Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Benoit Delbecq and Fred Hersch Double Trio, Fun House

A double trio? Oh, yeas. Two pianists (Benoit Delbecq and Fred Hersch), two bassists (Jean-Jaques Avenel and Mark Helias), two drummers (Steve Arguelles and Gerry Hemingway, with Steve also on live electronics), everybody in an out zone, interacting in really nice ways. The album is Fun House (Songlines 1600-2). It's a good one.

Delbecq plays prepared piano for much of the time; Hersch the standard pianoforte. The contrast and intertwining of those two sounds and what the pianists are doing is a high note of the whole project, but intertwining of all with all is at a very high level, the bassists, the drummers, everybody is paying attention and bringing some wonderful blends to the situation.

This is abstract, ever modulating, pan-tonal, extra-tonal comp-improv with a great sensitivity to the sound-sculptural, tone-sound mix. It combines advanced "jazz" and advanced "new music" with a bracing success. And then the live electronics part is about real-time sampling, so that gives another dimension to it all. The configurations ever shift--in more or less every conceivable combination.

It is a very musical result. Extraordinary sonics. Thoughtful composed motives. Improvisational excellence. Beautiful immediacy. And it is different enough that you wont find that you repeat yourself, because there is nothing quite like this one. Get it!

Alan Broadbent, Heart to Heart

I am guilty. Guilty of not paying enough attention to Alan Broadbent the pianist. Alan Broadbent the arranger-composer, sure, I've long appreciated him. But Broadbent the pianist I've always tended to put into the arranger-composer sort of pianistic category. That only means I haven't been focusing, no doubt. Until now and his second solo piano CD Heart to Heart (Chilly Bin).

He has it all to hear here. The harmonic sensitivity, yes, but also a bopworthy right-hand lining prowess and inventiveness that sounds right and pretty original to boot. He swings rather mightily, too, sometimes with a walking bass line, sometimes not.

This is a live set, with good Broadbent originals, a Charlie Haden number, "Blue in Green," "Lonely Woman," etc. It hangs together beautifully, the improvisations coming through with brilliance and flair.

It's chockablock with excellent pianism. It's very much jazz at its best. It's a great way to hear why Broadbent the pianist is very much something else!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Chris Clark Quintet, Cedar Wisely

I don't tell you what to listen to, any more than someone tells me these days. All I do, and really all I can do, is describe things that catch my ear and you then do with that information what you will. If there is a consistency to what I do like it is I hope in no way programmatic. I don't have an agenda other than talking about the musical world we live in and what that may be about. If some of that is avant and some is not, some is electronic and some is not, if there is a certain inclusion of genres that in time has a consistency (assuming you read all three blogs), it's still all about the music.

So today there is some open neo-contemporary jazz from tenorist Chris Clark and his quintet, Cedar Wisely (Songlines 1599-2). Chris is a very inventive player with much to say, with a very nicely fluid chromatic improvisational stance. His tenor sound has the post-Shorter-Trane hard purity with harmonic overtones at expressive points of phrases. He writes music for the sextet that challenges the band to get into things yet also stands upright as substantial in itself.

The band is very good. Peter Epstein's alto and soprano nicely complement and spell Clark's tenor, giving a contrastive second horn that fills out the front line well. David Ake at the piano is a subtle ensemble player and a sort of post-Bleyian-Corean-Hancockian-Jarrettian, thoughtful soloist. Zack Teran on contrabass has a tightly wound looseness in tandem with drummer Jesus Vega yet also solos with authority. Vega is deceptively disarming in his matter-of-factness, yet there is a Motian-like instinctive and deliberate rightness to what he does.

Cedar Wisely satisfies. It does not get overtly in-your-face as much as it gives smart and inventive expression to the musical thoughts of the participants. And perhaps jazz should always have something of that. Not the sound of surprise as much as the sound of humanity speaking freely and eloquently. That's what Clark and company are doing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Jacob Varmus, Terminal Stillness

Everything that moves lives. Music moves yet. Music is still alive. Music is very much alive in the mind and trumpet playing of Jacob Varmus. His album Terminal Stillness (self-released) gives you plenty of evidence.

