Monday, May 30, 2022

Whit Dickey Quartet - Astral Long Form: Staircase In Space (TAO Forms Records, 2022)

Drummer and composer Whit Dickey brings together a talented group featuring Rob Brown alto saxophone, Mat Maneri on viola and Brandon Lopez on bass. His goal for this recording was for the musicians to allow for freedom to develop from the themes, with the musicians trusting one another, creating an exploratory sensibility that runs through all of the tracks of the album. Viola and drums build a drone, which is returned to many times over the course of the music, creating room for skittish saxophone to call out, as Brown's cutting alto and the bowed viola make for a interesting combination. Soaring, emotional trio improvisations, leading to thick bass replacing the bow, and a torrid trio improvisation from this configuration keep the music fresh and moving forward. As a quartet, the full band develops a unique and memorable sound, using an abstract bow and cymbal section, to develop openness. Brown's pungent alto saxophone tone, and the interplay between instruments particularly the bow and slashing cymbals, and grounding bass. Faster, louder improvisations build, leading to an exciting free section, as strong ripe saxophone takes hold. Bowed bass and cello unite on some tracks in an alluring manner, their tendrils embrace embracing the saxophone and cymbal heavy drumming, keeping the listener off balance and continually experimenting with the balance of space and time within the music to keep things interesting. Strings, at times in sync and other times in opposition are very well deployed on this recording with Maneri's devil may care approach to improvisation reigned in or encouraged by utility man Brandon Lopez's deft plucking and bowing of the bass. Brown has developed on of the most personal sounds on the alto saxophone in jazz at this point, deeply heartfelt and emotional, lifting any scenario here, whether harmonizing with soaring viola or developing a cascading free solo all his own. But in the end, this is Whit Dickey's triumph. He has been a sideman to some of downtown jazz's greatest players, and now with his own label, he has forged his own path in modern jazz. His cymbal playing is particularly memorable on this recording, whether adding texture and framing to the music or subtly shifting it into a new direction, he leads graciously and generously and this fine album is the result. Astral Long Form: Staircase In Space -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

John Coltrane - Favorites Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

The title of this album is a little misleading, because while it sounds like it might might be something of a cookie cutter compilation, where in fact this disc examines the live evolution of the classic quartet: John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. The first two tracks are from Berlin, recorded in November of 1963, beginning with with the touching ballad “Naima,” opening with that song's gentle and beautiful melody played by yearning saxophone and piano, taut bass and gentle cymbals, before the leader steps aside for the rhythm section to shine in a nicely dialed in and quiet manner. Coltrane returns to close the performance by repeating the theme with some subtle embellishments. There is an epic version of "My Favorite Things" which features some great piano playing from McCoy Tyner. Coltrane's soaring soprano saxophone launches into improvisation after developing the enduring melody of the song, flowing into a long but compelling improvisation. Tyner adds waves of cascading piano as the leader probes before bowing out for the rhythm section. They are wonderful here with Tyner playing gracefully and hypnotically astride stoic bass and cymbals with the occasional percussive burst. There is more intense full band playing with Jones driving the rhythm deeply, and Coltrane developing a distinctly Eastern sounding tone to his saxophone as they glide to the finish. Until the surprise finding of a a second live versionof the this famous suite from Seattle released last year, this performance from France was the only known liver version of A Love Supreme ever recorded, and was widely bootlegged for years before its official release in a deluxe reissue of the studio album. It is unique and powerful music and the band is vibrant in its performance. The yearning melody of “Resolution” is heart rending, and the band uses it as a springboard for an epic performance with Coltrane’s saxophone moving more deeply into the raw and scouring tone that he would develop for the remainder of his life. “Pursuance” is twice the length of the original, opening with an epic Elvin Jones solo, followed by the whole band reaching for the urgent theme of the piece. Garrison is given ample space to solo at length, which leads into the finale, a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Psalm” with Coltrane stretching himself and his instrument to near the breaking point in search of spiritual grace. This is the classic quartet at the peak of their potency, and near the end of their time together and makes for essential listening. Favorites Revisited - Squidco 

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

David Murray Brave New World Trio - Seriana Promethea (Intakt Records, 2022)

