Thursday, March 31, 2016

E-DO, Yeominrok

In the past 100 years various advances in technology primarily have made it possible to dissolve earth's borders musically, so that at least potentially all inhabitants so inclined and with the means and circumstances to do so can hear the music produced all over the world and react to it, to make it a part of one's world heritage and to be influenced by it. Before the advent of recording and transportation improvements, some of what we experience now might have taken 1000 years of slow diffusion to produce. Now it is snowballing in the rapidity of what can be the case today.

The world music ensemble "E-DO" and their album Yeominrok (Ponycanyon Korea CD) is most certainly a part of this development. We in the comfort of our local music listening space can listen to Korean music by an ensemble that is steeped in tradition but also reacting creatively to modern "western," or perhaps one might say "pan-world" musical developments.

This is an ensemble that utilizes traditional Korean instruments as well as some originating in the west to craft a music that has traditional plus rock and jazz influences, a music exciting and very well done.

What is it all about?  It is a five-member band headed by Kyung-Hwa Yu, one of Korea's leading percussionists and chulhyungeum (stringed zither) players. The five play a battery of instruments, including an hour-glass drum, gongs, stringed instruments, drums, electric bass, contrabass, pipes and double-reed winds. They are joined by three guests on vocals, keyboards and pipes.

The music combines traditional Korean music (mostly pentatonic) with fusion elements for a most invigorating series of well-arranged, striking pieces. The tonality of much Korean traditional music goes well with rock-jazz-blues sensibilities of the West in the pentatonic elements, so this melding works very nicely and seems perfectly logical. It is the talent and conceptual vigor of the artists that make it all especially good to hear.

Any world and fusion enthusiast will find this music easy to like, I would think. It has excellent virtuoso elements, especially with Kyung-Hwa Yu's chulhyungeum artistry.

It is an excellent listen! Give it a hearing if you can. Very recommended.

You can get it on i-tunes

Or to order a CD

Zero Plus, Aurora Josephson, Philipp Wachsmann, Jacob Lindsay, Damon Smith, Martin Blume

Following a year and a half of Aurora Josephson (vocals), Jacob Lindsay (clarinets) and Damon Smith (double bass) playing together as a trio, the three got together for two live gigs and a studio date as a quintet with the addition of Philipp Wachsman (violin/electronics) and Martin Blume (drums). The result is Zero Plus (Balance Point Acoustics 007). The aim as Damon Smith explains in the liners was to accommodate the creative line-producing abilities of five free-avant notables, and to truly listen. The idea was to utilize short phrases ("marks," as Damon describes it) and lines in a series of solos, duets. trios, quartets and in the totality, ultimately a quintet.

This results in some very adventuresome, at times dense, but always productive interactions. Each player is limited only by the physical characteristics of his or her "instruments". In the active listening mode they manage to get a kind of telepathy of anticipation happening where all act concertedly (or consortedly) to create spontaneous wholes of significance.

The collective waves of sound we experience in listening are part of a two-fold situation where the artistry of each member, their music personality or footprint, manages to work in tandem with the others to create something that is multi-valent, with plural sound meanings that do not blend so much as simultate, to butcher a phrase. They sound together in related apartness, so to say.

As much as the quintet focused in with fervid intent to create an interrelated whole, the listener too must put some effort into untangling the ever-varied web of combinatory logic that they create as a collective.

The music is free improvisation that works well, exceptionally so, by the sensitive push-pull of differences in time and aural space. These are artists of like mind, of true creative, generative abilities, who give us eleven segments each with its own sort of organic qualities. We get first-rate improvisatory synchronies, a set of them, that distinguish these five players as operating in a very effective zone.

It all will bear your attention well, I very much trust! Recommended for all the adventurists out there, all the free improv fans. Nice!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Achim Kaufmann, Later

Pianist Achim Kaufmann may not be on your radar presently but he probably should be. I've been listening to his solo album Later (Pirouet 3084), which came out towards the end of last year. He is a German jazz artist of note, a modern stylist on the sophisticated-edgy yet strongly rooted side of things, with a definite harmonically advanced sense and melodic originality. You hear bop and after foundations, Lennie Tristano through to the present, but with his own twist on it all.

I covered his trio outing Grunen: Pith and Twig this past February 24, 2015 on these pages and liked it a good deal. 

He plays a most unusual concatenation of pieces on this new one, originals, yes, plus Duke, Nichols, Monk, Michael Moore, Hans Eisler, Syd Barrett and Bob Dylan! He makes all of the music his own by the sheer force of his approach.

Listen to Nichols' "Shuffle Montgomery" for what that means. A beautiful number to begin with, but then extended brilliantly to Kaufmann-land.

