking figures as the master's solo becomes quite powerful in its own right, twisting and turning in an always unpredictable manner. There's a spare trumpet and bass interlude that works quite well, slowly growing as more instruments are added and the band returns to its full might before coming in for a landing. This was a solidly done project, it is always a treat to hear the music of Wayne Shorter, especially when the man himself is given a chance at the wheel. Perhaps this was a little overlong at ninety minutes, Shorter's spots are lovely, but there are passages for the big band that things start to drag. The Music of Wayne Shorter -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Kuzu - Purple Dark Opal (Aerophonic Records, 2020)

This is the third album in three years for this very talented trio and they go from strength to strength in making even more excellent and exploratory music as time goes by. The band consists of Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Tashi Dorji on guitar and Tyler Damon on drums and percussion. This album is made up of one massive fifty-five minute improvisation that was recorded in October of 2018 in Milwaukee. The music swells dramatically ebbing and flowing through series of massive squalls of loud and fast free jazz but also music that breaks into subtle interactions of graceful musicianship. Tyler Damon opens the album with some unaccompanied percussion and has the spotlight for a drum solo much later in the recording that is very impressive, and he is also the engine room when the music rises into the stratosphere. Rempis uses all of his saxophones within the context of a lengthy collective free improvisation, moving through them seamlessly like Sam Rivers would in his classic trio concerts of the 1970's. Dori is a very interesting player, not based in jazz, but in noise and abstract rock, allowing him to bring a fresh approach to this improvised sound, incorporating slashes and jolts of electricity that can weave into the groups sound or disrupt the music, sending the music into fresh and unexplored territory. This album is the culmination of a lengthy tour the band did in the autumn of 2018, and you can tell by listening to them how strong the musical bonds had become. Everybody listens and reacts to each other, taking cues to alter the tempo and range of the improvisation on the fly, as their individual sounds meld together into one genuinely identifiable group sound and identity. Using quieter cells of abstract improvisation as a breather from the full out fire music works well, as Dorji scrapes and strums his guitar, building and abstract soundscape alongside clattering percussion. Long bellows of music fly as the group's creativity soars, returning to a trio collective improvisation that is moving at high speed, creating immediate and physical saxophone playing pushed by glowing shards of electric guitar and deeply rhythmic drumming. Everything comes together for an epic performance, the musicians take everything they have learned from weeks together on the road and from their previous recordings together and played their guts out here laying everything on the line and coming out on top with a stellar performance and one of the best albums of the new year. Purple Dark Opal - Aerophonic Records Bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Evan Parker and Paul Lytton - Collective Calls (Revisited) (Jubilee) (Intakt Records, 2020)

Marking fifty years playing and recording together, Evan Parker on tenor saxophone and Paul Lytton on drums and percussion met in Chicago for this studio session, using it like research laboratory, but instead on smashing neutrinos in a particle accelerator, they combined their instruments and experience to excellent effect. (All title punctuation is as intended) “... The Dissent, That Began With The Quakers?...” Builds gradually with open brushes and long spare saxophone tones, responding to each other and gaining volume. Parker uses some impressive circular breathing aided by percussive flurries to develop a wild improvisation with brushes and flat out tenor saxophone that is very exciting. Open percussion sounds and flapping soft saxophone usher in “... Confused About England.” The swirls of saxophone grow in complexity and speed and this is met by an increase in dexterity on percussion, with the the two combining for a fast and fluid improvisation. “England Feels Very Remote To Me.” develops from tenor saxophone and percussion in space, with the music again ramping up with the tension coming from the saxophone and drums equally, pushing faster with tough, ruddy saxophone and relentless cymbal playing. Lytton gets a fascinating array of sounds from his drums on “Alfreda Was Always Especially Cordial To Me ... (Dedicated To Alfreda Benge)” as his brushes and cymbals meet Parker's tenor saxophone to create a whirling and shimmering performance. Sustained cymbal sounds and curled and dark figures of saxophone lead the music to darker territory upon conclusion. “... Becoming Transfigured ...” shows Lytton developing another percussion fantasia, playing gracefully with nothing forced or overdone. This is offset by Parker's circular motifs of saxophone, resolving into harsh squalls met by sharp rounds of cymbal fire leading to a coarse ground improvisation. Soft saxophone sounds and light percussion develop quite dramatically on “The Bonfires On Hampstead Heath.” building to a tapestry of saxophone techniques and fluttery percussion. Fast waves of drumming is met by unexpectedly subtle reed playing that soon drops the hammer and embarks on high octane duo free jazz. “What Has It Become Entangled With Now?" has a lone cymbal blast as the starting point as Parker and Lytton carefully construct an improvised setting that has a majestic quality to it. The music becomes very rapid, with wonderful shifting percussive rhythms and the saxophone responding with a heavy scouring tone, displaying two masters playing to their strengths. Sharp curling saxophone saxophone and and steely drums mark “... A Little Perplexing …” Lytton sound like a whole percussion section, coming from everywhere at once, while Parker plants his feet and remains stoic throughout the storm, making for a fascinating mixture of styles. "How Tight Knit Was England Then!" has a gong like processional percussion hit, followed by probing saxophone with more raw peals and disjointed drums. This is is resolved into an epic cymbal beat, and bleating wounded animal saxophone sound. The music is raw in tone, coming together, stretched tight with extraordinary tension. Soft percussion leads a slow buildup on "... Beheading Their Own King …" with a buildup of friction between the instruments. Parker achieves a pure tenor tone along with drums that come down hard creating an interaction between the instruments that is intricate with a surprisingly abstract ending. Finally, "Each Thing, The One, The Other And Both Together Would Amount To The Truth." has cymbal flashes and long tones of saxophone, staying low to the ground with a harsh wrenched tone. Lytton increases the rhythm and Parker uses circular breathing again to create a fascinating soundscape with which to end this very impressive album. Collective Calls (Revisited) (Jubilee) -

Send comments to Tim.