The great multi-reedist David Murray has released many albums during his career, but I think this one deserves inclusion in the upper tier, all things considered. Murray is joined by Brad Jones on bass and Hamid Drake on drums, and these three musicians combine to create a lean and memorable album of modern jazz, with well considered themes and intricate and exciting improvisations. Striking while the iron was hot, the trio recorded in Zurich on the day following a particularly well received concert performance. Murray is one of the leading practitioners of the post Eric Dolphy style of playing the bass clarinet, and he puts this talent to good use on the opening track “Seriana Promethea“ playing in a swooping and spooling fashion as the bass and drums cook up remarkable rhythms. Murray moves back to tenor saxophone on “Nektar” playing with some urgency as the rhythm team boils underneath. The bass and drums pulsate in a brief duet section, followed by a fine bass solo before the leader returns to take things out. Jones provides a beautiful bowed bass opening for “Metouka Sheli (Ballade for Adrienne)” which sets up Murray nicely, allowing him to employ his large and encompassing tenor saxophone sound on this ballad like his heroes Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins would have. The group has a surprise treat in store at the end, covering the Sly and the Family Stone track "Am Gone Get Some" with Jones and Drake providing a wonderfully funky backdrop including a well earned bass solo, topped off by some soaring tenor saxophone. Murray looked at this album, recorded without a piano or guitar, as as a gateway to creativity and freedom that can be found in open space. This configuration with these willing partners allowed him to deliver a wonderful album that was an inspired meeting of the minds. All three of these musicians have busy schedules, but I hope that this can become a regular band with a recording and touring schedule. Seriana Promethea -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Miles Okazaki’s Trickster - Thisness (Pi Recordings, 2022)

Thisness is the third album by guitarist Miles Okazaki in the company of Matt Mitchell on piano and keyboards, Anthony Tidd on bass, and Sean Rickman on drums. Moving away from strictly composed material the band looked for ideas and unexpected events and then developed their music from those random places. It was a bold approach, one that required a great deal of trust, but the results show that it was an experiment well worth taking. “In Some Far Off Place” opens with a lot of nice guitar with subtle drumming, bringing out music which has shimmering beauty that the whole band contributes to, like rippling piano, solid bass and searching drums. The guitar leads, creating a wide range of sound, using open space, while chopping up time and subdividing it in unique ways, which creates interplay within the improvisation that is very impressive, as the group plays complex music in a very fresh and forward thinking manner. Funky drums with bass and shards of guitar open “Years in Space,” with fine acoustic piano touches playing off against the rhythm and blues leanings of the guitar and drums. Solid drumming, using varied and moving patterns combine with acoustic guitar, bass and heavier sounds in the mid section, while percussive piano played fractured manner for improvisation is quite interesting. “I’ll Build A World” uses motoring bass and drums guitar accents to build to thoughtful setting, where piano notes fall like droplets, then build to flourishes, and the leader constructs long DNA like strands of guitar improvisation. Excellent drumming, slashing and breaking, while being framed by guitar and piano, lead to a full group electric - acoustic improv that is great, pushing and pulling at each other to create tension and release. Electric bass and drums form an appealing duet on "And Wait For You" where the leader's guitar builds in adding further texture and depth, and develop an intricate trio improvisation. His electric guitar takes charge with a more forthright tone and approach electronics skitter by, forming wheezy sounds, from both guitar and keyboards. Acoustic piano is also present leading to a cornucopia of sounds and textures and psychedelic kaleidoscopic overall sound that is disorienting yet appealing. Thisness -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Mary Halvorson - Amaryllis (Nonesuch Records, 2022)

