Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Curved Air Rarities Series Volume 2, Curved Space and Infinity

From the vaults and long deleted catalog numbers comes The Curved Air Rarities Series Volume 2: Curved Space & Infinity (Curved Air Records 002). The Brit prog band is caught in a psychedelic space-metal jam mode on two sessions somewhat separated in time but unified in their free, open spacey context. Disk one contains "Curved Space," disk two "Infinity."

The first was edited down from five hours of jamming from 2001 (?) and features Francis Monkman and Mike Gore on guitars, Rob Martin on bass guitar and Florian Pilkington-Miksa on drums.

The second disk, hailing from somewhat later, involves Pilkington-Miksa, Robert Norton on keys and Kirby Gregory on guitar.

This is the sort of thing they did as early as 1968--and sounds virtually nothing like the typical studio sessions. It's all space, all jam, and nothing in the way of songs.

But for the jam-space crowd out there this is wholesome good fun, deliberately off-track and filled with a huge quantity of stars and dark matter!

It's a reminder of the jam roots of the later '60s and in fact still sounds fresh and interesting.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Club d'Elf, Live at Helsinki Club, 2-CD Set

Club d'Elf has nearly always impressed me as a psychedelic fusion jazz outfit with smarts as well as soul. Their new 2-CD set, Live at Club Helsinki (Face Pelt 5003) continues that creative strain and adds to it, thanks in part to the addition of key phenom John Medeski. There is more than ever a pronounced North African strain to be heard as well, with Brahim Fribgane effectively coming through on oud, voice and percussion.

The rest of the band--Duke Levin (guitar), Mister Rourke (DJ), Mike Rivard (bass, sintir, bass kalimba), Dean Johnston (drums) and Thomas Workman on flute for a couple of cuts--bring us a groovingly varied program of long form improvisation and attractive riffs.

Perhaps there are less bands actively engaging in post-Milesian psych-jazz-rock now than there was a few years back, or perhaps it is only that I am not sent as much of this sort of thing than I used to, but in either event I am glad to dig into this set and explore it in depth.

There is finely detailed group interactions, nice guitar, oud and key soloing, and substance to be heard every step of the way.

Anyone who takes to the electric jam thing will find this one a boon, for sure. Viva Club d'Elf!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Mark Dresser Seven, Sedimental You

Last February I was pleased to review the remarkable DVD Virtual Tour: Reduced Carbon Footprint on my Gapplegate Music Blog. (See  It was an ambitious gathering of three fine ensembles playing elaborate compositions and improvising around them in two or three locations at the same time via advanced internet hookups.

Bassist-composer Mark Dresser was a crucial participant. Now we have a sort of follow-up with Dresser leading a seven-tet, some of the members of which were a part of the Virtual Tour. Along with Dresser we have a significant gathering of Nicole Mitchell on soprano and alto flutes, Marty Ehrlich on clarinet and bass clarinet, David Morales Boroff on violin. Michael Dessen on trombone, Joshua White on piano and Jim Black on drums and percussion.

The album is Sedimental You (Clean Feed 385), a word play referencing the standard "Sentimental You" as well as underscoring the importance of instrumental layering in the delightfully complex modern avant jazz fare we hear on this landmark album.

Seven composition-arrangements by Dresser define the set. They are beautifully detailed, freely sprawling significances for the trajectory and memorability of the melodic-harmonic spectrum each distinctively maps out.

At the same time there is a freedom both in ensemble moments and in solo work by Mark and the others.

This is jazz composition of a very original and satisfying sort, modern original music by a remarkable ensemble of players who interpret their parts and improvise as called upon in stellar ways.

This may be the jazz composition album of the year for me, or at least one of the very few most original and ravishing to come out.

Anyone interested in what's NEW in jazz should not hesitate. Get this!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

John Lee Hooker, The Modern, Chess and Veejay Singles Collection 1949-62

Anybody with a serious interest in blues classics of the second half of the 20th century knows undoubtedly of the importance of John Lee Hooker. He had his very own way both vocally and in his guitar playing. We can get a real feel for the development of his music in its essence with the recently released  4-CD box set The Modern, Chess and VeeJay Singles Collection 1949-62 (Acrobat ACQCD7103). With both "A" and "B" sides included we get a rich presentation of 101 tracks showing John Lee Hooker at his very finest.

Throughout the period singles were the principal medium to get blues out to its public. By the close of this period LPs were starting to assert themselves, but the grassroots attention was still on the single even then, pretty much. So a collection of the singles output is much a collection of his most significant work.

The set follows chronologically in order of release. We get a gradual unfolding of his art, beginning much of the time with John's electric, his stomping feet and his vocals. Although increasingly the I-IV-V progression is implied, John never sounds the changes himself. Later on other guitars, bass, piano may sound the IV and V changes overtly, and in the end drums supplement his stomps, but John's droning guitar riffing remains a key element as it did for the rest of his career.

And all that is crucial because his guitar approach was as influential as anybody's in this period, even though from a technical perspective there were many others who were more developed, surely. What John plays, though, is always right, always right for what he wants to do. Needless to say his vocals were some of the most electrifying and soulful sounds you could hear then...and now.

There are favorites, must-haves like "Boom Boom," "Boogie Chillen," "Crawlin' King Snake" and there are those more obscure, but it's ALL good. He was like the cat who always landed on his feet, no matter what the fall. Peerless.

This is essential. Absolutely.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Jeff Platz, Low Light Filter, with Dmitry Ishenko, Dalius Naujokaitis

Guitarist Jeff Platz has been doing some great things and I have covered a few on these pages. He is back with another fine one, Low Light Filter (Glitch Records 005), a trio date with Dmitry Ishenko on acoustic bass and Dalius Naujokaitis on drums.

It is a nicely moody, quiet yet intensely focused date. The trio can tumble freely or drive subtly, with the emphasis on creating open line interactions that can be bluesy or chromatic but always worth hearing. The quality of the three-in-one is high, yet the focus much of the time is Jeff's winding improvisations and Dmitry's seconding of the line counterpoints in effective artistic spontaneity.

It's an album I find myself welcoming as I listen further. It is an absorbing showcase for the three exploring their own personal paths to jazz advancement.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Stick Men, Prog Noir

Stick Men is probably the most important avant prog unit operating today. No wonder. It has an all-star lineup of two of the foremost "stick men," that is, players of the "stick" or touch guitars and one of the very finest of prog rock drummers. Namely we have Tony Levin on stick and vocals, Markus Reuter on U8 and AU8 Touch Guitars and voice, and Pat Mastelloto on all manner of drums and percussion.

