Monday, August 31, 2020

Full Blast - Farewell Tonic (Trost, 2020)

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

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

John Zorn - Baphomet (Tzadik, 2020)

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

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Ballister - Znachki Stilyag (Aerophonic Records, 2020)

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

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Threadbare - Silver Dollar (NoBusiness Records, 2020)

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

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

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

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

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

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

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

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Friday, August 14, 2020

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

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

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Thursday, August 13, 2020

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

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

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Sunday, August 09, 2020

Adam Caine Quartet - Transmissions (NoBusiness Records, 2020)

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

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Saturday, August 08, 2020

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

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

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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

2020 Downbeat Readers Poll

I cast a vote in the most recent Downbeat Readers Poll. These are difficult to complete in good times when recording and performing opportunities are flush, but in times of illness, race hatred and economic failure where musicians are just trying to stay alive to fight another day, these polls are thrown into deeper shade. Take them with a grain of salt, there are dozens of musicians playing at a super human level on any particular instrument, picking one is a personal preference that does nothing to denigrate the talent of the remaining artists. Finally, I had to cast a lot of write-in votes as Downbeat's suggested musicians in each category skewed toward the mainstream.

Hall of Fame: Sam Rivers (write-in)
Jazz Artist: Tim Berne (write-in)
Jazz Group: Broken Shadows (Berne/Speed/Anderson/King) (write-in)
Big Band: Large Unit (Paal Nilssen-Love) (write-in)
Jazz Album (Released June 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020): Anna Hogberg Attack - Lena (Omlott, 2020) (write-in)
Historical Album (Released June 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020): Sun Ra Arkestra - Heliocentric Worlds 1 and 2 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2020) (write-in)
Trumpet: Nate Wooley
Trombone: Jeb Bishop
Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome
Alto Saxophone: Rob Brown (write-in)
Tenor Saxophone: James Brandon Lewis (write-in)
Baritone Saxophone: Gary Smulyan
Clarinet: Oscar Noriega
Flute: Nicole Mitchell
Piano: Matthew Shipp
Keyboard: Jamie Saft
Organ: Brian Charette
Guitar: Hedvig Mollestad (write-in)
Bass: Brandon Lopez (write-in)
Electric Bass: Jasper Stadhouders (write-in)
Violin: Mark Feldman
Drums: Whit Dickey (write-in)
Vibes: Jason Adasiewicz
Percussion: Hamid Drake
Miscellaneous Instrument: David Murray (bass clarinet)
Male Vocalist: Dwight Trible
Female Vocalist: Moor Mother (write-in)
Composer: John Zorn
Arranger: Makaya McCraven
Record Label: Pi Recordings
Blues Artist or Group: Joe Louis Walker
Blues Album (Released June 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020) (blank)
Beyond Artist Or Group: Khruangbin
Beyond Album (Released June 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020) The Black Keys - Let's Rock

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Monday, August 03, 2020

Miles Okazaki - Trickster's Dream (Pi Recordings, 2020)

Like a lot of groups, guitarist Miles Okazaki's band Trickster, Matt Mitchell on piano, Anthony Tidd on bass and Sean Rickman on drums, had their 2020 tour cancelled due to health concerns. Not willing to fold his tent, he re-arranged some existing music, developed some new pieces, and enlisted his band to create a virtual concert. The music is excellent, and considering the circumstances, you wouldn't know it wasn't another studio album if he didn't tell you the whole story. "Rise and Shine" opens the album by building up a fast guitar strum and snarl to a stinging solo statement of purpose. Things change a bit on "Seven Sisters," which has an intricate and complex light shower of piano notes as the track develops a near eastern feel with quality bass playing and electronics adding texture through guitar pedals. "Interlude 1: Rising" uses solo low toned bass with guitar intertwined, and hearing bowed bass setting a dizzying and hallucinatory sensation, as electric guitar ads sharp shards of conflicting sound. The group develops a fuller sound on "Anthemoessa," with crisp drumming, playing along side melodic piano and bass. Okazaki's guitar enters and gradually assumes control with an electronically enhanced solo. "Interlude 2: Sustaining" demonstrates nimble string playing at mid tempo with understated bass sounding mellow against nervous, slashing drums and spare droplets of piano. A snappy slightly funky full group feel is at play on "Dog Star," where crisp drumming and cascading piano soloing over rapid bass clear a path for a belting electric guitar solo, snaking low to the ground sounding good. "The Castaway" has a mellow and laconic mid tempo feel, with gradually developing piano that weaves through, while "Interlude 3: Dreaming" uses a dark strumming theme, with electronically developing sounds all around around. This creates an interesting sound field of wild electro-acoustic improvisation. The finale, "Caduceus" kneads fast, heavy drums into more conventional guitar and bass, with deft piano adding further texture. Rapid and nimble guitar and piano amid tight bass and drums play crackling modern jazz. This was a very well played album that was experimental and accessible at the same time. All four musicians played very well, and Okazaki has a real vision for his music, which he was been developing as a player an composer as each successive album he has released. Trickster's Dream - Bandcamp

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Sunday, August 02, 2020

Charles Tolliver - Connect (Gearbox Records, 2020)

A beacon for progressive jazz since the 1960's, Charles Tolliver has had a stellar career as a trumpeter, bandleader, label head and educator. On this album, he leads an excellent band that includes Jesse Davis on alto saxophone, Binker Golding on tenor saxophone (on two tracks), Keith Brown on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Lenny White on drums. "Blue Soul" opens the album with propulsive rhythm and horns developing a potent theme. The throbbing potent beat soon gives way to swinging piano and drums, and a well played saxophone solos amid the swinging backdrop, playing in a patient and thoughtful fashion, leading to the leader's trumpet section, using a ripe golden sound, rippling around the rhythm section with class and agility and leading the group back to the heavy beat for the conclusion. A mellow mid tempo is set for the lengthy "Emperor March" with Binker Golding guesting on saxophone. Tolliver's crisp trumpet leads the way, getting punchier and quicker, opening up space for a saxophone feature, casting a long line out and playing well, building a complex and thematic solo. The second saxophone adds further color, interacting with the drums and building shorter cells of ideas into a cohesive statement. Trumpet glides in again, building an grand solo as the tempo increases, gracefully played piano, bass and drums take a bow and leading the full band back for the theme. "Copacetic" has a bright and bouncy fast theme with the leader's trumpet emerging for a powerful start over strong rhythm. The saxophone takes over and keeps the heat up driven by heavy sounding drums, and the band swings with a thick and heavy gait, toward a fast conclusion. The concluding track "Suspicion" opens with a bass solo that is lengthy and impressive. The drums and fast piano fold in, with fast and choppy horns including Golding sitting in in saxophone adding an urgent theme. The group plays full blast leads to trumpet focused area, pushing hard through the strong current, sounding great when the band goes full out, like when one saxophone plays hard along with the heavy full band beside him. Handing off to the second saxophonist who has a deeper and thicker sound really works well as he melds with the powerful drumming to create deep visceral music. This album worked quite well, with a mix of veterans and up and coming musicians creating a very focused performance. The high level of imagination keeps the music fresh and the musicians perform with a great deal of skill. Connect -

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