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. 

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Christopher Hale, Ritual Diamonds


Musical things that occupy an original niche in our listening possibilities nowadays are more important to me than some kind of dominance in terms of chops. If you or I can never come close to duplicating some technical  feat, I will no doubt want to hear it, something of that sort, most probably but it will not make the sort of impact an altogether original slant can make today. Of course someone might innovate highly and still have monster chops compared with others in his or her time. Charlie Parker of course comes to mind. Nevertheless today's really new music much of the time is more squarely in the discovery vein, in the realm of a new language of sorts than in a blockbuster explosion of technique, or at least it seems that way to me.

I refer to an EP out by Christopher Hale entitled Ritual Diamonds (Earshift Music EAR064). It brings to bear some six Hale compositions, one cowritten with Woo Minyoung. Germinal to this music is a Classical Korean rhythmic element that continues an infectious pulse but then inserts endlessly variable patterns into it that in ensemble terms that afford the music a kind of composed and sometimes improvised string of endless melodic strains that are lovely to behold, very much so.

So the fundamental element comes out of conventional drum set and Korean percussion with patterns suggested above. And then we have these compositions built up in endless melody, seemingly based on or suggested by the Korean rhythmic patterns. It seems like that and the idea is that it works very well with Hale's bass and baritone guitars as well as his regular six string electric instrument. He plays nicely idiomatic solos when he does and they fit well into the music at large. And so too we have the ensemble and soloists on Korean instruments, tenor and soprano saxes, Fender Rhodes, trumpet, second guitar, etc.

So the music and its long, mesmerizing chordal and melodic sequences seem to me as haunting and appealing as anything out there now!  It is only 35 minutes of music but worth every minute. Bravo and brava!

Listen to some samples on Bandcamp.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Sandy Ewen, Explode, with Damon Smith, Weasel Walter

When in the middle of infernally busy times conjoined for a while with the absolute stasis of lockdown it is perhaps not surprising if several strands of the main threads of endeavors have strayed or become frayed and fell off the main conduit. I will admit that has happened in the case of a fine CD that was recorded in 2018, released in 2020 and found its way into my pile of New Music/Avant Jazz to listen to and consider. It was not that I did not immediately note its existence with great expectations. It was a continual re-sorting situation where the provenance of any given album became a sort of musical chairs situation. Now enough time has passed that I have rescruitenized the new stacks and pulled this for immediate hearing.

And so we have electric guitar-lap guitarist Sandy Ewen and a spectacularly situated trio of Sandy along with bassist Damon Smith and drummer Weasel Walter in an album dubbed aptly Explode (ugExplode CD). 

Now Ms. Ewen, happily, is not new to me. A number of years ago I appreciated her noise-laced post-Punk guitar stylings on a few fine recordings with Damon Smith. They captured her with crack configurations that showed her fresh yet classically Modern in uncompromisingly new and unconventional and boldly fire-charged in manners that remind of early Sonny Sharrock and Derek Bailey,

So this is a very resourceful, distinctive, original trio with no compromising and instead a full-bodied unremitting attack dog on a three-way with noise-melody and free falling presence a constant. Listen to Sandy and the very intuitive but sure timbral spank she initiates and keeps flowing while Damon on bass provides his own counterweight of beautifully advesturesomne sound pyrotechnics.

Those who know the Weasel Walter no-holds barred intensity will not be disappointed. He is ever unafraid to make his drums sound in all manner of intensities and as such he is the perfect countervoice to the string team.

The end result is a classic free rave up that compared favorably with the best of noise virtuoso offering on disk, past and present!

Mario Pavone Dialect Trio, Philosophy


The late bassist Mario Pavone (1940-2021) was a leading light as contrabassist virtuoso on the Avant Garde Jazz scene in his glory years. He was in an important incarnation of the Paul Bley trio,  was on Bobby Naughton's wonderful Understanding (RIP Bobby), a nice Alan Silva album Skillfulness, was a key member of some of Bill Dixon's finest groups, was a key collaborator with Thomas Chapin and Anthony Braxton, and of course made lots of excellent albums in his own name. Type "Pavone" in the index search box for another good one one I covered a while ago.

