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

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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 -

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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

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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 -

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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 -

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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

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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 -

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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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

End of Year Poll Ballot

I apologize for the lack of blog posts, I haven't been feeling well and some projects have suffered for it. I hope to get back in the swing of things as we approach the new year and beyond. Thank you for your patience. In the meantime, here is the end of year ballot I filled out for Tom Hull and Francis Davis's end of year poll. 


1. Vijay Iyer-Linda May Han Oh-Tyshawn Sorey, Uneasy (ECM)

2. Natural Information Society & Evan Parker, Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) (Aguirre/Eremite)

3. Rodrigo Amado This Is Our Language Quartet, Let the Free Be Men (Trost)

4. Henry Threadgill Zooid, Poof (Pi)

5. Kuzu, All Your Ghosts in One Corner (Aerophonic)

6. Tim Berne-Chris Speed-Reid Anderson-Dave King, Broken Shadows (Intakt)

7. Miguel Zenón-Ariel Bringuez-Demian Cabaud-Jordi Rossy, Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Miel Music)

8. William Parker, Mayan Space Station (AUM Fidelity)

9. Ill Considered, Liminal Space (New Soil)

10. John Zorn, Heaven and Earth Magick (Tzadik)


1. Joe Harriott Quintet, Free Form & Abstract Revisited (1960-62, Ezz-Thetics)

2. Charles Mingus, Mingus at Carnegie Hall [Deluxe Edition] (Atlantic)

3. Joe Henderson, The Complete Joe Henderson Blue Note Studio Sessions (Mosaic)


1. Roseanna Vitro, Sing a Song of Bird (Skyline)


1. Emma-Jean Thackray, Yellow (Movementt/Warp)


1. Orquesta Akokán, 16 Rayos (Daptone)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Nathan Bell - Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn’t Happen Here) (Singular Recordings, 2021)

Nathan Bell is a very interesting blues and roots musician that mixes well thought out topical songs in a mode similar to Otis Taylor with anguished personal tunes that clearly come from the heart. Bell plays fine electric and acoustic guitar, adding some harmonica for good measure in addition to singing his original lyrics with vocal support from guests like Patty Griffin and Regina McCrary. Bell is a fantastic storyteller, whether singing a more standard blues about the horrors of Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana on "Angola Prison," or the more modern take on violence with the track “American Gun.” He circles back to this theme later in the album with the song “Mossberg” in which the character buys a shotgun as the solution to all of the problems he he his facing, only to literally bury the weapon at the last minute, when he realizes what he might be capable of. "Retread Cadillac (Lightnin')" is a wonderful song that welds a great guitar lead beat to the retelling of some great stories about the legendary bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins. He puts these stories in song form in very well, singing about the legend of Lightnin' as one would sing about other American folk heroes like John Henry or Casey Jones. He ends the album with a gospel song taken at an obtuse angle, shaming his invented character that Jesus isn't impressed with him or his folding money. "Folding Money" is a song that sticks with you, leaving an impression like the rest of the album. Nathan Bell plays the blues in a humble and unassuming manner singing songs of fear and hard won success, leavened by humor and grace. This fine album is very accessible and should appeal to a wide range of music fans from blues purists to roots rock explorers. Red, White and American Blues (it couldn't happen here) -

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Wadada Leo Smith, Jack DeJohnette and Vijay Iyer - A Love Sonnet For Billie Holiday (TUM Records, 2021)

