Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Chris Forsyth - Evolution Here We Come (No Quarter Records, 2022)

Guitarist Chris Forsyth has forged an exciting if too often overlooked career playing at the nexus of progressive rock, jazz fusion and psychedelic music. On this album he is joined by Tom Malach on guitar, Douglas McCombs on bass guitar and Ryan Jewell on drums, percussion and vibes. They create an album that is mostly instrumental with a few vocal tracks, and the music covers a wide range of ideas in a productive and successful manner. “Experimental and Professional” opens the album with swirls of guitars weaving in and out, with exciting upt-empo electric guitar coming alive and driving the music forward with slash and burn guitar techniques that are very exciting. More open hearted and poppy sounding, “Heaven For A Few” uses big optimistic sounding chords, suitable for a TV movie about the scruffy underdog overcoming long odds. This track sounds very produced, but not annoyingly so. “Bad Moon Risen” erupts with crisp percussion and grinding guitar, sounding much more raw than the previous track, setting a serrated edge to the guitar playing, setting up a bit of Crazy Horse looseness and grind, building riffs from the bottom up to a wild improvised ending with everyone playing all out. The Richard Thompson song “You’re Going To Need Somebody“ is given a hearty performance with vocals, and it sounds like the band is having a blast playing good ol rock 'n' roll, sending a nod from one killer guitar player to another, as the vocals and backup provide swelling choruses, along side a strong steady beat. “Hey Evolution” has some more introspective vocals, cast in a neon light of evening, buoyed by sparks of epic guitar, creating room for some soaring guitar playing taking over. The music quiets a bit on the beginning on “Long Beach Idyll” quietly building mid-tempo, patient guitars which then begin sparking off one another then reaching for the sky. Big strong slabs of music are moved, and then dynamically downshifted toward more melodic cells, adding phased shifting at the end. The final track is the lengthy and exciting jam “Robot Energy Machine” where the two guitars and bass form upbeat bright sounding themes, which kicks in into higher gears nicely with some excellent tandem guitar playing, gradually adding variations to the theme. The track develops into a multi layered performance that is complex, yet creative and alluring. Evolution Here We Come - amazon.com

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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Miles Davis Quintet - Live Europe 1960 Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Trumpeter Miles Davis’s great quintet was on the verge of wholesale change as the decade turned. His saxophonist John Coltrane had blossomed into a player of immense power and wisdom after overcoming the scourge of drugs and alcohol, and having the intricacies of composition and improvisation unlocked during a brief tenure with Thelonious Monk. Rounding out the group found here is the classy swinging rhythm section that played on the Kind of Blue record from the previous year: Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The first three tracks on this album come from the afternoon and evening concerts in Paris on May 21, beginning with the leader’s own composition “So What” along with the standards “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Walkin’.” Miles plays with the exquisite taste that was his hallmark. He did not allow his bands to rehearse, instead wanting them to be fresh on the bandstand, taking risks and allowing the material to be reexamined every night. Many of the tunes are taken at length, 12-15 minutes, and John Coltrane is the centerpiece, looking at the source material from every conceivable angle which it might be improvised upon and then building layer upon layer of relentless music. The scene then shifts to two selections from Stockholm on March 22, “All Blues” and a second version of “So What.” Showing great stamina, Coltrane again spools out solos of great complexity and length, he's not out of control however, although he may be way out there on performances like "All Blues,” trying out every conceivable method of playing. He's like a scientist, experimenting and then refining the results and casting aside what doesn't belong. Although the audiences, particularly at the Paris concert are flummoxed by this approach, Coltrane’s quest was all consuming and genuine and this attitude would continue for the remainder of his all too brief life. This is not to short the other members of the band: Kelly's hearty and earthly piano playing works to keep the band grounded and Chambers and Cobb are wonderfully locked in. Davis is a maestro, allowing his men to play as they wish, but he is always there for a pithy statement of the melody or solo that is by turns nakedly open or punchy and taught. This is a fascinating release, showing two two of the most important figures in jazz history performing for the last time before departing for vastly different paths. Live Europe 1960 Revisited - ezz-thetics records bandcamp

