Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia, 2020)

Given his advancing age and penchant for the Great American Songbook, many fans had despaired that they would not hear another album of his original songs from Bob Dylan during his lifetime. But with the surprise release of a seventeen minute epic, news soon came of a full length release. This is a strong album of witty and thoughtful lyrics backed by tasteful and for the most part understated music that suits the wordplay very well. The opening track "I Contain Multitudes" is deceptively quiet, up until Dylan starts throwing lyrical bombs, comparing himself to Anne Frank and name checking The Rolling Stones, while alluding to secrets that Edgar Allan Poe and William Blake would admire, and toting pistols and knives like the very Stagolee of legend. "My Own Vision Of You" is a leering piece of wonder, where Dylan makes the most of what is left of his voice to land a whopper about building his own woman, Victor Frankenstein style. Taking inspiration from film, music and history, his deceptively genial singing looks for just the right place to put the knife in, while the music sways a cockeyed and disorienting waltz. The following track, "I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You" is the exact opposite, where Dylan takes what he has learned from making three albums of American Songbook material, and sings a genuine and unironic love song backed by the gentlest accompaniment. "Goodbye Jimmy Reed' is a swaggering blues rocker, using the late bluesman as an opening into a song that weds stomping drums and some nasty electric guitar to lyrics that that take a sly swipe at religion and morality. They return to this steady mid-tempo shuffle for "Crossing the Rubicon" historically where Julius Caesar made his intention of conquering Rome known to the senate. For Dylan, the lyrics move into a more revelatory spiritual frame, one of having to pass through great turmoil and strife before finding peace and contentment. The final track was the first released a month before the album, the monumental "Murder Most Foul." Bob Dylan is no stranger to lengthy songs, early in his career, he created monumental epics like "Desolation Row," "Visions of Joanna" and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" where the words seemed to flow like water from pure spring. As great as 1997's Time Out of Mind album was the album's sixteen minute closer "Highlands" seemed more like getting lost in the fields of Scotland and the fourteen minute retelling of the sinking of the Titanic that was the title track to Tempest dragged as well. So what could he do with a seventeen minute stream pf consciousness track? Quite a bit, actually. It is ostensibly about the assassination of John Kennedy, but he also thinks long and hard about the social impact of the murder. The Beatles are in the wings, but Dylan is reciting American musicians from John Lee Hooker to Charlie Parker to the Eagles. It's strange, rambling and unlike anything he's done, presenting in lyrical form a tipping point in time that had vast consequences for all that came after it. This was a very good album, one you definitely need to sit with for a while to be sure, but one that rewards repeated listenings. Dylan has nothing to prove, hardly cares if people scoff, so has the freedom to take chances with his lyrics that a younger musician might not dare, and these chances pay off splendidly. Rough and Rowdy Ways -

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Monday, July 27, 2020

Brom - Dance With an Idiot (Trost, 2020)

Coming off a powerhouse 2018 album Sunstroke, it's interesting to hear the Russian band Brom broaden their sound and move from not just fire breathing free jazz (though there certainly is that at times) into a group that is using dynamics, varied textures and strains of light and shade to create a more artistic performance. The band consists of Dmitry Lapshin on bass, Anton Ponomarev on saxophone, Felix Mikensky on electronics and Bogdan Ivlev on drums. "Salty Peanuts" even uses the great Dizzy Gillespie bebop classic as a starting point, taking the familiar theme and pushing it into the stratosphere and then developing a complex full band improvisation from this classic wellspring. The opening track "Demons" shows that they still know how to leave a mark and can rip and tear just as well as any punk band you can care to name. The electric bass and ferocious drums are locked in tight and Ponomarev's saxophone leaves no mercy. The title track "Dance With an Idiot" is particularly interesting, with a theme that weaves a particular cockeyed cadence akin to a a dancer with two left feet. Mikensky's electronics add interesting tones to the music as well, at times playing the straight man with organ like sounds, but other times shadowing other instruments, particularly Lapshin's bass, opening up wider musical vistas for the group in their improvisations. This album worked well, it is great to hear the group to evolve and challenge themselves, adding aspects of progressive rock and experimental electronic music to their expanding palate and it will be very interesting to see where they go from here. Dance WIth An Idiot -

