Monday, February 8, 2016

The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded, Routes

Dave Stryker (guitar) and Steve Slagle (alto, soprano. flute) have been making music together for a long time now. (See the May 31, 2010 posting on this blog for an example.) They come at us with a new, larger grouping on the Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded album Routes (Strikezone 883). It's of course Stryker and Slagle with Gerland Cannon on bass and McClenty Hunter on drums, plus horn virtuoso John Clark, and, for two numbers the tenor and bass clarinet of Billy Drews, for two numbers the trombone and tuba of Clark Gayton, and for three numbers the piano and Rhodes of Bill O'Connell.

The added girth gives them the chance to craft some fuller arrangements of original compositions along with a very nice version of Mingus' "Self-Portrait in Three Colors."

The added sound colors give depth to the music and primarily serve to set off the very formidable mainstream soloing clout of Styker's guitar and Slagle's alto. The rhythm section churns into swinging territory as you would expect while the co-leaders burn with some of their finest solo work. O'Connell gets some profitable solo time, too, as do others and nicely so.

It's the sort of album that carries on the hard bop and beyond roots of the music naturally and un-selfconsciously. And the arrangements are hiply lush.

It shows us that Dave Styker and Steve Slagle still have much to say and they go ahead and SAY it on this new one. It bubbles over with heated goodness and manages to find something new within the centered contemporary jazz tradition. Nice!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jus, Jacob Lindsay, Ava Mendoza, Damon Smith, Weasel Walter, 2007

We go back a few years to 2007. Remember then? Well, whether you do or not doesn't matter, especially, for now, because at the moment what concerns us is the album recorded that year, Jus (bpa013). It is a confluent gathering, a quartet featuring Jacob Lindsay on all manner of clarinets, Ava Mendoza on electric guitar, Damon Smith on "7-string ergo-bass" and something called a "Hoopp", and Weasel Walter on drums, percussion and bagpipes.

Now what makes this one interesting is the consistently out, pointillated, pin-point surgical entrance of sound structures in space. The sound colors are extraordinarily fertile and evocative. This is improv with a new music kind of slant, operating within the "tradition" of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, say, or MEV, in other words abstracted and cumulative, four-way just about all the time, continuous and creatively inventive.

It's not a music where you say to yourself, "Wow, Listen to that bass clarinet!" so much as you experience sonic wholes made up of the ingenious contributions of all four in out counterpoint.

Everyone is key most all the time, so it is not a music where you single out foreground from background. It is simply music that occupies pan-ground if you please.

There is most interesting bass and guitar work as a part of the whole, so I place the write up on this blog, but the reed and percussion contributions are no less interesting or important.

An hour of this, thanks to the insightful sound sculpting consistently present, does not seem at all taxing, assuming you already understand the outside lanes of getting to music. It fascinates, enthralls and refuses to abandon the rarefied realms it occupies, but instead generates ever new combinations of timbre and texture.

So the music succeeds in so doing. This is not something "easy to do" well. Do not fool yourself. Sit down with three others and try to get to this level. You doubtless will find it is not easy to be both self-ful and selfless with three others. Jus, then, is an achievement, a critical outing on the outer fringes that does what it does with a certain brilliance. It's a good example of a great result in this sphere. Put your ears on deep-listening mode and you will get much from this.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Flow State, Where the Sky Meets the Earth

Flow State features the compositions and electric guitar of Ben Brody with a quintet. The album Where the Sky Meets the Earth (benbrodymusic) gives us four pieces to hear and appreciate.

The first thing one notices with the quintet is the absence of a drummer. There is pulse as a constant, and electronics (not beats per se) or instruments sometimes play a percussive role. But it is the musical voicings that stand out all the more for not being drum accompanied, and they are consistently interesting.

The instrumentation is not typical. There is the electric guitar of Brody, plus electric and double bass (Nick Lenchner), electric keys (Jonathan Evers), alto sax (Alison Shearer) and tenor sax (Noah Dreiblatt).

This is electro-prog compositional, jazz-inflected music of great interest. The saxes sometimes freely improvise atop a compositional set of motifs. Other times there is an ensemble sound that has a relationship with some of the '70s-'80s electro prog outfits but is well evolved and complex in ways that stand apart from those roots. Sometimes one is reminded of middle-period Soft Machine in the mesmeric qualities, but again, there are pronounced originalities here that serve to distingush this music from that realm.

It is an ensemble music, so Ben Brody generally is an element in the blend more than a soloist. Nonetheless his sound is a vital part of the mix, especially in the droning psychedelic breadth of "I am Become Death."

If this album stands out as a peculiar musical statement, it is because it comes at you originally and electrically as a music unto itself. It is slghtly avant edgy, but not typically so. It is cosmic but not in a derivative way.

And in the end you are treated to some very energizing music that is rather beyond category. Nice!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Trio Da Paz, 30

When a guitar-bass-drums trio manages to stay together over 30 years, it is an accomplishment. There are good reasons, always, why this might be so. Musical and personal compatibility, sure, and if they have been able to capture the spotlight this long, artistic reasons as well.

