Friday, July 29, 2011

Johnny Winter Shines Forth on DVD "Live at Rockpalast" 1979

Of all the blues-rock titans of the guitar circa the '60s and '70s, Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Page, Guy, etc., Johnny Winter seems to be an artist that has suffered somewhat of an eclipse in terms of recognition, though his brilliance and stature should dictate otherwise.

All that may indeed be changing. The new 90-minute DVD Live at Rockpalast (MVD Visual 51840) should help. It is a long, vibrant 1979 set of Winter and his trio live in concert, originally aired on a German TV show at the time.

The appearance came at a time not long after his White, Hot and Blue album, which underscored his re-emphasis on the blues stylings that made his name in the first place. They do a fair number of songs from that album, in the main reworked blues classics.

The sound is good, the camera work solid, and you get some really ripping Johnny picking, sliding and singing his way through some very electric blues. For around 15 minutes towards the end bassist John Paris switches off with Johnny and plays guitar and does vocals while Johnny hits the bass. This is a moment that is not quite at the level of what Winter is all about, but it's short and not at all bad.

Anyone who digs the electric blues of the era and Johnny in particular will dig this one. It has extended versions, plenty of solo time and the patented Winter fire blazing on the hearth.

I believe the DVD officially comes out next month (August) in the States but you may already be able to find it on line as we speak.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Les Doigts de l'Homme Rechannel Django Reinhardt with Joyous Elan on "1910"

Django Reinhardt in his Hot Club of Paris phase has been increasingly the point of reference to a select but growing body of outfits dedicated to hot swing. One of the very best out there is Les Doigts de l'Homme, as heard in their new CD 1910 (Alma 61412). They have the patent chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk foursquare acoustic rhythm guitar backdrop down pat. Layered overtop is some excellent lead, sometimes doubled up for two-part duet pyrotechnics in the arranged realm, other times pure single-acoustic kick.

Olivier Kikteff is responsible for the Danjangoesque solos and he is quite impressive in that role. The repertoire covers a number of songs done by Django, some standards, and some surprises. Throughout the groups honors the master by showing that they can grow the style again today, incorporate some of the present into it, and generally play the heck out of whatever they attempt.

It's irrepressibly fabulous Djangology. Django would be proud. By the way 1910 refers to the year of Reinhardt's birth. That would make him 101. He lives on here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Elysian Fields [Last Night On Earth] Filled with Nifty Songs, Jennifer's Wonderous Voice

Elysian Fields generally get my attention, whatever they happen to be doing at any point. Whether it's Spanish Sephardic tradition reworked, ultra-hip post-cabaret, or downtown rock, they have a way about them. The new one, Last Night On Earth (OJET 013) goes the route of their highly individual rock and it does so with lots of style and panache.

Oran Bloedow is on hand as usual as song co-author, bassist, keyboarder, guitarist and second vocalist. Jennifer Charles does the main vocals as only she can, and co-wrote the songs.

It is very like Elysian Fields to begin a potentially apocalyptic-themed album with "Sleepover." Should the adolescents twist to Chubby Checker? Ah, but lurking in the shadows is a guy with a knife. It's the combination of sweetness and darkness that make this group a part of the times, like a David Lynch movie.

Jennifer Charles' voice comes across as well as ever with her indolent delivery and breathy whisper-vocals. There is nobody quite like her. But hey also the lyrics and songs here are good-o.

This may well solidify and multiply the Elysian following. But it isn't like they are "selling out." You still get music of depth, with plenty to experience and mull over.

For the guitarists reading this, there's a blistering solo or two. It's the songs and Jennifer's voice that make the Elysians special, though.


I recommend Last Night very much. It's one of their best.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Terakaft's "Aratan N Azawad": Electric Music from the Sahara

This group is something. Electric guitars and bass combine with traditional North African drumming, clapping, and vocal lines that have a Touareg tradition-meets-today sound, which is to say that they sound bluesy--in part because they always have been bluesy. The vocal parts are memorable; the guitars translate desert playing on nonelectric string instruments into a contemporary interwoven tapestry of desert blues. They remind a little of the sort of one-chord Delta-to-Chicago things that John Lee Hooker did so well. Yet they are unmistakably North African. You hear this brilliantly on Terakaft's third, Aratan N Azawad (World Village WVF 014).

