Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Carla gives us her underground, world-weary vocals, which are just right for the songs we hear. The band consists of Carla plus Dave Newhouse on keys and reeds, and Bret H. Hart on electric guitar and electronics, plus a fair number of guests as called for. Carla co-wrote all the songs with either Bret or Dave.
You might hear a little Lydia Lunch or later Marianne Faithful or even Nico here. But then the songs virtually are of the caliber of a Jack Bruce or Steely Dan, or maybe even that other Carla...Bley in her "escalator" period? Or Weill and Brecht? Something in the attitude of all of that, yet itself more than the others. The songs have lots of substance, in other words. And it is pretty moody stuff, which suits the band well. Keep in mind these are not commercially repetitive, jingley things. They are more through composed. When I was a songster at Dick James Music, if I had played this for my boss he would have given me that look. Because it ain't pop.
The instrumental parts are well thought out, Bret's guitar a definite superior element in the mix, and Dave's keys and winds give further character to it all. The arrangements are excellent and avant rockish, I guess you could say.
It is the experience of the whole that makes this special. And it stays in a place throughout that is better heard than described. Art song, avant directness, poetic strength, especially intent on finding a natural, unforced originality.
It is music any serious listener with a good ear will be drawn toward.
I do suggest if you are a lover of the new and art-ish that you owe yourself a serious listen to this. I for one am very glad it is out and I can hear it a lot going forward. You may be like me. I think.
Friday, December 22, 2017
Party Pack, Ice
It's a rather obscure EP CD by Party Pack. Ice (pF Mentum CD107) is the title. Now why should you care about something you've probably no idea about? It is in part the whole point of why I write about music. To pass on what turns me on in the hope that it will turn YOU on, that's always part of the aim.
Part Pack is a quintet of Adam Hopkins on bass (and the composer on this), Patrick Breiner and Eric Trudel on tenor saxes, Dustin Carlson on guitar, and Nathan Ellman Bell on drums. Maybe you do not know these names? The point of course is the music...if good, the names follow!
And this is good, very good indeed. It is psychedelic freedom jazz-rock, I guess you could say. It is loose but clear in direction. It has a rock aggression and an avant jazz heat.
And it just SOUNDS great. That is the point, right? It is one of those advanced underground things that motors the music forward. And because nobody else will buy it, it is your duty to support such things by doing so. I say that not to offend you. Artists like this NEED your support. And if you listen carefully, you will I think agree that it is music that deserves attention.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Dominic Miller, Silent Light
Dominic fills the air with lyrical, accomplished original playing that includes a wonderful ability to comp and pick away within a very sophisticated harmonic-melodic world that in the end is his alone. There are no easy words to describe what he comes up with on this fine album, except perhaps to say that the lyrical tradition of Ralph Towner and Oregon are in no way antithetical to this music, though there is no sign of imitation, just a parallel universe.
He brings to us a beauty that bears your close attention and makes a smile adorn your face almost involuntarily. I do not think I need to say any further for now. Just listen.
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Machine Mass Plays Hendrix, with Michel Delville
Michel Delville as one of the leading guitar practitioners in the adventuresome realms today is a natural hommage master. He turns in creative rock-solid performances and adds further electronics to the trio mix to fill things out. He is joined by Machine Mass regulars Tony Bianco on drums and Antoine Guenet on keyboards, synths and piano.
They take some of Hendrix's most compelling songs-compositions and make of them something both contemporary and spacy, without ever violating the spirit of the originals. So we get a notable mix of Jimi's classics, "Third Stone From the Sun," "Little Wing," "Voodoo Chile," "The Wind Cries Mary," etc.
It is an opportunity to get inside these tunes with an original take on them, and for Delville to let loose with freely spaced-out post-Hendrix guitar brilliance.
It may take a couple of listens to fully enter the Machine Mass zone. Once you do, it is a wondrous terrain of the very familiar combined with the unexpected.
Need I say more? Dig this one.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Markus Reuter, Featuring Sonar and Tobias Reber, Falling for Ascension
That this is released on Nik Bartsch's Ronin label is not an accident. The themes for this album were written by Markus between 1985 and 1987. Yet they do not sound at all dated. They share with Bartsch's music a mesmeric minimal funk that sprawls wonderously outward with continually shifting, odd meters. It is a mid-sized ensemble of six players, Markus on touch guitars and soundscapes, plus two more guitars, bass guitars and live electronics.
