Sunday, July 31, 2022

Melissa Aldana - 12 Stars (Blue Note Records, 2022)

Slowly but surely, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana has developed a very successful career in jazz. Daughter of Chilean saxophone player, she developed a solid grounding in classic hard bop at home and in local clubs, before heading to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her big break came in 2013, when she became the first female musician and the first South American to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, which opened up performance and recording opportunities. After a series of solo albums for smaller labels, and one for her group Crash, she was invited to record for Blue Note Records. The album was produced by guitarist Lage Lund, who also performs on it, in addition to Sullivan Fortner on piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Kush Abadey on drums, and Pablo Menares on bass. The group is very tight and they develop finely tooled modern jazz, beginning when the cascading opening track “Falling” where crisp rhythm and fleet guitar make way for graceful saxophone soloing. Lund worked with Aldana on the arrangements for the album, and this pays dividends, especially since the electric guitar and Rhodes piano can cover so much ground musically, they are able to create situations like the the ballad “Emilia” where the music can seemingly hang suspended in the air, creating a gentle tension that is gradually resolved. “The Bluest Eye,” a nod to the author Toni Morrison, is another piece that doesn’t release its secrets too quickly, evolving into a weaving performance focused on tenor saxophone and acoustic piano that is reminiscent of the mysterious and memorable music Wayne Shorter was writing in the mid 1960’s. This album worked very well, Melissa Aldana is patient and thoughtful in the presentation of her music, aided by an excellent team that aids her capably in bringing this project to its fruition. 12 Stars -

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Saturday, July 30, 2022

Secret People - Self-Titled (Out Of Your Head Records, 2022)

Secret People is an excellent progressive jazz trio that sounds much larger and fuller than they really are. The group consists of Nathaniel Morgan on alto saxophone, Dustin Carlson on guitar and Bass IV and Kate Gentile on drums and vibraphone. The group develops a complex yet cohesive sound that emphasizes intricate compositions and interwoven collective improvisations. Each member of the band has a unique approach to their instrument which makes their combined efforts so exciting, Morgan has an appealingly gruff tone and his instinctive approach to improvisation keeps the music fresh. He also mixed and engineered the album, giving the music an immediate sound while balancing the instruments carefully. Carlson is particularly impressive, playing slashing guitar chords and understated single lines, and balancing that with the deep sound of the electric Bass IV, which he can use to push the music into Bill Laswell like territory. Kate Gentle has been very active lately as a bandleader and a sideperson, and she is the engine that drives this project forward, developing the intuitive sense of rhythmic balance that each of these tracks need, even adding delicate vibes shading in one case. This album was very successful, the musicians have been working together for years, enveloping influences from dub through jazz to classical, digesting it all in order to create their fast, fleet, constantly evolving music which is a story all its own. Secret People - OOYH Bandcamp

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Cecil Taylor - With (Exit) To Student Studies Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

This collection provides a detailed look at pianist Cecil Taylor during the fall of 1966, combining an LP side long studio session with a lengthy concert recording. "With (Exit)" was recorded at Van Gelder studio in October, eventually to be released in 1968 as part of the Conquistador! album. Taylor was accompanied by Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone, Bill Dixon on trumpet, Henry Grimes and Alan Silva on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums. It is a potent performance, beginning with bowed bass and light feathering percussion. Cyrille is quietly aflame, propelling the band where Lyons blows mightily, with the band breathing together as one. Cyrille becomes louder, but retains his graceful movements, leading to a break for piano and bass. The drums return along side rapid fire percussive piano, with fluttering bowed bass leading to the conclusion. The remainder of the album consists of live concert from Paris in late November released in 1973 alternately as Student Studies or The Great Paris Concert. The lineup is Taylor on piano, Lyons on alto saxophone, Silva on bass and Cyrille on drums. Beginning with moody piano, swirling bowed bass and tart saxophone, the quartet creates hard hitting music, and Cecil is all over the piano, and the drums are driving forward, creating an atmosphere where the intensity is palpable. Lyons returns, gradually going into the fray over rumbling dark chords and bowed bass, leading to a complex improvisation that incorporates stuttering horn, cells of piano and arco bass where the music wheels and strikes off at unexpected angles in fascinating ways throughout the concert. Stark bowed bass and piano pick things up, with Silva's bass sweeping across the stage, like a brisk wind blowing through Taylor’s bracing downpour of notes. Lyons' saxophone enters and the music boils to a soaring collective improvisation with all the pistons firing. Changing pace abruptly, abstract percussion, bells, crashing piano chords and shakers create unexpected textures, somewhat reminiscent of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Cyrille is all in, creating in the flow even as the music takes a turn for the strange. Blasts of whistle and fast / hard drumming, why a whistle? Are they trolling the audience? The shrillness of the sound provides quite a shock, and perhaps that was the point. Returning to subtle bass and piano, clattering percussion and saxophone, the group creates nervous bounding music, which coalesces into an urgent full band blastoff of powerful music with tart toned saxophone, cascading piano and drums with bass anchoring the middle. Cruising trio improvisations just keeps coming in waves, exhausting but thrilling. Man, the combination of Taylor's piano and Cyrille's drums could just blot out the sun the sound is so huge. Eventually the band glides to a conclusion and with a final cymbal crash this extraordinary ride is over. This album has been remastered well and sounds great, the live album in particular has a visceral punch, and the package also includes a lengthy essay from Scottish jazz historian Brian Morton, placing the music in context. With (Exit) To Student Studies Revisited - Squidco

