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!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mike Wheeler Band, Turn Up !!

From the blues heartland of Chicago comes vocalist-guitarist talent Mike Wheeler, his quartet and a couple of horns for some exciting soul blues in the honored tradition and lineage of Little Milton, Jr. Wells-Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Bobby Blue Bland, that tradition.

Mike brings his own considerable, blues drenched voice and extroverted soulful guitar prowess in a series of mostly original, always on it songs. Turn Up !! (Delmark 835) is what I am talking about.

If you need proof that the real blues has not left us, turn to Delmark's recording program in the last decades--Mike Wheeler being a prime example of how Chi-town still is the place for the real thing, just like Wrigley Field is the place for real baseball (and OK, White Sox are doing it too)!

This one is hot. Careful, don't burn your hands on the CD!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Ross Hammond, Sameer Gupta, Upward

I am preconditionally inclined toward any well-done merging of rock-jazz and Indian music. So it is only natural that I would take to Upward (Prescott Recordings). It melds the 12-string acoustic guitar of Ross Hammond with the tabla of Sameer Gupta.

There are eight improvisational jams that work nicely. Ross plays some outgoingly musicianly guitar that is in a developed sort of post-raga-rock mode, not cliche oriented but original, thoroughgoing in a modal, folksy bluesy manner that marks Ross as a talented guitarist. Sameer plays beautifully and does a great job incorporating multiple tabla drums tuned to various intervals while also articulating some movingly intricate tabla pulsations.

The two together are a fine fit. The music keeps one focused in its artistic unexpectedness and its interestingly expansive improvisational panorama.

If you dig the idea of some new ways to articulate the Western-Indian nexus and can appreciate a fine guitarist and fine tabla player holding forth at length, this one will find you in a happy place!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pritsker / Jarvis Duo

The duo formation of electric guitar and drums may have been unusual in the past, but it is less so today. That does not mean that what is stylistically expected is written in stone, or somehow codified into formula, not by any means. And when you pair composer-guitarist Gene Pritsker with composer-drummer Peter Jarvis, and set them loose on a series of compositions, you should expect the unexpected, the unpredictable.

And that is most definitely and happily what you get on their duo CD simply entitled Pritsker / Jarvis Duo (Composers Concordance 032). This is free-wheeling improvisation-composition in an open-form rock context. We experience a series of six compositional frameworks by six composers--Peter Jarvis, Gene Pritsker, David Saperstein, Joseph Pehrson, Jessica Wells (with the addition of Daniel Palkowski on keys and Dan Cooper on bass for her work), and Daniel Palkowski.

Each one is different. each one has its own center, sometimes extended in a sort of prog rock realm, sometimes with the spice of avant, sometimes frankly experimental but generally straightforward and seeking to create dialogic interactions that give equal weight to the drums in a melodic-periodistic way.

I will forbear a detailed description of each, mainly because they speak for themselves far more eloquently than any brief and telescopic prose would here.

It is music that grabs your interest right away but then should be heard repeatedly to get fully on the wavelengths involved.

Gene and Peter turn in carefully considered and vibrantly interesting performances. The idea that "anything goes" is operative. In the end, this is music of fascination--groundbreaking, and
memorable--with each piece exploring its own turf and giving us a coherent approach, but every one of them rather unique.

The album gives you serious fun, daring fare, lots to ponder. Anyone of a progressive mind will appreciate it, I do believe. Kudos!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Damned, Don't You Wish That We Were Dead? DVD Documentary

The Damned. One of the first, maybe even the very first punk band out of England. Really? So why are they not legends compared to their more celebrated contemporaries, the Sex Pistols and the Clash? In a way the documentary film Don't You Wish That We Were Dead, now available on DVD (MVD Visual 8307BR) is a complicated answer to that, with three years worth of narrative footage from the band and their contemporaries, live music footage and a kind of total punk attitude.

These were/are street-wise rebels from the working-class England that was especially ripe for expressing the hopelessness of their lot in the era. The original band and its offshoots have been together on and off from then to now, incredibly, and none of them self-destructed for the most part, but hung in (with one exception, but see the video). They were a good deal more musically talented and proficient than some of their brethren.

The personal relations between band members have been strained from time to time, to say the least, and the documentary brings out the squabbles, the infighting, the periodic breakups and realignments and the acclaim that came their way in spite of all.