Each segment carves out its meter-motif infinity with distinctly well hewn structure and flow. The final work "Unconditional" makes a definitive end of it with the most compelling and complex of all of them. I very much suppose your ears will hear the relation between the Crimsonian tide of those years as well as its place in the prog minimal funk that followed.
It is exceptional music for endlessly rewarding drift and ecstatic momentum. It is ensemble intricacy at its most musically stimulating, both rock and post-rock!
Grab it for sure!
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Dialeto, Bartok in Rock
It is Nelson Coelho on electric guitar, Gabriel Costa on bass guitar and Fred Barley on drums. They are full of piss and vinegar as one might hope, so we get lots of great music with a ballsy edge. And that seems perfect as a coherent direction.
Why is Bartok so successfully adapted by jazz and now rock musicians? I cannot give you a particularly coherent answer except it always seems to fit right into an advanced contemporary concept, never more so that this Dialeto album.
It keeps sounding good every time I put it on. I kid you not, this one is muy hot!
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Max Johnson, In the West
An auspicious one. The bassist Max Johnson has been getting more and more attention for his appearances as a top tier avant jazz bassist and a bandleader. In the West (Clean Feed 439) is in a way the culmination of his presence thus far. What we have is an excellent quartet of players at the pinnacle of the New York scene, playing mostly Johnson compositions. The framework is thoughtful, the players realizations central.
Max of course is the bassist for the date. His playing has catapulted him into one of the busier bassists on the scene and this album shows you why. His open-field playing shows a superior sense of note choice, timbral richness and an all-encompassing drive. And he in a way is ever soloing, in the sense that it all has an outstanding presence. His rhythm teammate Mike Pride on the drums shows himself as always a smart. flexible artist who drums as musically as anybody these days.
Susan Alcorn makes of the pedal steel guitar a timbrally rich, notefully central front-line force. There is always a close rapport with what she does and what else is going on at any given time. Kris Davis has become one of my favorite pianists in the avant jazz fold. She does all the right things in a very pianistic way. No note is wasted and no opportunity to contribute squandered. Listen to what she does here and you may not be able NOT to smile.
So there we are. In the West is no doubt Max Johnson at his very best to date. The quartet is excellent and there is edge-to-edge relevance.
Hear this one by all means.
Friday, July 7, 2017
Kevin Kastning, Mark Wingfield, The Line to Three
This as you can imagine is post-psychedelic guitar art that in my head extends what Terje Rypdal forged for us--a new music psychedelia if you will--and takes it in very original and further outward directions.
The guitar work from the two is exceptional, beautifully extended guitar-as-art expansions into dramatically chromatic fields well supported by piano and soundscapes.
It is fabulous music! I wish I had made it, that is how germinal-internal it is for me.
I most heartily recommend it to you. Turn it on and tune it in!
Wynton Kelly Trio, Wes Montgomery, Smokin' in Seattle, 1966
It is a worthy addition to what we have heard from the excellent collaboration of Wes on guitar and the Wynton Kelly Trio, which of course set the pace with two excellent albums, Smokin' at the Half Note and Full House. On this new release Wynton Kelly has bassist Ron Mcclure on board as well as Jimmy Cobb in the drum chair.
They as you would totally expect swing and smoke with authority for the date. Half of the numbers feature the trio alone, presumably as a warm up. These cuts do not detract from the whole, since of course Wynton was on top of the world then. The remaining cuts bring in Wes. And oh, what a great thing it is to hear more of him in a concentrated live jazz setting.
He is in terrific form, as is Wynton and the trio.
We lost so much when we lost Wes so early. But this music reminds us that we did not lose everything when he took his leave, because of course he left us his recorded output. This fills it in with some spectacular soloing. Do not miss it!
Friday, June 16, 2017
Thumbscrew, Convallaria, Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara
If we collectively never quite made it, the space music-of-the-future never quite died out, thankfully. Right now, if you look hard enough, there are numerous recordings of what might have been seen as space-age years ago. Now, it is just the music of the present. The world of jazz is well represented in this sphere. And some of that is very electric, some of it is slightly electric. Thumbscrew is in the latter category. It is a trio of electric guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. The album is called Convallaria (Cuneiform). I believe it is their second as a unit. (See my index search box above for a review of the first album.)
The purely improvisational outlooks of these three musicians are masterful and unparalleled. The compositional weightiness of the program on this album has an equal importance, so that we get a sort of spacey free jazz rockiness that covers some of the unexplored interstices between the genres that is perfectly right for Thumbscrew's musico-collective personality.
