Saturday, October 30, 2021

Jon Irabagon - Bird With Streams (Irabbagast, 2021)

Multi-reed master Jon Irabagon has shown during the course of his career that he is a relentless musical explorer, whether that is with the great band Mostly Other People Do the Killing or his experimental I Don't Hear Nothin' But the Blues series. But in early 2020 as the lockdown made collaboration difficult, he lit out for the territory, decamping for his in-laws home in South Dakota. While many musicians were trying to stay in contact with colleagues and listeners through teleconference, Irabagon embraced the natural world of the upper Midwest in order to look inward. He began to take his horns to a canyon area called Falling Rock where he could play his horns and hear how they might reverberate among the natural rock and water formations. The one hundredth anniversary of Charlie Parker's birth occurred during the time Irabagon was playing at Falling Rock, adding further inspiration and atmosphere to the performances. What results is a fascinating field recording of themes associated with Parker and other bebop luminaries as well as the occasional Irabagon line to keep things moving. It works very well, the music is wide open and inquisitive, with the saxophonist traveling in and through an these familiar melodies in order to learn more about them. He writes in his notes to the album that this album represents a "fight against nature" and at first blush that may be true, after all, it's hard to imagine a more urban music than bebop. But it is this natural setting that moves this album from some kind of solo recital, to a context where Irabagon has to be constantly on his toes constantly improvising as his music is reflected and refracted by wind, rock and water that always in the process of change. This album worked very well, Irabagon's gruff and gutsy tone cuts through the natural elements clearly and the unique backdrop and ambience of the site, making this one of the most unusual and exciting of all the plague year projects. Bird With Streams - Bandcamp

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Friday, October 29, 2021

Whit Dickey / William Parker / Matthew Shipp - Village Mothership (TAO Forms, 2021)

Drummer Whit Dickey, bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp have been playing together in different combinations for decades, and on this album they are combining lightning fast reflexes, intricate compositions and complex improvisations to create a very exciting album. "Whirling in the Void" is open with fast and intricate trio playing, creating music that is very propulsive with meaty bass playing and fast and complex piano and drums. Shipp is particularly engaged, whether using large chords as a booster or diving into the bass and drums for intricate free improvisation. The music flows mightily but still retains a high level of complexity, which is fitting, since these compatriots have so much accumulated experience. The group develops a crashing, urgent sensibility toward the end of performance with Shipp pounding out Morse code like chords. The title track "Village "Mothership" spare solo drum opening, before the piano and bass enter later, clamoring for attention. Deep trio interplay centered by the stoic bass playing, which builds into a rich and thoughtful solo spotlight for Parker. They enter territory that is nearly swinging, allowing for more bass, and opening up some space for the music to breathe, spotlighting Parker who really shines on this track, playing beautifully. "Down Void Way" evolves quickly into a dynamic performance in which thunderous sustaining piano and raw bowed bass meet powerful percussion with excellent results. The improvisation is loud and frenetic, and Parker's bowing is thrilling to hear with Dickey's ever changing percussion patterns and Shipp's dark brooding piano playing make for a beguiling track. The group takes their performance to an area of unsettled quiet, anchored by the bow and gradually allowing their volume to fade away. As can be expected from this lineup, the music on this album is top notch, spontaneously developing in an organic manner. Whether working from narrative or abstraction, all three musicians are completely invested, creating a wonderful statement on this excellent album. Village Mothership - TAO Forms Bandcamp

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Kuzu - All Your Ghosts In One Corner (Aerophonic Records, 2021)

Kuzu is a thrilling modern jazz band consisting of Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Tashi Dorji on guitar and Tyler Damon on drums. Their brand of free improvisation also expands into punk and experimental music, keeping their sound fresh. Recorded live in March 2020 as the lockdown loomed they stared into the unknown and produced one of their finest albums. "One Fell Swoop" opens the album, introducing the set with the band ramping up their energy like one would move through the gears of a fine sports car, setting their mandate of free improvisation with potent saxophone, loose drumming and guitar playing creating a fascinating soundscape. From here the band moves into an interconnected series of performances, beginning with "Scythe Pt. 1" really pushing the music forward with emotional playing, opening this suite with torrid gales of saxophone, clattering free percussion and raw jabs of electric guitar. This shows the band at their most exciting, projecting their music in a relentless manner. The longest piece is "Scythe Pt. 2" which develops a narrative all its own, eventually ratcheting down the thunder to explore an alien soundscape of spacious and mysterious long tones and drones. The band deftly shifts back up to high speed before launching into "Scythe Pt. 3" where complex extended percussion rings out, while saxophone and electronics spar developing a dynamic improvisation that rises and falls of its own accord. Firing on all cylinders and then dropping off just as fast, strumming simmering guitar playing, developing an excellent sense of tension and drama while sax and drums build, everybody barrels into the conclusion. Patient and intricate trio work is the key to the concluding track "Year of the Rat" followed by wrenching saxophone which breaks out for an exciting and expressive turn, leading an engrossing three way improvisation, using withering long lines of powerful saxophone in an all out assault at the finish line. Everything really came together well on this performance, with the musicians responding to the uncertainty of the world around them with energy and focus leading to a stellar album that will hopefully herald their return to the road. All Your Ghosts In One Corner - Aerophonic Bandcamp

