Monday, April 25, 2022

Don Cherry - Where Is Brooklyn? and Eternal Rhythm, Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

This fascinating release finds the trumpet player and multi instrumentalist Don Cherry transitioning from free jazz to citizen of the world jazz. Where is Brooklyn? is Cherry’s final album for Blue Note, recorded in 1966  but not released until 1969; since Blue Note had an uncomfortable relationship with the avant-garde. In addition to Cherry on cornet, the group consists of Henry Grimes on bass, Ed Blackwell on drums and Pharoah Sanders on piccolo flute and tenor saxophone. They are really well integrated and focused, Blackwell is the perfect drummer for this session as he can both both play free or swing like crazy when necessary. They play a series of shorter improvisations with taut themes and tight improvisations including “The Thing” which eventually gave its name to a wonderful Scandinavian free jazz ensemble. “Unite” is the apotheosis of Cherry’s free jazz period with an intense extended improvisation that makes the best use of everyone’s talents from Sanders excoriating tenor saxophone punctuated by Cherry’s punchy cornet to the extra heft added from Blackwell and the thick bass. Eternal Rhythm was recorded at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1968, with Cherry playing flutes, gamelan and bells along side Albert Mangelsdorff on trombone, Eje Thelin on trombone, Bernt Rosengren on tenor saxophone, oboe, clarinet and flute, Sonny Sharrock on guitar, Karl Berger on vibraphone, piano and gamelan, Joachim Kühn on piano, prepared piano, Arild Andersen on bass and Jacques Thollot on drums, saron, gong, bells and voice. This piece is edited down to thirty eight minutes and the music found on this continuously flowing suite would set the template for the remainder of Cherry’s career as he would combine the sounds of North Africa and the Far East with American jazz. This portion is wide open and thoughtful, moving through periods of beautiful melody as well as abstract improvisation, drawing from a wide range of musical ideas into a cohesive, accessible musical document. Where Is Brooklyn? and Eternal Rhythm, Revisited - Squidco

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Miles Davis Quintets - Stockholm Live 1967 / 1969 Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Like Mark Corroto says in the liner notes to this fascinating release, trumpeter and composer Miles Davis was in a continuous state of renewal throughout his forty plus year career. Perhaps no more so than during the mid to late 1960's when he gathered together one of his greatest acoustic bands, filled with some of the finest younger musicians of the current generation, then, like the restless explorer he was, gradually changes in personnel and and texture, leading to the fusion masterpieces to come. The first concert on this collection from 1967 is from the very end of the tenure of the "second classic quintet" where Davis is joined by Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. They had been playing together for three years at this point creating classic albums like Nefertiti and Miles Smiles along with mind blowing concerts like those that were captured on the Live at the Plugged Nickel boxed set. This performance is a brief set from the Stockholm Jazz Festival, and it shows how intimately woven the musicians had become with Miles providing the melodic and thematic structure while the younger musicians take long, complex and nearly free solos and push the music to it's logical limit. Shorter delves into deep and passionate solos that hint at the melody, bursting through on the edgy "Agitation" or his own "Footprints" while the whole group retrenches for a moody and abstract rendition of Theloious Monk's "Round Midnight" before pushing Jimmy Heath's "Gingerbread Boy" into a fast paced collective improvisation leading to their final theme and conclusion. Nearly two years to the day later in 1969, Miles brought the so-called lost quintet (because they never made a studio record.) Shorter returns but Davis brings a new rhythm section: Chick Corea on electric and acoustic piano, Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. This Davis quintet was the main attraction, with the band playing two full concerts on this date, while this particular release comes primarily from the first one. The album Bitches Brew had been recorded over the summer but had yet to be released, but the band tears into the title track of that album with Corea's loud crashing electric piano chords showing the audience that the age of Miles Davis groups playing standards in tuxedos was over. Holland and DeJohnette create a boiling rhythm and Davis soars overhead as he introduces the sound of the future to Stockholm. The music is performed as a continuous medley, with three Wayne Shorter themes following, "Paraphernalia," "Nefertiti" and "Masqualero" and the saxophonist, who was nearing the end of his tenure with Davis plays with extraordinary vigor, creating powerful solos over the surging rhythm as Corea moves from grand piano to electric piano. The short version of the pianist's "This" brings the music to an end, with the concert as a whole serving notice that Davis remained at the forefront of contemporary music, featuring some of the finest young musicians on the scene. Stockholm Live 1967 / 1969 Revisited - Squidco

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Dave Gisler with Jaimie Branch and David Murray - See You Out There (Intakt Records, 2022)