Mary is much more than the sum of her occasional effects boxes use. She is alway intelligent and in forward motion, a free guitarist's guitarist. Michael is as ever an extraordinarily creative bassist and plays a huge roll in the success of the trio. Tomas busily and importantly occupies some profound drumming space.
In short this is important music that extends the contemporary rock-free jazz ground outward in greatly rewarding ways.
Friday, June 2, 2017
This is hard-rock quasi-metal that gives a nod to the rootedness of the music--Zep and such. And the more contemporary influence of things like Van Halen. Jeff plays a very solid power-chord centered guitar. Kurty and Florian come through with the heft that is needed.
It is a thorough hoot. Well played. If you like a good power trio that can and does crank it, here you go!
Thursday, May 25, 2017
On Fillmore, Happiness of Living
That any number of the above reactions may apply to the group On Fillmore and their album Happiness of Living (Northern Spy 083) seems to me inevitable. The back cover informs us that "On Fillmore is Darin Gray and Glenn Kotche." OK? The inside liners, orange with light yellow type, a highly unreadable combo alas, tells us that another seven artists are involved: percussionists, guitarists, electricians, vocalists, drummers, a tape-ologist, and etc.
The music has a kind of polyrhythmic Afro-ethnicity to it, an alt rock lineage maybe, and a compositional-song set of structures that puts the whole thing in motion.
It is not a guitar or bass spotlight. Everything melds together. Sometimes the vocals remind me a little of South African group sings, sometimes not.
And as I listen and relisten I get a feeling that nothing quite compares to this one. But also that it is good, this new something. Hear, hear.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
O.R.K., Soul of an Octopus
If that is so the band O.R.K. and their album Soul of an Octopus (Rarenoiserecords RNR075/RNR075LP) are an excellent example of rock in its developing away from a commercial form to an art form.
O.R.K. is a quartet of Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari on keys, electronics and lead vocals, Carmelo Pipitone on acoustic and electric guitars, Colin Edwin on fretted and fretless bass, and Pat Mastelotto on acoustic and electronic drums and percussion.
This is music that centers around song form. The song is the primary vehicle that one encounters, with highly evolved progressive instrumental parts that set everything off and gives each song a highly complex musical substance, a depth.
Each instrumental and vocal part meshes together, vocal and thought out keyboard parts, guitar and bass, drums, all in the evolved sort of progressive sphere that looks back to bands like King Crimson and others as the models that have made it possible to go further afield into sophisticated futurist realms.
This is an album that demands your close attention and rewards with music that increasingly grows on you. It gives us music of a definite character, with an elaborate whole that demands guitar and bass prowess but integrates that into the complex totality.
It is music that gives you much to appreciate. This could be part of what the future of the music holds for us. At any rate it gives us a great deal that is happening right now! Listen.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Trespass Trio, The Spirit of Pitesti
Clean Feed records has the uncanny ability to expose us to vital new avant jazz artists, many not as familiar to us as it turns out they should be. Much of the music they release is essential. A case in point is the Trespass Trio and their album The Spirit of Pitesti (Clean Feed 418). The music sneaks up on you rather than takes you captive at the start. It is a band that needs time and your focused listening self together in the same listening space for a while. Then, bit by bit, you know.
Anybody who follows Euro-jazz in some depth will recognize the three names: Per Zanussi on double bass, Raymond Strid on drums, Martin Kuchen on baritone, alto and sopranino. The tunes are by Zanussi, Kuchen or collectively forged. All are important in establishing the trio and its freely introspective ways. Kuchen is a fabulous self on baritone, like nobody, but great as well on alto and sopranino. Zanussi plays a thinking man's bass, in every way a rhythm section dynamo and a front line finesser of great ideas. Strid blazes forth with splatter-smarts and swing.
But this is all about the three together. They really take off. . . as a trio and bring us some startling music.
No doubt to me--they are one of the finest avant jazz trios active in Europe today. You must give this your attention. Well, not MUST, but you SHOULD!
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures, Glare of the Tiger
Alright then. What we have is a fusion-space band in the grand tradition of Miles classic electric bands and Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi. Now that Neo-Trad is just another style we can go back and reconsider the advances in avant electrics that were revolutionizing the jazz scene and at their best offered excitement, deep groove and freedom all in the same moment.
There have been some nice revisitations and rethinkings in recent years. Wadada's Yo Miles comes to mind among others. Now we have Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures, a octet that forwards the classic electric spacerockfunk of earlier years and shows us there is still plenty of mileage left on the style, still things to be done to forward it into the future.
