Monday, May 22, 2017

Earth Tongues, Ohio


The trio Earth Tongues and their 2-CD improvisation Ohio (neither/nor n/n 006) is one of those long building free-new music essays in sound that takes its time unfolding and rewards the patient listener with a finely honed, ever-blossoming panorama

You might not know what to expect, or I did not at least, by looking at the personnel and instrumentation. The jacket tells us that the trio is made up of Joe Moffett on trumpet and cassette player, Dan Peck on tuba and cassette player and Carlo Costa on percussion. What we get is a beginning with little sounds, microscopic fragilities, quietude of a carefully, creatively mapped out spontaneity.

Only in time does the music become ever more present, in ways that remind one of some of the pioneering new music improv groups (MEV, AMM, etc), only updated and personalized for the now we live in.

All makes an artistic sense if you just let it be. The unfolding is the all. And with that we can actualize our listening self to become something other. Such is the best sort of avantdom.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Rob Mazurek, Chants and Corners

The music of Rob Mazurek in the past decade has been remarkable. His use of electronics in a thoroughly exciting free jazz medium, his cornet, his role as bandleader, all stands out in my mind as high points in the later period of avant expression.

And now we have a further example of his, another clear sign that the momentum of his most creative period to date is in no way at an ebb. The new one is entitled Chants and Corners (Clean Feed 416). It incorporates deftly electronics manned by Mazurek, Guilherme Granado and Thomas Rohrer. Mazurek is also on cornet and on piano for one track, Granado is also on keys, Rohrer on rabeca, flutes and soprano. Then there is Mauricio Takara on drums plus Philip Somervell on piano and prepared piano. The totality of the ensemble is as primary as the quality of the improvisations. It is a joyous noise we hear.

To parse each part in a description is perhaps to miss the point? On the other hand one cannot help but appreciate Rob's stunning cornet work. Everybody does the right thing, though. Giulherme's and Philip's keys-piano work is rompingly appropriate. Mauricio drums up a froth. And Thomas adds significantly on reeds. But it is all this within an electronic wash that puts things on a collectively higher plane.

It is nothing less than what one would expect from Mazurek at this stage. But then it is also more, a further development, a remarkable fluency of free musical expression taken another step forward.

Hear, absolutely!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Allen Lowe, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out DownEast

Why it has taken a while for me fully to appreciate the music of Allen Lowe is a bit of a puzzle, now that I am totally on his wavelength. Maybe because he is so prolific--the "box" set I reviewed a while back had an awful lot of music to digest and I'll admit I wrote up my review before I had spent enough time with the music to assimilate it fully. I ended up going back to it and the additional spins made it all come together for me.

So, thankfully, there is more coming out. There is another set I'll be getting to but first a single disk release, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out Downeast (Constant Sorrow 999). I can identify with the title because I am living it, too. The world is very beautiful but nowadays very hellacious, as anyone reading this might know.

The album begins as is Allen's way with an excellent cast, Allen of course with his inimitable alto and then Nels Cline on guitar, Ray Suhy on guitar, Matthew Shipp on piano, Kevin Ray on bass, Larry Feldman on violin and mandolin, and Carolyn Castellano on drums. The "big names" give us key contributions, but then again so do the "smaller names." Allen however is the guiding force on alto that makes it all come together.

The originals are open, mostly changes-based gems that show Allen has absorbed fully the roots of avant jazz (whatever those are in their great plentitude). He has worked his way through the myriad avenues and byways, doubtless a long process that has led him to his own original path. That end discovery of his musical self after such an extensive exposure to what has been is of course not at all the norm. Not many have so fully slogged through it all as he has. It is key to his music, that working through and beyond.

Each piece is memorable in form and melodic-harmonic movement. They open the way to improvisations of stature.

This is a great place to start if you do not know Allen's music, and you should. It is an additional and very rewarding temporary resting point if you already know him. Either way the music is vital, jazz of the most developed sort,  reaching some of the highest planes of attainment on the scene today.

Can you tell I recommend this unreservedly? I do.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jason Anick & Jason Yeager, United

In today's realms of "serious" music, including the art of jazz, nothing is absolutely given. That means that anything is possible, even if some pathways are not exactly welcomed by a large segment of the music listening public. We who make and/or cover such musical roads may need to learn that an isolation from the mainstream of musical and verbal discourse becomes more and more a reality, a condition that one must either accept as a fact of life or take an unappealing turn to the popular.

Neither this writer nor the music he covers today is about to "sell out." Yet in fact the music has the ability to garner a wide appeal if things were different out there. Maybe it will after all.

I speak of the collaborative teaming of  violinist Jason Anick and pianist Jason Yeager on the album United (Inner Circle 067CD). It consists of some evolved originals by Anick and Yeager, some selected compositions by Zbigniew Seifert, plus Harrison's "Something" and Miles' "All Blue."

There is a slight classical element to be heard in the originals but a pronounced contemporary jazz center that shows off the very focused abilities of Anick and Yeager, a rhythm team (alternating, two different ones) and some guest appearances by trumpet and saxophones.

The spotlight is squarely on the two in fascinating interplay. If the material reminds of Burton or Corea in classic phases, perhaps that has something to do with the Berklee nexus of the players? I does not matter. What counts is the beautiful musicianship of the team and how they extend and interpret the compositions in a total gestalt of intertwining poetics.

Anick is a hell of a violinist and Yeager a wonderfully alive pianist.

It's all good.

Frantz Loriot, Reflections on an Introspective Path

Why do I write these? Not for fame or fortune, for sure. An entire CD of avant jazz viola solos may be critical to the new music scenario, and by directing readers toward it I am helping to define what's going on right now. So for better or worse I keep on. Even if my championing seems to me a thankless task.

But no matter. Frantz Loriot is the viola master I speak of above. The 2014 recording of his solo viola improvisations is entitled Reflections on an Introspective Path (neithernor n/n 002). I covered Frantz's large ensemble compositions the other day, and he has distinguished the proceedings of a number of improv ensembles as violist. I've covered a number of these as well, as the index search box above will reveal.

In spite of all that (and it is excellent) this recording perhaps represents the ultimate challenge. Hit the studios with only yourself and your viola. Create a CDs worth of edgy solo viola improvisations.

The key to such an outing is expressive invention. Frantz Loriot has that. He disregards much of the time the accepted conventions of string technique and instead forges his own path of timbrally rich, counter-"legitimate" extensions of the sonic possibilities of the viola. And each of the seven improvisations contained on the album concentrates on a particular extension complex and its expressive potential.

In the end we have an ever-contrasting series of adventures. Loriot is not content to stay in place, but rather to confront a widening vector of extended techniques with a free jazz fire and a new music recombinatory abstraction of means.

