Saturday, March 4, 2023

Christopher Hale, Ritual Diamonds


Musical things that occupy an original niche in our listening possibilities nowadays are more important to me than some kind of dominance in terms of chops. If you or I can never come close to duplicating some technical  feat, I will no doubt want to hear it, something of that sort, most probably but it will not make the sort of impact an altogether original slant can make today. Of course someone might innovate highly and still have monster chops compared with others in his or her time. Charlie Parker of course comes to mind. Nevertheless today's really new music much of the time is more squarely in the discovery vein, in the realm of a new language of sorts than in a blockbuster explosion of technique, or at least it seems that way to me.

I refer to an EP out by Christopher Hale entitled Ritual Diamonds (Earshift Music EAR064). It brings to bear some six Hale compositions, one cowritten with Woo Minyoung. Germinal to this music is a Classical Korean rhythmic element that continues an infectious pulse but then inserts endlessly variable patterns into it that in ensemble terms that afford the music a kind of composed and sometimes improvised string of endless melodic strains that are lovely to behold, very much so.

So the fundamental element comes out of conventional drum set and Korean percussion with patterns suggested above. And then we have these compositions built up in endless melody, seemingly based on or suggested by the Korean rhythmic patterns. It seems like that and the idea is that it works very well with Hale's bass and baritone guitars as well as his regular six string electric instrument. He plays nicely idiomatic solos when he does and they fit well into the music at large. And so too we have the ensemble and soloists on Korean instruments, tenor and soprano saxes, Fender Rhodes, trumpet, second guitar, etc.

So the music and its long, mesmerizing chordal and melodic sequences seem to me as haunting and appealing as anything out there now!  It is only 35 minutes of music but worth every minute. Bravo and brava!

Listen to some samples on Bandcamp.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Sandy Ewen, Explode, with Damon Smith, Weasel Walter

When in the middle of infernally busy times conjoined for a while with the absolute stasis of lockdown it is perhaps not surprising if several strands of the main threads of endeavors have strayed or become frayed and fell off the main conduit. I will admit that has happened in the case of a fine CD that was recorded in 2018, released in 2020 and found its way into my pile of New Music/Avant Jazz to listen to and consider. It was not that I did not immediately note its existence with great expectations. It was a continual re-sorting situation where the provenance of any given album became a sort of musical chairs situation. Now enough time has passed that I have rescruitenized the new stacks and pulled this for immediate hearing.

And so we have electric guitar-lap guitarist Sandy Ewen and a spectacularly situated trio of Sandy along with bassist Damon Smith and drummer Weasel Walter in an album dubbed aptly Explode (ugExplode CD). 

Now Ms. Ewen, happily, is not new to me. A number of years ago I appreciated her noise-laced post-Punk guitar stylings on a few fine recordings with Damon Smith. They captured her with crack configurations that showed her fresh yet classically Modern in uncompromisingly new and unconventional and boldly fire-charged in manners that remind of early Sonny Sharrock and Derek Bailey,

So this is a very resourceful, distinctive, original trio with no compromising and instead a full-bodied unremitting attack dog on a three-way with noise-melody and free falling presence a constant. Listen to Sandy and the very intuitive but sure timbral spank she initiates and keeps flowing while Damon on bass provides his own counterweight of beautifully advesturesomne sound pyrotechnics.

Those who know the Weasel Walter no-holds barred intensity will not be disappointed. He is ever unafraid to make his drums sound in all manner of intensities and as such he is the perfect countervoice to the string team.

The end result is a classic free rave up that compared favorably with the best of noise virtuoso offering on disk, past and present!

Mario Pavone Dialect Trio, Philosophy


The late bassist Mario Pavone (1940-2021) was a leading light as contrabassist virtuoso on the Avant Garde Jazz scene in his glory years. He was in an important incarnation of the Paul Bley trio,  was on Bobby Naughton's wonderful Understanding (RIP Bobby), a nice Alan Silva album Skillfulness, was a key member of some of Bill Dixon's finest groups, was a key collaborator with Thomas Chapin and Anthony Braxton, and of course made lots of excellent albums in his own name. Type "Pavone" in the index search box for another good one one I covered a while ago.

I bring to you this morning an album recorded in 2018 and released the following year, Mario Pavone Dialect Trio's Philosophy (Clean Feed  CF630CD). If I am late getting to this one it is because that time it was released was quite hectic and I am only now catching up. It is a wonderfully alive lineup of Pavone, Matt Mitchell on piano and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, three masters all, and having a great session too.

The compositions are all nicely wrought with two by Annette Peacock, one group improvisation and the rest by Pavone, The Philosophy in question is Pavone's three-way levelling of purpose, with bass, drums and piano holding forth as equals in leeway and invention. It all fits in with Pavone's roots in the classic avant trios of Paul Bley, and so understandably there is some really first-rate group playing throughout, Listen to each artist closely as they uncover some otherworldly  possibilities for us. Everyone is keenly hewn, sharp as tacks, are boldly jumping into the fray with true spirit and excellent spontaneous girth. Wow. Very strongly recommended!

Monday, December 12, 2022

Robert O'Connor Miller, Sketches, Music for Classical Guitar

Classical guitarist Robert O'Connor Miller presents to us a cornucopia of Contemporary Classical guitar works that especially show off his exceptional sensitivity toward the diaspora of Afro-European guitar expressions. It is a beautiful and beautifully played program we hear in his CD Sketches (Frameworks Records). The artist explains on his website, "In both Brazil and the United States, African American and European American musical parentage gave birth to a multitude of different styles of music: Choro, Frevo, Blues and Jazz to name a few."

