Monday, December 27, 2021

Rodrigo Amado Northern Liberties - We Are Electric (NotTwo Records, 2021)

Rodrigo Amado's Nothern Liberties quartet finds the tenor saxophonist in the company of Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Jon Rune Strom on bass and Gard Nilssen on drums. The music was recorded in Lisbon during July of 2017 and it is the first collaboration between these musicians, but you wouldn't know it by the intricate way they play together. On the opening track "Spark," the music begins a tight four part medley of performances, beginning with raw and sparkling free jazz right from the start. Superfast interplay with a powerful trumpet solo springing to life, over boiling bass and drums before laying out to dynamic open space, with saxophone, bass and drums playing abstract, extended techniques to expand the soundscape. The music then coalesces around the trumpet, with great rolling drums and they play off each other other ramping up the atmosphere heading back to full speed led by cutting saxophone, as the two horns duel in space above the bass and drums. "Ignition" has an interlude for bowed bass and brushed percussion, providing a quiet section, as the saxophone and trumpet develop brash jazzy improvisation for restrained saxophone and trumpet, along side graceful bass and drums. The drummer moves back to sticks for a riveting section in tandem with the trumpet, creating a spark that leads to a hearty full band improvisation taken at great speed. Low tones of trumpet and saxophone usher in "Activity" developing exploratory sounds bending long notes and tones in an alluring manner, before the group moves back to a bracing free jazz improvisation. Finally, "Response" uses more excellent bowed bass which is powerfully played and very impressive. The rest of the band fills in led by squalls of saxophone, and trumpet with drums dancing around stoic bass, which rounds out this very fine album. We Are Electric - Bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, December 24, 2021

King Crimson - Music Is Our Friend: Live In Washington D.C. and Albany (DGM Records, 2021)

With the news that King Crimson could possibly have played their final concert, comes this double live album recorded in Washington and at The Egg in Albany, chronicling the 2021 tour. After a year off the road due to COVID-19 restrictions, the band sounds as good as ever, continuing the multiple drummer setup that has been a of the band ever since Robert Fripp resurrected it in 2014. The group plays a wide range of material from the length and breadth of the band's over fifty year existence. They dip into their early eighties period, previously unexplored, for interesting re-arrangements of "Neurotica" and "Indiscipline" as well as their own recent original material like the thundering "Hell Hounds of Crim." The material from the brilliant Red album, which was never toured after release in 1974 is particularly vibrant here, be it the skull hammering riffs of the title track, the wonderful saxophone of Mel Collins on "One More Red Nightmare" or the slow building shimmering and majestic "Starless" with its apocalyptic payoff. Their well known first album is also well represented, "In the Court of the Crimson King" was out of bounds for decades, before a revival in the triple drummer unit, and they drive it hard, and navigate the tricky passages with aplomb, creating a performance of startling vibrancy. "Epitaph" gets a particularly moody and atmospheric reading, setting the stage for a positively epic "21st Century Schizoid Man" that pulls out all the stops in terms of arrangement and performance, creating a musical monster that stalks the theatre. The opening and closing parts of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" provide great contrast, with the experimental first part toying with sound and the second resolving into a driving rock instrumental. King Crimson has been releasing live albums of the most recent group nearly every year since the and re-formed in the middle of the decade. It has been interesting to listen to the band refine it's approach to their material, playing it with such power and grace, proving that truly progressive rock is hardly a pejorative term. Music is Our Friend: Live in Washington and Albany -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

[Ahmed] - Nights on Saturn (communication) (Astral Spirits, 2021)