All three of the principals bring compositions to this excellent album, a collaborative effort between Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Vijay Iyer on piano, keyboards and electronics and Jack DeJohnette on drums and percussion. Smith planned the session so that the lack of a bass player would offer the musicians a wider range to express themselves. The opening track "Billie Holiday: A Love Sonnet" is a potent meditation on the life and music of the famous icon, with Smith's thoroughly unique trumpet tone and inflections leading the group through this memorable performance. The three musicians have played together in sever different configurations, and this connection allows them to combine on such a unique composition. "Deep Time No. 1" has a spooky sound with echoing repurposed recorded speech "By Any Means Necessary" by Malcolm X along side hushed cymbals and long tones of trumpet. Iyer gets really trippy effects from his bank of gear at one point, then moving to electric piano, as the band creates a complex strata or stew of instruments and techniques and incorporates a fine rolling drum feature for DeJohnette. Intricate trio playing led by a strong trumpet tone comes to the forefront on "The A.D. Opera: A Long Vision With Imagination, Creativity and Fire, a dance opera "For Anthony Davis." Deep wells of piano lay the foundation for this epic piece and, after a pause, the music grows faster, freer, pushing boundaries, the sounds the musicians create are noticeably louder and more visceral. The music shifts dramatically to spare electronics and percussion, Smith’s trumpet has a beautiful emotional tone. Super fast acoustic piano, very impressive, as the piece continues to shape-shift, demonstration the relentless creativity and vision of these musicians. "Song for World Forgiveness" establishes a mid-tempo mysterious underlying principle, where composer DeJohnette's drums course ominously with pinched toned trumpet and piano chords creating a fluctuating environment. Iyer drives emotional piano chords, amid lashing drums, stark up to this point sounding stoic throughout the performance, with Smith intoning intense long tones like breathing, the musicians come together to bring a final sense of peace to the performance. Bright piano chords and drums sounding like waves upon a shore add to this newfound sense of hard won optimism. Electronics and organ open the concluding track "Rocket" soon met buy stuttering, powerful bursts of polished trumpet that pushes the music forward as the keyboard grinds and drums percolate. Iyer's keyboards frames piercing eruptions of brass, as the music fades into the mist. This album worked quite well, the compositions from each band member were consistently interesting and offered plenty of space for exciting exploration. The CD is a typically excellent TUM production with extensive liner essays, biographies of the musicians and interesting artwork. A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday -

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Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson - Searching For The Disappeared Hour (Pyroclastic Records, 2021)

Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and guitar player Mary Halvorson unleash their second enigmatic album, taking the time offered by 2020's circumstances to develop the music more slowly than their first record, an off the cuff live album released in 2017. The tracks on this album were specifically designated for it and led to much success, beginning with the opening track "Golden Proportion"  where the musicians demonstrate wonderfully intricate interplay, blending their pitches and tones, with the slight use of distortion which is effective in showing all the possibilities of the guitar. “Lulu’s Second Theorem” moves in a different direction with choppy guitar keeping things fresh and moving well, while developing an interesting narrative. The music drops dramatically to a quiet, subtle improvisation, where stream of consciousness lines and notions bubble up and dissipate. There is some beautifully atmospheric playing on “Faceless Smears,” revealing spaciousness rising from the core of the performance that hints at a ballad feeling with the use of gracefully rippling cascading guitar and piano. “Moonbow” develops  in a similar manner with subtle and gentle piano notes mixed with jellied smeared guitar sounds creating a funhouse mirror of excitement that leads back to subtle and quiet conclusion. This is where both musicians’ unique conception of their own sound and approach to improvisation really shines in a remarkable way. “Mind Out of Time” uses structural piano to provide foundation for strange sounding jabs of guitar, followed by lush notes and chords of piano, giving the whole performance a fascinating feeling of floating in luminal space between the instruments, between improvisation and structure. Interesting guitar sketches over skeletal piano form the setting on “Party Dress” providing an impetus for contextual interplay that is consistently excellent and surprising. This album worked very well, both musicians are masters of their respective instruments with distinctive personal voices. But it is the combination of the two voices and the mutual affinity for risk taking that really drives this album’s success. Searching For The Disappeared Hour -

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Saturday, November 06, 2021

Steve Coleman and the Five Elements - Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (Pi Recordings, 2021)