This will not be everyone's cup of tea. But for those who let themselves open up to the sound dynamics Frantz so single-mindedly masters on this program, it is a revelation. As the Marcel Duchamp quote on the album sleeve implies, sometimes you have to free yourself of the technical habits of normality in order to create anew. Loriot does this consistently and poetically.

And so you who seek to go beyond need to hear this.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Benedikt Jahnel Trio, The Invariant

The Benedikt Jahnel Trio celebrates ten years as an entity with a striking album that selects eight of Jahnel's compositions and presents them as they are played these days, after years of live performances and a boiling down to the sophisticated essence of what they are now.

The Invariant (ECM 2523) alludes both to the persistence of the trio and its consistently high level of musicianship. That Jahnel should be an ECM artist is also an invariant--of the label's initial and continuing attention to some of jazz's most innovative pianists, beginning of course with Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett and following through to the present day. The most distinctive of the ECM ivory manipulators have much in common: a highly developed harmonic and melodic sense and the ability to swing as strongly as they can create lyrical largos of great creativity.

Jahnel is one of the very best of the current crop of artists. He shows you that dramatically on the album--just as the trio of himself, Antonio Miguel on double bass and Owen Howard on drums drives home the extraordinary evolution of the modern piano trio as we now experience it. All three artists are integral to the outcome, the years of recording and gigging making themselves felt with a palpable excellence of interdependence and interplay.

This is as fine example of the piano trio art as you are likely to hear this year. It is a celebration, a tribute to dedicated continuity and growth.

By all means, hear this and be moved.

Beyond Trio Live at Spectrum, Cheryl Pyle, Roberta Piket, Newman Taylor Baker

What we know today as avant jazz can take many forms, in a spectrum ranging from free jazz to new music improv with many shades in between. We get a blend slightly verging toward new music realms on the Beyond Trio's download EP Live at Spectrum (11th Street Music 2013). This edition is a very good one, caught in peak form in 2013. Cheryl Pyle chimes in on flute, Roberta Piket on piano and Newman Taylor Baker on drums.

Baker brings his chamber percussion set and its ubiquitous washboard for a discerning barrage of freely articulated small sounds. Roberta Piket sounds out responsive, advanced lines that come out of a Taylorian-Bleyian-new music lineage, opening up the harmonic center to a greatly expanded chromosphere. Cheryl Pyle is in excellent form on flute, deftly winding her way through the full range of the instrument and the open-form chromatic choices that are part of her hallmark.

In the 30-minute set presented on this album we get a number of contrasting moods and some striking trio interplay. It is one of the best for this trio and Cheryl, a refreshing offering of what makes this band something altogether else! Listen and enjoy.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Frantz Loriot, Manuel Perovic, Notebook Large Ensemble, Urban Furrow

The idea of "never too late" fills my head as I jump in to cover something that may have come out in 2015 yet remains a vital offering for big band avant-free jazz improv-composition today. It is violist-composer Frantz Loriot and composer-arranger-conductor Manuel Perovic heading the Notebook Large Ensemble on the album Urban Furrow (Clean Feed 338).

All compositions are by Loriot, except the brief "To HR," which is co-composed by Loriot and Perovic. There are nine musicians involved in the band, an international intersection of worthy players: Loriot's viola of course, plus two reed players, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, cello, doublebass and drums.

A broad wash of collective and individual improvisation moments set off and make alive the compositional elements. From the vamp-like chord progression integral to "West 4th," the abstractions and harmonic underpinnings of "Division," the song form and changes on "To HR," and so forth all the way through the album's sequence, there is a close fit between the writing and the improvisational spirit that brings the music to life.

And in the process free improv and compositional structures blend together to create a music than is more "both-and" than it is "either-or."

The result is a music that is neither strictly avant garde nor is it mainstream. It has an outness to it that brings foundational elements into play that the uninitiated listener might hang her or his ears onto to guide the experience and make it more readily accessible than a strictly avant journey would.

What matters is that the music hangs together as a whole, that all elements work together to create an interesting and satisfying musical experience. There is plenty here to dig into.

And I recommend you do that!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Chris Greene Quartet, Boundary Issues

Tenor-soprano jazzman Chris Greene wants to cross through stylistic barriers. He and his quartet set about to do just that on Boundary Issues (Single Malt 011). What we get is an album of contemporary jazz that shows its hard-bop roots and adopts the rhythms of our current world to the needs of Greene's historical-contemporary explorations. His beautifully open horn tenor sound and ravishing soprano are unleashed and focused to ride across nicely burning grooves, whether it be the reggae pulsations inherent in his arrangement of Silver's classic "Nica's Dream," or the funkified or swinging takes on standards, selected contemporary jazz gems from folks like Kenny Kirkland, or Greene's own originals. The band stands out while Greene lets loose.

His sidemen are the right ones for this date. Damian Espinosa on piano and keys, Marc Piane on acoustic and electric bass, and Steve Corley on drums have what it takes to motor the music along, add their own personalities and solo effectively. Greene stands out in the end as a player of finesse and soul, thoroughly immersed in his version of the contemporary style.

The set is together and in the end a beautiful listen. Greene is something new and worthwhile. Hear him.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Dickey / Maneri / Shipp, Vessel in Orbit

When formidable jazz artists get together in a spontaneous act and create a body of music, if the conditions are right something very valuable may be created. It is true that those with no understanding of the music may hear no difference between an inspired date and one less so. Nonetheless those who have been trained to grasp, to feel the essence of the music take notice.

Much of new avant jazz today may be misunderstood or unappreciated by those who have not taken the effort to live with such sounds over an extended period. As the great John Coltrane told a Japanese interviewer many years ago, "It is something that you may understand over time, or you may never understand." I am quoting from memory so I may not be giving his exact words, but the truth remains.

How long it took me to understand fully the free improvisational art form we are blessed with in our time is not easy to reconstruct exactly. I delved into it all when quite young and back then there was a spirit of growth and a need to question the world that predisposed me to explore such things, so that when I first heard Coltrane's Om I immediately felt the importance of the music, though I did not understand it yet. It was something "in the air" then, something that went along with the spirit of the age. I eventually listened to more and more of this kind of music and there was a number of years I put into the first effort, understanding growing with every new artist or recording I surveyed. There was no "aha" moment because understanding never ceases to grow if you allow it. Now there may be less inclination for people to travel beyond their typical comfort zone today. Or I may be wrong. My neighbors for sure have no real idea of the music that they may overhear me listening to. But their natural curiosity is not obvious. They may be too old for that?

