Monday, February 28, 2022

Tyler Mitchell featuring Marshall Allen - Dancing Shadows (Mahakala Music, 2022)

A pleasing jazz album which like it's guest star has much of the history of jazz available at its fingertips, allowing the musicians to cover the extremes of beautiful ballads free blowouts, but just as much in-between. The well integrated band consists of Mitchell on bass, Marshall Allen on saxophone and electronic valve instrument, Chris Hemmingway on tenor saxophone, Nicoletta Manzini on alto saxophone, Wayne Smith on drums and Elson Nascimento on percussion. The arrangements for the horns work well and the rhythm section is tight leading to a successful overall performance. The setlist is heavy on Sun Ra classics, but the group keeps them fresh like in "Enlightenment" where the band formas a hard swinging groove over which Allen can take an outre solo. None of the songs overstay their welcome, the longest is the opener, "Interstellar Loways" which builds a sense of atmospheric mystery and releases some well thought out solos. Mitchell was a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra as a colleague Marshall in 1985 under Sun Ra, then returned to much later when Marshall became musical director, so he is intimately familiar with the material. This shows in the relaxed grace that he and the band bring to this recording, one that Sun Ra aficionados and modern jazz fans as a whole will appreciate. Dancing Shadows -

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Delvon Lamarr Trio - Cold As Weiss (Colemine Records, 2022)

Calling themselves purveyors of "feel good music" the Delvon Lamarr Trio with the leader on organ, Jimmy James on guitar and Dan Weiss on drums plays a meat and potatoes brand of instrumental rhythm and blues and soul jazz that must go down a storm live, and works pretty well on record, too. "Pull Your Pants Up" is the uptempo, fun and funky beginning track, anchored by a crisp backbeat, and featuring occasional swells of organ and drum fills with shards of guitar. There is a nice short yet memorable organ theme woven through the piece that serves as an opening earworm. Flashy and funky guitar struts on "Don't Worry 'Bout What I Do," getting dirty, nicely framed by organ and drum support. The guitarist focuses on stretching out with a cool sounding solo that is thick and evil with organ washes and drum thwacks riding point. "I Wanna Be Where You Are" has a danceable and light melody from the organ and percussion, something that us easy and accessible like a seventies pop tune, but played way up high on the organ. The theme is short and snappy and the drummer settles into a simple driving beat as the organ solos off the theme returning to it regularly. The guitarist mines a dark bluesy vein of guitar in the territory of John Lee Hooker, on "Big TT's Blues" giving the music a heavy vibe, riding the beat rigidly, before the organ breaks out a very classic jazz organ style solo with sustains weaving in and around the stoic beat, stretching out for a long and dynamic feature. James plays the deep blues during his feature, he's well studied and has a organic tone that works very well, and knows what to do with it. "Get Da Steppin'" builds low and grinding organ notes, leading into a funky midtempo tune, where guitar and drums lock in for a fine foundation as Lamarr takes the organ for a spin, creating a really nice sound, plumbing the depths of what the Hammond B3 has to offer driving it like a fine roadster. A slow jam quietstorm ballad, "Uncertainty," lets the organ play out and sustain over a sleek guitar theme sounding like late period Grant Green. The musicians develop stratified layers with the organ playing pillow like clouds of sound floating on top, while the guitar handles some melodic variation and the drums keep a supple yet inobtrusive beat. "Keep On Keepin' On" has an interesting melody that takes the entire trio into account, with choppy and scratchy guitar, a shuffle beat and stop and go organ. The group sounds like they are trying out the theme for some Mod related TV show yet to be made. Lamarr takes flight and chooses a classic organ tone to make his voice heard, and he does it very well, playing a classy and well integrated solo. The final track of the album, "This Is Who I Is," shows guitarist James breaking out the pedals to get freaky alongside some greasy organ and a strong backbeat from Weiss. Organ chords and heavy beat demand forward motion, but are willing to meet the guitarist halfway, then James kicks in and really goes for it, pedals and all, pushing his instrument hard and leaving the organ and drums behind for a bit before remembering he's in a band and cycling back into the group for the payoff. This was a fun and enjoyable album, the group is quite talented and is able to meld everything from greasy Memphis R and B to deep blues and soul jazz and do it with wit and style. Cold As Weiss -