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Stephen Gauci​/​Joe Hertenstein​/​Alexander von Schlippenbach​/​Jan Roder - Souldlift Berlin-New York (GauciMusic, 2022)

Tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci traveled hours by plane and then more by train to meet up with this multi national, multi generational band. The legendary pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach plays piano along with Jan Roder on bass and Joe Hertenstein on drums, and the band creates three exciting lengthy improvised performances. "Soundlift 1" opens with spare piano and bass, then adding patient saxophone and percussion, and the music is starting to gain pace and friction, as the it heads to freer pastures. The collective improvisation tumbles and spins impressively with ripe saxophone expounding along side crisp rhythm work and colorful piano playing, with the saxophone dropping out briefly in favor of deft bass playing then returning with a darkened squalling attack taking the music in a new direction. Deft bass playing, patient piano, with the drums appearing, followed by the saxophone and the group plays together gracefully, with Gauchi adding some overblown saxophone accents to spice things up. "Soundlift 2" has a quiet careful piano introduction amid saxophone squeaks entering, with drumming patter and bowed bass adding further texture to a developing situation, with raw peals of saxophone crossing the horizon. Rough hewn saxophone builds over roiling piano, bass and drums creating an exciting performance, the music undulates through periods of near silence, then stark saxophone and percussion duet. There is a supple piano, bass and drums area, then the saxophone returns, developing a feverish collective improvisation with the quartet burning hot, gradually rolling back the intensity as the performance closes. A tightly wound band improvisation develops on "Soundlift 3" sounding nervous and flighty, rapid drumming and flurries of saxophone lead the way with flourishes of piano notes are heard. The saxophone reaches low doing heavy lifting, arcing upward with bursts of sound, consistent drumming and bass playing allow the saxophone and piano to range at will, creating vital music in the process. The music develops into a brawling collective free jazz improvisation with everyone playing their heart out in a thrilling fashion for a brief spell. Dynamic music, ebbing and flowing periods of quiet to sections of guided chaos, the music takes on a very free section with unmoored drumming and saxophone skidding across the deck, the music is constantly evolving and in a consistent state of motion which leads to a very impressive and truly collaborative album. Soundlift Berlin New York - GauciMusic Bandcamp

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Monday, August 15, 2022

Sam Rivers Trio - Caldera (NoBusiness Records, 2022)

The great multi-instrumentalist and composer Sam Rivers led a steady orchestra and trio out of Orlando for the last several decades of his life. He was amazingly prolific, recording in settings from solo to big band and touring the world. This concert comes from New Orleans in 2002 with the trio, Rivers on tenor and soprano saxophone, flute and piano, Doug Matthews on electric and acoustic basses and bass clarinet and Anthony Cole on drums, tenor saxophone and piano. It's their ability to each play multiple instruments that keeps the music continually fresh and forward looking. The music is all of one piece, encompassing both collectively improvised sections and composed sections, including Rivers's most famous song "Beatrice," dedicated to his longtime wife. The concert begins in an interesting way, with Rivers and Tidd playing piano and Matthews adding bass, both bowed and plucked. The band is always searching for the sound of surprise, as the keyboards clash and crash, but also intertwine into remarkable meshes, dark pummeling moving to brighter boppish phrasing. The music turns to a lengthy lowdown bowed bass introduction, which then incorporating two saxophones, sounding yearning and stark. Soprano and tenor saxophones flutter about like butterflies, becoming a little more raucous and free in space, egging one another on. The tenor saxophone, with bass and drums developing a spacious opening, building a subtle and finely graded improvisation that suits them well. Cole ups the ante with a drum solo, loud dynamite drumming, with Sam hooting encouragement, then turning to his flute, aided by complex percussion and buoyant bass. The music is always in motion, frequently thrilling, adding a touch if funk from the electric bass and drums. Deeply rhythmic drums and exotic sounding soprano emerge, Rivers pulls a great tart sound from the instrument, as heady bass and drums keep pace. The trio develops a lengthy improvisation, very well played. To wrap up the performance Rivers takes a long solo piano turn, with the bass and drums crashing in after several minutes and drive the music forward, Cole uncorks another rampaging drum solo, and Rivers rotates back to tenor saxophone, playing with boundless energy, to round things out. The performance on this album is very strong, and the sound has been remastered well,  with an informative liner essay from Ed Hazell and and period photographs completing the package. Caldera - NoBusiness Records

