Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Michael Bisio & Matthew Shipp, Flow of Everything


It  has been the case for many years that if Matthew Shipp and/or Michael Bisio are on a recording I am going to want to hear and no doubt review it. Now we have an album with just the two together and needless to say I am glad to have a chance to hear and write about it. It is called Flow of Everything (FSR 01/2022). And of course I have been listening to it.

I am glad to say it is a very good one, an endless fountain of inventive improvisation and a kind of testament to the exceptional togetherness that the two take on when playing as a duo (but applies to their mutual presence in larger ensembles too, with at times a different density and  sometimes a different spatial allocation.)

Most readers will no doubt know that Matthew and Michael have nailed down two thirds of the Matthew Shipp Trio for quite some time now.  The completion in a drumming complement has consisted of in recent years Whit Dickey and now with Newman Taylor Baker.

Note that this duo with Shipp and Bisio actually marks the second such album with this duo configuration, if I am not mistaken that last being in 2016 and the Live in Seattle date. The long association of the two bears fruit in a closeness, a rapport not often experienced to this high degree out there in improv land.

The nine improvised segments flow together well (in keeping with the album title) and explore a sizeable terrain of possibilities, from tumbling ahead either in time with freely exclamatory phrasing at times, sometimes by worrying a phrase in a complementary pair for a time, and with a good deal of full throttle soloing simultaneously between the two, and at times locked into a flat-out swinging territory in free chromatic openness or a touch of modality,  and/or sometimes with endless modulation-melodic transformation.

It affirms that the two are are at the forefront of the modern freedom Jazz exponents on their respective instruments. The nine improvisations defy some glib description--if they were easy to describe, they probably would also not be the models of spontaneous invention that they are. But if you insist there are moments of scatter, swinging outness, cyclical pattern development, expressive reverie and glancing forays into expanded balladry, and other things besides. It is some of the finest examples of free improv today--showing how that art is continually growing and expanding and how Matthew and Michael have over the years gained their own special vocabulary, both as individual artists and as co-performers!

It is an album to embrace aurally, a benchmark of where we are today and how that matters. Very recommended. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Michael Bisio, Inimitable, Contrabass Solos

Michael Bisio is at the very top of the list of active and innovative New Jazz contrabassists out there. How that is involves a lot of things but above all it is his inventive and fresh improvisational grasp no matter who he is with or when he is in the mix. And naturally some of the most demanding and in turn rewarding moments can be when he goes it alone as an unaccompanied soloist.

I wrote about an earlier solo album many years ago on these pages (type his name in the search box above for my review of that.) Just now we have a new one and it could not be more welcome as far as I am concerned. It is aptly called Inimitable (Mung Music). He dedicates the album to everything singular inside us, everything that makes the world as it is when it is a wonder.

It holds together as a very personal expression of contrabass virtuosity and intelligence, indeed something inimitable. There are inspired articulations based on two standards--"I Fall in Love Too Easily" and Coltrane's "Wise One." Then there are some seven improvisations as original poetic statements of note..

What is exceptional is how Michael synthesizes a vibrant set of tone color possibilities with a consistently flowing and edgy contemporary  linear sense. These are deep, some very deep expressions that can only come about when there is a one-to-one expressive relationship of artist to instrument. It is rare when it reaches these heights. And so we are lucky to be witness to such inimitability.

And so there is every reason to hear this one repeatedly. It is a true milestone in contemporary improvisations for the solo bass. I recommend it without hesitation. It is a recording that will no doubt rank as some of the very most seminal of this decade perhaps, once we get past it all and once all is said and done. Hear this one and revel in it, do!


Friday, February 4, 2022

Kim Larsen, Ta' Mig Med, Songs for Classical Guitar, Jesper Sivebaek


Danish Classical label OUR Recordings celebrated its 15th anniversary last year. I've covered happily a number of their records on my blogs and now to celebrate that anniversary I am happy to talk about one especially vital for guitar aficionados and players alike. It is an album of songs for classical guitar as composed by Kim Larsen and nicely performed by Jesper Sivebaek, the latter a very fine artist who is the head of the guitar department at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. The album is entitled Ta' Mig Med (OUR Recordings 8.226915). In English that translates as "Take Me Along." It is from the Larsen song "Joanna" which appears on the album.

There are twelve instrumentally elaborate and lyrical guitar parts involved in making the songs come alive. The written impetus of Larsen has a near ideal performer-interpreter in Sivebaek. The music is songful in its overall feel and discrete parts with song standard sorts of sequences. The music is lyrically tonal with guitar technique nicely put together out of folk and classical fingering-picking patterns. Needless to say there is a knack for putting all that together and at the same time creating inventive sequences that charm and feel right in all their elements.

From a samba feel to country picking there is a kind of great synthesis of acoustic guitar style-technique from our time. So in this we have a thoroughly smart synthesis and yet in the end it is a lyric originality that pleases and stays with you in the happy ways all good music should. I give this one a strong recommendation and hope it will light up many faces with smiles. Bravo!