Their recent album Prog Noir (SMN1611) gives us an excellent opportunity to hear the band in full stride, with complex and startling instrumental togetherness, compositions-songs of a very high caliber, and a vocal-instrumental iconoclasm that goes past Crimson heights to a new feeling of being AHEAD.

It's a monument in the new prog developments and a solid gasser to hear.

Do not miss this!

Oh, and MoonJune Records, which is closely associated with this band and recording, has put together Fool of Music, a major 2.5 hour anthology of Markus Reuter music over the years. It's a free download. Go to to get it. Very cool stuff!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Eraldo Bernocchi, Prakash Sontaake, Invisible Strings

There are a number of ways, of course, that musical duos can flourish. One good way is through contrast. That is how the album Invisible Strings (Rarenoise RNR 069/RNRLP069) becomes a thing set apart. Eraldo Bernocchi appears here on baritone and regular six-string electric guitars plus electronics. Prakash Sontakke complements him on electric lap steel guitars.

The contrast comes out of Prakash's special neo-Indian brilliance on the lap steel versus Eraldo's spacy solo and ensemble orchestral guitars-electronics.

There is an ambiance to this music that puts it in a cosmic zone. The guitar work in such a setting has a neo-psychedelic spin to it that has much appeal. Prakash turns in some very beautiful work here; Eraldo finds just the right things to play in response.

The music has a magic to it that grows with every listen. Its cavernous beauty may well appeal to a wide audience, yet it does so with an integrity and artistry that will also please the most exacting of ears.

This is something to put on and drift with. Let it take you beyond where you are!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bobby Previte, Mass

One cannot help but reflect while listening to drummer-composer Bobby Previte's Mass (Rare Noise 072) how far we have come from the Electric Prunes' setting of the Mass, composed and recorded at the beginning of an incipient flourishing of rock as art in the later '60s. It was at the time a sort of cutting-edge proclamation that rock was worthy of serious attention as a musical form. Those who were not alive at the time or otherwise did not explore the art rock camp may have no idea of all this. But regardless the Bobby Previte work recorded on Rare Noise is miles beyond those early beginnings.

At the basis for this Mass is Dufay's "Missa Sancti Jacobi," an acapella choral work from the Renaissance. It is sung nicely here by The Rose Ensemble. Overtop, in between and around that is a heavy metal-avant-psychedelic score performed  by Previte and a formidable cast of modern electricians that include Jamie Saft, Marco Benevento, Reed Mathis, Stephen O'Malley, and others on electric guitars, keys, bass, etc.

Amazing to hear is the contrast of power chording and the counterpoint of the Dufay, both working against each other in myriad ways to forge something wholly other.

Previte's drumming is as advanced in the "heavy" zone as you'll hear. But the full totality of advanced psychedelics, post-Messianesque organ musings and Renaissance choir, the sheer viscerality of torqued guitars against clear and fresh choir is really rather superb in its shocking together-in-apart profundity. Perhaps without Charles Ives and his first disparately contrasting collages of musical elements we might have never come to this. But here we are.

This is incredibly beautiful metal. It is a landmark! I wonder what the Electric Prunes might think of it? I think they would approve.

Highest reccomendations for this!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Kevin Kastning, Sandor Szabo, Perspectives

A lively world of extraordinary ambiance awaits you on the duo guitar album by Kevin Kastning and Sandor Szabo, Perspectives (greydisc 3531). Kastning has been enchanting us with his multi-string guitar music (see index to this blog for reviews) and he returns for a series of exploratory duos with multi-string guitarist Sandor Szabo. Perspectives (greydisc 3531) gives us nine structured improvisations that show off well the extraordinary capabilities of the two guitarists and their instruments.

Szabo holds forth on a 16-string classical guitar and a 16-string contraguitar; Kastning makes use of his 36-string double contraguitar, his 30 string contra-alto guitar and a 15-string extended classical guitar. The euphonious results are nothing less than extraordinary.

The vast capabilities of these guitars in the hands of Kastning and Szabo are beautiful to hear. Breathtakingly full harmonics, double-stranded notes, nylon versus steel stringed sonances, a full range of tones from bass to high notes, and the amazing possibilities available to the two are out front and potently present.

And the choice of notes, advanced and complex melodically and/or harmonically, makes for a modern music of deep profundity. Likely you have never heard anything quite like this, unless on a previous album by Kastning. The combination of two multi-stringed guitars and the talents of the two are unprecedented nonetheless.

Anyone who plays or even just appreciates acoustic guitar music will find this album exceedingly fascinating, beautiful and rewarding. This is tour de force music for super-guitars, played by two super-guitarists!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Morphine, Journey of Dreams, A Film By Mark Shuman, DVD

The band Morphine was that most rare of synergies, an outlandish combination of two-string slide bass, great vocals, baritone sax and drums and the musical genius of Mark Sandman to make it all work. Their brilliant, all-too-short existence is artfully and comprehensively documented on the Mark Shuman film and now DVD Morphine: Journey of Dreams (MVD Visual 93200) from the almost accidental beginnings to widespread critical and audience acclaim and the ever-difficult demands to obtain mass success that alternative bands were pressured into in the wake of the surprise mainstream presence of Nirvana.

Very good live footage of the band in action is sprinkled into the insightful narrative brought forward by surviving band members, close friends, family, music business partners and appreciative fellow musicians like Joe Strummer (of Clash) and Henry Rollins. 

The tragic death of Sandman and its aftermath is covered movingly. 40 minutes of additional interview footage adds depth to this DVD edition.

It is one of the smartest and well-paced rockumentaries I have ever seen. And as a fan of Morphine it gives me the full story for the first time. I recommend it to all similar fans and anyone interested in the rise of the alt scene.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Richard Pinhas, Tatsuya Yoshida, Matsami Akita, Merzbow, Process and Reality

I've found out thanks to my blogging that what guitarist Richard Pinhas does gets my attention and keeps it. Here today is a new one with Tatsuya Yoshida and Matsami Akita, a.k.a. Merzbow, Process and Reality (Cuneiform Rune 432). It's a noise art summit meeting, certainly, and an especially good one. Continuity and flow are crucial--there is a constant complex white noise and drone carpet from which sounds emerge--some great Pinhas space guitar, some Merzbow oscillating noise, some insistent Yoshida drum tatoos. This could go on forever and I would be happy if it did--not however my neighbors or my partner. The press sheet (thanks, Joyce!) says it is a "serenade for a society on the verge of collapse." A few years ago that might have made me laugh, but right now I am not so sure! Industrial collapse? Hell, probably.

