Monday, September 15, 2014

Mike Baggetta Quartet, Thieves and Secrets

Mike Baggetta, guitarist, composer, bandleader. His quartet was present on an excellent CD I covered here in 2011 (type his name into the search box above). The four return with another one, if anything even more fully realized, Thieves and Secrets (Fresh Sound New Talent 436).

The quartet has nothing lacking in the lineup of Mike on guitars, Jason Rigby saxophones, Eivind Opsvik on contrabass and George Schuller on drums. Each are stylists in their own right, known for creative smarts and individuality, all of which meshes very well in this quartet.

Many guitarists when launching their own bands put great emphasis on their own playing and a showcase fitting in with that idea. Mike gets plenty of space here to show his wide-ranging musical thinking as a guitarist, yet the band itself and the concept of free yet worked-though sounds is at least as equally important.

And that is what makes this album special, or part of it anyway.

There are all manner of moods in the pieces here, much of it melodically direct and infectious, all of it showing an involved dynamic or four excellent players both listening to each other and setting individual roles far more than imitative.

Mike shows in the process that he is a voice that electrified or less so has an original stance, spontaneous and fresh, musically evolved, whether jazz-rocking it or freely articulating. And nicely so, the rest of the band also shows these qualities.

The compositions are memorable and the music stands out. This is an excellent listen. Lend your ears!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Elias Haslanger, Live at the Gallery

Hammond jazz combos are flourishing again these days, there's no doubt about it. Like certain forms of the blues (which a good organ combo finds roots in), there is a timelessness of soul if everything works right. And since an excellent guitarist is somewhat fundamental to such an outfit, and as we have one here in Jake Langley, I am posting tenorman Elias Haslanger's hip album on this post site.

Live at the Gallery (Cherrywood) revisits some of the classic funk (first variant) numbers and a standard or two with genuine relish. Haslanger has that right-at-you directness that channels the soul and bop of the best tenors of the genre, Dexter but harder-edged, and you could name some other cats but the final synthesis and right-there quality belongs to Elias. Dr. James Polk mans the B-3, gives us all the sauce he's got. Langley comes out of Benson-Martino for his own soulful take. The rhythm section of Scott Laningham (drums) and Daniel Durham (bass) do what they should and drive things well.

So we get some very nice versions of "One for Daddy O", "Watermelon Man", "Song for My Father" and "Adam's Apple". They groove freshly. Then there are the change-of-pace standards like "In A Sentimental Mood", "I Thought About You", and "Misty" that all come off well.

It's music with the live energy that this sort of music sorely needs. Set up your own little club, even if in your head, and let this one play. You will be there.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Michael Feinberg's Humblebrag, Live at 800 East

It's time we show some love to the bass players, since they form an important part of what this blog is about. Michael Feinberg probably doesn't come to mind when you think of "bass". That is because he is not a name bantered about much, that I know of. I've covered two of his albums before, here--type his name in the search box for the posts. I liked them well. He has a new album that will make you take notice of him if you've missed out before. Michael Feinberg's Humblebrag is the name of the band. The album is Live at 800 East (Behip).

What hits you about this one is the overall concept. It's jazz, very modern jazz, sometimes edging into free territory, always in an advanced mode. It has a group sound that starts with Feinberg's compositions, which are quite good, and fans out into how the band works together to realize them. Michael is joined by Terreon Gully on drums, and he is someone to hear. He has a plastic time sense whether doing rock-funk or stretching out in other ways. Godwin Louis is on alto sax, Billy Buss on trumpet. They make a very dynamic and interactive front line in excellent ways. Julian Shore plays the piano, well. These are pretty much new names to me, but there is poise and hipness to be heard throughout. Buss has some of that leather-lipped brazen brass tang that goes back to Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and before. Godwin's alto has presence and lucidity. Julian is there throughout playing some things that are advanced and tasteful. And leader Feinberg gives the music fundamental structure whether he's playing the upright or the electric bass.

The compositions have a little of the mid-period Miles, classic Wayne Shorter, middle Herbie Hancock brooding or blazing smartness, only extended into today.

I must say of all the somewhat new names and their new albums in the jazz mode coming through my ears so far this year, this one is at the top of the list for an impressive outing. I recommend it most heartily.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Aram Bajakian, There Were Flowers Also in Hell

Aram Bajakian, skronkish post-surf fuzzball guitarist of advanced progressive noise and nice rocking returns (though in fact he hasn't left, really) with a trio effort that lays well on the speakers, called There Were Also Flowers in Hell (self-released I think, available at Bandcamp).

