Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Comet Is Coming - Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse! Records, 2022)

The excellent British reed player and musical conceptualist Shabaka Hutchings plays as King Shabaka alongside keyboardist Danalogue (Dan Leavers), and drummer Betamax (Max Hallett) in The Comet Is Coming. Their electronic jazz is Sun Ra meets J Dilla to the Nth degree and keeps improving with every album. Like a science fiction film opening, "Code" is epic and cinematic, pulsating, leading to a massive electronic beat. Stuttering saxophone, waves of synth and electronics frame the fresh sounding saxophone and beats. The dance floor and the jazz club meet head on with impressive results, building huge swells that break and then reform. "Technicolor" uses slower synth and clattering percussion, with saxophone and synth weaving and move around each other, as the intensity increases, leading to blocks of sound. Using live drums and light saxophone flitting electronics, "Lucid Dreamer" is all about the feel, leading to "Tokyo Nights" which has cyberpunk thick blobby synths meeting lightning fast improvising saxophone for a short, sweet blast off. "Pyramids" opens with mysterious beeping searching, kicking into a dance music groove, saxophone adding urgent notes to the proceedings, scooting in and around the electronics and programmed beats, everything comes together to create a very infectious and exciting track. Probing electronic sounds, opening of "Frequency of Feeling Expansion" light sounding saxophone and live drums push the tempo faster, long well constructed lines of saxophone and the excellent drumming make this a very organic and appealing track. "Angel of Darkness" develops scouring waves of electronic sound, with the saxophone muscling in from the outside, creating a dark ominous overall sound, heavy deep stuff with live drums pushing even harder but the electronics overwhelm, making a grinding prog metal feeling. The saxophone digs in and gets down and dirty with a powerful solo cutting through the electronic curtain and pulverizing drumming, walking a high wire act, great stuff. "Aftermath" develops a dated 1980's type synth patch with multiple waves of electronics facing flute and drums segueing into "Atomic Wave Dance" which uses video game like sounds, with saxophone pushing fast, sending out staccato notes of amid excellent live drumming. Adding further accents to the horn allow the saxophone to continually build the tension. "The Hammer" builds slow grinding saxophone, surrounded by a fuller and more lush electronic treatment, that it pushes back against, creating an oppressive sound of the electronics, finally leading to "Mystik" featuring fast cymbal playing and electronic frittering, raw stark saxophone and fast manic drumming. Bringing it all together towering saxophone playing reaching high, electronics and drums finally flashing into the ether. The Comet Is Coming creates music that is a vivid punch to the gut that leaves moldy fig Downbeat critics giving one star and harumphing fraud! (true). If their eyes could only see, the future belongs to the bold. Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam -

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Miles Davis Quintet - 2nd Session 1956 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2022)

By 1956, trumpeter Miles Davis was in ascendence, having just signed a lucrative contract with Columbia Records. He led one of the finest bands in the business with John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. But Davis was still obligated to Prestige records at this time and owed them a sizable chunk of music to be clear of that contract. Marathon sessions were scheduled, and this disc focuses on the ones recorded in May and October of 1956 in order to complete the requirements of Davis's recording contract. Davis keeps the nature of the sessions informal, concentrating on the material they played nightly in the clubs, on this occasion beginning with Garland's bright spare piano notes to open the album with "If I Were A Bell" then giving way to Davis's gentle and thoughtful reading of the melody. This has a mild middle tempo performance (it was even released as a jukebox 45!) as opposed to the up-tempo version of "Oleo", composed by Sonny Rollins which has plenty of room for Coltrane to stretch out, as does the other Rollins composition "Airegin" which is played in the same manner allowing Coltrane to demonstrate his early "sheets of sound" manner of soloing. There is also a concertation on ballads, of which Davis was a master and his focused and unhurried rendition "You're My Everything" are highlight of this disc. Their treatment of Thelonious Monk compositions are quite memorable as well, Davis is typically brilliant on the moody and atmospheric "'Round Midnight" while they stretch out the knotty "Well, You Needn't" with some fine soloing and ensemble passages. Davis gets Garland to stay on side, instructing him in the "less is more" style of Ahmad Jamal, and avoiding the near confrontation Miles had with the year before with Monk himself about piano accompaniment. Regardless, this disc is a slice of history, and performances from the these sessions began the Davis legend that would vault him into the stratosphere in the space of a few years. Ezz-thetics remastering is typically excellent and the music jumps from the speakers, framed by an essay from noted jazz historian Brian Morton, putting it all in context. 2nd Session 1956 Revisited - Squidco

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Sunday, November 20, 2022

OXBOW and Peter Brotzmann - An Eternal Reminder of Not Today / Live at Moers (Trost Records, 2022)