Jacob has a beautiful sound, perhaps slightly reminiscent of Kenny Wheeler and perhaps Dave Douglas at times in that medium-hard purity of execution. He writes some very nice music in a kind of post-ECM lyrical mode. He gives us a great version of "Ju-Ju" too. And he fronts a band that has talent, subtlety and Kris Davis on piano (who we've gotten to know and love from her Clean Feed sides especially).

This session is from 2006, but it doesn't matter WHEN because it comes across as beyond time. Varmus is a talent, a beautiful player and composer-arranger. That's what this disk tells me and I am glad everytime I hear it.

More, please. Thank you!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Moo Lohkenn Source of Sound, Trace in Mirror

Moo Lohkenn, singer-artist extraordinaire. Drummer great Lou Grassi was very kind to send me a CD she did with him and the impressive Leonard Jones on contrabass, as the trio Source of Sound, Trace in Mirror (Konnex 5188). I am so glad he did!

Moo is one of those very rare artists who can sing in the free improvisation jazz zone and make it work, really work. I've covered some others too here of course. But she is IT also. A woman from IT-land! The trio is a total gas, with bass and drums blowing up a storm, and then Moo comes in and she is a horn, and a great horn! When she directs herself to a quasi-song for a few times here and there she shows a powerfully alive, crackling implied super-sophisticated sense of time and/or an iconic archetypal inheritor of the Afro-American roots in the field-holler, the work-song, the spiritual, you hear all that in her voice and yet it's avant all the way.

Now the first time through, to be honest, I was puzzled because so few can do this sort of thing right, and she was doing it in such her own way that I was flabbergasted! The more I listened the more I got into her circuit, her wave length, patched into her crackling live-wire presence and from then on I was there! Grassi and Jones are one hell of a "backing" rhythm team, though they are truly co-equals here. And it works. Play it twice and see!

This is extraordinary music. It is extraordinary singing. And it's out like the way out is in. Really!

The Bechet Legacy, Bob Wilber, Glenn Zottola, Birch Hall Concerts Live, 1981

"If you've plenty of time and you feel real needy, it's time to take a listen to Speedy...". So goes the opening jingle from the hilarious send-off of teen top forty radio of the late '50s, Arbogast and Ross's "Chaos," a two-sided, two-part single that for obvious reasons (when you hear it) never got radio air play and faded quickly. Speedy was the DJ of the gag, Speedy Clip. Nowadays time and need can be satisfied in so many ways that AM radio is barely a viable option for anybody, certainly not my readers, I would think. In my usual way I would suggest that you (ahem) BUY some music, feed the artists and a couple of their friends, and help good music continue on for our future generations. This is a handy way to keep yourself occupied and help keep our world filled with sounds. I recommend it! (But hey I am not putting down what good radio there is out there; listen to that too and keep it alive also ....)

One excellent CD that I throw out to you today as a suggestion is the new 2-CD set by the Bechet Legacy, covering the band in great form live in Lancaster, England, 1981. Fortunately the tapes were rolling both evenings and we hear, in excellent sound, Birch Hall Concerts Live (Classic Jazz CD-4, 2-CD set). It features in full-blown glory the soprano and clarinet of Bob Wilber and the Armstrongian-tinged, jazz-hot-school trumpet of Glenn Zottola along with a very sympathetic and stylistically proper combo.

This of course is old-school jazz made alive again in the present. The prominent attraction is Wilber, who is on a roll. As Sidney Bechet's most faithful acolyte he learned the style of the master to a "t", then went on to speak eloquently and masterfully his own soliloquies of Bechetistic profundity. Don't fool yourself, what he did (and does) is no mean technical feat, but he makes it swing with the joy and conviction of the best of jazzmen, and that's what especially counts. Time goes by and I think we appreciate the rare excellence of this artist more and more. At least I do.