Recorded in May of 2018 this album presents the group one year further along than Volume One, with the band now consisting of the leader, Steve Coleman on alto saxophone, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Kokayi on spoken word vocals, Anthony Tidd on bass and Sean Rickman on drums. Coming off of a period of lengthy touring and given a full week at the Vanguard, the band was ready to make their statement. "Menes to Midas" opens the album with some solo saxophone playing along side a bass pattern, with gradual build up from a further horn and drums. Coleman solos over thick bass, tight drums, engages with trumpet who takes control. There is spoken word rhyme, where the band comps behind, then intricate full band playing to finish. Coleman uses a mild, lengthy and restrained solo saxophone exploration to open "Unit Fractions." The bass enters along with the spoken word artist, and really amps up the tempo, launching Coleman to a complex, cascading saxophone solo, propelled by insistent drumming. Finlayson's trumpet adds nice tones to the overall package, and the full band groove is excellent, moving toward the finish. "Little Girl I'll Miss You" joins saxophon to long trumpet probing ramping up quite gradually around anchoring bass. Vocalist scats with saxophone, he gets dynamic leading into the epic suite "Compassion (drum solo) - Ascending Numeration - DeAhBo (Reset)" which has a direct lead in to a fine and fast drum feature as the rest of the band holds and then kicks in very fast. There is another fine driving trumpet solo, with excellent tone, locked into the boiling bass and drums for maximum effect. The lengthy performance mines an excellent seam with the full band paling with Kokayi's fast, great control of vocals, words and percussion with occasional horn riffs. "Pad Thai-Mdw Ntr" is deceptively subtle… then spiraling as the band is gaining momentum, very much communal and collective, each piece having a purpose, the vocalist is very declarative pushing out the words over a solid groove. There is quick band introduction, then Coleman dives back in with a lightning fast angular saxophone solo, leading to a rousing conclusion. Crisp drumming opens "9 to 5," leading to rapid progress, with the band running hot, presenting blistering jazz in a saxophone bass and drums setting. The vocalist stretching out equally fast, enunciating clearly despite speed in a very impressive manner, leading to a trumpet improvisation is equally skilled, buoyed by elastic bass and drums. "Mdw Ntr" uses a slinky mid tempo bass which works well, giving the music a nice groove, Finlayson's trumpet adding punchy additions underneath the vocalist, after which the band develops an admirable collective improvisation. "Rumble Young Man Rumble" features Kokayi, the vocalist, dives right in to open the track laying out a complex linear narrative performance and carries on with the band in support, then breaking out into a very bright toned Coleman feature, that is well into integrated full band interplay. Fading in is the final massive track "9 to 5 - Mdw Ntr" reprising some of the earlier themes performed in this set but using them as a springboard for a massive twenty one minute exploration. The group makes their closing argument here, as it were, presenting their undeniable instrumental and vocal talent, and their ability to weave together impressively as a unit for both collective improvisation and in order to support each other and the music itself. Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (Mdw Ntr) -

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Monday, November 01, 2021

James Brandon Lewis Quartet - Code of Being (Intakt Records, 2021)

Saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis is one of the rising stars in the jazz world, releasing his second album of the year in the company of Aruán Ortiz on piano, Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. The eight compositions, all by Lewis, cover a wide range of musical territory, beginning with “Resonance,” which opens the album at a medium tempo with graceful playing all around and a gradual increase in the mysterious sound. Stronger playing from the rhythm sparks deeper saxophone playing which ramps up nicely to exciting collective improvisation lead by taut saxophone. There is space for the rhythm section to play with lush piano and active bass and drums. Before the leader’s saxophone returns and the tempo returns to the slower opening feel. Gentle rhythm section playing and yearning saxophone make for an emotional setting on “Archimedean,” with the pace soon picking up to some jagged and fraught playing from saxophone and drums. The music is fast and open sounding nearly free with the personnel communicating at a very high level, especially Lewis and Taylor. Downshifting to a quieter, more yearning and emotional section marks this as one of the more dynamic performances on the record. “Per 4” has solo saxophone probing the open space, patiently and well done, joined by persistent drumming and the rest of the band falling into place. Drums push the beat forward and the band leans in developing the quality of driving or pushing ahead, creating a nice wide open full group improvisation. The title track, “Code of Being” has fast and ripe rhythm section playing with rich, intense saxophone developing alongside, creating a potent sound. Lewis’s tone gets more strident and gritty as he really digs into his solo, playing in a very exciting manner. A strong piano, bass and drums interlude forms, flush with strong cymbal play, elastic bass and flowing piano. They make their case before the saxophone glides back in and the song takes on a Milestone era McCoy Tyner like vibe, intense yet melodic. “Where is Hella” uses droning bowed bass to give the tune a spiritual vibe, and Lewis meets this with a strong stoic saxophone tone. This is very deep and exciting, locking into the late Coltrane (both John & Alice) sensibility that makes for exciting and fulfilling music, the group creates a very long, evolving performance, built like a suite with the next part focused on the deep rhythm of the bass and drums and a gentler state to the saxophone. There is a segment for a rippling piano solo backed by cymbals and bass, with the saxophone returning after a lengthy break, climbing higher back to the heavy collective improvisation, striving to the finish line. The final performance is “Tessera” beginning with lush filling piano sounding water-like, joined by romantic saxophone, creating a true ballad feel. Moving slowly and patiently with a bruised and yearning tone, Lewis causes the tempo of the performance to shift up to a freer improvisation, leading to a satisfying conclusion. This album worked very well and it is clear that James Brandon Lewis is a musician whose skill is accelerating at an advanced pace. But more than that this is a full band effort, everyone worked very well together, anticipating and reacting to each other in a very effective manner. Code of Being -

