Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Machine Mass, Inti, Tony Bianco, Michel Delville, Featuring Dave Liebman

Music does not stand still. It cannot. Especially today, with the world as our basic unit for musical creativity and what is being done on planet earth generally known and freely inspiring others to respond in their own ways, and on and on. Just in the last few days we have covered Chinese, Indian, English, American, and Russian musicians, and now here on this page a coming together of heavies from America and Belgium. That's the way things go now. If the old "silk route" managed to encourage the mixing and melding of musical cultures centuries ago, the everything-everywhere road makes that creative interpenetration that much more vast and intense, rapid and encompassing.

So we have Machine Mass, here an excellent combination of sax master Dave Liebman with the vibrant guitar stylist Michel Delville and the complete drummer Tony Bianco. The album that comes out of such a fertile meeting is Inti (MoonJune 060).

This is avant jazz-rock without a stitch of cliche. That it is as fresh and vital in its own way as some of the old hoary classics has to do with the high creativity of all three artists and the zeitgeist that springs spontaneously and yet deliberately from the Pandora's Box that is unleashed in the process.

This is music that is both outside and firmly and hipply grooved. It rocks out as it goes out. It never stops. It is a series of very effective vehicles written by all three members, separately and together, depending, plus the old Zawinul Miles classic "In A Silent Way" done with a new angle to it.

Delville shows himself even deeper than we may have once supposed, with hidden compartments of hip music insight that are pulled open here to add to the totality. Lieb sounds as essential as ever and if you don't know what that means just put this on. Tony Bianco plays the right balance between grooving and inciting.

Well now I think I should stop because the hearing of this one will give you all the rest.

Don't miss this. Exceptional!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shayna Dulberger, The Kill Me Trio, 1996

I reviewed this album once before, but it was a part of my Gapplegate Guitar Blog, Mach I, which was incorporated into my guitar sales site. I was forced to tear down that site quickly due to lack of funds. I was consequently unable to transfer all the reviews onto this site in time, and so Shayna Dulberger's The Kill Me Trio (self released) review was lost in cyberspace.

I haven't changed my mind on this one. It still sounds great. So I take a minute to say so again.

The trio is a good one--Shayna on acoustic bass, of course, then Darius Jones on a righteous alto sax and Jason Nazary on drums. What strikes me again this time around is how well the trio conveys the vibrant energy and excitement of "free jazz" in the ecstatic mode. They are fully charged and let loose with frenetically hip sounds.

The album has an equality of the three voices in that it forwards the interplay of the togetherness they emit. Shayna sounds beautiful, but then so do Darius and Jason. There are solo spots for all--and catch Shayna when she's out front--but then there are together spots too where three-way solos are working on all fronts.

The album might have been a sleeper then. We are awake to Shayna--or at least I am--so now we can look back and say, "yeah, nice one!" again. This time a bit more fervently.

Don't wait if you can score a copy. There may not be many left! Thanks Shayna. Time for a new one, I hope!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Luis Lopes, Noise Solo at ZBD, Lisbon

The art of noise and the art of solo guitar don't always converge. With Luis Lopes' LP Noise Solo at ZDB Portugal (001LPZ) it certainly does. . . in ways that make noise an art. I suppose the lineage of feedback, sustain and the reshaping and interrupting of high decibel guitar wielding via toggle switches and stomp boxes goes back to certain moments in Hendrix's early work, a moment now and then in early live Dead recordings and in the presentation of early psychedelia in general. Luis gives us two sides of creative noise-making on the LP that show a sense of process and, through that, structure. It reminds and hearkens back to those first days of amplitude mind-melding.

This is one uninterrupted solo improv live in a Lisbon club. It shows the more radically avant side of the guitarist, who we've encountered and appreciated before in various free avant jazz-rock ensembles on these pages. This one goes from noise station-to-noise station, so to speak, in the way Luis sculpts the sound. Some may hate it but I sure don't. It's lovely, beautiful, extreme guitar, in a very electrically charged way. Kudos! If you like the margins of total skronk this is a great example. If you don't then get out a Segovia record instead--or play them both at once!!

Find out how to get the record at

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Blue Project, The Danny Petroni Blue Project (featuring Frank Lacy)

Guitarist Danny Petroni has gone back in a way to some of the jump-blues and humor of Louis Jordan of the late swing era and created his own version of it--not an imitation, not a tribute, but an analog creation of his own. This on The Blue Project (self-released).

It's a big band doing goofy-serious lyrics blues that feature some nice guitar wielding from Danny and Frank Ku-umba Lacy on vocals, trombone and something called the "flumpet"! There is some metal heat from Danny and a general high-spirits over-the-topness going on.

