Thursday, December 16, 2021

Alan Rinehart Plays Sylvius Leopold Weiss Lute Music on Guitar


I learned in part by osmosis and the rest by listening--that Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1687-1750) was the king of Baroque lute compositions. I've enjoyed all that I have heard by the master and now happily there is a full volume of Weiss lute works played nicely and dedicatedly on guitar by Alan Rinehart (Ravello RR8056)                              

Of course there have been recordings of Weiss on guitar in the past. Here we have a full 70 minutes of a goodly assortment nicely played by Alan Rinehart. There is an "Allegro" in E Minor, a Fantasia, two multi-movement Partitas, the "Tombeau sur la Mort de M' Compte de Logy," a "Galanterie," "Menuet and Trio" and a "Suite in D Major." It is all worthwhile, inventive and nicely wrought in ways that make you appreciate the brilliance of technical and lyrical outflow. Maestro Rinehart is to be commended for his focused readings.

Anyone who gravitates to nicely thought-out Baroque sequences for guitar will find this one a continual pleasure to hear I have no doubt. Recommended warmly.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Dave Stryker, As We Are, Music for Guitar, Quartet and String Quartet


The idea of electric guitar Jazz with strings is hardly unheard of. When I was pretty new to Jazz listening I happily stumbled upon Wes Montgomery's classic album Tequila, which you may remember had tracks with a string backdrop arranged by Claus Ogerman. It was the antithesis of the pop tendency at the time to add strings as "sweetener." Not that it was not sweet exactly but the strings had plenty of contentful things to play behind Wes. I loved it. Still do.

Well when I started to listen to today's album I was happily reminded of that Wes gem without feeling that I was hearing a clone. Far from it. The album is guitarist Dave Stryker's new one As We Are (Strikezone Records 8822). It features Stryker with his Quartet of Julian Shore on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums, plus a string quartet. Julian Shore put together the arrangements, Stryker originals for the most part.

The compositions are weighty enough to stay with you, Dave's guitar revels in the way it can and does blend with the string sonarity, at the same time as his note choices are exceptionally nice to hear. There is a soulful countenance, lyrical sensibilities and harmonic movement of a satisfyingly sophisticated sort. The Shore scoring of the string quartet is rather brilliant I must say.

Stryker wanted the sort of strings-band interaction where nothing was superficial. And he gets that, very happily.

It is a damned fine album in every way. And if you are like me it will feel hearty and substantial, real art, a pleasure from beginning to end. Get this one!

Monday, November 1, 2021

Sergio Amaroli, Steve Piccolo, Elliott Sharp, Blue in Mind


Sometimes we get to hear something not quite in the place other musics have been. I feel like that listening to the Blue in Mind album (Leo Records CD LR 920).It is a trio that refuses to stand still, but rather keeps transforming into various soundscaped hues of chamber Avant Jazz that challenges our ears and brings us to new places.

The lineup features Sergio Armarole on vibraphone, Steve Piccolo on vocals and recitation-speech, and Elliott Sharp on electric guitar, soprano sax and electronics. Now everything Elliott does here is not unexpected exactly. There are Freebop evergreens that highlight Sharp's roots and controlled vision that sets things up for Armaroli's very together vibe counterthrusts and Piccolo's swinging outness and spreading soundscaping recitations. Fittingly but not exactly expectantly there is Sharp's long electronic wash at the end of the program. None of this will astonish you who know his music but it will doubtless please you and feel like the New Thing that it all is.

What makes this all click is that all three show their Jazz roots and an aurally cleansing freesome that brings us all into the now. Elliott's guitar work alone is worth the "price of admission." Adventuresome guitarists should find much to discover. And reassuringly the whole set of interactions puts us in an inspiring place, no matter what we ourselves play or do not play. It's a good one!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Gerry Eastman Trio, Trust Me, with Greg Lewis and Taru Alexander


If there are less postings on this particular blog lately, it is not because guitar and bass players are any less important to me, it is simply a time thing. I am glad to be back today because I am happy to talk about an album that has my attention, guitarist Gerry Eastman's Trio and their CD Trust Me (self published). The organ trio with guitar, organ and drums has a long and lively history and often enough is a locus where swinging is the rule and there is plenty of space for all three players to wind it out like a great ball of twine unravelling.