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Broken Shadows - Live (Screwgun Records, 2020)

Named after an Ornette Coleman composition, the band Broken Shadows is made up of Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Chris Speed on tenor saxophone, Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums. Working at the intersection of knotty composition and free improvisation, this performance was recorded live in a small club, opening with Coleman's "Humpty Dumpty" as the horns dive into the theme amid the ambient club noise, and the music swings with thick bass, and soloing saxophone, while light agile drumming completes the scene. Moving to the more tart sounding alto saxophone, Berne digs in deeper and pushes at the edges of the song, creating a tightly wound and impressive solo aided by compelling heavy drumming. "Toy Dance" has a super fast theme of cascading notes, then Berne takes off on a daredevil solo with excellent bass and drums along side. Very fast and relentless as the music drives forward in a tumult of saxophone and drums held together with stoic bass. Speed is a little more laid back, exploring tones and gathering steam, more cerebral but no less intense, and King adds a punishing drum solo to the proceedings. Charlie Haden's "Song for Che" gets a lovely solo bass opening displaying Anderson's patient and resonant style. The horns offer a yearning, spacious saxophone feel, performing in conjunction and creating with each other in fine fashion, ending with more fine bass playing. "Walls Bridges" by Dewey Redman has an explosive opening, sounding collectively free, gutsy tenor saxophone clashing with crashing drums, sounds truly alive, with speed and focus. Berne comes in one fire, at his most caustic, tearing the very air, goaded by the torrential bass and drums into an apocalyptic trio free jazz improvisation. "C.O.D." has a rich, complex theme that is dynamic and allows for an exciting bass and drums rhythm, and fast and driven tenor saxophone response. Wonderful trio improvisation which is rapid and complex and vivid, with the music seething with energy and excitement, almost too exciting as the saxophones raise in pitch in a hair raising moment before returning to the melody and then out. Their theme song "Broken Shadows" takes the band in a different direction, playing longer saxophone tones and bowed bass a marked difference, where texture and tone are the driving forces, and the saxophones peek out alongside the long bass tones, lightest percussion, while silence and space play a large part. The concert concludes with a version on "Dogon A.D.," leaning into the melody of the great Hemphill composition, contrasting light and shade, the saxophones weave through each other like the master craftsmen they are creating a very colorful and arresting performance. Broken Shadows Live - Screwgun Records

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Charlie Parker - The Birth Of BeBop, Celebration Bird At 100 Selections From The DIAL and SAVOY Recordings (ezz-thetics, 2020)

While many of the events planned to celebrate the centennial of the birth of the great saxophonist Charlie Parker had to be cancelled given the current calamity, here's one that could go ahead. Two discs, one remastering performances from each of Parker's first two record labels, Savoy and Dial, consisting of mostly studio recordings when he was young and seemingly superhuman, pioneering the new jazz sub-genre of bebop, and paving the way for decades of small group jazz to come. Volume one contains tracks from the Dial record label, recorded in Hollywood in 1946 and 1947 and New York City in 1947. The California recordings occurred after a poorly received west coast tour with Dizzy Gillespie led to him being institutionalized briefly and afterwards recording the memorable track "Relaxin' at Camarillo." After returning to New York City, Parker formed a great band with Miles Davis on trumpet, Duke Jordan on piano, Tommy Potter on bass and Max Roach on drums. Three sessions from WOR Studios are presented here with Parker playing original themes and a few popular songs at a very high level. Volume Two presents selections from the Savoy label, which were done in short sessions from 1945-1948. He plays with a range of musicians including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, Bud Powell and Max Roach. Several of Parker's most well known melodies are presented in this collection, such as "Koko" and "Donna Lee" and the searing "Thriving From a Riff." The studio sessions are rounded out with some explosive Parker and Gillespie live recordings from Carnegie Hall, 1947 where the principals play lights out on  Dizzy classics like "A Night in Tunisia" and "Groovin' High." These discs are excellent Charlie Parker compilations, from the selection of songs to the state of the art remastering of the recordings by Peter Pfister, who lends Parker's astonishing saxophone playing additional clarity. However, both albums will be issued as limited collectors editions, due to licensing restrictions by Getty Images on the iconic photograph by William Gottlieb used as the cover photo on these discs. DIAL Recordings - Squidco
SAVOY Recordings - Squidco 