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - Elastic Wave (ECM Records, 2022)

Drummer Gard Nilssen brings his progressive jazz group Acoustic Unity to ECM Records for a new album featuring André Roligheten on tenor, soprano and bass saxophones and clarinet and Petter Eldh and double bass. For this LP, the group focuses on dynamics, where their playing is intimate and closely spaced, and the quality of the recording brings out much of the detail of the their instruments. This allows them to explore more a nuanced and textured approach to improvisation and development. Despite that, indeed because of it, the music is challenging and exciting throughout, and the musicians are playing as well as can be in this hothouse setting, performing improvised music in an appealing and concentrated form. This may stem from the fact that their music has been honed by the length of time they have been playing together and vigorous nature of the band's sound comes for the crucible of playing many concerts together and developing a near telepathic mindset. Their improvisations are very powerful, and they are able to move in an a continuously impressive manner whether the music comes in a melodic or freely improvised format. Roligheten's reeds achieve a wide range of sounds and tones that make a vivid statement as the drums grow more aggressive. He can dig in or lay off his tone as the drums push harder and the bass pulsates, resulting in trio improvising that is first rate. The anticipation and tension that the musicians are able to build in their performances is palpable, coming from a sense of trust and willingness to move from a swinging sense of pulse to distinctive melodies. These are among the defining attributes of the group which addresses fiery anthems and abstract ballads with equal conviction. This was an very well planned and executed album, and this performance shows that they can conjure emotion at a hushed silence, and use dynamism to create a number of fast paced and fluid pieces that combine to create a wide ranging and well executed program. Elastic Wave -

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Jones Jones - Just Justice (ESP Disk, 2022)

The idea of a supergroup is one usually bandied about in rock music circles but it can be applied to jazz as well. The anonymous name of this group hides a trio with decades of idiom changing experience in jazz and improvised music. Jones Jones consists of Larry Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones, Mark Dresser on bass and Vladimir Tarasov on drums. "Articulating Jones" is a brief opening track with raw festering saxophone and bass with percussion grinding forward. Sawing bowed bass and guttural saxophone lead the band into the following track, "Bali Hai Jones." This track has a subterranean rumble of bowed of bass and percussion, free sounding saxophone, all integrated unflinchingly. The music sounds truly free and nonconformist, creating unvarnished excitement. They feint like going off on a power trip then burrow that energy back into another deeply coiled trio improvisation, creating a raw nervy sound of stark saxophone, stoic bass and skittish drums, but it works well, and isn’t the least bit dry or off-putting. "Call of the Jones" has bowed bass with cymbals and searching saxophone, becoming more filled in and pushing forward, seething with energy. The band gets up on their haunches, with squalls of bowed bass and drums, scouring saxophone making for a powerful performance. This leads to "Jones In The Solar System," moving in a different direction, with abstract clattering percussion and bass creating low nervous sounds. Drumming on metal creating a distinctive racket, as the sopranino saxophone peeks out from the crashing sounds. The music becomes free and unforgiving, as high pitched saxophone clashes against slashing cymbals then fades. "Jones Free Jones" pits brushes against ripe tenor saxophone and plucked bass. Tarasov plays nice feathering brushes, melding well with Dresser's deeply pulled bass notes and Ochs' robust tenor saxophone. Light and fast unaccompanied drums soon meet tenor saxophone on "RBG Jones," which adds rending and tearing saxophone sounds, and bowed bass which becomes prominent, leading to "The Further Adventures of Ms. Microtonal Jones" where Ochs returns to the sopranino saxophone, getting very unique sound, especially in this environment, where Dresser is switching between bowed and plucked bass, and the drums are ebbing and flowing in speed, creating a distinctive group sound. The finale is "And His Sisters Called Him Jones" with tenor saxophone, plucked bass and drum shades, probing the open space, patiently, deeply focused no hurry, tapping into the flow of ideas and intuition. This deep collective improvisation, playing low to the ground in something of a groove, because freedom is a groove. This rupturing bowed bass could move mountains, framed by distinguished saxophone and drums, closing out this profound and thoughtful album. Just Justice -