He is well seconded in his efforts by the power trio compadres Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Jerome Jennings, drums. Aram has played with John Zorn and Lou Reed but this is his music. Sometimes faux Stray Cats rockabilly-but-out sounds with a bit too much of the bennies is the order of the day (though no, we are not talking substance, just sound); there is a Baltic surf thing going on at times and some very metal hipness happening, too, sometimes all at once.

Aram has smarts in his guitar warp and woof. It's how the band plays the compositional things of his that makes it all come together. And there is not exactly that much I would care to compare it with as far as things happening synchronicitously out there.

Aram and company toggle between clean Fenderising and dirty fuzzing deftly. I grew up doing the same, at least with my ears, and the world-like influences make it even more interesting. You think for a minute you are about to hear Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk" or "Miserlou" by any number of surf bands but then no, hell no, it's something else altogether. But perhaps "Miserlou" isn't so very removed from this at times, not deep down. Except then it goes out and you know it is 2014 and New York plus far away places have come together, now, in interesting ways.

It's avant but rocking and tuneful stuff. I find it a very natural listen. I mean it just hits you like an organic thing. And it is fun! Try that on and see if it fits. I will bet it will.

He's got another new one so stay tuned.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Giles Corey's Stoned Soul

Leave it to Delmark to continue coming up with blues artists that have that something that makes them firmly in the tradition yet also of today.

Giles Corey is another. He's not exactly unknown, arriving in Chicago in 1993 and gigging with established blues cats while going to the University of Chicago. After he graduated, he did some touring gigs and wound up in the band of the legendary Otis Rush. After that he did a duo thing with drummer Rick King, Lubriphonic, which toured quite a bit and cut five albums between 2007-2011. When that outfit suspended its tenure, the stage was set for Giles Coury's Stoned Soul (Delmark 834). This is their debut album. The band includes Rick King and two game partners on bass and keys.

This incarnation features Giles highly electric guitar, sometimes in a slide mode that owes something to the late Johnny Winters, other times it's flat-out juiced blues-rock. The music has that contemporary soul-blues nexus and Giles sings with the grits and gravy one would expect.

The album is a mix of good originals and a couple of covers. This is a band with presence, Giles out front on guitar when called upon, the band getting soul-funk grooves going throughout.

It's a goodie!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Rik Wright's Fundamental Forces

West Coast (Seattle) guitarist and composer Rik Wright fields a lively and in-the-moment quartet on the self-titled Rik Wright's Fundamental Forces (Blue). The five-pieces worked over on the album provide a thoughtfully heady melange.

Wright plays a spacey electric guitar that combines perhaps a shade of early Abercrombie with some fairly psychedelic jazz sensibilities. He is joined by a pretty hard hitting rhythm team of Geoff Harper on bass and Greg Campbell on drums. James Dejoie adds much on reeds (alto, bass clarinet, clarinet, flute).

What is especially striking to me is the use of space. There is enough of it that you get a feel of being situated, of having space parcelled out for you like the zones between planets--so that every note has an enveloped feel, a poignancy, yet there is still lots of drive and heft to the music.

This has a jazz-rock thrust to it throughout. It is grooving and outward bound but not thickly dense. That sets it apart along of course with the what of the notes themselves, often bluesy-diatonic-pentatonic poems that remind a little of what the jamming rock bands did in the early days, but more evolved and consistent.

Everybody has a role to play and they do it well. Rik stands out as a pretty electric force, an original sound vehicle that can crank but knows how space and dynamics can make lots of difference in the sound of his playing and of the unit as a whole.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Joëlle Léandre & Pascal Contet - 3

Bassist Joëlle Léandre and accordionist Pascal Contet go back a fair ways as a duet. Their first album was released in 1994. There was a second a few years ago. Now we have their third, simply titled 3 (Ayler Records 137).

It lives up to the promise of those earlier recordings by providing the two exceptional musicians with an open-form platform to stretch out and weave some sometimes subtle yet ever exciting webs of sound. The timbral distinctiveness of the two instruments, when activated by the masterful color-magic freedom and imagination of Joëlle Léandre and Pascal Contet, sound right in ways that stimulate and satisfy.

The two conjure up some seven wide-ranging improvisational segments, never flagging, ever at virtual peaks of creative invention. Joëlle's inimitable singing comes into play now and again, but mostly it is the sound innovations and all-over matrixes of the two together instrumentally that carry the day.

These are some invigorating sounds--music that breaks boundaries without sounding the least bit forced, naturally if you please. Ms. Léandre is an avant contrabass master and she gives you a good deal of why that is so here. Pascal Content is no less engaging as well, inspired by the chemistry of the very pregnant moments of creation and his own wellsprings of notefulness.

If you are looking for something worthwhile on the free frontier, or already know what to expect, either way this one does not disappoint. Bass players, accordionists and open-field listeners, take heed!