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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Don Ayler - In Florence 1981 (Railroad Town Music, 2022)

Back when I was collecting vinyl, this was one set I was always looking for, a "grail" in the parlance of the vinyl community. Each of the three vinyl records fetches $100 and up, so I was stuck with dodgy mp3 rips from the Internet. Now finally in digital format for hi-res downloading and streaming from the Qobuz platform, hopefully this will be the first step to getting this final album some much needed attention. Ayler leads on trumpet with Abdul Rahim Mustafa on saxophone and bass clarinet, F
rank Doblekar on tenor saxophone, Anthony “Tony” Smith on piano, John Davis on guitar, Richard “Radu” Williams on bass and Jerry Griffin on drums and percussion. You might expect a group led by an Ayler brother to come out blasting with four to the floor free jazz, but Donald is his own man, leading the group into the opener "The Bebop Song." And they play bebop quite well, developing a quick lead theme, and even though this seems to have been at least partly a pick up band (Ayler has to ask one of the guys his name to introduce him) their bop showcase is fleet and true. This is the case for the remainder of the album, Ayler will set up open, but not necessarily free, situations and the band will take off on a lengthy improvisation, most lasting the the equivalent of a side of a vinyl record. "The African Song" takes them on a multi-rhythmic journey that allows for some excellent bass and drum work. "Coltrane's Blues" allows the band to move into freer territory a bit, with some scalding saxophone playing from Mustafa and potent blowing from Ayler keeping the pace hot. "The Indian Song," The Eastern Song" and "The Japanese Song" really demonstrate Alyer's interests showed that a lot of his musical attention had turned to an exploration of the music of the far east, and that approach works well, offering differing tonalities and rhythms and delivering many opportunities for impressive ensemble and solo playing. It is great to have this rare album available again, perhaps it will gain wider recognition and eventually a studio release. Donald Ayler struggled with mental illness and the shadow cast by his famous brother, but this re-release shows that this album is not merely a curio, but the statement of a fine musician and stylist who deserves to be more widely heard. Liner notes, photos and discographical information can be found at the great Donald Ayler Discography website. In Florence 1981 - Qobuz

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Friday, August 05, 2022

Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (Atlantic Records, 1958, 2022)

This is a great album from the 1950's which is given a respectful re-issue treatment in both analog and digital format. Drummer Art Blakey and pianist and composer Thelonious Monk were well acquainted with each other at this point, having played together in many formations over the past ten years. This album finds Monk joining Blakey's late 1950's Jazz Messengers unit, consisting of Bill Hardman on trumpet, Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone and Spanky DeBrest on bass. They play a nearly all Monk program, and the pianist fits into the situation hand in glove, especially since he had just recorded some cracking live music with Griffin the recently. The tenor saxophonist plays just as vividly here as he did then, reveling in the idiosyncratic nature of Monk's compositions and approach to improvisation, blowing lustily as Monk powers them through a percussive joyous version of "In Walked Bud" dedicated to the great pianist Bud Powell. The whole band is just right on one of the most memorable Monk compositions, "Blue Monk," giving him plenty of room to express himself while Blakey grandly swings the band. "Rhythm-a-Ning" is another highlight of the session, featuring Monk's stellar angular theme and his unique manner of comping and soloing. Blakey's massive rolls and malleable rhythmic sensibility, along with DeBrest's anchoring bass are perfect foundation for brass and reed playing that completes the scene. This release is expanded to a double LP or CD set, with the first disc holding the original album, and the following one containing outtakes, and alternate versions of song, some of which are  previously released. All the but one track on disc two of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk is previously unreleased. More important than the outtakes, however, is the remastering of the original discs. The earlier Atlantic records CD has a muddy and constricted sound, whereas, this re-issue (Amazon Music ultra HD streaming, Schiit DAC and amp) is spacious and colorful, and it is a revelation. From what I have read and watched on YouTube, people seem happy with the vinyl version as well. Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk - amazon.com

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