Friday, April 29, 2016
Ferenc Snetberger, In Concert
There are different elements that go into the Snetberger style. The album at hand gives us eight improvised pieces and a version of "Over the Rainbow." It is just Ferenc, his guitar, the acoustic excellence of producer Manfred Eicher, the very sympathetic aural setting of the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and a home audience (Ferenc is Hungarian) of listeners paying close attention and giving interlocking feedback energy to the performer as the best live situations can do.
He is a player of great finesse, a beautiful tone, a compositional and improvisational flair that is very sophisticated, very lyrical, and truly a milestone example of what the classical guitar-jazz guitar nexus can give us today. You first notice in the recital a pronounced flair for working in the Brazilian nylon string jazz idiom. He has great facility and just the right rhythmic approach to make the first part stand out.
But of course there is more. His lyricism may remind you of some of what you expect from ECM guitarists, yet it is also very much in his own right. There is always throughout the recording a feeling that Ferenc knows exactly where he is and where he intends to go. His household growing up gave him much of the Django tradition (he has Roma roots) as well as Jim Hall, Trane and Bird, and then in a kind of epiphany, Johann Sebastian Bach. Hearing Gismondi and Vasconcelos together gave Ferenc another sort of awakening as to possibilities.
The eight part suite that comprises the bulk of the album is dedicated to his home, Budapest. Much of the first sections are improvised, excellently so, before the main theme appears and is expounded upon. The influences and musical epiphanies of his formative period are all there as building block elements but then the end result is cut from whole cloth as the work of a mature, fully formed artist of inspired musical ideas and flawless technique.
I could go on but it is in the close listening that you will get all you need. Ferenc Snetberger is a major artist and this opening salvo of an album makes all that very clear. I suspect we will be hearing a great deal more from him in the coming years. In the meantime this is a very impressive solo album you will not want to miss.
A grand artiste is in our presence!
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Julia Vorontsova, Over
Julia gives us 13 of her songs, sung in Russian with a straightforward delivery, many sounding very folkish in a Russian way, but with a pronounced folk-rock orientation. Julia plays folk-acoustic guitar that goes with the songs well and Zeke Zima plays some nice electric, or at least I presume that is the division of labor. She is backed by a full band and they sound good.
The liners give a run-down of the lyric contents and they show the feelings and thoughts of someone in an ever-changing world, looking for meaning from the experiences she has lived through. The melodies catch the ear. There is a dark quality to it, a melancholic cast that creates a definite mood.
It is something different for those who look to the world for new folk-rock emanations. Ms. Vorontsova has something going on that is good. You who seek something different will surely find it here. Recommended.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
David Fiuczynski, Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam!
The album is a homage to JDilla and Olivier Messiaen. I do not know JDilla but the Messiaen influence can be heard in the use of bird song as a melodic foundation, though they do it in different and intriguing ways.
The microtonal possibilities coming from fretless guitar, bass and microtonal keys--and also from oboe and violin--give this music a special shimmer. There is also a Chinese and overall Asian (e.g., gamelan, gagaku?) cast to the music.
Put all of that together in the special way they do and you get some of the most interesting and pathbreaking music I've heard so far this year. Fiuczynski's guitar work is remarkable, especially on the fretless, but then everybody makes important contributions in realizing the compositions and in adding improvisational/free touches. This is music that on the surface has a sort of jazz-rock inflection, yet what is added to it puts it in uncharted territory.
I've never heard anything like this before!! It is a startling disk of music that is moving into wonderfully avant, uncharted avant territory.
You must not miss this if you want to keep ahead of it all! Remarkable!
Friday, April 22, 2016
Fernando Huergo, Hashtag
He is joined by a two-"horn" front line in Yulia Musayelyan on flute and Rick DiMuzio on tenor, both nicely put together with pertinent solos and a projectingly blended compositional twosome. Leo Genovese plays piano and electric piano and has an effective solo presence as well. Franco Pinna straddles the various stylistic parameters with finesse and power as needed.