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy - The Coalescence (ESP, 2020)

The free jazz band Owl Xounds made considerable waves as performers and recording artists on the fertile early 2000's New York City scene, and this album takes it's material from an unreleased 2007 studio session. The band consists of Adam Kriney on drums, Gene Janas and Shayna Dulberger on bass and Mario Rechtern on saxophones, electronics and various objects. The opening track "Distillation" has abstract ominous underwater like sounds rumbling, as the drums and bass come alive, playing fast and hard. Two bases plus shrill squalls of saxophone make for an exciting full bore free jazz collective improvisation that is raw and true. The band uses unfettered sound in dynamic ways, as sawing bowed bass and multi rhythmic drums keep the music fresh, while keeping the sound space open to any available idea. Scouring saxophone returns taking the quartet back into the deep seated free jazz realm once again, and finally to an abrupt conclusion. "Cavernous Ode" fades into to stark and jagged improvisation with slashing drums and soaring unfettered saxophone anchored by the two basses. Rechtern's saxophone hits high peaks amid deft cymbal play, and crushing drums as they two encourage each other to greater heights. There is a dynamic drop in volume, leading to a section of abstraction, where fast bass playing, and probing saxophone, begin to climb back up in volume and tone, trading of ideas in an open space with the drone of bowed bass keeping watch. Heavy drums with pinched play off against a pinched sounding reed, with the basses underneath, and the band reaches a terrific speed and sounds fantastic doing so, in control, but clearly reaching for the unknown without fear. A mix of bass and percussion, little instruments opens "Aghast at Last" before raw and piercing saxophone cuts through the elastic bass and drums, and the band sounds absolutely fearsome, pushing forward in and undaunted manner, performing collective improvisation at a very high level. Some space opens up between the instruments, allowing a little room to breathe, as the saxophone and drums joust, framed by the basses, and it's just pedal to the metal, exhausting but thrilling. There is a fine section for bass and drums and use of shakers and odd instruments for added texture, deeply woven and atmospheric leading to a fade out closure. This was a very good album of free jazz, the band plays with plenty of bravado and isn't afraid to break free of convention and try different things and go their own way. This is a limited edition vinyl (and digital download) release pressed quickly for the musicians to have releases to sell during the pandemic. Free jazz fans should act fast before it sells out. Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy - The Coalescence - Bandcamp

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Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - Just Coolin' (Blue Note, 2020)

