Monday, June 29, 2015

Honeybird, Out Comes Woman

Some music is beyond category. It fits in a number of pegholes but not comfortably. Honeybird (aka multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Monique Mizhrahi) is that, on her album Out Comes Woman (self-released).

She comes out of California of Yiddish-Sephardic parents and an apparent openness to many musical styles and genres. She plays electric bass, charango and sings the lead on all her tunes, accompanied by a good band. There is a quirkiness to it all. R&B, rock, world folk, jazz elements and a good else get into her mix. She was initially attracted to punk in her formative years and I suppose something of that comes through with a careful listen, perhaps more Lydia Lunch than the Sex Pistols. But nothing direct in that sense.

I suppose it all qualifies as a sort of alt music if you must chose. These are songs, good ones, and they partake of a cornucopia of elements to get what she is after.

There are 14 songs in all here. Every one is different and I will not try to give you a blow-by-blow on them. They stand out, as does her singing.

If you are after different, it is found here. Try this one out, by all means.

Friday, June 26, 2015

XADU, Random Abstract

In the realm of guitar-based fusion, all of course depends on the quality of the improvisations and the freshness of the compositions. We get both with the band XADU and their album Random Abstractions. It showcases the electric guitar excellence of Dusan Jevtovic and the fine drumming of Xavi Reija.

They have two previous albums that were covered on these pages (type in the search box above for the reviews): Dusan with Am I Walking Wrong and Xavi with Dusan and bassist Bernat Hernandez on Resolution. Both albums were very good. As the duet XADU they have moved a step further.

This is metal jazz if you like, with compositions that enliven things considerably and excellent musicianship. Dusan reminds ever so slightly of Terje Rypdal in his advanced harmonic-melodic ingenuity. Xavi drums with fervor and imagination, rocking freely with a pulse that is less tied to bar lines than it is additive and subtractive, which frees up the time and gives Dusan a flexibility in phrasing that allows him literally to take off.

The tunes are the opposite of formulaic. Dusan's "New Pop" has a chord progression that stays in your head uniquely. That may be the high point but it all has substance and innovative qualities.

This is an album that needs to be heard. Guitarists will have much to hear on this one, but everyone who responds to fusion will find something different and very much directionally ahead.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

United Slaves #2-3, Vinnie Paternostro, Gene Janas, Jay Reeve, etc.

On the docket today is a double-CD of electric freedom of a cosmic sort, partaking of rock-drone elements and free jazz in a very nice way. The album is entitled United Slaves #2-3 (Improvising Beings ib37).

The band here consists of a quintet. Vinnie Paternostro is on drums, Gene Janas at the double bass, Jay Reeve on synthesizer, Michel Kristof on electric guitar and sitar, and Julien Palomo on keys.

They give us an extended outing that combines a blend of instrumental collectivity with a dynamic changing freedom that does not pulsate so much as express freetime collaging, with neo-psychedelic avant immediacy.

It's outside all the way, with electric guitar onslaughts that blend with washes of keys, bass and drums.

Imagine what some of the vintage psychedelic groups did live for a minute or two in heady times, then imagine that expanded into a long extended 2-CD voyage into space. That's something of what you get.

I find the whole thing fascinating and bracing. If you aren't into the avant electric thing you may shy away from this. That of course is your affair. Intrepid travelers of the spaceways will no doubt take to it like I did. There is nothing compromising here, not even a tune to get your bearings. So take off with it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Metallic Taste of Blood, Doctoring the Dead

Some vital jazz-metal-avant music is being made out there. I've been covering it here when the music strikes me. Another good one is up today. Metallic Taste of Blood is the brainchild of guitar-electrician Eraldo Bernocchi. He put an album out a while ago that I missed, but he returns with a new band lineup and some intriguing heavy sounds on Doctoring the Dead (RareNoise RNR 053 & RNR053LP, CD or vinyl).

The band is a together one, with Bernocchi teaming up with Colin Edwin on bass guitar, Ted Parsons, drums, and either Roy Powell or Matilde Bernocchi on keys and electronics.

The music has compositional structure and very heavy clout. It's about a well wrought group sound more than a showcase for guitar pyrotechnics, though you will hear good playing if you listen closely.

We get all-out, expanded, driving compositional sequences that bring the dark metal sound into space nicely, thoroughgoingly and ambientally.