And with all that doom is a sound mass that, swear to you, puts you in a kind of alternate reality if you listen closely. Paradoxically that's what modern, avant art has often been about, advancing a new consciousness within the Trojan horse of ultra-hive-insanity commerce.

Richard and some or all (or none) of them are touring Japan right now. But if you aren't over there just grab this dystopian masterwork!

Friday, October 28, 2016

John Lindberg Raptor Trio, Western Edges, with Pablo Calogero and Joe LaBarbera

Smart, open-form avant jazz is the order of the day on bassist John Lindberg's Raptor Trio and their album Western Edges (Clean Feed 389). Drumming vet ace Joe LaBarbera makes for a substantial rapport with John. Lesser-known baritonist Pablo Calogero holds his own and forms an attractively dark front line with John on the composed sections. Both John and Pablo contribute the compositional frameworks and they hang together well.

Pablo does a great job getting around on his baritone, fleet and swinging when that is the ticket, open and free for those numbers that call for it. He deserves wider attention for sure.

Joe LaBarbara can swing like a mother and does, but he also understands and excels at the freetime role when that is in order.

John Lindberg's bass playing comes through beautifully throughout. Whether bowing or pizzicato, whether responding to Pablo, soloing, or as a front line articulator, he is superb.

And when you put it all together this is an album of great merit, something you should hear for a fine example of where avant jazz is right now. Get it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz, The Organ Grinder

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz is back with their third album, The Organ Grinder (Rare Noise Records 068). On hand is the strong neo-metal electric bass of Colin Stewart, the slithery sax of Rebecca Sneddon and hard hitting drumming of Paul Archibald (along with a little piano and organ). Guesting effectively for this one is Luc Klein on trumpet (four cuts) and Patrick Garley on trombone (two cuts).

The Organ Grinder pioneers its way through the metal psychedelia jazz that is its trademark, but also adds some roots, a little hardbop and old school funk to open things up a bit.

And that gives us the listeners a little changing up and plenty to latch onto.

Nicely done!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Marcos Varela, San Ygnacio

Marcos Varela bursts on the scene as an important bassist and bandleader in the contemporary jazz world that comes out of the work of some of the master jazzmen prominent in the '60s and '70s especially--Trane and McCoy Tyner come to mind most readily, but then Herbie Hancock too and some of the Blue Note classic sides of the era.

Yet like the best art of continuation this goes forward from there. What is this? Marcos Varela's album San Ygnacio (Origin 82711). Varela puts on an exemplary bass attitude throughout as bandmate and as soloist. He is joined by a core group of masters: Billy Hart on drums and George Cables on piano (for all but a couple of tracks). They are enhanced and forwarded by the solid fire of Logan Richardson on alto for most of this. Clifton Anderson on trombone, Dayna Stephens on tenor, and Arnold Lee on alto (and Eden Ladin on piano plus Kush Abadey on drums on several tracks) add substance as well.

The mix of one standard and a bunch of contemporary mainstream originals (by Varela, Hart, Cables, Mraz, Ladin, Anderson) sets up a very conducive situation for great blowing.

It all swings and makes for a terrific listen. Varela has arrived.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cameron Mizell, Negative Spaces

Electric guitarist Cameron Mizell shows what he is made of on Negative Spaces (Destiny Records). He has a jazz-rock sophistication and a melodic-harmonic inventive sense that stands out with nice grooves and tunes. He is ably seconded by Brad Whiteley on keys and Kenneth Salters on drums.

I suppose you might call this laid-back psychedelics. Cameron picks through some nice note choices and expands the compositional frameworks with smarts and taste. It's not an album you put on and exclaim, "holy living cow!" Instead it quietly sneaks up on you and does its work until you are under its spell.

Cameron is not so much out to impress though sooner or later you may well feel that way. He is in a making good music mode. And he strings it all together very well, with a lyric touch. Worth hearing. Mizell is a talent.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bent Knee, Say So

Oh, something different. Something really good. A group named Bent Knee. Their 3rd album, called Say So (Cuneiform Rune 417). The main vocalist (is it Courtney Swain?) is filled with the spirit of song, emotions that reflect a postmodern alienation. (Is that it? It is not a typical expression in the lyric and projection. It's part of what makes this group and album special. I cannot give it a worthy name. It is self-introspective, oddly abstract surreal in concrete ways, and the world outside of self seems pretty uninterested in the inner struggle?) It can be like that so they capture a new loneliness that comes of techno-isolation?

The arrangements are really fresh and unexpected. They climax when you do not expect them to and do so with vocal-instrumental singularity. And then it goes up another notch and you did not expect that.  There is a band in there that is disciplined. Nice guitar-vocal interplays, fully orchestral keys, drums not stuck in a rut, some real soundscapy moments of beauty. And it's the careful brilliance of the flow that makes it so, like POSTMODERN? No,  POSTPOST. Heavy when you least expect it, transparent in moments, then heavy again. Ironic and obliquely assuming the other but not connect to him or her except in fleeting moments?

The structure of the band's routines and the wonderful vocal placements. Not Imogen Heap but something equally vocally interesting. Like what my dad said about the last World Series he watched before he died. "The pitchers and the catchers...". Well, yes, it's like that. You can label it but it goes considerably beyond what you can name, for now. The pitchers and the catchers....the routines and their placement. Like that.

This album floors me. It is so fully itself and successfully so that you cannot map out a song before you hear it and some groups get that kind of predictability now and again.

"Every lawn is green, every fence is white, and you're the only one I see when I close my eyes." Poetic weirdness, evocative imagery in the lyrics and then a damned ton of power from the band obliterates the delicacy for a while because life is getting in the way again?

This is a rock album of the year for me so far. Maybe the? Maybe! It is a game-interrupter. The damndest music I've heard in a long time....

Oh, they are touring the US this October, opening for Dillinger Escape Plan. Check the net.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

La Lucha, Eljuri

OK, a week without posting here? It was not intentional and I hope to get my life settled and avoid the interruptions. It's not like I have nothing to write about. For example there is La Lucha (Manovill 70026 14445 43), the third album from singer-songwriter-guitarist Eljuri.

She sings for "the fight," the fight against injustice and senseless violence. Cecilia Villar Eljuri has been at it for 20 years. She has Spanish and Lebanese roots.

The music is a kind a Latin-Rock amalgam with some heavy guitar and an eclectic approach, oh and her nicely put together vocals.

I am enjoying this album as we speak. She has got something very good going. The first hearing I did not quite put it together but now I get it.