It may not change the world but it gives you a rooted ultra-today jazz-rock take on it all.

No, nothing bad to say to that. And Danny dedicates the album to all who struggle to get it back together in the NY-Metro-Jersey-Long-Island Hurricane Sandy debacle. That story still isn't over. The struggle keeps on going on. So thanks to Danny!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

YAPP, Symbolic Heads

I must say that the No Business label has the right idea for some of the more esoteric releases. Print a low quantity exclusive edition and rely on word-of-mouth and the underground press to get the message out.

The quartet YAPP and their 300-copy LP edition of Symbolic Heads (No Business NBLP 69) gives us a perfect example. It's music in an avant free-jazz-rock zone with good performances from Bryan Rogers on alto sax, Alban Bailly on acoustic-electric guitar, Matt Engle on acoustic bass, and David Flaherty on drums.

This is music that has a personal identity, some intricate head compositions, a loosely rocking-freeing groove and nice playing from everybody. The guitarists out there will find Alban a very interesting and unique player worth hearing. But everybody pulls weight here. Dave Flaherty, perhaps the better-known of the four, sounds very groovy on drums.

This is real-deal music of distinction. If you have a sense of adventure you will find this some very hip travelling music. Or music to just sit there and listen, too. Nice!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Badi Assad, Between Love and Luck

Badi Assad, singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist from Brazil, has something going for herself on her recent Between Love and Luck (Quatroventos AA0002000). She and a tight-knit ensemble explore some of her songs, 13 in all, and follow a contemporary Brazilian rock-pop-jazz sensibility that Purim, Gil and Nascimento set the pace for in earlier years.

Her voice is an instrument in the best sense, perhaps less Purimesque in the jazz sense but well-presented, the songs are good, her guitar playing very worth hearing and the arrangements quite interesting. Like the best of Brazilian contemporary over the years there is a joyous melodic and rhythmic feel to it all that appeals nicely.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pete Macleod, Rolling Stone

There are some artists, some albums that jump out at you from the first note. The music could be anything but they have a presence that you instinctively feel in your gut straight off. I got that sort of feeling the moment I put on my player Pete Macleod's Rolling Stone (Cherry Red 359CD4).

He plies a version of retro-rock (retro in somewhat the way REM was in its first albums) that has excellent jangling guitar work, good vocals and strong tunes, something you either respond to right off or you don't. If you do, like I do, you are going to like this one. He plays a 12-string electric in a way that recalls the Byrds in their original period. Then there are other strains in there, too, Everything works. The songs have lyrical melodies, rock strength and good form.

Now that combination when done well as it is here is nigh irresistible. His short guitar solos are fitting and nicely done. And the band sound is full and strong.

I am digging this one. You might too--if what I describe sounds like it's your thing. Pete Macleod is happening!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Arild Andersen, Mira

I can think back these many years and remember my life circumstances and how I looked at it all when I bought the first Arild Andersen on ECM. My world, how wrong I was about many things and what the future held! And now as I listen to the new Arild Andersen album Mira (ECM B0019861-02), a life so different, and yet Arild is a constant.

The new trio album has not the same sort of thrust that the first album did. Yet Maestro Andersen's artistry remains high, very high. This is the sort of album where you could just zone in on the bass playing alone and get as much out of it as a conventional trio album listening to all three parts. Of course the experience is only enhanced by the full threesome.

Arild is on bass and electronics, Tommy Smith is on tenor and shakuhachi, and Paolo Vinaccia is on drums. They do a standard or two plus originals. It's a date in the ECM zone--a well-situated blowing date that has a bit of ambiance but concentrates on more-or-less changes and modal based improvising for much of the album. But then there are sheer ambient numbers too, one especially attractive one that begins with an electronic sustain backdrop and some wonderful Andersen bass before going into a folkish ballad.

Tommy sounds a bit like Garbarek without the mannerisms that sheer imitation would entail. He has the righteous tone, the declamatory lyricism and then goes with it for the notes he wants to express. Vinaccia plays the role of loose percussive colorist that one might expect on an Andersen date.

It is quite pleasant going. The strength is in the sheer sensuous and intelligently lyrical bass of Andersen. So really it's a bass-player's statement, his artistic testament, and stands strongly on that fulcrum point. Almost 40 years later, Arild Andersen continues to make himself heard with consummate artistry. And I am glad my ears are still able to hear it all.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Farthest South, Spheres & Constellations

"You'll know when you get there," as the Herbie Hancock song has it and the Bob Gluck book on the early electric period Hancock band Mwandishi reminds us. But when you start there, you also know. The Israeli trio Farthest South has nothing much to do with Mwandishi, save a particular way with electronically enhanced sounds. They begin in a place where some of the zoner late-'60s early-'70s bands ended up.

