Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Loafer's Hollow

Mostly Other People Do The Killing is a one-of-a-kind jazz group. They are brilliant in the ways they take on the entire history of jazz and appropriate it in order to change our focus and hear things differently than we have before. They come at us once again with Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup 161). Oh, did I say they also have a great sense of humor. They do. And that is a most rare thing for players of this caliber. Might I recall the Art Ensemble of Chicago as others with brilliance and that ability to make serious fun of our musical legacy as they broke down barriers? We do not want to compare the two directly because that is probably not to the point, but they have always had that brilliant iconoclasm, too.

Loafer's Hollow is the second MOPDTK to take on early jazz as the building materials for a post-post jazz present. All of the music here has been composed by bassist Moppa Elliott. Each of these pieces takes on one of Elliott's favorite writers, with the cadence of the words forming an underpinning for the rhythmic articulation of the music. We do not need to know this to appreciate the results, but it doesn't hurt, either.

The MOPDTK transformation of early jazz to me is on a par with excellent tributes in such a vein by Charles Mingus (especially "My Jelly Roll Soul") and some more recent jazz compositions by Allen Lowe, a living breathing artist you should also know if you do not.

Founding MOPDTK members Elliott, Kevin (with that snare drum) Shea as the brilliant early jazz drummer parodist, Jon Irabagon as the sax light of our times (one of them), and the Ron Stabinsky open piano stylist and de-stylist of high caliber...they join a perfect choice of stablemates in bass trombonist Dave Taylor (do I need to say?), Steven Bernstein as trumpet and slide-trumpet monster and Brandon Seabrook as the ideal banjologist for this date (also on ectronics!) and that's need!

It is as brilliant as an SCTV episode, as unexpected as a cauldron of boiling water in the middle of a blizzard, a barrel full of monkeys o'serious fun.

Damn, I love these guys. Get this one.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Joachim Kuhn New Trio, Beauty & Truth

I might as well come out and say it. I have admired pianist Joachim Kuhn ever since I first heard his music. What was the first record I listened to? I think the Impulse album with his brother Rolf? Yes. Then the BYG albums and on from there. His pianism is impeccable and he uses his total command over the keyboard to take on various stylistic guises without betraying his originality.  So there is a free component, a Trane-Tyner element, and so forth on to today. When his new album came in the mail I smiled. Then I put it on. And I was not disappointed.

It's Joachim and his "New Trio."  The album is Beauty & Truth (ACT 9816-2). With Joachim is Chris Jennings and drummer Eric Schaeffer, both in every way worthy.

This is an expression of the growth of the artist over the years. You have a great Ornette piece (the title cut "Beauty & Truth"), two perennial and unexpected covers of the Doors ("The End" and "Riders On the Storm"), "Summertime" by Gershwin, a couple of memorable Komeda gems, a Gil Evans classic, and the rest some potent Kuhn originals.

There is a contemporary acoustic jazz and rock plus a free wheeling sort of feel that has something to do with the Jarrett trios at the core but ultimately restates the Kuhn piano trio ethos.

Joachim is in great form, a pianist's pianist. This is pure joy to hear for me! The New Trio rhythm section is right where they need to be, both very much on top of things.

I must say I dig this one profusely! So, what, do I love everything I hear? Absolutely not. But everything I love gets on here sooner or later. This is one. Kuhn is one of the pianists of our time. He still is and you need to hear that on Beauty & Truth.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Angles 9, Disappeared behind the sun

The band Angles 9 shows you immediately that they are taking no prisoners on their album Disappearance Behind the Sun (Clean Feed 405). Martin Kuchen, whose compositions for this nine-tet (a near big band) make for a most refreshing avant jazz offering, takes a tenor solo of a blazingly incandescent kind and then we jump right into the compositional essence of this music.