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Monday, October 25, 2021

Don Cherry - Complete Communion and Symphony For Improvisers Revisited (Ezz-thetics Records, 2021)

This compilation brings together two of the three albums that trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry recorded for the Blue Note label, with the two albums each consisting of lengthy side long suite like performances. These album start what what would become a fascinating bridge between Cherry’s free focused modern jazz sideman recordings with luminaries like Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and the world music that he would explore in depth in the 1970’s. Complete Communion is the first album featured here, with the song of the same name having punchy and intuitively played brass and reed solos which spark excitement. The music sounds like free-bop, but Gato Barbieri does some overblowing on tenor saxophone, supported by bass and drums, and the group’s collective playing is tight and well integrated. Cherry solos in an exploratory manner poking around corners, and Barbieri takes off on a raw stark flight, with both returning to the brief theme, with room for some fine bass and drum exposition “Elephantasy“ has a bouncy propulsive theme which pushes the music forward, strong and confident soloing from the horns leads back to a sawing bowed bass solo with feathering drums and gathering brass, strong and bracing playing all around as they branch out. The second album on this compilation leads off with the title track “Symphony for the Improvisors” which is much more chaotic free with a rush of energy from the instruments, flute sounding nervous amid bass and drums, enveloped in squall. Karl Berger’s Vibes bubble up with short feature, before being shouted down. Where as the first album seemed like guided open improvisation, this is much more free, bearing the imprint of experimental albums like John Coltrane’s Ascension. Incrementally the music opens to allow for some spaciousness leading to a rough theme halfway through and developing a very nice vibe shaded cornet solo. “Manhattan Cry" is the final LP side-long suite marking quite a change from what had come before, spacious and open with room to breathe allowing gentle piano, bass to settle before high pitch bursts of raw saxophone burst through. The group takes an interesting approach to performing, instead of using disparate songs, the group uses themes and melodies as a jumping off point for a continuous improvisation. Cherry leads some highly individual musicians on these albums, and molds their sound to create some of the most avant music ever recorded for Blue Note. But this complex music is the culmination of hard work and preparation, leading to extraordinary group efforts that never flag even over a twenty minute long performances. Complete Communion and Symphony For Improvisers Revisited - Squidco

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Friday, October 22, 2021

Nick Fraser Quartet - If There Were No Opposites (Ezz-thetics Records, 2021)

This is a very interesting inside - outside modern jazz record featuring Nick Fraser on drums, Tony Malaby on saxophones, Andrew Downing on cello and Rob Clutton on bass. On this album, Fraser draws on some compositions he has written for dance troupes and others designed expressly for improvisation. "Improvisation (Part 1)" develops strong bass notes and raw saxophone playing, as the cello and percussion push the music into longer tones. Swirling cello and saxophone open "Sketch #50," leading to pulsing bass and drums to complete the sound. Malaby's scalding saxophone ups the ante leading to a wild ride for the full band. "Shoe Dance" uses slinky bass and drums to develop a very interesting feel, as is should considering Fraser had written the piece for a production of Romeo and Juliet. Malaby strikes out with a gritty saxophone solo that breaks the spell, before returning to the gracefully swinging melody. From here the music moves into a more abstract direction with "Table 49, The Rex Hotel, Toronto" using quietly squeaking reed and shimmering cymbals to set the scene. The saxophone slowly picks up the pace in the company of bowed cello which gradually fills in the sound. Stronger drumming and bowed playing boosts the tempo of the performance, leading to the saxophone developing a more strident form of improvisation. "The Bulldog And The Capricorn" a composition dedicated to Tony Malaby and pianist Kris Davis develops gradually, beginning with the juxtaposition of deep toned bass and lightly played saxophone. The group comes together very well in a tightly woven mesh of instruments, bass, feathered drumming, restrained saxophone and cello. Clutton provides a fine bass solo followed by the saxophone storming back in with throbbing drum support. Another piece that Fraser wrote for a dance situation, "The Fashion Show" starts in a surprising fashion, with a stark free improvisational sound, collective improvisation raw and Ayler like, before dropping back into a more restrained format with open space and near classical sound. Cello and gentle reed playing close the piece at the polar opposite of the opening. "Improvisation (Part 2)" is the second half of a long piece split into two, and this side has a solid bass and drums foundation, allowing gnarly saxophone and swooping cello to lift up the performance into a higher strata entirely. This album worked very well, it's clear that the musicians know each other well, having played and recorded together since 2012. They are equally comfortable playing melodic or freely improvised material and they do so with great skill. If There Were No Opposites - Squidco