This is a previously unreleased album from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, recorded in March of 1959. The great drummer leads an all-star cast consisting of Lee Morgan on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass. The opening track "Hipsippy Blues" has a mellow and swinging theme and Mobley launching into a steely tenor saxophone solo with Blakey providing a crisp backbeat behind him. Mobley unfurls a fine lengthy statement, taking his time and letting the music flow through him in an unhurried fashion. Morgan seems a little tentative at first but pushes through, prodded by Blakey. The rhythm team plays at a lighter tone, with a light touch from the piano, fine bass and subtle beat from the leader taking them back to the closing theme. The group uses a gentler, more urgent theme on "Close Your Eyes," one which gradually unfolds, with Morgan delving into a much more assured solo, playing with great power and tone, carving through his improvised solo in an impressive fashion. Mobley takes a cooler path, quoting Ellington briefly, and engaging with Blakey's dynamic drumming. Timmons is light and spare, with Blakey shifting to brushes for an elegant trio section, and carving room for a fine bass solo before the band returns to the theme. "Jimerick" comes out swinging with a lightning fast Timmons piano section, followed by the horns joining in a witty fashion. Morgan takes off with a spitfire solo met by Blakey's fiercest percussion, and he is a gas during this brief feature. Timmons is also a riot playing at speed with his light touch, and Mobley's interlude is ripe and pure sound at bebop speed. Blakey builds up to a exceptional drum solo, slashing across the kit in grand style, the cherry on top of one of the album's best tracks. "Quick Trick" is a bright and swinging tune with subtle piano shadings, and light horn commentary. Morgan breaks out, with punchy trumpet lines that arc across the rhythm section, and Mobley adds his thoughts with a well articulated short featured section. A more propulsive groove is used on "M and M" with the bass really pushing and Mobley responding with a rapid and well expressed tenor saxophone solo. Morgan takes the baton and continues the push, playing with speed and well controlled grace as Blakey encourages him forward. Timmons' fast and loose piano feature keeps the pace, over taut bass and drums, then Blakey trades heavy loud phrases with his horn players in an exciting manner. "Just Coolin''' lets the band loose on a more complex theme, that encourages Mobley to make a well defined statement that sounds just right for the setting, stretching out at length. Morgan is comfortable in this setting as well, playing with confidence and riding atop a wave of percussion. Merritt steps out for another well played bass feature, before the leader gets his own with a great and rhythmically diverse drum solo. This is a good solid album of hard-hop from the musicians that made the sub-genre happen. The group was in flux with Wayne Shorter waiting in the wings to take the saxophone chair and Blue Note recording the group for a live album just a month after this session. So although it may have gotten lost in the shuffle, this album is still well worth hearing. Just Coolin' -

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Friday, July 17, 2020

The Engines - Wooden Legs (Aerophonic Records, 2020)

This is a powerful and well recorded 2011 concert from The Hideout in Chicago by The Engines which consists of Jeb Bishop on trombone and electronics Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Nate McBride on bass and Tim Daisy on drums. The band were working to meld composition into their improvisation, and it makes for a fascinating concert as themes and melodies emerge without warning. The opening "High and Low" has an interesting meeting of saxophone and brass with skittish drums, looking for purchase like veteran mountain climbers. Gathering momentum with excellent interplay between the instruments, the saxophone develops a raw and coarse tone to play off against the trombone which takes a more direct and pointed approach, building to an atmospheric and blustery solo. Coming together with the elastic bass and drums which support a powerful free saxophone solo from Rempis, who is really pushing hard and sounding inspired. Intertwining horns met with long dark tones of bowed bass makes for an interesting interlude, as spacious percussion frames the action. The horns bow out for a bowed bass and percussion section, spacious and abstract, and after a spell they return with a nimble and light theme. Rempis flies on alto, with quick flurries of notes, then handing off to Bishop for commentary. The medley "Cascades / Gloxinia / Wine Dark Sea" has saxophone in space, free to roam, with the other instruments gradually folding in. Bishop adds electronics to the proceedings which gives the music a jolt, and offers new vistas to explore. He returns to trombone for an invigorating thematic statement for the band, and taking an excellent solo as the band develops a nearly swinging feel at times, leading to a fleet and nimble drum solo. This long tune takes its time while developing, and the musicians have patience and experience playing together. There is a return to the electronics which are deftly woven into the fabric of the music, adding to the overall texture, providing a foil as Rempis dives into a deep and complex saxophone solo. A bass solo is very well articulated in open space, leading to another light and airy section of collective improvisation. There's a massive half hour blowout on "Wine Dark Sea / Next Question" with the first half of the medley anchored by some inspired collective improvisation as the players bounce ideas off of one another and allow room for ideas to take hold and flourish. The group will break out into smaller units, trios and duos to further explore the themes, and leaving room for inspiration, like an epic drum solo, to strike. An interlude of mellow and swinging jazz that wouldn't sound out of place at the Green Mill is presented to excellent effect, but soon they heed the call to adventure and they music becomes much more robust leading into the second part of the medley. Ecstatic electronics and horns create and alien soundscape, aided by bowed bass, and agile percussion, creating highly experimental music on the cutting edge. Bishop returns to trombone for a mournful passage yoked to low toned bowed bass and drums. The final track is "The Nutmeg of Consolation" with a bright and bouncy thematic statement this is a pleasure to hear, making way for a vibrant saxophone solo supported by taut bass and drums. A storming trombone led section follows as the band is somehow still full of energy at this point, coming together for the conclusion of this excellent concert. Wooden Legs - Aerophonic Records Bandcamp

