Monday, December 26, 2022

Thelonious Monk Quartet - Live Five Spot 1958 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2022)

Things were looking up for the great composer and pianist Thelonious Monk by 1957. His cabaret card had been returned, allowing him to play in New York City clubs again, and he began to get longer residencies at a small Bohemian club called The Five Spot. By the following year he was a staple at that location, recording two live albums for Riverside Records, Misterioso and Thelonious in Action with Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. The original LP's took tracks from a few different recording dates, but this disc focuses entirely on the August 7, 1958 recordings, giving the listener two sets of prime Monk. "Light Blue" opens the show in a slow and mellow fashion, where Monk chooses to stick close to the melody at a  comfortable medium tempo with little elaboration. Johnny Griffin stretches out on "Coming on the Hudson" and builds a solo faster with quicksilver twists and turns around Monk's falling blocks of chords. He lays out, as Monk plays mini cascades of notes over solid bass and drums. "Rhythm-a-Ning" has a fast rippling piano melody, launching Griffin on a very rapid and propulsive saxophone feature with Monk offering the spare chord for guidance, but the barn door is open and Griffin is just gone. At some point Monk has stopped comping entirely and you can just imagine him doing the little shuffling dance he did when one of his sidemen was red hot. Griffin finally runs out of gas and Monk takes up with bass and drums to add some unique pianistic styling that place a final emphatic mark on this special track. The wonderfully simple theme of "Blue Monk" leaves so much room for players to create, and Griffin starts his solo in a witty and engaging manner, as Monk allows him plenty of room to maneuver, backed by only bass and drums. Griffin's solo is one of complex tumbling notes that are played immaculately even at hyperspeed. Monk takes a lighter touch to his own feature, refracting the piece's light in a number of interesting directions, leading to a bass solo with Monk gently framing and a nice percussion interlude to conclude. "Evidence" has a knotty, complex theme which tests the players skills and offers much freedom, as shown by Grifffin taking the bull by the horns and leaning into another light and nimble feature, then stepping on the gas as the drummer provides heavier beats. The speed of Griffin's bebop flavored runs are fascinating, juxtaposed against Monk and the rhythm section who play the straight man. The sound of the pianist with bass and drums is another matter, not one of speed, but of a wellspring of ideas, adding just the right touch at just the right time to create beauty. "Nutty" has an angular choppy piano theme along side brushed percussion, as solid bass walks the line. Monk plays in a precise form, buoyed by his interaction with the bass and drums, opening up an interesting brief solo from Haynes who makes use of his entire drum kit. With a simple splash of color, Monk opens "Blues Five Spot" which Griffin picks up upon and amplifies, then breaks out into clusters of quick fluttery notes. He kneads the notes that come out of his horn, developing a thoughtful and unusual solo that evolves the music and plays against his type as "the fastest horn in the west" as he plays unaccompanied and throws in wry quotes. Monk adds subtle phrases amid bass and drums, allowing his sidemen (particularly Haynes) room to shine as well. The music is excellent throughout this album. Monk worked with many saxophonists including Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane in the 1950's but none quite had that "ride or die" attitude that Griffin did. Ezz-thetics worked hard on sound restoration and remastering, clearing up what have always been slightly muddy recordings, and including an essay from Art Lange for historical context. Live Five Spot 1958 Revisited - Squidco

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Sunday, December 25, 2022

2022 Reset - Top ten / three + honorable mentions

Jazz Top Ten (new releases)
1. Mary Halvorson - Amaryllis (Nonesuch) 
2. The Attic - Love Ghosts (NoBusiness) 
3. David Murray Brand New World Trio - Seriana Promethea (Intakt) 
4. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - Elastic Wave (ECM) 
5. Zoh Amba - Bhakti (Mahakala Music) 
6. John Zorn & Bill Laswell - The Cleansing (Tzadik) 
7. Secret People - self titled (Out of Your Head) 
8. Ballister - Chrysopoeia (Aerophonic/Not Two) 
9. Matthew Shipp Trio - World Construct (ESP-Disk) 
10. The Comet Is Coming - Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse!)