The point in this is that you either have a need to expand your being for whatever reason, or you maybe do not. Those who don't may never come to the music. Others may find they are ready for the truly new.

It is those in the second group who along with avant jazz converts may find Vessel in Orbit (AUM Fidelity 101) of intuitive or concrete importance. It may hit you immediately or only after several listens. But it is built into this music and only needs your participation to complete the communication, to create for your being the art that is intended to be a gift to you.

The music is a product of the fruitful meeting of Whit Dickey on drums, Mat Maneri on viola and Matthew Shipp on piano. Eight free improvisational segments grace the album, each a coherency that can stand on its own or add collective weight to the whole album in sequence.

The threesome is primed and filled with great musical ideas. Maneri is less often heard with these two co-creators than the two co-creators have been heard together. In fact a previous meeting on disk with either has escaped my memory if there have been any. Whit was a full-time member of Matthew's trio for a long while and so the two have had a good deal of time to forge a dialog. Whit has as I understand it been ill for a time, so there has been a refreshing pause in their musical discourse. All sounds extremely well with the two here, for sure. They jump right in where they left off.

Maneri sounds completely at ease on this album so if there may be less logged-in musical interaction between himself and the other two, there is an immediate connection they make here. It is some of the finest Maneri moments I have heard on record. He unleashes torrents of pristine improvisational lines, unpredictable yet sounding totally right for this trio context.

Matthew Shipp seems to find that the relaxed gathering puts him in the mind to upend his creative vessel and let great things pour out continuously.

Whit takes advantage of the open potential of the trio to create ever varied patternless freedom via continually significant drumming. So this is pretty momentous, all of it!

There are times when the history of jazz makes an allusive appearance via a kind of style quotation scenario, but then it is mostly improvisations that have the purity of the now, the eloquence of the making present of the present.

The music is not so much energy directed, though there is much energy. It is a three-way willingness to speak with new words, to make sense out of the previously unexpressed, the potential to express.

The result is very beautiful! You who do not know what freedom is might start here and perhaps change your life. Those who already know will find joy in this outing. It is exceptional.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo, Peace, Tribute to Kelly Churko

The recorded opus of avant jazz composer-pianist Satoko Fujii continues to grow, impressively. There is a consistency of innovative thoroughgoingness and dedicative detail. One of the latest, Peace (Libra 217-039), is by the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo. A lively and well disposed ensemble of 14 Japanese avant jazz stalwarts, including Fujii partner Natsuki Tamura, is joined by guests but Fujii music familiars Christian Provost and Peter Orins on trumpet and drums, respectively.

There are three compositions by Fujii, one by Tamura. They show us a dynamic and exciting band running through with interpretive and soloistic acumen the well-sequenced thematic, sectional, individual and collective improvisational-compositional excellence one comes to expect from the Fujii/Tamura ethos.

You are in the process treated to endlessly recombinatory improvisational pairings and solos along with some blisteringly hot or alternatively introspective compositional elements.

It has all the Fujii complexities and memorability. In a selfless way what it does not have is the Fujii piano, or for that matter any piano playing whatsoever. But this band is filled with excellent musicians who are called upon to create vast expanses of cosmically charged sound.

It is important music, something anyone following the cutting edge of the new jazz should definitely hear.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Possibilities, Get 'Em

A trio named Possibilities has made a CD and I find it very good. Get 'Em (Possibilities/DAJ Records DAJ 001) is the title. Tim Bennett mans the saxophones and wrote most of the material on the program. Dan Stein plays acoustic bass. Peter Manheim is on drums.

There are song structures along with an avant freedom, in a contemporary mix with an eclectic edge that it seems an increasing number of new jazz artists utilize in personal ways. Bennett has a mastery of the flowing contemporary line that reminds me of the "Beatrice" phase of Sam Rivers, or for that matter the in-and-out complexities of some of jazz's greatest of '60s-and-beyond masters.

So there are loose funk modes and beautifully swinging grooves, free "rubato" adventures, all of it forwarded in nicely attractive, spontaneous ways. The rhythm section does quite a bit more than pull their own weight. Mannheim and Stein are schooled and soulful teammates that set off Bennett's very considerable sax facility and imagination.

Bennett has no trace of the derivative lick folks who were coming up a while ago. He is blessed with the seeming ability to hew his own lines at all times, none of them overly beholden to the masters that have come before but also permeated with the essence of later jazz developments.

There is a very enjoyable and moving straddling of past and present, innovation and respect for the elders, jazz art essentials and future movement instantiations. This is movement and it is also a joy.

Bennett seems destined for something important. This trio already is there! So check it out.



Monday, May 1, 2017

ONE, Jason Rigby: Detroit - Cleveland Trio

What you are not aware of might not hurt you, but it might deny you a source of pleasure and enlightenment. ONE (Fresh Sound New Talent 505) by Jason Rigby: Detroit - Cleveland Trio is such an offering.  It pits tenor-soprano man Rigby with the excellence of Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Jason shows what he is made of. This may not be his first album--I am aware of five or so. It is certainly one of his strongest, a great introduction for those who do not know his music or a confirmation for those who do.

One gives us a strong set of originals, a tune by George Schuller and a couple of American Songbook and jazz standards. Throughout there is attention to song structure, including the changes underpinning where applicable, but a freewheeling freedom that also places the music comfortably in the avant camp at times.

Cameron's excellent bass work forms the rock-solid core around which everything turns. He can spell out the changes in a masterful way, he can solo with real authority, and take the free-oriented segments under his wing with creative thrust, Gerald's drumming can swing fabulously and/or open the freedom feel up with a control and flourish that makes him indispensable to the whole.

Jason springs forth on One as a fully mature tenor-soprano man of true stature. If at times I might feel this trio encompasses the roots of the pianoless trio from the pioneering Sonny Rollins units through to the Sam Rivers trios at their best, it is because Rigby has a command over the saxophone in its historical sweep and forges a language of his own in the best traditions of a rooted launch upwards. And it also strongly goes into a new way of old with the beauty of the Cameron-Cleaver rhythm team.

With a few listens you come away with the feeling that THIS is what great jazz is all about. There is a fluency and mastery that is timeless. I get the feeling I had listening to early Chico Freeman albums--that here is a player destined for great things.

I think I'll leave it at that for now. Listen to this music, please. We are in good hands with Jason Rigby. He doubtless has a role to play in the future of this music. I am heartened.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ensemble Novo, Look to the Sky

I am a slave to circumstance, like most of us these days. I depend on what I am sent for the content of my reviews, and that happenstance can be a good thing, since I cannot predict what I will get and often enough do not always know much about some of that. So I learn. Today's jazz item came to me thanks to the more-or-less dependable auspices of the US Post Office. Ensemble Novo? I did not know of them until now. Their album Look to the Sky (Frosty Cordial Music FC 003) is spinning on my player as I write these lines. This is a chamberish gathering that in some ways reminds me of Chico Hamilton's old groups, yet more firmly within a neo-Brazilian realm.

