Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet, whenufindituwillknow

What comes in time comes with sunshine sometimes. That is how I feel right now about Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet's new one whenufindituwillknow (Golden MGJCQ 004). That does not mean that things coming from Michael Gregory Jackson and his evolving working bands were less full of sunshine in the past. I have followed the music over the years happily and I could not say that there is any the lesser happening in the earlier. Yet, after hearing this new one a number of times it strikes me that it is no less original in its Jacksonian guitar originality and the compositional and conceptual "clarity," lyricism, exploratory outreach  and fired-up drive. It is maybe all the more so right now? It seems to me that this particular outing gives all the things I've been digging on all along but perhaps in a form that advanced Fusionologists who have missed his music will connect with immediately and directly and thereby become converts.

That is, if some still do not know out there. Anyone who likes a guitar plugged in and smartly saying it all needs to hear this music. The nine tracks all have special distinctive things happening, each one a little different than the others. You will find here a little extraordinary grooving that might remind you of "Jack Johnson," remind not for a derivative quality so much as an irresistible locking-in-ness. There are flowing free grooves and energy bursts too along with outright rockers, and then, surprise, a samba-lyric thing that only Michael might think up. And if the beauty of "In A Silent Way" makes you wish somebody would take that lyrical seed and transplant it into new soil, well Michael has come up with an original set of shooting buds that bring on the Jacksonian side of that possibility. Happily.

The band clearly clicks together and shows in each member a special belongingness.   Drummer Matias Wolf Andreason gets my attention from the start as someone who uses his snare artistically and wisely, then puts down a charge of motility that puts everything around the corner and into a place we cannot ignore. Niels Praestholm on bass and Simon Spang Hanssen on alto and soprano each have their say and add their sound to great advantage to the total result.

And then of course we have Michael's guitar work. It is outstanding and as sure and confidently assertive as I have ever heard it. I've said it before but he is a stylistic subset of one and perhaps this particular program gives you the ideal view of the warp and woof of it all.

The fact that I came and reopened this dusty blog space specifically to talk about whenufindituwillknow should tell you something--though I do plan to post here a great deal more going forward than I have lately. This album is a joy, a must for anyone in the electric guitar universe who is still listening to the new in the music.

This is the new. When you hear it you will know.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Nora McCarthy, Dom Minasi, Ras Moshe, Improvising Trio, Manna For Thought

Whatever Dom Minasi has done in the last few decades has been ever at the pinnacle of improvisational creative freedom and, hey,  properly thought out, nothing is exactly "accidental!" And the latest is no exception. I refer to the album by the Improvising Trio of Nora McCarthy (vocals), Dom Minasi (guitar) and Ras Moshe (reeds). It is called Manna For Thought (MIC-ART) and in fact it most certainly is that!

The session is not just free, which would still be interesting of course with these musicians, it is most definitely a product of a kind of structured musical thinking that gives the numbers a feeling of fore-ordinance, of a special intention, a way to get the threesome together on a page like each one is writing this music as they play it, that a composition arises in each case in the way the three think together and out loud musically.

At the same time there are compositional things going on too. All meshes together in ways where you do not feel a radical separation of planned and spontaneous note-ing, but instead a thoughtful and soulful gathering of three masters who make a very pointed effort to listen carefully to one another and create something worthwhile.

Ras Moshe sounds great here, relaxed, himself, open and note-ful, a blowing that is with a true self-sound, not some other-else-sound. He shines on this! Dom Minasi is a guitarist who never sounds like anybody but himself, too,  and at the same time invents lines and chording, timbral fingerprints that by now mark him as one of the most original and provocative guitarists active today. Poet-singer Nora McCarthy has the ability really to improvise and to do it well with a gorgeous voice and with lots of ideas like Jeanne Lee only she sounds like Nora McCarthy! And the lyrics, yes the words are hers and we dig!

The program goes from strength to strength. Now if that sounds good you owe it to yourself to get this one and listen closely! The world and this trio are ready each for the other right now! Start the melding together by getting this album. May thay make many more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Michael Gregory Jackson, Spirit Signal Strata

If I say right out that Michael Gregory Jackson has over his career consistently distinguished himself as one of the very most distinctive and convincing guitarists in the modern jazz-fusion-post-new-thing zone, I say it to let you know where I stand. There are a number of factors that set him apart. One: Michael's music is at once the sound of joy and poetic exploration. There is exuberance, a special lyricism, a brilliantly melodic flow to his playing. Two: His music as he himself acknowledges, is a product of ALL the music he heard growing up--so jazz, rock, soul, and other things besides. Three: the factors above play into the music he makes for a performative beauty and luminance no other electric guitarist quite has out there today. Five: there is freedom to his music, at the same time as there is structure and pacing.

So all of that is readily heard on his latest and one of his very best albums, Spirit Signal Strata (Golden MGJSSS-01). For this outing Michael joins forces with a potent and open post-power trio. Kenwood Dennard is at the drums, a free-ranging and powerful exponent that brings the music ever forward. He is joined by the woody smarts contrabass of Keith Witty, who straddles the terrain between rhythm team functions and harmonic-melodic second lining quite effectively.

The program is a gradual outward traversal, beginning close to earth with some rootsy blues-rock-improv-jazz spans and then brings that further afield into spacier, more free spaces that include the roots but pull and stretch them to higher reaches of music.

The especially rewarding thing to center on is Michael's brilliant lining excursions, some of the very best from a guitarist that I have heard in years. He can keep a solid grounding in rootforms but still create a very idiomatically personal zone of drive and lyricism. On the free-er numbers he unleashes his more upward imaginative powers and creates a flow of musical lines that marks him the principal exponent in a school of one! The drenched drive of the guitar tone gives Michael's musical aura power and heft. The intelligence and soulfulness of his plectrum wielding and tone choice make it all work as a self-in-sound that gives Fusion a renewed vibrance and viability.

