Friday, February 10, 2017

Frank Kohl Quartet, Rising Tide

An articulate phraser who can give great nuance to each and every line, Frank Kohl joins with a very simpatico quartet for some swinging contemporary jazz on Rising Tide (Pony Boy 50186-2).

It's Frank along with Steve LaSpina on acoustic bass, Tom Kohl on piano and Jon Doty on drums in a well-paced program of Kohl originals and a couple of standards. Everybody (maybe even the drummer!?) has internalized his way around changes and has something soulful and interesting to say throughout. Frank has a strong sound that gives the lines torque, a percussive edge that may remind you of vintage Benson but finds its own way around the changes.

Frank is a guitar tastemaker, a true arteest. Hear him out!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

John Abercrombie Quartet, Up and Coming

As we proceed through our lived experience of important and influential jazz giants of our times, we come to realize that many artists, taken as a whole, have had more than one artistic period. John Abercrombie is no exception. There has been more than one way for him. His initial emergence as a fusionist culminated in the Gateway Trio with Holland and DeJohnette, then there were the progressive years where he was extroverted yet spacey, and finally there is the period he has occupied for the last 15 years, give or take. Once he jettisoned his pick, he remained the consummately brilliant  line and chord improviser, yet there was a new coolness that by now has become subtly brilliant. His tone has been burnished so that it is not that far from a Jim Hall, yet nonetheless he blazes his own trail in the adventurous journeys from A to B.

You can hear that beautifully in his latest quartet album Up and Coming (ECM 2528). The excellent foursome of John plus Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) is deliberately understated in its quietude, yet capable of monstrously exceptional improvisations in realms where we might not have expected them to dwell a decade ago.

Miles' "Nardis" centers the program of what is otherwise five Abercrombie and two Copland originals, sprawling long form improvisational vehicles where great things happen so quietly you have to focus and dig into the excellent details of what is going on to fully appreciate it all.

Once you do, there are some incredible performances that come into your experience, wonderful things.

Do not overlook this one. John is doing some of his best work and the quartet is a breathing improvisational entity one must experience in focus to appreciate.

A bit of a milestone, this. Bravo!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Massimo Discepoli, Daniel Barbiero, An Eclipse of Images

On the CD player this morning is a very well-conceived, spacey opus from drummer-electronician-electric bassist Massimo Discepoli and contrabassist Daniel Barbiero, namely An Eclipse of Images (Acustronica).

This album nicely incorporates cosmic soundscaping, bowed and pizzicato bass, drums in a free and sometimes rocking zone, an electronic backdrop of concentrated outwardness, and an overall arching organic quality.

Daniel sounds great on bass, Massimo on drums and the conceptual totality rings out nicely. It almost seems like a concerto for bass, drums and electronics, the latter acting as a sort of orchestra.

From first to last this hangs together well, reminding at times of early-mid Soft Machine for its psychedelic minimalist spaciousness. But that is only a rough indicator of what you'll get here.

A very enjoyable listen! Recommended for sure.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Samo Salamon, Stefano Battaglia, Winds

I am lucky to get a steady stream of music for consideration. I listen to it all and there are plenty of times when I uncover a gem that I would not otherwise have had a chance to hear. One of those today is up for review. I speak of guitarist Samo Salamon and pianist Stefano Battaglia in the nicely conceived duo date Winds (SAZAS-Klopotec 037).

The music is an appealing mix of spacy soundscapes, jazz-rock-avant improvisations, and progressively oriented adventures in sound sculpture.

It shows both Samo and Stefano as sensitive, powerful players with a clear set of direction, sometimes spurred on with composed elements, always showing a stylistic originality and a confident sense of where to go at any given point.

Samo has an excellent melodic feel and sense of purpose; Stefano's piano presence does a great deal to make of it all something worthy as well.

I like how Samo uses a fair bit of electricity to put the guitar sound into near-rock territory and at the same time constructs lines which extend the sound into further outwardness. Stefano similarly ranges far and wide with a very musical way about him.

For another worthwhile album by Samo, see my March 3, 2006 review on these pages.