It has music that grows on you the more you hear it. But it's not for the squeamish, really. The sounds are thick and invigorating! Check it out!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gary Peacock Trio, Now This

It is rather incredible thinking retrospectively at this later date about the presence of bassist Gary Peacock on the jazz scene. He was an important member of many classic avant and otherwise dates before he became the long-standing bassist with Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio. And with Gary's new trio CD Now This (ECM 2428) we are reminded of what he can do and be in a changed playing context.

The trio is an excellent one, with Marc Copland at the piano and Joey Baron on drums, two very beautiful players who have for years managed to create their own stylistic turf in an ever-shifting improvisatory world. The three together here remind you that having a truly individual voice in this music is very difficult and very rare. Peacock, Copland and Baron have done it and by getting together as a threesome they make a trio that stands out as a furtherance of their personal and collective selves as well as of the music.

The tunes are gems, seven by Peacock, two by Copland, one by Baron and the classic "Gloria's Step" by Scott LaFaro. The nod to the bass pioneer reminds us of the now long history of the modern piano trio and Peacock's central place in it, as well as of the critical legacy of LaFaro in creating the bass role for the classic Evans Trio. Gary of course spent a long time creating his own place in that legacy and we are witness to its mature ripening, its full-flowering on this release as on the classic Jarrett sides.

Happily, there is a good deal of Peacock's playing in an out-front context and he sounds very wonderfully himself throughout. The magic touch and voicing excellence of Copland shines forward as well, making this something special. And Baron in the piano trio tradition is subtle and supremely artistic.

This date has a sublimity about it that comes about when three artists of this high caliber get real traction from the three-way dialog. It is inspired music, piano trio music of the highest sort. They are substantially different sounding than the Standards Trio and so there is a freshness here, a different sort of beauty.

Highly recommended!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bud Tristano, Connie Crothers, Primal Elegance

Today's album is most unusual. Connie Crothers has been making advanced free-but-grounded jazz for many years. She is a pianist without peer, a essential creative force in the music today. Her music can look back to earlier jazz roots and you sometimes hear new music elements, all forged into a stylistic originality that is all her own. But if you told me she made a rock album up until recently I would have been incredulous. Well, it so happens she did, in a way, back in 2002. Bud Tristano, son of the titan pianist Lennie, happens to be a very good guitarist who mostly comes out of an advanced hard, metal stance.

Connie and Bud made an album together, Primal Elegance (New Artists 1038CD) that I am only now aware of, thanks to Connie kindly sending me a copy. It is indeed a melding of rock guitar elements and Connie's inimitable piano freedom. This might have been a failure if the two didn't bridge the distance by very close listening. I've heard things like this that did not come off because the connection was never quite made. Not so, this one.

Bud most of the time keeps to free expressions of a metallic sort, well constructed, virtuoso-oriented. He does also adapt himself to less rock-oriented freeness, but it is primarily Connie who shifts what she does, at least at the beginning. What she does at times is adjust toward a centered tonality, modal-eastern and bluesy. It isn't that she plays in ways unlike her. And in the end she gradually gears into complexities that Bud responds to with rock sensibilities and takes it outside himself via bends, feedback and sometimes non-centered chording.

There are ten improvised segments in all. They showcase a fine guitar playing and a brilliant seconding and/or directional openness on Ms. Crother's part that puts it together and makes it much more than just a fascinating meeting of disparity. Ultimately most of the time it achieves a oneness that you would not expect to hear if you didn't already expect great things from Connie. And of course it is Bud's prowess and adaptability that brings coherence on his side as well.

This may not be what a rocker expects and it isn't what an avant free acolyte expects, either. It is a joyous surprise that you need to hear closely to fully appreciate. If you aren't afraid of mixed categories and seek synergies, this is one you will want to explore!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Alessio Alberghini, Garrison Fewell, inVerso

If we keep our ears open these days, there is excellent music to be heard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It may take a bit of combing through the mass of things coming out, and in part that's my job on these posts, to uncover and speak of what is worthwhile.

A just-released album inVerso (Floating Forest) is a prime example. On it are a series of duos that the artists call "Nine Variations on an Intimate Moment," where closeness of musical orientation leads to a sort of uncanny, open oneness. It's Alessio Alberghini on soprano and baritone sax, with an excellently brandished-burnished sound, and Garrison Fewell on electric guitar, a singular player with a smart and inspired approach. The compositional frameworks are by Alberghini and Fewell, with two by the late luminary of the new jazz world, John Tchicai.

