Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Interesting Links

*Pitchfork has a lengthy retrospective on Sonny Sharrock's classic LP Ask the Ages.
*Pete Townshend reminisces about The Who Sell Out, which just received the Super Deluxe box set treatment.
*The New York Times writes about the album by Hasaan Ibn Ali released after more than 50 years.
*Authors trade jabs over dueling Bob Dylan biographies.
*The Guardian presents some nice examples of jazz album art.
*NPR celebrates Henry Threadgill by replaying the Harlem Stage retrospective from Threadgill's 70th Birthday, curated by pianist Jason Moran.
*Phil Freeman interviews Seth Rosner and Yulun Wang of Pi Recordings.
*Promoting his autobiography, Richard Thompson submits to a lengthy interview by Stereogum.
*Dave Sumner posts The Best Jazz on Bandcamp: April 2021.

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Flow Trio With Joe McPhee - Winter Garden (ESP-DISK, 2021)

The liner notes and promotional material for this album present something of a bruised ego with regards to free jazz, but that is hardly necessary in the context of this album which features four master improvisers, Joe McPhee on tenor saxophone, Louie Belogenis on tenor and soprano saxophones, Joe Morris on bass, Charles Downs on drums creating hearty and provocative music that can be enjoyed by any open minded listener. "Rabble-Rouser" opens the album with bass and drums plus nice ripe saxophones, where the horns are playing adjacent to one another, yet together glued together with thick bass playing. The saxophones reach a raw uptempo but not wild, incorporating an excellent bass solo with bowing, punctuated with a bellicose roar of saxophone. Saxophones in separate stereo channels work together on "Recombinant" with swirling soprano spiraling soaring over grounding repetitive tenor. The bass and drums enter after a couple of moments, moving the music forward gracefully at a medium tempo, gradually gaining intensity and featuring a bass solo framed by light percussion. "Harbinger" opens with unaccompanied bass, building with insistent drumming and tenor saxophone that gradually build the performance. Long tones of saxophones arc into open space creating a new front in the band's approach, leading to deep toned bass, and vocalized and whinnying saxophone completing the emotional performance. Very fast bowed bass opens "Incandescence" with soprano saxophone and drums chipping in to create a hyper kinetic improvisation dominated by manic bowed bass playing supported by lightly played percussion, leading to a final section of stark tenor and searing soprano saxophones. "Glistening" has as soft drum and bass entry met by high, keening saxophone, underscored by probing, grainy tenor. The saxophones build intensity in space, leading to "Accretion," which uses unfettered saxophones and percussion, featuring large swathes of tenor then soprano creating raw, rending peals of sound amid thick and oily bass and a brief drum solo. "Winter Garden" concludes the album with even more impressive bass playing meeting up with understated percussion before the saxophones join in and accelerate the performance. The exuberant saxophones sound thrilling when placed against stoic bass and drums, leading to an excellent collective improvisation and smooth landing. This album worked very well as a whole, with four very talented musicians working together toward a common goal and succeeding grandly. Winter Garden -

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Book: Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967-1975 by Richard Thompson (Algonquin Books, 2021)

Ironically, the song "Beeswing" was on the first album by Richard Thompson that I ever bought, 1994's Mirror Blue. Back in those paleolithic days, you read about music in magazines and then took chances on discs that sounded interesting. I fell for Thompson's mix of delicate folk, driving rock and amazing lyrics hard and have been following him ever sense. This autobiography follows his early years, growing up in post war England, learning the guitar and working through early bands until one coalesces, the soon to be legendary Fairport Convention. His life and work in Fairport takes up a good chunk of the narrative as the band moves from a rock unit to one that embraces the English and Scottish folk music tradition, incorporating that into a unique folk-rock, for a few years fronted by the great vocalist and more, Sandy Denny. Thompson stayed with Fairport for a few more years after Denny left, getting the chance to tour the USA, before he had his fill, leaving the band to become first an itinerant session musician and then beginning his solo career and starting a band with his wife Linda. Thompson goes at length into his conversion into Sufi Islam, and the effect it had on his life, leading him away from alcohol and to eventually taking the pilgrimage to Mecca, before falling out with some of the British leaders of the faith. The book ends rather abruptly, with a postscript giving a thumbnail version of his life post 1975, and an appendix that contains some song lyrics. For fans this is definitely worth picking up, he is an engaging writer, candid where necessary, and witty and thoughtful overall. Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967-1975 -

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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Miguel Zenon - Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Miel Music, 2021)

Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon writes that he fell hard for the music of Ornette Coleman while growing up in Puerto Rico, eventually meeting the great man a few times after moving to New York. He put together this band that included Ariel Bringuez on tenor saxophone, Demian Cabaud on bass and Jordi Rossy on drums to create this album which was recorded during a residency at the Bird’s Eye Jazz Club in Basel, Switzerland in May of 2019. "Free" has a rising and falling theme that gives the musicians a lot to work with, evolving into a complex improvisation for the full band. The group is playing full throttle with propulsive bass and drums, and the two saxophonists carving out niches for themselves as they sprint forward. This is a very exciting performance, hearing the group just go for it all out in a live setting must have been thrilling to see live. The band stretches out nicely on "Giggin'" with a jaunty open ended theme leaving plenty of room, saxophone over bass and drums at a nice medium up tempo with some built in flourishes. Moving to tenor saxophone, keeping the groove going, the bass and drums have such a deep pocket, the saxophone can go anywhere, but stays true to form with a thoughtful and expressive solo. A bass solo is featured, framed by light percussion, then back to the theme for the conclusion. "Dee Dee" is a short and fun blast of music, with a buoyant theme that sets the stage for a wonderful improvised section, as the two horns twirl about one another, become more complex and free as the performance develops. The track becomes a joyous cacophony of elastic bass and drums and increasingly frantic saxophone playing. The medley of "Toy Dance / Street Woman" concludes the album, with a fast and colorful opening section that builds a dynamic alto saxophone solo over taut bass and drums. Wonderful filigrees of saxophone against increasingly loud drumming keep the pace fresh leading to a connective space for the bass and drums to assert themselves bridging the two compositions. The full band comes together to engage then the tenor saxophone emerges to make his statement on the second composition, digging in and playing playing in a strong and fertile manner. Deeply rhythmic drum solo fits right in with the nature of the performance, leading the band back to the final theme. This album worked very well, the musicians are at the top of their game playing some complex music at very fast tempos with nary a hitch. Their comradery matched with the zeitgeist and compositions of Ornette Coleman made for a potent composition. Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman - bandcamp

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Gary Bartz - JID006 (Jazz Is Dead, 2021)

Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz six decade career at the forefront of spiritual jazz, soul jazz, post bop jazz and fusion has led him to be on of the revered elders of a new generation of musicians. So it made perfect sense for Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to invite him to take part in the evolving Jazz Is Dead project where young players meet master musicians in the act of creation. The use of electronics and fusion textures calls back to to some of the great albums Bartz made for Milestone in the early 1960's. His tone has softened a bit with age, but it fits in well with with breezy synths and glistening background sounds used on this album. He has lost none of his gift for melody and improvisation, bringing a fresh look to everything he touches. "Spiritual Ideation" nods to the spiritual jazz of the past, but is a product completely of the present with modern electronics meeting up with the leader's saxophone. Some funky bass touches come to the fore on "Visions of Love" and vocals are added to the mix, filling things out and giving the music a wide open sound as the they develop from the edges with the saxophone in the center. "Black and Brown" uses more urgent saxophone and drumming to develop a faster paced tune with fender rhodes framing the action, while the core band plays really tight, even as electronics swirl around them, they stay the course, with a propulsive full band improvisation. Bartz brings a soft and light tone to "Day By Day" along side a crisp drum pattern,  strong bass and tones of electronics. The vocals return again to fill the available space, a wordless stream with some lyrics as well, leading to a sense of gentle peace. "Distant Mode" pushes hard from the bass and drums, as electric piano and saxophone build in and complete the circuit, giving the proceedings a dynamic sensibility that explodes with bursts of further electronic sound. Bartz is hardly overwhelmed, pacing his playing nicely regardless of the mayhem, before the track suddenly fades. Nice bass playing and crisp drums open "The Message," developing a very interesting rhythm for Bartz to interact with, and this builds to a fine patient performance, with bursts of synth and electronics, filling out the soundscape, Finally, "Soulsea" closes out the album with heavy bass and drums, edging Bartz's saxophone forward with a heavy footprint, creating a dep groove including electric keyboard before a quick ending. This album worked quite well, it is wonderful to hear Gary Bartz and this unique setting suits him well, with everyone taking an open minded approach, leading to a successful recording. Gary Bartz JID006 -

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt - Made Out Of Sound (Palilalia Records, 2021)