Now does that mean that we have discovered the missing link from Africa to US blues? In general, sure, this is the African background to the blues, transposed to reflect blues-rock that has been in the air and has filtered its way back to the continent. I would not want to say, though, that Terakaft stems from a direct lineage of those specific Africans that ended up in the US. Too many tribes had musics that have something to do with the blues scale and feel to pin it down to one group. Like Fela Kuti's music both reflects James Brown and shows how there are African roots in Brown's music that can in turn energize new African music, so with Terakaft and the bluesmen-rockmen of the States.

All that does not matter ultimately in terms of the music here. I mean, to the listening. It is very vital music. Excellent. And it should appeal to a wide range of listeners who might not otherwise be exposed to African music. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Latin Bassoon? Daniel Smith's "Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz"

There are many reasons why you aren't going to find a huge selection to choose from if you are looking for a Latin Jazz Bassoon disk. The rapid, syncopated staccato execution a good Latin solo requires may be beyond the means of some players. And the truth is there are not many bassoonists who seek to play this music. Daniel Smith does, as you can see from this review posting.

This isn't Mr. Smith's first album, though I believe it's the first in this genre. I reviewed his blues album in June of 2009 (see He's a "try anything" kind of fellow. And on that album he shows how he can synthesize mainstream jazz playing and adapt it with success to his instrument, with some fire and charm.

His new Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz (Summit 560) finds him taking on an expanded sort of Latin repertoire: An Afro-Latin version of Lee Morgan's "Mr. Kenyatta," Dizzy's "Manteca," Latin funk over Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," Brazilian samba on "Korg In," Bernstein's West Side Story vignette "Mambo from the Dance at the Gym," and so on. He's assembled a fine group with Neil Clarke on Latin percussion, Daniel Kelly doing creditable Latin jazz on piano, some guests (Sandro Albert on guitar, Roswell Rudd on two numbers! etc.) And the supporting cast lives up to expectations. The arrangements are simple, crafted to bring out a Latin groove with a good deal of space for bassoon solos and head-melodizing.

Daniel aquits himself most of the time. Other times his phrasing can be less than stellar--when he takes on the staccato Latinisms directly.

On the whole this is a fun album and quite unusual when you think of what's out there. It isn't going to win any Grammys (and of course nothing else will in Latin Jazz either, since they shamelessly have eliminated the category along with some others. Boo!) It will win a spot in your listening cycle if you crave variety and respond to a Latin groove.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Inzinzac: Avant Philadelphia Musical Madness At Its Best

The Philadelphia trio Inzinzac comes through with raw, wild, avant blasts of adventurous sound on their first, self-titled release (High Two 028). Alban Bailly skronks out on electric guitar and wrote the music; Dan Scofield shows some power on soprano and tenor; Eli Litwin mans the drums.

There are moments that have the scratchy asymmetry of Beefheart's Trout Mask band. There are jagged ensemble passages that invigorate the ears. There are abstract expressionist takes on jazz-rock that transform the premises of the form into something different. There are moments of anarchic frenzy that envelope the listener with waves of complexity.

Mr. Bailly has a guitar style somewhere between early Sonny Sharrock and perhaps Marc Ducret. It is an interesting approach. But it's the prearranged written compositional side of the band that shines forth most brightly.

It's not as if the band is covering territory never set foot on by musicians in the past. But they nevertheless get it right and hit you hard right in the aural lebanza. A serious, good, intense ear workout for the prepared. Encore!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Young Bassist Michael Feinberg Presents Second Album, "With Many Hands"

Michael Feinberg is part of the generation just coming into play on the jazz stage. He's 22 and already releasing his second album With Many Hands (no label indicated). A cynic would say that an up-and-coming young player stands a better chance of paying for self-releases, assuming his or her parents have the money and are more willing to finance the production and promotion costs at this lifestage. Now that would be a nasty thing to insinuate. You get the money where you can and we all benefit from a finely turned recorded set such as this one. He may have been a thrifty lad. It isn't our business on anything other than on the level of the history-sociology-anthropology of jazz economics today (which IS interesting because man, things are changing out there). Indeed in the case of Michael Feinberg's Hands the music is of a such high caliber that one is simply glad the money was at hand to allow us to hear the music.