Taking their inspiration from the great bassist and composer Ahmed Abdul-Malik, the members of [Ahmed], Pat Thomas on piano, Joel Grip on bass, Antonin Gerbal on drums and Seymour Wright and alto saxophone, use their music to sonically explore slavery and race hatred, and Abdul-Malik's own contribution to jazz. The album consists of one very long track called "Nights on Saturn (communication)" which was recorded live at Cafe OTO, London in December of 2019. Beginning with urgent quartet jazz, and alarming toned saxophone, crisp drums and propulsive piano push the music forward. The bass is appropriately at the center, holding down the middle as chaos reigns around it, with towering piano chords chomping down and serrated saxophone sawing at the jail bars holding them in as they seek true freedom. The group interaction as a whole is fine, so matter how extreme the music gets, amid destructive piano and ribald saxophone, they are never lost or unsupportive. The intensity level is very impressive and keeps the music rolling ceaselessly forward, with repetitive saxophone figure and massive piano and drums interplay of almost unbelievable volume and density. The music develops a punchy dynamic interplay between the four musicians, while some light and space allowed into the previously dense music, with tight bass and drums keeping pace with the garrulous piano and saxophone. The dynamism of the music helps it to come across, with the coruscating free improvisation gradually lightened to the point of offering a stellar bass solo, something the album's dedicatee surely would have appreciated. Ripples of piano up and down the instrument in the manner of Don Pullen take the music in a different direction, met by imaginative rhythm playing and saxophone interjections, piano and saxophone play short figures at one another, leading to long peals and cries of saxophone. The full band comes together for a knock down free jazz conclusion that ends this very impressive album on a high note. This is a work of focused energy and spirited interplay that deserves attention. There is also quite a bit of interesting liner material that puts the project into perspective. Nights on Saturn (communication) - bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Sao Paulo Underground and Tupperware - Saturno Magico (Keroxen Records, 2021)

The always exciting Sao Paulo Underground Trio consisting of Rob Mazurek on cornet and modular synths, Mauricio Takara on drums, cavaquinho and electronics and Guilherme Granado on keyboards, synthesizers, and sampler, meets up with the electronic music group Tupperware to create a unique disc of music that spans borders and genres. Colorful and imaginative electronic sequences, are met with variable beats and alternately wounded and potent cornet playing that in every case adds a very human connection to the music. Pile driving almost pneumatic beats and drums build in after a period of found sound spoken word, rippling brass against chanted vocals and insistent percussion, creating exciting and truly creative music. Beats and synths play off against human voices like a commentary of man vs. machine, leading to an exhilarating cacophony. This was a fascinating piece of work where all of the instruments both electronic and acoustic come together to create a truly unique combination, made even more resonant, as the album was recorded in a disused kerosene tank in the Canary Islands after a week long residency by both groups. The music on this album works very well, and the music transcends any easy genre description by developing a broad based and resonant sound pushed forth with an energetic vigor. Saturno Magico -

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Isaiah Collier and The Chosen Few - Cosmic Transitions (Division 81 Records, 2021)

Isaiah Collier and The Chosen Few are a powerful jazz unit featuring the leader on tenor and soprano saxophones, Michael Shekwoaga Ode on drums, Jeremiah Hunt on bass and Mike King on piano. Not lacking in confidence, they recorded this album at Rudy Van Gelder's studio on the anniversary of John Coltrane's birth. The album opens with an introductory section that seems like an incantation, setting the stage for the music to follow. There are bells, chanting, and clanking on metal pipes, creating quite an atmosphere before slashing cymbals drive up the intensity with heavy drumming, and finally mad squalls of free sounding jazz from the full group, ushering in "Part I. Forgiveness." They have ripe saxophone and drums driving the music forward, with strong bass and piano in support. It's not hard to make the Coltrane quartet comparison, but the group is making it's own way and their playing is fierce and genuine, not deritive. Rippling piano bass and drums take an interlude with the cascading keyboard leading the way, pouring at length over stoic bass and drums. "Part II: Humility" builds for soaring tenor saxophone, paring back to a long form improvisation from the rhythm trio. The music has a seventies McCoy Tyner on Milestone vibe going, heavy stuff, but very exciting. Collier's saxophone returns with a sharp cutting tone as he digs in playing with power and force, slowing to a gradual conclusion with a bass feature. Hunt's excellent bass playing continues on "Part III. Understanding" as the group develops a spiritual jazz focus, their playing reflective and thoughtful with buoyant bass playing as the centerpiece along with gentle piano chords and brushed percussion. This leads to a more piano focused section, with flourishes of colorful keyboard playing astride bass and drums, setting up the final minute for the saxophonist to re-enter, return to the main theme and conclude. "Part V. Mercury's Retrograde" has an exotic sounding, vaguely Eastern introduction before muscular drumming builds in to launch the group into space. They play an absolutely wild blend of tones and rhythms, that resolve into storming quartet jazz, just going for it - the sound of excitement. An interlude ensues for potent bass connecting surging piano and drums. The leader's soprano saxophone returns, questing through the musical maze and finding great success, emblematic of the sense of accomplishment and purpose that the group shows throughout this fine album. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Andrew Cyrille Quartet - The News (ECM Records, 2021)