She's good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Joelle Leandre, Theo Ceccaldi, Elastic

The liner notes by Stef Gijssels on the album today pretty much sum up the exceptional kind of new music improv heights achieved by contrabassist Joelle Leandre and violinist Theo Ceccaldi on Elastic (Cipsela 006). It is the thoroughgoing inspiration of two masters of their instruments coming up with a beautiful two-way sonance that hangs together as brilliant in-the-moment creations that are considerably more than a coincidental coincidence of two instrumentalists. It is more the magic of creation than simply "freeing" it up. After more than 50 years of freedom in the music realm we should expect the best matchups to go beyond. Here they most certainly do.

Joelle brings forward her multi-range bowing thoughts to second Theo's upper-range violin ideas while still holding down the bottom end. But there is considerably more going on. It's all about string tone, yes, beautifully so, and yet it is still about the notes so that we get a multi-dimensional expression, a total musical phenomenon.

Like a rubber band, the duo stretches what is possible in the listen-participation zone, so it's not idea and response so much as it is simultaneous double ideas that come into play. Beautifully so.

As a bass and violin improvisation set Joelle and Theo show us their phenomenal mastery and move us! Do not miss this one. It is breakthrough improv in all senses of the phrase!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Golfam Khayam and Mona Matbou Riahi, Narrante

A finely wrought change-of-pace is in the works today with the Iranian Naqsh Duo of Golfam Khayam on acoustic guitar and Mona Matbou Riahi on clarinet and their recent album Narrante (ECM 2475).

Both players are quite good. They combine Persian tradition and tonalities with an original composition-improv approach for some haunting music.

Both were born in Tehran, founded their duo in 2014 and recorded this album in Lugano, 2015.

What makes this album especially attractive is the fine interplay between Riahi's floating clarinet tone and Khayam's well developed, singingly classical guitar style.

The music has a magic of its own that mark this duo as something very special. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Joe Morris, Shock Axis

Avant pacesetter Joe Morris takes us further out in a power trio, psychedelic free zone with his recent Power Axis (Relative Pitch 1050). It is Joe on a very electric guitar pulling out all the stops in company with an excellent trio in tandem with Chris Cretella on electric bass and Dave Parmelee on drums.

It's a full-out assault on the senses with maximum energy, motility, movement and NASA grade thrust.

Joe cranks it and lets loose with those torrents of his, but with the psychedelic power decibility it awes your sonic senses even more than is the norm. Cretella follows in the outward path with bass power and lines that compliment Joe's excellently. Parmelee is drumming full-out in that space between freetime and power rock.

This is a performance not to be missed, with plenty of variability and projective out melodics. Joe seems to have jumped over a hurdle lately and is playing with a controlled abandon even more dramatic than one expects from him, placing him at the top of the free guitar heap as he has been for some time, but doing so in ways that the heavy avant metal aficionados out there will most definitely take to heart.

Excellent heavy outness! Joe and trio are on a roll and it is a pleasure to hear them in such an inspired mode!

Recommended heartily!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Rupert Boyd, Fantasias

Rupert Boyd is a classical guitarist who, yes, gets all the notes right. But he also brings to each piece a mastery of phrasing and a rhythmic jolt at times that puts him in the coterie of artists of excellence.

All this you hear to fine advantage on his album Fantasias (Little Mystery 103). On it is a cornucopia of works from virtually all ages and places--a Piazzolla tango, an arrangement of four old Celtic songs by D. Russell, a couple of short works by DeFalla, a Villa-Lobos etude, John Dowland and on from there.

The exceptional clarity and expressiveness that is the Boyd way is rare and a great thing to hear. Check out this terrific album!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Burnt Belief, Emergent

Burnt Belief is a trio with a large, advanced, sophisticated prog rock compositional approach. They release the final part of a trilogy on Emergent (Hard World CD HDCD012). It has that spooky sort of fullness of sound that has something to do with Porcupine Tree bassist-programmer Colin Edwin.

But then Jon Durant sounds great on both electric guitars and keys. And Vinny Sabatino does a great job in the drums-percussion department.

Durant and Edwin are the composers for the duration of this fine album.

There is an unworldly sound to this band that gradually works its way into your soul. Edwin plays a memorable bass throughout And the uncanny guitar-keys blend will set your ears off, truly.

I recommend this to you who seek the latest in prog futurism! And to you who don't know what that means, too.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, Glasslands 2010-2011, Radiance

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut has been one of the most incandescent and prolific of avant jazz recording artists in the last few decades. But lately I have not seen as many new releases coming out. The recent issue of an explosive live recording, Radiance, Glasslands 2010/2011 (self-released) makes up for the lack. It's the band letting loose with untrammeled energy and passion, with a presence of outside electricity in the person of Gene Moore on electric guitar, who adds some genuine fireworks, Jeffrey on a very boisterous alto, and a hugely thick barrage from Gene Janas on acoustic bass, Matt Luczak on drums, Dikko Faust on trombone, Pete Dragotta on baritone-flugel-pocket trumpet . . . and for the septet Shurdut, Moore, Janas, plus Marcus Cummins on alto and soprano, Brian Osborne on drums, Takuma Kanaiwah on musette, and Sam Englander on violin.

This is a very thorough blowout. The band makes a huge sound thanks especially to the amassed horns and Moore's rattling sustained feedback skronk on guitar.

This is one to clear your system with! It's off-the-wall all the way but in the best SORT of way. Whoo!

Monday, August 29, 2016

D. Lazro, J. Leandre, G. Lewis, Enfances, 8 Janv. 1984

I am not here to tell you what to like. After all, who am I? Not some authority and if I said I were you should become suspicious, because after all we are all peddling our butts one way or another. I am just an avid listener (lifetime) with ears you can trust. Otherwise, I am just another schmoe. If I get lots of readers it benefits me--not in some monetary sense, in fact just the opposite. My wife blames the loss of our house in foreclosure to these blogs. Who knows, she could be right?

But that's my business. And my wife's, I suppose. If I come on here and tell you that the recently released album Enfances (Fou CD 18), a 1984 recording by alto saxman Daunik Lazro, bassist-vocalist Joelle Leandre and trombonist George Lewis is well worth your attention, it is because I feel that way. I get nothing out of liking what I do here.

But I DO like this one very much. It's a free avant romp, jazz if you will. Lazro is not as familiar to me as he should be but he is certainly blazing here. Joelle Leandre turns in the sort of exemplary free contrabass excellence and vocal projectivity she does so well...and some of it all is based on Rimbaud! George Lewis needs no introduction (or should need none) as one of the premiere avant trombonists and musical thinkers of our time.