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Hedvig Mollestad - Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon, 2020)

Well regarded electric guitarist Hedvig Mollestad was given a commission to write original music for the 2019 Norwegian Vossajazz Festival. This led her to produce and record some some inspired music for a different group than her well regarded trio, a band consisting of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Torstein Lofthus on drums, Marte Eberson and Erlend Slettevoll on keyboards and synth and Ole Mofjell on percussion. "A Stone's Throw" has heavy hard rock riffing to open with some pummeling drums, and trumpet bubbling up. The pace is lightning fast for very exciting electric guitar and punchy trumpet over a bed of powerhouse drumming making for a potent performance. Yet the group is dynamic, stretching time and space like taffy, entering a psychedelic section that bends and curves appealingly. But the big guitar riffs are the bedrock that they return to, anchoring the music in the firmament. The music is rich and colorful, even more so with the addition of electric piano splashing neon around the scene, then returning to the main theme with a scalding guitar solo to lead us out. There is a towering electric guitar introduction to "Antilone," fast and urgent, leading into a rapid and chugging section with motoring drums and guitar, moving relentlessly forward like an avalanche or landslide. Sliva is given an opening for lush trumpet, that is enfolded into the overall action as lightning strikes of guitar emerge from the tumult. Raw peals of brass create new and interesting textures for the group to employ, as an interesting improvised section for rhythmic percussion and jabs of guitar breaks out. This leads back to a collective improvisation that is very impressive with the band staking out a type of prog/jazz that is very interesting and original, with Mollstead playing some just extraordinary guitar. "Ekhidna" has a stark and attention grabbing guitar theme, with the drums jumping in immediately, setting a heavy vibe, that is lightened by the trumpet. The music flirts with cinematic motifs, branching out into hand percussion and pinched trumpet leading into a very powerful Silva solo amid volcanic drums and percussion. They dynamically shift to a scene of abstract guitar and electronics with percussive interjections, which takes the bands improvisation in a completely new direction, before somehow finding their way back to the theme for a quick ending. This album worked very well, showing another side of Hedvig Mollestad's musical talent, demonstrating her compositional prowess along with her superhuman guitar playing. Ekhidna -

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Redman / Mehldau / McBride / Blade - Round Again (Nonesuch, 2020)