There is a sort of three dimensional structure that the band adapts and makes vividly alive. First there is the well-conceived rhythm team. Adam puts together an ensemble of hand drums to make his own "handrumset." His vital playing meshes very nicely with the drumset of Hamid Drake and the percussion of James Hurt. Then electric bassist Damon Banks melodizes the groove by acting as the foundational riffmaster.
All this plays off against electric guitarist-electrician Kenny Wessel's and keyboardist Alexis Marcelo's middle ground of solo and rhythmic essentials.
Finally the horn section of Graham Haynes on cornet, flugelhorn (and electronics) and Ralph M. Jones on reeds float atop with composed lines and solos that stretch the music and give it multiple tensile strengths.
Everyone works together to make this a music of soul, thoughtfulness and space travel. It's one of the most successful and originally launched fusion revamps I've heard, one of the best of the bunch. Take a listen!
Monday, May 1, 2017
Carlos Bica & Azul, More Than This, with Frank Mobus and Jim Black
What gets this one your ear is a sort of semi-spooky spaciness and electricity of the Mobus guitar (something with roots perhaps of Frisell, Abercrombie, and the like but also a distinct personal edginess), the post Eberhard Weber, rich-toned bass thoughtfulness of Bica and the open inventiveness of Black's drumming.
These are nicely wrought pieces, mostly written by Bica, who takes care that he forwards the sound with melodic leads that have gorgeous harmonic fleshing out by Mobus as called for. Or alternately Mobus handles the melodic head only perhaps to then hand it on to Bica.
It is both edgy and lyrical, sometimes both at once. There are nice solo moments to hear throughout and a kind of open jazz-rock-space zone that attracts magnetically if you listen properly.
This is hugely pleasurable music from Bica and a beautiful trio. I strongly suggest you listen!
Monday, April 10, 2017
Peter Bruntnell, Nos Da Comrade
Keep in mind this is achingly alternate music. It may be bad enough that it may be the end of the world, but Peter is going to miss it--he will arrive late, or in other words not at all.
There is a hint of retro but it is also right now. Peter sings the lead vocals, plays guitar along with Dave Little and James Walbourne. It is strumming and picking tied properly to the song and so you do not sit up and exclaim, "Hey, those guitars!" There is some effective soloing here and there in a Neil Youngish way, to try and tie to a name.
In the same way Little and Walbourne's keys are firmly harnessed to the demands of the songs, as are Peter Noone's bass and Mick Clews' drums.
The tracks do what they do with near perfection and in the end you (or at least I) want to hear this one again, and then again.
Song connoisseurs of the contemporary rock landscape take note. I am very pleased with this music. Maybe you will be, too? I think so. Give it a chance!
Thursday, April 6, 2017
William Parker and Stefano Scodanibbio, Bass Duo
It is a documentation of their very fruitful collaborative appearance at the Udine&Jazz 2008 Festival in Udine, Italy. It marks the only appearance of the two together. Given Scodanibbio's too early passing in 2012, there will not be any other. But what they did that day together gives us a great deal.
Scodanibbio like Parker was bassist, composer and leading light--in the former case was central to the new music scene as contrabass exponent in advanced works by the likes of Xenakis, Ferneyhough, Globokar, etc.
In many ways this duo reminds us that, certainly in terms of technique and expanded sonic extensions if not in various other ways, there is synergy between the most advanced free improvisation proponents and those who open up parallel universes of sounds in the avant new music sphere.
Mark Dresser in the liner notes draws out the differences in approach that mark the different camps. I will not reproduce that here but refer you to the CD jacket itself.
William and Stefano transcend those differences by close listening and free inventions that set off the mutual dedication both contrabassists have to the sound color and weighted attack expressive possibilities of the modern instrument. So both make excellent interplay out of extended bowing in all its varied richness, harmonics, sounding in various positions bowed above and below the bridge, bowing attack, etc.
They also create some exhilarating double pizzicato passages.
One hears inside the notes to a microscopic sound world when William and Stefano get rolling. Fully getting it demands a focused, concentrated listen. The effort pays off as one contemplates how complete the instrument can be, and with two masters in good form here, we hear a nearly orchestral variance of tone and timbre.
This is music bass players will be fascinated by, for sure, but it is an all-encompassing listen as well for anybody who opens up to it.
Stefano Scodanibbio was and William Parker still is in the handful of bass pioneers, breathtaking virtuosos of the new. This summit meeting reminds us how much MUSIC can come out of the creative virtuoso contrabass greats when allowed free space and time, a sympathetic audience and the inspiration of the moment.