Call it anything, as Miles Davis would say. This excellent duet recording between guitarist Bill Orcutt and drummer Chris Corsano ticks a lot of boxes for a wide range of music fans, molten Sonny Sharrock jazz fusion, GY!BE post rock and beyond. But what drummer Chris Corsano and guitarist Bill Orcutt are best at is creating their own hermetic pocket universe where they can create, improvise and resolve a resolve a series of thoughtful and well articulated tracks. On the opening performance, "Some Tennessee Jar," Orcutt's guitar is watery, slipping away like quicksilver or mercury at times, no matter how heavy the drums explode around it, becoming much sharper to meet the the tumult, creating a wonderful cacophony, as the sound envelops the listener from all directions. "Man Carrying Thing" is urgent and explosive right from the opening notes and beats with Corsano scouring his drums for every bit of kinetic energy, met by Orcutt's slashing electric guitar, creating a monstrous and thrilling duet performance. Sparks of guitar glisten amid the all out drumming onslaught then dive back down like percolating molten lava. Huge outrageous electric guitar chords and top down drumming open the brief "How to Cook a Wolf" where the towering guitar sounds are fantastic, with righteous drumming riding point. "Distance of Sleep" has a haunted and sparse sensibility, sounds of jagged edges any insomniac would be familiar with, developing a sharp craggy landscape of guitar and percussion with no smooth edges, lost in the wilderness with wolves, real or imaginary, at your heel. 6 There is wonderful texture at work on "The Thing Itself," with overlapping guitar, flowing like a stream, both hypnotic and hallucinogenic, creating their most psychedelic track on the album. Overdubbed guitars chime feverishly with waves of percussion pounding like surf, leading to auditory disorientation. "A Port in Air" has a rootsy theme using a beautiful guitar tone like a golden sunrise, allowing the musicians to create a well articulated duet sound painting, building a definite spiritual jazz vibe. This is a very impressive and exciting album to hear, even more so when you consider that it was a pandemic era recording that forced them to record their parts separately and seamlessly join them together. Ocutt’s guitar technique is vast, moving from fierce, angular shards of sound to shimmering, glowing harp like sounds, as if Alice Coltrane was being refracted through another dimension. Corsano is equally wide open to the possibilities of their meeting and provides a wide range of rhythmic textures that support and challenge his partner to take the music to an even higher plane. Made Out of Sound - Bandcamp

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Vijay Iyer - Uneasy (ECM Records, 2021)

This is the first album by pianist and composer Vijay Iyer's new trio with Linda May Han Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, the three having originally met at the Banff International  Workshop in Canada. They were able to come together in New York City in December of 2019 to make this record or primarily original compositions. The interplay between the musicians is continuously fascinating, where Linda May Han Oh may be more associated with mainstream jazz and Tyshawn Sorey with avant-guard jazz and classical composition, but it is Iyer's complex yet open minded composition that gives room for the three musicians to mesh very well, allowing for the development of both intricate structure and wide ranging improvisation. Iyer's compositional themes reflect the state of the world in 2020 ruminating on the pandemic, political instability, and the general malaise of the time. But the performances of the music and the development of the compositions among the three musicians is anything but depressing, sounding vital and urgent. Iyer spools out lengthy labyrinthine piano explorations over elastic ever changing bass and drum playing, building to flexible, supple collective improvisations which retain the nature of each performance's theme but provide a lot of space for wide ranging and surprising exploration. This is a fairly long album, but it never seems that way, the music is developed and paced in a manner that suggests a narrative structure, or a journey that the listener is invited to embark upon along with the band, where the continuous current of music is ever flowing. This trio has made a fine contribution to the modern music scene with this album, which was engaging from start to finish, creating an enthralling and unpredictable soundscape that demands attention and rewards it generously. Uneasy -

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Thursday, April 08, 2021

Jim Snidero - Live at the Deer Head inn (Savant Records, 2021)

Alto saxophonist Jim Snidero got a rare opportunity during the cursed plague year of 2020, he was able to assemble a quartet for a safe, socially distanced performance at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA. Rounding out an excellent quartet with Orrin Evans on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, and selecting from a repertoire of standards, the group made the most of this opportunity. Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time” is an excellent opener, with the musicians swinging hard on this uptempo bebop number. The band is tight, and the saxophonist is strong and agile. The group produces a pleasant version of standard “Autumn Leaves” incorporating an impressive bass solo, by Washington, who demonstrates an impeccable technique and sense of time. Snidero dedicates "Old Man River" to the Black Lives Matter movement and backs it up with a genuine and emotional performance shaded by gospel and blues. Orrin Evans, on a busman's holiday from The Bad Plus contributes a stellar piano solo to "Bye Bye Blackbird," where he is featured at length. Duke Pearson's "Idle Moments" was indelibly featured on a 1965 Grant Green album of the same name, and this group does a fine version of their own, creating a great ballad feeling, quiet and spare with soft saxophone punctuated by curls of stronger sound, shadowed by deft brushes. "Who Can I Turn To" shows the leader playing his saxophone in a very melodic manner alongside elastic bass and very melodic bright piano. The group develops a fine uptempo performance, including a delightful bass solo framed by piano and gentle percussion. An elegant lengthy solo piano opening introduces "My Old Flame" which evolves into a tender ballad with longing sax, brushes and deeply felt bass. Snidero has lovely saxophone tone in his solo section during this patient ballad and short tag ending. The band concludes their set with a fast exploration of "Yesterdays" with the rhythm section providing the urgency as the three boil at a fast pace met by some ripe saxophone playing and a strident push to to the conclusion. This must have been a real treat for those who were in the audience, something that we may never take for granted again, four talented musicians coming together to play music in the moment live and in person. Live at the Deer Head Inn -