What that is must be heard. The album is sheer pleasure such that anyone with a love of imaginative ultra-modern jazz piano will be quite pleased with it, I suspect. Achim is a player to hear, to "watch," and to appreciate. This album is pretty near stunning. Listen to it!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Snik, Metasediment Rock

Another interesting, previously-unknown-to-me ensemble known as Snik has been filling my ears. I report in to you today on their album metasediment rock (Clean Feed 343 CD). They are a Euro quartet outfit headed by trombonist-composer Kristoffer Kompen. Joining him are Kristoffer Berre Alberts on saxophones, Ole Morten Vagan on double bass and Erik Nylander on drums.

The first thing that hit me were the compositions, two by Vagan, the rest by Kompen. They remind slightly of AACM classics in their attention to jazz roots but then their memorable expansion into contemporary realms. They set up the free-avant improvisations of the unit nicely, framing the music and contextualizing it.

Kompen is a trombonist of stature, channeling the full history of the instrument from Ory to Rudd and onwards, and finding a way to make it all original. Alberts is an ideal co-first-liner with facility, some soul and a thoroughgoing sound concept that make him project with Kompen a freshly brash and sometimes intricately subtle front line. Vagan has a well-rounded ability to speak in sound color and to note smartly, sometimes at  the same time. Erik Nylander drums freely and appropriately in ways that move the music forward and open it up as needed. He has a compositional role to play too, which all four integrate into what they do, structuring the freedom and giving it a container of signature sound.

The best part of the album, maybe, is that it remains strongly significant throughout. This is a band with something to say and no doubt they are a good one to hear live because they can open it up and keep it going no doubt for an entire evening.

Strongly recommended, I must say.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Lena Circus, with Itaru Oki, Zanshin

One thing you can be sure of when it comes to releases on France's Improvising Beings label. You are NOT going to get anything that has been watered down. You are going to get something on the edge of modern avant improvised music. This is most certainly the case with their album by the group Leena Circus with Itaru Oki, Zanshin (Improvising Beings ib 45).

It is a dedicated quartet on a cosmic jaunt into the nether regions of space, free music that manages to be very electric and non-compromising. It is a well-rounded assemblage of Itaru Oki on trumpet and flugel, Antoine Letellier on electric guitar, sax and trumpet, Nicolas Moulin on electric guitar, and Guillaume Arbonville on drums.

Oki is the especially accomplished improvisor of the four, with excellent inventions here. But then the other three make a kind of joyful noise that gives this music a grand expanse, with the electricity of the guitars, the continual outward orbital thrust of the drums, and the sax and second trumpet effusions of Letellier when he is not playing the guitar. There are times when the band occupies a somewhat cavernous aural space and the music becomes soundscaped. And there are other times when there is a more-or-less directly dry matter-of-fact sound. But either way Lena Circus makes a focused and consistently interesting go of it all, sometimes a kind of concerted free space for Oki and caverned psychedelicized "orchestra," other times a equal four-way ensemble sound.

It is music that gains traction as you hear it more than once, like the best kind of advanced music. It got my attention more each time I heard it. And in the end I must say that I ended up admiring the music a great deal.

Try this one out. Give it your attention for at least several hearings and you will gain a good deal to interest you, I think.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Benoit Delbecq 3, Ink

I've appreciated pianist Benoit Delbecq on these pages (see index) but I've never gotten a chance to hear what he can do with a trio context until now. And with the album Ink (Clean Feed 340) in my ears, the full effect of his originality hits me squarely upside my head, so to speak.

The trio is Delbecq plus Miles Perkin on bass and Emile Biayenda on drums. The three congeal very nicely with the rhythm team a perfect fit for the open and sometimes pulsating free-composed Delbecqian statements. Benoit comes through with a very poised and innovative way to be firmly jazz-based yet on the outer edges and conversant with new music ideas in the most modern sense. His touch is phenomenal, and his outlook original in a post-Bley kind of way.

Fred Hersch in the liners says it better than I can because he has explored Benoit's playing more thoroughly and been with him in a double-trio recording (see index). And because he is Fred Hersch!

But that does not stop me from praising this one. Sometimes Benoit prepares part of the piano and by so doing can provide two voices to the mix. Those moments are really something wonderful, but then his "straight" piano playing too reveals a significant musical mind at work.

The solos revel in unexpected runs, jumps, an avant athleticism that is bracing and moving, not just a sort of intellectual set of exercises, far from it. There is a singular artistry at work with some fabulously pianistic results.

This is a pianist of importance. And this album shows us how important. If you dig the modern possibilities of edgy and wide-ranging piano trios, you owe it to yourself to grab the album!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Daniel Levin, Rob Brown, Divergent Paths

When two of avant improv/free jazz's most compelling and original players get together as a duet after a long history of sharing musical space, you can expect something very good, if everything is right. That is so on Divergent Paths (Cipsela 003), a convergent divergence of two great artists, Daniel Levin on cello, Rob Brown on alto sax, live on a Sunday afternoon in Coimbra, Portugal, November 2012.

This is in fact the second album of the two as duet, the first coming out some time ago on Not Two as Natural Disorder. I cannot speak for that one as I have not as yet heard it, but this one I have been listening to closely.