It is some fantastic interplay, a high point of contrabass duo possibilities. Get it if you can and listen carefully. You will go places.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Terra Guitarra, Of Sea & Stars
What distinguishes this from a faux ambiant new age typicality is the pronounced sophistication of the melodic content and the artfulness of the guitars. Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli are responsible for the attractive multiple guitar parts as well as the accompanying instruments (bass, drums, keys, cedar flute, hand percussion).
The result is a very listenable set foregrounded by some fine guitar craftsmanship.
Check it out!
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Velkro, Too Lazy to Panic
From that point on we take a ride into extraordinarily attractive outside, electronically rich hybrids of psychedelia and free jazz. It's an album that got me to mutter "wow" from the first hearing on.
Guitar pioneering fans will no doubt take to Meidell's hugely sensitive feel for sound and attack. It is something you cannot miss. But then the trio moves forward continuously into fascinating and (for me) riveting zones, intricate and strong, bracing and exciting.
I reviewed and appreciated their earlier Don't Wait for the Revolution on these pages. Type "Velkro" into the search box above for that.
This music travels far beyond ordinary words and must be listened to more than talked about.
I am in a very happy place hearing this album. You with a sense of adventure will no doubt feel the same way if you give this one a chance.
A real discovery! Get this platter onto your system as soon as you can--and feel it.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Nick Millevoi, Desertion
It's an excellent set from Nick, the always game Jamie Saft on organ and piano, Johnny DeBlase on acoustic and electric bass and Ches Smith on drums.
This one has a tune orientation with some very catchy ones from Nick. The overall balance is as expected a sort of jazz-rock psychedelic approach, but a bit more structured and less overtly power-driven than some of Nick's earlier albums (I've reviewed a fair number here). But what that does is open things up for the harmonic-melodic aspects of the Millevoi approach. It shows us that his "anything goes" openness can include the compositional realm with very worthwhile results.
This album gives you a good chance to hear Nick's inventive guitar outness in all its fullness, but in ways that will gain him perhaps a wider audience. It is a somewhat more thoughtful context, but not more "commercial" for that.
Everybody is tuned in for the date and the more you listen, the more things you hear. This is first-rate Millevoi and a great listen all around. Check it out.
Friday, March 17, 2017
The Michael Blum Quartet, Chasin' Oscar, A Tribute to Oscar Peterson
Some swinging contemporary jazz is what we get, most of the music associated directly or indirectly with Oscar. Blum much of the time has adopted Oscar's recorded solo from each tune and made it live for guitar. He is seconded very nicely by pianist Brad Smith, bassist Jim Stinnett (whom Blum cites as an important teacher and mentor) and drummer Dom Moio.
Michael also sings on "Tenderly" and that sounds good as well.
This is music of high artistry, from a guitarist who has absorbed Peterson's ethos and made it over in his own image and sound design.
I must say I enjoy this album thoroughly! Take a listen.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Mark Whitfield, Grace
As we proceed through our musical lives, we generally find ourselves within earshot of a number of artists who do things that catch our ears, that somehow express a simpatico musical vision that speaks to us. Guitarist Mark Whitfield and his new album Grace (Marksman Productions 8.2268533147-3) resonates with me in this way. It's him and his well accomplished guitar, his sons Davis and Mark, Jr. on piano and drums, respectively, and Yasushi Nakamura on bass. Vocalist Sy Smith drops in for vocals on the title cut.
The music is in the straight-ahead zone, alternately swinging and funking its way through some attractive Mark Whitfield originals (with help from Dave on one, lyrics by Sy on the title cut).
Everyone is in the pocket, Davis plays some hip piano, but in the end it is the considered fluency and inventiveness of leader Mark himself that wins the day.
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Lisa Mezzacappa, avantNOIR
This is avant jazz that reflects the black and white noir sensibility through eight interconnected numbers that give us an Asphalt Jungle sort of musical narrative. Lisa on bass, Aaron Bennett on tenor, William Winant on vibes and percussion, Tim Perkis on electronics and Jordan Glenn on drums give characteristic voice to the charts and solo well as needed.
The compositions are out front, but then the solos are inextricable from the finished result. Lisa sounds great on bass, John has a good out feel on guitar, but then Aaron's tenor is pivotal to the ensemble as is William's vibes.
