Saturday, November 28, 2020

Dave Gisler Trio with Jamie Branch - Zurich Concert (Intakt Records, 2020)

Almost exactly one year ago today guitarist Dave Gisler led his fine trio featuring Raffaele Bossard on bass and Lionel Friedli on drums in a live festival meeting with the fiery trumpeter Jamie Branch. The results were very good indeed, with the band creating profound modern jazz that was pulled in a fusion direction by Gisler and an avant or free direction by Branch, creating the tension and release that is the foundation of daring and exciting music. The group is dynamic, easily slipping from loud near progressive rock passages, to spare and haunting sections. "Intro" glides in mysteriously, with plenty of space and shimmering waves of brass and electric guitar. Excellent bass and minimalist percussion moves things along, with shards of guitar piercing the rhythmic flow, and developing into a coursicating solo. "What Goes Up..." comes barrelling out with rock guitar and drums pushing into the red and Branch playing spitfire trumpet, keeping pace the whole way. Complex guitar soloing from Gisler over a crisp backbeat, Branch playing wildly exciting trumpet, adding gales of brass to the proceedings. Her trumpet solo over over the backbeat sets up Gisler who dives in again off the top rope with scorching guitar to bring the piece to a close. "Rabbits of the Run" builds from expansive guitar and percussion interaction, setting up Jamie Branch for a powerful and evocative feature section over boiling bass and drums that is very exciting, as she is really pushing the limits whenever she picks up her instrument. The leader takes over and leads a very good collective improvisation for guitar, bass and drums, developing complex yet accessible music. The music is appropriately drifting out of phase with a cockeyed sense of rhythm on "Better Don't Fuck With the Drunken Sailor" with Branch adding slurred lines of brass along side the sharp fast hooks and jabs of the guitar and drums. The finale is "Dive" with a powerful bass introduction, and a funky drumbeat as Branch's trumpet rises up in the mix. Smart sounding interacting between the musicians drives this full band sensitivity forward at a fast clip, leading to a heavy, grinding flux of sound that proceeds to the conclusion of the concert. This album worked very well, the choice of Jamie Branch to be the guest of the trio was an inspired one as her powerful trumpet made an interesting acoustic foil to Gisler's amped up guitar. Zurich Concert - amazon.com

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Angel Bat Dawid and Tha Brothahood - LIVE (International Anthem Records, 2020)

Recorded during the 2019 JazzFest Berlin, with clarinetist, songwriter and singer Angel Bat Dawid and her band was fired up after being poorly treated by the festival hierarchy and the citizens of Berlin. They circled the wagons and gave a passionate performance, opening the album with a field recording of her being hassled while trying to play the piano and sing in her hotel, leading into an incantation like version “Enlightenment” which gradually leads us into her original music. The music becomes justifiably serious and intense with her songs “Black Family” and “What Shall I Tell My Children Who are Black?” The former is a beautifully proud declaration of strength and power of the family unit come what may, with Dawid repeatedly exclaiming “The black family is the strongest institution in the world,” with utter conviction. The latter is a slower and more poignant performance, an extraordinary feat of singing where Dawid implores the audience, the world and the universe for answers about what to tell black children about how young black men are hunted down and shot by the police, why the die in much greater numbers from COVID-19 and many other travails of modern life in a racially fraught society. “We Are Starzz” stretches the canvas wide for free jazz extemporization with David’s vocals and clarinet along with saxophone, powerful bass and drums. The final track "HELL" takes excerpts from Dawid's appearance at the festival's panel discussion, wrapped in a tsunami of electronic effects that exorcise the frustration she felt at the whole situation. Angel Bat Dawid is an extraordinary live performer who truly inhabits the music she writes and performs. Melding gospel, free jazz and defiant protest music she creates one of the most powerful and profoundly alive albums of this year. Live - amazon.com

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Elvis Costello - Armed Forces [Super Deluxe Edition] (UMe, 2020)