An inspired meeting of the minds, OXBOW is a band that plays plays a blend of noise rock, improvised music and blues while tenor saxophonist Peter Brotzmann is one of the architects of European free jazz. "Angel" opens the set with pleading, desperate vocals, deep bass, and peals of longing tenor saxophone. Space is opened both for vocals and saxophone, and the group is able to integrate Brotzmann well, using shards of guitar, ripping saxophone, excellent singing to excellent effect. Raw guitar feedback, opens "Cat And Mouse" with the band plus guest going into full out heavy rock / free jazz mode with the vocalist straining to be heard, then opening up to spacious area for bass, drums and singer. Brotzmann is deep and full sounding, not the least bit tentative, and the music shifts again to choppy rhythm singer belting it out, grinding guitar, scalding saxophone, pummeling drums. Ominous rolling saxophone and drums focus haunted vocals and guitar taking out this lengthy performance. "Skin" sets up the saxophone with a scratchy sounding band, as singer reaches, pushing his words out in a declarative manner. Instruments roar in singer stretches and vocalizes to meet them with provocative lyrics. Brotzmann is hardly fazed and blows with gusto, while the guitar glides in to engage with billowing gales of saxophone, slowly fading into feedback. Vocals sound threatening on "A Gentleman's Gentleman" as the band kicks in fast and hard, framing the stuttering vocals. Brotzmann finds a slot and fits right in, creating an exciting fast pace, where steep bass and drums ride with guitar and saxophone roaring alongside them. The sound scales back to give the vocalist room to speak then fades out. "Over" builds a slower and more spacious opening with dark toned tenor saxophone. The intensity is turned up gradually, as the vocalist and guitar enter. The vocalist is overwhelmed for some epic full band interplay, he's just moaning vocalizing amid towering saxophone and electric guitar. Soundscapes open for the vocalist to actually sing, which he does with stark emotion. Guitar and ripe saxophone frame strong singing on "Over," with high marks for the bass and drums which can change on a dime. Band works as one tight unit through changing rhythms and moods at will. Subtle guitar and bass set up "Host" with vocals and coy saxophone allows the vocals to blossom, plaintive sounding backed by lower volume saxophone and guitar. The band starts to ramp up in volume, building a choppier rhythm of coiled intensity and then takes off with righteous tenor saxophone and electric guitar leading the charge. "The Valley (Encore)" starts slowly, with patterns building and the singer quietly developing his words. Brotzmann rises up and begins to pontificate framing the singer and clearing the ground before him. Brotzmann plays some of his rawest saxophone, then stops dramatically on the the lyrics "quiet, quiet..." The full band sounding heavy and sludgy from the bottom to the roiling top of electric guitar and tenor saxophone, finishes this excellent set in grand fashion. An Eternal Reminder of Not Today / Live at Moers -

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Thursday, November 10, 2022

Jakob Bro / Joe Lovano – Once Around The Room: A Tribute To Paul Motian (ECM Records, 2022)

Joe Lovano and Jakob Bro lead a dynamic nod to the master drummer and bandleader Paul Motian, which features compositions by the leaders and an exciting take on Motian’s own “Drum Music.” The full band consists of Lovano on tenor saxophone and tarogato, Bro on guitar, Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan on bass, Anders Christensen on bass guitar, Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy on drums. "As It Should Be" develops shadowy bass and percussion with shades of saxophone and guitar. The band meshes nicely, with an increased sense of urgency. Shards of guitar spark, as Lovano blows gales of deep and dark tenor saxophone, perfect for this setting, building to a tightly coiled full band improvisation, adding a drum feature to close. Soft guitar and airy saxophone opens "Sound Creation," with spare bass notes enter from soft soprano saxophone and light and agile percussion leading the way. Moving to tenor saxophone and sticks played drums, the music becomes fuller and more muscular, leading to a spare and haunting outro. On "For The Love Of Paul," drums set the stage, leading to a Monk like theme ascending and descending from the saxophone, developing a free, open area for deep bass and percussion astride stark sounding tenor saxophone. Lovano's solo is deep and complex, played with power and grace. The guitar moves in with a strident affected sound, sharp lines of sound shot across the soundstage. Lovano returns to engage, and the the sound breaks leading to a well articulated bass feature before the band returns to the tidy melody with drum embellishments. A gentle ballad, "Song To An Old Friend" has a pleasant guitar and saxophone tone with luxuriant bass playing the music that is deeply melodic and lush, played with patience and a sense of gratitude. The music flows clearly like a stream, and the group is playing together without ego. Heavy handed percussion opens "Drums Music," with strong deep saxophone and electric guitar harmonizing, creating a heavy nearly oppressing sound. There is a stark grinding industrial prog guitar solo, followed by Lovano surprisingly sounding out and free, casting out raw peals of saxophone sound, overblowing and really pushing the limits. There is a short deeply rhythmic drum solo that underpins the all-in push to the end. The closing track, "Pause," calms things down, blossoming as a ballad of soft guitar sound mixed with tasteful bass playing, gentle and quiet, evening music on the porch at sunset, adding the lightest of feathery brushed percussion, while Lovano's soprano saxophone enters late weaving among the other instruments like a late arriving guest. This album was very successful, Paul Motian has a huge influence upon modern jazz and this album reflects that with the thoughtful compositions, and spontaneous improvisations by fully committed musicians. Once Around The Room: A Tribute To Paul Motian -