Monday, January 31, 2022

Dom Minasi, Me Myself and I


Dom Minasi has inside-outside depth, flexibility and a beautiful approach to the improvised guitar possibility. Any regular reader of the page has seen my reviews of his albums. Here we are in the new year and there is another fine one out that is sure to please the guitar loving world. It is called Me Myself and I (Unseen Rain, Bandcamp).

There are nine righteously vibrant originals in the program, featuring Dom on six and twelve string acoustic guitars, overdubbed so that a chordal underpinning sets things up for the fine soloing that recurs throughout. Unlike the majority of Dom's recent releases this one is more rooted in the straight-ahead, changes-based style that marked his first records. And that is fine because he is a unique guitar voice either way.

These new compositions are really well done and the improvs give us pause, pleasure, and much to savor. It is undoubtedly one of the nicest guitar albums I've heard in a while. Take a listen, dive in! Highly recommended.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Cameron Mizell & Charlie Rauh, Local Folklore


There is a wild and wonderful musical world that continues on regardless of things that challenge our everyday world. Today there is a fine example in the recent album Local Folklore (Destiny Records DR-0040), which is a series of captivating duets by Cameron Mizell on acoustic and electric guitar and Charlie Rauh on acoustic guitar. 

The program consists of ten originals by Charlie or Cameron. They are marked nicely by bright and lyrically moving chord changes and effective soloing on top of it all along with set melodic elements at times--to my ears. Early Pat Metheny comes to mind as a precursor to this kind of thing, yet nonetheless this is on firmly original ground in itself.

The album title Local Folklore is somewhat telling, for the music has something of a folkish quality--in its consistent earthiness that with some additions might be the underpinning of some singer-songwriter or country ditty of a while back, and like Gary Burton and Metheny there manages to be a Jazz emanation all rolled into the sequences.

The guitar work generally divides into a chording underpinning and a guitar solo of a melodic and improvisatorially distinct element on top. I've long appreciated Charlie Rauh's work in the past and also liked what I have heard of Cameron Mizell (type their names in the search box above for reviews). And it so happens that they are so locked into a way of doing the music that they complement one another, rather exceptionally so. 

It is a music that brings a smile to your face if you are like me. There is real artistry here and a lyrical bright sunshine feeling that furnishes a happy sequence of tones and sequences. I give kudos here for these two. Strongly, happily recommended.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Alan Rinehart Plays Sylvius Leopold Weiss Lute Music on Guitar


I learned in part by osmosis and the rest by listening--that Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1687-1750) was the king of Baroque lute compositions. I've enjoyed all that I have heard by the master and now happily there is a full volume of Weiss lute works played nicely and dedicatedly on guitar by Alan Rinehart (Ravello RR8056)                              

Of course there have been recordings of Weiss on guitar in the past. Here we have a full 70 minutes of a goodly assortment nicely played by Alan Rinehart. There is an "Allegro" in E Minor, a Fantasia, two multi-movement Partitas, the "Tombeau sur la Mort de M' Compte de Logy," a "Galanterie," "Menuet and Trio" and a "Suite in D Major." It is all worthwhile, inventive and nicely wrought in ways that make you appreciate the brilliance of technical and lyrical outflow. Maestro Rinehart is to be commended for his focused readings.

Anyone who gravitates to nicely thought-out Baroque sequences for guitar will find this one a continual pleasure to hear I have no doubt. Recommended warmly.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Dave Stryker, As We Are, Music for Guitar, Quartet and String Quartet


The idea of electric guitar Jazz with strings is hardly unheard of. When I was pretty new to Jazz listening I happily stumbled upon Wes Montgomery's classic album Tequila, which you may remember had tracks with a string backdrop arranged by Claus Ogerman. It was the antithesis of the pop tendency at the time to add strings as "sweetener." Not that it was not sweet exactly but the strings had plenty of contentful things to play behind Wes. I loved it. Still do.

Well when I started to listen to today's album I was happily reminded of that Wes gem without feeling that I was hearing a clone. Far from it. The album is guitarist Dave Stryker's new one As We Are (Strikezone Records 8822). It features Stryker with his Quartet of Julian Shore on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums, plus a string quartet. Julian Shore put together the arrangements, Stryker originals for the most part.

The compositions are weighty enough to stay with you, Dave's guitar revels in the way it can and does blend with the string sonarity, at the same time as his note choices are exceptionally nice to hear. There is a soulful countenance, lyrical sensibilities and harmonic movement of a satisfyingly sophisticated sort. The Shore scoring of the string quartet is rather brilliant I must say.

Stryker wanted the sort of strings-band interaction where nothing was superficial. And he gets that, very happily.

It is a damned fine album in every way. And if you are like me it will feel hearty and substantial, real art, a pleasure from beginning to end. Get this one!