Elvis Costello had really hit his stride by the time his third album, Armed Forces was released in 1979. Finding in The Attractions a backing band that could match his every move and creating some of the wittiest lyrics that echoed his mantra of writing about “revenge and guilt.” made the album truly memorable. Armed Forces has been re-released several times during the intervening years by the likes of Rykodisc and Hip-O, but this one is truly deluxe, with nine vinyl records including three 12-inch LPs, three 10-inch LPs and three 7-inch singles. There is a new 2020 remaster of the original album, along with a culling together of time appropriate B-sides, alternate versions and outtakes, demos, and many live recordings featuring unreleased live tracks taken from three different concerts, along with  an extensive booklet putting the package into perspective. The music is also available in lossless and lossy download formats, but I do not believe compact disc is available. Regardless, the music packs a powerful punch, as the remastered edition of Armed Forces kicks things off. This album has always been recognized as one of his finest, and highlights from it have entered the popular music zeitgeist like the brooding sneer of “Watching the Detectives” and the devastating critiques of Thatcher's Britain, “Senior Service” and “Goon Squad.” Always scouring in his writing about interpersonal relationships, Costello includes two of his most viscous takedowns, “Party Girl” and “Two Little Hitlers” before ending the whole album with a ray of hope with the unforgettable “(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?” The rest of the material in the package, both live and studio, extend and reflect on the power of the album, sometimes taking interesting liberties like Costello playing a slowed down solo piano versions of “Accidents Will Happen” before they blast off into the punkish “Mystery Dance” and building delightful tension and release on the Hollywood High concert by balancing bruising rockers with more introspective ballads like his well known song “Allison.” The Attractions, Steve Nieve on keyboards, Bruce Thomas on bass and Pete Thomas on drums deserve special mention as they whip the music into shape that allows the band to swell like a protean force through “Goon Squad” on the Europe ‘79 LP which also includes scorching performances of “(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea” and “High Fidelity.” Since Costello’s vetoed name for the album was Emotional Fascism, it makes sense that an LP of outtakes bares that name.  Hot versions of “Clean Money” and “Wednesday Week” are included among a few demos and a version of “My Funny Valentine” that foreshadows his later work. The singles of the albums are represented, they were looking for airplay from “Oliver’s Army,” “Accidents Will Happen” and a curio is included of the Costello adjacent Nick Lowe single “American Squirm.” All in all, it adds up to a little over three hours worth of music, documenting one of the most creative periods of Elvis Costello’s career. This collection shows how this immaculate music, constructed in the studio layer by layer, could also be taken on the road and turned into storming rock and roll. The album, live music and alternates give us the clearest picture of the artist working at the height of his powers. Armed Forces - amazon.com

 

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Albert Ayler - Spirits Rejoice and Bells Revisited (ezz-thetics Records, 2020)

Ezz-thetics Records continues their excellent work remastering and reissuing the music of the great avant-garde saxophonist Albert Ayler. This disc presents two sessions from 1965, Bells and Spirits Rejoice, both originally released on ESP Records. Ayler was coming off of the album which would become recognized as his masterpiece, 1964’s Spiritual Unity, and he carried the carried that stunningly unique, personal and passionate approach to these deeply moving recordings. “Bells” is one of Ayler’s finest moments, recorded at Town Hall in New York City on May 1, 1965. In this concert, Ayler was accompanied by his brother Donald Ayler on trumpet, Charles Tyler on alto saxophone, Lewis Worrell on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. Originally released as a single sided LP, he is building a larger group from the music that recorded the year before. Like much of Ayler’s music, “Bells” develops short, memorable themes throughout their performance with hints of folk sounds and spirituality. Over the course of nineteen minutes they take theme and variations into progressively freer territory until the group breaks free of any bounds and develop a collective improvisation that is ferocious and thrilling to hear, integrating solo sections with full band performances. On the Spirits Rejoice session, Ayler kept the expanded six piece format, this time with two basses (a configuration that John Coltrane was also experimenting with at this time) mixing plucked and bowed sounds that add to the texture of the music. Recorded at Judson Hall in New York without an audience, the band consists of Donald Ayler on trumpet, Charles Tyler on alto saxophone, Henry Grimes and Gary Peacock on bass, Sunny Murray on drums and Call Cobbs guesting on harpsichord for one track. This album concentrates and consolidates the power that the larger group ad discovered during the recording of “Bells.” The key track here is “Prophet” where the band tears into a ferocious collectively improvised area that has everyone soaring and looking to really make a breakthrough in thrilling fashion as Ayler’s saxophone is alternately majestic and caustic, and the two bassists and drummers get a section for wonderfully abstract interplay along the way. This is a great disc, the music is remastered very well, sounding as best as possible and comes with a fine liner essay putting the music into historical context. Albert Ayler is at his peak in these recordings, and fans of free jazz should definitely investigate them. Spirits Rejoice and Bells Revisited - Squidco