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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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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Henry Threadgill Zooid - Poof (Pi Recordings, 2021)

Composer, alto saxophonist and flute player Henry Threadgill leads his group Zooid on this recording with Liberty Ellman on guitar, Christopher Hoffman on cello, Jose Davila on tuba, and Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums. These musicians are the perfect foils for Threadgill, interpreting his compositions with wit and panache, creating colorful and vivid sounds in the process. The opening track, "Come and Go," uses tuba and violin bouncing and scratching amid skittish drums and saxophone and pointistic guitar. The leader's saxophone becomes more biting and present, cutting through the other instruments, leading to tapping percussion, taut sawing cello and tuba underpinning everything, while the  low-key guitar and violin get time to shine. "Poof" features closely intertwined and arranged instruments, leading to yearning saxophone, wistfully played. Spare unaccompanied guitar fills, then Threadgill returns with heartbreaking saxophone solo that is huge sounding and deeply lonely. Long yearning peals of saxophone with tuba along side and dark turns of cello are the centerpiece of this track, Hoffman's cello playing is haunting in its melancholy, soon joined by dark toned saxophone in a rich and emotional performance. Davila is simply extraordinary throughout "Beneath the Bottom," juggling tuba and trombone with great skill and interfacing with Kavee's drums, using the available space to work out sounds, unaccompanied tuba/trombone, with barely perceptible drumming. The remainder of the band gradually fills in with Threadgill on flute, softly shading the edges. The tune swings to an alternate section, with the full band in a medium tempo setting, as cello and drums framing the trombone for further exploration. "Happenstance" uses unusual sounds, with Threadgill on flute met by acoustic guitar and other noises, becoming much more intricate, as long tones of cello and flute give the music a near classical sensibility. Tuba adds bottom end the the performance, filling out the sound, with gentle cymbal play added for texture. Drums play alone in space moving around the sound stage becoming more agitated as time moves forward, then everyone returns to the intricate conception that had been envisioned previously to conclude this performance. The concluding track, "Now and Then" creates fine tuba, guitar and drum interplay, subtle and well shaded, and the cello joins in engaging his fellow string instrument, developing deep intricate group improvisation with Threadgill laying out for the most part, before re-entering with strong toned alto saxophone that concludes the performance. The Zooid ensemble has been one of his longest running of Henry Threadgill's groups and they continue to inspire him in terms of composition and improvisation. His compositions are unique and the amount of trust that he places in his band members to bring them to life is reciprocated by their own talent and energy. Poof -

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

East Axis - Cool With That (ESP-Disk, 2021)

This quartet recording is a brilliant one, clearly one of the finest albums of the year with Matthew Shipp on piano, Allen Lowe on alto and tenor saxophone, Gerald Cleaver on drums and Kevin Ray on bass. The music is very well played from start to finish, but “One” is the real showstopper, nearly a half an hour in length, it’s an episodic improvisation that flows in such a natural and organic a fashion that you hardly notice the minutes moving by. This may be their first album together as a unit, but everyone is completely dialed in to to point of sounding like they are experiencing a state of grace. Shipp plays particularly well here, using his full command of the entire keyboard to push and pull the tempo while Cleaver and Ray gradually guide the rhythm and Lowe moves majestically through his horns. This is all happening in real time as the musicians interact with each other and their environment in a very fulfilling way. A little bit shorter, “Oh Hell, I Forgot About That One,” is particularly exciting with tumbling powerful saxophone playing at the core of a performance that also involves whiplash inducing piano and drums. Shipp is once again on point adding cascading layers of keyboard to Lowe's tart alto saxophone, combining this with the muscular bass and drums to give the performance a sense of unstoppable forward motion. These musicians were able to take the idea of free improvisation and come together to create true visceral music, that makes a memorable impact. This was a fine recording, one of those magical sessions where the right musicians come together at the right moment to seemingly conjure sounds from the very air that are free and unencumbered yet still the products of decades of work from their chosen craft. Cool With That -