You put all this together for ten improvisations and you have something great! That is, you have Enfances. It is an adventure, a trip into expression, out sound, brilliant invention. A great combination of three masters!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Modular String Trio, Ants, bees and butterflies

New music improv from Eastern Europe? That is what is happening on the Modular String Trio's provocative album Ants, bees and butterflies (Clean Feed 377). This is more the new music than the free jazz side of improv, so you are not going to hear much nodding to jazz roots but rather a good bit of abstract invention that is sound color oriented and only tangentially key-centered. But then again there are moments that have some folk roots as well.

Sergiy Okhrimchuk is on violin, Jacek Mazurkiewicz on acoustic bass and electronics, Robert Jedrzejewski on cello and Lukasz Kacperczyk is on modular synth. So it's actually a string trio plus electronics.

The strings get nice things going and the electronics expand the color envelope.

It is consistently musically contentful and original. It's something different, with a distinct musical personality. I find it keeps my attention and gives the ears lots of exercise. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dom Minasi, Jack DeSalvo, Soldano Dieci Anni

A two-guitar duet album with Dom Minasi and Jack DeSalvo? I was not sure what that would be until I put it on. Soldano Dieci Anni (Unseen Rain) is a hugely beautiful surprise. The both of them brought their acoustic-electrics, archtops, flattops and Jack a nylon string guitar. They let loose with some nicely done free numbers then proceeded to tackle their originals.

Fact is, Dom and Jack hit it off from the beginning. Their ability to swing and come up with great lines is heightened when the two play off against one another. The ravishing harmonies of the originals combine with inspired note choices for some of the nicest acoustic duets since side two of McLaughlin's My Goals Beyond. 

They show deep roots, great subtlety, advanced interactions and the kind of spontaneity that an album like this demands.

Hats off to Dom and Jack! Bravo!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Claudia Quintet, Super Petite

The Claudia Quintet is drummer John Hollenbeck's brainchild. Their latest, Super Petite (Rune 427) features a goodly assortment of miniatures, progressive post-jazz Hollenbeck compositional goodies. It is their 8th album and it is good.

In addition to Hollenback on drums the quintet has key members in Drew Gress on bass, Chris Speed on clarinet/tenor sax, Matt Moran on vibes and accordionist Red Wierenga.

The music is bracing, with no shortage of complexity and group identity as well as soloing of merit.

I found myself getting wrapped up in the album straight-off and I must say Super Petite has confirmed me as a fan. It's jazz-rock of a brainy sort, nothing the least bit jejune. And Drew Gress on bass as always makes a true impact. But then so does everybody.

Huge appreciation, big fat stars, my sincere top rating for this. Get it.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Changui Majadero

Cuban roots phenom Changui Majadero (self-released) may hang their hats in East L.A., but they are filled through-and-through with Eastern Cuban Changui music.Their first, eponymous release gives us many reasons to celebrate. Changui is the grandaddy of salsa and so will certainly sound familiar. Riffing tres guitar, hip bass, a grooving percussion contingent and call-and-respond vocals make this irresistible.

Changui Majadero happen to be excellent exponents of the music, though, so it's especially good to hear this set. These are songs rooted in the tradition and built squarely out of the building blocks of Afro-Cuban heritage.

It's simply outstanding music! I could not recommended it more highly!!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Corey Dennison Band

So if somebody tells you the blues are dead. Shake your head. Chicago and the iconic institution Delmark Records are giving us plenty of the real thing. Today the Corey Dennison Band (Delmark 844) featuring Corey on some blazing vocals and very nice guitar--sharing those latter duties fittingly with Gerry Hundt--a crack band and focused, razor sharp originals by Corey and Gerry.

This is straight-in-your-face Chicago blues with a hard edge and no nonsense. Corey belts it out, everybody hits it and the soulfulness is not lacking, no it isn't.

Hear here for riffing blues rock, shuffle stickitude, and cleanly raw blues from cover-to-cover.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stirrup, Cut, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Nick Macri, Charles Rumback

Not everything is expected, and sometimes it is a great thing, too. Stirrup is a trio of Fred Lonberg-Holm on electric cello and guitar, Nick Macri on acoustic bass and Charles Rumback on drums. Their album Cut gives us some ten avant jazz-rock jams, ten slabs of open groove and hard-nosed electricity.

It hits me listening how much this sort of thing owes to early Hendrix, his experimental jams, "Third Stone from the Sun" being the landmark beginning. This trio plays out grooves beholden to that in many ways, but as game avant jazzers can do it.

Fred Lonberg-Holm makes his cello into a psychedelic force, an expressive marvel of distortion and space. He plays guitar like that too. Nick Macri lays down deep groove lines. Charles Rumback gives us loose but together groove drums that put the whole thing together.

It's music that fascinates and smartly explores a genre with insight and creativity. This is what ugly-beauty is about and I think Monk if he were here today would agree!

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Frederic Hand, Odyssey

Technique and artistry combine in classical guitarist Frederic Hand to give us a wondrous set on his recent solo guitar album Odyssey (New Focus/Panoramic 1036). It features his own compositions and special arrangements of a wide variety of music.

His beautiful harmonic-melodic arpeggiated and articulated ways are put to very memorable use on his composition "Prayer," which is as much a kind of Bach tribute as it is a modern spiritual wish-hope-prayer.

His arrangement of the 13th century "Canta de Santa Maria" contrasts nicely with "Four Sephardic Songs" and the spiritual "The Water is Wide." Frederic has the knack of getting to the melodic-harmonic essentials and varying everything very musically. So the case with these pieces. And that's only the first four selections in this album.

He continues on in the same eclectic and striking vein, a guitarist who brings out the beauty of his instrument in ways that may at times take your breath away. It is a very stirring set of work played with superb artistry.

Can I just suggest you grab this album now? Do it! Hand is a guitarist of brilliance.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Rez Abbasi and Junction, Beyond the Vibration

I've never so thoroughly moved-dislocated in my adult history, never certainly while trying to do a five-times weekly set of music blogs, never under the duress of the old bum's rush. So though I've managed to land in a safety zone and all is more or less well, there have been some albums that have been late getting to review stage and I apologize for that.

The Rez Abbasi and Junction album Behind the Vibration (Cuneiform Rune 424) is especially vexing to me that I am getting to it so late, because it is so good. Rez is an electric guitarist at the very top of the heap for innovative stylistics and mastery. He is a fusion king if you will. And his band Junction has the right feel to get Rez flying.

Ben Stivers on keys, B-3 and Rhodes has all the talent and facility to make an ideal front line partner to Rez--to respond to torrent with torrent and not just lots of notes but smart notes. So for that matter does Mark Shim on tenor and midi-wind controller. Kenny Grohowski has that creative, busy beboppish rock inventiveness that makes the straight-eighth mode swing like mad and sets up the situation for the great playing the quartet comes through with.