Glenn Zottola and band are right there with him. They run through classic Bechet repertoire, like "Summertime" and "Egyptian Fantasy, " and other things Bechet didn't do that often that I know of, like Duke's "The Mooche" and "I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good." Whatever the Legacy did on those evenings, they put their all into it.

It's primo Bob Wilber, guarantee to stir your soul if you have one. So forget about Speedy Clip and check out this wonderful concert set!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble, Songs of the Metropolis

There are times when the persistent presence of artists surprises me. That would be the case recently when I auditioned the new album by Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble, Songs of the Metropolis (World Village 450024). The band has been together now for 12 years, gigging around Europe, the world, bringing their sounds to audiences across the planet, recording, doing what they do. Yet I had forgotten how long-lived they've been.

The new one is strong. Gilad has a kind of Eastern European tinge to his clarinet and soprano sax tone, especially. There are traces of Garbarek to be heard there too but it's all wrapped up in his own approach. This new one is all about cities/places of the world. Each cut is devoted to one, and the compositions flow nicely in a post-ECM kind of vaulted classicity. Sometimes it gets a little into a jazz-rockish funk zone, but whatever the stylistic territory Gilad soloes over it all with strength after strength.

It's excellent listening and a beautiful way to launch the band's 13th year. Atzmon can write and he can play. There is very ample evidence of that on these pieces!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rich Halley 4, Crossing the Passes

Rich Halley has been breaking it up with some really excellent new jazz for a while. I've been covering it here. Since he's integrated Michael Vlatkovich into the fray on trombone and as his son Rich gets better and better on drums, we see exponential increases in heat and the doing it we associate with music that moves forward and stays hot at the same time, like a two-legged walking range with dinner cooking on it as it moves along on its journey.

I'll put it like this, and right now it is a good criterion for how much I like something. Namely, if I were suddenly forced to move from my current space to a dinky studio apartment, would I bring Crossing the Passes (Pine Eagle 005) with me or give it to somebody who would appreciate it as part of the painful choices one sometimes must make? The answer is, it would go with me.

Why? Because this is music that lives. It has the open swinging qualities of classic Ornette, the music is now though, and the players are doing themselves, not somebody else. Clyde Reed makes a great pairing on bass with drummer Carson. Michael Vlatkovich is a great bonist, unsung maybe but right there at the top of the pack. Rich Halley plays tenor like a mother, and nobody else's mother but his own. The tunes, mostly by Rich with a few collective efforts, are where they need to be to launch the players.

Crossing the Passes swings its way out, freely, and it does it with artistry of the high kind. If you don't have any Halley, here's where you start. You will dig it. I am pretty sure!

Virginie Teychene, Bright and Sweet

A singer who has it all? Nobody has it all. But there are those that are close. Virginie Teychene, and her Bright and Sweet (Jazz Village) CD, has a whole lot of all. It's a small combo of worth backing up one real, full-blown JAZZ VOCALIST. There is no mistaking, whether in be a standard or something less known, what she brings to the mix.

A great instrument that has velvet silkiness and power when she needs it, intonation exactitude in a pretty big way, nuance and control, phrasing brilliance, melisma, scat, intervallic sharpshooting.

A singer this good, she must be heard. Well I am not a DJ so I can't put the music in front of you. She can swing, she can wistfully dwell on balladic thoughts and phrases.

No she is not Betty Carter or Sarah Vaughan. Who is? But there is something musical there, very much so, and so there is some relation to the invention of Betty and the pitchy-sass of Sarah. That's why I like her. In part. Great!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Matthieu Metzger, Selfcooking

I love it when an artist decides "to hell with the world, I am going my own way!" Matthieu Metzger does that on Selfcooking (Ayler 132). It's Metzger and. . . himself, on saxophones and (?), etc in a series of compositions-improvisations that have electronic enhancement much of the time. Now that electronic part can go to greater or lesser degrees of transformation. Sometimes it sounds like Hendrix blowing up some amps, only with new electronic sax-derived sounds. Other times the music has just a shade of enhancesment. Still other times, it's sax(s) and they come across as purely themselves.