The fare is an engagingly arranged mix of very familiar and less familiar Brazilian tunes--by Jobim, Gismonti, Nasciemento, etc., plus one original. The band comprises a well selected group of some five instrumentalists, plus guest Tom Lowry on percussion. The regular group is Ryan McNeeley on guitar, Behn Gillece on vibes, Tom Moon on tenor and flute (who also produced the album and gives us the original tune), Mark Przybylowski on acoustic bass, and Jim Hamilton on drums.

The tight-knit ensemble parts swing brightly in a mostly samba framework. They are very well wrought. And the soloing is appropriate and creatively alive.

So if you are a fan of the Brazilian jazz zone like I am, you should find this one like I did, nicely done and very appealing. It's an EP by the way. Kudos!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway, Randall Colbourne, Art Space

The trio of Cheryl Pyle, Max Ridgway and Randall Colbourne fills the ears with a special kind of three-way freedom that I feel increasingly is one-of-a-kind. This can be heard tellingly in the recent download release Art Space (11th Street Music), which I believe is the third album I have reviewed on these pages (index box above will call up the others).

Cheryl is on flute, alto flute and spoken word; Max Ridgway appears once again on electric guitar; and Randall Colbourne plays the drums. Each has a role to play in the ongoing free sequences and distinguishes our aural space with a closely interlocking three-way interplay that becomes considerably more than the already vital contribution each makes. It is the way the three become one that makes this music stand out. They have played together for quite a while and by so doing have developed a special kind of free rapport one encounters rarely in the free jazz firmament.

It is a sort of naturally relaxed impressionist freedom one encounters throughout. Cheryl is at her best, lyrical, textural and limpidly eloquent. Max rejoins her every phrase with well chosen guitar intelligence. And Randall completes the circle with subtle attack and a ready immediacy that is just right for the chamber ambiance the trio projects so well. Each establishes a very personal style of their own but then alternately gives way and springs forward with three-way line flow. You hear a never ending outpouring of modern melodic and harmonic advance. And that of course is a very good thing.

The music never flags while managing to create a special world one dwells within willingly and happily. If you do not know this threesome, here is the place to start. If you already do, this will no doubt increase your appreciation. Thanks for this, you three!

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 all...you 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!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In Layers, Onno Govaert, Marcelo dos Reis, Luis Vicente, Kristjan Martinsson

On the front cover of the new improv release In Layers (FMR 2016) is a reproduction of a beautifully omni-dimensional painting by Chris Ripkin, from which the album takes its title. Inside the jacket is a Ripkin quote which serves as the defining aesthetic statement for the process envisioned in his artwork and, by extension, the music on the album. "Each layer," he states, "[calls] for a new layer more transparent, until it gets silent."

The very creative and capable quartet holds forth on this freely improvised set of six segments in ways which translate freely that visual activity into pure sound.

This is a potent get-together of Onno Govaert on drums, Marcelo dos Reis on acoustic guitar, Luis Vicente on trumpet, and Kristjan Martinsson on piano. They work together to realize varying degrees of transparency and denseness, sound and silence.

Readers of this blog will no doubt recognize several of the names and may indeed be familiar with their improvising. This particular foursome is new to me as a unit, and so perhaps also to many of my readers. They are united in their directional zeal, each a layer in the whole and each segment also a layer.

What impresses on this set is the care with which each member contributes his/her part: the trumpet riding generally above in space, the guitar and piano in a sort of centering mode, the drums contributing texture and periodicity with a pronounced flourish much of the time.

Surely,  this is collective improvisation of a rarified sort, something FMR has been presenting to us so consistently, here yet further removed from anything expected but nonetheless directly communicating a sort of synesthesiatic analog of Ripkin's painting, spread out in time as much as space.

It is music made to contemplate, to run one's mental fingers over its aural surface, to experience a musically deep listen inside of. This is music an improv connoisseur will be instinctively drawn towards for its unrelenting eloquence. Those new or fairly new to ultra-modern improvisational music will doubtless find that patience and persistence will open up this music for you.

Explore this, by all means.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Julia Hulsmann Trio, Sooner And Later

Here we are with pianist Julia Hulsmann and her sixth ECM album to date, the trio in a stunning offering Sooner and Later (ECM 2547). You'd be hard pressed today to find a more beautiful piano trio set for the harmonic-melodic advancement of Julia's playing (in a post-Evans manner and very individually so) and her trio's very subtle and moving togetherness.

The regular trio appears here, now burnished down to a very fine three-way sonance. Marc Muellbauer has a beautiful tone on contrabass and a very eloquent approach to match. Heinrich Kobberling drums with drive and subtlety, in ways the trio profits greatly from but in the end requires for a full flowering.

The music played on this set includes many moving Hulsmann originals which have gotten the seasoning of being played for some time in the trio's live performances. One welcomes "Thatpujai," a tribute to the late pianist Jutta Hipp, who left our planet in 2003. The thematic materials are nicely culled from some of Jutta's recorded solos. But there is much to appreciate here with all five Hulsmann pieces. Then there are two tunes apiece by Muellbauer and Kobberling, interesting and worthy, plus an adaptation of a Kyrgyztanian violin piece played by a 12-year-old musican the band heard when on tour, and finally a Radiohead cover, unexpected but fully consistent with what the trio is doing today and their way of working inside harmonic-melodic material transformatively.

In the end this is a delicately ravishing album that marks the excellence of the pianist and her trio.

This is exultant listening, ecstatic music of calm and fire from some of Europe's most talented musicians and a pianist of world-class brilliance. Hear this!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rich Halley, Carson Halley, The Wild

Tenorman Rich Halley has been making great strides forward in modern, avant contemporary jazz for quite some time now. His albums are consistently focused on the highest standards of the music, on the heightened peaks of expression that make new jazz one of the joys of modern existence.

He returns with a near-perfect expression in the duo zone, just Rich, his tenor (and a little wooden flute) accompanied by his son Carson on drums. Carson keeps sounding better and better. He is an ideal partner and co-equal on this set.

The Wild (Pine Eagle 810) has a series of ten improvisations, some with added compositional elements, others untrammeled forays into ecstatically charged open space. An obvious genetic relationship with John Coltrane and Rashid Ali's duo recordings of the last phase of Trane's career exists here. But that is probably a given on ANY sax-drum outing in the free zone these days. It is a touchpoint, a springboard from which arises tabula rasa expression. Similarly you might hear a bit of the influence of Ornette Coleman's harmolodic openness. But that also might be appropriately seen as the bedrock from which the art form has developed since Ornette's celebrated first recordings and onwards.