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Sunday, February 20, 2022

Akira Sakata / Takeo Moriyama - Mitochondria (Trost Records, 2022)

We are fortunate to be a fly on the wall in this performance through the medium of a cassette recording from Kashiwa Chiba Prefecture in Japan during May of 1986. The great free jazz saxophonist Akira Sakata meets equally powerfully drummer Takeo Moriyama for an excellent series of spontaneous duet performances. The two men provide a memorable version of the Albert Ayler free jazz chestnut “Ghosts” where Sakata’s willowy and stark saxophone floats into a section that is driven by the intense emotional needs of this song. The opening track “Archezoa” shows Sakata’s facility playing on a low toned instrument, whether he is doubling on bass clarinet or baritone saxophone. Almost serving as a benediction, the music is low and slow, but things really kick in on “Mitochondria” with Sakata moving to his more traditional alto saxophone while his partner Moriyama comes crashing in on drums as the music creates gales of free improvisation that truly comes from the heart. They sound superb together which is no mean feat when playing at this breakneck speed and with no guardrails. “Hachi” brings to mind the old Ralph Nader notion of “unsafe at any speed” because these guys are just simply burning, and there are some very brief moments in Sakata’s playing where you hear how closely he must have studied Eric Dolphy and Charlie Parker, because there are flutters, quick flurries of notes within the din of this overwhelming free blowout that connect it with the past. Moriyama is no slouch himself, building a righteous and multi-rhythmic drum solo that stakes his claim as an original and beguiling player in his own right. This album is a real gift, and it sounds very good, considering it was a cassette recording of extremely loud music. The music is great, dynamic and personal, it is a take on free jazz that is unique to these two men, and a clue to the rich Japanese music scene of the nineteen eighties. Mitochondria - Bandcamp

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Saturday, February 12, 2022

Ethan Iverson - Every Note Is True (Blue Note Records, 2022)

Pianist Ethan Iverson creates an engaging and accessible album in his debut for Blue Note Records, playing with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Iverson has gained a wide range of experience during his career from seeking out venerated elders of the music to his lengthy stint in the cutting edge trio The Bad Plus. All of those experiences come into play in the creating of this album which opens in an interesting way, with the short track "The More It Changes" using soft piano with a 44-voice virtual choir, creating an interesting opening / prelude stating that the focus will be on the songs themselves, laying out a statement of purpose for the sounds that follow. "The Eternal Verities" uses deep emotional piano, which creates a pretty melody at a slow tempo piano floating enigmatically as the bass grounds the music and drums add commentary. The music reaches a lush, deep velvety weight near the end with some towering chords before slipping away. A probing theme from Iverson sets up the performance on "She Won’t Forget Me" as thick bass bounds, adding surface tension that the piano skips across like a water bug. The music eventually wells up with emotional fervor, but finally breaks against the shore. "For Ellen Raskin" has a gentle sunrise like opening, where Iverson’s soft touch meets diligent bass and supple percussion. The music is light and drifts upon the whims of the artists, with full round sounding piano chords juxtaposed against much more active drumming, eventually leaving with a soft solo piano coda at the end. There is quiet spare and patient sensibility on "Blue" as the flow of the music allows the sounds to come to to them naturally. Rolls of low end piano add tension as the music begins to take shape, followed by crashing chords, drums and cymbals. Stepping back from the brink, the group allows the evanescent piece ends as quietly as it began. "Goodness Knows" is a delicious swinger, where the music is bouncy and bright, and the theme cycling, repeating and gaining power, allowing the trio to break out on a bass led exploration, Grenadier's superb playing framed by piano chords, as the music evolves to a gently swinging number. Spare solo piano, "Had I But Known" sets a melancholy tone with emotional theme that is quiet and solemn. This short track evolves into "Merely Improbable" where the bass and drums return to settle on a mid tempo swing with a distinct edge to it. The music is pushed along by deft bass and drums creating a forceful rhythm which demands respect. "Praise Will Travel" develops a rapid solo drum opening, joined bass and drums, creates a sense of flowing dynamism as the music weaves through a complex setting. The concluding track, "At The Bells Of Motley,"  develops a groove that is close to the ground, where loping bass and drums provide the foundation for Iverson’s piano to bound in-between them. Bouncing rhythmic performance is a fine end the the record, incorporating another very good bass solo into the mix as well as strong drum feature, spreading the wealth equally. Every Note Is True - 