The frameworks can be filled with melodically song-like fluidity or be abstract in makeup, but in either case we hear some marvelously attuned duets throughout, two masters who are so compatible musically that, as Ed Hazell's liner notes state, they can feel free to go each in any direction that seems right with confidence that the other player will respond with something equally inspired and fitting.

The music is both free and concentric, with deep listening and deep concentration joining together with two lifetimes of expression and a sure sense of sounding. It becomes so unified that you stop listening in terms of, "here's the guitar, now the sax is doing x, y or z." It is simultaneous sounding in the highest realm. At the same time what Alberghini and Fewell do on their instruments define the parameters of how wide-ranging freedom can somehow sound pre-ordained, have an inevitability that is in fact anything but.

If you are a guitarist, a reed player, and/or just get off on great sounds, this one is the right one for all that. It is a superb example of the art of improvisation today. So grab a copy, already.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Exovex, Radio Silence

Today we have an interesting new (to me) alt-progressive rock band named Exovex and their album Radio Silence (self-released). This is the brain child of Dale Simmons, who wrote all the songs, plays guitars (well), does all the vocals, plays bass and keyboards throughout. He is joined by Nicole Neely on cello, viola and violin, Richard Barbieri on keys for one cut, plus the drum duties divided up between Keith Carlock (2 cuts), Josh Freese (3 cuts) and Gavin Harrison (one cut).

Simmons gives us moody space-age sorts of songs, good ones, well sung with wall-of-sound rock thickness, a hard edge at times, a nice lead guitar presence and a kind of ambient feel throughout which makes this music sound more contemporary than retro.

The songs stand out very nicely and the arrangements give structure. As with this sort of thing in general, the good songs make it all work.

I come away from this album with a real appreciation for the talent of Simmons. It's an album that stands out as a very good example of how this genre of rock can continue to produce worthwhile music. Exovex is most definitely that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

J.B. Hutto & His Hawks, Hawk Squat, with Sunnyland Slim

From the considerable archives of Delmark Chicago blues classics comes a welcome reissue of the 1966-1968 perennial by J.B. Hutto & His Hawks, Hawk Squat (Delmark 617). It reappears now in a new deluxe edition with an extra six unissued tracks and a 20-page booklet.

It's of course the raw-and-real Hutto at his best, lighting the house on fire with his electrifying voice and slide guitar. Sunnyland Slim is on piano, too. And the band as a whole goes full tilt throughout.

When you hear it, you know it. "You just ain't no good" he signifies on the opening "Speak My Mind," and you believe it! And when he sings about how what few friends you have left "groan when they hear your name," you know he is hitting the essence of the blues. The entire 18-track sequence puts you at the edge of your blues seat, because that's the way it was with him, that's the way it was in Chicago, and that's always the way it is when the blues really SPEAK to you.

This is a classic among classics. The extra cuts remind you he was permanently switched to the "on" position back then.

Highest recommendations for this one! It's a blues essential.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Merzbow, Mats Gustafsson, Thurston Moore, Balazs Pandi, Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper

If you expect a pristine clarity, simplicity and quietude in the music you hear, you won't be getting it on the double CD or double LP Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper (Rare Noise RNR052 and RNR052LP). In fact this music is the opposite, with nebulaic maelstroms of chaotic collage. complexity and cosmic noise. The quartet sees to it that all hell breaks loose, in very vivid ways. No wonder. Merzbow (aka Masami Akita) brings in his already dense concept of noise and power electronics. Added to it is the wind strength of Mats Gustafsson on saxes, clarinet and more power electronics. Then there's the very all-over guitar chaos of Thurston Moore, best known for his seminal work with Sonic Youth but also an avant garde artist in his own right (he shared a program with Cecil Taylor and they played some together, for example). Finally there is the bashing heavy rock complexities of drummer Balazs Pandi.

The two-CD or LP set gives us a long intertwined poetic essay in very dense noise. Generally those sounds are multi-dimensional, continuous and, with the exception of the third of four segments where things get relatively open and quieter, unrelenting.

You generally get a clear picture of who is doing what, except perhaps how much of the power electronics is Gustafsson and how much Merzbow. But the overall effect is endlessly dense.

Now maybe this is something you are going to be predisposed to like or hate based on where you already are in your listening. I would like to think though that any adventurous soul could come to appreciate the sounds very much. It has some very extreme guitar skronking, some very deeply chaotic electronic noise, some fine honk-scatter sax work, and very busy, heavy drumming.