Jazz New Releases (honorable mention)

Akira Sakata / Takeo Moriyama - Mitochondria (Trost Records)
Francisco Mela and Zoh Amba - Causa y Efecto Vol. 1 (577 Records)
Tim Berne / Matt Mitchell - One More, Please (Intakt Records)
Avram Fefer Quartet - Juba Lee (Clean Feed Records)
Julieta Eugenio - Jump (Greenleaf Music)
Jon Irabagon - Rising Sun (Irabbagast Records)

Jazz Top Three (reissue / historical)

1. Don Ayler - In Florence 1981 (Railroad Town Music) 
2. Albert Ayler - La Cave Live Cleveland 1966 Revisited (ezz-thetics records)
3. John Coltrane, Favorites Revisited 1963-65 (ezz-thetics records)

Jazz Reissue / Historical (honorable mention)

Albert Ayler – Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (INA / Elemental Music)
Charles Mingus - The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's (Resonance Records)
Miles Davis Quintet - Live Europe 1960 Revisited (ezz-thetics records)
Andrew Hill - Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! (ezz-thetics records)
Sam Rivers Trio - Caldera (NoBusiness Records)
Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (Atlantic Records)
Ornette Coleman - Genesis Of Genius: The Contemporary Albums (Craft Recordings)

Non Jazz (new releases and reissues)

Chris Forsyth - Evolution Here We Come (No Quarter Records)
S.G. Goodman - Teeth Marks (Verve Forecast Records)
The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie (Nonesuch/Warner Records)
Neil Young - Citizen Kane Jr. Blues [Bottom Line 1974] (Shakey Pictures Records) 
The Paranoid Style - For Executive Meeting (Bar/None Records)
The Rolling Stones - El Mocambo 1977 (Rolling Stones Records)
Rich Ruth - I Survived, It's Over (Third Man Records)
Neil Young - Noise and Flowers (Reprise Records)
Dungen -  En Är För Mycket och Tusen Aldrig Nog (Mexican Summer)
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Super Deluxe (Nonesuch)
Brim - California Gold (Royal Oakie Records)
Pink Floyd - Animals 2018 Remix (Pink Floyd Records)

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Friday, December 23, 2022

Andrew Hill - Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Pianist and composer Andrew Hill was at one of the peaks of his relentless creativity in 1964 and 1965 when these sessions were recorded resulting the the lauded Point of Departure album and the lesser known but equally fascinating Compulsion!!!! Jazz at this point had reached an uneasy peace with the more explicitly avant-garde players paving the way for groundbreaking musicians like Hill who had mastered the past forms of the music while looking for his own vision of the future. Recorded in March of 1964, the lineup on Point of Departure is staggering in retrospect. In addition to Hill on piano, we have Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, flute and bass clarinet, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams on drums. A virtual murderers row of titans with the ability to play any compositions Hill gave them. And he gave them some wonderful tracks, beginning with the epic "Refuge" with the horns stating the urgent theme, eventually leading to a simmering area for the piano, bass and drums. Gem like solos unfurl for Dolphy on alto saxophone, Dorham, Davis, Henderson in turn before Williams who leads the group back into the theme and out. "New Monastery" has a complicated and rich theme and melody for the band to contemplate. They unfurl that knot, leading to a Dorham trumpet feature, turning into a startling Eric Dolphy mini solo. The rhythm section carries the tune for a while leading to a dignified Joe Henderson solo putting paid to this performance. Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet provides the foundation for the theme of "Spectrum" another brilliant multi-layered Hill melody. The pianist takes the lead moving through the complicated tune with bass and drum support. The horns enter in a stratified manner then allowing Dolphy's brilliant playing to shine through, before moving onto the other instruments. Davis has a rich solo segment before Dolphy soars above minimal accompaniment. He turns to flute to add texture, and the music has a sense of open ended splendor. The brief "Flight 19" features a propulsive theme built from the ground up as bass and bass clarinet provide a firm foundation for Dorham's trumpet and Hill's lush piano. The sounds weave in and around the pianist, but he is unperturbable, as is Davis, whose thick sound fills out the remainder of the track. Finally "Dedication" opens in a very emotional fashion with all of the instruments adding vibrant colors to the performance, the making room for a stellar solo by Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet. Hill's piano is lush and filling expanding to engulf the available space, the melody returns to this sad and elegiac closer. The Compulsion!!!! LP was recorded in late 1965, but wasn't released until early 1967 with Hill on piano, in the company of a very interesting band: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Cecil McBee and Richard Davis on bass, Joe Chambers on drums and Renaud Simmons and Nadi Qamar on percussion. The music is tough and poignant on the opening track "Compulsion" with the hand percussion combining with the drums and Hill choosing to use a much stronger attack in terms of his piano playing. It's a heady mix, with long lines of stout trumpet joining as Hill leans into his instrument in a free like manner. Gilmore joins late on saxophone, but has a lot to say, developing the ideas and pushing them further afield. The shortest track is "Legacy" which is built from percussion, piano and thick bass the music simmers with heat but never boils over. The horns lay out for the length of the track allowing Hill to develop the music among the thicket of percussion and bass. "Premonition" has a stoic opening for trumpet, and prominent bass, leading to a fine bowed bass and brass feature. Hill returns, plunging deep into his instrument, dropping depth charges of low end piano notes and chords. Gilmore enters on bass clarinet, laying out for some more excellent bowed bass before joining the band for a return to the stern theme. The final track "Limbo" is much more colorful with both horns engaged, amid cascading percussion leading to a fine punching, growling trumpet solo full of fire. Hill leads the rhythm team into more abstract territory, before ceding time to McBee who plays yet more excellent bass. Gilmore shows up near the end on tenor saxophone, pushing the band over the top and into the final lap. This pairing of Andrew Hill albums from the mid 1960s works very well, joining one of his greatest achievements, Point of Departure, which jazz fans may be acquainted with with an unheralded but more than worthy companion in Compulsion!!!! Ezz-thetics has re-mastered the music to a high level, and includes a well written essay from jazz historian Bill Shoemaker, putting the whole package into historical context. Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! - Squidco