It's a band that never turned punk into a formula, though they had a huge influence on what that formula became. They did manage to evolve as a band away from stereotyped punk roots--but then so did the Clash.

In the end though you sense the frustration of the band in the later days. They've kept going for around 40 years and what in the end have they gained? As one of them put it, had they all died in a plane crash in 1981 they'd be legends. Now they break the rules as a bunch of cranky old vets supposedly too old to rock and roll but telling the world to f-off nevertheless, going out there on stage and doing it regardless of what the world thinks.

The working-class English accents are occasionally a challenge for US ears, but then without their own narrative testimony we'd miss out on the detailed feeling of being there for so long.

The film is well-done, highly personal, and in its own way critical of the stereotypes of rock stardom. May they continue on for another 40 years! A good one to see!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

T.J. Borden / Kyle Motl, Consensual Fault

When the players are mutually attuned and well-versed in their art, the cello and acoustic bass duet can be something special. We get that on the CD Consensual Fault (self-released)--with cellist T.J. Borden and bassist Kyle Motl freely improvising together. There is a natural affinity of cello and contrabass in their family lineage and the warm range of lower tones (and range of harmonics) they both can sound as a matter of course. That affinity is in the forefront on the album at hand.

When it comes to these reviews one might recall the adage "many are called, few are chosen." Or is it the reverse?! At any rate the new music/free jazz improv sort of duo here may not be for everyone. You the reader are naturally self-selecting in the end. You either are open to various possibilities or you are not. Or you really don't know what to think! Or you are an intrepid explorer, unafraid to go where few have gone before, or relatively few, anyway, and so you try different things. All that is your business.

So I will tell you what you can expect from this recording, why I find it quite good, and you of course can make up your mind.

Both avant garde classical new music and jazz from its inception and on into its more avant evolving have been of two minds in terms of technique. There of course is the standard way to play an instrument at any given point in time, what unfortunately has sometimes been called the "legit" manner. And then there are a nearly infinite number of special ways to color the sound--a great jazz player will develop various personal ways to express the music, and so new music has often called for musicians to sound their instrument in unconventional ways.

Borden and Motl are artists who have developed a wide vocabulary of these extended techniques and give us in three extended improvisations a dialog that cross-references a full gamut of sounds. It is in the way the two artists intermingle a blend of ever-varying sound color possibilities and the sequencing of such utterances that this recording stands out.

They create dual constellations of experimental and expressive soundings throughout. The ideal listener opens up to the interplay of the intersecting constellations and lingers on the sensual properties of the totality. That is the point of this music. Borden and Motl engage in a well-expressed and varied palette of sound worlds, making full use of the timbral familial relations of the cello and contrabass and creating always interesting blends from the available sounds. And to the "trained" ear in such things it is a stimulating and very successful musical journey.

So I definitely recommend it to you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Horse Lords, Interventions

In the last several decades we have seen the increasing advent of avant-progressive electric bands playing with a certain rock heft yet exploring decidedly non-mainstream musical approaches. Horse Lords is one of those bands today, as we can hear by their innovative and creative opus Interventions (Northern Spy 075).

It is a quartet of electric guitar, sax, electric bass and drums, played variously by Sam Haberman, Max Eilbacher, Owen Gardner and Andrew Bernstein. There are synth electronics to be heard as well now and again.

What the music is all about is a well-defined, mesmeric set of interlocking minimalist grooves. It takes advantage of the core rock formation to give us a series of complex hypnotic insistencies. One of the reasons it works so well is that rock has often incorporated repetition into its more astro-oriented explorations, whether in be early Pink Floyd, middle period Soft Machine or classic Dead sprawls centered around "Dark Star."

Horse Lords incorporate some of the electric heaviness of classic psychedelic rock but then remove all vestiges of song or improvisationally linear jam elements in the overt sense. They concentrate on the unfolding groove-repeating aspects. And they do it well!

It is uncompromising in its insistent presence. It gives you some very creative takes on what electric guitar, bass, sax and drums can get going.

Anyone into the avant trance minimalist bag of possibilities will find this album much to their taste. You can dance to most of it I guess, which is only to say that it gets very much into grooves that roll you forward.

Nice. Hear this one!