Martin is on alto and tenor, along with a very committed and effective group: Zethson on piano, Stahl on vibes, Broo on trumpet, Kajfes on cornet, Aleklint on trombone, Hegdal on baritone, Berthling on double bass, and Werlin on drums. The band has great character and plays the compositional elements with a zest and verve that bring the smoking fire of this music in full aural view. Collective improvisation, melodic abstractions and riff underpinning meld together for some wildly ecstatic jazz. Solos are peppered throughout in excellent ways. And as you listen you know that this is the music of right now, modern in its determination to go beyond, filled with soulful exuberance and downright lucid musical outbursts of brilliance.

Five compositions distinguish themselves with a band that steps forward to realize it all with a perfect zeal. Kuchen's music stands out rather unforgettably as a new something, related to what has gone before in the advanced avant echelons. Maybe you recognize a debt to George Russell in its layering of multiple lines and extroverted collectives and solos atop riffs. A debt but absolutely fresh and new for all that.

This is one hell of a set from a talented band and the sure compositional forms and substance of Martin Kuchen's enormous talent.

This album is just terrific and I cannot recommend it more highly. It points I hope to much more from Martin, for this is extraordinary!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Gunter Baby Sommer, Le Piccole Cose, Live at Theater Gutersloh

Every so often I open my mailbox down here in Cape May and find some truly unexpected surprise. In this case it was European free jazz drum master Gunter Baby Sommer and his quartet live at Theater Gutersloh, Germany in 2016.  Le Piccole Cose  (European Jazz Legends 09) is the title of the album.

As much as I have admired Sommer's drumming over the years I have never heard one of his groups, so this got my attention. With him is trumpeter Manfred Schoof, alto sax and alto clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi, and bassist Antonio Borghini. Schoof was part of Sommer's 1979 quartet; the other members are new.

What I had hoped for took place that day when they appeared in concert (though I could not be sure beforehand what that would mean): everyone was in great form and the music covered a wide swath of avant jazz possibilities from classic Ornettian harmolodic swing to that which lies beyond.

Nicely fashioned compositional frameworks by Sommer (4), Schoof (2) and Trovesi (1) set the stage for some very fine improvisations and group interplay. Sommer's drum solos and ensemble work are masterful and incisive. He simply sounds great and very much at his best. Schoof and Trovesi more than keep up the pace. They sound as brilliant as ever. Borghini is a solid backbone to it all.

It is one of those albums that gets your ear-attention immediately and consistently. And it keeps blossoming forth the more you listen.

In short this is a great big happy surprise. 73-year-old Sommers still has it and the band is as exciting and capable as anything in the new jazz realm today. Drummers and their friends will dig this!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Xavi Reija, Reflections

From drummer Xavi Reija we have a thoroughly musical outing of himself and his trio (with Nitai Hershkovits on piano and Pau Lligadas on acoustic bass) doing a set of Reija originals. Reflections (self-released) captures contemporary piano trio jazz in exemplary form. The tunes are harmonically rich, changes oriented and both lyrical and driving, depending.

Hershkovits has a style that is out of Corea, post-Jarrett, Hancockian, and beyond to today. It's up-to-the minute fresh, with excellent technique and a singing projectiveness. Lligadas keeps the forward momentum grounded in the changes and helps keep that horizontal movement nicely structured. Xavi's drumming is driving, rhythmically creative, well conceived and in its own way a very important, critical contribution to the trio's melodic-propulsive brilliance.

And Xavi writes some very nice tunes that are as fresh as the trio's realization of them.

The more I play this one, the better it sounds to me. This is a trio that deserves wider exposure. They are firmly in the "art" realm of piano trio creating. Hear this.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Antonio Adolfo, Hybrido, From Rio to Wayne Shorter

One of the signs of a classic jazz composition standard is its longevity. Wayne Shorter's Blue Note compositions were a product of the mid-sixties yet we find that many of them continue to be played today and sound as fresh as ever. Another good omen is the work's ability to thrive in contrasting versions and still maintain a strong identity. A few months ago I covered Denny Zeitlin's excellent solo piano interpretations of Shorter classics (type Zeitlin's name in the search box for that review). Now we get to appreciate a Brazilian Samba Jazz treatment of some of Shorter's most memorable songs, on pianist Antonio Adolfo's Hybrido, From Rio to Wayne Shorter (AAM D711).