Part of what makes this so interesting is the visceral sounds each coaxes from his respective instruments. They contrast in the vibrations they set into the air--the cello rich in its stringed overtone complexities, the alto in the advanced harmonics and wide spectrum of sax sounds emitted. Both have worked hard at their sound, which unsurprisingly is a central touchpoint in the improv situation.

So the very color of the timbres hits you first. Then there is the sheer inventive mass of good ideas both Rob and Daniel put forward, Rob a master of line-weavings that have the history of the music underpinning his fluid and unexpected juxtaposing but a clear sense of what is his especially, Daniel bringing in the historic baggage of cello history with an occasional nod to contrabass roles, but working on the varied attacks possible and countering Rob with his own special idiomatic originality.

It is extended open invention with plenty of time and space to allow the two to create long dialogic musical conversations of brilliance. I will not attempt to give a blow-by-blow description because you are better served in the actual hearing. I will say that this is some very fine, very high-level duo advances, showing us the special sensitivity and two-way loops of musical ideas as they coalesce. These are players, true artists, intent on listening closely to one another and responding either in kind or, as the title suggests, purposefully divergently. It is a study in contrasts and confluences, togetherness in independence, inspiration in immediacy.

And so I do suggest you get this one and listen. It is a testament to the importance of these two artists and what they can come up with when left with freedom and time to create worlds of concentric sound.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Joao Camoes, Jean-Marc Foussat, Claude Parle, Bien Mental

Three masters of the adventurous art of avant improvisation join forces and give us an album that deftly explores the outer realms of possibility in spontaneous music making. It is Joao Camoes, Jean-Marc Foussat and Claude Parle and their Bien Mental (Fou Records CD 12). It manages to create three exceptionally advanced sonic tapestries composed in various ways by Camoes and his viola, Foussat and his live electro-acoustics, and Parle and his accordion.

What they create are free new music statements, sensitive, creative and extraordinarily alive spontaneities that are inspired, wonderfully colored and musically significant. It is music of an abstracted sort in the lineage of great ensembles such as MEV and il Gruppo, only distinctively original.

The sustain possibilities of all three instrument complexes can give us considerably varied masses of sound as well as punctual outbursts operating in a fascinating sort of dialectical relationship. There is great energy at times, relative repose and an intimate chamber sound that can become alternately huge and almost orchestral. To say that this is music of our time is a truth, but as far as a literal representative meaning to the abstractions I would say that you may build a dialogue of meaningful interactions in your mind but that the music first and foremost simply is. What you hear in it comes after the fact of the artists' determination to commingle advanced sounds and let them have meaning as the considerably fulmanous sonic abstractions they are, but fulmanous in a non-literally directed sense.

Well, so the point is that the music SOUNDS beautifully. It is an achievement. A masterpiece of its kind. This is landmark avant improv. So you should get it if that means a lot to you as it does to me. Highly recommended. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Brian Groder Trio, with Michael Bisio and Jay Rosen, R Train on the D Line

The Brian Groder Trio has a new one, a welcome volume two. The trio with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen scored big with me in 2014 (see July 24, 2014 article) with their first outing, and this one is as good or even better than that one. R Train on the D Line (Latham Records 6001) has a CD release date of April 13th but can be gotten at i-tunes in the meantime, as I understand.

Brain Groder is the thinking person's trumpet-flugel master and composer, to my mind. His compositions are complicated modern vehicles with a readily grasped core. They serve as excellent launching pads for the profound three-way goings-on between Groder, Bisio and Rosen.

Jay Rosen has made his mark as a member of Trio X (the trio with Joe McPhee and Dominic Duval) and sounds especially great on this album. He is a drummer of acute sensitivity, poise, swing and sound color.

Michael Bisio one of modern avant jazz's foremost bassists, often found these days as a member of Matt Shipp's wonderful trio. He shows why he is so highly regarded here, with some formidable contributions to the whole. You might listen to his playing in itself on these tracks and gain much, but of course his playing blossoms forth as an inegral part of this trio music.

Brian Groder gives us eight substantial compositions that form the basis for the angular geometric togetherness and bright improvisations to be heard. His special unvarnished but directly communicative prowess on his horns make the music come vibrantly alive. The music swings mightily and as needed crosses the border to freely articulated timelessness that nonetheless swings with the same energy and drive as the time-based grooving.

Everybody connects with a most eloquent unleashing of meaningful and moving music speech, something that is as rare in this realm as it is in the spoken word world we otherwise inhabit. They SAY a great deal, in other words, and what that is should very much be heard!

It is some music that brings you a model of how new jazz has evolved over the years to incorporate the expressive opening up of the music in the '60s into a new kind of superlative classicism. It thrives as chamber jazz but decidedly not of an anemic sort, far from it.