Fact is, though, that Rich is his own person on tenor and continues to grow and excel on his own terms. He has by now created a complex personal voice and a rich personal vocabulary that you can hear at peak levels on The Wild.

From the brash and energetically lucid to the free equivalent of balladic pastoral emanations, all form an important part of this set. It is tour de force saxophony. And Carson is much more than a mere foil to Rich's exhilarating effusions. His drumming drives the music with power and poise.

Like the sound of the ocean, there is near infinite variability and mood. Rich has attained a pure improvisational level that only the most accomplished in the art ever get to. He makes use of the full pallet of notes and tone colors available to him and does so with the innate wisdom of somebody who phrases in the best and most varied ways, the sound of a master.

And that makes him one of the West Coast's greatest living jazzmen, to my mind.

I recommend this one highly. You will have much to appreciate here, so go ahead and order it! It's at the apex of new jazz today.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mount Meander, Kartis Auzins, Lucas Leidinger, Tomo Jacobson, Thomas Sauerborn

Today, a bit of a sleeper. The best music out there requires multiple listens before you get the full impact of it. And Mount Meander (Clean Feed 3750 is surely in that category. This is avant jazz that captures a series of moods that are more introspective than the full-flush assault that is sometimes the norm. All four players take pains to capture a complex, free-wheeling, but at times more reflective mood. Tenor-soprano man Kartis Auzins, pianist Lucas Leidinger, upright bassist Tomo Jacobson and drummer Thomas Sauerborn establish the tone in the three-part "Sunsail." It is all about a flow around a key center and some well realized lyric hardness, if that makes any sense. There are ostinatos and hypnotic outcomes, and a considerable range of group improvs.

Sometimes these folks remind me a little of the classic Jarrett group that included Dewey, Haden and Motian--for the sort of kinetically open and unpredictable approach they espouse.

And the more you hear this, the more it jumps out at you. Recommended!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Paul Kikuchi, Autonomic

A Paul Kikuchi album is nearly always something special. I have had the pleasure over the years of discussing a number of them on these pages as well as on the Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review blog.

Today is no exception--here the composer-percussionist presents to us the fascinating work Autonomic (Prefecture 015). As we have come to expect, Paul shows us a heightened sensitivity to aural timbre and a pronounced ambiance that conveys a spiritual cosmos and a strong sense of direction. We hear the composition/suite "Autonomic" in this light, surely.

The work is comprised of four movements that feature three winds, cello, contrabass and percussion (the latter played by Kikuchi).

There is a composed-performative immediacy to the work, apparently based on specific motivic-interval cells that structure each movement, which in turn portrays an inner experience of each successive event-aspect of a deep breathing moment.

The total effect of the music is a pronounced timbral mysticism, an encompassment of movement and stasis in the bodily cycle of respiration, a musical analogue of an inner state, suggesting in aural terms its inner workings.

It is very meditative, very beautiful, very strongly evocative music that expands Kikuchi's universe of possibilities and at the same time is a fully immersive, stunning work.

Strongly recommended!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Whit Dickey, Kirk Knuffke, Fierce Silence

A duo of just cornet or trumpet and drums? We might recall Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell's iconic Mu duets from 1969. Now we have something altogether different, less wide-ranging but more strictly focused on free jazz per se. I speak of drummer Whit Dickey and cornet player Kirk Knuffke's Fierce Silence (Clean Feed 376).

Complete freedom and vivid aural imagination are the rules of the day on this set of ten segments. Whit made his name as the creative drummer with David W. Ware's ensemble and then Matt Shipp's trio, as well as lively dates as a leader. He is back and sounds as good as ever here. Kirk Knuffke has come to the forefront of the avant jazz world, especially in the last decade, making beautiful music with bassist-bandleader Michael Bisio among many others.

I've said this before on these pages but it bears repeating: Kirk manages to channel the history of jazz in his playing through a very classic tone, the poise of immaculately idiomatic phrasing and a creative ability that means he can be counted upon to come up with ever fresh, good ideas. That's very true on Fierce Silence.

Whit is a drummer and musical dynamo that takes the early freedom of Milford Graves and Sunny Murray and applies his own personal way to it all, building out of New York free school drum ideas and going beyond.

This album marks a very fruitful frisson of two well seasoned avant vets. There is not a note wasted. Every one counts. And the sum total of every note is some free music of the highest caliber.

Very recommended!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Frank Kimbrough, Solstice

Contemporary jazz pianist Frank Kimbrough has appeared on these pages a number of times (see blog index window above) as a thinking person's artist. A new one from Frank gives us a wondrously vivid set of tunes by the likes of Carla Bley, Annette Peacock, Gershwin, Paul Motian, Andrew Hill, Maria Schneider and one by Frank himself.

Kimbrough is a studied and brilliant exponent of the jazz piano school that loosely groups around Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett. He for a long time has taken control of his artistic destiny to be solidly on original turf and indeed, this trio finds him take on each tune with a brilliantly introspective presence.

Bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirschfield are open and inventive counterparts to Frank's improvisational extensions. They do all the right things to bring out the implications of the leader and what he is doing, adding their completely apposite selves.

This is a landmark in Frank's recorded output to date. It is ravishing  All modern piano trio fans will find this one hard to resist, I'll warrant!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Reunion Project, Varanda

Bouncing out of my speakers is a sturdy, well played set of originals (and one standard) from The Reunion Project album named Varanda (Tapestry 76027-2). A quintet they are: Felipe Salles on tenor, soprano, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet; Chico Pinheiro on guitar; Tiago Costa on piano; Bruno Migotto on bass; and Edu Ribeiro on drums.

They are game players and the originals by Chico, Tiago, Edu. Bruno, and Felipe have a well constructed presence that sets the band apart as a formidable vehicle for modern contemporary jazz.

Chico, Felipe and Tiago give us a front line that contributes very good solos. The rhythm section cooks with excellent Latin and straight-ahead grooves.

This is seriously good modern jazz!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Mark Masters Ensemble, Blue Skylight

When something is as well done as the Mark Masters Ensemble's Blue Skylight (Capri 74143-2) it sticks with you. Now that I have deeply explored what is inside this album, just one look at the cover happily reminds me of it all once again, and I find the urge to put it on one more time.

It is a program of known and slightly lesser-known compositions by Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligen, both of course known for their brilliance in scoring their own work for various sized ensembles and so a challenge to someone who seeks to do contrasting arrangements. That Mark Masters succeeds admirably is a testament to his considerable talent.