Accordingly the guitarist embarks on a program of gems in this family of styles, both directly in the beautiful Choros of Brazilian composers Pixinguinha (in three Choros arranged for solo guitar by Roland Dyens) and Ernesto Nazareth (with five of his works in Choros and European flavored sounds arranged for solo guitar by Sergio Assad).

Then we have some pieces branching out of and commenting upon vital musical strains of Afro-Americana, namely a reaction to Miles Davis's Kind of Blue  classic "Flamingo Sketches" via Simone Ianarelli's sketch view on the  three movement "Miles Sketches" Then finally we have Dudan Bogdanovic's "Blues and Seven Variations."

What the music so well presents Robert O'Connor Miller so strikingly represents with an extraordinarily ravishing and singingly even-voiced string tone. Miller's uncanny feel for the vibrantly authentic nuances of each form and its articulation in each movement is a testament to his singular grasp and internalization of the essentials of each music.

Miller is simply extraordinary here. Do not miss it.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Frederic Hand, Across Time, Guitar Solos and Songs


Sometimes the "outside" world seems to be filled with potentially dangerous strangers, lately. If you are a parent you need to tell things to your kids that no kid should have to hear, but such are the times we live in. I am glad there is music still, in a very welcome contrast to life trials these days. Nobody who loves or makes music is a stranger to me, not really, though Charles Manson did make an album those years ago. We keep on and this morning I am happy to report in on an album that should renew your faith in the power of musicians to create memorable things.

So today I have an interesting example for you.It is guitarist/composer Frederic Hand and his album of guitar solos and songs, the latter featuring (his wife?) Lesley Hand on vocals. The album is named Across Time (ReEntrant REN92).

So we get in all some ten guitar solos (including one based on the Shaker hymn "Tis A Gift To Be Simple." and then four songs for Lesley Hand and guitar. It is acoustic guitar heard on here, and quite nicely so. The harmonic-melodic unfolding of each piece is captivating to hear, without fail. The works range from several from the present to some originally recorded in 1977 and remastered for this release. There is a consistent quality throughout. There are no fillers!

It all seems to me something anyone who responds to acoustic guitar and well thought-out dialogues of player and instrument will appreciate. I  find it all quite ravishing. Strongly recommended!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Markus Reuter, Mata Atlantica, Retiro E Ritmo


A world of Fusion when right has its very own reason for existence that is as orchestral as Classic Classical yet as immediate and blistering as the most transcendent Rock and Jazz. Today I happily report in with such an album, with results decidedly more immediate than blistering yet none the less effective for it.

It is arranged, orchestrated and produced by touch guitarist and composer Markus Reuter. The group is Mata Atlantica, the title Retiro E Ritmo (7DMedia 7D2206).  It is a soaring, all-inclusive epic work for multiple instrumentalists and vocals, with a pronounced ambient space to it but then nothing of the banal spectrum one might sometimes find in such things, though there is a beautifully expressive tonality to be heard withal.

The beauty of Portuguese and Afro-Samba prevails in spirit throughout, but then the sometimes hovering endlessness of ambient twilight suffuses all and gives it stature and backbone cum feather-in-sky poetic texts and lyrics by Emily Dickinson, Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, Zoey Gley, Mathia Derer, Rudyard Kipling, Joyce Kilmer, Lord Byron, and Claudio Manuel da Casta.  There are beautiful vocals by Charlotte Pelgen and many others. Field recording by Christian Wolff and Markus Mauthe enhance our listening imagination and spur us forward while Mastro Reuter's touch guitar, Gary Husband's keyboards and numerous other soloist-instrumentalists give us a greatly varied soundscape via the spontaneous effusions and collective compositions by various elements of the totality, nicely sculpted by Reuter's intelligent and vibrantly musical creative direction.

We get a new take on the sort of paradigmatic bedrock Fusion and Prog mainstays of Miles, Hancock, King Crimson, Corea, and Airto and other Brazilian visionaries. etc.

This one is strongly recommended. Markus Reuter has a key role to play in the music of our times. Get this one and find out part of why that is so.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Plinio Fernandes, Saudade, Master of the Nylon String Guitar


We all need to be grateful for the continued arrival of great musical artists into our lives. One such for me is Brazilian nylon string guitarist Plinio Fernandes, as heard on his debut album Saudade (Decca Gold CD).

Saudade is the special quality in Portuguese and Brazilian music of a tender sadness for things long gone, things impossible, but too the ecstatic possibility that remains even when all else is absent, if I might interpolate here.

It is a brilliant gathering of saudade drenched music from Brazil and related climes, most beautifully played by Plinio. His tone is ever ravishing and singular, his phrasing beautifully flowing and seamless, and his rubato-ed delivery a thing of poetic beauty. Listen for example to his Jobim medley as arranged for solo guitar by Sergio Assai, to the wonderful "Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Voce" as is contained within that! Now that is phrasing.

But that is just a sample. The old standard "Brasil" gets a well burnished beauty and fingered motility that puts you in a wonderful place. But then too there are some of the Villa-Lobos "Etudes" that project you to where the music ever sounds in your mind. It is a nicely planned and executed selection of music that consistently shines in Plinio's hands and with the performances of some well chosen guests here and there. 

Plinio is a musical blessing that will cause you to perk up and smile from ear-to-ear. Or at least that is what this album is doing to me! High praise I give it for it is a treasure.