Now of course to some this is heresy. Multi-tracking, that evil thing despised by so many, may be involved. He may, god forbid, NOT be using Ableton Live so he can proudly proclaim that everything is done in real time, and oh so cool, on a laptop. Well maybe it is and maybe it isn't but mostly that "real time" deal is only "real" if you are in the audience and also, face it, half the time it's a pre-prepared playback of MIDI files with live "overdubs." Not to get snippy here, but a CD made in the studio is never gonna be live and you are kidding yourself if you think a CD is like being in a "real world." My point is this: he may or may not violate the sanctity of "live" liveness and we shouldn't care. What should matter is the music. If the music is good, fine. If it isn't, what is the difference?

Now Selfcooking, to my mind, is good music. It goes from a bizarre little march to new music sorts of things, avant freedom sorts of things and it's all interesting. And it's original. What he would do in a live performance would probably be similar and he would use electronics and software to do it. How he did in here doesn't matter to me. It's highly saxophonistic and it's electronic. And it's good. Really good.

Deborah Latz, Fig Tree

I've never been anything less than honest on these blog pages and I am not about to stop that. Truth is, your own mood and the music you hear do not always mesh. The first thing a fellow like me must do is recognize that there are times when a CD can be very good, even excellent, yet expresses a mood that is miles away from your own. That is the case with vocalist Deborah Latz and her new CD Fig Tree (June Moon Productions 3 0304).

She's good. Very good. She is backed by a solid, small jazz group. The problem is with me right now. Her music is pretty darned happy and I am currently pretty darned hapless. So honestly, when she sings "nothing but blue skies from now on," along with "S'Wonderful," "I'm Having A Good Time," and these joyous sorts of songs, as well as she does them, I have a thought-phrase in my head, remembering Shakespeare, namely "Sirrah, you mock me!"

It's not all joy there, though, there is also "Ill Wind." But it's high spirited much of the time. What I must do is put my mood aside, and I've been doing my best in that wise this week as I've been hearing the disk.

It is not her fault if my mood is grim. She has a marvelous instrument and she uses it to give you nuanced vocal performances of the highest sort. She is less a swinger than a proclaimer, a chanteuse, a declamatory jazz artist. And what she does is singular, hers. I don't like it right now because my life doesn't match the mood. But I like it anyway because I recognize she is very good.

So there you have it. A real singer!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chris Kelsey & What I Say, The Electric Miles Project

I think by now it is safe to say that Miles Davis' music from the Bitches Brew (1969) period through until his several-years-long retirement (1975-1979) was some of the most startling, seminal work he ever did. There are those who still cannot accept it as valid, which tells you how revolutionary it was and still is. There was (as most know) for a period certain critics and musicians who found themselves listened to, because they had gained a certain amount of momentum and creedence for various reasons. They launched an all-out attack on this music and on those that followed in its footsteps stylistically. Looking back now we (some of us) fully see how destructive that rhetoric was for the music and how the attempt can now officially be said to have been a disastrous failure . . . as bad-spirited as the mouldy fig reaction to bebop in earlier years but for a time much more devastatingly effective in squelching an entire school-period of improvisatory music. The music has not died. It is back in all vigor if you look for it.

And so we see the electric-out music Miles spawned resurging again. A very excellent example just came out: Chris Kelsey & What I Say and their Electric Miles Project (self-released CD).

Like Yo Miles and several other similar projects, the band jams-improvises on some of the cornerstone things Miles did in that period and then gets a little of their own jamming music out there too. As far as the actual tunes, these are not that often heard on the tributary rounds. "Agartha," "Directions," "Ife" and "Sivad" most certainly still have plenty of improvisatory life in them, as played by the quintet here.