The band is a very capable 7-tet. Gary Foster is a most welcome presence on alto, especially since he does not appear on as many sessions these days as one would like. But then we get some beautiful players in Jerry Pinter on tenor and soprano and either Gene Cipriano on tenor and Adam Schroeder on baritone or Ron Stout on trumpet and Les Benedict on trombone--the aforementioned alternate presences is divided more or less evenly on the program. Then there is Ed Czach on piano, Putter Smith on a very out-front bass, and Kendall Kay on drums.

There is a tight clean sound that seems a present-day rethinking of "Birth of the Cool" or perhaps a little of the "Four Brothers" sound. And that totally fits in with the outlook of these compositional gems.

We get Mingus's "Monk. Bunk and Vice Versa," "So Long Eric," "Peggy's Blue Skylight," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," and "Eclipse," all well worth a fresh set of arrangements, to say the least.

Mulligen comes to the fore with new arrangements of "Out Back of the Barn," "Wallflower," "Strayhorn 2," "Apple Core," "Birds of a Feather," and "Motel."

The combination of arrangements and solos is well balanced. The compositions sing to us again with Mark Masters' singular ways.

This is music that makes ME happy. I do strongly suggest you hear this one. You'll be happy with it too, I would bet.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Jean-Brice Godet, Lignes De Cretes

The convergence of new music and avant jazz continues, with labels like Clean Feed giving us a wealth of music that manages successfully and engagingly to bridge a divide that once seemed hard to surmount. (But of course we should not forget the exceptional work of AACM artists in this zone.) Today we have another very effective example from Jean-Brice Godet on clarinets, radio and dictaphone. He heads a trio for a wide-ranging breach of everyday categories. The album is called Lignes De Cretes (Clean Feed CF406CD).

Pascal Niggenkemper joins Godet on doublebass and objects; the trio is made complete with the presence of Sylvain Darrifourcq on drums, percussion and zither.

There is movement and development going on throughout, beginning with "No Border," with concrete and enhanced sounds that begin sparsely and ambiantly, then traverse gradually into expressively free territory with some wailing clarinet, arco bass and a wash of tone-noise of unspecified provenence. Sylvain enters with a series of irregular tatoos and we are off to parts unknown. The segment continues on with the periodistic insistence and regular-irregularity of free jazz, then segues into "No Logo" with a three-way contrapuntal dialog of clarinet, bass and drums which has even more jazz-speech inflections than what we have heard in the opening.

"No God" opens up the space further with some ruminating drum statements and ambient noises--jagged stutters that open another sound world that tumbles forward into our listening minds. Godet's incantatory clarinet emerges with some performative testifying while Niggenkemper's prepared bowing and Sylvain's drumming fall into the expressive zone once again. It continues in free roll while the bass punctuates more emphatically with pizzicato pluck-shouting. Clarinet and drums respond with their own soul calls, earthy epithets and emotive figurations. Things eventually grow quiet and end in some bluesy phrasings.

"No Fear" begins in silence, then creates a ritualized series of overlapping sequences on an altered zither, bass clarnet long tones, and arpeggiating pizzo-harmonics. It channels yet another intriguing aural space into our listening selves.

And so it goes, a fascinating set on an inspired night. This is music you  need to allow into your head. It needs you to actively collaborate with it in order to make its expression clear. But then it rewards with something worthwhile, border-crossings that we do not want to prevent by building a wall. No wall!!

Recommended.













Friday, March 3, 2017

Patrick Shiroishi's Black Sun Sutra, Anfinsen's Landmark



What may come into your life as an obscurity sometimes establishes itself as a familiar in short order. That's true of Patrick Shiroishi's Black Sun Sutra and their EP album Anfinsen's Landmark (Creative Sources CS 363). 

What I especially like about this free-avant quintet is how they set up a compositional matrix around which their free jazz spins. Patrick Shiroishi and Robert Magill form a two-horn reed section on baritone-alto and tenor. respectively. They establish a mood with a sort of repeating dirge at the beginning of the album that then explodes into frenetic freedom. Noah Guevara's guitar ripens the group sound with post-Sharrockian shreds and jabs. The rhythm team of Ken Moore on double bass and Sergio Sanchez on drums catapult the band outwards, but also give a jazz-rock-free underpinning to "Athialowi."

There is rawness and power to this band, along with an effective collective frontline in the two-horn-and-guitar open-endedness. It is the opposite of slick and as such reminds me of earlier free dates that did not establish themselves as product. The same surely is true of this set (and of course there are others out there today who bypass the merely sale-able and go for some kind of essence).

But this quintet has a disarming unpretentiousness about it that speaks to me directly. It could have been a BYG record, but of course it is not and most naturally has a present-ness that goes beyond.

The drummer has a few moments to bash wildly and well. Again, you do not hear that so often these days.

The program ends with an interesting unaccompanied alto sojourn from Shiroishi. More? 

This may not always show an extraordinary technical prowess-polish as a whole so much as a good feel and a "to hell with it we're going to pound and cajole ourselves to outer space" freshness.

What will they do for an encore? We'll see, but in the meantime I am caught off-guard and find myself liking it almost in spite of myself. Honest and out.





Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sidney Jacobs, First Man

Lou Rawls and Gil Scott-Heron? Maybe a little Leon Thomas?  I hear roots in this, soul jazz vocalist Sidney Jacobs' First Man (Babychubs), his first album and a good one. He carves his own contemporary path with a tip of the hat to those that came before. Fact is, though, that he is on his own turf. He sings with lots of soul and finesse, his songs are memorably strong and nicely arranged. He covers a few others well, too, notably "My Favorite Things."

I like what he's done for a full band with horns and rhythm. And with a smaller band as well.

And he can sing!

This is what a debut album should be. It introduces to us Sidney's wide world of jazz and soul infused hipness.

Check this one out!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Satoko Fujii, Invisible Hand, Solo Piano

By now anyone who listens to contemporary avant jazz knows and doubtless appreciates pianist-composer-arranger-bandleader Satoko Fujii and her music. We may sometimes become so captivated with her composing-bandleading acumen that we do not listen as carefully as we might to her piano playing per se. To remind us what an important stylist-improviser she is there is the new release of two CDs of her solo piano with Invisible Hand (Cortez Sound 2-CD 0001/0002).

If we divide the avant jazz piano universe roughly into the Paul Bley harmonic extensions of advanced soloing and the Cecil Taylor percussive-textural abstract approach, Satoko perhaps fits more into the Bley side than the Taylor one. Such is an oversimplification however, since Satoko spans both worlds and gives her pianistic view a spin that moves away in the end from either. She has a lyrical composer's piano side, an exploratory chromatic-diatonic mix all her own, and an important extended technique side, applying inside-the-piano hands when she feels the need.

