Saturday, December 03, 2016

Barry Guy - The Blue Shroud (Intakt Records, 2016)

British bassist and composer Barry Guy has produced a large, expansive, progressive recording which melds spoken word, vocalization, strings and best of all some torrid sections of large group improvisation. This longform composition by Guy was recorded October 17 and 18, 2015 during the Ad Libitum Festival in Warsaw. Guy has written many compositions for the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and his own New Orchestra, and this is a large scale work designed for a new international ensemble. Guy's work The Blue Shroud was influenced by the paintings of Pablo Picasso. Not only is the music designed to commemorate the people of the Spanish towns who were victims of the Nazi German air force bombardment during the Spanish Civil War but also Guy wants to remind listeners of the sad episode when the Picasso’s work at the United Nations Security Council was covered by a blue drape during the discussions that led to the ill fated war in Iraq. Guy looks to use the healing power of music to take on the sadness of these historical events, making pains to call into account the impact of the military might, governmental folly and the media blindness. Barry Guy uses the techniques of new music and jazz improvisation, as well as fragments of classical music and a section of poetry. It results in a powerful and imposing piece of music. The voice and song of Greek singer Savina Yannatou is at the center of much of the music, providing a deep sense of gravitas, but also rays of hope and the presence of humanity. The band is anchored by the leader’s bass along with four reeds, brass, piano, strings and two drummers. The instrumentalists are able to provide the sombre music necessary to support the vocalizations, but is also able to break out with some fantastic and torrential playing the exemplifies the futility of war, but also provides the catharsis to move beyond it. The Blue Shroud -

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Abbey Rader West Coast Quartet ‎– First Gathering (Abray Productions, 2015)

Drummer Abbey Rader has made a major resurgence over the past year with his excellent Reunion title which featured Kidd Jordan and this album which places him with Drew Ceccato on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Peter Kuhn (who put out two excellent albums of his own this year) on alto and tenor saxophones, plus bass clarinet and Kyle Motl on bass. The music on this album consists of four very exciting and open ended performances, which allow the group to explore a wide range of dynamic ranges and feelings. “Foreign Dust” opens the album in a very exciting manner with the twin saxophone front line putting together a series of relentless improvisations solo and duet with the rhythm section of bass and drums keeping the pressure on as the music boils mightily. Motl plays some excellent bowed bass on the following track “Inward Light” which does build a more introspective examination with haunting reeds and spare percussion. The group takes action in traveling through an undefined musical area in order to learn about it. The concluding tracks, “Enduring Mind” and “Realization To Truth” take a path of constant motion between the two extremes. Kuhn’s bass clarinet is particularly impressive in adding color and depth to the music which is characterized by unpredictable change, activity, and progressive exploration of the improvised music format. Rader’s music is a force that stimulates change or progress within modern jazz thorough analysis of a composition or theme and hopefully these albums will get him some much deserved attention in the jazz world. First Gathering -

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

11th Annual Francis Davis/4th Annual NPR Jazz Critics Poll Ballot

Hello, sorry that blogging has been rather sparse lately, I have been under the weather, but hope to mount a comeback soon and finish the year strong. In the meantime, with the deadline looming, I submitted my choices to Francis Davis for his year end poll:

•Your choices for this year’s 10 best New Releases (albums released between last Thanksgiving and this, give or take) listed in descending order one-through-ten.
1. Cortex - Live in New York (Clean Feed, 2016)
2. The DKV Thing Trio - Collider (NotTwo Records, 2016)
3. Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord - 2016:EPs (Hot Cup, 2016)
4. LUME - Xabregas 10 (Clean Feed, 2016)
5. Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up - Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi Recordings, 2016)
6. John Zorn - Flaga: The Book of Angels Volume 27 (Tzadik, 2016)
7. Made to Break - Before the Code: Live (Audiographic Records, 2016)
8. Abbey Rader Quartet With Kidd Jordan - Reunion (ABRAY Productions, 2016)
9. Black Bombaim and Peter Brotzmann (Shhpuma, 2016)
10. Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Live (For Tune Records, 2016)

•Your top-three Reissues or Historical albums, again listed in descending order
1. Peter Kuhn - No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn 1978-1979 (NoBusiness Records, 2016)
2. David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp Duo - Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004 (AUM Fidelity, 2016)
3. Larry Young - In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance Records, 2016)

•Your choice for the year's best Vocal album


•Your choice for the year's best Debut album
1. Damana - Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed, 2016)

•Your choice for the year’s best Latin jazz album
1. Anat Cohen and Trio Brasileiro - Alegria da Casa (Anzic Records, 2016) Can this be considered Latin? If not, then n/a.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Ivo Perelman / Karl Berger / Gerald Cleaver - Art of the Improv Trio Vol 1 (Leo Records, 2016)