Excellent!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Brian Kastan, Roll the Dice on Life

I had no idea about Brian Kastan, composer, guitarist, bandleader. Until now, that is, and his double CD Roll the Dice on Life (Kastan Records 1001). From the moment I put this one on for the first time I heard something I immediately knew was different, unheard of and very accomplished.

There is something Zappaesque, Beefhartian to it all, yet not. It is Kastanian. His guitar work is overarching everything with an exceptional structural sense. There is melodic-harmonic surprise at every turn. And the compositions have a real twist to them.

It is Brian in a quartet setting. Miles Griffith's mostly wordless vocals are a thing apart, articulating the complex melodic lines like nobody else, scatty and musically strong, yet very off the wall in the way he mumbles, grumbles, and musically growls the lines.

Steve Rust on bass and Peter O'Brien on drums are very important to the sound, too. They play some beautiful lines both as composition-realizations and as improvisation-openness.

I must say that there is something astonishing going on here, on the fringes of involved rock but most definitely within the reinvented confines of it all.

Holy cripes! This is DIFFERENT. Get your ears on it, definitely.

Monday, January 23, 2017

ROJI, The Hundred Headed Woman


The duet-plus-guests configuration of ROJI, as we hear on The Hundred Headed Woman (ShhPuma 023) makes for a compelling and joyful noise thanks to the throughly musical avant timbre and tone of electric bassist Goncalo Almeida and the fully aware timbral depth and rolling creativity of drummer Jorg A. Schneider. The addition of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet for around half the album and baritone saxophonist Colin Webster for the other half fleshes out the sound without decreasing the very large presence of Almeida's bass or the rolling thunder of Schneider's drums.

In either case Silva's trumpet or Webster's baritone adds to the remarkable frenetics of ROJI without subtracting the hugeness of the duo in the least. Only one cut features the duo as duo. But we do not, or at least I do not feel anything but the rigor of electric-boosted continuity from first to last.

It sounds like Goncalo is playing a five- or six-string electric much of the time, as there is the deepness of the amped-up bass tones plus sometimes a counterline played in the upper range of the instrument, with or without a slide but in any event more guitar than bass-like. In either case Goncalo gives us a distinct avant fullness that is original as it is bracing.

The entire album rockets forth with great energy, noise, and timbre. It is as much psychedelic-laced rock as it is new thing and new music. And it is not just that they do this consistently but that they also do it so well.

In this extraordinarily fragile and frankly disturbing age we live in ROJI transcends the instability of the present with fearless musical courage.

And to me it signals the need to stop questioning an avant garde whose conviction that what they are doing is worthwhile and right comes at a time when many of these artists have little or nothing to gain from devoting a lifetime to evolving their sound. Fame they do not get. Money perhaps very little. There is sincerity and great talent in the best. You can hear that in ROJI. Celebrate a free world creativity! Get this album and play it!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Joshua Breakstone, The Cello Quartet, 88

Guitar jazz adept Joshua Breakstone returns with his Cello Quartet for a look at some fine composer-pianists within the hard-bop and related jazz idioms of the fifties and early sixties on 88 (Capri 74144-2). Pieces deserving a new look combine with some fine swinging modern jazz soloing from a top-notch group.

Breakstone is a fine chordal colorist and an excellent lining soloist who combines smarts and soul. Mike Richmond adds much to this quartet with nicely thought through pizzicato lines in a post-Pettiford manner. Lisle Atkinson's bass and Andy Watson's drums give the set a groovingly solid foundation at all times.

Breakstone gives a tributory nod to the pianists in his original "88." From there we get a worthy handling of some beautiful and lately somewhat or completely neglected masterpieces: Mabern's "The Chief," Clark's "News for Lulu," Walton's "Black," Waldron's "Soul Eyes," Hope's "Moe is On," Harris' "Lolita," Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now," and Tristano's "Lennie's Pennies."

The combination of the pianistic classic repertoire and the Cello Quartet instrumentation gives us a very fresh take and some very nice playing. This is surely one of Breakstone's best and I suspect any jazz loving listener out there will find plenty to like.

Very recommended!