Charles Lloyd was at a turning point in his career when these recordings were made in 1965. Behind him, high profile sideman positions with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley. Ahead lay the very popular group he would lead in the late 1960’s, playing to packed rock halls and touring the world. Caught between these two spheres, lay these two concerts at Judson Hall and the infamous Slug’s nightclub, with Lloyd on saxophone and flute, Gabor Szabo on guitar, Ron Carter on bass and Pete LaRocca on drums. The Judson Hall concert on the first disc is very well recorded, open with Lloyd’s own composition “Sweet Georgia Bright” where the band is quite comfortable and allows for a series of excellent solos. Lloyd sounds confident and strong, with echoes of John Coltrane in his tone. Szabo has a sharp and angular guitar tone and Carter and LaRocca swing mightily. “How Can I Tell You” is a sensuous ballad, with a wistful hue. Szabo’s “Lady Gabor” appears twice, from both Judson Hall and Slug’s and Lloyd leads off with light and spritely flute before relinquishing the floor to the composer. Szabo seizes the opportunity on both occasions and builds lengthy, interesting solos, infused by his Hungarian heritage and also filled with sharp corners and flowing shapes. The spontaneous “Slug’s Blues” opens that venue’s set with a fast paced dive into strong, soulful saxophone playing and the rest of the band just rolling along with enjoying the space of an on the fly improvisation. “Dream Weaver” another Lloyd original rounds out the music with a lengthy swinging oration that has soaring saxophone lines and superb accompaniment. This was a very interesting set with the music at a very high level and the sound cleaned as much as possible. There is a fine set of liner essays and a hat must be tipped to Resonance Records who have unearthed two wonderful historical releases, Offering by John Coltrane and Manhattan Stories by Charles Lloyd. Manhattan Stories - amazon.com
Clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman is a very busy man: he is a label-owner, podcaster, solo and group improvisor and he has a day job on top of it. This album was a labor of love for him, a completely improvised session between Cymerman doubling on electronics, trumpeter Nate Wooley and legendary British saxophonist Evan Parker. Recorded at The Stone about one year ago, the music consists of three improvised pieces: the epic "Box of Memories" along with "And the Call of the Wild Beckoned Them" and finally "Men of Distinction." The music is quite adventurous with the musicians feeling each other out in the beginning, and then delving deeper into the improvised fabric. The instruments blend well together and, while the music they make is challenging, there are points of reference and also points where the music is like a funhouse reflecting the music in many directions. The introduction of the electronics adds to the disorientation, allowing one instrument to loop and play against and then rejoin the music make for a very exciting addition to the proceedings. This is very good and fascinating music, made by three excellent musicians in the mindful moment which moves from meditation to cacophony but never loses its sense of focus. World of Objects - jeremiahcymerman.com.
Although it had been available in fragmentary bootleg form for quite a while, this restored version of John Coltrane's concert from Temple University on November 11, 1966 is a significant addition to his catalog, and a fascinating glimpse of how his music continued to move relentlessly forward to the end of his life. This concert has his late period band: Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones and a little flute, Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone and piccolo, Rashied Ali on drums and Sonny Johnson subbing for Jimmy Garrison on bass. There were also a wide range of local musicians that Coltrane invited on stage. The concert begins with "Naima" already in progress with a very strong Coltrane solo making way for a lengthy piano interlude, developing a mysterious feel before Coltrane returns with a deeply confident conclusion. The dark tone and haunting melody of "Crescent" is cast aside as Pharoah Sanders begins to solo on tenor saxophone. His sound is very raw and guttural as he grapples for leverage in the music, screaming with pure emotion. After a section of piano and excellent percussion, Coltrane returns, sounding stoic but developing his expression further and further out, embracing the extra percussion before returning full circle to the melody and concluding the piece. "Leo" was a staple of this band's repertoire and this version begins with a choppy and urgent sound. Pharoah Sanders develops anguished cries of gritty and passionate sound before Coltrane moves to flute, then back to tenor saxophone full of potency. "Offering" is a quieter, hymn-like short piece of section that develops into a bass feature and then finally the melody for the finale, "My Favorite Things." Coltrane's soprano saxophone here is as evocative and beautiful as ever. He graciously allows a local musician to take a solo before returning getting very deep into the music as Sanders supports him on piccolo. Coltrane's epic stream of consciousness solo takes the music to it's conclusion and garners rapturous and well-deserved applause. This was an excellent and fascinating concert, well worth checking out for fans of Coltrane's later period music or free-jazz in general. Offering: Live At Temple University - amazon.com