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Saturday, September 18, 2021

John Coltrane - Chasin' the Trane Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2021)

Tenor and soprano saxophonist John Coltrane had recently signed with the newly formed Impulse! record label and settled on what would be his greatest band featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones when these epochal recordings were committed to tape in 1961. Coltrane's friend and colleague Eric Dolphy sits in on several performances on bass clarinet, adding another unique solo voice and added texture in the ensemble passages. Only three performances were released on the original LP, with the remainder trickling out over the years on different albums and compilations, and this collection more than doubles the original length. The track "Spiritual" bookends this collection, allowing the group to review the gospel tradition in jazz, building two beautiful and haunting performances with Eric Dlophy sitting in on bass clarinet. "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" in the lone ballad presented here, with Coltrane on soprano saxophone and McCoy Tyner perfectly in his element, playing lovely accompaniment and taking a gracefully melodic solo. The epic blues improvisation “Chasin' the Trane” is the centerpiece of this album, one that breaks down into a storming free duet with Coltrane and Elvin Jones. The headlong rush of the tenor saxophone on the sixteen minute version of "Chasin'" that was featured as side two of the original LP is still in my mind one of the most amazing and audacious accomplishments in the history of jazz. Tyner lays out and Garrison is drowned out as Coltrane and Jones break free of structure and reach for the stars. This was one of the things that led tin-eared critics to accuse Coltrane as playing deliberately un-melodic music, but closer listening reveals this to be an awesome, logical and inherently beautiful piece of music. Coltrane was interested in the sounds produced by people of other countries and this led him to compose the beautiful "India." The music is an exotic blend of jazz and sounds from the east and the juxtaposition of Coltrane’s soprano saxophone and Eric Dolphy’s bass clarinet is alluring, especially with two bass players holding down the bottom. "Impressions" would become one of the pieces that all future tenor saxophonists would measure themselves against, and the performance here are blistering examples of saxophone mastery. Over the course of nearly fifteen minutes, the band plays one of the most epic slash and burn modal jazz performances set to tape, influencing generations of jazz musicians to come. At the time, Live at the Village Vanguard was quite controversial at the time where allegations of being "anti-jazz" were levied against both John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. In retrospect, these feelings were clearly misplaced, and both musicians were simply moving forward at a breathless pace. This is a very well done one disc repackaging of highlights from the 1961 Vanguard recordings. The music is well mastered, taken right to the edge of what one compact disc can hold and given a fine liner essay from Derek Taylor to provide historical context. Chasin' the Trane Revisited - Squidco

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio with Alexander von Schlippenbach - The Field (NoBusiness Records, 2021)

Of all the potential guests to join saxophonist Rodrigo Amado’s Motion Trio, which includes Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums, the legendary pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach is an inspired choice. From free improvisation to exploring the mysteries of Thelonious Monk’s compositions, he can do it all. The group is very well integrated and they are speaking the same language right from the first note. It is a language of freedom, played out on a very impressive fifty-six minute fully improvised performance. These are immensely talented musicians who are confident enough in their ability that the music can flow organically and develop a clear narrative that allows the music to develop patiently with sparse rhythm and spare notes and chords. The meditative nature of the piece gradually begins to change and the music takes on a suite like quality where there are exciting sections for cascading piano, punctuated by jagged chords, tumbling cello and percussion. Amado’s saxophones are typically excellent, deployed strategically throughout the length of the performance, offering long probing lines in the beginning, but branching out into thrilling full throated squalls of sound as the piece reaches its peak. This was an very fine performance by everyone involved, the Motion Trio is always a treat on their own, but adding the eminence of Alexander von Schlippenbach raises this to another level entirely. This live album, recorded in Vilnius in October of 2019 has excellent sound quality, well written liner notes from Stuart Boomer and a great photo of the band in action. The Field - Bandcamp

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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Cyclone Trio - The Clear Revolution (577 Records, 2021)