This is an "all youngster" outfit, as Ed Sullivan might have said. The oldest is 24. But generation and age aside, this is a band playing contemporary jazz well, with fire and a bit of electricity. Noah Preminger and his tenor we have encountered happily on his own album (see review at the Gapplegate Music Blog site, link on this page). He has poise and fire. His front line running buddy Godwin Louis on alto keeps the pace, solos well and interacts with Noah in ways one has to appreciate. The rhythm team, which includes Daniel Platzman, drums, and Julian Shore, pianist, pushes the music along well and Shore solos with swingingly good ears and moxy. Alex Wintz plays sophisticated rock-inflected guitar and sounds like someone we should hear more from.

And of course there's Mr. Feinberg himself. He handles the upright like someone with more years behind him. He walks and syncopates-drives with ease and heat, can turn in a good solo and has definite compositional talents. The charts here are his. They are complex, advanced and multi-faceted. They show the band off to good advantage. The title cut in particular stays in the mind long after the CD stops playing. Stylistically Feinberg's aggregation has the sort of accessibility combined with substance that Dave Holland's small groups have had for years. There's a rock tinge. There's a Wayne Shorteresque-Hancockian finesse with harmonic heft.

It is a fine effort and one can only predict more and greater things from Feinberg and his colleagues. I will welcome the developments! Meanwhile take a listen to this one. The young lions of today have some growl!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Master Sarodist Amjad Ali Khan's "Samaagam" for Sarod and Orchestra

Indian movie soundtracks have combined the western orchestra with Indian classical instruments for many years. Ravi Shankar has done much wonderful work for sitar and other classical instruments and orchestra.

When one of the Indian sarod's greatest living exponents creates a concerto for sarod and orchestra it is nevertheless an event. Amjad Ali Khan has done just that with Samaagam (World Village 468102) with of course himself on sarod and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under David Murphy.

Samaagam to my mind is a rousing success on every level, for the majesty and power of Amjad Ali Khan's sarod, for the orchestral parts and their realization on this recording, and for the total effect of the work as a unified piece of music. The orchestral plays in the spirit and with the tonal nuance and phrasing appropriate to the music.

The orchestra functions in several different ways: as a bringer of timbral color, as a "composite" player engaging with Pandit Khan in a musical dialog, and as the vehicle to express (both with and without the sarod) the sort of compositional themes one might hear in jugalbandi duets. Finally the orchestra plays more involved tutti segments that comment on the themes but in a kind of Indian raga melodicism combined with a western orchestral variational context.

What matters is that the music is successful, absorbing and well put together. It is performed with conviction and passion. I would rank this among the handful of orchestral-Indian classical masterworks I have had the pleasure and privilege to hear over the years. And as always Amjad Ali Khan is a marvel and delight to the ears and the musical soul. A triumph!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Robert Plant's Blue Note" DVD Traces A Long and Fruitful Career in Music

When Robert Plant hit the grooves and airwaves with Led Zeppelin as I was coming of age, I have to say that I took him for granted. A supercharged instrument at a time when so much was going on in rock, he stood out as coming out of the blues, but went beyond to forge a style tremendously influential in what eventually was known as metal. If I paid more attention at the time to what was happening instrumentally, it was to my temporary loss. Of course he was more than just a rock screamer. As a soon-to-be-released DVD Robert Plant's Blue Note (Sexy Intellectual SIDVD567) shows clearly, he was and is a complex character with diverse interests, influences and a long career of stylistic change and development.