That is certainly true of this CD and drummer Taru Alexander helps make sure that is so with some great driving drums that kick things forward continually and set up a time zone that Eastman and Lewis drop into and engage in with great and happy intensity.

The second crucial factor to this album's success is surely the set of originals Gerry Eastman has crafted for this date. They are melodically and harmonic advanced and ensure that all comes together in original and contemporary ways. That is no small feat.

The logical next consideration is the beautiful organ presence of Greg Lewis. I've covered some of his music, mostly on the Gapplegate Music Review pages, and I am ever glad to hear him carry on. Like the great legacy of Larry Young, he does not content himself with the sort of soulfulness that Jimmy Smith created and so many followed. Lewis does not lack soul of course, but he also has an advanced Modern harmonic and line weaving sense that does not rely on cliché and gives us a very inventive togetherness that is a real pleasure to hear.

And so he comps in ways that make sense and sets up Gerry to launch forward continually in progressive ways. And Greg solos beautifully as well!

Last but of course not at all least Gerry Eastman comes at us continually with original and worthy soloing. He is his own person on guitar which is saying a great deal given the heavy legacy of organ trio and beyond masters like Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Martino. He has his own line-poetry going that fits with the changes of course but in his own way.

It is an album with everything going for it, It is quite a feather in Gerry Eastman's musical cap. It will appeal to anyone into some very Modern swinging, some smart soloing and a real kicker to boot. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Steve Tallis, Where Many Rivers Meet


Australian singer-songwriter-guitarist Steve Tallis has been around the block more than a few times. His life-chops no doubt help reflect, underscore and burnish his music these days. The most recent has been on my playlist and I am glad to talk a little about it today. It is a pared down Steve, just his voice, a Gibson SC and an acoustic guitar (a Guild 12 String), plus some foot stomping for the hollers, and a getting to the core throughout. The title evokes getting to a good place, Where Many Rivers Meet (ZOMBIE).  It is his 8th self-produced album (see index for some others) and undoubtedly one of his best.

Steve takes on a transformed sort of Blues-Folk-Rock solo attitude. There are some classic roots songs performed as acapella hollers mostly, so "Black Betty," "Early in the Morning," and so forth. All get their rooted dueness of direct feelingful delivery.. Then there are Steve's originals, filled with a bluesiness and a kind of solo advancement of his style into a place more and more rooted, yet original too with a kind of directness that owes something to early Dylan and middle Captain Beefheart, yet Steve is consistently a new thing unmistakably as one hears him, as I have over a good number of years.

This one places him comfortably and happily as rooted in a hard Blues tradition and yet it is not as much a matter of Blues changes as a strong riffing and stomping presence, Hooker and early Waters more than the turnaround centric Jimmy Reed, for example. This is not a matter of virtuoso wowing as it is of hitting a power accompaniment that is just right for the stylistic complex involved.

It is with the 25 originals and classics combined a considerable jolt of music energy. If you give this a few listens I suspect you are going to grow into it all as I did. Happily recommended for roots fans.


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Michael Bisio, Kirk Knuffke, Fred Lonberg-Holm, The Art Spirit


Michael Bisio is among today's very most important contrabassists in Avant Free Jazz. Similarly Kirk Knuffke is a cornetist of great stature, a master artist. Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm may not automatically call up associations with the greatest living improvisers, yet he shows us in the company of Bisio and Knuffke to be in every way a potent third voice, a master of line and sound in himself. All that we hear in a recent trio recording of the three called The Art Spirit (ESP 5053).

The general breakdown on this eight segmented improvisational suite is a kind of natural grouping together of bass and cello against a very horn-like set of utterances from Knuffke's cornet. Three of the works are by Michael, the rest are collective compositional endeavors.  It makes for a cohesive and dynamic energy trajectory and a way of expression clearly with the roots in a jazz tradition, yet free and open too.

It is one of those sessions where everything clicks, where all three in tandem define a way to explore simultaneous lines and textures. 