Of course John Zorn has something to do with the noir jazz uprising and you can hear his influence here. Ultimately, though, it all steps forward nicely into Mezzacappa territory.
Mezzacappa gives us richly constructed music that leaves us with a very modern take on NOIR sensibility.
A good one! Very recommended.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Trevor Giancola Trio, Fundamental
Trevor and his companions Neil Swainson on bass and Adam Arruda on drums give us a beautiful set of originals, standards and some deserving jazz composition chestnuts (Elmo Hope's "La Berthe" and "De Dah," Joe Henderson's "Punjab," etc.).
It's a fully enabled trio, which means that bassist and drummer not only swing forward greatly but contribute worthy soloing as well.
Giancola has a lining knack and a very nice harmonic sense. The changes underneath go by effortlessly in the hands of Trevor and the trio.
Here's a tasteful and important new voice on the guitar. The trio makes it all a joy!!
Friday, March 3, 2017
The band is Bernocchi on very electric guitar and electronics, Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (LEF) on very respectable vocals and electronics, Colin Edwin on electric bass and Jacopo Pierazzuoli on drums.
This is super-heavy stuff with riffs but a pronounced tendency compositionally to meld it all together in creative ways. Bernocchi can get very out there in space and that makes for some very nice moments. And they get that very big spaced-out sound that roars at you with a nice hugeness.
Now will everybody that reads this take readily to the music? Possibly not, but my job is to thrust forward interesting musics that the adventurous ear might find as absorbing as mine does.
So if you are in the mood for led-heavy astronautics, by all means check this one out!
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Josef Woodward and Charlie Haden, Conversations with Charlie Haden
And a new book is out that will give you a bird's eye view of why he matters. Conversations with Charlie Haden (Sillman-James Press, 235 pages, paper, $19.95) is an insightful series of interviews Josef Woodward had with Charlie from 1988 to 2008.
The dialogs reveal Charlie as a thoughtful, aesthetically consistent artist who ever strived to realize himself without compromise, no matter where that took him, from his precocious beginnings as a singer in the family hillbilly band with a regular radio broadcast from age two onwards, his polio and its sharp curtailment of vocalizing, the subsequent lifelong commitment to the contrabass as his principal medium of expression, his rise to fame as the innovative bass voice in Ornette Coleman's breakthrough quartet and its carving out of avant free jazz, and his subsequent involvement with other collaborations, the advent of his Liberation Music Orchestra and later, Quartet West.
All that is covered thoughtfully. Charlie gives us great insight into his involvement with and understanding of Ornette's harmolodic approach, of his bass as fulfilling the role of piano in that band, only being fed the harmonic implications of Ornette's lines rather than the reverse.
But there are lots of other things to gain from this book. Charlie's view of the importance of finding yourself and who YOU are musically is a recurring theme, for example, great advice for any aspiring artist.
It's a book that practically reads itself. Compelling commentary from a jazz titan! Read it by all means.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Joëlle Léandre, A Woman's Work..., 8-CD Boxed Set
Time has passed and I have happily been the recipient of a good number of subsequent Joëlle Léandre albums, and by now I know that her high, very creative level of avant jazz is a given. When she performs (or composes), you can depend on her to be one of world's most important and original avant jazz improv contrabassists and startlingly original vocalists alive today, someone who whether in solo, duo, trio, quartet or larger contexts will give spontaneous form to the proceedings while bringing out the best with those she performs with.
So when I heard from Joëlle that an eight-CD boxed retrospective was in the works, I jumped at the chance to give it all a close listen and, as you see, write up my thoughts when I emerged from the brown study of aural enlightenment.
So, to give you the complete title info, this is A Woman's Work. . . 8-CDs nicely packaged and available on the Not Two label (MW950-2). If I call it a retrospective I do not mean it is a sort of "greatest hits" collection. This is music we have not heard previously, most from 2015, each a special combination of Joëlle and her bass (one in solo), Joëlle and a live audience, Joëlle interacting in duo, trio, quartet, etc. with a select set of improvisational partners, many well known to the vet avant listener, some less so, but all entering into intensely rewarding dialogs with each other.
So we appreciate the collaborators and how in each case they engage Joëlle and vice versa for some excellent free music. Most of my readers will recognize some or all of the collaborators: Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Agusti Fernandez, Fred Frith, Zlatko Kaucic, Mat Maneri, Lauren Newton, Maggie Nichols, Evan Parker and Irene Schweizer.