The video documents the shifting scene around him from the early-mid sixties onwards and his engagement with it. There is a fairly detailed look at the British blues boom of the '60s, spawned by a tepid pop scene and the infusion through imported records and personal appearances in England of the great black artists with their iconic excitement and sheer power. The general scene and Plant's eventual involvement with it are covered with depth and insight. The DVD goes on to look at the formation of Plant's own band, the subsequent formation of Led Zeppelin and the dynamic Page-Plant dialog, the expansion of the band from a quasi-hard-blues to a metal and progressive outfit, and then Plant's long solo career and his flirtation with popular synth-based styles, his return to metal, his renewed involvement with the psychedelic sounds of the late '60s California world, and finally his growth through involvement in North African/Mideastern music styles and ultimately roots-folk and country.

This is a long and detailed DVD (155 minutes) allowing for lots of interview footage of Plant and his contemporaries along with select musical journalists. There's a very fair amount of concert footage of Plant and others in the course of the presentation. And there is an overarching narrative with a main theme, Plant's fascination and immersion in the "blue note," the intervals and bending tones of the blues.

There are many little assertions and details I might take exception to here. They are essentially about musical issues that would take us far beyond the scope of this review blurb, having to do with the roots of blues in Africa, the status of non-blues music in relation to the blues, and such like things. It's enough to say that I don't always completely agree with some of the points raised by the journalists on the DVD.

In the end though what matters is that you finish watching this longish DVD with a renewed appreciation of Plant as a musical force, his respect for the black music and world music roots he has engaged in various ways, and an appreciation for the open-ended nature of his musical quest. Mr. Plant is more than just an extraordinary vocalist. He has had an important musical stylistic influence on everything from metal to world-infused rock.

I don't think anyone with a serious interest in the history of rock and or Plant the artist will be disappointed in this DVD. It is well done.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Guitarist Chris Taylor Makes Some Great Sounds on Nocturnal

Guitarist Chris Taylor is one of those guys you want to cheer on. After 30 years of gigging around, he comes up with a debut album that is a corker. Nocturnal (Abstract Logic 029) doesn't come out of outer space. He's listened to and absorbed some of the things that have been going on, like Weather Report, Allan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny, but he's come up with something very much his. There's a cosmic psychedelic element, a world-music element, and there is what is best termed a CHRIS TAYLOR element, something you aren't expecting that he brings into the mix to give it another direction than the one you assumed was where the music was going.

His playing is electric, sculpted in ways that are his own, and very musical. The same goes for his compositions and arrangements. It's a kind of fusion, yes. It's a new kind of fusion, without the hackneyed riffs, diarrhetorically noteful cliches and other devices we hear people use and reuse until there is little life left in them.

It's an ensemble music with guitar in almost a concerto-like position--though there's also some great tenor-soprano soloing as well. The rhythm section is ON it, whether funking-rocking with taste or swinging hard. And Chris plays like a mother when he gets cranking.

This is primo new jazz-rock. It is a very impressive first album for anybody. Coming after 30 years of dues-paying Chris Taylor must be feeling some satisfaction. He should be. Dig this one and you will not regret it, I suspect.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cold Cave's Second: Cherish the Light Years

Cold Cave do a kind of intense pop-rock that has the wall of production largeness of '80s-and-later music of this sort. That is, on their second release Cherish the Light Years (Matador). Heavy synth, big back beat, guitar backbone-ing.

The lead vocals sound a little bit Cure-like. It's hard hitting stuff, the kind of thing you can't play as pleasant background. Not all of the songs completely click in my head. Partially because these sorts of releases pack a lot into the best songs and some of the others sound good but are not entirely mind-blowing as songs.

Listening to part of this I am reminded that some of the sounds of the most avant garde electronic music of the middle-to-late sixties has entered pop and rock productions with a little regularization. And that is remarkable. Especially remarkable in that it is not generally recognized and discussed. Who says the avant garde has not had a great impact on what followed/follows? You need to know where to look for it. Just like the surrealism and dadaism of the first half of the 20th century is common parlance in TV ad spots today, so electronic sounds that were considered incredibly difficult by some back in the age of progress are now virtually completely assimilated. Is that a matter of co-optation? Not in the widest sense. No, I think it's a kind of assimilation process that applies to new aesthetic traits diffusing outward from a center. There's much more to say about that, but I don't have the time and this is not the ideal space for a detailed discussion. But I do believe it's time to stop grousing about the avant garde and time to start recognizing its influence on the general scene today. Another point: that the legacy of a band like the Cars, pioneering synth & guitar rock folks, lives on in a band like Cold Cave.