The album is dedicated to modern artist Robert Henri (1865-1929).

Happily the aesthetic underpinnings are at the forefront. This is ART MUSIC, Jazz rooted excellence throughout. Do not miss it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Dom Minasi, Hans Tammen, Harvey Valdes, Briggan Krauss, Eight Hands One Mind, In Memory of Bern Nix


The Dom Minasi Guitar Quartet jumps ahead on their tribute to Bern Nix, guitarist with Ornette Coleman 1975-87 and then a key force on the New York improvisational scene until his untimely death in 2017. The album is appropriately titled Eight Hands One Mind (UR Unseen Rain Records).

The project came about when Dom Minasi put together some six compositions for four guitars in a kind of New Music Modern zone that required all four players idiomatically to realize the written parts while also as called upon to improvise freely in ways that rhythmically-harmonically fit the overall compositional framework. The original guitar line-up was Dom plus Hans Tammen, Harvey Valdes and Bern Nix. Rehearsals went well and then a final rehearsal was scheduled before the studio recording was to take place.  Sadly Bern Nix passed away before that could happen. Eventually the quartet was reconstituted with Briggan Krauss in place of Nix. And the music was finalized and performed as a fitting tribute to the brilliant guitarist, and at the same time a memorable New Music-Improv offering that Bern no doubt appreciated in those rehearsal days.

Listening to this one is a real pleasure--the compositions are intricate, detailed, advanced and filled with Modern openings outward in ways that seamlessly join fully interactive four-way compositional counterplay to free improvisations that in turn serve to extend the music's province while also bringing out the collective musical personalities of the players.

It surely is a triumph of bridging between New Music and Avant Improv. The musical content makes initial sense and intrigues on first hearing, then proceeds to grow ever more rewarding with repeated listens. Dom's compositions are outstanding examples of the synchrony of possibilities between to two domains, a series of exploratory gems that end up showing us a musically astute route between the compositionally profound and the spontaneously vital.

Kudos to all concerned. This is music that resonates in part with how Bern Nix thought of his guitar role, something akin to what he was hearing-playing in his head then. It is an album anyone interested in advanced guitar should listen to carefully but also some great music for anyone who follows the "serious" music scene. Either should find this a joy to hear. Bravo. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Fake Dudes, Magnet Animals, Todd Clauser, Eyal Maoz, etc.


As time passes we sometimes get a feeling of coming full circle, other times of absolute linearity. And of course these event-flow perceptions can be mixed up in some lived moments. So the event-ual feeling of linear history might hit us in the experience of historical time lately, while the art-music present can also feel like a re-thinking of music we have heard and appreciated? And so the very electric quartet of Magnet Animals on their recent album Fake Dudes (RareNoise RNR0126CD RNR126LP) nicely reminds me in some ways of later King Crimson, yet not at all in some obvious sense, and other times goes beyond that to some other, often enough unique territory. 

Yet there is an emphasis on in-time poetic recitation and sometimes musical vocals from Todd Clauser against a two guitar psychedelic haze of post-prog from Clauser and Eyal Maoz, a busy, creative and rock solid electric bass from Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, and the fire-y rock drumming of Jorge Servin.

Ten advanced, artfully arranged and musically contentful tracks await the hearer. There is a moment or two that has an affinity to Hendrix's "Third Stone" rhythmic envelopes, other times a backbeat laying out, and sometimes some other creative spontaneity. I found the second hearing assured me that this is substantial music to grow into and the listens after that only reaffirmed the feeling.  The poetics-lyrics are descriptive narrations, openly deep, both expressive-factual and at times surreal, but ever worth your time and attention.

We need music like this, that despite the tumult of the times insists on creating an electric art music that is somehow authentic and continues to open up advanced Rock horizons. Hurrah for that. Definitely recommended.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Gary Lucas, The Essential Gary Lucas


A major guitarist and musical artist of the caliber of Gary Lucas is one of those brilliant rareties one misses at one's own peril. He has created a body of recordings no serious student of the instrument should miss. But then of course his art can and does speak to those who do not necessarily play guitar, for those seeking pioneering and exciting sounds as a whole. 