Recorded in three locations in Moscow in 2013, this very powerful collective improvisation is led by Francois Carrier on alto saxophone, along with Michael Lambert on drums and Alexey Lapin on piano. The make a statement of purpose right off the bat on "JCC II" which has strong saxophone echoing grandly around the venue, the group as a whole is sharp and strong, especially Carrier who displays epic and protean power on his instrument. "JCC III" begins with a probing section for piano and drums, Lapin is quite patient in dropping showers of notes before Carrier comes in and the tome of the music begins to darken. Lambert drops the hammer and they are off with squalls of saxophone and drums framed by rumbling dark bass piano chords. Opening with strong group interplay, "JCC IV" allows Carrier to rear back and let loose a steaming stream of notes, honks and wails, before throttling lack and ending the piece with the sounds of quiet breath. "ESG-21 III" is an epic performance as the band begins the piece with protean wailing coming fast and hard, particularly Carrier who winds up and lets loose like a coiled spring, absolutely all out and thrilling. But as the booster rockets fall away, the music changes shape entirely. As if they have now been launched into the cosmos by the ferocity of the opening section, the music becomes a long and open exploration of musical space and time. This is the longest performance on the album and demonstrates the band is far from just a fire-breathing free jazz unit but a group that has almost telepathic unity that allows for the use of dynamics that shapes this excellent and exhausting album. The Russian Concerts Vol. 2 - francoiscarrier.com.
This is a potent collective improvisation group featuring Rodrigo Amado on tenor saxophone, Peter Evans on trumpet, Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums recorded in Lisbon in March of last year. The obvious precedent of this group given the instrumentation would be the classic quartets led by Ornette Coleman in the late 50's and early 60's. But while those bands improvised freely from Coleman's own quirky compositional ideas, this band takes things a step even further by collectively improvising without a net and molding the fear and exhilaration of such an endeavor into the music. "The Freedom Principle" lays things on the line as the group moves valiantly through sections of loud and exciting free jazz as a full unit and also sections for soloists supported by the fellow members and and sections of whisper quiet music where the listener must pay rapt attention to what is happening, considering that the music is being played at a low volume and a slow pace. The two remaining pieces, "Shadows" and "Pepper Packed" continue this sense of dynamism further with Evans sounding much different than he does on discs by Mostly Other People Do the Killing where he plays in more of a post-bop/free jazz sensibility, and in this case he takes quite a few risks in his trumpet playing and Amado follows suit moving from gutsy squalls of tenor saxophone to long lines of of ominous wind. The rhythm section is interesting also as Mira's cello gives him a lighter and sharper sound than a traditional bass and Ferrandini's drums add a depth of texture that makes for a successful recording. The Freedom Principle - amazon.com
John Esposito is a multi-faceted guy: a pianist, composer, band leader and collaborator, which are all referenced in this album. The band also includes Jeff Marx on saxophones and flutes and Jeff Siegel on drums and percussion. The opening "Oumou" and concluding track "Star Arrow" are very compelling, touching on the music of the mid 1960's John Coltrane Quartet and early 1970's McCoy Tyner band. Esposito makes use of the entire keyboard, building the music dramatically through lower rumbles of bass and drops and showers of brighter notes. Named for the Egyptian square where democracy protests took place, the title track "Tahrir" is appropriately dramatic with a powerful opening followed by rippling piano and drums. The collective improvisation on "Mr. K" works really well, with each member of the band fully supported by the other two for solos and trio playing. Seigel is the centerpiece on "Summit" taking a moody and open ended solo that fits the quality of feeling of the performance. "Glade" moves things in an entirely different direction with prepared piano, flute and very light percussion setting a mystical vibe. Marx and Siegel move to saxophone and drums but keep the exotic nature of the performance going strong. The powerful and fast "Mezzomprph" takes the group back into familiar modern jazz territory highlighted by Marx shifting between multiple horns. The hard work that went into this album really pays off, the music is challenging and thoughtful and makes a complete and coherent statement. Tahrir - amazon.com