That is, they have a very sustained a-rhythmic soundscape approach that blends the keys and guitars of Barry Berko, the electric bass and effects of Yair Yona and the analog synths of Yair Etziony.

Their album Spheres & Constellations (self-released) is drone-zone space music all the way. It is at once cosmic, psychedelic, yet evolves in a controlled sort of fashion.

If you like a concentrated dose of ambient space, this will be for you. It is less a music of individual instrumental utterances and more a collective, orchestrated, cosmic OM .

And within the world it occupies it wholly succeeds. Board your rockets now, space explorers. The flight is about to begin. A serious immersion, an all-enveloping wash in the stratospheric milky way can be yours with this one if you have the spirit for it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marc Edwards, Sakura Sakura (Three Variations)

Drummer-bandleader Marc Edwards returns with a further adventure into the psychedelic-electric-space-free music he has been getting together of late. This one gathers three different lineups for variations on the traditional Japanese song Sakura Sakura (Dog and Panda Records).

Essentially three different bands--Marc Edwards and Star Clusters, Marc Edwards and Slipstream Time Travel, and Mark Edwards and Sonos Gravis--each do a 20-minute electric collage of tumbling drums, multi-electric guitars, bass and sometimes keys soloing collectively and at various points sounding the traditional melody and doing variations around it.

The personnel features of course Marc Edwards, then various combinations of players that include Ernest Anderson III, Tor Snyder, Gene Janas, Takuma Kanaiwa, Alex Lozupone, Alexis Marcelo and Colin Sanderson.

It is very vibrant free rock, a sort of Ascension in the metal zone. It is bracing. You will either gravitate towards it by predisposition or not. And that has something to do with your open mind about a free metal blast or the opposite. I like it! You make up your own mind. But give it a hearing, by all means.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Violones Barbares, Saulem ai

If you want to hear something in the world-traditional zone that makes a uniquely eclectic musical blend, a modern yet primal mix of instrumental-vocal styles, you would do well to hear the second album by Violones Barbares, Saulem ai (World Village 479090).

They are a trio composed of musicians of Mongolian, Bulgarian and French extraction, respectively. Two play violins of a special sort, each with five principal strings and 11 sympathetic resonating strings. The third member plays a special percussion set up that gives him a mix of "ethnic" percussion and the bass drum-hihat of a typical drum set. The vocals make use of Mongolian throat singing, Bulgarian folk singing and much else.

The repertoire has both original and traditional elements from a world mix as diverse as the areas the Mongolians influenced historically and beyond. So we get Gypsy sounds, Afghan, Kazhakistanian and much other regional traditional elements, transposed to make for a driving contemporary mix that emphasizes the virtuoso fiddle styles of the "front line".

It's rather incredible music. It sounds authentically "world" in every way and it rocks! Listen to this one and enter a special place!

Monday, April 14, 2014

KiT, Tambutronic

Curacao, the Caribbean island off the Venezuelan coast, is home for the group KiT (Kuenta i Tambu), a group that does a remarkable kind of dance music called jiga. They give us a very, a very intensely concentrated set of such sounds on their US debut Tambutronic (Jiga Musica).

Now this is not the sort of music I would ordinarily cover. It has some relation to hard-core house and hip-hop, but then there's a very Afro-Carib flavor to it that puts it way over the top for me. The female lead singer half-sings and half-raps much of the time, but in a way much more Carib-Afro than hip-hop.

The tracks feature very hip electronic beats with a mix of sampled and live instruments. It grooves irresistibly to the extent that it totally won me over. This is music that overwhelms. Either you surrender wholly to it or you really have to leave the room. That's how it hits you.

There are aspects of it that remind me of zouk, but much harder-edged, and much more Afro-based. For you guitar fans, sorry to say there aren't any here. It's music you should check out though. It is music of a very sensual sort--the lyrics suggest things once you understand them and some of those things are naughty. Lyrics are secondary though. It's the sound of the vocals and the rhythmic r-bomb of the whole thing that utterly kills.


Friday, April 11, 2014

PJ Rasmussen, Another Adventure

Electric guitarist-composer PJ Rasmussen gives us his breakthrough album, Another Adventure (Third Freedom Music 002). The group coheres nicely thanks in part to the hip charts PJ wrote, and thanks to the musicianship of all concerned. It's a septet for all but two tracks, when the addition of bari and alto make it a ninetet. The constant is Rasmussen on electric with Steve Davis on the trombone plus good players in tenor/alto, trumpet, piano, bass and drums. They can solo well and do.