Antonio Adolfo comes through with excellent Brazilian Samba-tinged arrangements of eight Shorter classics, plus his own "Afosamba." The idea of "HYBRIDO" is to find fertile meeting ground between the jazz samba tradition and classic progressive jazz as embodied in Shorter compositions. Adolfo plays piano throughout, very nicely and movingly, something we have happily come to expect of him. And he has selected Brazilian musicians who can and do bridge the stylistic gap with some excellent soloing and ensemble playing. So we have the electric guitar of Lula Galvao, the double bass of Jorge Helder, the drums of Rafael Barata, the percussion of Andre Siqueira, trumpet of Jesse Sadoc, tenor, soprano and flute of Marcelo Martins, and trombone of Serginho Trombone, along with single guest appearances of vocalist Ze Renato and acoustic guitarist Claudio Spiewak.

It is a joy to hear these really fetching arrangements, both classically Brazilian and outreaching into the present and future. Shorter gems like E.S.P., "Deluge," "Footprints," and "Speak No Evil" sound brilliantly fresh in Adolfo's inspired arrangements. And there is time to stretch out and get good soloing from all concerned. Adolpho takes a rewarding share of the soloing and sounds just right, but then so do the others.

From Rio to Wayne Shorter is one of those albums where everything comes together very strongly. Any fan of Shorter's music and/or anyone who loves the Brazilian jazz of today will no doubt find this album much to their liking. It's a winner on all counts!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Trouble Kaze, June, with Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura, etc.

Trouble Kaze is the newly expanded edition of the group Kaze, a cooperative free improv jazz venture that includes pianist Satoko Fujii and her trumpet wielding life partner Natsuki Tamura. For this inaugural effort the band is in effect a double-trio, with two trumpets (Tamura and Christian Pruvost), two pianos (Fujii and Sophie Agnel) and two drummers (Peter Orins and Didier Lasserre).

They distinguish themselves in a sort of utra-focused, carefully considered five-part improvisation recorded live. The album is entitled June (Helix LX009) and it is a good one.

The expanded unit allows a series of double duets and six-way confluences. And so to begin we hear twin prepared pianos, twin trumpets in breathy expressions, and twin drums creating distinctive barrages. As the set proceeds we get the intermingling of the pairs and their recombinations in various foreground-background-bothground possibilities.

All six play with a sureness, an impressive authority that at no point sounds tentative, always intricately definitive, sure in their choice of timbral color, periodistic presence and note-sound nowness.

It is free music in no hurry to state it all at once, but rather to open and develop with a gradual inevitableness that is continually rewarding in what it chooses to include (and of course by that to also leave out in any given segment).

With a collective sense of instrumentation-orchestration there are dramatic event arcs, coming to a quiet peak in the two-piano expressions of part four, which we have been prepared for by definitive journeys into this clearing. It is brilliant and by a period of quietude and then the end of part five we are pleasantly satiated and satisfied, appreciative that not ALL has been said, but all that is necessary to give us Trouble Kaze's June.

It leaves me wanting more in the end, but happy also that this glimpse feels complete in itself. meted out inspiration and sound design of a high nature, a thoughtful forwardness.

June gives to us itself, the six instrumental voices interacting singularly, the group asserting its collectivity in self-less yet self-ful completeness-incompleteness.

This is a prime example of the innovative presence of Fujii, Tamura, and four extraordinarily receptive countervoices. Trouble Kaze is a kind of miracle of listening and acting, both by the performers and by you, the listener.

High improvisational inspiration, this is. Be sure and hear it repeatedly if you can. Kaze and now Trouble Kaze are a seminal group in the new improvisational fold today!