Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Steve Lehman Camouflage Trio - Interface (Clean Feed, 2016)

This was one of Steve Lehman’s earliest albums, a missive from his (currently inactive) Camouflage Trio consisting of Lehman on alto and sopranino saxophones, Mark Dresser on bass and Pheeroan Aklaff on drums. The album was recorded live in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2003 and had been out of print in physical form for several years. In the intervening time, Lehman has become one of the most renowned musicians on the modern jazz scene and he has a new album coming out soon. The trio has a deeply unified concept, which is shown on the opening track, “Structural Fire,” which features Lehman’s ripe and tart alto saxophone playing in a fast and exciting manner over storming bass and drums. They reach a potent collective improvisation playing steadfast and nimble throughout a long and fascinating performance. The trio moves dynamically through passages and culminate with Lehman developing a massive saxophone sound aided and abetted by excellent rhythm. “Hamlet” has a pungent saxophone tone and hollow sounding drums, building a fast and agile structure for their improvisation to hinge upon. The music becomes even faster and more thrilling, leaving the listener awestruck at the improvisational faculties of the trio when they develop to an outrageous pummeling and then throttle back just in time for the conclusion. There is nice thick bass and drums interaction with Lehman’s hard charging saxophone on “Huis Clos.” The group develops an intuitive collective improvisation that is fast paced with deep bass and biting alto saxophone reminiscent of Lehman’s mentor Jackie McLean and hard swinging drumming. “Rison” has loose bass and drums freeing up the sound of the music and the saxophone enters with subtle heat, building rough sandpaper type feel. There is a section for quieter bass and horn squeaks before the band ramps up the speed with slamming drums and gales of saxophone. The concluding track, “Interface” has some beautifully subtle bass and drum work, before the leader comes in and lifts the performance off with some powerful saxophone playing, necessitating heavier bass and drums and making for a great improvisation. The performance is dynamic with loud/soft and open/full sections alternating. There is some wonderful saxophone and drums interplay either playing together or alternating solo sections, and Aklaff gets a tremendous drum solo before the trio comes together for a rousing conclusion. This is an excellent album and a founding statement in Steve Lehman’s discography. You can listen this album to learn how he began to build his unique sound, or just listen to it as wonderful music. It works brilliantly either way. Interface - Clean Feed Records

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cortex - Live in New York (Clean Feed, 2016)

Cortex is a superb collective band consisting of Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Kristoffer Alberts on saxophones, Ola Hoyer on bass and Gard Nilssen drums. The band works in the practice forged by early free jazz, and the live setting is a perfect vehicle for them to deliver their message. “Higgs” opens the album with subtle bass and drums which make space for the horns to move in a roaring manner. There is a deep theme that is set for this music, and a patient trumpet solo begins to take flight. The music is based around excellent interplay between the trumpet and the bass and drums, which keep everything moving briskly forward. Raw flavored saxophone solos over sinuous bass and drums, before everyone storms back to the stoic theme led by bristling drums. There is a bright riff and theme to “Fall,” that comes on fast and choppy and allows for a taut saxophone solo to break out over bass and drums. Alberts’ saxophone swirls while the drums slash thrillingly and the bass keeps things from flying apart. Johansson takes over and his trumpet solo opens up more space between the instruments. They gradually ramp back up the full power and the saxophone rejoins them for the final statement of the theme. The epic “Ghost March – Ahead” concludes the album over twenty glorious minutes that do not flag in the slightest. With a call from Johansson’s trumpet opening the piece, everyone comes in on a theme that recalls Ornette Coleman’s classic Atlantic recordings. There is a solo spot for Hoyer who plays a powerful and thick bass, followed by the full band taking the theme and ramping it up bit by bit before the tension finally breaks and there is a full throated saxophone scream ushering in a collective free improvisation of massive scope and power. There is an epic drum solo by Nilssen who is a powerhouse in any setting but sounds particularly brilliant here. Followed by a raw section for saxophone, bass and drums with pulsating squalls of sound over simmering rhythm. The lengthy performance has an egalitarian theme and variations structure as each soloist comes back to the theme before bowing out and letting another musician take the spotlight. Everyone returns to a spacious section before plowing ahead to a gripping conclusion. The music on this album is energetic and robust, with a frenetic rhythm section and an excellent frontline that are very meticulous when dispensing improvised solos. The music is simultaneously heavy and agile, flowing as rushing river and receives the highest possible recommendation. Live in New York -

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bobby Avey - Inhuman Wilderness (Inner Voice Jazz, 2016)