About half of the pieces are Huergo originals, nicely spun out; the other half are arrangements of some classic Monk ("Evidence"), Shorter ("Infant Eyes"), Mongo ("Afro Blue") and Strayhorn ("U.M.M.G."), generally given a nicely inflected Latin-fuse treatment.
Throughout you bass aficionados get plenty of Huergo's fine bass playing, both solo and in ensemble. He is a player who rewards close attention!
Well and so you will also find this album worthy of your ears in the wider sense. Good players, good material, lots of interesting twists and turns. Thanks to Fernando!
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Pearly Clouds, Gary Lucas, Eniko Szabo, Toni Dezso
The new album Pearly Clouds (Trapeze TRACD6514) is a venture into what the liners call "psychedelic world music," a situating of traditional Hungarian folk melodies and/or lyrics within a music of today that channels blues and contemporary Gary-oid soundings for something very unique.
Gary is on his trusty Gibson acoustic but also his Strat with its patented effects spaciness and singular sound. He is joined by vocalist Eniko Szabo, who has a nicely turned musical way about her and carries the melodies with a tender strength and impeccable musicality. Toni Dezso plays alto and baritone sax here in an effectively elemental manner, which one might say is more folksy and local than it is typically, notefully jazzy. It all works well. The key undoubtedly is Gary's beautifully wrought guitar parts, carved out of a harmonic and melodic reworking of the implications of each song and the tonal specifics of Eniko's sung lines.
These are recompositions and compositions that do not leave behind classical Hungarian melodic form, but place it within Gary's creative guitar-centric soundings and Toni's simpatico sax fundamentals.
It is yet another example of the extraordinary Lucas touch, his inimitable picking and sounding acoustic work and his equally inimitable psychedelic electric atmospherics.
It all underscores once again the restless creative ingenuity of Gary Lucas the guitar master, with transformative inventions that set off Eniko Sabo's lovely vocals and their Hungarian centrality and set the stage too for Toni Dezso's melodic primality.
Gary Lucas thrives as a guitar school of one, an innovative master who rewards with a continual reinventing of what and where his music can thrive and what that entails. He has a beautiful musical and artistic counterpart with Eniko and once you set aside whatever expectations you might bring to the music it creates its own space inside your listening mind.
And so I suggest that you check out this beautiful album, for the wonderful guitar playing, yes, and so too for the overall musical world it creates and sustains so well! Bravo!
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Odetta Hartman, 222
This is an elaborately produced soundscape that utilizes all that Odetta is doing, from newgrass bluegrassy to very beyond, adds electronics here and there and sampled effects for a decidedly unusual result.
It is space folk, or alt acoustic-electric, or...? It is haunted by the ghost of New York Bohemia somehow, and that makes sense given that Odetta grew up in the Village.
Well all that does not prepare you for what the experience of the music is like. It is all a product of what the words I write imply, but the specifics cannot quite be put on paper.
This is an artist who gives us a wayward folk-rock cut from her own cloth.
I come away from this album energized. There is much here to like! The EP whets your whistle for more. Encore! Is this the future? Who knows? It IS the present, anyway, a very interesting one.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
SkyTalk, Days in the Sun
The result is some elaborately stunning prog with some excellent guitar-bass-drum interactions. The songs get elaborate prog arrangements, some great guitar solos and a sound that hearkens back to classical prog but does NOT sound like any of it exactly. This is original.
The vocals do what they do appropriately but I am very much taken with what the instrumental parts are about, especially. This is quite nicely done. SkyTalk may be poised on the edge of something very great. As it is they are a band to take notice of. Check out this EP!
Monday, April 18, 2016
Henry Kaiser, Damon Smith, Chris Cogburn, Steve Parker, Nearly Extinct
Things do tend to go in cycles in modern times. The moment something is definitively "out" among coolness measurement specialists, that is when it may be about to become sheik once again. Dumb looking plastic glasses, cigars, space age bachelor music, bacon, the list could grow and is continually being added to. No matter.