Cyclone Trio got in just under the wire with their latest album, dashing to the studio to record just before the COVID-19 lockdown measures went into effect in March 2020. They may not have been specifically been trying to channel the uncertainty and dread of what was to come, but the trio, consisting of Massimo Magee on tenor, alto and sopranino saxophones, plus silver rattle and Tim Green and Tony Irving on drums played a style of free jazz that has a sense of foreboding with some beams of sunlight sewn inside. There are three long performances on this album, beginning with the epic twenty three minute improvisation "Inside the Circle," which has Magee's tenor and perhaps alto saxophone creating rough raw soundscapes that are gritty and very real and immediate. The dual drummer approach gives the saxophone a foil to continue playing the harrowing scouring sounds against while also providing a foundation and support for a performance this emotionally rending and lengthy. The middle track "Trinosophile" provides some open space for the drummers to add waves of textures of percussion and Magee moves to sopranino saxophone which has a bright and nasal sound, and he is twirling dervish like ever faster as the music grows in volume and speed. This track works very well, providing juxtaposition to the longer, book-ending tracks which tend darker and ominous. The final track, "Cardinal Points" takes the music even further out, with Magee returning to tenor and alto saxophones, but now they are able to play with light and shade, adding aspects of melody and using these fragments to push the improvisation into new areas which they unlock with their high energy risk taking improvising. This album worked quite well, the musicians came in hot after playing live together with a clear goal in mind and they achieved it, improvising as a collective unit playing in a free and democratic fashion. Using varying amounts of light and heat they are able to create a coherent statement that is at once spontaneous and thoughtful. The Clear Revolution - Bandcamp

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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Itaru Oki - Live at Jazz Spot Combo 1975 (NoBusiness Records, 2021)

Trumpeter and flute player Itaru Oki was planning to leave Japan, looking for more opportunities to play his music in Europe and beyond. But he was convinced to play one final going away performance, culminating a final tour, that was recorded for posterity, and it's a good thing because Oki and his group, consisting of Yoshiaki Fujikawa on alto saxophone and flute, Keiki Midorikawa on bass and Hozumi Tanaka on drums were an excellent and well integrated band, able to explore explore facets of jazz ranging from advanced hard bop to all out free jazz. The interplay between the four musicians is impressive with the differing available textures from the front line providing delicate passages of flute or trumpet juxtaposed by scalding freestyle saxophone explorations. The bass and drums team is ready for anything, locking in with the horn players to provide ample propulsion and mysterious texture. The group plays through a variety of moods and modes, contrasting the beauty and mystery of open space and abstraction with muscularity of power and strength. Oki did indeed succeed in moving to Paris not long after this recording was made, and would have a long career performing with both Japanese and Western musicians, passing away just last year after a lengthy and successful career. This was a very well done package with a wonderful musical performance spotlighting an unjustly little known musician presented with well written and translated liner notes and interesting photographs. Live at Jazz Spot Combo 1975 - NoBusiness Records

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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Joe Harriott - Free Form and Abstract Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2021)

Saxophonist Joe Harriott is something of a lesser known figure in the United States and that is a shame because he was quite a talented and ground breaking musician. Born and raised in Jamaica, Harriott moved to the UK in the 1950’s first gained notoriety as a bebop focused musician, though he came to be most well remembered for his early experiments with free jazz and that makes up the content of this two CD set. Although he was recording at the same time as Americans Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane; Harriott developed his own method of playing abstract or free jazz. Unlike Coleman, he kept a pianist in his group, and unlike Coltrane he really stressed complex interaction and collective improvisation instead of lengthy solo statements amongst all band members, particularly on the justly lauded album Free Form which is the first album in this collection. Disc two is the Abstract LP, a disc that covers some more exploratory quartet and quintet sessions that Harriott that continued on his historically significant quasi free jazz recordings. The music melds swinging hard-bop with a sharper, tart tone reminiscent of Jackie McLean or Eric Dolphy. Harriott would continue to innovate into the late 1960’s forming a group with violin player John Mayer to explore the melding of jazz and music from the Indian subcontinent. The compact disc mastering is excellent, presenting the music in a crisp and clear manner while Brian Morton's liner notes place the sounds in historical context. Joe Harriott is a musician prime for rediscovery, the albums presented here are vibrant and alive collections of jazz in transition and excellent gateways into the the sound world of this fascinating musician. Free Form and Abstract Revisited - Squidco

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