And so I must say I listen to the synth work and its persistent intensity on this new Cold Cave slab and I appreciate what it is. There are some very cool, good rock nouveau numbers here. And there are some things that are just OK. It's a sound you might want to experience if you want to know what the big sounding synth sound is about.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cinzia Spata Sings "Into the Moment": A Vocalist for Jazz Lovers

In jazz-vocalist-land sometimes it seems that there are those so intent on establishing their vocal credentials that they evoke the long gone voices of the greats more than they sing themselves and what is in the moment. The result sometimes is Billie, Ella, Sarah, and/or whoever heard as the equivalent of an image copied and recopied on a Xerox machine. Not very pretty always, and the sharpness of the original is lost.

Then there are vocalists like Cinzia Spata with her third record, Into the Moment (Koine). This is jazz singing for those who love jazz. First off, the ensemble is packed with first-rate players: Bruce Barth, piano, Dave Clark, acoustic bass, Yoron Israel, drums, Ken Cervenka, trumpet/fluegel and George Garzone on tenor. They are playing jazz, as you would expect. Barth is a full pianist that shows a Bill Evans lushness, a keen-ness of ear and good bopped linemaking. Cervenka has the burnished Wheeler-like sound. And George is George! Not to leave out the rhythm team. They cook.

Then she chooses songs that I, and I suspect others who dig the jazz more than the cabaret aspect of contemporary "club" vocalists, associate with the finest of the music. There's a beautiful rendition of Keith Jarrett's haunting "Questar," "My Favorite Things," songs by Steve Swallow, Ralph Towner, Wheeler, Waldron's "Soul Eyes," most with with Cinzia's new and appropriate lyrics. There's Mingus's "Duke's Sound of Love," and "Very Early," the Bill Evans perennial. There's a very nice Spata original, "Carlos," with room for good blowing. These are excellent songs, things you would love to hear vocalized (many not previously getting this treatment) and Cinzia doesn't just take them on, she does it with grace, facility, charm, and in musically pointed ways. "Tea For Two" even finds a new, refreshed existence here.

She is a vocalist who is a musician! And her voice carries all the baggage of the music without seeming to find it too heavy to bear. This is a VOICE, buddy. I'm finding that this one is climbing my mental list of jazz vocal releases to the top, one of the best of the year I think.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Level" by Guitarist Eric Hofbauer and the Infrared Band: In and Out Subtlety

Guitar-led contemporary jazz units can start just about anywhere and go just about anywhere else. This might be confusing for the novice listener. For the intiated the wealth of possibilities being realized out there these days is real and exciting to follow. Boston-based guitarist Eric Hofbauer and his Infrared Band illustrate this nicely, especially on their new sophomore effort Level (Creative Nation 020). It's a quartet of Bostonians who may not be well-known right now but they come through with a very good shimmering, simmering effort and a musical package that has plenty on the content side. It's Hofbauer on the electric, Kelly Roberge on tenor, Sean Farias, acoustic bass, and Miki Matsuki on drums.

The album title's palindrom serves to introduce the idea of duality in the universe, which Eric states is a theme of the music. Be that as it may, the listener is treated to a very involved ensemble music that shows evidence that Hofbauer's good ideas have been worked out fully with lots of rehearsal time. There is an intricate counterpoint that seems at times written, at times improvised. There is a modernly swinging rhythm section that may break up the phasing for a hocket-style presentation or blow on through in the manner of the best of the new rhythmic mid-period-Miles-through-today timemasters.