There is so much that's worthwhile to hear in the Lucas discography that those new to it face a daunting task--to sort through the whole of it is very worthwhile but of course it takes some doing. Enter just now a two-CD best of compilation that gives you a succinct overview of where he's been, The Essential Gary Lucas (Rarelum  018-2 2-CD).

The challenge with somebody as diverse and inventive as Gary over the years is what to leave out more than what to include, because there are an awful lot of essential aspects. So there of course is the extraordinary guitar artistry--the original and rather amazing fingerpicking on acoustic or electric, there is the striking slide work, the execution of intricate patterns, the shredding electricity in a band context, or all combined in a solo digital delay sequence. And then one must not forget the rhythmically lively pattern of strums and picking articulations that compliment collaborations with particular vocalists, often enough involving a special niche of the world revisited and rethought. Then there is the song wielding songwriting especially with Gods and Monsters, the pathbreaking collaborations that stretch music boundaries, the beautiful work with Jeff Buckley, the adoption of classical gems to solo guitar, solo guitar music for movies,  the Captain Beefhartian adventures, and countless other features and subtleties one catches on lingering listens.

For those that appreciate the Bockley-Lucas song collaborations, there is the wonderful Dutch symphonic-guitar-vocal version of the Buckley-Lucas song "Story without Words." It's inclusion alone n enough to make the whole set worthwhile, but of course there is so much more, too much really to enumerate minute-by-minute in this space. 

If you are guitar happy and/or a fan of the advanced out there this makes for a valuable  single-source introduction or confirmation to the thoughtful artistry of the master. He has the sort of originality that a mere note or two from him serves to remind you that his sound(s) are one-of-a-kind.

Some of the additional rarities may help you decide to get this--The "Music for the 'Golem'" sequence live from 1989, "All Along the Watchtower" for Gary and vocalist Feifei Yang, the live guitar Beefheart "Flavor Bud Living." All that is great to have but then the whole set stands out after a while. A major living guitarist presents some hand-picked best. What more could you ask for? Get it.

You might well find after hearing this a bunch of times that you will want more Gary Lucas in your ears. That is partly the point, but even so this is one helluva listen! Grab it!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Michael Gregory Jackson, Change, A Suite for Nelson Mandela


If there is a constant in the world today, it is uncertainty. Or that is one constant. And for me it is also the artistry of Michael Gregory Jackson, guitarist, vocalist, composer, bandleader. He one of the musicians I have listened to and appreciated for a long while. The constant is that I am likely to appreciate anything he does. 

So a while ago he released one that actually goes back to 1994 but is worth waiting for. It is Change, A Suite for Nelson Mandela (Golden Records, Bandcamp DL). It is a 20-minute work for Jackson on guitar and vocals, his sextet and three background vocalists. That includes Stephen Haynes on trumpet and Chuck Langford on saxophone.

One thing about Michael is his ready, exceptional combination of drive and lyricism. That is very true of this one--the melodic line is not something you'll forget. It's a wonder of a tribute to Mandela. And it is Fusionoid in nice ways and gives us drivingly tight ensemble, wonderful lead vocals and some excellent guitar. 

It is 20 very necessary minutes. You should check it out!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Susan Alcorn Quintet, Pedernal


Susan Alcorn's pedal steel Avant Jazz excursions have been an important part of the US East Coast scene for a good while now.  Her Susan Alcorn Quintet release Pedernal (Relative Pitch Records) has a lot going for it and should help to bring her the recognition she so deserves.

The outfit is a very special kind of string band with drums. So there is of course Susan on pedal steel, Mary Halvorson on electric guitar, Mark Feldman on violin, Michael Formanek on acoustic bass and Ryan Sawyer on drums. 

They deftly, adroitly, brilliantly make palpable Susan's varied and memorable compositions, all five in their differing moods, some anthemic, some ruminative, all excellent platforms for Susan's subtle and very musicianly style and her co-band members and their discerning co-improvisations.

It is an album that hangs together remarkably well and brings us to different places that we might not have anticipated but are glad to have been, repeatedly as one listens multiple times.

So I happily recommend this one to you. Good music it surely is, so do not hesitate.