The quartet album at hand is certainly a very good example of the avant garde today. And if it is "in" or "out" matters to the artists certainly, and to me, and perhaps to a good number of others, but it is the music ultimately that does the primary speaking. And so to it.
I speak of Nearly Extinct (Balance Point Acoustics 707), a recent album by the likes of Henry Kaiser, electric guitar, Damon Smith, acoustic bass, Chris Cogburn, drums, and Steve Parker, trombone. This is electric freedom, free improvisation, for four. Henry Kaiser, celebrated as one at the top of avant electricians, takes a primary role in this music. He is very much a central part of the mix with feedback-laced, sustain-centric, sound and note oriented brilliance. Steve Parker on trombone plays some out complements that make him central as well, a varied gamut of jazz-and-beyond utterances, with nicely burnished tone control and dynamic phrasing.
Damon Smith as always can be counted upon to give us a considered, smart avant bass presence. He brings up the third line of colors and note creativity to finish off the three pitch-oriented contributors. And Chris Cogburn gives us some very musical drumming to top it all off.
There are a few compositional elements and a good deal of spontaneous freedom on this date. The latter is mostly what it is about, and all four get a presence in the proceedings that more than justifies their inclusion. In other words this is not an album of guitar solos with accompaniment; it is a fully integrated group effort, distinguished by what each player brings to the mix.
And in the process we get some free music that reminds us how Kaiser is at the forefront of the out zone, pushing the envelope continually but ever-musically. And the work of Smith, Parker and Cogburn do the same for their respective instruments. Kaiser's overall approach is edgy electric and with the others makes a music one might call free jazz psychedelia I suppose. What matters though, is that the quartet makes a statement. On the level of musical content, there is nothing extinct in the least. It is an out music fully alive and well worth the attention it should get. Attention starts with a few folks, then ideally it grows and grows. So be in the advance garde of listening! Get this and immerse yourself.
Friday, April 15, 2016
Johnny Winter with Dr. John, Live in Sweden 1987, DVD or CD
John Paris on bass and harmonica and Tom Compton on drums lay down a very solid foundation while Johnny gives us some excellent guitar work as only he could quite do, and those great vocals. Dr. John gives us his inimitable vocals and piano in top form from midway through on.
"Jumpin' Jack Flash" is a highly charged finale, but all the tunes are right in the pocket and bluesy-rocky with plenty of all you might want from both Johnny and the good Doctor.
The sound quality is first-rate and the visuals capture the excitement of the set well.
If you love Johnny, this one is probably a must. And of course Dr. John fans will dig this, too. If you want some up and going blues rock this one is a winner on all counts. It reminds us how much we lost when Johnny left us. Give it a go, for sure.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Todd Coolman & Trifecta, Collectables
He joins together with two exceptional musicians in a threesome he dubs "Trifecta." They gather together some really nice numbers and let it all breathe in the recent album Collectables (Sunnyside 4025). As Todd explains in the liners, he has amassed some collections over his life, things that have a telling sort of significance for him, be it books, fishing tackle or wrist watches. And he goes on to explain that he also collects playing experiences with fellow musicians of like mind. Collectables is by a trio of musicians that form a key part of some imaginary spatial totality but very real temporal-musical gatherings Todd has been a part of. A prize collectable element in all his group playing experiences, in other words.
Bill Cunliffe, pianist, Dennis Mackrel, drums, (and Todd), have been playing together for a while, principally as a part of the faculty of the Skidmore Jazz Institute that Todd now directs. They have had busy schedules there performing as a trio alone or backing up other stalwarts. So that is one definitely worthy collectable element on this album, the trio itself. The other is in the program of tunes. These are very worthwhile ones, some not often played these days, such as "New Rhumba" (associated with Miles and Gil Evans), "Joshua," the Victor Feldman perennial, and so forth. Some of these numbers are given special arrangements by Renee Rosnes, Bill Cunliffe, Dennis Mackrel; the others have gotten their form by the trio working it all out as they went. All have a special worked-through quality that a piano trio gets by playing together often--and so also the improvisational doings have that patina of use that makes them especially excellent examples.