This is contemporary fusion that does not stint on content--Rez and company give it a huge push and instantiate (yeah, look it up...they do) a music that draws on the past ... but then they make it all new again.

Outstanding music, outstanding guitarist, outstanding band. Get this one, no kidding.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ken Hatfield, 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar, CD and Book Set

Ken Hatfield brings to us lyrical joy in his 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar (Arthur Circle Music, book and CD set). He has been one to straddle the fence between jazz and classical worlds, and this set of preludes has a delightful directness that does show some of those mixed roots. Yet it is all well combined so you do not feel the pull of either way on the melodic-harmonic results.

The book gives you the complete set of preludes and the recommended fingerings. The music is no doubt hard to play as well as Ken does on the CD, yet with intensive woodshedding these can be mastered by those without a great deal of technical preparation, I would think.

They are so attractive I am tempted to get my dusty old classical guitar out of its box (we just moved) and learn a few.

This is marvelous music!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

eBraam with Guests and Dean Bowman, The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say before I begin that Ana Isabel Ordonez is owner of Ruby Flower Records, the label that happily has released ten of my own albums with an 11th on the way. The CDs I review here I have no financial or artistic connection with, so I approach the contents with an impartiality.

OK, so we have at hand two versions of the Fusion-Prog-Jazz-Rock opus The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor (Ruby Flower). It is out in two versions, one with a narrative of Ana Isabel Ordonez' striking story line from her first children's book of the same name; the other with only the music by eBraam and Guests. The music in the second version is somewhat rearranged and at times lengthened in parts.

You get an idea of the vividly primal illustrations from the book version with several of them on the CD. This narrative-music edition at hand today will be the basis of two ballet versions: as choreographed by Virginie Mecene for the Martha Graham Academy, and by Sifiso Kweyama in Cape Town, where the ballet will be performed this fall by the Jazz Dance Theater as part of the festivities honoring Desmond Tutu.

The music was written by Dutch pianist-composer Michiel Braam and his eBraam band with some beautiful guitarwork by guests Pieter Douma and Jorg Lehnardt. It is an eclectic blend of fusion jazz with memorable themes and a wide variety of grooves and moods to fit Ms. Ordonez's story of love and liberation.

The music holds its own, Dean Bowman's narrative captures the essence of the story nicely and ultimately the ballet will send the whole thing further into the story zone that the book gives us so amusingly and deeply.

Children of all ages will take to this, whether they have read the first book or not (though they should, ideally while listening to the CD).  It holds its own with brilliance and a total experiential vibe.

Ana Isabel Ordonez carries the day!


You can get both on Here is a link to start you off:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Magnet Animals, Butterfly Killer

What can I say about Magnet Animals? They are an avant alt band that consists of the two killer electric guitarists Todd Clouser and Eyal Maoz (the latter's music I have covered pretty extensively on these pages), Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on electric bass in a strong forward moving mode, and drummer Jorge Servin putting a hard spin on the rhythm.

Todd does the vocals and they are spoken, poetic, sort of abstract for what you'd expect in lyrics with this kind of music, but not the less interesting for it.

The guitars do all kinds of wonderful things, from neo-surf to space-out kinetics. They are why this album appears on this blog. It's contemporary-retro psychedelic-revisionist musical slabs of being elsewhere while you are here.

It's first tier and unexpected. There is nothing quite like it out there. Four musical planets in orbit around a cool place! Get it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sandy Ewen, Damon Smith, Background Information

For today's offering we return to Balance Point Acoustics releases, Damon Smith's indie label of avant improv. Judging by the release number (BPA-1) this must be the first. (No, Damon just reminded me that the first was in fact his duet with Peter Kowald, recorded in 2002 and reviewed here.) This one is a most uncompromising duet between electric guitarist Sandy Ewen (and I've covered a good amount of her recordings lately. Type her name in the index for those.) and Damon Smith on upright bass, electric 7-string upright bass and field recordings. (I've been covering many of his recordings here as well. See index for them.)

All this on the album Background Information. Sandy Ewen comes through with all manner of prepared and extended sound worlds on her guitar, as we (or I anyway) have come to know via other recordings. She and Damon rethink their instruments to allow them to sing out in unorthodox ways throughout. The result is a pull-out-the-stops series of four improvisational segments that explore with care an evocative noise-timbre-color world of extra-musical sound.

It works! And it works mightily. Fascinatingly. Meditatively. Is it their best album(s)? Probably not precisely. But it does occupy convincingly interesting musical terrain and consistently so. It in its own way is a kind of primer for ways to get away from typical sounds on guitar and bass. Both are indefatigably original for this, so do not hesitate--order a copy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Security Project Live 1

Security Project is a powerful group devoted to re-exploring the music of Peter Gabriel. Live 1 (7D Media) takes some of the best performances from their tour of Europe in February-March of last year.

Brian Cummins does the lead vocals and somehow manages to sound like Peter without not sounding like himself, if you can grab onto that. His is a voice of distinction and power. Drum ace Jerry Marotta kicks up some heat and does backing vocals. David Jameson is on keyboards and eigenharp. Then there is the formidable string section of Trey Gunn on touch guitar and Michael Cozzi on electric six-string guitar. They do much to make this live remaking special, as does David on his synth parts.

If you dig Peter Gabriel the music will cover all the reasons you do, with very familiar and excellent songs redone with some hard-hitting bite.

I found myself responding to this one and as I listen again while typing up my short blurb I feel that way once more. He was one of the brightest lights of '80s-'90s prog after all. And this refashioning keeps the magic alive. Recommended.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Merzbow, Keiji Haino, Balazs Pandi, An Untroublesome Defencelessness

Chaos and mayhem of the best kind are in order on the just released Merzbow, Keiji Haino and Balazs Pandi album An Untroublesome Defencelessness (rarenoise CD, double LP or DL).

Merzbow's noisy electronics, Haino's very electric outside guitar and Pandi's turbulent mass drumming give us truly avant noise-metal music as in-your-face as it is deep in space.

This is marvelously alive, extreme hard-core stuff that is neither polite nor in any way relenting. All three musical personalities remain distinct and brilliantly brash. Japan avant in all its boldness is yours to appreciate, cut-by-cut. One can just get mesmerized by it all, or one can very profitably and enlighteningly follow the three discrete voices and the way they interact in contrasting, intersecting sound-block masses throughout.

Guitarists will--if they are open to this kind of thing--gain a real appreciation of what Haino is doing. But then of course Merzbow and Pandi co-partner with Haino so that the insistent blend elevates the music onto an astral plane.