Don't expect a Sonic Youth sort of thing, except a few minutes of the Sonics in their most extreme moments. Do expect the noisy chaos of Merzbow, augmented by three musicians who are most seriously on the same page here. It's exhilarating, extreme, to some it might be maddening at first, but in the end it is a fine, exemplary work of noise art.

I happen to find it a great listen and endlessly fascinating. Maybe you will, too? Open up and give this one a chance to work its magic.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Spanish Donkey, Raoul, with Joe Morris, Jamie Saft, Mike Pride

The trio Spanish Donkey returns to us with a new outing called Raoul (RareNoise RNR054 & RNR054), available as CD or double LP.

It kicks out all the jams with a flourish, thanks to the free metal guitar of Joe Morris, the keyboard densities of Jamie Saft and the brash drumming excellence of Mike Pride.

This in a way is an all-star trio. Each player has that something special and they are determined here to make an album that is free, very dark-metal oriented but with the lucidity of outside jazz inventiveness.

Joe Morris cranks up his guitar and gives it spank and spunk with plenty of sustain and effects. Jamie Saft lays down intensely thick washes of keys that cover all the sonic and frequency possibilities for a heaviness born of a sure sense of sound sculpture. Mike Pride explodes with barrages of freedom appropriate to the heaviness of the music. He is the RIGHT drummer for this trio because he has all the energy, technique and stylistically informed originality going for this music.

Joe Morris shows us he can take his own open approach and make it densely raw and soulfully skronky in a post-Hendrix sort of maelstrom. It is the sort of performance any guitarist in the heavy zone needs to hear closely and learn from. But that's true of the trio as a whole.

This is extreme and extremely satisfying jazz metal with no pretense and pure commitment.

If you like things outside and heavy, this one will lift you up to a very high place. It is a monument in its own way. Everyone should hear it if they can deal with a boldly uncompromising excellence!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Last Exit, Iron Path, with Sonny Sharrock

Electric guitarist Sonny Sharrock was the prime moving force on his instrument during the first years of free-avant jazz and in the years to follow. No one came close to approaching him for energy and sound scatter excellence. He did not gain fame especially, but those who knew the music recognized him as the master of the guitar freedom he espoused.

When in the past phase of his career he turned to avant-free rock, there was nothing half-hearted or tentative about it. It was and is completely convincing. His recordings with various drummers, Elvin Jones, Ginger Baker and often with Bill Laswell on bass and Peter Brotzmann on reeds were seminal. As a member of Last Exit he excelled as well.

That group's only studio recording, Iron Path (ESP 4075), recorded in 1988, was an exceptional effort and its re-release this spring is a very welcome occasion.

The recording finds Sharrock, Brotzmann, and Laswell in tandem with drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, who most certainly was a fundamental part of this band and comes through excellently here. The studio album has the hardness of the live recordings but a bit less of the brash assault and more compositional and ambient elements. That is not to say it is any less essential than the others, but that it is slightly different.

Sharrock sounds beautiful, Brotzmann fire-y, Laswell exceptionally primed and Jackson a controlled whirlwind of percussive strength. It is a tragedy that Sonny left this earth only three years later, just as he was on the verge of a stardom no one would have expected years before. And very sad too, that Jackson left us in 2013, far too early.

We can take solace in this excellent date. It was one of the conflagration's very best and sounds every bit as current today as it did back then. Viva Last Exit! Do not miss this one now while it is again available. It's a monumental outing!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hugo Carvalhais, Grand Valis

Bassist-composer Hugo Carvalhais shows us some extraordinary versatility on the new music-free front with his recent offering, Grand Valis (Clean Feed 330). The ten-work quartet performance forms a "long meditative suite upon the world," as the liner notes state. This is a very attractive retro-futurist and futurist open-form kind of music, heightened by the compositional frameworks and the acute sensibilities and sound colors of the performers.

Hugo of course holds forth on the acoustic bass and does so with consistently interesting line weaving. Gabriel Pinto's organ-celeste and keyboard work often gives the music a distinctive kind of retro-out quality, sometimes hearkening back indirectly to early avant experimental music, even at times reminding me of the music of Henry Brant, if ever so obliquely and perhaps just in terms of a convergence. Dominique Pifarely on violin shows concert music training but like Carvalhais and Pinto, puts it all in the service of the improvisatory arts, and quite well at that. Finally there are electronic colorations by Jeremiah Cymerman and occasionally Hugo to further move the music into worldly-otherworldly realms.