The fulcrum point on this kind of electricity is the rhythm team. What I Say achieves musical liftoff via the strengths of Dean Sharp on drums and Joe Gallant on electric bass. The bass anchorage Miles made a point of leveraging came out of the soul-funk-rock riffing in the air and it became equally key for most of the electric Davis aggregations then. Gallant gives us his solid version of it with a slightly fuller tone that in part stems from using a six-string. Dean Sharp to his credit manages to do something in the drum role that does not sound like a direct DeJohnette-Foster recreation. And what he does works just as well for propulsion but helps define the band as its own entity.

And for that matter the same can be said for the dual electric guitars of Rolf Sturm and Jack DeSalvo. They are in the zone without copycatting in the least. They have big ears, chops, and creativity to fill out the electric-harmonic-line-weaving function as defined originally by McLaughlin, Lucas and Cosey in those bands.

Throughout the key element that makes all of this exceptionally good is the soprano sax of Chris Kelsey. He is a monster, as many already know, and he applies that monstrously fulfilling ability to this music without in any way losing the creative torque he has as a master improviser. There of course were some seminally monstrous saxophonists going through Miles' bands then, from Shorter, Grossman and Bartz to Liebman and Fortune, but Kelsey sounds like none of them. He is himself and it's a great thing indeed.

So yes, by all means check this one out. It's one of the best Miles electric tribute remakes out there. I hope they can do some touring and continue the momentum this CD most definitely sets in motion.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Billy Lester, Storytime

Sometimes you miss somebody until now for reasons that have nothing to do with the music. Pianist Billy Lester is one...for me anyway. And I have no idea why I have. But I have. Until now and his solo piano CD Storytime (Jujikaan jka001).

Here's a cat laying down his own compositions-improvisations in a mode that takes on Sal Mosca and Lennie Tristano as primary influences and goes somewhere very good with them. He has the outside voicings, some of that walking left hand, a bop-inflected horn and chord thing (which Bud had plenty to do with too).

I found myself responding to the creativity that Mr. Lester has out front. This is good! Billy Lester works in a tradition I respect much, and he becomes himself by so doing. You like that tradition, then this is for you!

Andrea Centazzo, Perry Robinson, Nobu Stowe, Soul in the Mist, 2006

Nothing is simple today. Except that good and great music continues to be made. It continues to be recorded and made available to us all. And that writers like me continue to review it. You could think of that as ordinary or you could think of that as heroic. It depends on the place and situation involved. But it is by no means an easy task to do that and survive today, if it ever was.

So today we have another example of all that. Recorded in Trumpet's Jazz Club in Montclair, NJ, in 2006. It is what turns out to be an excellent grouping of Andrea Centazzo on percussion, the Mallet Kat keyboard and sampling; Perry Robinson on clarinet; and Nobu Stowe on piano. The compositional framework is Centazzo's. The album is called, poetically, The Soul in the Mist (Konnex-Ictus).

What we have are eight selections, modern-avant-minimal charts by Centazzo with room for the free improv for which these players are known.

Perry Robinson sounds especially good. I can't recall a time when he didn't but in the trio setting here there is plenty of space for him and both structure and freedom as jettison points from which to take off. And he does. Andreas has space as well to get the innovative full-spectrum sounds you expect from him, and the compositions bring out the sensitive exploratory side of his music to the max. Nobu Stowe puts in a very well conceived performance here, too.

In the end it's especially about Perry Robinson's clarinet though. This is one of his best showings of later years. He is superb.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wadada Leo Smith & TUMO, Occupy the World

Wadada Leo Smith has been getting the acclaim and critical respect he deserves of late. Not that he hasn't all along. But the monumental achievement of his multi-stylistic, multi-combinatorial Ten Freedom Summers and the recording of most of it that came out last year (I named it my record of the year and reviewed it earlier on these pages) put together all the strands that have been present in his music for many years but never so explicitly and fully expressed. He is a great trumpet player, truly, but then his compositions are really seminal as well.