Some may be shocked by this--or annoyed. That is their business. The rest of us can entrench ourselves in the wildly stratospheric walls of sound. This is cosmic noise rock at its best! Latch on.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Gaudi, EP

Today's very enthralling program may not be a guitar showcase, does have some fine playing on bass by Colin Edwin or Bill Laswell and Lorenzo Feliciati, and some nice guitar from Eraldo Bernocchi, but is primarily a two-number soundscape of very attractive space-rock. Gaudi is the leader and composer here, on synths, programming and theremin. The album is simply titled EP (rarenoise 10" lp and download).

"30 Hz Dub Prelude" and "Electronic Impromptu in E-flat minor" are each filled with a big sound and nicely realized musical content. Together they fill out the 15 minutes or so of the EP. The ensembles include also Ted Parsons or Steve Jansen on drums, Brian Allen on trombone (for the first piece), Copp√® providing voice (for the first piece), Alessandro Gwis on piano (for the second) and the inimitable Merzbow on noise and power electronics.

The immanence (or "everywhereness") of the music is out front and stunning. Each work creates a cosmic universe that will boost your mood and put you in a very nice zone. Music like this must be done well to avoid the merely pleasant or new age, and Gaudi puts much care and heftiness into the mix to give us something far from banal.

I am very much into this slab of sound. I recommend it to you heartily.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Justin Piper, Avant Funk

If you seek some nicely conceived electric guitar in a program of advanced rock-funk instrumentals, you can confidently turn to Justin Piper and his DIY album Avant Funk (Just One Music).

The idea was for Justin to map out arrangements of 12 pieces and then realize them well with Tom Garrington on drums and Justin multiple tracking on guitars, bass, electric piano and programming.

The compositional ideas, riffs, melodic figures, power-chord changes and such serve to set off Justin's very fertile guitar rocking and at the same time give you a set of originals that stand on their two feet in their own right.

It's subtle and worthy artistry that won't leave you incredulous, gasping for breath at the superhuman chops on display. Because it is about musicality more than technical prowess, though Justin can certainly play some fine rock guitar.

It's an album that when I put it on--say from the second time forward, it reminds me of itself rewardingly and subtly-straightforwardly. It's music without cliché, yet it is very contemporarily rock saturated.

Do you get me? A very worthwhile spin this one most definitely is. Justin has talent and his refusal to wear it on his sleeve is refreshing and all the more likeable. Listen!

Ciro Hurtado, Selva

From Peru we have a new album by guitarist Ciro Hurtado and his ensemble, simply entitled Selva (self released). It is a series of very attractive Hurtado originals based on Latin American folk traditions and world influences.

The ensemble has strong traditional roots in its deft combinations of Spanish guitars, accordion, cajon, violin, bass, flute and Peruvian flute, and etc.

There are some beautiful vocals by Nelly Cortez, Suemy Gonzalez, Stephanie Amaro (Trio Ellas), Cindy Harding, and others. There is some interactions with Indian music, notably the Indian Classical vocals of Charanraj MR on one song, and that is remarkable as well.

What stands out is understandably the considerable artistry of Hurtado, but also the beautiful memorability of the songs, especially the ones with vocals/lyrics, and the eclectically authentic yet contemporary ring of the arrangements.

This is music that will perhaps haunt you. The few people who have heard this album as I was listening, non-specialists whatever that means, have invariably praised it. And that's because its lyric beauty crosses borders and speaks directly to the inner musical self.

Truly fine is this. Some songs will stay with you; all of it will appeal to those who respond to very fine guitar artistry, ensemble singularity, beautiful melodies and strong vocals.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Rest in Fleas

Rest in Fleas (Northern Spy 074) is not Cloud Becomes Your Hand's first album, but it is the first that woke me up to them. They are an alt rock sextet with a very original instrumental-vocal mix of the peculiar, the avant, the musically strong and the driving.

I come away impressed with them, very much so. The combination of slacker vocals and a formidable mix of guitar, violin, bass, synth, drums and malletkat comes at you with eight contentful and smartly musical songs. The arrangements give you pause and the structure of the music tends to be pretty iconoclastic--with a complexity not often heard in alt but with more balsy-ness than you might find in a typical prog offering.

I will not invoke Zappa and Beefheart at this point, but there is a lot going on here that does not sound very much like those masters yet has the musical cornucopia of plenty like they did at their best.

I strongly recommend that you immerse yourself in this one. Thank you to Northern Spy for putting this out! Thank you to Cloud Becomes Your Hand for your musical acuity and courage!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Zhongyu, "Zhongyu" is Chinese for "Finally"

Zhongyu? It is a Seattle-based prog-fusion project with gigging experience in China giving us some progressive, sometimes Chinese influenced modern music on "Zhongyu" is Chinese for "Finally"  (MoonJune MJR 078). Jon Davis heads it all up with his compositions, his Chapman stick, guzheng, Mellotron and ARP 2600. Dennis Rea, who readers of this blog may remember via a number of review posts on this page (type his name in the index box above for those), appears on electric and resonator guitars, Alicia DeJoie is on electric violin, James DeJoie is on baritone sax, flute and bass clarinet, Randy Doak is on drums and percussion, and Daniel Barry guests on trumpet for one number.

This is an unusual blend of prog rock, fusion and a little traditional Chinese musical influence. The band is first rate and the compositions are substantial, original and vividly pulsing. There is a rock edge to it all, especially thanks to Rea's fine guitar efforts along with Davis's dynamic Chapman work and Doak's edgy drumming.

It is one of those programs that covers a wide variety of moods yet holds together as a single statement. If you dig later King Crimson and other ambitious prog-fuse efforts this is an original equivalent.

Fine music that I highly recommend you hear!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Savoldelli, Casarano, Bardoscia, The Great Jazz Gig in the Sky, A "TRIalog" Based on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon

When I put The Great Jazz Gig in the Sky (MoonJune MJR 079) on my player for the first time, I gradually came to realize that it was, as it says on the back cover, "A 'TRIalog' Based on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon." Then I also recognized the very musical vocals of Boris Salvodelli, who is a key part of this TRIalog (on electronics as well as vocals), with Raffaele Casarano on saxes and electronics and Marco Bardoscia on double bass and electronics. Guitar master Dewa Budjana adds his beautiful sound to one cut and there are additional electronic backgrounds by WK569 and some recitation by Maurizio Nobili.

Well and so as one might in these tributory gestures I took a wait and see approach. By the end of the first listen I was impressed, and even more so as I listened again and again. The ideal remake is one where there is no attempt to mimic the finished sound, but rather there is a re-exploration that puts the music in a new light, makes you hear it differently than you are used to doing. And that's just what this formidable TRIalog manages to do.

