Thursday, January 29, 2015

Marbin, The Third Set

If new fusion has a name, it is Marbin. Well, one of them anyway. The quartet returns in their latest, The Third Set (MoonJune 065). It is a gaggle of originals recorded live on location, ten songs at ten clubs throughout the midwest. They are on fire.

Dani Rabin plies the electric guitar, Danny Markovitch is on saxophones, Jusryn Lawrence gets on the drums and Jae Genrile plays electric bass. This is actually their fourth album, so I gather, their second on MoonJune. And it is a heater!

The key to it all is some hard-rocking fusion with a push and sixteenth notes flying away along with a centered drive that puts it all in place.

The third set as all club goers can understand is the one you stay for, where the band is loose and relaxed and can play to the house what it is they do well without constraint. That's what this album feels like. Dani Rabin plays some serious guitar here. Letting fly with speed but cranking with well-hit torque-soul, too. Markovitch stays with him with his own front-line indispensability. The rhythm team hits it hard and busy with charging-forward energy.

Rabin and Markovitch's Israeli roots come through now and again in good ways.

Otherwise this is a straightforward romp into metal fusionland that anyone who digs such things will appreciate. Guitarists will want to listen to Rabin especially. He is a stylist! But the music will get you regardless, I predict.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Corey Harris, Fulton Blues

Corey Harris, vocalist, guitarist, bluesman. His Fulton Blues (Blues Boulevard 250360) combines the old country blues and the electric urban blues in ways that have a contemporary ring. He sometimes picks out on an acoustic and reminds you of the early Delta blues, then gets a contemporary ensemble and does something inspired by Chicago greats.

In reality he gives us his own take on both periods of the blues, sings with a fullness and soul, and tells those blues stories that make it all real. He lived in West Africa for a year and brings some of that in, though more in terms of feel than the obvious riffs and such.

He can do much just with his acoustic and his voice, like the old masters but of course not to duplicate, because that is impossible and ill-advised.

But he gets something of his own out of it. And his guitar playing is very good, too!

I found much to like here. Recommended.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tim Ferguson Inside/Out, Hold That Thought!

The haunting refrains of the late Charlie Haden's composition "Silence" begin the CD of Tim Ferguson's Inside/Out album Hold That Thought! (Planet Arts 301417) and give us as loving a tribute to the fallen giant as any I have heard. And that is just the beginning of the captivating set in store for listeners.

Bassist Tim Ferguson's Inside/Out is a trio with the somewhat unusual instrumentation of Tim on acoustic bass plus Rob Henke on trumpet and alto horn and Diane Moser on piano. It is no exaggeration to state that each player carves out a vital, indispensable space in the trio setting that makes this music special.

With no drummer present they are free to go into some very rubato feels or swing along according to the piece at hand. And they do. Tim can walk very nicely and very audibly given the setting, or become a third horn, so to speak. His inventiveness is key, but no less than Henke and Moser. They all are schooled in contemporary jazz and take on their experience with the vocabulary to whatever realms they choose to occupy. So there is postbop swinging, freedom and expressive balladings on originals and a few jazz standards.

Bass enthusiasts will certainly appreciate what Tim is doing. Rob and Diane have much to say too, and all manage to do it with their own take on what jazz is today.

It's the sort of album that has a classic quality that one never grows tired of. My fifth hearing right now is as fresh sounding to me as the first. And there is just a hint of middle-period Miles in Rob that sounds very good in this sort of trio.

Hear it!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rotem Sivan Trio, For Emotional Use Only

Who is Rotem Sivan? He is an Israel born, New York based electric guitarist who appears before us in a recent album with his fine trio, For Emotional Use Only (Fresh Sound New Talent 451).

It is a solidly contemporary jazz trio album we have here with Sivan originals (except one tune) and a freewheeling three-way interplay. Haggai Cohen Milo plays an excellent bass, walks with intelligence, solos nicely, and adds much to the mix. Mark McLean swings very well on drums throughout.

And Rotem Sivan pulls out all the stops with some very inventive improvisations that have the clarity and space of mid-period John Abercrombie and a harmonic chordal sense that sets him apart.

The three mix it up well but Rotem especially stands out. This is most definitely a guitar showcase date and he shows us what he can do in depth.

Any guitarist or guitar enthusiast will find this one an exemplary disk for the state-of-the-art of guitar improvisation in contemporary jazz. And in so doing it establishes Rotem Sivan as a new guitarist of real stature, someone I suspect we will be hearing from quite a bit in the coming years. Recommended!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blaise Siwula, Dom Minasi, The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing

The beautiful call of a bird singing sounds in the background of a worthy on-location set by reedist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Dom Minasi. "The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing" (Nacht Records download album) is the fully free improv duet of the two making significant sounds together.