This is a fascinating and dynamic album recorded with tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman accompanied by Karl Berger on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. All of these men are longtime veterans of the avant / free jazz scene, and this album also marks the beginning of Perelman’s ambitious Art of the Improv Trio series. The album is a series of collective improvisations, where everyone is playing their instruments in a thoughtful and open manner. Subtle peals of air and darting keyboard and percussion sounds encourage Perelman’s evocative saxophone into higher pitches and breathy lulls. Punchy, sharp squeaks and hollow clanks work also very well as the music develops. Moving further afield, several of the performances paint the air with quiet authority with thoughtful piano chords, notes and breath, developing a haunted air akin to the music that Albert Ayler developed with his acoustic trios in the mid 1960’s, at least until Perelman breaks the spell, by pushing his instrument into a more strident focus and truly claiming the music as his own. Always shifting and darting percussion never allows the music to become stale in combination with the circling nature of Perelman’s saxophone it gives the music a sense of energy that is comparable to an unstoppable cosmic force of nature that is yearning to break free. The music is in constant motion, as Berger takes his piano through descending trails of notes, and Perelman meets them with high pitched saxophone calls. Some of the improvisations will begin with Perelman alone, playing with a lonely, quiet and serious sound, that then develops a wide range of emotional color soon to be shaded patiently by Cleaver’s percussion in a quietly emotional performance. At times a feeling of abandoned sadness overflows in emotional squalls of saxophone and carries the music forward where Perelman becomes very forthright in his improvising, ascending and descending in passion and volume while Berger’s piano moves in the free space created by the harsher sounds. There are beautiful interludes for saxophone, with Perelman playing with a raw and wounded sound that is emotionally open and free from pretense. His tone is captivating and his patient cries of saxophone usher in sections that have ecstatic blasts of percussive drums and bursts of raw saxophone that meet and converse and delve even deeper into the artistic principles of improvised music. The album is complemented by wholly improvised music where the squeaks and squiggles of fast saxophone meet the shimmering nature of the percussion and piano in an example of great interplay. It becomes an exciting romp, playful and fun, between colleagues who have nothing but the highest respect for one another. Art of the Improv Trio Vol 1 -

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

King Crimson - On (and Off) The Road 1981-1984 (DGMLive, 2016)

In what has become a yearly autumnal tradition, the great progressive rock band King Crimson releases another lavish boxed set covering an aspect of the band’s history. This time the period covered is their tight trio of albums recorded in the early 1980’s with the lineup of leader and guitarist Robert Fripp, guitarist, vocalist and lyricist Adrian Belew, bassist and Chapman Stick player Tony Levin and drummer Bill Bruford. This was a taut and explosive unit that made both some of the poppiest and accessible songs in the band’s history along with explorative instrumentals all of which were played with admirable virtuosity. This exhaustive set presents the three studio albums the band recorded during this period, Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair in remastered form as regular CD’s and high resolution formats. There are several live albums included in the collection, especially notable is a remastered version of Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal, which captured their last gig together as a band and also finds them in truly extraordinary form, mixing in classic compositions from the band’s earlier incantation, like “Red” and “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Pt.II” with some of the great song form based material from the period like the driving title track, the galloping "Thela Hun Ginjeet" and subtle, quieter material like the gentle slide guitar drenched ballad "Matte Kudasai." There is a generous amount of live material, including remastered DVD’s of the Three of a Perfect Pair: Live in Japan and Live at Frejus 1982 videos as well as various video clips of the band in action. There are a couple of interesting behind the scene parts, like the Are You Recording Gary? disc, which peeks into the inner-workings of the group, in a collage which was put together by David Singleton from original album session tapes. The Live at Moles Club disc is also very interesting, being a raw and exciting live performance taken from an audience cassette recording of the very first live performance by this quartet, while the band was still called Discipline, and would lead Robert Fripp to realize that this was truly King Crimson after all. There is a generous amount of liner material and ephemera included in the boxed set and it makes for a fascinating trawl through this ever changing and always exciting band. On (and Off) The Road 1981 - 1984 (CD/ DVD-a/ BluRay) -

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Live (For Tune Records, 2016)

One of the reasons that Mostly Other People Do the Killing has remained one of the most vital forces in modern jazz over the past decade is their willingness to embrace the joy and humor that can be found when playing music. From naming their tracks after small towns in Pennsylvania to the satirical dig at America’s culture of violence that gives them their name, the music is bright and buoyant and always a lot of fun. This album was recorded live during the Jazz and Beyond Improvised Music Festival on October 29th, 2012 at Jazz Klub Hipnoza in Katowice, Poland. After a few lineup changes, this returns to the original format with Moppa Elliott on bass, Kevin Shea on drums and adding a new wrinkle with electronics, Jon Irabagon on saxophone and Peter Evans on trumpet. Most of the compositions evolve in the form of suites, starting with “Handsome Eddy / Drainlick / Effort, Patience, Diligence” which allows them to move through a wide range of emotions and also shows how tight the band is as they cycle through these themes without a hitch. The centerpiece of the album is the near twenty-five minute medley of “Yo, Yeo, Yough / Dexter, Wayne, and Mobley / Round Bottom, Square Top.” This demonstrates how the group is able to integrate the progressive and avant-garde strains of jazz with a firm grounding in historical hard-bop. “Is Granny Spry? / Elliott Mills” pulls things into an even more experimental direction with varying tones of electronic sound and even more alarming human ones, before returning to more traditional jazz improvisation and then ending the concert in grand fashion with a short, riotous “My Delightful Muse.” This was a long disc that never flags on interest, and the live audience is totally engaged as well, making the group really push their music forward in a very exciting manner. Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Live -

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