So when a new double CD of more of his large group avant music came out recently, I certainly was ready for it. Wadada Leo Smith & TUMO and their Occupy the World (TUM CD 037-2) again gives it to us in a great way. In some ways in takes up where Ten Freedom Summers leaves off. In other ways it gives us five discrete compositions that all function as self-contained entities in their own ways. TUMO is a large group-jazz orchestra of European players and Wadada conducts and plays great trumpet throughout. As is the case with Wadada today there still is room for freedom within the structure of the works, of course. So there is a piece that is dedicated to and features John Lindberg on double bass, for example. But there are opportunities throughout for improvisation and the band takes advantage. No one comes across quite as startlingly great as Wadada, but that's as it should be.

It all is monumental "new music" and some of the most important such music we can hear today. Is it at the level of Ten Freedom Summers? Perhaps not quite--but hey, that work is one of the seminal achievements of this century thus far, so you cannot compare. This one has excellence and follows the path of the work before, so it too is essential.

The acclaim is totally deserved. Wadada is what now is about. So get this one too. All the poo-poo-ing of streams, jazz composition or a unified expression of avant music today to include orchestral is naught. Wadada shows us why.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mike Pride, From Bacteria to Boys, Birthing Days

Mike Pride is not just a hugely capable, brilliantly original drummer. He is a composer-concep- tualist-leader of ever-increasing stature. This is shown especially in the sum breadth and depth of his latest releases, two albums of startling contrast. Drummer's Corpse, which I covered last week on these pages, is a mind-boggling avant blow out. Today, the other sign of the proverbial coin, Birthing Days (AUM Fidelity 077) with his From Bacteria to Boys group.

Where Drummer's Corpse is carefully anarchic and bombastic, Birthing Days is anarchically careful, so to speak. It is propulsive, well composed and texturally built modern jazz. It's a group of some heavies. Mike of course is on drums, the deservedly celebrated Jon Irabagon on alto and tenor, Alexis Marcelo puts his stamp on things on piano and synth, and Peter Bitenc plays some very together double bass. To add to the reed solo clout we have guest appearances by Jason Stein on bass clarinet for two cuts and tenorologist Jonathan Moritz on two other pieces.

What's especially nice about this record is the indivisible meld between the cook, the solo firepower and the compositional girth. The written-out parts intertwine in always interesting ways with the hitting at it. It's fired-up and original jazz of today in the very best sense. Masterful, captivating and very original. Molto bravo!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Confusion Bleue, Total Improvisations, 2007

I covered several weeks ago a newer re- cording by Con- fusion Bleue (see index). Today we go back a little to an earlier recording made by the unit, a studio date from 2007. Total Improvisation (Soul Note) is a disk with some very good moments of collective and individual contributions, all spontaneously improvised except a version of Miles' "Blue in Green."

The rhythm section of Ray Sage (drums) and Tyler Goodwin (bass) is busy, tumultuous, hot, setting the stage well for Ross Bonadonna on guitars and Nobu Stowe on piano and electric piano. As on the later disk Lee Pembleton handles the live mix in ways that occasionally give an expanded electro-acoustic dimension to the sound.

Stowe is in a very varied mood for the date, covering rubato expressiveness, all-over chargings forward, rock-jazz straight-eight and areas in between. Ross gets some beautiful noting in, has a pronounced electricity when needed and adds a little alto sax too that does not detract.

And in the end one is especially impressed with the many places this music goes and the leverage that makes most of the forays kickingly valuable. A mostly great set from a band I wish we could hear again!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Revolutionary Ensemble, Counterparts, 2005

The Revolutionary Ensemble were one of those trios in the new jazz that achieved critical and artistic recognition but never quite broke through to the general public. Not exactly surprising since most of the important free improv groups remained at the time, at least in the States, with a solid underground following but without the extensive recognition that someone like Marsalis or some of the earlier household names managed to garner.