Hearing two complete CDs of Ms. Fujii alone with the piano gives us an inner look at her fertile musical mind, her complete avoidance of cliche and well-worn phrases in the vernacular while evoking jazz strengths in the feel and manner of expression.

Invisible Hand broadens our appreciation of Ms. Fujii's original stance. Her solo piano musings expose a more intimate side of her mastery. It is a pleasure to hear and a must-listen to all who want to get a full view of the art of the solo piano in jazz today. It's a revelatory volume and beautiful to experience!

CP Unit (Chris Pitsiokos Unit), Before the Heat Death

My ongoing adventures in musical blogdom are not just about recommending good new music for my readers; it is equally about my personal growth as a lifelong listener and musical being. Music that makes me grow in terms of what I know to be possible I especially appreciate--and so my recommendations also come with the idea that you, too, may find in a particular CD an experience of personal musical growth.

Certainly listening to the new album by the CP (Chris Pitsiokos) Unit, Before the Heat Death (Clean Feed 408) has been such a growth experience for me. The appearance of Weasel Walter on drums is no mere serendipity, as his presence in ensembles with Ken Vandermark and others as the Flying Luttenbachers in the '90s and beyond established a punkish electric avant jazz attitude that most surely influences the music to be heard here.

Alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos heads up the ensemble with his scorching heat and uncompromising frenetics. Brandon Seabrook, who first came to my attention and made the scene as a banjo player of great fire and technical chops, shows us that his guitar work here is no less important. Tim Dahl gives us on electric bass a rock steady presence that can let loose with torrents of notes along with the others or alternately providing bass bedrock to hold it all together. And Weasel is as always a great catalyst and creative force who goes far beyond playing time into participating with the ensemble in making rhythmic-melodic confluences and contrasts as much drum-oriented as bass-, sax- or guitar-centered.

The seven track EP gives us plenty of composed and improvised electric-organic anarchy that flirts with the most avant of rock ensembles while keeping in the end to the avant jazz path. The categories in the end are but rough indicators of what you might expect to hear. There are composed riffs and frenetic ensemble passages and there are solos of definite note.

What impresses especially is the rigor of concept and its all-fired application.

A bit of a monumental blow-out, this.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Noah Preminger, Meditations on Freedom

Noah Preminger and his excellent quartet follow in the footsteps of some of jazz's most luminary masters and their fearless endeavors to express in music the social protests they felt deeply in the troubled times they dwelt within. Nowadays the trouble has not only returned but for those that look carefully at recent trends threatened en masse our very freedoms and put our democratic institutions at great risk. We heard, those who were following jazz decades ago, beautifully expressed protest jazz from Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane.

Now of all times we need this again. The advent of new levels of racism,  populist demagoguery, a disregard for facts and jeopardization of free speech and basic human rights, not to mention the constitution itself, all have been seriously brought or bought off. An unprecedented sense of danger permeates our world thanks to the rise and elective victories of the far right, expressed in shocking speech and policy making, and sometimes disguised as its opposite.  Perhaps never has our country faced a greater threat to its existence.

So enter Noah Preminger and his heartfelt cry of dissent, Meditations on Freedom (Dry Bridge Records 005). He is a tenor sax jazzman who has truly come into his own in recent times, and a bandleader with the current quartet having at us nicely with a third album after two excellent ones (type his name in index box above for recent reviews). This is a quartet with lots of fire and finesse, Noah leading it with a respect for the history of the music from the blues through Ornette and beyond, featuring the excellent trumpet acrobatics of Jason Palmer, along with a terrific rhythm section in the presence of bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman.

Five Preminger originals alternately reflect upon and cry out against our presnt condition. Some classic protest songs adorn the program--from Dylan's "Only A Pawn in Their Game," Sam Cook's iconic "A Change is Gonna Come," Harrison's "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)," etc.

The pianoless instrumentation and the approach owes something to the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet, and that foundation serves to give the quartet a springboard to their own original take on the ultramodern free-directed jazz of today. Everyone comes across superbly as individuals and as a collective.

This is heartening, bracing jazz, another wonderful set from this extraordinarily important foursome.

You should not miss it!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Iro Haarla, Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet

The world of jazz today, even when subtracting the smooth commercial element, is wonderfully full and varied. We are as of now about 100 years into the recorded documentation of the music, and as a mostly untranscribed, improvisational form we of course have to subtract all the live music never recorded, but even then there is so much wonderful music that every so often I am astonished.

The form of jazz that combines a small jazz group with a symphony orchestra remains somewhat extraordinary, somewhat rare. The expense of successfully putting together a good performance and recording of this sort of jazz is partly responsible for the rarity of it. Jazz has mostly existed without the sort of charitable or grant oriented support that, for example, opera demands these days to continue.

But in spite of such obstacles we do get some good examples of jazz plus symphony now and again. I wont rehearse the pertinent totality here. Instead I would like to recommend a recent venture by Iro Haarla, Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet (ECM 2457).

It is the sort of project that  ECM excels in producing--resonant lyrically haunting post-romantic orchestral sprawls (courtesy of Norrland Operans Symfoniorkester under Jukka Lisakkila) and a jazz quintet of largely Northern European artists: Iro herself on piano and harp,  Hayden Powell on trumpet, Trygve Seim on soprano and tenor sax, Ulf Krokfors on double bass, and Mike Kallio on drums and percussion. Fine players, all.

The accent is on a luxuriant, penetrating depiction of winter and the time before dawn, an overcoming of darkness by light, combined with a reflection on the Passion and a remembrance of the composer's opera singing mother, who passed away sometime before this music was completed.

All is certainly not pastoral. There is darkness, struggle, cosmic disturbance as well as peace and transcendence.

It unwinds in sonically memorable ways, the quintet and its soloists expressing concerted-like helmsmanship along with chamber togetherness, all of which contrasts with the full breadth of the symphony orchestra.

It is not outgoingly modernistic as a whole but more a lyrical mode that contrasts with a basically modern viewpoint. It is music that alernatingly challenges and transports. It is neither jazz in the most obvious sense (so much as ECM jazz in the evocative mode) nor is it strictly symphonic (of course). Yet the orchestra plays a key role in the sonic result, just as the jazz combo has a critical role to play.

To appreciate this recording to the max you may need to take down your guard and relax, to let go of the set of expectations you might have about this kind of hybrid. Just let yourself go and let the music speak to you. Then I expect like me you will become increasingly enchanted with this singular totality.