The thrust of the album is in the compositions, which combine a little metal, jazz-rock, postbop and some free-outness in ways that refresh. It's the unexpected and directly projected, good horn lines and some cool guitar solos, good rhythm and Jim Ridl nicely shining on piano.

This may not set the world on fire. It is excellent listening regardless. Rasmussen gets it together here!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Max Johnson Trio, The Invisible Trio

Up-and-thriving free jazz bassist Max Johnson has gone into overdrive lately after some time making the scene around New York. He has a recording recently out and there's another on the way.

The one that's ready-in-hand is the Max Johnson Trio's The Invisible Trio (Fresh Sounds). The music stands out with a good gathering of Max of course on bass and compositions, Kirk Knuffke on cornet and Ziv Ravitz on drums.

Ravitz does yeoman service in a relaxed, swinging and tumbling mode. Kirk Knuffke comes through with that post-bop purity of tone, that wealth of ideas and heat. And Max kicks in with some very out-front and inspired bass. I knew he was good. I didn't know he had attained this level, though, until I heard this. It brings it home to you that the cat has arrived, so to speak. He is a leader in a convincing way.

So we get a very hip set of music that sparkles in almost classical new thing ways. Very recommended!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shan Kenner, The Behavior of Vibration

There are so many accomplished guitarists out there today. Not all get our complete attention due to the flux and flow of indie labels, self-produced projects and high-profile releases we sift through every day.

Shan Kenner has not crossed my path before, but based on his album The Behavior of Vibration (Guitar Lotus Recordings 2013-00) I would include him on my list of players who we need to pay some attention to, to support with our ears and wallets.

He fronts a quartet on the album in a program of mostly originals. Ryan Berg on bass, Darrell Green on drums and Albert Marques on piano provide the right sounds and Marques soloes effectively in a kind of post-Corea mode.

Kenner acquits himself well as a weaver of lines that have both tradition and originality within them. His tunes have some worthy lines and changes too.

I wouldn't say exactly that Shan's playing is "under construction" because it has both grit and polish, but I get the feeling that he still has room to grow if he could gig regularly with this crew. That is not to say he doesn't but he deserves to be in the public eye whether or not he is right now.

Kenner has real promise. Contemporary modern jazz guitar has room in its echelon for players who have the ears and inventive chops to do something worthwhile. Let him keep shining out there, please. Hire him for your club!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lou Reed, Tribute, The DVD Collection

Lou Reed has left us. There is a lack. The summing up begins. Part of that you can experience in a three-DVD set, Tribute, The DVD Collection (Chrome Dreams 3IS042). It is a collection of three interrelated programs, running to a total of 279 minutes. The three disks are The Velvet Underground Under Review; Punk Revolution NYC, Part One 1966-1974, The Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls and the CBGB Set; and The Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou 1971-73.

Watching all three together gives you a quite reasonable look at Lou and the Velvets and the early days of Reed's career, the context and impact of it all. The first DVD follows the Velvets formation, their rather erratic career and the way that what they offered differed from the psychedelic rock scene on the West Coast. The second DVD situates the Velvets in the New York punk revolution. And the third DVD focuses on the interrelationships of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, with Bowie as both catalyst to the other two creatively and in some ways too as parasitic upon and capitalizing on aspects of the other's visions.

There is so much in the three programs to digest that I will not attempt to cover it all. Several important themes emerge and the detailed discussions about it seem relevant. One of course would be how Andy Warhol's influence worked to allow and encourage the Velvets to present their music in uncompromised ways, in the raw. New York's gritty realism, its world of early gay liberation, hard drugs, dystopian variations of poverty, its emphasis on pushing lifestyle frontiers to both creative and destructive extremes, the never-steady balance between creation and self-destruction that underground New York was in part about helped in turn create Lou and the Velvet's ambiguous vision of rock-as-art.

The way the Velvets set the scene for NY's later punk underground gets plenty of attention on the second disk, and it gives you a look at some of the known AND lesser-known artists and bands in on the ground floor at the very first stages.

Volume three covers the time period after the Velvets split up, when David Bowie stepped in to help direct Lou's energy into a saleable mainstream as Bowie simultaneously benefitted himself from Reed's personal presentation and persona--and how that two-way situation was also present in the Bowie-Iggy nexus, though at least initially it did not help the Iggy-Stooges commercially as it did Reed.