Their first tenure as a group ended in 1977 with violinist Leroy Jenkins, bassist Sirone and drummer Jerome Cooper going their own ways. We join them for a live appearance as part of their reunion in 2005, at the Teatro Gustavo Modena, Genoa. The album Counterparts (Mutablemusic) reproduces in excellent sound the music played that day.

There is a maturity to the trio you can hear on this recording. The music lays out a bit more deliberately, with each piece setting out well-defined roles for each player. The fire is still there yet there is a more deliberate balance. Like one of Jerome Cooper's drum solos there is structure and development within freedom.

Everyone sounds great. They achieve an almost classical parity really quite rarified, no doubt having to do with the many years spent together sounding out their collective edges as well as their collective middle. And within themselves too, they seem to have found a center worked out of years of making music and becoming.

There is a poise, fabulous to hear. Recommended.

The Byron Allen Trio, 1964

Of all the seminal "new thing" avant jazz releases put out in the early period by the pioneering label ESP-Disk, The Byron Allen Trio (ESP 1005) was perhaps the most obscure. By the time I began collecting everything from that era I could (circa 1971), it was not easy to find. And yet it contains some excellent music. Part of that had to do with the obscurity of the artist himself. He made only one other album much later on and for whatever reason did not have any discernible presence on the scene.

So it is most welcome that this album recently was made available again as part of the remastering/reissue of classic ESP recordings.

Ornette apparently recommended the artist to the label. And so in late 1964 Allen went into the studios with a trio to set down the tracks that were to become the album. It's Allen on alto sax, Maceo Gilchrist, bass, and Theodore Robinson on the drums in a set of four free-wheeling originals.

This is music that quite clearly owes something to Ornette's playing of the era (as did much of the music that made up the second wave of free jazz musicians). Allen and company have the harmelodic looseness of Ornette but Allen stakes out his own turf. He is bluesy-rootsy and outside the bop-structured changes-based music of the prevailing orthodoxy like Ornette, yet he has his own sound and phraseology.

Gilchrist and Robinson participate fully in the three-way interaction with busy pulsations that like Ornette's trio at the time have roots in the time-based OC quartets of earlier years yet build away from the more symmetrical strictures of the original Higgins or Blackwell and Haden rhythm team.

What perhaps surprises is how little dated the music sounds. It feels as fresh today as it must have when it was first recorded. In that way its obscurity (statistically) is underserved. They speak to us. We listen.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lisa Forkish, Bridges

Something very obvious to start: not every album that crosses my "desk" does or is designed to stop the world in its tracks. Ultimately very few can do that. There are some that you listen to and you say, "Well...that's pretty nice," and you decide to cover it. That's singer-songwriter-arranger Lisa Forkish and her album Bridges (self released).

What I like about her, the album, is she has a very decent instrument and she puts it to use in ways not typical. She does standards in different ways and they aren't the standard combinations. So you get "I Could Have Danced All Night" and the Buffalo Springfield perennial "For What It's Worth."

The arrangements are interesting. And then perhaps above all she writes songs and some of them are very good. "City of Bridges" catches my ear, for example.

Yeah this is songwriter jazz-radio crossover stuff. But it has musical value and Lisa comes across as original. So that's it and happy 4th of July to you!

Laszlo Gardony, Clarity

Solo piano improvisation disks are common now. They used to be relatively rare. Keith Jarrett can be thanked or blamed for that. Thanked because his vision of solo piano opened up a way of thinking about solo music and freedom--as did Cecil Taylor of course, in very different ways. Both may be said to have created two hugely influential, very separate poles of the music. Their influence is everywhere. If I say blame as well as thank, it's because there are tipping points where a school of playing becomes near-cloning. It's never the artist's fault really. We saw it with Bird, with Miles, with many over the years, and it is something that happens when influence grows to a certain point in the music. It does not mean that there isn't (or wasn't) great music coming out of influenced players. What's negative is when the sound of "surprise" becomes the sound of "surprised tradition," or if at any rate the surprise starts to go missing.