There is nothing tired or stale about this music. To quote Joëlle from the very informative accompanying booklet, "The sound of a musician is what he has in his guts, in his soul, is what he has to say. Sound is tough work! It's your identity!" Amen! What we have in this box set is a gathering of major sound masters caught in the real-time process of actualizing themselves, through personal sound generation in an endlessly open field. In the process it gives you a definitive guide to the sound artistry of Joëlle Léandre today, bassist of endless productive creation in close conversation with like-minded free spirits, all masters of the sound fingerprint.
Is this all too much? Not at all. I do not suggest you sit down and try to listen to all 8-CDs in one sitting. Take them one or two at a time, then return to them all repeatedly. This is most emphatically NOT music to tire of. Each listen brings new awareness of another aspect of all the things going on, which is a considerable lot.
I would even say that this might indeed point the avant improv novice in the right direction, teach her or him to open the ears, to listen! Get the set and sequester yourself. And for those who know Joëlle and the style it is a beautiful collection of contrabass profundities, a series of very fruitful avant summits, a collection to treasure, but yes, to help you learn to hear!
And it reminds us just how seminal Joëlle Léandre is in the music of today.
Friday, February 10, 2017
Frank Kohl Quartet, Rising Tide
It's Frank along with Steve LaSpina on acoustic bass, Tom Kohl on piano and Jon Doty on drums in a well-paced program of Kohl originals and a couple of standards. Everybody (maybe even the drummer!?) has internalized his way around changes and has something soulful and interesting to say throughout. Frank has a strong sound that gives the lines torque, a percussive edge that may remind you of vintage Benson but finds its own way around the changes.
Frank is a guitar tastemaker, a true arteest. Hear him out!
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
John Abercrombie Quartet, Up and Coming
You can hear that beautifully in his latest quartet album Up and Coming (ECM 2528). The excellent foursome of John plus Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) is deliberately understated in its quietude, yet capable of monstrously exceptional improvisations in realms where we might not have expected them to dwell a decade ago.
Miles' "Nardis" centers the program of what is otherwise five Abercrombie and two Copland originals, sprawling long form improvisational vehicles where great things happen so quietly you have to focus and dig into the excellent details of what is going on to fully appreciate it all.
Once you do, there are some incredible performances that come into your experience, wonderful things.
Do not overlook this one. John is doing some of his best work and the quartet is a breathing improvisational entity one must experience in focus to appreciate.
A bit of a milestone, this. Bravo!
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Massimo Discepoli, Daniel Barbiero, An Eclipse of Images
This album nicely incorporates cosmic soundscaping, bowed and pizzicato bass, drums in a free and sometimes rocking zone, an electronic backdrop of concentrated outwardness, and an overall arching organic quality.
Daniel sounds great on bass, Massimo on drums and the conceptual totality rings out nicely. It almost seems like a concerto for bass, drums and electronics, the latter acting as a sort of orchestra.
From first to last this hangs together well, reminding at times of early-mid Soft Machine for its psychedelic minimalist spaciousness. But that is only a rough indicator of what you'll get here.
A very enjoyable listen! Recommended for sure.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Samo Salamon, Stefano Battaglia, Winds
The music is an appealing mix of spacy soundscapes, jazz-rock-avant improvisations, and progressively oriented adventures in sound sculpture.
It shows both Samo and Stefano as sensitive, powerful players with a clear set of direction, sometimes spurred on with composed elements, always showing a stylistic originality and a confident sense of where to go at any given point.
Samo has an excellent melodic feel and sense of purpose; Stefano's piano presence does a great deal to make of it all something worthy as well.
I like how Samo uses a fair bit of electricity to put the guitar sound into near-rock territory and at the same time constructs lines which extend the sound into further outwardness. Stefano similarly ranges far and wide with a very musical way about him.
For another worthwhile album by Samo, see my March 3, 2006 review on these pages.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Brian Kastan, Roll the Dice on Life
There is something Zappaesque, Beefhartian to it all, yet not. It is Kastanian. His guitar work is overarching everything with an exceptional structural sense. There is melodic-harmonic surprise at every turn. And the compositions have a real twist to them.
It is Brian in a quartet setting. Miles Griffith's mostly wordless vocals are a thing apart, articulating the complex melodic lines like nobody else, scatty and musically strong, yet very off the wall in the way he mumbles, grumbles, and musically growls the lines.
Steve Rust on bass and Peter O'Brien on drums are very important to the sound, too. They play some beautiful lines both as composition-realizations and as improvisation-openness.
I must say that there is something astonishing going on here, on the fringes of involved rock but most definitely within the reinvented confines of it all.