If you want to know something of where new jazz is today, I recommend this volume heartily. It has much great music to explore and unwrap. This is art, and a fine art indeed. Get a copy!!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar

With apologies for my tardiness, I am happy to report on the still-young (despite my tardy review) tenor sax rising star, Noah Preminger. His latest, his fourth, is Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (self-released). Now I must say that this album comes at just the right time. We get the best sort of picture of Noah and how far he has come, with an excellent band and two very long and loose versions of classic Bukka White blues perennials, "Parchman Farm Blues" and "Fixin' to Die Blues." It is the sort of live recording that reminds you why jazz often sounds best in the intimate club setting. I think of Booker Little and Eric Dolphy Live at the Five Spot or Ornette Coleman's Live at the Golden Circle or even Coltrane's original Live at the Village Vanguard, or Miles at the Plugged Nickel for precedents. No, I would not put Noah at the supreme pinnacle of jazz achievement of those masters, not yet anyway, but there is the unleashed energy of the joy of playing in unbuttoned fashion for a genuinely appreciative audience that this album shares with those absolute classics.

The band is excellent in Noah, trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman. Noah and Jason have plenty to say and they say it beautifully. This is a free and supercharged kind of blues and so they take plenty of liberties, not fearing to stray boldly outside of "polite" limitations, or emotional straight-jackets, or harmonically academic note choices. And the same thing applies to the rhythm section. They let loose and swing madly and uninhibitedly the way one hopes for in the live setting.

Noah gets a real froth going and shows us he is headed up and out, and finding original ground. Jason Palmer has that brass-proud Morgan-Hubbard extroversion in his own way and takes full advantage of his lengthy solo space to do something excellent as well. Froman kicks the living h out of the drums to catapult the band into the stratosphere, and pardon me if I say that there is far too little of such kicking on the average recording these days, or let's just say there could be more of it. He does his own version of the kicking, too. And Cass stays right there on bass with great walking note choices and a full head of steam.

I'd say this is undoubtedly one of the finest live jazz recordings of late last year, no doubt in my mind. It has it all going, and serves notice that Noah Preminger is setting his controls for the distant stars, on an original flight path. We will see what else he is going to do, but this one is essential listening! Huzzah! Yo!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nonch Harpin', Native Sons

On tap this morning is the very creative and capable group Nonch Harpin' and their album Native Sons (Nonch Harpin' Records 2015-1). It is a quintet letting loose with contemporary jazz-rock originals, something by King Crimson and a folk-world number.

The term "nonch harpin'" is Boontling (a jargon spoken by residents of Boonville, Northern California) for "dirty talk." The album was recorded on site in a Boonville barn converted by the band into a studio. The quintet is a lively combination of Shawn Ellis on double bass, Andy Markham on electric and acoustic guitars, Daniel Raynaud, keyboards and piano, Alan Spearot, drums, and Chin Tran on tenor and soprano. They stretch out and groove throughout. There are seven originals by Markham, one original and a folk arrangement by Tran, and a collectively composed number. That plus the Crimson piece gives the band memorable frameworks and space for the solo acumen of Markham, Raynaud and Tran. The rhythm section is very solid and driving.

Markham's way with the electric is very engaging and got my attention in the way he slides and bends with a very musical approach, but they all sound good.

This is top-notch new grooving with an edge at times and always a very contemporary and involved sound. They bring a smile and get you to listen. There is something very much their own happening, though it is very much a part of what is "in the air," too. This is fusion of the now. There is nothing retro about it. Nice!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ches Smith, The Bell

Chamber jazz has come an exceedingly long way from the days of John Kirby or the Duke-Strayhorn-Pettiford sides, so long that many readers may not know the recordings I allude to in this sentence. No matter for now. The advance of the idiom brings us no closer to the future than with the new trio recording of drummer-composer Ches Smith, The Bell (ECM B0024388-02). Eight Smith compositions are featured, as played by Ches on drums, vibes and tympani, Craig Taborn on piano and Mat Manieri on viola. These form a near ideal triumvirate in their exacting attention to detail and their concentration on sonic expressivity.

These are very modern effusions that owe something to the tutelage and "good ideas" Ches absorbed from Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran, Fred Frith and William Winant during his studies at Mills College. But then it is what he has done with the conceptual frameworks suggested to him by these luminaries that puts his music in a special place. The pieces were written with this trio in mind, with their ability to take the frameworks and create a spontaneous in-the-moment immediacy that blossoms forth here dramatically, strikingly with the special ambient sonic carpet created by Manfred Eicher's production.

Each of the trio members make for themselves a stylistic universe that meshes together in a three-way set of travels where all get equal space and all are distinctively themselves. It so happens, happily, that Smith's music serves the originality of the three especially well. So much so that it is difficult imagining another threesome playing the music, at least not the way it unfolds on the album.

There is an intelligent introspection to this music that has the ability to break out into more extroverted dramatics without breaking stride. That is the sort of seamlessness that this music embodies.

It is something that stands out and manages to be outstanding without calling attention to itself in the more overt ways. It is a special set. Impressively, so.  Movingly, so.