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse Records, 2021)

1965 may have been the most incandescent year for John Coltrane, beginning with the release of what would become a cultural touchstone, the album A Love Supreme, and by the end, the dissolution of his classic quartet, as he decided to devote himself fully to free and spiritual jazz. October of that year was particularly fertile, yielding the OM album, and the posthumously released Live in Seattle. On October 2 Seattle saxophonist and educator Joe Brazil recorded this expanded group, John Coltrane Pharoah Sanders and Carlos Ward on saxophones, McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Jimmy Garrison and Donald (Rafael) Garrett on basses at the Penthouse club. The group is called to order around the anchoring basses on “A Love Supreme, Pt. 1 – Acknowledgement“ with the majestic saxophone melody entering as the band begins to fill out the available space, swelling up as the volume and tempo increase. The basses and extensive rhythm are the connective tissue that hold things together and allow the group to explore beyond the original suite on the improvisational interludes played between the movements. Drums and percussion met with plucked and bowed bass in an intricate mesh, developing a seething conglomeration of musical ideas on “A Love Supreme, Pt. II – Resolution.” Coltrane soars back in with some of his most powerful playing of the set, meeting Jones at his most potent as Tyner provides grounding chords underneath. Room is made for a different sounding horn, probably Ward, playing with Dolphy like accents and contributing well to the crushing improvisation. After an interlude segment of beautiful solo drumming, there are very interesting solo segments on “A Love Supreme, Pt. III – Pursuance” where Pharoah Sanders gets a chance to shine, overblowing white hot while Jones roils underneath and Tyner struggles to be heard. But when Pharoah steps aside Tyner lays down a gauntlet of his own, maintaining the very fast pace, but employing the length of his instrument to produce a lush sound along side Jones motoring percussion. After a final interlude, the whole group comes together for the prayerful “A Love Supreme, Pt. IV – Psalm” which brings the entire performance to a beautiful and graceful conclusion. This is only the second known recorded live version of the A Love Supreme suite, but beyond that rarity is the quality of the music, with the musicians using this incredible material as springboards for daring improvisations both solo and collective. Considering that the source is a fifty five year old audience recording, the sound is quite good within reason, and should not dissuade anyone from checking out this historic session. A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle -

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Abbey Rader and John McMinn - Two as One (ABRAY Productions, 2021)

This is an exciting and very well played modern jazz album with the duo of Abbey Rader on drums and percussion and John McMinn on tenor saxophone, piano and percussion. This album was fully improvised and recorded in Miami in of 2021. "Rejoiceful Reunion" opens the album with raw saxophone and bounding drums, both strong and potent, pushing boundaries fearlessly dark toned saxophone and crisp cymbal play. Spaciousness with cymbals and probing saxophone is the key to "Inner Vision" as the music picks up and stretches out with graceful interplay between the two musicians. Caustic overblown saxophone keeps the tension high, then ratchets back down carefully for concluding section. "Diss & Dass" has McGinn moving to the piano using chords that repeat along side shimmering percussion. The dark cords produce a fantasia of sound with percussion rumbling underneath, and two instruments mesh in a tumult of cascading sounds, each percussive in their own way, dynamic music chords and brushes, to the end. Rolling drums and majestic saxophone set the tome for "To the Masters Before" developing swirling patterns of both saxophone and drums which lead to deeper strata of improvisation as they play. "Defending the Gate" is a fascinating song, with unique sweeping harp like piano, giving the music an Alice Coltrane kind of vibe paired with shaken percussion and bells which deepen the spiritual jazz effect. Unaccompanied drums run deep and powerful on "Rhythm of My Birth" soon joined by strident saxophone in a freewheeling exploration of sound. Ripe collective improvisation between the two instruments takes place burrowing deeply into their potential. "Repentance" is the centerpiece of the album, with deeply emotional saxophone playing long tones over drums. The long track unfolds episodically, with rolling loose percussion supporting the burly saxophone playing, which builds into sections of overblowing, then the two lock into a fast mutually supportive improvisation that drives forward relentlessly. An epic drum solo, heavy stuff, finally leading to a tempestuous improvisation and the finish. Rader and McMinn have been playing together for thirty years before the pandemic brought that to a halt in 2020. They re-emerged the following year with this excellent album that shows them at the top of their game. Two as One -