This is the second album for the quartet led by the great percussionist Andrew Cyrille for ECM, and he is in good company with Bill Frisell on guitar, Ben Street on bass and David Virelles on piano and synthesizer. They create patient and atmospheric music, relying on trust and a deeply human connection to create music that goes against the grain of our hyperactive world. "Living East of Java" develops subtle rhythms and interactions which ever so gradually increase the tempo for a surprisingly fast ending with swirling guitar and percussion anchored by strong bass. Pure Frisell whimsy, "Go Happy Lucky" is gentle like an evening breeze, anchored by his instantly recognizable guitar tone, setting up a memorable melody and soloing without artifice over swinging rhythm. Rippling piano and gentle waves of percussion add to the easy going nature of the music, leaving Frisell room to return in full Americana mode to conclude the tune. "The News" is open ended with static like synth present sounding as if one is trying to tune in a difficult to catch radio station. Cyrille’s deft brushwork is impressive, underpinning barely audible keyboards both electronic and acoustic, evoking a very subtle kind of freedom. Another Bill Frisell composition, "Baby," uses subtle sunrise like shadings of guitar, with graceful bass building in for support, and the most subtle hint of a drum pulse, creating music that is very restrained, melodic and quiet, a true ballad. "Dance of the Nuances" uses slightly tapped percussion and droplets of piano notes, building to quietly played but urgent drums, with the spare piano juxtaposed against it. This track was co-composed by Cryille and Virelles, and they make the most of the performance, leading to a drum solo of subtle complexity framed by delicate piano. "With you in Mind" is anchored by softly spoken word, enveloping this heartfelt ballad, again featuring gentle piano sounding quite beautiful and patient along side the grounding bass. Frisell adds languid watery guitar, adding to the atmosphere of the overall track, creating a sense of nostalgic grace. The News -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Ava Mendoza - New Spells (Relative Pitch/Astral Spirits, 2021)

Sounding like a wonderful combination of Sonny Sharrock's Guitar LP filtered through LeNoise era Neil Young, Ava Menddoza's solo electric guitar album New Spells feels like a statement record, hanging out her star in the guitar firmament for all to see and follow. "Sun Gun" opens the album probing with some grinding sounds before developing a thorny motif. Slashing choppy sounds and quick flourishes are sharp and potent, picking up to a scalding fast improvisation, with ripe chords creating a very exciting sound environment. Perhaps a nod to Albert Ayler, "New Ghosts" has a massive Link Wray like opening of brute force noise, then the performance becomes much more complex with ascending and descending lines, weaving several disparate ideas together into a coherent whole that is a wall of shimmering electronic noise, creating a disorienting fun house of sound in the best way possible. "Ampulex Compresa" has urgent alarm sounding guitar right that sets the stage for a fast and active sounding performance. Mendoza's guitar tone is dark and angular, cutting through the space around it like some kind of industrial saw. "Apart From" has a bent tone, like there are aspects of deep blues are creeping into the music, giving it an emotional edge, turning the theme into a deeper well of feeling. Her music can go from having a dark sinister edge to an angelic sweep in the blink of an eye, such is her command of the instrument. The final two tracks nail down the approach that she takes on this album and what makes it so interesting. "Apart From" and "Don't Look" allow Mendoza to stretch out and move dynamically on her instrument, weaving textures and structures and experimenting with the consistency of substantive or abstract approaches to sound, either being equally viable. The lockdown to 2020 caused many musicians to pause and take stock, and Mendoza sees these performances as a portal to the post everything world. Bracing and unpredictable, the music on this album is a call to action to cast off fear and move forward into the future. New Spells - Bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Matthew Shipp - Codebreaker (TAO Forms Records, 2021)