If you happen to be in NYC on this March 25th, the trio is playing at the Rubin Museum of Art. Check the net listings for details.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Albert Ayler, Bells/Prophecy Expanded Edition

ESP happily gives us a new deluxe, expanded edition of Bells/Prophecy (ESP 4076 2-CDs) and it is most welcome. It includes the Town Hall, NYC, 1965 Bells, originally issued on ESP as a single-sided LP back then a bit after its May 1965 recording date. It was an expanded Ayler configuration of Albert, his brother Donald on trumpet, Charles Tyler on alto, Lewis Worrell on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. It is classic, essential early Ayler and if you do not have it, you no doubt should if you are an Ayler acolyte.

The Prophecy sessions go back a year to June of 1964, just a month before the seminal Spiritual Unity date inaugurated the Ayler sound that was to be so revolutionary and influential in the new jazz community. Like that studio session Ayler joins with Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums--for an extended live recording on location at the Cellar in NYC. What you hear as the cuts following Bells on CD I was originally released around a decade after they were recorded as a single ESP LP entitled Prophecy. The entire CD II is a continuation of that date that was originally issued in France as  Albert Smiles with Sunny. I missed that second volume completely so am especially happy to have it rejoined with the original issue.

It is a thoroughgoing exercise in Albert's patented fire-tongued tenor effusions with long versions of his classics from the era and a few others that never saw duplication elsewhere to my knowledge. Albert blazes with great heat, Gary Peacock has plenty of space to work on his free bass ideas and Sunny lays down the free wash of open rhythms that became so critical an aspect of free jazz from thence onwards. This may not have the concentrated impact of the studio album but it is a fine set of performances nonetheless.

It is more essential Ayler from the era.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet, Eight Winds

What is the lyra? It is a bowed string instrument with a special sound and a long history. Sokratis Sinopoulos is nearly single-handedly bringing us a renewed interest in and appreciation for the instrument and its key role on Greek musical history via a number of albums on ECM. Today we consider his first album released on the label under his own name, the Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet and their Eight Winds (ECM B0024390-02).

The quartet came to being after Sokratis encountered pianist Yann Keerim and found in him a sympatico musical vision, this in 2011. They discovered in turn bassist Dimitris Tsekouras and drummer Dimitris Emanouil as the right sort of imaginative players and we now can appreciate the four and their special approach.

This is music that emphasizes Sinopoulos' plaintive, beautifully singing lyra tone in a series of balladic and folk-laced originals put together by the leader. They have an ECM jazz sort of immediacy, an open spaciousness and a pronounced lyrical quality tempered at times by gently driving dance-like rhythms that have deep roots but a modern transcendence as well.

There is much in the way of ravishing melody to be heard, principally in the lyra folk-jazz effusions but then too in pianistic parallels and robust folk-jazz rhythm section roles.

It is an extraordinarily engaging set for those willing to set aside expectations and let the music speak in its own language. Sinopoulis is a true artist and the quartet a thing to revel in. Definitely and heartily recommended.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sean Sonderegger's Magically Inclined, Eat the Air

I am catching up with a good CD that came out last year, namely Sean Sonderegger's Magically Inclined ensemble and their Eat the Air (Skirl 029). It is a potent sextet of Areni Agbabian on vocals, Sean on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Harvey Valdes on guitar, Greg Chudzik on bass, and Joe Hertenstein on drums. They have a sound that gets its initial thrust from the compositions, most by Sonderegger, some with Joanna Cooper and her evocative, poetic lyrics, and one by Chudzik and Cooper.

This is modern, "progressive" jazz, with excellently burnished, melodically and harmonically original songs and Areni Agbabian's mellifluous voice bringing us to a very nice place--and then the potent solo-rhythm punch of reeds, trombone, guitar and voice soloing collectively and individually with some very open and driving bass and drums. It has at times some of the unwinding, irregular funkiness of classic mid-period Dave Holland groups but then it takes that into its very own zone.

The combination of compositions, ensemble and soloists comes together in ways that haunt you and intrigue.

This is a group effort, an outstanding one, with a special original sound and prodigious depth. I find it all pretty irresistible. It is a find, a sleeper perhaps, but a great example of what is NEW out there. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Big Galut(e)

Klezmer music is not uni-dimensional, as continued exploration of the tradition attests and the renewed performance of the music continues and evolves. We hear a healthy growth in the album/group Big Galut(e) (self-released), who irreverently and heartily take on anything from traditional Yiddish folk to spirituals, Mahler, Bizet, Argentinian tangos and Kurt Weill. Big Galut(e) comprises a group that consists of clarinet, violin, accordion and bass, yes, but also mandolin, theorbo, baroque guitar and even tabla for one tune.

Yet in all that the klezmer sound and feel prevails nicely and authentically. Robin Seletsky helps insure that with her clarinet virtuosity--which encompasses the klezmer greats and takes things at times a step further. Violinist Sasha Margolis also has the knack of klezmerizing everything they do--with a pronounced classical as well as a folk sense. The band as a whole is so thoroughly steeped in the tradition that they are able to infuse virtually anything with its spirit, yet also carry the essence of the source (listen for example to the Rossi "Sonata Settima" for baroque klezmer!). They can do the completely unexpected, like get into a swinging thing after a cafe style on their version of "La Yiddishe Mama" (but of course we musn't forget the Bagelmen Sisters and their swinging days). And after all klezmer was never "pure" in some monolithic sense, but infused a generally Jewish-Yiddish inflection with the music that surrounded their diasporic existence in Eastern Europe and then New York, absorbing jazz, folk and popular elements in ways that made klezmer what it was and is, after all.