Todd has plenty of chances both in ensemble and in solo to show just how fine a bass player he is. The same goes for Bill Cunliffe and Dennis Mackrel on their instruments. And the sound of them as a trio benefits from that distinctiveness but also by their irrefutably swinging wholeness.
It is the sort of trio outing that has all the jazz nuances down but also gets it all DOWN! It is a beautiful record indeed. There is nothing lacking. It is a full collection to be poured over and prized, dug and re-dug! By all means go for this one if you want some superfine mainstream jazz as it should be played.
Monday, April 11, 2016
John Hart, Exit from Brooklyn
Some four CDs later they are once again at it on the appropriately titled Exit from Brooklyn (ZOHO 201605). This one was designed to showcase a couple of Hart originals and a bunch of standards, jazz and songbook, so they could get the spontaneous chemistry going without a lot of preparation.
That they are successful can be felt from the first cut on. Hart is a well-schooled mainstreamist with a beautiful sense of chordal possibilities and good ideas for lining. Moring and Horner have jazz sense in abundance and yes, bring with Hart a sympatico three-way chemistry that makes this outing something very worth hearing.
John Hart is one of the best straight-ahead jazz artists operating today and the album is a definite pleasure from start to finish. The trio is in great form!
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Rich Brown, Abeng
This is a very worthwhile set of Afro-Fusion Jazz, with Rich Brown playing a key role as a virtuoso of the electric bass and as composer of the music heard here. He is joined by Luis Denz on alto and Larnell Lewis on drums, plus a shifting gathering of Chris Donnelly or Robi Botos on piano, Kevin Turcotte, trumpet, Kelly Jefferson, tenor, and Rosendo Chendy Leon on percussion.
The music has memorable compositions, a good deal of space for Rich's eloquent bass playing both in ensemble and as soloist, as melodist and riff master, and a very solid, tight and proficient group of sidemen that establish moving fusion grooves and lyrical suspensions as called for, improvise nicely, and realize Rich Brown's objectives fully.
Rich Brown is a bassist of stature. The album is filled with worthwhile contemporary music. You should check it out!
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Sandy Ewen, Rebecca Novak, Carol Sandin Cooley, Garden Medium
I speak of the recent album Garden medium (>x< 03), that features the trio of Sandy Ewen on guitar (see recent reviews of her work here via the index) and objects, Rebecca Novak on cornet, autoharp, shortwave radio, glassware and chimes, and Carol Sandin Cooley on electronics and objects.
This is selfless music. It is all about the special sonic blends, sound poems that utilize instruments and objects, electronics and intentional sound-producing gestures to create a series of atmospheres.
Sandy creates a world of sound here that is not instantly recognizable as electric-guitar generated. Similarly the other sonic voices do not intend to stand out as personal, individual "playing" of instruments so much as modular contributions to the sound environment totalities.
Do not take that as meaning that this ensemble is not musically adept or random. On the contrary the environments are built up with care. There are dynamics, a focused use of space, a striving after a pallet of music-noise specifics that gives the music-sound a special inner-directedness.
This is avant, yes, free, yes, but very atypical in its rigorous focus. You put the disk on and it gradually has its way, in a sort of Zen rock garden of presence.
If you played guitar like Sandy does here on a wedding gig, you'd be fired and quickly at that. And the same goes for what the other trio members are doing! It is the case because the music functions in a world that is not made for commercial or widespread social consumption. It is not a product to be consumed at all, in fact. It is about process, the aural equivalent of a scumbling of paint to transform the hard-edges into something blooming, pliable, open, virtually endless.