Guitarist and fearless musical explorer Mary Halvorson composed this suite for jazz sextet and string quartet, the music is very colorful and dynamic, developing in exciting and unexpected ways over the course of the album. In addition to herself, the musicians are Patricia Brennan on vibraphone, Nick Dunston on bass, Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Jacob Garchik on trombone, Adam O’Farrill on trumpet and the Mivos String Quartet on three tracks. The opening track, “Night Shift” has bright vibes and drums with guitar, playing upbeat and engaging music, with an interesting theme that grows more majestic as more pieces are added. There is a brass solo, with crisp drumming underneath along side psychedelic electric guitar and vibes filling in the spaces. Subtle bass and vibes with percussion simmer for a short feature, as smears of electronics add texture. Fast guitar, bass and drums are featured on “Amaryllis,” with vibes accents, and horns adding further commentary. Multiple themes and motifs provide ample material for an excellent trumpet feature, heralded by insistent rhythm. Sparks of wildly colorful guitar and vibes add further depth to this fine performance, where tumbling drums and vibes push the music further into cascading forward motion. On “Side Effect” the string section opens with short brisk sounds, and the rest of the band enter in an exciting manner, playing upbeat and thoughtful music that incorporates the strings very well. There is a sublime section for deep bass, vibes and quiet drumming, followed with potent brass with another brilliant feature. The strings return to prominence as the piece closes, returning full circle on a wonderful piece of music. A quiet abstract opening focuses the listeners attention on “Hoodwink,” where the strings create whorls of sound, amid brushed percussion and vibes developing subtle carefully developed music. The sound develops further in a spectral, billowing fashion, with the brass flaring above a violin, as the leader adds her unique guitar accents in a brilliant solo section. The finale “892 Teeth” yields a stark trumpet opening above strings and harmonized guitar and vibraphone. This leads to a subtle and deep mid tempo performance, rich with melodic brass, and patient vibes with Brennan getting a well deserved and excellent solo section, then taken out by Halvorson with some wild guitar electronics that are very exciting. Amaryllis - 

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Ballister - Chrysopoeia (Aerophonic Records / Not Two Records, 2022)

Ballister is a long standing collective jazz band featuring milti-reed instrumentalist Dave Rempis, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion. This album consists of two long pieces recorded at Alchemia in Krakow, Poland in October of 2019. "Strappling" begins fast and fierce with harsh saxophone and drums creating an exciting racket held together by rapidly bowed cello. The intensity of their sound is a cathartic release, and the torrential sound from all three instruments is thrilling to hear. A drum feature for Nilssen-Love slows things down a bit, with sawing cello meeting him halfway, and Lonberg-Holm's electronics giving the proceedings an otherworldly touch. The music moves in a graceful manner as the volume and intensity builds back up dynamically with the reappearance of Rempis's gutsy saxophone. He plays unaccompanied for a minute, soon joined by electronic textures and drumming to weave a knotty collective improvisation that nears a relentless forward motion as the performance ends. Unaccompanied cello swirls open "Muffit" where long tones of saxophone are met by cymbal sounds, creating a unique musical environment, which ebb and flow. Quiet drums and saxophone flutter and feint then lock in and take flight as the high pitched soaring horn with overblown elements and pummeling drums are rejoined by the cello as the band explodes like fireworks, finding a frenzied groove in Nilssen-Love's tribal beat propels the spirited saxophone, touched by the alien sounding electronics of amplified cello. The band builds to a lean three way improvisation, shorn of extraneous parts, pushing to a muscular potent conclusion. This was an extraordinary album, one of the year's best to be sure. There is a misconception that free jazz is a fearsome juggernaut, but there is so much more going on here, leading to an emotional, heartfelt statement. Chrysopoeia - Aerophonic Bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Charles Mingus - The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's (Resonance Records, 2022)

Charles Mingus was in the middle of a resurgence of interest in his music when he travelled to  Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London captured in August 1972. He had a transitional but talented group with alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, tenor saxophonist Bobby Jones, trumpeter Jon Faddis, pianist John Foster and drummer Roy Brooks along for the trip. This is quite an expansive performance with six of the eight selections clocking in at over eighteen minutes and two tracks over one half hour in length. It is to Mingus's credit that the music still swings like crazy and never quite loses its integrity regardless of how strung out the improvisations stray from the main theme. The composer's lush and beautiful song "Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Silk Blue" is the opening track of the album, with the full band stating the theme and then developing it into a series of improvised solo and small group sections which are woven into the overall performance. Faddis was nineteen years old at the the time of this recording, and he demonstrates precociousness with his section and solo playing. "Noddin' Ya Head Blues" is anchored by an exquisite opening Mingus bass solo, leading to a deep powerful effort from the full band and featuring accents by drummer Brooks on the musical saw. Arguably Mingus's must famous composition "Fables of Faubus" gets a thirty five minute reading where the sound swells from near big band volume to intricate solos and tightly woven improvisational cells. The saxophonists play well together, McPherson had been playing with Mingus for years and his lean, Charlie Parker inspired alto fits right in, whereas Jones was primarily a  big band saxophonist, playing a lengthy spell with Woody Herman before joining Mingus. The band takes on a joyous version of "Pops (When The Saints Go Marching In)" melding the sounds of early jazz to deep blues and swing to a create a crowd favorite, before presenting the final long form performance the moody Mingus composition "The Man Who Never Sleeps." This opens as a spot for Faddis before becoming a compelling full group performance, with some strong piano and Jones doubling on clarinet. This is a fine concert and it was recorded well, only to be cast into the vaults when Columbia dropped Mingus and much of it's jazz division be the end of 1972. The bassist would make his final albums for Atlantic Records before passing away from ALS in 1979 where after this concert was forgotten about before being resituated for the 100th anniversary celebration of the great man's birth. The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's -