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Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Hedvig Mollestad Trio - Ding Dong. You're Dead. (Rune Grammofon Records, 2021)

After releasing a more experimental solo album last year, Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad reconvenes her regular trio for another exciting exploration through the realms of jazz fusion and progressive rock. She is accompanied on this album by Ellen Brekken on electric and acoustic bass and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums and percussion. “Leo Flash's Return To The Underworld” comes crashing out of the gate in a raucous way, setting a grinding guitar tone with bludgeoning drumming, and Mollestad’s guitar tone bifurcating into a repetitive riff and snaking solo, over taut bass and drums. Hitting very hard with an all out full band segment that recalls some early seventies King Crimson vaulted into post-rock territory, the music is gritty and raw, impacting the listener in a visceral manner. There is a massive guitar solo that strikes out toward the end of the performance lighting the path for the end of the track. “All Flights Cancelled” has an insistent and urgent call to action. The initial repatitive theme drives the music forward with bass and drums quickly falling in line. Mollestad's guitar feature shapes and scours the available material into fascinating waves and forms, with supple shiifts and turns to the overall sound. The rhythm section is in constant motion with undulating bass, and riveting drums pushing the whole trio ever onward in a very exciting fashion. A piercing guitar tone anchored with stout bass playing sets the scene for “Magic Moshroom” where sparks fly from the guitar and drums as the musicians really dig into the sound, leading into a soaring collective section for the band to really demonstrate their identity as a true distinct unit. “The Art of Being Jon Balkovitch“ is an exciting and wild performance where the band grinds out a hard funk feel with embellishments, leaning on excellent bass and drum work as the guitar flies overhead in a killer solo, with towering long tones of pure sound falling back into the rhythm as the band swirls and shimmies into a warped psychedelia. This album worked well and should appeal to progressive rock fans as well as inquisitive jazz partisans. The band is tight and the performances are strong throughout the whole album. Ding Dong You're Dead -

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

John Coltrane Quartet - Newport, New York, Alabama, 1963 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2021)

Ezz-thetics Records continues is re-examination of John Coltrane's live work, moving from Graz 1962 to two concerts in America in 1963. For the Newport Festival concert, Roy Haynes sits in on drums for an ailing Elvin Jones, but the remainder of the album presents the "classic" quartet at its peak: John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Beginning with the July 7 concert at the Newport Jazz Festival, the group sounds well prepared for a very exciting set beginning with a wistful "I Want to Talk About You" that opens the performance and is marked as truly special by incorporating some breathtaking unaccompanied tenor saxophone near the end. "My Favorite Things" was a staple of nearly every performance from this band, and it gets an extended seventeen minute plus workout here with ample solo space for McCoy Tyner. A long burning version of the Coltrane original "Impressions" follows with the leader sending wave upon wave of improvised saxophone to a delirious audience. It's fascinating to listen to Haynes here, he has a lighter and more fluid touch that is ideally suited to bebop, but he makes the transition well to the modal music and provides Coltrane with a much different foil then the thundering Jones. Elvin Jones returns for the Live in Birdland sessions recorded during October and November, and his presence is immediately felt in the live tracks, beginning with a powerful version of "Afro Blue" with a cruising rhythm section interlude before Coltrane returns to put the hammer down and develop a scalding collective improvisation that is felt as much as heard. "I Want to Talk About You" is repeated, once again adding a daredevil solo saxophone improvisation that is vibrant and thrillingly alive, and "The Promise" is the final live track, where Jones effortlessly develops beautiful rhythms, and Tyner sparkles aside Garrison's weighty bass and Coltrane's extraordinary soprano saxophone, which towers over it all. This re-issue was designed to focus on the live material, but Derek Taylor says in his fine liner notes that the remainder of the studio tracks, particularly "Alabama" were included as a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement and the drive for social justice that Coltrane exemplified. "Alabama," written after the racist church bombing in Birmingham killed four African American children. It is a sad, quiet tune, but the power and the grace that it represents goes far beyond the world of music and remains one of John Coltrane's towering achievements. This was a very well done re-issue, with like minded live mater grouped material giving a sense of the group's progress along side relevant studio material. The remastering is strong and the music is bright and vibrant, clearly produced with care. Newport, New York, Alabama, 1963, Revisited - Squidco

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