Friday, July 30, 2021

William Parker - Mayan Space Station (AUM Fidelity, 2021)

Much like his predecessor, Sun Ra, William Parker combines the past and the future not only in the title of this alluring album, where his bass and the drums of Gerald Cleaver meet the post-modern electric guitar of Ava Mendoza but in the wide ranging tracks themselves. This is an inspired grouping, and sounds like nothing like I have heard before in a Parker led group, and AUM Fidelity confirms that, stating that Mayan Space Station is Parker's first electric guitar trio album. Each of the musicians is capable of a wide range of sounds from the engine like motorik beat that Cleaver employs to stoke the fire of the lengthy title track “Mayan Space Station.” He’s met by Parker’s beautifully thick and earthy tone on bass and Mendoza’s startling guitar textures. She shows remarkable resolve, relentlessly creating in this crucible of trio improvisation over a nearly fifteen minute track. “Canyons of Light” allow the music to develop in other directions, with Parker creating inspiring sounds while Cleaver develops layers of percussion via deft and focused brushwork. Mendoza flies freely, aiding the collective improvisation, and also stretching out with some striking soloing. The closing track, “The Wall Tumbles Down,” shows Mendoza at her best, firing of cool sparks of electricity over a crisp drumbeat that threatens to become volatile at any moment. Parker’s huge slabs of bass are a physical presence, even as the music drifts into abstraction. Long elastic tones of bowed bass arc, along side unusual guitar sounds, becoming unsettling like a distant alarm leading to an unresolved and unnerving conclusion. This is cosmic jazz that is very successful and should appeal to a wide audience, as the compositions and improvisations are deeply felt and intense and the musicians are tight and in deeply tune with one another, showing great insight, understanding and creativity. Mayan Space Station -

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

William Parker - Painters Winter (AUM Fidelity, 2021)

Bassist and composer William Parker has celebrated 2021 with a slew of new releases including the ten disc box set Migration of Silence Into and Out of The Tone World, as well as single album projects including this one where he also plays trombonium, shakuhachi along side longtime colleagues Daniel Carter on trumpet, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet and flute and Hamid Drake on drums. On the opening track “Groove 77,” Parker’s deep bass and Drake’s solid drums meet Carter’s patient trumpet to create some thoughtful and understated interplay, as Drake moves around the drum kit subtly shifting the pocket, and the bass and trumpet responding in interesting ways. Carter steps aside for a drum and bass conversations before the midpoint. The deepness of Parker’s bass sound and the crispness of Drake’s drumming are startling, providing a fine foundation that Carter’s trumpet seems to float and ride over, using the waves created by this engine. Parker moves to exotic shakuhachi flute for “Painters Winter” with this flute and brass combining with percussion to create fascinating textures. Air and spaciousness pervades the performance within the music as Carter’s brass slurs, building low brass sounds juxtaposed against the higher flying flute and percussion. “Happiness” uses laid back bass and drums, as Carter moves to saxophone, developing a fine and lustrous tone. The pace seems to pick up slightly, becoming open and loose but not quite free. There is a section for bowed bass and brushes, low saxophone tones, moving into a gliding near frictionless collective improvisation between three talented veterans. Carter and Parker both take to flutes on “Painted Scarf” amid ceremonial sounding slow cymbals. The two musicians use different kinds of flutes, with different pitches and tones, and they use the instruments well to converse and contort around low-key drumming. On the final track "A Curly Russell" lithe, light toned saxophone and wonderfully rattling percussion backed by elastic bass, leads to tight improvised interplay with great wit and years of wisdom behind it. Carter briefly switches to soprano saxophone, creating a tart sound, really pushing into more extreme territory then turning back to alto, keeping things fresh, crisp drumming and supportive bass with light toned sax propelling through to the conclusion. This was another typically excellent William Parker album. In his liner notes he speaks of painting with sound, and using the flow of rhythm as melody and pulsation within the music. The trio takes these ideas and use them to create a subtle and genuine piece of work that deserves to be heard. Painters Winter -

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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Barry Altschul's 3dom Factor - Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two Records, 2021)