Holy cripes! This is DIFFERENT. Get your ears on it, definitely.
Monday, January 23, 2017
ROJI, The Hundred Headed Woman
The duet-plus-guests configuration of ROJI, as we hear on The Hundred Headed Woman (ShhPuma 023) makes for a compelling and joyful noise thanks to the throughly musical avant timbre and tone of electric bassist Goncalo Almeida and the fully aware timbral depth and rolling creativity of drummer Jorg A. Schneider. The addition of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet for around half the album and baritone saxophonist Colin Webster for the other half fleshes out the sound without decreasing the very large presence of Almeida's bass or the rolling thunder of Schneider's drums.
In either case Silva's trumpet or Webster's baritone adds to the remarkable frenetics of ROJI without subtracting the hugeness of the duo in the least. Only one cut features the duo as duo. But we do not, or at least I do not feel anything but the rigor of electric-boosted continuity from first to last.
It sounds like Goncalo is playing a five- or six-string electric much of the time, as there is the deepness of the amped-up bass tones plus sometimes a counterline played in the upper range of the instrument, with or without a slide but in any event more guitar than bass-like. In either case Goncalo gives us a distinct avant fullness that is original as it is bracing.
The entire album rockets forth with great energy, noise, and timbre. It is as much psychedelic-laced rock as it is new thing and new music. And it is not just that they do this consistently but that they also do it so well.
In this extraordinarily fragile and frankly disturbing age we live in ROJI transcends the instability of the present with fearless musical courage.
And to me it signals the need to stop questioning an avant garde whose conviction that what they are doing is worthwhile and right comes at a time when many of these artists have little or nothing to gain from devoting a lifetime to evolving their sound. Fame they do not get. Money perhaps very little. There is sincerity and great talent in the best. You can hear that in ROJI. Celebrate a free world creativity! Get this album and play it!
Friday, January 20, 2017
Joshua Breakstone, The Cello Quartet, 88
Breakstone is a fine chordal colorist and an excellent lining soloist who combines smarts and soul. Mike Richmond adds much to this quartet with nicely thought through pizzicato lines in a post-Pettiford manner. Lisle Atkinson's bass and Andy Watson's drums give the set a groovingly solid foundation at all times.
Breakstone gives a tributory nod to the pianists in his original "88." From there we get a worthy handling of some beautiful and lately somewhat or completely neglected masterpieces: Mabern's "The Chief," Clark's "News for Lulu," Walton's "Black," Waldron's "Soul Eyes," Hope's "Moe is On," Harris' "Lolita," Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now," and Tristano's "Lennie's Pennies."
The combination of the pianistic classic repertoire and the Cello Quartet instrumentation gives us a very fresh take and some very nice playing. This is surely one of Breakstone's best and I suspect any jazz loving listener out there will find plenty to like.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Mili Bermejo, Dan Greenspan, arte del duo
These are song form excursions. Many (around half) were written by Mili and they are sparkling, but she also falls into wordless improvising and sometimes, something in between. Her songs are substantial but then she takes on some others (that you might know) and in every instance gives it all a vocal presence that is beautifully original.
Dan Greenspan plays excellent bass here as well. He works within the implied changes of any given tune and delivers an exceptionally mindful set of bass parts/improvs that define the duo as much as Mili does vocally.
There is a South American lilt to it all, not always quite bursting into full rhythmic cadence as much as they allude to what they hear but leave out. Then again, they sometimes let loose with the linear heat they have internalized and so we feel a thrusting forth as well as a hiding and a conscious partial erasure,
This is pure brilliance!
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Ian Faquini & Paula Santoro, Metal na Madeira
The minimal of the two together is supplemented on the various songs, respectively, by bass plus drums and percussion, or accordion and pandeiro, or drums, or electric piano, drums, bass, horns and backing vocals, or accordion, or clarinet. Everyone does the right thing to forward the music beautifully.
This is far and above one of the nicest samba jazz outfits I've heard in years. And the originals have everything going for them, as do Paula's vocals and Ian's acoustic.
Wow! Do not miss this one!
Monday, January 2, 2017
Eric St-Laurent, Planet
They do originals and classics like "Donna Lee," and it all sounds bright and contemporary. A big surprise is the theme from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8, Second Movement. It works.
In the end we hear a guitarist who goes his own way, convincingly, and a band that sounds fresh and can PLAY.
I plan to post much more on here this year. I ran into snags the last half of 2016 which I hope are remedied! Onward.
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