Today we have a solo piano disk of note, more in the Jarrettian than the Taylorian tradition. I speak of Laszlo Gardony and his Clarity (Sunnyside 4014). Laszlo comes across here as more of an expressive player than a technical wizard. There's something of Jarrett in the gospelly trance things, the lyrical rubatos, and so based on how much there is of that, definitely you have an influenced player.

Laszlo was born in Hungary, teaches at Berklee. Some of his Hungarian roots come out in minor key inspirations and a few folksy melodies, otherwise there is the international style in play.

The fact is, after a point the influence game only tells the listener something of what to expect, and it tells us how much in a period certain players dominate the scene, or to what degree they do. After that it is up to the artist to transcend his initial inspiration and give us his own creative being, or there's no point in listening. Laszlo does that and the session ultimately gives you music worth spending time with. It whets my appetite for some more Gardony trio things!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mike Pride, Drummer's Corpse

Some music is so powerful that there should be a caution- ary label on it, some- thing like, "do not play if you are driving machinery, always eat something before playing," or something similar! Mike Pride Drummer's Corpse (AUM Fidelity 078) is one of those. Now mind you I am not saying that's bad. Any of you who read my posts know that there is a very big place in my musical life for powerfully out music. And this one is one of the more powerful and out disks I've heard so far this year.

It's divided into two works. The first, the title piece, goes for a little more than a half-hour. Mike conceived and composed the piece after a devastating fire destroyed most of his earthly possessions--including recordings, compositions and instruments. In time it became Pride's personal Howl against war, greed, oppression. It's Mike on drums with six world-class fellow-drummers (Sorey, Smith, Previtte, McLellan, Greenberg, Canfield), Chris Welcome on electric guitar, Elvind Opsvik on contrabass, and then Marissa Perel and Fritz Welch on vocals (with Pride) and percussion.

What happens is a hell of a row (in the best sense), wall of sound guitar and drumming cosmic bombast, vocal over-the-top expression. It is indescribable and wonderful.

The second half of the disk ("Some Will Die Animals") is a smaller-scale coming down: Pride with Opsvik and Welcome, plus Yuko Tonchira, with Marissa and Fritz, recitation. After the shattering half-hour of "Corpse" it brings you out but sparser relief and comes to conclude the disk on a satisfying note.

This is monumental outness, a triumph of sound mass and mayhem. It is a drumming collective from another world, but so much more than that. Not for the wary, I suppose. But free music and wariness never go together. Surrender to the void and let this music in. You'll feel better afterwards.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, Imaginary Control Systems

One of the more unusual and more interesting of Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut's JaZtTapes CD-Rom releases surely is Imaginary Control Systems (JaZtTapes CD-026). It is that by virtue of the chemistry on display between the trio members captured here.

Jeffrey plays the piano throughout, comping in an out way, doing all-over barrages, taking off from motival kernels of musical thought. Lukas Ligeti acts as a free-foil with drumming that can pulsate or go into a-rhythmic zones. And there is the late Luther Thomas on alto--in a Luther-as-post-Bird realm, quoting snatches of Bird-dom, developing melodic motifs that have an out-bop feel to them. The three together enter special places that are pretty rarified.

It was 2007, NYC, and Luther was to live only two more years. This seems to me one of his more important later recordings for all the reasons mentioned. The music is very free and loose and yet there are moments underpinned by structure. There are more musical-structural factors underlining the blowing going on than with the everyday sort of stream-of-consciousness mode. Now of course the stream approach is completely valid and all three players are known for it. It's just that there there are indeed kinds of "Imaginary Control Systems" put into play here.

For all that it makes for a very interesting listen. Get more info on this and other JaZtTapes by going to