Recorded live, this is the fourth album for drummer Barry Altschul's 3dom Factor, and he is once again in the company of Jon Irabagon on tenor and sopranino saxophones  and alto clarinet, Joe Fonda on bass. The music is a very strong collection of improvisations and these veteran musicians make the most of the open ended setting and the friendly and supportive audience. “Long Tall Sunshine” has fast free sounds of willowy saxophone, a thick bass solo, then a swanky melody built in when the saxophone returns. The music is very interesting, beginning in an abstract manner then developing a unique theme and strong collective improvisation that allows the whole trio to dig in and create a powerful and enlightening performance. The remaining tracks on the album show how diverse that a trio can become with Jon Irabagon moving beyond his usual tough talking tenor saxophone playing to incorporate the sopranino saxophone, one of the smallest instruments in that group of instruments. He does not play this for novelty value, but for the very high pitched and emotionally expressive sound that he brings to the instrument, improvising on it with aplomb as he does with his third instrument, the alto clarinet. This gives him yet another pigment with which he can sound-paint, a bright, hollow sound that swoops and dives, working as well in flat out ballers as it does with selections that are more detached from a clear center of mass. Bassist Joe Fonda is more than up to the task, providing buoyant support and excellent soloing, particularly with eloquent bowed passages. Leader Barry Altshul has chosen his compatriots and selections very well. There are echoes of the great Sam Rivers Trio, of which he was the percussionist for several years in the 1970’s. His playing can run the the gamut from swinging support to scouring free playing, all focused in on the music. The three musicians click together like puzzle pieces to form a complete and cohesive whole using all of the techniques at their disposal to develop a creative and exciting album. Long Tall Sunshine -

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Albert Ayler - New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2021)

This is one of saxophonist Albert Ayler's most interesting, yet often ignored albums. Creating two lengthy free improvisations performed without a previously designed theme, this is created akin to the way they European free improvisation would begin to branch off from the more African American free jazz. Ayler has a pretty extraordinary band along with him in this endeavor with Don Cherry on trumpet, John Tchicai on alto saxophone, Roswell Rudd on trombone, Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. The music was performed to accompany an experimental film directed by Michael Snow, and after a brief opening statement by Cherry called "Don's Dawn," the full band dives right into the action on the twenty minute long "AY." While the sound can be particularly ferocious, there are moments of sublime calm, where Peacock's bowed bass meets probing drums, and sections where the brass and reeds truly soar. Sections of free cacophony are thrilling, be also are the give and take and sharing of space that develop between the members of the band. "ITT" consists of a wild core Ayler free improvisation with squalls of saxophone alto and tenor, stark raw Ayler tenor saxophone thundering at his most extreme along side powerful Murray percussion. When Ayler steps aside, it becomes a more nimble group less excessive, waxing and waning, dynamic and unpredictable. Interactive play and using gradations of sound, like light and shade, with the whole band working well despite little preparation. For an ad hoc session where the director was originally interested in  “buying a half an hour” of music, things turned out pretty well, all things considered. The musicians were locked in, and made the most of the freedom that was given to them, playing with intensity and comradeship, creating memorable music in the process. New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited - squidco

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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Luís Lopes Lisbon Berlin Quartet - Sinister Hypnotization (Clean Feed Records, 2021)