This may not be for everybody. And things that are, after all, tend to get boring because to succeed with everybody, you need to give them something they already have plenty of, a formula, a guaranteed path to maximum consumption. This music in not so much minimalist as it is sparing and judiciously meted out a bit at a time. You must enter into it for it to work. And you must not consume it, but rather leave it to be, to realize itself before your ears.
I find it fascinating!
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Dennis Rea, Black River Transect
The new one is every bit as good as what I expect from Dennis, but perhaps even more so--one of his very best. It is his Tanabata Ensemble live in concert with a set entitled Black River Transect (Scooby Tracks). The first four pieces feature Dennis Rea on guitar, Stuart Dempster on trombone and didgeridu, James DeJoie on bass clarinet, Beth Fleenor on clarinet, Kate Olson on soprano saxophone, John Seman on double bass, and Tom Zgonc on drums. It is great to hear Seattle avant trombone icon Stuart Dempster in this band. He sounds ever his lively self. The rest of the band is excellent as well, everyone attuned to the music, comfortable with both free and structured duties as needed.
The opener is "ASI," dedicated to Dennis' long-time partner Anne Smith Joiner. It has an unforgettable thematic quality and the septet makes of it the worthy rhapsodic stunner that it truly is. "Black River Transect" and "Harmoniker" are "guided improvisations," free but directed explorations of musical space with some excellent guitar work by Rea, certainly, and nicely together collective surges. "Swaylone's Island" is another stunning Rea composition, with a bit of classical-modern openness and some wonderfully out post-fusion guitar and ensemble work.
Following these formidably worthwhile numbers is a return to "ASI," this time scored by James DeJoie for a ten-member trombone choir and a slightly scaled-down accompanying ensemble with Dennis joined by the extraordinary, ambient Seattle drummer Paul Kikuchi. It is an even more haunting version of the piece, if that is possible, and it sends us off nicely, wanting more.
The originality and uniqueness of Rea's guitar, his writing, the ensemble are on display in ways that are very heartening. Everybody is locked in here. The results are stunning. It isn't rock, though a little of the fusion element remains and there is some unusual rock guitar outness to be heard in Dennis's solo time. It is compositional and freely improvisational in ways not at all typical, with a little of the finesse of modern classical, a lyrical sort of bent, and a result like no other.
It may not be the sort of album that is going to overthrow the order of things, but it is very wonderful, a tribute to Dennis's carefully considered direction, one that wears very nicely with repeated listens, seems unforced and natural, yet is strikingly different for all that.
Might I suggest you check this one out? It is some of the most interesting music I've yet to hear this year. It shows you that Dennis Rea keeps moving forward, striking his way through to new zones of possibility. The results are really something to hear!
Monday, April 4, 2016
Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord, Bring Their 'A' Game, The EP Series
This is take-no-prisoners out bop and more. Make no mistake. Lundbom has the subtle leadership that gets everybody to give of things their considerable all, and Jon does the same. Can I just say "chuck everything and get it"? Well I will.
The remaining two EPs will be coming out later on in the year. You can get each one as it comes out, or pre-order now for the 4-CD box set that will come out when the fourth CD does, thereabouts.
If the other two are like the first two, there is something important going on! There is already!
Friday, April 1, 2016
Sandy Ewen, Tributaries
This is sound color improvisation, extended techniques so thoroughgoingly advanced that if you did not already know the sounds were produced by an electric guitar, you might not figure it out.
Six segments give us plenty to ponder. She clearly is at times preparing the guitar, at other times striking the strings with untraditional objects. With amplification and use of aural space the sounds come to us as from some other place, inter-planetary, extra-planetary, a zodiac-a-teria with percussive elements, aetherial feedback, orchestral fullness and mysterious sparsities.
It is not quite like what anybody else is doing with an electric guitar these days, and happily it provides us with a cornucopia of sonic universes.
Once I heard it a few times, I got it. It is a very creative take on soundscaped guitar tapestries. She is one of a kind!
Listen to this, get it, if you seek something good on the edge of possibility.
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