There is a good deal of attention given to the success factor. The first Velvets album initially sold something like 6,000 copies. The Stooges fared similarly in the beginning. What was an underlying constant in the rock underground for a long while was the idea that the scene thrived on commercial quasi-failure. If the Velvets had created a pop smash in those first years they may have been less of a legend for it. How that relates to Andy Warhol's high art idea of small quantity production, the entrance of rock into the pop charts, the eventual disengagement with hit-factory mechanics and the rise of a separate FM rock identity could have been dealt with more as it is critical to where the Velvets fit in originally. The way it played out was that it was more conducive to legendary status to keep the following small and in-the-know, at least at first. The Velvets, Fugs, Mothers, Stooges and other bands had longevity by failing to capture the typical listener. Dylan was in part vetted by his initial underground, small local origins.

The aesthetic of rawness so important to the Velvets, the Stooges, punk and such is a theme that gets attention but could be underscored more forcefully in my opinion. That first blast of the Velvets seemed pretty crude at the time, I can remember. And that it was purposefully so was not an immediate revelation to all those seeking an underground local music.

The three DVDs worked together to make you think about the scene more than you would have otherwise. There are good interviews and insights. It's up to others to continue the discussion. This is a good start.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Delmark: 60 Years of Blues, Various Artists

The fact that Delmark and Bob Koester celebrated their 60th anniversary as a label last year tells you something. Indies that contribute so much to our music do so for a number of reasons. It's as true of the original Atlantic, Sun, or Vanguard records as it is of Delmark. Only Delmark is still doing it. The secret is that the owners know and love a burgeoning local music scene. They know about certain emerging genres and have the ears to hear what is good out there on a local, street level. And they don't put undue pressure on the talent they discover and acquire (see my note below on this term) to compromise the music for success. They know that short-term sellouts self-destruct the importance of the indie stance. There is an organic growth that takes place between artists and their potential audiences that makes for long-term impact. That's what it is about.

So here we are with 60 years of Delmark and tons of seminal recordings of blues and jazz, covering what Chicago is all about both years ago and right now!

Delmark celebrates their anniversary with a couple of anthologies. The one we are concerned with today is Delmark, 60 Years of Blues (Delmark 917). There are 16 choice cuts. They wisely do not try to cover everything, because there has be room for old and new. So no Buddy Guy here. That's fine because their Buddy Guy albums need to be experienced whole.

There are some previously unreleased gems by Junior Wells, Magic Sam, Little Walter, Giles Corey, Big Joe Williams, Detroit Jr., and Sleepy John Estes. There's representation of the early blues, classic chicago blues, soul blues and there is a good amount of space devoted to recently emerging blues artists or revived career artists making the scene important today, so Toronzo Cannon, Studebaker John, Tail Dragger and others get some worthy attention.

Once you realize that what's on this anthology gives you the yesterday AND the today you can sit back and groove on it. That's what I've been doing. It rings true because it's the real truth. Thank you Bob for all these years! And the artists.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Scott Fields, Jeffrey Lependorf, Everything is in the Instructions

Shakuhachi flute music combined with a new music-avant jazz sensibility? Yes, that's pretty much what Everything is in the Instructions (Ayler 135) is all about. Scott Fields is on what sounds like a semi-amplified hollow body electric guitar; Jeffrey Lependorf is on shakuhachi.

There is a fine-line between the pre-composed and the improvised on most of this album. They flow together seamlessly. Five have Scott Field's compositional frameworks; two are framed by Jeffrey Lependorf; and there is a version of Trane's "Naima".

Scott's guitar work has real originality to it. He may play with straight tuning, or alter it via a prepared guitar with objects placed between and onto the strings, but in any case what he plays has outside flow that acts like a musical fingerprint--it is his very own playing going on. Jeffrey channels traditional Japanese shakuhachi style (no mean feat) into a pretty brilliant amalgam of sound tradition and modern phraseology-harmonic expansion.

The music requires concentrated listening, then pays off with a new sort of contemplative outness.

There is nothing quite like it out there. You really should hear it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dreadnaught, Have A Drink with Dreadnaught

Dreadnaught's 2001 album was front-and-center on these pages a couple of days ago. They are back some 13 years later with an EP, Have a Drink with Dreadnaught (Red Fez).

What applied to their first album is ditto here. They play a well-arranged kind of prog metal that has the markings of a musical vision that stands within the "tradition" of such music but goes beyond it into original territory.

The guitar work will get your attention, but bass and drums are busy and very engaged too.

The vocals do the job they intend. Songs may not be radio charters but the point is in the elaborate group sound, to my mind, and in that realm you are well served to check this out. If the first album has a slight edge over this one in my mind, this is an EP so of necessity covers less territory.

Nice band!