Guitarist and composer Luis Lopes' Berlin Quartet is a forward thinking powerhouse of a band that takes no prisoners in terms of group interplay and adventurous presentation. The ensemble is rounded out with Rodrigo Pinheiro on fender rhodes electric piano, Robert Landfermann on bass with effects and Christian Lillinger on drums. The band exercises their music with fast power, scalding guitar lines which meets up with tight bass, bowed and amplified through pedals, along with kaleidoscopic keyboards and dynamic drumming. The opening track “Identification” uses bowed bass to build abstract sounds which provide a base for swirling guitar feedback and drumming that grows in volume, creating a fantasia of hypnotic sounds. A hot free sounding full band improvisation takes place on “O Andróide que Sonhava Ser Humano,” with knotty electric guitar playing and crisp drumming, as the music sizzles and pops like a grill on a hot summer day. Charged particles of electric sound burst forth from the group in an exciting manner. Amped bass and heavy drum beats push the group closer to the conclusion as Lopes guitar issues sparks and flares that keep the music going all the way to the end. “Sinister Hypnotization” uses eerily twisting electronics and percussion, while electric piano and skittish drumming improvising together causes the music to get more spacious and pointillistic. The bass adds bowed accents, before turning to a super fast plucked style as Lopes’ guitar enters with stark, piercing tones. This builds to a tightly wound collective improvisation for the band, stretching out, and led by some storming guitar playing. Wild squalls of amplified bow in overdrive open “Berlin Line (Picture of Berlin in Three Movements)” with spirals of sound, waves of guitar, and insistent bass. Choppy relentlessness of motion and great full group interplay work well as the group is kneading the sounds into constantly interesting colors and shapes. This album worked quite well overall, with each of the musicians creating and sharing within the full band structure, ebbing and flowing dynamically as the improvisations develops. The Berlin Quartet is another excellent Luis Lopes project that deserves a chance for further development both live and on disc. Sinister Hypnotization -

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Rodrigo Amado's This Is Our Language Quartet - Let the Free Be Men (Trost Records, 2021)

Recorded live in Copenhagen during March of 2017, tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado's This Is Our Language Quartet includes three of the heaviest hitters in modern jazz, Joe McPhee on pocket trumpet and soprano saxophone, Kent Kessler on bass and Chris Corsano on drums. The get right to it on the opening track "Resist" where a drum solo picks up, joined by urgent bowed bass, finally tenor saxophone and trumpet enter, filling the available space, and leading to a dynamic full band improvisation. Raw saxophone and heavy drumming with pulses of plucked bass and trumpet filigrees lead to torrential free improvisation which is very exciting and fresh sounding, peaking with an apocalyptic roar near the end. Long stark tones from horns and bowed bass build a haunting character on "Let the Free Be Men" Piercing horns and skittish percussion create an unnerving sound that coalesces into plucked bass and a two saxophone front line with brushed percussion. The tempo picks up halfway through the performance with the soprano and tenor saxophones sound hot, amid boiling bass and drums, leading to a righteous full band improvisation, that is fast and potent. "Men is Woman is Man" uses long tones of brass with rapid bowed bass and abstract sounds from the rest of the group. After sawing bowed bass with ripe trumpet, strong caffeinated tenor saxophone enters, and everyone comes together, then gradually fades out. Beautiful plucked bass along side abstract percussion launch "Never Surrender" with gradually developing saxophone unfurling over bass and drums, creating a raw and exciting free improvisation for quartet. McPhee turns to soprano saxophone swooping gliding grandly, then two saxophone bass and drums rush to the finish line. This was a very good and consistently interesting disc, meaning a confident free jazz ensemble offering a lot of opportunities for improvisation and unusual textures to develop within the music which made for exciting listening. Let the Free Be Men -

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Saturday, July 10, 2021

Natural Information Society - Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) (Eremite Records, 2021)

Natural Information Society, consisting of Joshua Abrams on guimbri, Lisa Alvarado on harmonium and effects, Mikel Patrick Avery on drums, Evan Parker on soprano saxophone and Jason Stein on bass clarinet is one of the most interesting bands playing today. Melding jazz improvisation with fascinating rhythmic settings to create stunning and exciting music. This unique combination of instruments, improvising in a long form manner is quite something to behold. The guimbri and harmonium create a sensibility of a multi ethnic combination of forces, and adding Parker’s protean saxophone takes the music to another level. A couple of new music and book releases earlier this year examined Don Cherry’s pan ethnic organic music ensembles from the early 1970’s. This music fits solidly in that tradition of Ornette Coleman free jazz - nobody’s soloing / everybody’s soloing, and the collective / communal nature of Cherry’s solo work. Parker’s circular breathing borders on astonishing, and his saxophone playing reaches a level of ecstatic frenzy at times, the sounds tumbling out of his horn like a dervish in a trance. The music is able to shift dynamically with ease, moving from periods of poignant quietude to boiling full power very quickly. During the last two passages is where you hear Stein’s clarinet rise up out of the the thicket and play some wonderful sections, particularly when he engages Parker and they explore the depths of light and shade that the music has to offer. But really, this album transcends any one individual and takes the creative energy of all five musicians to develop a clear and distinctive kind of music that is thoroughly compelling and stands as one of the best albums of the year. Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) -