Eric's guitar and Kelly's tenor dialog extensively and both are in a soulful yet very modern mode. Sean's bass makes it a three-way conversation often enough. It's a music about some very good soloing but some even more compelling compositional ensemble jazz, fairly quiet and cool but in no way emasculated. Hofbauer puts together some very worthy comping of extended chords and advanced, original sounding lines while Kelly's tenor takes the chromatic post-bop sound that is in the air and makes it unique with asymmetrical phrasing, great notes and extensive tenor sound-color manipulation.

More than that Level excels as an excellent and original compositional platform that sets off the players's considerable improvisational abilities in very good ways. It's an album that may not get you until you hear it a number of times. Then it quietly inches its way into one's music pleasure zone. If you like your jazz modern and sophisticated, you are going to love this one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tune-Yards Break the Mould with Second Release "Who Kill"

OK, I am late with this. Who Kills (4AD), Tune-Yard's strikingly different second album has been out since, what, March? I vow to catch up by the end of summer. And so...

Tune-Yard is the waking dream of Merrill Garbus, who sings beautifully and writes music that doesn't sit comfortably in either square or round holes, so chuck out the pegs. There is a West Indian influence, clearly, in the vocals and the structure of the music. Some sort of post-Reggae style world is evoked, but there is so much more. It has African influences, funky post-earlier rock and hip-hop, and an undefinable something.

The vocals kick dust into the wind. Merrill has a great big vocal instrument that she bends and twists to fit her songs. It is a voice that has all kinds of aspects--soft, snarly, shout, etc. The instrumental backdrops are never quite what you'd expect. Some guitar work that shows punk, highlife, skronk, the troubadors of the middle ages (well, maybe), beats that step into territory not charted. . . . There are sing-songie songs that suddenly riff your ears off, melodic contours that don't sound like any one thing, lyrics that depict neighborhoods one wishes one were out of, the new tough womenhood, oh I could go on.

Music like this is most welcome in our homogenized world. It's not homogenized. I am sick of homogenized. Listen to this one! Buy it! Tell your friends! Get the complete set (so far, two)!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bassist Sam Trapchak's Band Put Together Funny Debuts with "Lollipopocalypse"

Bassist Sam Trapchak moved into New York City a couple of years ago after studying at Wayne State and William Paterson College. His band, Put Together Funny. debuts with a CD I must be careful to spell right, Lollipopocalypse (Raw Toast).

First off his contrabass playing has class. Whether in the ensemble or soloing he comes through in a strong and convincing way, with some of the Holland/Vitous push. His band is well chosen: Greg Ward on alto sounds very good as always. Tom Chang's guitar and Arthur Vint's drumming fit in well with Trapchak's compositional-ensemble vision and Tom C. gets some decent solo work in, often in the cosmic fuze-psych zone but also sometimes in a spacey post-Abercrombian linear mode. The compositional side of Trapchak's talents tends toward asymmetrical poly-funk with plenty in the way of ensemble counterpoint, kicks and textural/melodic-rhythmic contrasts.

This is additive-subtractive music that reminds somewhat of Dave Holland's various small groups and the Indo-Pak ensembles lead by Vijay Iyer and his associates.

Very nice job; very contemporary sounds going on; nice soloing and weighty compositional pull. Recommended. CD Baby and Trapchak's site will give you more information and/or the chance to order a copy if so inclined.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Guitarist Pedro Gomes, Trumpeter Sei Miguel Contrast Free Sound Worlds on Turbina Anthem

The free improv duet tends to bring out the musical personalities of the participants in bolder relief than an ensemble set. It's more than just a matter of the increased exposure a smaller number of voices affords; it's also a matter of the two-way conversational dialogues that can develop, with each soloist responding to the interaction more directly and immediately. Like a good two-person conversation brings out the thoughts and speech-patterns of the speakers to perhaps their best advantage, so it can be in free improv duets.

So that is at least on Turbina Anthem (No Business NBCD 29), a new release that features Sei Miguel on pocket trumpet and Pedro Gomes on mostly electric guitar. Here are two players that stand out by bringing an electric-noise guitar element into close conjunction with post-Don-Cherry out bugle-call aesthetic.