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Hugo Carvalhais - Ascetica (Clean Feed Records, 2022)

After a lengthy break from putting out music under his own name, bassist and composer Hugo Carvalhais returns to the fray with a wide ranging and colorful album. He doubles on electronics and his band mates are Emile Parisien on soprano saxophone, Liudas Mockunas on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Fábio Almeida 
on alto saxophone and flute, Gabriel Pinto on piano, organ and synthesizer and Mário Costa on drums. The music has a very interesting and varied sound, incorporating influences from jazz, contemporary classical and electronic music. The music is very creative with nice blending sounds for saxophone and swirling synthesizer, while deep bass and potent drumming ground the music, as splashes of colorful clarinet are added. Compositions evolve gradually and episodically, making the most of the reed instruments as well as beautiful and well rounded bass and drums. Acoustic piano adds lush near classical developments to solo introductions and statements. Yearning emotional saxophones, turn gritty and open building to harsh tones at times, then fall back, creating a lot of interesting dynamic tension. The rhythm section leads a more melodic assault, often opening up to synthesizer along side simmering bass and drums. Those synth tones locked in with bass and drums can be juxtaposed by piano which wells up even as the music develops floating sensations, where the clarinets can weave through with a wistful tone, and further horns are used as framing for the keyboards within. Clarinet and spare drums, create deep space, and the band is able to build impressionistic art music that is quiet and lonely in space in addition to that which has a more aggressive jazz attack. The music that Carvalhais and the band present covers a wide range of emotional content, developing a mysterious and enigmatic atmosphere that yields its secrets through repeated listening. Ascetica -

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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Jeremy Pelt - Soundtrack (HighNote Records, 2022)

There are very few things that can be counted upon like clockwork in this recent millennium, but one of the things jazz fans have to look forward to is a new album from trumpeter Jeremy Pelt at least once per year. This year is no different with Pelt accompanied by Chien Chien Lu on vibraphone, Victor Gould on piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Vicente Archer on acoustic and electric bass, Allan Mednard on drums. Anne Drummond guests on flute for a few tracks as does Brittany Anjou on Mellotron and Moog synthesizer. The album opens with "Picking Up The Pieces" which has a classic mid 60’s acoustic jazz influence, building a nice mid tempo groove with a surprising shift from acoustic to electric accents via atmospheric electric piano and shimmering vibes. "Soundtrack" has a medium tempo theme for the full band, leading to a crisp and bright vibes featured with rhythm support. Pelt adds confident trumpet which moves forward, developing a fine and incrementally stronger solo. There is a svelte piano, bass and drums section, leading back to a lyrical conclusion. The band builds pace and volume with the theme "Be The Light," which then opens for individual expression, beginning with the leader’s propulsive horn playing over supple rhythm, followed by crystalline vibraphone notes which rain down. Ripe sounding piano is featured over motoring bass and drums, easing back to a trumpet led finale. "Part 1: The Lighter Side" and "Part2: The Darker Side" add Drummond's flute, sounding airy, and full of space, as quiet ballad tones abound. Flute and electric piano mesh well with similar sounds, then beautiful watery sounding trumpet wells up framed by piano and lush cymbals. Hushed drums and vibes create a quiet edge on "Elegy," where large piano chords gently fall and Pelt forms a beautiful ballad trumpet tone. There is subtle and supple ballad playing all around on this track. "I'm Still Standing" uses medium up-tempo drums pushing the tempo which seems to suspend in space at times, creating interesting dynamic tension. Fine solos from trumpet and vibes are present, while the drummer keeps edging forward with a complex fast pace. The open toned ballad "I Love Music" features soft brushes and lush trumpet framed by piano chords. Slowly developing piano with grounding bass and swirling brushed percussion support the trumpet ably. "Shifting Images" develops an electric groove through bass and drums, with Pelt's trumpet gliding overhead riding the updraft, building a punchy and enveloping statement of purpose. Lightly played yet slashing drums and deft vibes weave their unique sound through the thicket of music before Pelt herds everyone back together for the finish. A gentle and repetitive figure on "You And Me" allows Pelt plenty of room to build an emotional trumpet feature that soon involves the rest of the band. Fender Rhodes gives the setting a pastel hue in tandem with the trumpet before gradually fading out. This was a very solid and well constructed modern mainstream jazz album. The band works very well together in both ensemble and solo settings, and Pelt skillfully demonstrates his talent as an instrumentalist and composer. Soundtrack -

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