A few years ago guitarist Dave Gisler released an excellent album with his trio featuring Raffaele Bossard on bass and Lionel Friedli on drums and guest Jaimie Branch on trumpet. This time Gisler's trio heads to the studio with Branch and another special guest, the great tenor saxophonist David Murray. The group fits together very well and produces a strong album, beginning with "Bastards on the Run" which has fast and strong motoring bass and drums, sparks of guitar and powerful injections of trumpet and saxophone. The over the top collective improvisation is very exciting, producing scalding free jazz. There is a more abstract setting for "Can You Hear Me" with space for the instruments to move, as grinding guitar and trumpet flare over shape shifting drums. Electronic effects allow drones and fades for the electric guitar and bass. "The Vision" is a slow building atmospheric track, with Branch developing lyrical trumpet playing which sounds forlorn, the leader then takes over with guitar developing over prominent bass, leading to a sparkling solo, setting up a rise in tempo with saxophone entrance, and some raw and deep Murray playing with trumpet riding point. Towering electric guitar playing over raucous drumming both virile and majestic sets up "Medical Emergency" until Murray’s saxophone muscles in, his burly tone perfect for this situation. "What Goes Up..." sets the scene with powerhouse guitar, bass and drums along side alternating trumpet and saxophone playing at fast pace. Gisler's choppy grinding guitar meeting Murray’s free saxophone is outstanding, hair raising stuff. Guitar effects are in use on "Get a Doner" accented by trumpet and light drumming, developing an intricate path forward with both trumpet and guitar offering volleys of notes creating a tight, self contained performance. "Better Don't Fuck with the Drunken Sailor" creates a woozy swing, as the band dances across the last call floor, and Gisler and Murray step out for two well articulated solo sections. The leader is vibrant on this final track bursting out with colorful guitar playing while Branch holds dear to the title, playing some beautiful trumpet that wouldn't sound out of place at an afterhours jam session. See You Out There -

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Saturday, April 16, 2022

PUNKT.VRT.PLASTIK: Kaja Draklser, Petter Eldh, Christian Lillinger - Zurich Concert (Intakt Records, 2022)

Punkt​.​Vrt​.​Plastik is a stimulating and progressive jazz trio consisting of Kaja Draksler on piano, Petter Eldh on bass and Christian Lillinger on drums. Having already recorded two well received studio albums, they took advantage of a break in pandemic restrictions to record this concert in May of 2021. “Nuremberg Amok” begins the album with distinctive bass and drum opening sounding muscular and potent, the piano aiding and abetting, gliding with a lighter touch over the thick rhythm. The music becomes fast and intricate, the drummer's complex manner of playing met by anchoring bass and exploratory piano dancing on the highest notes of the keyboard. Abstract percussion sounds provide the bridge to "Axion" resolving to a mid-tempo trio performance, played with a graceful flowing sensation. Continuing without breaks, the next composition, "Trboje" finds the group adding volume and depth to the music, with the pianist playing in a more percussive manner as the notes cascade from her in a dramatic and exciting manner to be met by fascinating and unusual rhythmic ideas from the bass and drums, with the music becoming quite free and dynamic, as they really let loose and create a true highlight. "Body Decline - Natt Raum" is a longer and more exploratory piece that develops gradually, with the music coalescing around the drum playing, with rapid clusters of piano notes entering the fray. The midsection is a complex three way interaction that builds into the second theme and takes the music into a different direction, with some repetition and variation of the theme within the remaining music. The music of Punkt.Vrt.Plastik continues to evolve into a fascinating mix of witty compositions and free spirited action oriented improvisations. They embrace the possibilities of live performance combining the energy of the setting with their own talents to create a very good album. Zurich Concert -

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Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Anthony Williams - Life Time and Spring Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2022)