And so we get a rather madcap romp through all kinds of repertoire with zeal and panache. The vocals are appropriate, as sung by violinist Sasha Margolis, and all in all we get an extension of the music in ways that intrigue and please.

It may be a little left-field if you seek some kind of holy grail of authenticity, but the message is a healthy one: that klezmer has always been about encompassing outside musics into its stylistic orbit. They do it well and put a big smile on your face if you get some/all of the "jokes"--and even if you don't! Bravo!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Susana Santos Silva, Torbjorn Zetterberg, Hampus Lindwall, If Nothing Else

What is next? Many things. One of them Susana Santos Silva, Torbjorn Zetterberg and Hampus Lindwall and their album If Nothing Else (Clean Feed 348). This is "spooky" music, to use a rather non-technical term. It is spooky in its very own way. The music is collectively conceived by the trio and played by Susana on trumpet and flugelhorn, often as if from a cavernous distance. Surrounding her and supplying their own resonance is Torbjorn Zetterberg on double bass and Hampus Lindwall on organ.

The three together create a very atmospheric sort of new music with an improvisational component. It is not overtly jazz oriented much of the time, though it has expressive power and does make a nod at times to jazz roots. The music often uses long, sprawling washes of sound which take advantage of the organ's infinite sustain, carefully chosen trumpet sonics and the full scope of pizz and bowed double bass.

Each of the eleven segments is a world unto itself. Ms. Silva has a definite virtuosity in her ability to unleash trumpet-flugel timbral complexes, whether muted or straight, within organ envelopes and bass resonating. And Torbjorn has a varied, freely articulated role to play that melds both with the organ sustains and trumpet expressions to give added bottom and noteful additions. Lindwall is called upon to give complex, uncannily spacial zone modules.

But it is not all sustain-oriented. Listen to "Stop Chords" with its insistent, manic, unrelenting sounding of staccato organ chords in strict periodicity while bass bows and scrapes and trumpet unleashes a series of utterances, the two in absolute contrast anarchically with the organ's absolute hegemony.

Or there is "Power Walk," a possessed sort of outside walking on bass and organ that takes the frenetic edge of rapid-fire but chordally ungrounded "swing" and pits Silva's horn "soloing" on top of it.

The music is striking in the end. I cannot say it sounds like anything else, truly. It is ultra-contemporary, ambient yet jarring in its refusal to lay down pastoral carpets, an expressive hell of the best sort, mood music for unsettled times, you might call it.

It is a signpost directing us through some bleak terrain, and doing so in ultra-artistic ways. Silva plays trumpet in arresting fashion, her trio mates give us startling combinations and we are left fascinated with the possibilities unleashed.

The conceptual-compositional frameworks of the trio's music get fleshed out by the three in unusual but impressive and effective means. It is a most unexpected treat and brings you to full attention if you allow it space to unfold. I am quite surprised and pleased by the album. I heartily recommend it for you avant stalwarts. It has the animation of the dramatic gesture, the world opening contrasts between continuities and discontinuities. It is art!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Silke Rollig, Burton Greene, Space is Still the Place

Advanced avant jazz vocals are probably the hardest challenge an artist can face. We all know how some of the historically critical vocalists approached swing through bop. They envisioned their voice as a horn, doing the subtle rephrasings like a great saxophonist or trumpet player might, and scatting with wordless lines in improvisatory fashion.
When the music got "free" we had various approaches from Jeanne Lee, Patty Waters and others, but it was by no means an easy thing to pull off. Essentially though there was the emotive, timbral, expressive side and the finessive, difficultly advanced lining side. Both are still with us in various ways in avant realms. And then there is of course a carry over of more traditional jazz singing ways, ballads and song reframings owing something to the master vocal interpreters of the past.
Silke Rollig goes for all three aspects in her recent album with piano icon Burton Greene, Space is Still the Place (Improvising Beings 39). The album covers much ground beginning unexpectedly but effectively with a cover of a Kurt Cobain opus "Something in the Way" and goes from there with a series of Rollig and Greene originals and collaborative pieces.
Burton sounds as good as ever. Silke takes on some difficult music heroically, mostly in the Burton zone and she also freely emotes/plays with vocal utterances, all with a distinctive vocal instrument and a freedom that even toys with intonation at times.
The end result is a musically packed set that relies on compositional and improvisational originality from both sides of the duets. One needs to listen more than once, certainly, to get all of this in. And as one does it blossoms outward as some very out and unusual vocal-piano interactions, with more synchrony (intuitive or planned, or both, depending on the moment) than one might ordinarily hear in such settings.
Rollig has a very ambitious span of things she does here. Some of the lines she articulates in tandem with Burton's piano are quite difficult; others are more laid back and considered; and then there are the open, free soundings that fall somewhere in between.
It is an extraordinary album, a walk on a tightrope without a safety net, a musically full album that will satisfy the Burton Greene fans and challenge you to get on Rollig's wavelength. Once you do, there you are! This is music sometimes difficult, other times organic, always provocative! Listen!