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Friday, February 11, 2022

William Parker, Patricia Nicholson – No Joke! (ESP-Disk, 2021)

Calling on the wonderful legacy of the Sun Ra Arkestra with vocalist June Tyson, the husband and wife team of bassist and composer William Parker and wordsmith, vocalist and dancer Patricia Nicholson create a very impressive and memorable album. They are aided by talented musicians Devin Brahja Waldman on alto saxophone, Gerald Cleaver on drums, James Brandon Lewis on tenor saxophone and Melanie Dyer on viola. The music has a wonderful spontaneous feeling, especially on the nineteen minute opener "Flare Up" which allows the musicians to stretch out at will and where Nicholson can savor the words and use the music to lift her thoughts and ideas ever higher. "Little Black Kid with the Swollen Stomach" nods to the sorrow of hunger with stoic music as the horns take the lead, using an excellent low and guttural solo from Lewis to drive the music forward, and then changing as the horns intertwine beautifully. The music shifts to stark and powerful drums and vocals before downshifting for a subtle conclusion. The third track, "Struggle" has a sinuous arrangement for viola and bowed bass, quite beautiful, leading into Nicholson's spoken word, which powerfully questions whether the hard work for true change is being co-opted by those with a different agenda. "Wilted Light as Flower" develops mid-tempo spacious jazz with long yearning tones of saxophone, shifting from tenor to alto in an agile fashion and working together with the band to create an excellent instrumental soundscape. The album's finale is the massive twenty-one minute plus title track "No Joke," where the vocals and band are in ascendance, with the viola soaring around the horns as the bass and drums forge ahead. Nicholson takes center stage, standing up for the downtrodden and dispossessed in society, like Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln have done before her. They band opens up with increasingly furious nearly free jazz that suits the emotion of the words very well. Everything is very well integrated and powerful as the socially conscious lyrics and lacerating music become one relentless force. This album was a superb amalgam of heart-on-sleeve lyrics and vocals with open minded and unyielding modern jazz. Each completes the other and provides a catalyst for this successful and important project. No Joke! -

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Monday, February 07, 2022

Francois Carrier w/ Pablo Schvarzman, Diego Caicedo and Michel Lambert - Glow (FMR Records, 2021)

