Monday, May 25, 2015

Robert Zott, Baroque Blues, Vol. 1

There are DIY recordings out there in the multitudes. What it means in the positive sense is that some worthy artists get to put together some music for us that we might not otherwise have the chance to hear.

Robert Zott, guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist gives us something of that sort on his EP Baroque Blues, Vol 1 (self-released). This is underground music that has a quirkiness that takes a listen or two to get acclimated.

It is musically quite competent but not about virtuoso chop-licking. Rather it is an intimate alternative-out series of songs with sonic extras, electronics, solid fundamental rock and blues roots, but taken to different places.

The strength lies in the convincing songs and their presentation. It is a kind of chamber rock more so than a blow-up-the-amps hard attack. And that is cool once you adjust your expectations.

Normal it ain't. And in the end, I found myself saying, "yeah, not what I would expect but it works!" If you want a break from the usual and still believe in the rock song thing you will find something to appreciate here. Beefheart meets Pearls Before Swine? No. Not exactly. But that might give you a very rough approximation?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pascal Niggenkemper, Solo, Look with Thine Ears

The solo acoustic bass recording is of course one of the litmus tests in gauging the level of artistry of the jazz-free jazz practitioner. Today, such an outing from Pascal Niggenkemper, a bassist who has been an important member of adventuresome ensembles for some time now. Look with Thine Eyes (Clean Feed 324) gives us a full CD of his solo excursions.

The results are singular and fascinating. Pascal sometimes uses objects to alter the sound of the instrument, what you could call prepared bass. They give us a variety of sounds depending on how they are employed, of course, and the materials involved. So we get, for example, a fuzzy sound as Pascal bows over strings that apparently have been inter-leavened with metal objects. These are not gimmicks, for sure, but rather ways of extending the sonic-timbral qualities of the bass.

Their use is musical as is the total result of imaginative artistry that is Pascal here. His bowing is excellent, his pizzicato as well, and he gives us 13 segments that show true originality, free and new music excellence, and variety. "Extended techniques" are the order of the day, very successfully so.

The wealth of sonics is extraordinary and in the end it all comes through as music that gets your ear, and bass playing of a high caliber.

All bass fans and bassists should get this one if they can. Avant enthusiasts in general, too.

A fine effort, one of the best and most original of its kind.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Coclea, Guilherme Goncalves

There are artists today who make almost orchestral music out of the electric guitar, using effects and digital technology. I see nothing wrong with this. It comes out of a long line of guitar transformations that started in rock, found its first fully cohesive statement in early Jimi Hendrix, then continued to evolve with Rypdal, Fripp, Lucas and so forth into today.

A new entry into ambient psychedelic sonics can be heard on the album Coclea (ShhPuma 015), a nicely paced CD of compositions that make full use of the very electric guitar and the possibilities the studio situation affords. Guilherme Goncalves is the composer of the music heard. He also presumably is the guitarist and overall sound sculptor responsible for the end musical result. There are vocals here too, and perhaps some purely electronic elements though I don't believe so, for what it is worth.

Whether this is live with digital delay or multi-tracked I cannot say for sure and frankly I don't care. Perhaps this is a controversial view but as much as I love the live situation, the digital world gives us the chance to create musical worlds as a painter works with canvas and pigment, and I don't see a problem with that. The finished painting is always a product of multiple "live" actions and other than the old Zen spontaneous single-gesture artists of the East, it is never really "live" in the moment. Why cannot a musical artist have the same freedom, if he or she so wishes? A classical composer in the traditional sense is not required to write out all the parts simultaneously, but works in time and over time. Not everything is improvised though the construction of all musical work involves successive elements of improvisation and revision over time, much as a jazz artist practices.

What matters to me is the musical result. And with Coclea it is strongly evocative, ambient, a bit spooky perhaps, but also showing a fine sensitivity to the sound an electric guitar can provide in the extended electronically enhanced world and some memorable compositional results.

I don't care what this music is called. It may not be jazz. It may not be rock. It is new music and it is highly stimulating. And if that means something to you, so much the better. It is well-done and stays in your mind. And so I recommend it for that.

The point is to me that music like this does not negate other music so much as it adds to our musical legacy if it is good. It is good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

District 97 with John Wetton, One More Red Night, Live in Chicago

John Wetton along with Greg Lake, both an integral part of King Crimson incarnations, were and still are important prog rock vocalists. They can be counted among the handful of style-setters in the prog realm. They also wrote and separately co-wrote some great songs. Today we have Wetton as lead vocalist with the band District 97 in a live set from Chicago. They do some interesting remakes of songs associated with King Crimson and so the album is appropriately called One More Red Night (Primary Purpose 002).

The band is tight with Leslie Hunt sounding well as second lead vocalist, Jim Tashjian on guitar managing NOT to sound too Frippian, and some very good additional band members.

They get interesting versions of "One More Red Nightmare," "Fallen Angel," "Starless," etc.

If you are a Crimson/Wetton completist you will find this one a valuable addition. I found it all good listening, though the two-CD reissue of Wetton and Richard Palmer-Jones, Jack-Knife/Monkey Business seems a little more adventuresome, especially the second volume. I reviewed that here this past February 27, 2015.

Plenty of good music on this one, anyway.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ali Bey, My Finest Hour

Today an album from a very fine electric bassist, Ali Bey. My Finest Hour (self released) presents a power fusion trio of Larry Andrews on electric guitar, Timothy Omar Stroud on drums, and Bey on four-string.

There are some guests here and there but in the end it is Bey and the trio who shine forth. Ali is a technically endowed, expressive presence throughout. Some great bass playing is in order. But then Larry and Timothy are also fine players.

It is original fusion-rock music of appeal that you hear. And yes, the bass is out front and beautifully extroverted!

Ali Bey is no joke and his band take no prisoners!! Put it on and revel. If you are a bassist, you will want to go woodshed.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Elizabeth Shepherd, The Signal

The problem with categories is twofold: a)they are especially important on the internet, b)they do not do justice to truly innovative music. I think this as I contemplate and rehear the very memorable album The Signal (Linus 270197) by singer-songwriter keyboardist Elizabeth Shepherd.

These are primarily memorable original songs sung whispily and effectively by Elizabeth and arranged by her for a smallish band. Sometimes Lionel Loueke appears on electric guitar and does some nice things, but this is not a guitar album per se. So why post the review on this site? Because the quality of the music will appeal to the audience this blog attracts. It's not rock exactly, not funk exactly, not jazz exactly, but it is some excellent song-vocal amalgams.

This is not Elizabeth's first. You can read about an earlier album, also quite nice, by typing her name in the search box above.

She is very good, original in a contemporary, sensitive lyrically personal way. Listen!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Noah Kaplan, Giacomo Merega, Joe Moffett, Crows & Motives

We return today with another good free trio effort that features Giacomo Merega on electric bass, along with Noah Kaplan on alto sax and Joe Moffett on trumpet. The album is titled Crows & Motives (Underwolf).

It is an album of open-form freedom, a chance for all three artists to express lines and note-choices that meld together into an ever shifting unity. Merega has a burnished electric bass fluidity that sets the bottom foundation for the music well and shows inventive originality. Sometimes he shifts into fuzz-distortion and that gives the trio a more neo-psychedelic edge. Kaplan can be mercurial or lithely floating. Moffett sounds limber and full.

There are spontaneous effusions and what sound like composed or at least deliberately choreographed motives that play in and out of the continuous dialoging. In the 33-plus minutes of the EP your attention gets focused by the unexpected shifts and turns the trio plunges into heartily.

It's a fine effort all around, a good addition to the ever blossoming art of the improvisers today.