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Dave Rempis / Elisabeth Harnik / Michael Zerang - Astragaloi (Aerophonic / Idyllic Noise Records, 2022)

Squeaking in just under the wire before the pandemic turned the world upside down, this album was recorded at an arts festival in alpine Austria in March of 2020. The sound is a fresh and evolving performance with Dave Rempis on alto and tenor saxophones, Elizabeth Harnik on piano, and Michael Zerang on drums and percussion. These musicians have performed and recorded several times together both as a trio and as parts of other units so they are well aware of the potential that exists for making exploratory and exciting music. Pianist Harnik feels most at home, being a native of Austria, and she contributes mightily to this album's success, not only through her imaginative keyboard playing, but her more avant-garde uses of the strings inside the piano, adding harp like sounds that in effect add a fourth instrument to the band's repertoire. Percussionist Michael Zerang works well in these chiaroscuro areas of light and shade, playing with a dynamic freedom that allows him to respond immediately to whatever is happening around him as well as tug the music into a different direction with subtle swells or cymbal shimmers. Dave Rempis rounds out the group and his playing on alto and tenor saxophone is well suited for this free and open situation. This allows the musicians to really develop a focused three way conversation that has has episodes of free improvisation, but it is the dynamic range of their instruments and the tension and resolution of these performances within a larger framework which provides the forward momentum powering a very exciting and engaging session. The music builds upon the color and dynamics that the team builds, and with everyone playing together, all three musicians are successful in developing a coherent narrative that moves forward in a logical and enjoyable way. Astragaloi - Bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Albert Ayler – Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (INA / Elemental Music, 2022)

Tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler was a leading light of the jazz avant garde in the mid 1960’s but by the end of the decade things had taken a turn. Impulse Records, who had originally been supportive, then quite literally changed their tune, asking Ayler to play rhythm and blues related material to appeal to the “youth market.” His albums New Grass and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe flopped (but are not without their charms) and Impulse dropped him, leading to a further decline in his mental state. But there was one final grasp at glory, an invitation to play two concerts at the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence, France on July 25 and 27, 1970. Ayler plays tenor and soprano saxophones and sings along with Mary Maria Parks on soprano saxophone and vocals, Call Cobbs on piano, Steve Tintweiss on bass and Allen Blairman on drums. Ayler supports the vocalist Parks who sings and recites lyrics in a strange affected manner on "Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe" and "Island Harvest" where Ayler struggles to find purchase in this bizarre setting. On his well known theme, "Ghosts," and the multi part suite “Revelations 2-4” where he proves that he was still a force to be reckoned with, using the folky themes to propel him to a hair-raising and thrilling improvisations. When he has an open ended improvisational field he still has the talent and the tone to create magical music. The second concert continues the mix of free music and idiosyncratic vocalizing, with lengthy all instrumental versions of “Holy Holy” and “Spirits” which are astonishing improvisations, Ayler playing excoriating saxophone and then leading a towering set of collective improvisations. Things end on an odd note with one of Ayler’s weirdest numbers, “Thank God For Women,” which is basically Ayler singing that phrase over a pseudo funk backdrop, and conclude as they began with “Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe.” About halfway through the first concert, Albert Ayler sings a song called “Oh, Love of Life” with such pure unadorned honesty and desperation that it can stop you in your tracks. But it wasn’t to be. Mental illness ran in his family and that is what led most people believe to be a suicide, when his body was pulled out of the East River just a few months after these concerts. But he left so much, and brilliantly remastered packages like this and the run of Ayler re-issues from the ezz-thetics label shows that his towering influence is more vital today than ever. Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings -

Send comments to Tim.