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Thursday, October 07, 2021

Jon Lundbom and Byran Murray - Beats by Balto Vol. 2 (Chant Records, 2021)

Beats by Balto represents the fun side of experimental jazz with hip-hop quality beats and grooves provided by Bryan Murray under his Balto Exclamationpoint guise while the music comes from Murray and Jon Irabagon on saxophones, Jon Lundbom and Nick Mellevoi on guitar, Moppa Elliott on bass, Sam Kulik on trombone, Matt Kanelos and Richard Mikel on bass. This is a deep collaboration between custom built compositions by Lundbom met by well developed and deployed beats from Balto. The beats give what is already excellent music a new dimension, the ability to slip linearity, loop back, repeat and allow for techniques that are unavailable when playing with regular time. Horns playing together or soloing separately are able to develop interesting textures that the other instruments and beats can meet to produce spontaneous and organic performances. The sound of Lundbom and Mellevoi is strong but accessible, performing guitar solos that are powerful but not overly flamboyant, building a crunchy and searing sounds that lend much of the texture and melody to these performances. Irabagon and Murray are also able to offer searing saxophone solos across the entire saxophone family, sounding stark and potent, with Kilik’s trombone riding in to offering a countering sound that cuts through the accompaniment to add further texture and polish to this already exciting and unpredictable music. While the first volume was created by sending the tracks back and forth to record live performances of the new music, improvised solos, and accompaniment between busy musicians, this album unfolded quite differently. With 2020 forcing musicians off the road into quarantine, Lundbom and Murray were able to take their time and invite their colleagues and longtime musical friends, to create a deep and creative album. This group creates an unusual amalgam of experiential jazz, with beats and rhythms that was very successful. Each of the musicians has a relentlessly inquisitive nature, and by combining their efforts with inquisitive compositions and techniques they create riveting and very successful results. (Nov. 7 on Chant Records)

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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Chick Corea Akoustic Band - Live (Concord Jazz, 2021)

The first posthumous release from pianist Chick Corea's representatives is a very good two disc album from his Akoustic Band, recorded live at the SPC Music Hall in Florida a few years before his unexpected death. The Akoustic Band featuring John Patitucci on bass and Dave Weckl on drums, had been a long running concern, with the trio having played together for decades and that camaraderie really comes through on this recording as they are able to compliment one another, anticipate each others ideas and react fluently to changing circumstances. The setlist is a generous one, including original compositions and jazz standards played at length with excellent band interplay and considerable solo space. The album opener is "Morning Sprite" which is a fast past and complex performance that really demonstrates the band's ability to both create at high speed and to throttle the tempo spontaneously when necessary. Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" is a ballad that is played with admirable restraint, developing lush piano, elastic bass and soft drumming. The group touches base with Corea's Spanish roots on "Rhumba Flamenco" combining these two musics, the danceable rhumba and the complex flamenco to an improvised section that becomes more rapid and complicated, building from composite parts to a fine performance. "You and the Night and the Music" starts out with a boiling fast trio improvisation, with all three musicians locked in tight, leading to well articulated bass and drum solos both framed by piano, and finally to a fine bowed bass conclusion. The band really deconstructs Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Mood" taking it apart thoroughly to see how the genius put it together and using the component parts as launching points for an interesting improvised performance all their own. This album worked quite well, clearly proving that thirty years of familiarity in no way bred contempt, but rather an even stronger urge to explore the jazz idiom and search out the mysteries held within. Live -

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Sunday, October 03, 2021

The Cookers - Look Out (Gearbox Recordings, 2021)

The Cookers are a confederation of veteran musicians, five who came up in the post bop crucible of the 1960’s: Billy Harper on tenor saxophone, Cecil McBee on bass, George Cables on piano, Billy Hart on drums and Eddie Henderson on trumpet. Rounding out the group is a musician from a generation later, Donald Harrison on alto saxophone. Although this is their first album in five years, it’s their sixth overall with strong compositions brought in by several members, arranged in most cases by producer David Weiss who is a fine trumpeter in his own right. Two of Billy Harper’s compositions are given lengthy airings, “Destiny Is Yours” and “Somalia” which is introduced with wordless vocalizing before heading to a strong uptempo performance with the saxophones and trumpet pushing hard and the rhythm section stoking the group’s engine in excellent fashion. George Cables contributed three tracks to this album including the deeply swinging track “The Mystery Of Monifa Brown” which is the lengthy album opener, providing a strong theme and launching pad for powerful riffing and extended soloing. This album worked very well, in fact I think it may be their finest to date. The ensemble playing is crisp, rhythm section sections swings admirably, and the solos are well built and concise. There's no sense of the music being time-locked to the hard/post bop era however, it sounds like up to date modern mainstream jazz played by a group of true professionals. Look Out -

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