Monday, March 7, 2016

De Beren Gieren, One Mirrors Many

De Beren Gieren is a uniquely different sort of improvisational-compositional piano trio from Benelux. Their recent album One Mirrors Many (Clean Feed 344) has been absorbing my attention in the past weeks and I emerge from my ear-time attention to talk about it a bit.

The compositions and the piano chair are both held down definitively by Fulco Ottervanger. Lieven Van Pee is the bassist; Simon Segers is on drums. They have a remarkable cohesiveness together and a sound perhaps like no other. The stance is one of a brightly defining set of sound colors via conventional and extended techniques on all three instruments. Fulco plays inside and outside the piano in remarkable ways, and the same is true to a somewhat lesser extent by Lieven and Simon. There is occasionally some very subtle alteration of the piano sound, etc., by effects, or so I hear something in the sound that would so indicate. It is very sparingly utilized and works quite well.

The compositions have a special kind of innovative quality to them. There are ruminative adventures in harmonic and melodic creativity, there are striking sonic envelopes created in various ways, and each artist takes on a prominent role in making the pieces come to life via unusual patterns and improvisational extensions.

It is thoroughly a music of today, born out of piano trio traditions going forward from, say, Bill Evans' time through Bley, Kuhn, early Jarrett and much more besides. The end result is striking and well conceived, with both a new music and a modern/free jazz piano trio component that meld seamlessly into an expressive uniqueness.

The trio comes at you with an accomplished amalgam that begins with Ottervanger's well defined piano/compositional way and extends to some consistently ear-worthy bass and drum styles that fit exceptionally well with the piano soundings. The music is advanced and lyrical, at times brashly bold and stylistically fearless. The sequence of pieces are all together a fascinating adventure in what can be done with a special vision and sound color approach that is carried through and brought to full fruition.

It's a most unusual and innovative set from some startling players. I would strongly suggest you hear this!


Friday, March 4, 2016

Sarah Murcia, Never Mind the Future

What a "standard" is today is potentially quite a bit different than, say, what was on John Coltrane's Prestige "Plays Standards" album that was recorded nearly 60 years ago. Yet some jazz artists stick to the same old masterpieces that were well-enshrined by the time Trane addressed them. Other artists, however, have opened the floodgates of songs made between then and now, and the results are as potentially differing as they were then, only of course the artistic choices have grown in many ways.

So what is a standard except a song that we feel the need to resurrect and in some way enshrine, interpret and infuse with personal creativity?

So what about the Sex Pistols? What about their iconic punk album "Never Mind the Bollocks"? The songs there changed around plenty of heads and looking back, they were probably the best of the movement. So if somebody did a rethinking and reinterpretation of those songs, what would you think? The fact is, Sarah Murcia did do just that, on the new release Never Mind the Future (Ayler 149).

The group on the album is made up of Sarah Murcia, double-bass, voice; BenoƮt Delbecq, piano; Mark Tompkins, voice; Olivier Py, saxophones; Gilles Coronado, electric guitar; and Franck Vaillant, drums, percussion.

These are rather brilliant transpositions of the songs. They are de-punked, vocally and instrumentally, and given careful articulation so that the bleak lyrics, the protest against status-quo and limited prospects comes through all the more for it. The music has an avant jazz-rock originality that one might call post-Mantler, with an emphasis on post. Really this is a new sort of standards album, in content and treatment.

And as that it breaks boundaries and describes worlds we may all be experiencing without the least irony now....though the words can still shock, especially when sung-spoken plainly. Murcia connects with the Sex Pistol's punk essence and reflects on it with brilliant arrangements, really, and creative performances as well.

I am not one to tell people what to do, but you might find this album something that very much speaks to you, and very artfully so! Thanks Ayler Records for continuing to keep us all on the cutting edge!! Get this one and keep the label alive.

Michael McNeill Trio, Flight

Pianist-composer Michael McNeill has been busy as an important member of the Buffalo music scene for a number of years. He also leads a very potent trio with Ken Filiano on bass and Phil Haynes on drums. They put out an album, Passageways, in 2011, and now they are back with Flight (self-released).

Based on the new one, I am sorry to have missed the first. This one is filled with ultra-modern trio jazz that has gritty, pointed, harmonically advanced qualities in a post-Corean sort of way (in the classic trio era), and a bit of early Jarrett and classic Herbie rechanneled, a beautifully swinging-free Filiano and Haynes and some striking piano "blowing."

Phil Haynes gives us his very smart drumming in abundance and Ken Filiano is ideal for what he does as well as how it fits. Both solo nicely, too!