Is that clear? What I want you to do is get this album now, if you can. You who want to keep hip on the present-day scene need this album to throw you into the very much actuel. Michael remains and becomes ever more central! So listen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


In the interest of full disclosure, Carla Diratz is a Social Media friend of mine. Maybe we both share a sort of poetic nature? All that translates into the fact that I was happily sent the new Diratz (New House Music 3) album to hear. I might not have in other circumstances. Whether I knew Carla or not I would have come on here with my thoughts either way. Because this album gets to me musically where I live. One of the places, anyway.

Carla gives us her underground, world-weary vocals, which are just right for the songs we hear. The band consists of Carla plus Dave Newhouse on keys and reeds, and Bret H. Hart on electric guitar and electronics, plus a fair number of guests as called for. Carla co-wrote all the songs with either Bret or Dave.

You might hear a little Lydia Lunch or later Marianne Faithful or even Nico here. But then the songs virtually are of the caliber of a Jack Bruce or Steely Dan, or maybe even that other Carla...Bley in her "escalator" period? Or Weill and Brecht? Something in the attitude of all of that, yet itself more than the others. The songs  have lots of substance, in other words. And it is pretty moody stuff, which suits the band well. Keep in mind these are not commercially repetitive, jingley things. They are more through composed. When I was a songster at Dick James Music, if I had played this for my boss he would have given me that look. Because it ain't pop.

The instrumental parts are well thought out, Bret's guitar a definite superior element in the mix, and Dave's keys and winds give further character to it all. The arrangements are excellent and avant rockish, I guess you could say.

It is the experience of the whole that makes this special. And it stays in a place throughout that is better heard than described. Art song, avant directness, poetic strength, especially intent on finding a natural, unforced originality.

It is music any serious listener with a good ear will be drawn toward.

I do suggest if you are a lover of the new and art-ish that you owe yourself a serious listen to this. I for one am very glad it is out and I can hear it a lot going forward. You may be like me. I think.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Party Pack, Ice

I've been far too silent on these pages. But that is going to end now. My life has been a tumbling barrel of chattering, hysterical monkeys but I am stopping the barrel in its tracks. That means I can resume posting more often. To inaugurate the new awakening, I cover today something you'd probably never hear about if I did not say something here and now.

It's a rather obscure EP CD by Party Pack. Ice (pF Mentum CD107) is the title. Now why should you care about something you've probably no idea about? It is in part the whole point of why I write about music. To pass on what turns me on in the hope that it will turn YOU on, that's always part of the aim.

Part Pack is a quintet of Adam Hopkins on bass (and the composer on this), Patrick Breiner and Eric Trudel on tenor saxes, Dustin Carlson on guitar, and Nathan Ellman Bell on drums. Maybe you do not know these names? The point of course is the music...if good, the names follow!

And this is good, very good indeed. It is psychedelic freedom jazz-rock, I guess you could say. It is loose but clear in direction. It has a rock aggression and an avant jazz heat.

And it just SOUNDS great. That is the point, right? It is one of those advanced underground things that motors the music forward. And because nobody else will buy it, it is your duty to support such things by doing so. I say that not to offend you. Artists like this NEED your support. And if you listen carefully, you will I think agree that it is music that deserves attention.

OK? Please.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dominic Miller, Silent Light

That I am covering an album slightly late is no reflection of what I think of it. It is more to do with a hectic period this year that has receded  and allowed me to get back to what matters. Dominic Miller is a creative, rather brilliant acoustic guitarist firmly on the dreamy side of the ECM sound. His latest album Silent Light (ECM 2518) allows him time to stretch out and weave atmospheric webs of luminous intimacy. He is joined on five of 11 numbers by the percussion and in one case drums of Miles Bould.

Dominic fills the air with lyrical, accomplished original playing that includes a wonderful ability to comp and pick away within a very sophisticated harmonic-melodic world that in the end is his alone. There are no easy words to describe what he comes up with on this fine album, except perhaps to say that the lyrical tradition of Ralph Towner and Oregon are in no way antithetical to this music, though there is no sign of imitation, just a parallel universe.

He brings to us a beauty that bears your close attention and makes a smile adorn your face almost involuntarily. I do not think I need to say any further for now. Just listen.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Machine Mass Plays Hendrix, with Michel Delville

Jimi Hendrix remains one of our greatest American rock musicians ever. His guitar work revolutionized how we would look at such things, and his concept and compositions remain ever fresh and vital. So when the fuse-prog trio Machine Mass elected to do a tribute album, Machine Mass Plays Hendrix (MoonJune 084), it was of course a worthy idea.

Michel Delville as one of the leading guitar practitioners in the adventuresome realms today is a natural hommage master. He turns in creative rock-solid performances and adds further electronics to the trio mix to fill things out. He is joined by Machine Mass regulars Tony Bianco on drums and Antoine Guenet on keyboards, synths and piano.

They take some of Hendrix's most compelling songs-compositions and make of them something both contemporary and spacy, without ever violating the spirit of the originals. So we get a notable mix of Jimi's classics, "Third Stone From the Sun," "Little Wing," "Voodoo Chile," "The Wind Cries Mary," etc.

It is an opportunity to get inside these tunes with an original take on them, and for Delville to let loose with freely spaced-out post-Hendrix guitar brilliance.

It may take a couple of listens to fully enter the Machine Mass zone. Once you do, it is a wondrous terrain of the very familiar combined with the unexpected.

Need I say more? Dig this one.