Well done! Different! Unexpected!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Francois Carrier, Freedom is Space for the Spirit, with Michel Lambert, Alexey Lapin

Over the years I have greeted each new Francois Carrier album with an increasing sense of expectation. I have never been disappointed. And so it was when his Freedom is Space for the Spirit (FMR 425) arrived in my mailbox recently. Once again I am intrigued.

It is some more music from the set of live appearances Francois, drummer Michel Lambert, and pianist Alexey Lapin made in Russia in 2014. This one captures the trio at the Experimental Sound Gallery in St. Petersburg on May 29th.

There are five sequences in all, each a completely improvised collective composition by the trio. There is a good deal of density to be had at times on this session. All three have much to say, and say it they do, mostly in a simultaneous fashion.

Francois is in his usual excellent form, spinning long and inventive lines with that special alto tone, covering ground that pushes the envelop on the key center and its expansion, its polysemic-polytonal presence that gives pianist Alexey Lapin something substantial and ever flowering to push back against. The push-pull harmo-melodic vicissitudes are heightened by a three-way wash of timbral mixes that makes of the drums in Lambert's hands a part of the sound spectrum of the whole, something that is much more than the sum of his sound-silent rhythmic choices, though of course that too is a key to the three-way outcome. In other words Michel creates endless permutations of plus-minus possibilities that in turn are dialogued and contrasted by Francois and Alexey.

This is state-of-the-art free trio music. And though there are new music vocabulary influences, it nevertheless remains firmly and expressively within the evolved avant jazz orbit as feeling-nuanced open musical speech.

If that makes sense to you then depend on this set to present its all in inspired form. If you do not get me think of the flow of Trane-Alice-Ali in the later period and imagine an original string of note chord rhythmic and timbral innovations that comes out of the dialogic possibilities as they developed in the mid-to-late sixties. In other words, this is superior Carrier-Lambert-Lapin music that owes a debt to the history of free jazz yet creates highly original sets of total substitutions, inspired variations on near infinite possibility itself.

Or forget the words and just listen. It's some more of the important and beautiful expressions of this potent trio and another welcome feather in the Carrier cap.

All kudos for this one!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Andrew Downing, Otterville

Canadian cellist Andrew Downing scores with a euphonious 2-CD set of his compositions and arrangements for octet, Otterville (self-released AD00105). It features some very well put-together charts for cello (Andrew), alto saxophone (Tara Davidson), vibes (Michael Davidson), lap steel guitar (Christine Bougie), bass guitar (Paul Mathew), drums (Nick Fraser), trumpet (Rebecca Hennessy) and trombone (William Carn).

Start with his treatment of Duke's "Take the 'A' Train" to hear what new breadth he brings to the familiar classic, adding interesting harmonic touches and stretching out the melody in striking ways. And altogether he gives us a very contemporary modern take on the jazz of today, with the scoring at times really ravishing.

He is a musical mind that has chosen his instrumentation with a clear idea of the roles he wishes to assign each instrument and a singularity of multiple lining inventions that work exceptionally well together.

This is jazz that has an accessible naturalness yet satisfies critical ears as well. Excellent job!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sergio Krakowski, Passaros, The Foundation of the Island

Today's offering is a bit unusual, an ethnic-flavored jazz trio headed by pandeiro (tambourine) virtuoso Sergio Krakowski, on a CD entitled Passaros, The Foundation of the Island (Ruhweh 002). It unites Krakowski with electric guitarist Todd Neufeld and pianist Vitor Goncalves for a continuous take, 45 minute program of mostly Krakowski originals.

The music is tonal, free-flowing with a melodic base and often a group collective improv approach. Krakowski plays pulsating, intricate figures that remind somewhat of South Indian carnatic drumming for the refined complexities involved.

Todd Neufeld has a knack to inject rhythmic and flowing lines in interlocking tandem with Vitor Goncalves' biting rhythmic piano statements.

If you recall some of the middle period ECM ethnic jazz releases by Codona and the like, this may seem reminiscent though an original take on such things.

It may be a sleeper but with concentrated, repeated listens it is impressive and committed, authentic and moving.

Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Naked Wolf, Ahum

We enter into new territory again today with a jazz-rock-alt-avant group from Europe, recorded in Amsterdam. They are Naked Wolf; the album is Ahum (Clean Feed 383). It's an eclectically electric outfit, a quintet  with Luc Ex on electric bass, Yedo Gibson on reeds, Gerri Jager on drums, Felicity Provan on trumpet and lead vocals, and Mikael Szafirowski on electric guitar and alternate lead vocals.

The order of the day is intricately crafted ensemble interlocks, riffs and post-psychedelic post-new wave songs. They have roots in avant rock bands from the '80s-'90s perhaps, but they attain their own sound via the unique syntheses, the songs that go into the mix, written by various members of the band for the most part.

Drums and bass lay down an advanced jazz-rock matrix that the guitar parts accentuate in polycounter style while the horns have parts to realize as well as out solo spaces, especially from Yedo.

Felicity's vocals have an iconoclastic jolt that put a present sprechstimme post-punk cap on it all. Mikael's vocals do so as well in their own way.

Those who like a rock-foundationed avant music or like the idea of that in any event will find this to their liking, I do think. I am digging it myself.

Listen!

Monday, February 6, 2017

punkt 3, Ordnung herrscht

As we crawl into the future willy nilly we who have been here awhile and who tend to reflect on things may indeed wonder how it is we have come to this pass. Meanwhile music may have less mass impact than it has in some years, unless you consider Lady Gaga's SuperBowl appearance something of paradigmatic merit. I don't.

And yet good and great music flourishes more or less underground. An example of that is today's album by punkt 3, Ordnung herrscht (Clean Feed 384). It is a Swiss trio from what I gather, devoted to an advanced acoustic avant jazz-rock made electric solely by Noah Punkt's fine electric bass playing (and compositions), made thick and most cohesive with the addition of Tobias Pfister's alto sax and Ramon Oliveras' drums.

This is music with a fleshing out of prominent composed frameworks, rhythmic-riffed bass and drum foundations or trio-wide, or sax and drums, unfolding routines that ground the sax melodics and thoughtful solo flights.

What perhaps is most striking is the unit's consistent and very musical unity. There is an element of freedom but also a good deal of thinking and preparation that went into this music, part conception that somehow makes this seem more than a trio, but it is because everything manages to mutually reinforce each the other.

It is decidedly different, an avant trio that has integrated itself into a totality that has newness deep within but does not advertise it as much as embody it.

I find it a very intriguing listen, musically significant and utterly selfless in its determination to sound. It is very likable and so very recommended.