So that most certainly is the case with the Brazilian samba-jazz juggernaught Trio Da Paz. Their new CD 30 (Zoho 201602), celebrates the long-lived union with an album of exemplary music. Duduka da Fonseca, the renowned and exemplary drummer, is here, along with Brazilian nylon-stringed guitar wizard Romero Lubambo and the very musical bassist Nilson Matta.

With the exception of the Baden Powell evergreen "Samba Triste" the program consists entirely of originals by the band members. They satisfy as you would expect, but the dynamic and very well burnished trio improvisational ways are what makes for a remarkable listen.

Romero is a Brazilian-jazz guitarist of the highest rank. He takes the rhythmic-chordal style so important to samba and makes of it something outstanding, personal and beautiful. His general linear sense makes of him a veritable icon. All that is plain to hear on this album. But then outstanding as well is how the triumvirate mesh together at all points. Matta's bass playing gains critical mass in this ensemble and he functions as the all important pivotal key between the beautifully inventive rhythmic presence of da Fonseca and the harmonic-tonal-rhythmic counterthrusts of Lubambo.

In all this album could serve as a primer for anyone who seeks to absorb the very subtle interplay of a jazz samba trio today. Time, tone and timbre come together for a truly inspired set from the very best. Can I suggest you grab this one? Very recommended!

Friday, January 29, 2016

North of Blanco, Jaap Blonk, Sandy Ewen, Damon Smith, Chris Cogburn

From the rich cache of recent albums steered into musical port by eminently capable helmsman, bassist Damon Smith, I put forward yet another interesting offering for your consideration, North of Blanco (bpa 016). It is a free, extended timbred improvisational quartet that strikes musical gold with six shorter to more extended segments.

In this foursome are Jaap Blonk on vocals and electronics, Sandy Ewen on guitar and objects, Chris Cogburn on percussion and Damon on prepared double bass.

The emphasis with this outing is to realize advanced sonic sculpting, to create textures and ambiant universes that rely on the creative instincts of all four participants to create extra-musical sounds from, if you will pardon the overused phrase, "outside the box."

That means that Jaap Blonk lets loose with considered vocalizations from within the realms of human capabilities, not just "singing" as such but phonemic percussives, unpitched and pitched utterances and otherwise choosing from the full gamut of soundings available to him as human exponent.

Damon's prepared bass, whether bowed, plucked, scraped or sounded in whatever way necessary, creates an extended universe of textures and timbres that complement Jaap and his effusions.

The same can be said of the distinctive soundings of guitarist Sandy Ewen (who we covered recently with a duet album with Henry Kaiser) and percussionist Chris Cogburn.

The result is an iconoclastic mix of noise-pitch freedom that all who like the outer realms will no doubt readily respond to as I have. Beautiful sounds of deep listening and measured utterance!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Magic Sam Blues Band, Black Magic, Deluxe Edition

Chicago's Magic Sam was one of the most original voices and guitarists in the soul blues revolution that hit fully by the late '60s. He recorded two albums on Delmark and captured the loyalty of local audiences in the clubs. He was on the verge of national popularity when the Black Magic album hit the streets. He had a Stax record contract in hand and all was about to fall in place when he died unexpectedly at age 32 on December 1, 1969. That finished it all but his legend lives on today, principally via the two glorious studio albums he recorded for Delmark.

The second and last record, Black Magic (Delmark DE 620) is now available in a new Deluxe Edition with eight additional tracks and alternatives (two totally unreleased until now, five appearing originally on The Magic Sam Legacy). The edition includes a new 16-page booklet with additional liner notes and photos from the studio.

The ultimate package is an essential item in anyone's blues collection. It has all the hallmarks of Magic Sam's inimitable vocal style, his guitar rootedness seconded by Mighty Joe Young, and a crack Magic Sam Blues Band that is out to capture your soul.

The original album is all there, of course, Sam's timeless vocals and west side Chicago electricity. The full edition gives you nearly 70 minutes of music, the legend at a peak. The sound is all at Delmark standards and in the end, the promise of Sam's brilliance is all there to hear, fulfilled!

A terrific one to have! A blues must!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Albert Collins & The Icebreakers, Live at Rockpalast - Dortmund 1980, DVD-CD Set

Albert Collins was a blues guitarist of originality and stature, a vocalist with plenty of soul, an artist with a vibrant blues totality that marked him as one of the finest bluesmen of his generation. He may be gone but he lives on in his music. A fine live 90 minute appearance with a solid band greets and moves us on the recent 2-CD/1-DVD set Albert Collins & The Icebreakers Live at Rockpalast - Dortmund 1980 (MIG 90632).

It's a strong backing quartet centered around tenor and singer A. C. Reed, and Albert in fine form with his electrifying vocals, the signature neck-position humbucker Telecaster, the capo, and Albert weaving his pickless blues spells as only he could do. It is instructive and fun seeing his playing in full visual glory. The body language of his live show reminds you how much his vocal and guitar style were GESTURAL, leaving space and heightening tension almost conversationally. He is on it instrumentally and vocally for this German TV live series and we feel like we are there with very decent sound and crisp visuals.

They run through a long set and we get the full aura of Albert live. This one is a boon for blues guitar fans! Check it out by all means!