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Monday, November 07, 2022

Thelonious Monk - Celebrating 75 Years Of His First Recordings, Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Brought to the attention of the jazz public in the postwar years by Blue Note Records when the label was looking to update its sound from New Orleans and swing music to modern jazz, the iconoclastic composer and pianist Thelonious Monk recorded for the label from 1947-1952. No stranger to the jazz scene, Monk was center stage at the bebop evolution at Minton's (read Robin D.G. Kelly’s excellent biography for all the details) and also played with the likes of Coleman Hawkins during the war years. This disc collects the master takes and highlights from six sessions Monk led in New York City, with the pianist leading groups ranging from trio to sextet. Though Monk was misunderstood by many at the time as someone who was trying to attack the stilted beliefs and institutions of jazz, he (and his wife Nellie) never lost sight of his single minded pursuit of excellence, one that would lead him from being an outsider to the cover of Time Magazine in fifteen years. Some of Monk’s best trio work would come in a late 1947 session that included recordings of original classics like “Well You Needn’t” “Ruby My Dear” and “Introspection." Thelonious Monk had a simpatico relationship with the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, the two clicked like two sides of a coin, playing a joyous romp of music on a 1948 session including “Evidence,” “Mysterioso,” and “Epistrophy.” Jackson returned with the drummer Art Blakey in tow for a July 1951 date that showed the three developing close knit percussive tapestries on the likes of “Four in One,” “Criss Cross” and “Straight, No Chaser.” Monk wrapped up his Blue Note recording tenure with a sextet session during spring of 1952 with a band that included two saxophones and trumpet. They developed a full and brash sound on the likes of his own “Skippy,” “Hornin’ In” and “Let’s Cool One.” This is a fine representation of some of the most influential jazz music of the immediate post war era. The remastering is well done, bringing out details of this intricate music and well written liner notes by Art Lange put everything into historical context. Celebrating 75 Years Of His First Recordings, Revisited - Squidco

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Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Tim Berne and Matt Mitchell - One More, Please (Intakt Records, 2022)

This is a dynamic and successful duet recording with Tim Berne on alto saxophone and Matt Mitchell on piano, continuing a collaboration of several years which has seen Mitchell perform in Berne's groups and record in duet and solo settings. "Purdy" opens the album with melodic saxophone and piano, developing a gentle, pleasant conversation with fairly mild tones. The saxophone becomes more strident as the piano dives into the deeper range to compensate, but this dynamism between stark full passages and lighter, floating areas serves to the duo well throughout the performance. Spare piano notes and chords in open space carry "Number 2" until the  1:40 mark when the saxophone enters, patiently testing the air, then offering high pitched calls of pure sound that are met by crystalline piano notes, creating a very unique atmosphere. The instrumentalists are tightly connected almost like in quantum entanglement, when one makes a move, the other instantly responds. "Rose-Colored Missive" develops probing solo saxophone, wide open in space, allowing the piano to glide in, moving together with a great sense of emotion. A lush piano solo filling in the silent spaces, creating a beautifully played interlude, with the saxophone returning to engage, with  strong piano chords comping and providing fuel for a deeply wrought saxophone statement. The fast and complex interweaving of instruments right from the start marks "Oddly Enough / Squidz," their collective improvisation is very impressive and it seems that any speed is available to them, regardless of the knottiness of the ideas being exchanged. "Middle Seat Blues / Chicken Salad Blues" uses quiet unsettled piano where the heavy sounds resonate, levelling out with the introduction of the saxophone. Saxophone soars amid stark jagged piano interjections, with Berne moving from avant to lyrical and back again, weaving through the uncompromising piano work. The piece shifts to a lighter section, complete with strong saxophone cells and lighter, brighter droplets of piano notes. "Motian Sickness" finds the duo probing together, moving up and down, hinting at the great drummer's character and personality, as well as his unique approach to music. Both musicians explore the breadth of their respective instruments, using strong percussive piano chords and snake like saxophone movements to create a potent improvisation. The finale "Rolled Oats / Curls" has a light and almost tender opening, leading to some soaring saxophone playing, building a quieter duet setting than most of the album has led up to. Light high up piano notes and softer saxophone playing gather dynamism, in a loud / soft configuration that allows for continuous forward movement, and a towering fast and loud improvised duet that emphatically sates the success of this partnership. Having worked together for over a decade, Berne and Mitchell have developed an inspired musical relationship with their free thinking saxophone and muscular piano making for an inspired match. Their commitment to music and the art of improvisation is inspiring and fans of progressive jazz should seek this album out. One More, Please -

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