The art of code deciphering and the art of music both share a need for a strong mind and sharp focus, two things that pianist Matthew Shipp brings to every project he embarks upon. While he takes a more melodic approach to the performances on this album, they are no less exploratory than the rest of the music that he has built his highly regarded career upon. The opening track "Codebreaker" develops rippling and cascading sounds alternating with gently played sections building an ominous melody, in a simple yet frightening manner. Shipp uses a softer melodic sense put against tumbling areas of lower end piano on "Spiderweb" making for interesting differences of light and shade, then adding speed and anxiety to further the effect. "Disc" uses injections of jagged chords along side spacious and quiet searching, and a spare pointillism of notes sprinkled in for zest. Clusters of notes create whorls and eddies in the musical streams on "Code Swing" with insistent chords changing the channel of the flow, leading to complex two handed interplay. On "Letter From the Galaxy" there is another example of the the music seeming to start with a gentle opening and then blossoming from there. Sounds of a lonely sounding exoplanet turning gracefully in the void, and twisting melodically like a dancer, with an elastic sense of time and space woven into the music. "Green Man" uses an intricate nature that is somewhat reserved, not loud, but knotty and challenging. The sound changes dynamically to loud pounding repetition of chords and an abrupt conclusion. Undulating piano develops on "Raygun" gaining an interesting approach that is never static, never still or stable, always churning and moving onward in a relentless quest. "Mystic Moon" develops low bass and heavy sounds which gradually lighten, becoming probing and complex, adding dynamic tension to the music which open possibilities for more robust improvisation releasing a melting pot or crucible of ideas. Pushing a strong complex improvisation, "Stomp to the Galaxy" reaches a vision that is kaleidoscopic in scope with a strong tone and approach to the instrument, moving in a very creative fashion, agitating chords pushing the pace of the music to a strong conclusion. Over the course of his career, Matthew Shipp has built a body of work as a solo pianist that can stand with any musician of the era. This fine album is another example of his continual growth and fearless exploration of the medium. It is quite accessible and recommended to all music fans. Codebreaker -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Mike Pride - I Hate Work (Rare Noise Records, 2021)

Inspired by the work of the 1980's hardcore rock band Millions of Dead Cops, drummer Mike Pride turns to songs from their self titled debut album as source material with which to develop a jazz album. He is joined on this album by pianist and keyboardist Jamie Saft and Brad Jones on bass along with a number of guest musicians. 
What you get us an ingenious mix of instruments and play styles that range from steady as she goes piano trio to a darker track that gains traction with deeply distorted and gravelly vocals intoning politically charged lyrics. "Dick for Brains" offers a track for distorted organ or moog that points to new vistas as does a coursing piano trio supporting a powerful singer and manic guitarist on "Greedy and Pathetic." Synths branch out from a trio foundation on "Annie Olivia," beaming into space, adding theremin like sounds for the acoustic instruments to play against. "Dead Cops" begins a a brightly swinging number, slowly gathering steam through deeply engaging drum work. Ominous bowed bass sets the scene on "She Wants a Partner With a Lust For Life" and the music is shape shifting and constantly evolving. This is a centerpiece for Jones who plays beautifully throughout the whole piece. The keyboards lend to the creepily atmospheric feeling of the performance as well. The concluding track takes the anarcho-punk sentiment of "I Hate Work" and places the lyrics in different and gently swinging context, subverting the subversives in a manner of speaking. But the lyrics do hold up to scrutiny as does the album as a whole. The album is successful in using it's source material to create a unique approach to jazz, and a burst of punkish vitality in a time if extremism and plauge shows what a ground wire music can be.