This new record is from the collaborative group of Joshua Redman on tenor and soprano saxophone, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, and Brian Blade on drums. All of these musicians have gone on to fame as bandleaders and in-demand sidemen, but back in 1994 at the height of the young lions movement they were The Joshua Redman Quartet. Coming back together with twenty five more years of experience is an interesting feat, with the fiery spirit of youth tempered by hard won knowledge and wisdom. “Moe Honk” is a Brad Mehldau composition, where his ascending piano frees up space for Redman’s rising saxophone flurries. They echo each other nicely amid cymbal splashes before the saxophone breaks out, developing a witty solo, flush with ideas that germinate within his improvisation at high speed, while the rhythm section supports and encourages. Redman plays very fast, with an appealing light tone, sounding very inspired before stepping aside for the piano, bass and drums team. They keep the pace fast, with motoring bass and drums, and piano adding rapid and fulsome sounds. The rhythm section sounds great together leading to McBride’s well earned bass solo, supported by gentle piano and percussion. Redman dives back in, restating the theme in tandem with Mehldau and then combining with the bass and drums for a safe landing to a fine performance. Redman’s tune “Right Back Round Again” shows the talent of the ensemble, where tight bass and drums, percussive piano and focused saxophone bring everything into view. The bouncy rhythm is very propulsive, allowing the saxophone to glide over the top and build a dynamic breathing solo which lifts the whole performance to a higher level. The full band collective improvisation is very sleek and works well, with each band member playing to the others strengths in a productive manner with no ego jousting. Light piano leads the rhythm section focused part of the performance, with well played soft percussion and bass framing the action. Finally, the full band comes together for a graceful return to the melody and conclusion. This album worked well, more than a celebratory anniversary lap, it shows that this configuration of musicians really has a spark, incorporating their shared history with their individual musical paths to excellent effect. RoundAgain -

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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Catalytic Sound Festival 2020

Catalytic Sound Festival 2020 will take place this weekend, July 10-12 in conjunction with ESS Quarantine Concerts. The festival will feature two programs each day of performances and new work from all 23 members of the Catalytic Sound Co-Op, plus numerous collaborators. There will also be discussion panels each afternoon at 3:00 p.m., on the relationship between the art and music worlds, the international spectrum of approaches in arts organizing, and the future of experimental music in this turbulent moment. You can see a preview of the festival website here. Check out the lineup below for more details. 

Suggested donation: $10 per program. All donations will go to the artists. Catalytic Sound is a music-based co-operative working to develop new economic models for experimental musicians.

SCHEDULE: All times PM, US Central Time

Friday July 10th 
Interstitial videos by Kim Alpert 

Program 1: 
1 Terrie Ex / Ab Baars / Ig Henneman 1:35 Jaap Blonk 
2 Ken Vandermark 2:25 Paal Nilssen-Love / Frode Gjerstad 
3 Discussion Panel 1 (Art/Music) with John Corbett, Ben Hall, Bonnie Jones. Moderated by Kim Alpert. 

Program 2: 
7 Sylvie Courvoisier 
7:25 Brandon Lopez 
7:50 Nate Wooley / Ikue Mori 
8:25 Fred Lonberg-Holm / Joe McPhee 

Saturday July 11th 
Interstitial videos by Patrick Cain 

Program 1: 
1 Elisabeth Harnik 
1:25 Icepick (Corsano / Håker Flaten / Wooley) 
2 Mats Gustafsson 
2:25 Terrie Ex / Andy Moor 
3 Discussion Panel 2 (DIY/Funding) with Terrie Ex, Luke Stewart, Joe Morris, Nate Cross (Astral Spirits Records). Moderated by Olivia Junell. 

Program 2: 
7 Tim Daisy & Dave Rempis 
7:35 Luke Stewart 
8 Joe McPhee 
8:25 Marker (Vandermark / Stewart / Clinkman / Marquette / Sudderberg) 

Sunday July 12th 
Interstitial videos by Federico Peñalva 

Program 1: 
1 Chris Corsano 
1:30 Susan Alcorn / Macie Stewart / Tim Daisy 
2:05 Ingebrigt Håker Flaten / Håkon Kornstad 
2:40 Mats Gustafsson / Jaap Blonk / Fred Lonberg-Holm 
3:15 Discussion Panel 3 (Where Are We Going?) with Andy Moor, Macie Stewart, Nate Wooley. Moderated by Ken Vandermark. 

Program 2: 
7 Ikue Mori 
7:25 Claire Rousay 
7:50 Ben Hall / Bonnie Jones / Luke Stewart 
8:25 Joe Morris

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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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