This is a studio-as-canvas effort. The total sound is a careful amalgam of the improvisatory and song-oriented play of the three in tandem. The electronic backwash lays out nicely and on top are Boris and his special reinterpretive vocalizations, Raffaele's smart saxophonics, sometimes doubled and tripled, and the nicely played, very imaginative double bass work of Marco.

The arrangements put the music in soundscaped prog avant jazz rock territory and force you gently to reconsider how the song lines and lyrics hold up in a resituated creative music environment. And the answer is, extraordinarily well--to any questions implied here.

Songs, very creative arrangements and the high talents of Boris, Raffaele and Marco make this a transformative experience. You savor it each bit at a time and find as you become familiar with it all that this is one of the greatest tributory remakes ever done, really.

Very fine music, on any number of levels. By all means you need to get it!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Eleonore Oppenheim, Home

Contrabassist Eleonore Oppenheim steps nimbly into the spotlight on this, her first solo album. Home (Innova 929) showcases Eleonore's wide-ranging virtuosity and imaginative mastery of extended and standard techniques with a series of five commissioned works that cover a gamut of influences that new music now feels quite comfortable within, be it glitched, pulsed, abstracted or minimal.

Various transformations of electro-acoustics are the formative bedrock upon which Ms. Oppenheim unveils a rather startling arrays of bass technical-artistic possibilities. Composers Angelica Negron, Florent Ghys, Wil Smith, Jenny Olivia Johnson and Lorna Dune give Eleonore a very wide swath of possible musical universes and contrabass challenges, which she takes on with a consistently performatory zeal and extraordinary command of the resources at hand.

Anyone who loves the rich timbral and sound-color gamut of contemporary bass excellence will be much taken with this music and Ms. Oppenheim's artistry, I do believe. It is music that meets you half-way but then gives you very evocative listening fare to send you to various new worlds.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jason McGuire "El Rubio," Terceto Kali

Flamenco jazz guitarist Jason McGuire "El Rubio" is a true phenomenon, an extremely well endowed technical master and a poetically creative improviser. The album Terceto Kali (self released), apparently his second, finds him in the excellent company of Paul Martin Sounder on bass and Marlon Aldana on drums, plus Jose Cortes on vocals for several numbers. The music is all by Jason, with Jose crafting the lyrics for one cut.

Anyone familiar with John McLaughlin's acoustic trio of years back with Trilog Gurtu on drums will recognize a genetic relationship with this music, though Jason stays a bit closer to flamenco roots and their expansion.

But what a guitarist he is! He has it all and makes of it something very much his own. And the trio is a beautiful confluence that extends the flamenco roots into lively fusion territory.

This is one hell of a band, led by one hell of a guitarist! I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Superb!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Beledo, Dreamland Mechanism

Beledo is an impressive fusion electric guitarist/multi-instrumentalist (violin, keys, accordion, bass guitar), composer and bandleader. His album Dreamland Mechanism (MoonJune MJR 077) brings to the forefront his considerable talents as a guitarist especially and as a composer of nicely advanced fusion platforms.

For this album he is joined by drummer titan Gary Husband with Doron Lev also providing hip pulse for two numbers. Lincoln Goines is omnipresent on bass and Tony Steele chimes in well on two cuts. The Indonesian contingency is nicely represented by cameo appearances of  Endang Ramdan and Cucu Kurnia on traditional Indonesian percussion, plus Dewa Budjana as second guitarist on one number. Oh, and Rudy Zulkarnaen makes an appearance on electric bass.

The power trio is on display for many of the pieces, but others break free of that and add multi-colored sounds, so there are a great deal of fusion possibilities well realized throughout.

The Holdsworth influence can be detected now and again, but never wholesale, and always as a sort of foundation for original developments. Most times though, it's all Beledo.

He is a guitarist of beautiful technique, fine sound and great imagination. This is music in the fusion tradition, surely, but a real contribution to its growth and expansion.

The music is at a high level no matter what piece you hear. It's a true pleasure....Beledo is a true artist!

So dig into this one for some fine listening.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Drew Ceccato / Kyle Motl, Orogeny

A duet situation in avant jazz improv realms puts two artists squarely in the spotlight and calls upon their complete mastery of their personal idiom for intensive two-way dialogs. At least, ideally, if the artists and conditions are right.

That is so with today's duo set Orogeny (Meta-Trope Records). It features Drew Ceccato on tenor saxophone and Kyle Motl on contrabass in a program of totally free improvisations. There are no corners to hide in, of course, so we get undiluted expressions, fully coherent and fluid, without the distractions of additional players and with nothing but the artist's free imaginations to make music of meaning.

Both have what it takes to sustain an extended duo set. Drew has a classic free approach for lines that evoke fluid, slithering sound structures and more staccato contrasts. Kyle utilizes the whole of his bass in pizzicato and bowed modes that touch on a multiple realm of articulated colors and a fully open series of multiple and single stopped pan-tonal foundations, all of which serves to draw Drew into diverse spectral expansions.

The totality of the six improvised segments provide an exhaustive exploration of the two in their varied free imaginative moods and sound painting pungencies.

In the process you get a two-in-one expression of dual artistry at its best.

For the bass ingenuity, for the tenor fluidity, this one will pique your creative listening apparatus and keep you interested throughout.

If you come for the tenor expressions, the bass excursions, or both, you will exit the experience with an appreciation for what can happen when free artists are inspired and well prepared.

So dig, you might. Dig, you must. Dig I think you will!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mike Baggetta, Spectre, Featuring Jerome Harris and Billy Mintz

Mike Baggetta is an electric guitarist and musical conceptualist of real stature. His new album Spectre (Fresh Sound New Talent 499) breaks important ground and constitutes a high-water mark thus far for his artistry on disk.

He plies an extended electric sound on guitar these days from some marvelous post-jazz-rock sonics and sensitivities. Joining him is Jerome Harris on acoustic bass guitar and Billy Mintz on drums, in a series of originals by Mike and Billy, some collective improvisational-compositions and an Ornette classic, "War Orphans."

Mike has evolved an original style that here reminds me sometimes of the McLaughlin of  "In A Silent Way" and just after, maybe the exotic touch of vintage Terje Rypdal, but mostly his well conceived original musical self, with some really nice digital delay effects and the trio in a very focused and creative zone.

The guitar work is lyrical and beautifully sonic. There is much brilliance to hear!

And by the way, as it so happens, I post on Mike's earth entry anniversary. Happy birthday, Mike!

Grab this album!