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Joel Ross - Who Are You? (Blue Note, 2020)

Last year, the debut album by vibraphonist and composer Joel Ross was met with great acclaim and he followed it up with strong appearances as a sideman and the recording of this fine follow up. His band Good Vibes brings together Jeremy Corren on piano, Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, Jeremy Dutton on drums, Kanoa Mendenhall on bass and Brandee Younger joining on harp for some of the tracks. The piano, bass and drums trio open "More" with mid-tempo saxophone and vibes entering a bit later, and the full band setting the theme, with Wilkins developing a complex alto saxophone solo, followed by showers of piano notes amid opaque drumming lead to a sterling sounding vibraphone section. Ross plays a brief burst, leading to members of the band taking short solo sections before taking the tune out. John Coltrane's classic composition "After the Rain" is quite beautiful, melding vibraphone and harp in a patient manner that gradually works in the famous melody, with soft washes of percussion and well played saxophone. The music has a gauzy and spectral sense that hearkens back to the heyday of spiritual jazz without losing its modern grounding. "Varhta" has a complex weaving sense of interplay between the musicians which is stretched out over ten minutes allowing everyone a chance to explore the music. Wilkins once again plays a fast and nimble solo at lightning speed with immense control over his instrument, leading to another example of well played modern mainstream jazz that should entice any fan of the genre. Who Are You? - amazon.com

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Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Moor Mother - Circuit City ( Don Giovanni Records, 2020)

Moor Mother is a singer / songwriter / activist who is most well known for being the vocalist for the wonderful modern jazz group Irreversible Entanglements. Musicians from that group join her here along side the Circuit City Band, a group that came together to perform a play of the same name, one that would present a dystopian future setting to raise well deserved points about issues we face today such as poor living conditions, the effect of media and the overall technological landscape. Moor Mother is the perfect vocalist for this project, here distilled as a song cycle, talk singing and projecting her voice which comes from deep down in her diaphragm and her soul, along with her ability to cut through whatever squalling instrumental accompaniment might be surrounding her. "Act 1 - Working Machine" has a wonderful instrumental opening for thick bass and powerful horn playing. Moor Mother enters with an anguished voice sounding manic and deeply in character. In one sense she is an actor in a radio drama, but one the other hand, she is turning the lyrics and focus to the suppression that black people have suffered in America. The group raises an almighty ruckus at times, rampaging like a whirlwind around her declamatory vocals but also able to produce a Sun Ra Lanquidity like setting for her duet with fellow poet / vocalist Elton Battle on "Act 3 - Time of No Time." The concluding track "Act 4 - No More Wires" has robust saxophone playing at the forefront, adding electronics and powerful vocals demanding the return of freedom and agency that has been taken. The instrumental section is over the top thrilling free jazz, leading to a massive percussion section and conclusion. This was an excellent and very powerful album, one that will grab the attention of any open minded person immediately and make them really think. Moor Mother is exceptional as a vocalist, speaker and singer, and the band is top notch throughout. Circuit City - bandcamp

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