Pianist Matthew Shipp and alto saxophonist Darius Jones make for a fine match, beginning on their earlier studio meeting Cosmic Lieder and building upon it with this sequel Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital. Both musicians have a distinct musical personality: Matthew Shipp makes use of the entire keyboard throwing hooks and jabs like the boxers he admires, while Darius Jones has a jagged and taut sensibility that can go from a whisper to a scream at a moments notice. They trust each other completely and that allows the music to flow at an organic pace. The dynamism that they are able to conjure is the key to the improvisation "2,327,694,748" where they circle each other building a dark sense of unease before letting loose with a torrid flow of musical information. Shipp manhandles the keyboard in a muscular and physical manner while Jones sends bolts of rough and sharp points to complement the excitement. The music really is exciting, too - while there are moments of darkness there are also shafts of like akin to the spiritual searching of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders on tracks like "Lord of Woe" where they may be worrying sections or phrases of music looking for a foothold in the wide open space and then suddenly everything clicks and their propensity for freedom (musical and personal) envelops the music and drives it skyward. This is dramatic and compelling music made by two of the most compelling members of the current improvised music scene. Both live and in the studio they create music that uses melody and freedom to create admirable and inspiring music. Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital - amazon.com
Eric Wyatt is a fine mainstream tenor saxophone player who makes exciting and well thought out music on his most recent album Borough of Kings. On this album he is accompanied by Duane Eubanks on trumpet, Clifton Anderson on trombone, Benito Gonzalez on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and Shinnosuke Takahashi on drums. The group works well together as a whole, but I was particularly impressed with Gonzalez who drives some of these pieces like the opener “The People’s Champ” with a power that is reminiscent of McCoy Tyner’s epic early ‘70’s music, in addition to adding some Latin flourishes at times. Adding some flute to “Ancient Chinese Secrets” gives the music some interesting texture with the lighter instrument playing along with the lead tenor saxophone before dropping aside like a booster rocket as Wyatt develops a firm and deft solo statement. I enjoyed the music most when they were playing at high speed as on the title song “Borough of Kings” which begins slowly before Gonzalez puts the hammer down and launches the group into a high speed chase and a nice version of the John Coltrane classic “Countdown” in which all of the musicians are combined in one mission of pushing the music forward while also enjoying moments of fine soloing. Borough Of Kings - amazon.com
Matt Ulery - In the Ivory: Intricately composed and arranged music that transcends jazz to become something else entirely. Arrangement of vocals, strings and traditional instrumentation over the course of two discs a lengthy commitment. Chamber jazz feel, spiritual successor to the chamber jazz predecessors like Gunther Schuller and Chico Hamilton.
Damian Allegretti, Erik Friedlander & Tony Malaby - Stoddard Place: Thoughtful and patient improvised music (jazz?) Drummer Allegretti in a session with Malaby, saxophone and Friedlander on cello develop their own chamber approach, equally moving beyond jazz but using fractals and geometric orders to move into their own and construct a unique sound world.
Saxophonist Paul Shapiro (comic strip bio: cool) has made a lively career on the New York City "downtown" jazz scene playing with the likes of Steven Bernstein, The Microscopic Septet and a range of funk and rhythm and blues outfits. He brings all of those sensibilities together on this album and combines them with the music of his Jewish heritage to make this very successful album. In addition to Shapiro on tenor, alto and soprano saxophones in addition to shofar, the group features Marc Ribot on guitar, Brad Jones on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums. The music is full of life as demonstrated on "Get Me to The Shul on Time" where slamming drums lead the saxophone in to create an exotic feel. Shapiro sets up a nice groove, and Ribot contributes a typically excellent grinding guitar before the rhythm section breaks loose for a funky bass and drums interlude. They all return to the original melody before completing the song. "Surfin' Salami" opens with some dark, guttural saxophone entering into a deep strong full band improvisation full of sly humor as the song's name would imply. Ribot has a great opportunity to craft a slinky, grinding guitar solo filled with down and dirty goodness before another excellent short bass and drums interlude takes us back to the top. "Search Your Soul" changes to the pace to a slower and deeper feel, perfect for Ribot to add a bluesy rhythm and blues sensibility to the proceedings. Shapiro really digs into a feeing of dark streets filled with late night longing and pathos. The shift back into a higher gear on "Halil" with an urgent opening of Shapiro on saxophone and the remainder of the group hot on his heels. The msuic comes in waves, rising and falling like the sea and totally in the moment with all of the players locked in together in a common cause. Sections for gritty guitar and drums bubble up before the group hints at the melody once more before signing off. Highly recommended. Shofarot Verses - amazon.com
