Thursday, September 22, 2016

Joe McPhee, Flowers

Saxophonist Joe McPhee has been a key member of the new jazz community for so long now that some might tend to take him for granted. They should not. After all his long-time partner in Trio X, bassist Dominic Duval, has recently left us. We must appreciate and celebrate our masters while they continue to flourish.

And so as a timely reminder we have a newly released, all-alto-solo Joe McPhee album Flowers (Cipsela 005), which was recorded live at the 2009 Jazz ao Centro Festival in Coimbra, Portugal.

It is a thematically unified affair--with a series of dedications (for Ornette, John Tchicai, Anthony Braxton, etc.) which serve as catalysts for some state-of-the-art improvisations.

Joe is in great form, seemingly inspired by the appreciative audience. And you find yourself caught up after a few listens in the logic-soul of the spontaneous moment.

It is an excellent set, a great one to have. Long live Joe McPhee!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nick Fraser Quartet, Starer

Here's a crack quartet led by drummer Nick Fraser. Starer (Ontario Arts Council) deftly combines new music and free jazz with Fraser's compositional frameworks that set off the open drumming, the bottom density of double bassist Rob Clutton and cello intensities of Andrew Downing, nicely balanced by the tenor and soprano exuberance of the formidable Tony Malaby.

This is music that wakes you up to new possibilities that lay out well and pointilistically drive forward with a contrapuntal kind of avant swing that starts with Nick's all-over fullness of tone and gets handed forward with the complex string work and sax soulfulness. It is a furtherance of the Too Many Continents album Nick and Tony did a while ago with Kris Davis. Clutton and Downing give the music a different spin but it's all on the road to the very new.

It is both very original and very successful in its free-structured juxtapositions.

One of the more startling avant jazz albums this year to date. Bravo Nick and Quartet! Get this one!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Kasper Tom, Rudi Mahall, One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure

The ever-present duo formation in avant jazz gets another fine example with drummer Kasper Tom and reedist Rudi Mahall's One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure (Barefoot Records 050 CD). The two have been regular performing partners for some time now (type "Kasper Tom" in the search box above for three examples of the two in a larger group setting). But this is the first to my knowledge of the two in duet.

Nine spontaneous numbers fill out the CD with nicely turned improvs, Rudi unleashing his arsenal of clarinets in his special way and Kasper Tom playing consistently brilliant and inventive free drums.

Clearly, the two are in top form and engage in high-level dialogues throughout. Once again we have some elevations of the spirit that bear repeated listening, marking the Euro scene as a hotspot for the new jazz. Kasper Tom and Rudi Mahall make for essential listening.

I do recommend you get this one!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Keefe Jackson, Jason Adasiewicz, Rows and Rows

From the continuing renaissance of avant Chicago jazz we have another interesting reunion and an album of bold sonic assertion--namely tenor-bass clarinetist Keefe Jackson and vibist Jason Adasiewicz on their latest duet Rows and Rows (Delmark 5024).

Each has of course developed his own sound and this duet is free flowing yet structured with some excellent compositional ideas from the two. That makes considerable difference in giving us a stand-out album.

And that's one of the hallmarks of new Chicago--they challenge themselves to pull a little bit more forward with every project via good ideas and excellent execution.

You listen to these two together and how they have devised worthy motifs to improvise around, fulcrum points as it were, and you get a program that speaks freshly of the continuing evolution of the avant improviser.

This session has it all going on--concept, motifs, beautifully thematic improvisations and an adventurous dynamic.

Another great example of how Chicago continues to remain vital!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lefteris Kordis, Mediterrana (Goddess of Light)

Something fascinatingly different is in store for us today. Greek jazz composer-pianist Lefteris Kordis presents his album Mediterrana (Goddess of Light) (Inner Circle Music 052). It is a stunning example of cross-cultural fusion (Greek and jazz in an acoustic setting) that features Lefteris and his very ear awakening way with the fusion he is all about (piano, and added synth for one cut), plus a trio of Petro Kampanis on bass (replaced by John Lockwood on one cut) and Ziv Ravitz on drums, a very artistically capable threesome in themselves. They are joined at various times on the album by the specially colorful sounds of Harris Lambrakis on ney, Roni Eytan on harmonica, Vasilis Kostas on laouto, Alec Spiegelman on clarinet and bass clarinet and Sergio Martinez Diaz on cajun and claps.

The additional players color the music nicely and set up the compositional thrust of Lefteris in ways that stand out.

The music rocks and swings genuinely and makes the composed and improvised material especially vivid.

It is a music so thoroughly woven together with the strands of Kordis' background and very contemporary jazz that there is no pulling apart at any time.

It is an outstanding vision of real fusion today, as valuable for Lefteris' piano as it is for the compositions and arrangements. Kudos for this! Get it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Julien Palomo, Scutigere

Julien Palomo, head of the avant Improvising Beings label, is also a gifted composer-instrumentalist.

His newest venture is a full CD-length electro-acoustic work entitled Scutigere (E198). It is a soundscape that takes a long-form approach to its sprawling, ever-unwinding sonic tapestry. There are event-oriented sections but also an endlessly floating, suspended continuity. Sustained elements evolve and change while a sort of orchestral blend of distinctive timbral washes ebb and flow like the tides.

It takes its time and ideally you the listener need to slow down and surrender to the flow of musical ideas.

There are repetitions that mostly occur over long time spans and those repetitions develop and mutate so you find every few minutes that the music has changed a great deal though you still remain a'swim in the sonic tidal washes.

It is one of those singular works that travels along so evocatively that the hour's elapsing play time seems much more brief, or even virtually timeless.

Kudos to Julien on this one. It is surely one of the most important electroacoustic works in the last few years, to my mind. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Peggy Stern, Z Octet

Jazz-composer-pianist Peggy Stern is new to me. Her Austin, Texas-based music is very nicely presented on her recent Z Octet (Estrella Productions).

The Octet is a lively group of musicians well attuned to Peggy's arabesques, her contemporary freshness, her well-voiced, very original contemporary approach. Peggy's piano (and vocals on one number) are joined by a somewhat unusual instrumentation of clarinet, flute, trombone, cello, bass and drums, plus Suzi Stern on vocals for two pieces.

The lines she writes have unexpected aspects and tonal yet not-at-all common touches. And the sort of thoughtful arranging of the voicings gives you a sonance that stands out. There are good players here--capable of improvisations that have the sound of surprise that goes with Peggy's music.

Pretty outstanding, this all is! Get a copy if you want to dig into something new and substantial in the jazz composition realm.