Both are in a lucid mode and interact with energy, good ideas and a kind of tumbling forward that embodies their own inimitable channeling of the full history of jazz and freedom.

Blaise on clarinet, soprano sax, tenor, and alto continually invents interesting declamatory lines as Dom responds in kind in ways that color the electricity of his guitar and give out with linear and harmonic totalities that open the tonality to advanced extensions of pitch center fulcrum points. The two together contrast well as a simultaneous double-streaming of multi-solos, as much avant as it is a kind of extension of old jazz multiple-presence soloing, an out sort of post-New-Orleans ramble of two simultaneous voices together yet separate. At times Dom comps out chords or gives out with a walking sort of response; at other times there is a busy duplex outburst that never flags but ever conjures new combinations.

It swings greatly. Not in the conventional toe-tapping sense, but in the way the lines lay down together, the deft phrasings in linear space. It all swings in that subtle way that free music can do when it is right. It is such that if a drummer and bass player suddenly dropped into the mix, if they had the talent they would KNOW where this was moving toward and they would know what to do against it. It has an implied jazz vocabulary; it's all over the music throughout. And it is inspired, beautifully done at that.

So to say all that is to say that it isn't just free, it's free jazz if you will pardon that usage. That's what it is. Dom defines the difference in an article he wrote in All About Jazz, which you can find if you type his name on there in the search box. No, better yet here is the article link By his useful definition, this is free jazz. But it is very good free jazz, most importantly. And for that it is good music.

The listening is more important than what I write about it. So listen! Go to to find out more and to get a download! Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Magma, Zuhn Wohl Unsai, Live 1974

The French avant-prog rock outfit Magma made some phenomenal music in the '70s, yet we in the States did not always hear about it. I missed them then and only caught up later. Just how daring their music was can be heard on the newly issued 2-CD live set originally recorded for broadcast in 1974 by Radio Bremen, Zuhn Wohl Unsai (MIG 01102 2-CDs).

By then they had several albums behind them. The shifting lineups were freeze-framed as they existed in February of that year. Christian Vander continued at the helm on drums, vocals and compositions, Klaus Blasquiz vocalized as well, Jannick Top was on electric bass, there were two keyboard players in Michel Graillier and Gerald Bikialo, and Claude Olmos was the guitarist.

What we hear in good, apparently cleaned-up audio, is the band in full-bloom. There is of course the hardness of the rock element, but then new music avant classical and jazz influences, a pronounced compositional uniqueness that gives prominence to very advanced vocal lines that are harmonized especially interestingly by keys, punched very uniquely in the bass, supported with electric guitar....And rhythmically the music is quite advanced with lots of asymmetries and polyrhythmic polymeters and such.

You can hear some roots perhaps in early Soft Machine and Zappa, but more as close stylistic affiliations than derivations. They are not as much about a jamming, solo sort of music as a long-formed compositional deluge. The vocals and harmonic underpinning are striking.

They were unique to the extent that I can not readily describe further except to say they were so new and different that no doubt some didn't get it in the audience and they still strike me now as ahead of things, in very much their own way.

This live set is essential to get into the core of what Magma was about in 1974. Wow!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kelley Suttenfield, Tony Romano, Among the Stars

Simple ideas can end up simply gorgeous or just simple-minded, depending on many things, in terms of music on artistry and the spirit of the time the music was made, the chemistry of the moment.

Among the Stars (self-released), the album by Kelley Suttenfield and Tony Romano, starts with a very simple idea. Start with a choice grouping of standards. Take a vocalist and a guitarist. Make music.

Believe me I've heard such simple things go down the rapids because things were not right. That is definitely not the case here. Kelley is the right vocalist for this. She has a beautifully straightforward voice, an unpretentious delivery that nonetheless has an interpretive jazz knack. And then Tony Romano on acoustic or semi-hollow guitar. He gives out with some very beautiful accompaniment, picked and harmonically strong, but also with just the right patterns and note choices. He understates, as does Kelley. But they do so with excellent instincts. And then they come out with something, like "Beautiful Love," that swings and implies as much as it overtly states.

The arrangements have beauty and the playing and singing are completely surrendered to the mood of the song. It's music for reflection, for the quiet times after all the hustle of life. Kelley is a real artist. Tony is a real artist.