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Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Trevor Dunn’s Trio - Convulsant avec Folie a Quatre - S​e​ances (Pyroclastic Records, 2022)

This is a thoroughly interesting and compelling album led by the bassist and composer Trevor Dunn, in the company of Mary Halvorson on guitar, Ches Smith on drums, 
Carla Kihlstedt on violin, Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet, Mariel Roberts on cello and Anna Webber on alto flute, making a veritable who's who of modern jazz and new music talent. This makes for rich and multi layered music project, ranging from dervish like complexity to spare rumination. Drawing on the story of a spiritualist cult in early eighteenth century France, Dunn develops a suite of compositions that suits the particular talents of the musicians he gathered, melding the writing of the music with his research of of the history of this organization. The opening track "Secours Meurtriers" is a vibrant fantasia of sounds that represent the seances and mystic experiences of this group, moving through different time signatures as the piece develops. The tomb of "Saint-Medard" was ground zero for the unexplained phenomenon, and this performance portrays that, with the theme carried by guitar and violin, leading to an extraordinary solo for Mary Halvorson using the tools at her disposal to create suitably otherworldly feature. "Restore All Things"  is an interlude that focuses on the strings, while "Eschatology" was written to resemble a chamber ensemble performance. Dunn ends the album with "Thaumaturge" beginning with a beautiful solo bass performance, with the band falling in ever so gradually to create a subtle and mysterious track that seems to sum up and encapsulate the nature of this entire fascinating and successful project. Melding history and music, composition and improvisation, Trevor Dunn and his colleagues have created an unusual and original set of music that deserves to be heard by a wide audience of music fans. Seances -

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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Richard Koloda - Holy Ghost: The Life And Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler (Jawbone Press, 2022)

