Friday, June 23, 2023

Karl Evangelista's Apura, Ngayon


We travel each of us down the path of life and for those musically inclined we in part mark our lifetimes with various musics and artists so that there are soundtracks at any period that accompany our event horizons. Today I must say happily I HAVE BEEN  quite favorably struck (autobiographically?) by a new album from  electric guitarist Karl A.D. Evangelista and his group Apura.  The album is entitled Ngayon (Astral Spirits AS208).

This is open rhythm free form Avant Jazz of note from an electric guitarist who chooses his notes and sound with care and consistency, even with brilliance I would say, in an advanced harmonic-melodic mode and an intricate vision of how the music flows and takes on vibrant life. If it is helpful to have something stylistically related you might think of the classic Paul Motian Trios of Motion drums, Bill Frisell guitar and Joe Lovano tenor sax? Now that is only a rough idea of the sound and Evangelista and company hew their own path through such musical thickets. What that stylistic complex involves has to do with a musically open space filled by compositions that spill out to complex but consistently forward moving head frameworks of a New Thing sort, and in a general sense for a whole of heads and improvs of acute color and soundings of advanced notefulness. 

The band is  a very compatible quintet of top-notch improvising players.  Evangelista takes the lead on guitar, followed nicely by Francis Wong on the tenor saxophone, Rei Scampavia on piano for cuts 3, 4, Lisa Mezacappa on upright contrabass, and the very welcome guest, percussive giant Andrew Cyrille  on drums.

No notes are wasted here, with striking improvisational articulations the rule always and the whole group complex continually assertive and together. The group name Apura comes out of Tagalog word that means roughly "Very urgent," which the press notes to this album tell us has to do with  the 1968 album of that same name by Chris McGregor's celebrated South African Sextet of 50 years ago and their objective of resisting apartheid through sound. This Apura group seeks to revive the primordial energy of such a band, as also and again "the sound of vintage Free Jazz with Filipino folk song," while drawing a direct line between the political action of those important days and the search for justice and equality today.

The nicely crackling Apollonian electricity of Evangelista's guitar melds very well with Wong's frontline tenor and all-too-briefly Scampavia's piano when he participates. The Mezacappa-Cyrille bass-drums tandem makes for a potently classic and edgy whole, and sets up the entire band with remarkable poise and energy.

This is remarkable fare, one of the nicest avant outings I've heard in recent years, a real winner.

Strongly recommended. Get a bead on the album with a free stream on BandCamp and see how to order there:

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Michael Bisio, Timothy Hill, Inside Voice / Outside Voice


As we play out our lives in real time we trace the unfolding trajectory of the musical artists we gladly follow, so that each new album for example is not set in stone but plays upon the possibilities made available to the musical artist at any given point. In the case of bassist-bandleader Michael Bisio the new one is rather unexpected and in no way a kind of safe haven but rather a new set of risks entailed in a duet recording with guitarist-vocalist Timothy Hill. The album that has resulted just now is something so very good and not exactly predictable based on what has been going forth musically in the last decade nor so. Inside Voice / Outside Voice (Origin Records 82872) may seem the usual if we consider the Songbook Standards and the Jazz Classics it covers. But when you listen you know it is something new, something different.

As the title suggests, this music has growth born inside the musical beings of both artists and what is more the astral plane perhaps tracks us too on the outside of our typically bounded musical way born of popular avenues, all that retraced to show intrinsic and transcendant musical being, maybe? One thinks as one listens to other artists going through their special cycles like the Coltrane of ballads and the Johnny Hartman vocals that put that together even further on their dual album of those days, think also Ornette in Science Fiction mode and how the two take on "Law Years" from that period. and here we are born into another musical universe altogether yet not of course fully divorced from those golden moments of the past. And in it all is a deliciously warm lyrical side in the balladic vocal coupled with Bisio's remarkable extended techniques bass brilliance of "My One and Only Love."

Timothy Hill is a rare beast in that he sings well and unpretentiously, plays a smartly inventive acoustic guitar and so stands up winningly against Michael's extraordinary bass effusions that have all the sonic adventure of his "normal" out playing, that special originality and furthers along with Timothy in his vocal emanations that kind of internal song inside that comes out and makes very real the Inside Voice idea. Brilliant.

This album stands out even from a typical Bisio gem in various contexts, for it grabs a very testificatory revelling in tonal washes of unforgettable warmth and density. And the vocals, even those make sense perfectly as a new thing and not at all  some commercial sell gimmick. I will not say there is something a little like Chet Baker in his vocal cups at his best, with a different attack however, yet in a kind of heart-on-sleeve without the sometimes inevitable gyrational urgency that a more extroverted run through would have produced. And then there are the harmonic and whistle-stopped vocals too that work very well as an outward bound in trajectory that goes wonderfully well with Michael's droning bow attacks.

And so all that works like a charm and gives us the backdrop for one of Michael's most completely original bass outings  yet, perhaps I could say?

It all seems exactly right for a sunny spring morning such as the one outside my window as I type these lines. But it would hit home regardless of the season, so do not be sorry if you read this in December or such. Good any time.

This is outstandingly good music. Do not hesitate.