Recorded live in Barcelona in June of 2019, alto saxophonist Francois Carrier’s latest album finds him in fine company, performing along side Michel Lambert on drums, Diego Caicedo on electric guitar and Pablo Schvarzman on electric guitar and electronics. The title track “Glow” opens the album with abstract sounds probing the available space, as long tones of guitar, complex drumming and gradually developing saxophone set the scene. There is a section for skittish guitar that moves across the soundstage, setting up very ripe and pungent saxophone solo with overblown exclamations. The music evolves to a fast and exciting full band free improvisation, with everyone on equal footing, then alto saxophone in open space amid spare electronic sounds. Building back up as a whole, the band uses dynamism as fuel, bounding guitar and bass sounds, raw saxophone to the end. “Wilderness” uses quiet slurs of sound orbiting steady rhythm, creating deep depth of interplay regardless of speed or intensity. Gradually heading on with fearless forward motion, deep sounding saxophone is met by shockingly explosive electronic colors. The music is complex but accessible in its relentless drive and passionate manner of delivery, becoming truly free with grinding electric guitar and soaring saxophone meeting for an exceptional sharing of ideas. Choppy saxophone and guitar slowly grinding their gears as band pulls together on “Tide of Passion,” adding percussion and piling on the guitar to create an alien arena where anything can happen. Carrier sounds inspired, playing an angular and focused blend of saxophone, as the group throttles down to near silence, painting with sound, circling around to get returning momentum, to create a harsh oppressive finish “Heart Core” uses multi-guitar feedback to provide a foundation for a gathering storm of saxophone, while the drumming enters to add final piece to collective playing creating ominous medium up piece that pulls against itself at times, creating very interesting tension. The collective improvisation is deep and spontaneous creating raw and wonderful sounds that are deeply cutting. The finale is “Inner Sense,” a short, surreal sounding piece with saxophone that has a late night feeling of being stranded and alone, rippling and moving across haunting sounds, in an atmospheric and unique performance. This was a fine album where the acoustic sounds of the saxophone and drums meet the electric guitars to create a strong and powerful performance. Glow - Bandcamp

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Sunday, February 06, 2022

Immanuel Wilkins - The 7th Hand (Blue Note Records, 2022)

The young saxophonist and composer Immanuel Wilkins burst onto the scene a few years ago with an award winning debut LP and high profile sideman jobs with pianist Jason Moran. The 7th Hand is his follow-up, an equally successful LP recorded with his own group: Daryl Johns on bass, Kweku Sumbry on drums and Micah Thomas on piano. "Emanation" opens the album with a light, bright and upbeat sound from the quartet, building a quick theme from a saxophone solo that is nimble and moves rapidly over strong rhythm. Wilkins slaloms like an expert skier through the setup in a complex fashion, dropping out briefly for a section of rippling piano with nice bass and drum rhythm, before the he returns to bring back the theme and lead the tune out. Extra percussion from the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble brings a very interesting context to "Don’t Break." A mid tempo performance with the other instruments ebbing and flowing around the heavy sounds, Wilkins's saxophone taking up the challenge of the extra instruments to forge an absorbing path. "Fugitive Ritual, Selah" slows the tempo, leading to some beautiful bass playing and atmospheric saxophone which develop a lush melody. Rounded piano chords and soft light percussion keep the music close to the theme, and the band stays close together on this graceful song. Keeping the mellow groove groove going, "Shadow" features light bass and drum interplay cutting a great subtle channel. Wilkins provides a light breeze of saxophone, sounding like a feather caught in the thermals as piano notes rain down like a summer shower and the bass underpins it all. Flute player Elena Pinderhughes joins the group on "Witness" creating an elegant lullaby with the music floating along in a romantic fashion. "Lighthouse" sees things picking up again with the saxophone coming into much greater focus as the band heats up. Moving through a very fast section for cruising bass and drums with alto saxophone riding on top, and the sounds are quick and agile. Cymbals ring as the drums push hard against a lagging saxophone, creating interesting tension, making the most of their deep connection. The album concludes with "Lift," a fascinating and courageous all-bets-are-off free improvisation that is just shy of one half an hour in length. This is not padding or filler either, Wilkins and crew strike out for the stars and really make it happen. Powerfully overblown saxophone meets thrashing drums, building the excitement before dropping to explore subterranean low tones framed by clusters of piano and bass. The intensity only dips briefly to gather momentum for the big push to the grand conclusion. This album worked well, Immanuel Wilkins builds off on the success of his debut album to create a more personal statement on this one, with his tight and well rehearsed band exploring a wide ranging program that moves from ballads to free jazz with equal success.  The 7th Hand -

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