There have been many prodigies in music throughout the years, but perhaps none hit the jazz world so hard as drummer Tony (then Anthony) Williams. Playing with Sam Rivers and Jackie McLean as a teenager in Boston brought him to the attention of Miles Davis, who invited him into the superband he was building with the best new talent of the age, and helped him land a solo contract with Blue Note Records as well. This album combines his first two solo albums, Life Time and Spring onto one CD where he plays with some of his most talented peers: Sam Rivers and Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Gary Peacock and Richard Davis on bass, Herbie Hancock on piano. Williams doesn't try to dominate the scene, he shows great maturity writing and playing for the band and the results are quite successful. From Life Time is the suite "Two Pieces of One: Red" which opens with subtle brush work, bowed bass and grave sounding tenor saxophone setting up an intricate bass solo. Rivers' sound fits the band well, gruff but open, navigating the complex landscape with aplomb. The follow up, "Two Pieces of One: Green" features some more deft tenor saxophone playing with Rivers taking the music quite out in a masterful solo, with Williams creating shifting textures along side him. The second half becomes a drum feature, with Williams playing in an understated manner, Rivers and Peacock return to make brisk trio setting, before Williams takes things out with another drum feature. "Extras" from Spring continues the nimble bass playing of Peacock, as Williams feathers light brushes around Shorter's brisk saxophone playing, where he carves a very interesting solo statement. There is a delicate bass and drum middle section, with Williams dancing on the cymbals, Shorter's saxophone returning to run wild in this open environment. The drum solo "Echo" is deeply rhythmic and impressive, Williams demonstrating the potential that his elders saw in him at the time. This leads into "From Before" with Shorter and Sam Rivers combining their talents along with Hancock's addition to create a fascinating soundscape. The music is spacious and fills in as the group embraces the freedom of the situation, playing in a free manner but this is a a quieter more contemplative freedom. On "Love Song" the saxophones lead a lilting melody that is relatable, building into a more traditional hard bop performance, and an improvised section that is built from the melody, with excellent saxophone playing that becomes more exploratory as the track continues, as well as some cascading piano. The closer "Tee" has a serpentine feeling, the music in a constant state of evolution where dry saxophone meets thick bass and skittish drumming. Their improvisation grows very deep and complex, at times stark and foreboding but like the entirety of this collection, it is a fine example of what Tony Williams was capable of and served notice that there was a new drummer on the scene, one who was going to shake things up for years to come. Life Time and Spring Revisited - Squidco

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Sunday, April 10, 2022

Alexander Hawkins Mirror Canon - Break A Vase (Intakt Records, 2022)

Pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins is never one to rest on his laurels, whether that means playing with respected elders like Evan Parker or Anthony Braxton or putting together a new ensemble for this recording. Here Hawkins is joined by his regular trio mates of Neil Charles on bass and Stephen Davis drums adding Shabaka Hutchings on saxophones and clarinet, Otto Fischer on guitar and Richard Olátúndé Baker on percussion. The group comes together quite well, creating sounds that are full of life and played with a sense of adventure. "Stamped Down or Shovelled" with its groovy guitar and extra percussion enters like something beamed in from sixties cinema before the horns track the theme  and the band is off and running. The music is exciting and colorful with Hawkins providing careful underpinning, making room for a fine saxophone solo backed with subtle guitar and driving drums and percussion. He then comes in with a skillfully played solo of his own, dashing amid the tumult and playing fast and loose, keeping the momentum going. The full band comes together to restate and play variations on the theme rounding out an excellent performance, with a percussion and drums duet. Building from a cascade of vibrant sounds "Generous Souls" creates a complex theme which gives the musicians quite a bit of material to work with. Hawkins develops a complex piano feature over insistent drumming and subliminal guitar playing, the piece is fast, modern and original. The Hutchins' saxophone enters, making the most of the propulsive interplay to fuel a potent and soaring section adding some gritty and granular texture to excellent effect. Fischer achieves a very clean tone from his guitar, playing along side compelling intersecting drum and percussion play, creating a fine soundscape of their own. The group coalesces for a fast paced collective improvisation to the conclusion. "Stride Rhyme Gospel" brings some unexpected influences to the forefront, with a strutting theme that barges in with a confident swagger, then breaking loose for a fantasia of color and rhythm that is very appealing. The collective playing of the full band is very impressive, and the sextet as a whole is a wonderfully expressive unit on this performance, with concussive drums and percussion holding the bottom, increasingly complex piano and saxophone building on the succeeding layer. The saxophone fades for a cooldown of graceful guitar and hand percussion, deeply rhythmic and interactive, with some electronics completing the fascinating song on a mysterious note. Break a Vase -

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Thursday, April 07, 2022

Ken Vandermark - Momentum 5: Stammer (triptych) (Audiographic Records, 2021)

The fifth version of composer and multi reed instrument player Ken Vandermark's Momentum series is an experimental audio - visual experience featuring some of the top names in their field. The group is a double quartet consisting of Kim Alpert on visuals and video manipulation, Tim Barnes on percussion (left channel), Katinka Kleijn on cello, Damon Locks on samples/electonics (right channel), Nick Macri on basses, Lou Mallozzi on recordings/electronics (left channel), claire rousay on percussion (right channel), Mars Williams on saxophones and little instruments (left channel) and Ken Vandermark on reeds (right channel). This album was influenced by the composer Alvin Lucier and filmmaker (and cellist) Tony Conrad, and their approach to art. This led to Vandermark creating music by process over the course of three twenty minute compositions interspersed with periods of free improvisation. The music itself is complex but fascinating, with the double quartet able to create a wide variety of textures and hues, with the compositions meeting the musicians at just the right moment. Vandermark had to compose on a deadline due to the commitments he has to other bands and projects. Apparently the pressure focuses him and despite not being able to have a complete rehearsal which had all of the audio and video together, he and the group pulled it off and they did it live in concert, which must have been an amazing scene. The sound of the disc is very good, well engineered despite the complex layers of sound involved, the video element is critical, and everyone who purchases the album receives a link to some of the video that was used in the performance. This is a valuable and well thought out project. A lot of effort went into this and it paid off, opening up new avenues of expression for musicians and artists of different disciplines and locales. Momentum 5: Stammer (triptych) - Bandcamp