Both players stay in their own zone throughout. But by the contrast and the judicious use of brief silences, they establish a two-in-one space so personal and original that by the end of the disk you feel you know the players as individual musical speechifiers, not generic new thingers of a semi-anonymous sort.

Pedro detunes, scratches out abstract oaths, and alternates pitch, noise and electronic distortion in ways that continually play against the fragile, insistent and dancing intervallic skips of Sei Miguel's brassiness. As you listen to Sei Miguel on this disk you realize that what at first sounds random is really more thematic in a very expanded sense. He favors certain intervals and their repetition in such a manner that it makes for an interesting response to Pedro's noise clusters. But just when you think you've figured out what will happen for the rest of the disk, something changes it up. For example when Pedro switches to acoustic guitar and coaxes from the instrument some gently arpeggiated or simultaneously sounded clusters.

It goes without saying that this recording will not appeal to everybody. Those patient and open to out aural spaces will perhaps like me grow to like hearing the dialogic logic of this particular brand of freedom unfold over the course of the record. After hearing Turbina Anthem a few times I felt that I could recognize these players fairly readily in a kind of blindfold test if I were to hear them on other future recordings. That IS what it's all about. No Business releases this in a limited 500 copy edition, so grab a copy now before they go. I've added a No Business link to this page in case you feel the urge to do so.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Unthanks Continue Their Modern-Ancient Folk Balladry on "Last"

If the Unthanks' title to their latest CD, Last (Rough Trade), means what it sounds like I will be disappointed. They've gotten my attention with some fine two-singer angelican warbles, nice arrangments of ancient Celtic-English and modern re-compositions or just plain old compositions in a kind of pre-industrial mode. There is beauty and sadness to this music. The vocals are highly distinctive, the arrangements make it seem like Robert Wyatt was reborn in the middle ages, took a time machine to the present and set to work.

This is their strongest album yet I believe. It is moving music, superbly done. Not the last. Not the last, please.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Travis Reuter Takes Guitar and Ensemble On An Eventful Musical Ride for his "Rotational Templates"

NY-based guitarist Travis Reuter shows us that there is more than one way to take fusion rock into more abstract territory. His Rotational Templates (New Focus 117) unfolds in long composed angular juxtipositions that start with the implications of a rock beat, then break up that beat into forward chopped segments that the rhythm section takes up. Against that are guitar-tenor-Rhodes countermelodies that fracture along the lines of the rhythm, but extend the thickness of the music and the momentum of the beat segments. Or at least that's what I hear. It has a counterpart in the chopped bop that young trumpeter Peter Evans is putting across in such an interesting manner (see my Gapplegate Music Blog for various reviews of his work). Neither is imitating the other. The results are different as is the sound of the band. But there is a kind of convergence (and the M-Base folks have done some chopped funk over the years too, but perhaps with a little more forward thrust).

It's a music with room for some excellently conceived solos. Travis has plenty of facility and a stretched har-melodic sense that he unleashes with drive, energy and a recognizably original sound. Jeremy Viner on tenor and Bobby Avey on electric piano bring in their own restless sorts of melodic modulations. Chris Tordini's bass and Jason Nazary's drums give what goes on its definition through some impressively executed chop kicks, relentless in their consistent push, building a kind of excitement that makes the plain places rough in a sort of over-all fashion.

If that sounds complicated to you, the hearing of the music is not a difficult experience. There is sense to it all. Its consistency is the key that unlocks the complexity, revealing pattern and development within a sort of sameness.

Travis has something very interesting going on with this one. He plays in a kind of personal expanded tonality in ways that are exciting. His band has grabbed onto what he is into and in that way they speak as one.

Wow. If you dig the out electric thing this will hit you right in the breadbasket. It's a winning combination of factors and Travis Reuter is a musical sensibility that bears close watching! has the album for direct purchase, as does CD Baby.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Coyote Poets of the Universe Return with "Pandora's Box"

The Colorado outfit Coyote Poets of the Universe do a kind of Gypsy-folk-prog that at this point reminds me of It's A Beautiful Day, updated and refreshed for a new age I suppose, but not insubstantially or by resorting to ear-candy fare. The Poets have a lively nine-person outfit that includes violin, reeds, ethnopercussion and a female & male lead singer tag team, along with the various all and sundry instruments you might expect such a band to include.