Who was Albert Ayler? That is a question that fans and musicians have struggled with for years, through generations of CDs falling in and out of print, limited edition boxes and ephemeral downloads and streams. The author does his best to provide factual and verifiable information about Ayler's life and music, beginning with his upbringing in a very religious and fraught family unit which Koloda believes left an indelible imprint upon him. Ayler was a talented if sheltered saxophone player who got important real world experience playing for two summers in the band of the blues great Little Walter. Ostensibly to skip out on an unplanned fatherhood and marriage, he joined the army, gathering further experience and opportunities to network with future collaborators. The author follows Ayler who after discharge makes his way through Scandinavia, playing wherever he gets the chance, notably with Cecil Taylor, and also making his first record, containing a version of "Summertime" which was quite controversial. Making the move to New York City, Ayler signs with the fledgling ESP-Disk against the advice of several fellow musicians, and here he would arguably reach his peak recording the classic trio alum Spiritual Unity along with Bells, Prophecy, Spirits Rejoice and the fully improvised film soundtrack New York Eye and Ear Control. Koloda splits the difference, providing evidence of the power and positive influence that Ayler was having on the jazz scene while also quoting from jazz journals that found Ayler's music wanting. Live recordings would dominate the mid-1960's, concerts that would only become fully realized deep into the CD era. His tour of Europe is a triumph in retrospect, but cracks were beginning to form, and the glorious music that was recorded in late 1966 / early 1967 was the end of his musical relationship with his brother Don and Dutch violinist Michael Samson. Ayler was now on Coltrane's label Impulse, but Corlrane was dead, and the author implies that pressure from the label led Ayler to make drastic changes. A snapshot of the live recordings, Albert Ayler In Greenwich Village, was glorious but didn't sell. Donald's last record with his brother is the underrated Love Cry, and while the tracks are much shorter and the harpsichord sounds out of place, Albert's saxophone is as ferocious as ever. But the knives would really come out for his final Impulse LPs. New Grass and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe pushed Ayler into a more rhythm and blues direction, which was at odds with his still vibrant saxophone playing. The lyrics and singing of his new girlfriend Mary Maria Parks was particularly controversial with quotes from Ayler's contemporaries disparaging her, and critics savaging her performances. Mental illness ran in the Ayler family, and Koloda quotes Ayler's slide into deep depression continued as the calendar turned into 1970. The one lifeline came from the French Foundation Maeght which hired Alyer for two well received concerts during the summer. But back in the States, in Cleveland or New York City, performance opportunities were drying up. Ayler's depression deepened and he spoke of apocalyptic religious ideas and a tour of Japan that may have been a delusion. Ayler's body was pulled from New York's East River in November of 1970. Although the author quotes some musicians that suspect foul play or an accident, most accept the coroners finding of suicide. It could be that Albert Ayler is fated to always be a mystery to us, and perhaps that is for the best. While Koloda develops an excellent annotated timeline of Ayler's life and his book is a fine collection of the responses of critics and fellow musicians to Ayler's music in real time as it developed, the essence will always be in the music itself, in the grooves, digits and streams. He transcends format to ensure that the Truth is Marching In. Holy Ghost: The Life And Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler -

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Monday, December 05, 2022

Whit Dickey Quartet - Root Perspectives (TAO Forms, 2022)

Pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Whit Dickey have been recording and performing together in a wide variety of contexts since the early nineties. Both musicians have developed unique instrumental and improvisational styles, which mesh very well with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and bassist Brandon Lopez here to create a potent and successful modern jazz album. Dickey developed the goal for this recording through heavy listening to John Coltrane's Crescent and A Love Supreme, and he brings the passion of those classic recordings forward in time to this project. The opening track is "Supernova" featuring Malaby's raw and instantly recognizable tenor saxophone tone placed against cymbals and questing piano chords. The music grows in intensity as the group surges forth together, Malaby developing a coursicating sound amid fierce piano comping and waves of drumming. "Doomsday Equation" builds gradually into a very interesting interaction for dark tone heavy piano shapes and tenor saxophone blown into the upper register, with clashing cymbals providing the exclamation point. This is a dynamic piece that develops areas of relative calm which only serve to highlight the dramatic tension the musicians are capable of building. There is a quieter and more melodic opening to "Swamp Petals," building to a grittier textured improvisation, with sandpaper ground tenor saxophone, spare piano and drums setting out on an open ended path, a torrid improvisation from this configuration keeps the music fresh and moving forward. This is a long narrative track that develops over time with Malabay playing great swathes of raw sound, and opening space for a well articulated bowed bass solo. The final track is "Starship Lotus" where they have an intricate connection that lays the groundwork for a complex collectively improvised section. Picking up the pace, Malaby's coarse tenor tone fits well with the bounding piano and bass. This opens a light and mobile section for piano, bass and drums, leading to thick bass section, and a torrid improvisation from the full configuration to conclude. This album worked very well, as a quartet, the full band develops a unique and memorable sound. The musicians have to be very tight and trusting of each other to make spontaneous improvisation like this work as well as it does. Root Perspectives -

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