I bring to you this morning an album recorded in 2018 and released the following year, Mario Pavone Dialect Trio's Philosophy (Clean Feed  CF630CD). If I am late getting to this one it is because that time it was released was quite hectic and I am only now catching up. It is a wonderfully alive lineup of Pavone, Matt Mitchell on piano and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, three masters all, and having a great session too.

The compositions are all nicely wrought with two by Annette Peacock, one group improvisation and the rest by Pavone, The Philosophy in question is Pavone's three-way levelling of purpose, with bass, drums and piano holding forth as equals in leeway and invention. It all fits in with Pavone's roots in the classic avant trios of Paul Bley, and so understandably there is some really first-rate group playing throughout, Listen to each artist closely as they uncover some otherworldly  possibilities for us. Everyone is keenly hewn, sharp as tacks, are boldly jumping into the fray with true spirit and excellent spontaneous girth. Wow. Very strongly recommended!

Monday, December 12, 2022

Robert O'Connor Miller, Sketches, Music for Classical Guitar

Classical guitarist Robert O'Connor Miller presents to us a cornucopia of Contemporary Classical guitar works that especially show off his exceptional sensitivity toward the diaspora of Afro-European guitar expressions. It is a beautiful and beautifully played program we hear in his CD Sketches (Frameworks Records). The artist explains on his website, "In both Brazil and the United States, African American and European American musical parentage gave birth to a multitude of different styles of music: Choro, Frevo, Blues and Jazz to name a few."

Accordingly the guitarist embarks on a program of gems in this family of styles, both directly in the beautiful Choros of Brazilian composers Pixinguinha (in three Choros arranged for solo guitar by Roland Dyens) and Ernesto Nazareth (with five of his works in Choros and European flavored sounds arranged for solo guitar by Sergio Assad).

Then we have some pieces branching out of and commenting upon vital musical strains of Afro-Americana, namely a reaction to Miles Davis's Kind of Blue  classic "Flamingo Sketches" via Simone Ianarelli's sketch view on the  three movement "Miles Sketches" Then finally we have Dudan Bogdanovic's "Blues and Seven Variations."

What the music so well presents Robert O'Connor Miller so strikingly represents with an extraordinarily ravishing and singingly even-voiced string tone. Miller's uncanny feel for the vibrantly authentic nuances of each form and its articulation in each movement is a testament to his singular grasp and internalization of the essentials of each music.

Miller is simply extraordinary here. Do not miss it.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Frederic Hand, Across Time, Guitar Solos and Songs


Sometimes the "outside" world seems to be filled with potentially dangerous strangers, lately. If you are a parent you need to tell things to your kids that no kid should have to hear, but such are the times we live in. I am glad there is music still, in a very welcome contrast to life trials these days. Nobody who loves or makes music is a stranger to me, not really, though Charles Manson did make an album those years ago. We keep on and this morning I am happy to report in on an album that should renew your faith in the power of musicians to create memorable things.

So today I have an interesting example for you.It is guitarist/composer Frederic Hand and his album of guitar solos and songs, the latter featuring (his wife?) Lesley Hand on vocals. The album is named Across Time (ReEntrant REN92).

So we get in all some ten guitar solos (including one based on the Shaker hymn "Tis A Gift To Be Simple." and then four songs for Lesley Hand and guitar. It is acoustic guitar heard on here, and quite nicely so. The harmonic-melodic unfolding of each piece is captivating to hear, without fail. The works range from several from the present to some originally recorded in 1977 and remastered for this release. There is a consistent quality throughout. There are no fillers!

It all seems to me something anyone who responds to acoustic guitar and well thought-out dialogues of player and instrument will appreciate. I  find it all quite ravishing. Strongly recommended!