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Tuesday, April 05, 2022

John Zorn - Perchance to Dream (Tzadik Records, 2022)

This is a fascinating feature for some of John Zorn's more unique compositions with an all star band consisting of Bill Frisell on guitar, Brian Marsella on piano and Fender Rhodes piano, John Medeski on organ and Kenny Wollesen on drums and chimes. Built like a suite with religious overtones, looking for the truth through somnambulant exploration. "Introit" opens the album with probing piano which resonates well along side lightly played cymbals, building a short and repetitive motif as the other instruments float in spectral form. This is a very restrained performance, hypnotic in its simplicity, the short piano figure shadowed by the ghosts of other instruments. The electric piano builds a pleasing theme on "A Secret Twilight," organ and guitar with light percussion, creating a nimble sound that is ready to take flight. It is beautiful the way the keyboards and guitar mesh together to complete a tapestry of sound with a kind shuffle beat below, the interplay between the musicians is excellent. "Lacrimosa" sees an organ drone building tension, with acoustic piano playing off of it providing nice dynamic shade, then the music resolves into a spare and melodic feature for acoustic piano and soft drumming while the organ and guitar provides the framework. Frisell's subtle and pretty solo sings amid the organ and percussion, leading to a finely designed organ feature before wrapping up with a heady finish. A subtle guitar opening on "Eventide" leads to a swirling and mysterious full band development. The guitar anchors the piece as keyboards ripple and cascade and the drums provide shifting rhythms. Organ and brushed drums provide a change of pace, the electric piano giving the piece a faster pace as the twin keyboard approach really pays dividends. Guitar and cymbals plus organ and electric piano evoke long mysterious tones on "Hekate," coming together into a more potent form with barbed guitar, fast time on cymbals while the hallucinatory keyboards ebb and flow. Electronics play havoc with the sound creating a wild experimental landscape where creativity is king. "Tenderness" uses lush piano and guitar in stop and go time, where soft brushes and droplets of piano notes build a slightly sad and melancholic tone. Two keyboards guitar and brushes, yet it works, Frisell bides his time and then solos in an understated and thoughtful manner. The music then glides out as mysteriously as it entered. This album has an interesting instrumental makeup and both Zorn and the musicians make the most of it, with the composer supplying music that was specifically designed for this unit, and the band interpreting and improvising on it in their own personal way. Perchance to Dream -

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Monday, April 04, 2022

Ornette Coleman - Genesis Of Genius: The Contemporary Albums (Craft Recordings, 2022)

From the vantage point of sixty years out from the time of recording, it seems like such a benign revolution, Ornette Coleman and his band even (even including a pianist on the first album) straining at the bonds of hard bop orthodoxy, aiming to fly free. But even here on their first two albums they have the hallmarks of their sound already in place, short snappy themes that can launch the group into whatever kind of improvisation that they are seeking, led by Coleman's tart, citrus like alto saxophone that has a unique attack and Don Cherry's individual sounding pocket trumpet which is locked in for excellent unison statements, along with punchy and powerful solo sections. The first album, Something Else!!!!, also includes Walter Norris on piano, Don Payne on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. This is their most hidebound album, but there is still much room to move, with Coleman dedicating a track to his then wife "Jayne" along with the much enduring composition "When Will the Blues Leave" which is one of the true
highlights of the collection, Coleman comes from a rhythm and blues background, scorned and even beaten at times for bringing his open minded approach to the saxophone to the bandstand. Here he bares his soul with a beautiful keening sound that evokes the blues but the quest for freedom in music and beyond. The follow up album is called Tomorrow Is The Question!, with a different cast including Shelly Manne on drums, and Percy Heath and Red Mitchell sharing bass duties. Even when paired with a swing based bass and drum unit, Coleman and Cherry fly quite high, bursting with energy on the short title track opener and then taking their time to explore several compositions some that would become Coleman standards like the ebullient "Turnaround" and the complex yet thrilling "Rejoicing." These two albums would be the calling card that brought Coleman and his soon to be quartet east to the Lenox school at Tanglewood, and then on to Atlantic Records and destiny. But the two early records on this collection deserve to be heard, as they show Coleman in transition, fully developing his own voice and approach, one that would change the jazz world forever. Genius of Genius: The Contemporary Albums -

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