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Thursday, July 08, 2021

Chris Potter - Sunrise Reprise (Edition Records, 2021)

After his touring schedule was terminated by the pandemic, saxophonist Chris Potter turned his attention to the composing of new music. In late 2020, a lessening of restrictions led his trio, consisting of keyboardist James Francies and drummer Eric Harland to create their first studio session. Potter was deeply effected by lockdown, BLM protests, climate woes of 2020 and this affected his playing, as he looked for a release to create and express himself. The opening track "Sunrise and Joshua Trees" presents trippy electronics, as the saxophone builds in with drumming. The electronics are developing new atmospheres and textures for the saxophone and drums to evolve with and against. The music seems quite ethereal, gradually gaining focus and strength through development. More strident saxophone takes effect on "Southbound," a reminder of how potent Potter can be given the right circumstance, with the complexity of the theme giving way to an open setting for collective improvisation and saxophone letting loose over funky keyboard and percussion accompaniment, as Potter develops one of his finest solo statements on the whole album, and the keyboard and drum team are given generous room to display their skills as well. The group fades in playing a very funky and infectious theme for "Serpentine," working very tight and flying in formation, before breaking out into a more spacious area for a complicated and impressive saxophone feature building to very exciting peaks as the solo develops. Potter shows a great deal of stamina, playing with wit and energy, really pushing things into the stratosphere. There is a break for wide ranging electronic sounds and drumming creating an interesting soundscape in the absence of the leader, building an heavy electro-percussive fantasia. Disparate sounds like acoustic piano, electronic bass and fertile drumming lead to scorching saxophone at the end. "Nowhere, Now Here/Sunrise Reprise" is a massive twenty four and a half minute closing epic, with Potter opening with some quite beautiful flute playing. Developing a brisk theme by the three musicians in a fast paced manner, then carving out space for a muscular tenor saxophone solo over crisp drumming and keyboard accompaniment. Well paced and architecturally sound saxophone leads to spirited acoustic piano flourish, running through a wide creative sphere, electro-acoustic keyboards with drumming, trying all different kinds of textures and approaches throughout this massive track. This album is a grower, there is distinctive writing and playing throughout the record, particularly from the leader who plays saxophone with genuine gusto, regardless of the setting. Sunrise Reprise -

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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Hasaan Ibn Ali - Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album (Omnivore Recordings, 2021)

Pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali has been one of the biggest mysteries of the jazz world ever since the 1960’s when the great bebop drummer Max Roach got together with him to record the well received LP The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan for Atlantic Records in 1965. Ali had been a stalwart on the deep Philadelphia jazz scene playing with musicians that included John Coltrane and many others with whom he sat in with at local clubs, but fell into obscurity as his health declined. The recordings made for this album were done by Atlantic Records in 1965 as well, with this reissue taken from recently restored acetates long thought lost. Set down on August 23 and September 7, 1965 the sessions took place at Atlantic Studios in New York City with Odean Pope on tenor saxophone; Art Davis on bass and Kalil Madi on drums. The sound isn't pristine, but the remastering is well done considering the circumstances. When Ali was off the scene due to narcotics violations and illness, Atlantic delayed the original project, eventually losing the original tapes in a warehouse fire, leaving on the acetates. The music itself is quite memorable, sometimes having a manic edge to the excitement, but never veering out of control, it sounds like something that might be at the vanguard of mid 1960's jazz along side the likes of Andrew Hill or McCoy Tyner. Ali has a firm percussive touch, driving the piano keys and pushing the music forward, while also maintaining a unique idiosyncratic conception of time along the lines of fellow iconoclasts Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk. If the music presented here isn't exactly a historical revelation to rewrite the jazz history books, it is still a very worthy album, shining much deserved light on a very talented musician who by dint of fate wasn't quite able to make the impact he deserved to make. Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album -

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