Ultimately, though, it is McNeill's compositions and concepts, his pianistic advance that completely carries the day. It goes from adventurous new music ruminations to wildly swinging postbop and as it does, it seals the music with a irreplaceable fingerprint.

This is the sort of music that reminds us, as we are in the thick of mechanical and now digital reproduction, that the art of jazz resists homogenization, standardization and cloning in the best examples. For piano trios, the McNeill outfit as heard on the new album is one-of-a-kind, enormously talented and pushing the boundaries of the art in the best ways.

I am very happy to have this one! I think you'd be, too. Check it out.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thomas Heberer, Leap of Faith, Solution Concepts

Reed jazzman PEK has been quite prolific making avant jazz happen up in Boston with his two ensembles. Today we hear a CD of characteristically interesting music played by his Leap of Faith outfit with guest Thomas Heberer, Solution Concepts (Evil Clown 9076).

It is a full set recorded live at New York's Downtown Music Gallery last August. The outer numbers are long improv tracks with Heberer on cornet for the latter, plus PEK on tenor, piccolo oboe, clarinet and contra-alto clarinet. Glynis Lomon is on cello and aquisonic, Steve Norton on sopranino, alto clarinet, and alto sax. And Yuri Zbitnov is at the drums with resonant metal objects adding to the sound.

This is full-blown free outness in the grand tradition, spontaneous outbursts of individual and collectively free sound with all playing and hearing one another to create shifting constellations of aural expression. Thomas Heberer enters following the first long improv for a series of unaccompanied solos. Thomas shows us his smartly expressive way in a kind of tour de force of melodic invention.

The final number is a twenty-minute conflagration of Heberer and Leap of Faith joined together. It gives the entire ensemble space to open up worlds of improv and at the same time gives space as well for Heberer's voice to respond to the others and vice versa. The track has a great deal of strength and shows the complete complement of artists at their best.

All in the end is worthy ear fare. It is a fine example of Leap of Faith in its current guise and Thomas Heberer in an inspired frame of being, both with and without the ensemble.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

WAS? What About Sam, Happy Meal

Portuguese avant modern jazz comes through with flying colors via the quintet WAS? What About Sam and their album Happy Meal (JACC Records CD). It is free but structured composition-improvisation that in its own way reminds of classic AACM music but then has its own twists.

The group is a strong one with Luis Vicente on trumpet (whose music I have covered on these pages before) and providing two of the compositions, Federico Pascucci on tenor and one composition, Roberto Negro on piano, providing a composition as well, Andre Rosinha on double bass and Vasco Furtado on drums. The additional two numbers on the album are collective improvisations.

What strikes me about the music is how the front line and the entire band improvise around the written and their overall sense of cohesiveness. The numbers have a sequential quality with worked out sections that may center around a solo or collective improv but impose unexpected turns not typical. There is open freedom to be heard, but different and unusual structuring of what the group unleashes from moment to moment.

Vincente, Pascucci and Negro have much to say as soloists, but the rhythm section has an active role to play too that goes beyond time keeping or the studious avoidance of pulsation.

In short the ensemble gives us an original approach to taking it out and in the process generates plenty of way-stations of musical interest that keep the ears busy and well nourished.

It is yet another notable example of the vitality of the Portuguese scene. I hope the quintet stays together and gives us yet more. As it is Happy Meal provides us with a great deal of unusual music. Here's one to check out, by all means.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Desert Sweets, A Place Not Meant for Birds, Biggi Vinkeloe, Mark Weaver, Damon Smith

Today another of the fine recent releases to be found on Damon Smith's Balance Point Acoustics label. Desert Sweets is the name of the trio and the album is entitled A Place Meant for Birds (bpa-5). It is a valuable addition to avant jazz discography because it gives us a nicely articulated threesome in Biggi Vinkeloe on alto and flute (an artist very worth hearing who has been some what under-recorded as a whole), Mark Weaver on tuba and didgeredoo (someone whose playing I do not know well but sounds totally appropriate here) and Damon Smith on bass, one of the master talents deserving wider recognition in the music today.

The approach is rollicking free-avant improv, with each member filling a key role. The recording is well staged with a perfect balance between the trio. Most importantly, it is a platform on which the three can excel at creating considerable spontaneous interest.

Biggi has a way about her. She is on the outside edge of the music yet there is also a lyrical side that shows here, nicely contrasting with Damon's advanced sound color bass adventures and Mark's tuba textures and good note choices.

There are seven segments that hold our interest. One includes a poem recitation by Lisa Gill that broadens the scope nicely.

It may be a bit of a sleeper of an album. Those who do not know the artists well may not find this album in their hands unless someone calls it out to them. I am doing that today because it is music that keeps sounding better to me the more I listen to it. The beauty of Ms. Vinkeloe's approach, the excellent improvisational bass lines and the nice color additions of Weaver's tuba show us an collective artistry that dwells in a rarified space where the lines work together yet each instrumentalist adds much of her-his own personal way.