There is excellent improvisational work from all the instrumentalists but too there is a conceptual fervor that comes out of Hugo Carvalhais' lively imagination.

All of this sets the music apart as exceptional, neither quite free jazz nor new music. It finds a space in between the two genres for something monumentally different yet somehow reflecting the elation of the discovery of new music in earlier eras.

An exciting program! Very much recommended to those with a sense of adventure. It shows us that Hugo Carvalhais does not stand still, but has become an artist to be closely followed. Here is a place to start, for sure.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Gustavo Leguizamón, El Cuchi Bien Temperado, Pablo Márquez

Gustavo “Cuchi” Leguizamón as played by classical guitarist Pablo Márquez (ECM New Series 2380)? Yes. El Cuchi Bien Temperado is an album of compositions for solo guitar beautifully arranged by Márquez from the zamba dance pieces of Argentinian poet, guitarist, pianist, composer Leguizamón (1917-2000) and played in an excellently vibrant manner.

Leguizamón was a folk innovator, adopting and internalizing the Argentinian zamba tradition but then adding modern elements harmonically and melodically. Like Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier," the cycle of pieces as arranged by Márquez covers all 24 possible keys. They bring out the guitar sensibilities and brilliance of Márquez vividly in performances that reach out to the listener. And most importantly, the musical results stay with you on repeated hearings. It is marvelous music in definitive performances.

Any guitar enthusiast who is serious about the full range of possibilities needs to hear this one, both for the magnificence of the pieces and the sheer artistry of the guitarist.

Give yourself something new and fantastic. Grab this one!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Pat Bianchi Trio, A Higher Standard

The organ trio revival shows no signs of lagging, which I personally think a good thing. To keep it all alive a trio must be very good, of course, or what is the point? Happily such a good, even excellent trio can be heard in the Pat Bianchi conflagration, with Pat on organ, Byron Landham on drums and Craig Ebner on guitar. A Higher Standard (21-H Records) is the album in question and it is very worthwhile.

As implied by the title, this is primarily a set of standards, with a couple of Bianchi originals to spice the mix. The standards on tap are not entirely typical. "Without A Song," "Some Other Time," and "So Many Stars" come out of the great American songbook repertoire but then there are some jazz goodies like Coltrane's "Satellite," Evans's "Very Early" and Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark." There is also something in the contemporary song realm, Stevie Wonder's "From the Bottom of My Heart."

The musicianship is on a very high level and the arrangements are well done. Bianchi has the bop and post-bop facility we expect in abundance. He has the velocity and imagination of a first-rate Hammondist, and as much a modern post-Earland quality as not. He takes up a good deal of solo time and does it with soul and good pacing. Ebner has the sort of chops and nuance that makes for an excellent second voice in the trio. Landham swings imaginatively and with the nuanced drive of a real pro. Put these three together with this material and you have an excellent trio album.

One of the better organ trio albums of the year so far. Get it!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ameranouche, Sunshine Soul

With the recent revival or the Django Reinhardt-Gypsy Jazz style of guitar-centered jazz we have experienced a good deal of music that sounds near to the Hot Club Paris ensembles that served to establish Reinhardt as the first bonafide European jazz innovator. Remakes are fine and have a place in reintroducing and popularizing various styles, but ultimately when such as style begins to progress in its own right, all the better for the music scene.

We can hear a clear development happening with the trio Ameranouche and their album Sunshine Soul (Red Squirrel Records). There is the solid chunk of rhythm acoustic guitar which is so important a part of the style, there is solid bass backing, though much more adventuresome than typical of Gypsy style jazz as we ordinarily hear it, and there is virtuoso, extroverted lead acoustic guitar to be heard as one might expect. But the solos both partake in the Reinhardtian style while they extend it and go beyond it. It is no accident that the album cover proffers the music as "Gypsy Flamenco Swing," because there is a flamenco element to be heard, too. Nonetheless all of it has original directionality.

The musical threesome consists of Richard "Shepp" Sheppard on guitar and vocals, Michael K. Harrist on upright bass and vocals, and Jack Soref on guitar. Both guitarists can solo well, the bass playing is very fine and then there is one cut where they are joined by Tobey Sol LaRoche on percussion and vocals for a Gypsy swing version of the soul classic "Could it Be I'm Falling in Love," something unexpected but a refresher given its one-off nature.

It's an album of good music, excellent guitar playing, excellent bass work, plus it goes someplace with the Gypsy style that other groups have not. For all those reasons I recommend the album to you heartily.