Pandora's Box (Square Shaped Records 0105) is their fifth album. The last one, reviewed on these pages, I found quite interesting on an instrumental level. My only problem with it was that the songs themselves were not as well developed as I would have liked to hear. Pandora's Box is vastly improved in that way. It still has some rough edges--in the male vocals perhaps the most so--but it isn't supposed to be slick and it wouldn't work if it was. This is a kind of DIY outfit that has a sound more home-grown than formally schooled per se.

Their combination of retro-psych-folk and post-world is at its strongest on this one. There is a good amount of variety and the quirkiness of the band hangs together well this time. If you have a penchant for off-beat neo-folk, I think this one will do it for you. A good effort.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dominic Duval and Cecil Taylor, The Last Dance

Cecil Taylor has played with some great bassists throughout his long career: Alan Silva, William Parker, to name a few. Yet unless I am wrong he never recorded a lengthy series of duets with any of them until the recently released The Last Dance, Volumes One and Two (Cadence Jazz 1229-1230). This is an entire live concert of Cecil with one of the masters of the contrabass, Dominic Duval. It came about when the producer of a documentary of Cecil and his music (All the Notes) came to realize he was in need of more performance footage for the final version. A concert gig in California resulted, from which the documentary pulled several minutes. The Last Dance gives you the whole of it, 70 minutes on disk one and the final 25 minutes on disk two.

As Dominic states on his lucid liners, the duet is a special one in that Duval's bass playing directly engages Cecil's whirlwind-then-calm-then-whirlwind treatment of melodic cells. There is an inspired two-way interaction going on, which perhaps the duet situation makes especially possible. Cecil's particularly fertile inventive imagination is at a high point for this concert and Dominic unleashes his very considerable arsenal of musical imaging and technical prowess to match and engage Cecil at the note-phrase level. Now that is just a sentence. If you hear the results it will take you far out of the realm of language and into a very special world that transcends the vocabulary available in a short review such as this. This is musical language, a musical conversation on the highest improvisational level. A few paragraphs do not begin to do it justice.

I probably don't need to state the obvious--that Cecil Taylor's improvising in the last 20 or 30 years has catapulted him to a place very few attain. His style-technique has matured and his imagination has soared to the point where he is, at nearly any given moment, a veritable dynamo of musical creation. And one part of that that seems to me especially remarkable is that he doesn't tend to repeat himself. Sure there are key motifs he may return to now and then, but the rest has the tabula rasa excitement of truly free playing at its most extraordinary.

And through this long concert Dominic operates on the same plane.

This is indispensable Cecil, indispensable Dominic, indispensable avant jazz, a landmark among landmarks. So I suppose you can tell I like it? Seriously this is a disk you could spend 20 years listening to (no doubt I will) and there will still be something in it for your ears to absorb anew. Very much recommended. Oh, you can get more info on grabbing a copy of this set by clicking on the CIMP Records link on this blog page, then navigating over to the Cadence Jazz Records section.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Guitarist Torben Waldorff Waxes Lyrical and Then Turns It Up A Bit on "American Rock Beauty"

Now I have not heard Torben Waldorff's other albums, but American Rock Beauty (Artist Share 0102) has a particular way about it that is not entirely the usual. There are some rock-fusion numbers, and a countified tune, but where everything gets interesting to my mind is on the lyrical end of things.

The band is quite solid. Young tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin has a fluid and limber presence which distinguishes the album. Torben Waldorff puts this album in a specially good place through his singing-melodic-harmonic writing and the ringing lyricism of his guitar. He sometimes sounds Abercrombie-esque and he certainly has facility, but the times when he gets bell-like sustain and weaves beautifully expressive solos (like for example on the title cut) are times when he stands out.

Those moments are well worth the price of admission! You can only get this CD directly from Torben at his site Go there and check out the details if you are interested. He makes for worthy listening.