Between his tenure at Blue Note Records in the early to mid 1960's and his lengthy term with Columbia Records, keyboardist and composer Herbie Hancock made a handful of transitional recordings for the Warner Brothers label. These albums: Fat Albert Rotunda, Mwandishi and Crossings showed his burgeoning interest in electronic keyboards. Fat Albert Rotunda, written as a soundtrack to Bill Cosby's wonderful cartoon (Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert!) is still entrenched in Hancock's jazz sensibility although the colors and shading he was able to achieve with the electronic piano works to his advantage. This is wonderful and exciting stuff with the R and B tinges to "Wiggle Waggle" and "Fat Mama" always producing a grin. Mwandishi turns much more serious and exploratory in nature and IMHO one of his finest LP's. Consisting of just three tunes (with a couple of singles tacked on for this collection) Hancock and his crack band move through beautifully constructed compositions with plenty of room for improvisation, climaxing with the epic LP side-long "Wandering Spirit Song" where Hancock takes the lessons he has learned from Miles Davis' fusion experiments and moves deeply into the musical cosmos. Finally, Crossings adds further experimentation with overdubbed synthesizer (the liner notes state that Hancock went to see a synth demonstration and was so bowled over that he hired the machine and the operator for added musical shading.) Again there were three long tracks on the original album anchored by the leaders massive epic "Sleeping Giant" which moves from haunting and mysterious to white hot (when the Giant wakes up.) Saxophonist and bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin contributes the remaining songs, including "Water Torture" which shows just how effective the electronics can be if applied properly. This is an excellent compilation of a unjustly ignored portion of Hancock's career. He would follow this with his massive it LP Headhunters for Columbia which may have overshadowed this short period, but he music is excellent and ripe for re-discovery. The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972) - amazon.com
This is another very inspired pairing of musicians - the legendary free-jazz tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and musicians from cornetist Rob Mazurak's various Underground bands: Chad Taylor on drums, Guilherme Granado on synth, Matthew Lux on bass and Mauricio Takara on percussion. This was recorded live in Portugal as a seamless concert of effortlessly flowing music. Tracks include "Gna Toom" which begins in a mysterious and probing fashion, restrained with electronics hinting at the Miles Davis LP In a Silent Way. The music builds slowly and patiently into a more strident fashion where the horns play against subtle shades of electronics and percussion. Stabs of synthesizer open "Spiral Mercury" before pummeling drums and percussion and an excellent Sanders solo clears the field. Pharoah sounds wonderful, building his solo in a logical fashion and climaxing with his trademark overblown screams, then he hands things off to Mazurek for a spitfire solo of his own. "Blue Sparks From Her" is enveloped by a sense of uneasy calm with electronic sound manipulation using delay and laser like sound. The patters that are swirling coalesce to a supporting structure for saxophone and cornet over bubbling drums and percussion. This album worked very well, the musicians meshed perfectly and walked the high-wire of improvised music in a very confident manner. From cascading free improvisation, to moody sections of rumination, the music remains compelling. Spiral Mercury - amazon.com
Wayne Shorter - Classic Blue Note Recordings (Blue Note, 2002) This is an excellent compilation of saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter's early career. This was a period of explosive growth for Shorter, he was playing in the bands of Art Blakey and Miles Davis as well as recording as a leader and a sideman for Blue Note. Represented here are selections from Shorter's term with Blakey, the Pres tribute "Lester Left Town" and the explosive "The Chess Players." The combination of Shorter's songwriting and Blakey's relentless propulsive swing is unstoppable. Under his own leadership Shorter's composing ability became pronounced. The lush, alluring nature of "Speak No Evil" and "Infant Eyes" to the standard to-be "Footprints" and the experimental "Super Nova."
Interstatic - Arise (Rare Noise, 2014) This is an organ trio that isn't your normal groove unit. Keyboardist Roy Powell, guitarist Jacob Young and drummer Jarle Vespestad make for a powerful group comparable to Tony Williams classic Lifetine lineup or the underrated powerful group Love Cry Want. Larry Young anchored both of these bands and Powell takes the same role driving with keyboards and basslines and allowing space for lighting bolts if electric guitar and kinetic drumming. From atmospheric cinematic compositions to driving jazz-rock, the group cuts an impressive figure.