Following the fascinating ode to Haitian music on his previous album, pianist Bobby Avey enlists John O’Gallagher on alto saxophone, Thomson Kneeland on bass and Jordan Perlson on drums for a thoughtful and well articulated album of fresh modern jazz. “Countless Voices of Unknown People” opens as a funky march with interesting drums and droplets of poised piano developing a sad theme, which is juxtaposed against the active drumming. The piano, bass and drums trio blasts off with emotionally percussive piano chords, fast nervous bass and rhythmic drums making for great interplay that is hard hitting and very exciting. Saxophone and drums are tight and exploratory on “Fall not a Tear” which has a full bodied and slamming rhythm, making for a quartet improvisation that is fast, loud and very exciting. The mid-section has a piano and subtle saxophone duet, then great up-tempo full band improvisation that is very rhythmic and exciting. The group uses dynamics brilliantly, moving into a quiet piano, bass and drums section that builds back up fantastic ending. The short pieces “Inhuman Wilderness,” “Structural Adjustment,” and “Land Theft” were designed as a suite lamenting the tragic state of the human species. Starting with open brushes, beads of piano and very light saxophone, the music becomes mysterious and subtle. Then thick bass, probing drums and nervous piano develop a mid-tempo skittering fast percussive section with wicked fast piano and finally dark bass, bass and drums thrashing epic drumming making for a fantastic ride. “I Should Have Known No Less” starts with a quiet dawning of droplets of piano notes and chords, very open bowed bass, and gradual entry of the saxophone. The pace of the music picks up with sharper drumming and deeper dynamics allowing for an uncluttered section with very nice plucked bass and O’Gallagher’s pungent alto saxophone tone playing well and making for a fascinating quartet improvisation, building faster and deeper, and very impressive. A slashing piano trio section before the saxophone returns, and the music gains strength and moves deeper. Avey builds an ominous solo piano excursion on “Rent the Sky” which is dark and moody and a very interesting soundscape. “Composure Must Be Rare” is a glorious finale with crushing drums and full bodied piano enthusiasm, an interesting drum and bass rhythm, which builds faster and faster, setting up a killer collective improvisation, with raw saxophone, deep heavy piano chords and soaring bass and drums. This was an excellent album of original modern jazz. Avey’s compositions and arrangements are consistently fascinating and the quality of the playing by each member of the band is at a rarefied level. Inhuman Wilderness -

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Anna Hogberg - Attack (Omlott Records, 2016)

This very exciting sextet can do a lot more than attack; they play a variety of moods and modes, from wild free jazz to a more atmospheric style of music. The band consists of Anna Hogberg on alto saxophone, Elin Larsson on tenor and soprano saxophone, Malin Wattring on tenor and soprano saxophone, Lisa Ullen on piano, Elsa Bergman on bass and Anna Lund on drums. “Attack” is the opening track, which starts mild and ominous with low toned sounds of saxophone and drips of piano and percussion, but develops into an interesting theme by the saxophones. There is a saxophone solo that gets wilder as the other two deftly supports one featured horn and the music grows faster and harsher with squalls of piano and percussion before throttling back to the atmospheric sounds for the conclusion. Drops of piano and percussion sound free and open on “Familjen” with deeply plucked bass, skittering piano and drums. The horns play a gentle theme, as if calming the savage beast within. There is a nimble tenor saxophone solo that nicely rises in power, supported by other horns and a solid beat. “Borderline” is an absolute blast with raw saxophones making the music simply ooze excitement and passion as it turns into a torrential rain of piano and percussion and a thrilling free for all, and the luscious sound of Hoberg’s alto saxophone solo tearing through the thicket. Bergman has an excellent bass solo to open “Lisa Med Kniven,” developing a nice rhythmic sound, and the piano slides in as the saxophones start to move in very classy subtle groove with percussion and different flavored saxophone playing music of many colors. Dark toned piano thunders through a solo feature, and saxophones come in strong, with a soloing horn jousting with the heavy free piano, making for a thrilling ride. Again there is a bright saxophone soloing along with the rhythm section making for lively stuff that is punchy and addicting. “Skoflikargränd” and “Regent” are short vignettes that have raw and slow saxophone probing, and piano that builds in with the percussion sounding like processional music. The music builds louder with strong drums and piano creating abstract squirting and skittish sounds with soft saxophone in the background. The saxophones develop a stark theme on the closing “Högberger,” with skittish percussion developing an excellent solo section. There is deft bowed bass and saxophones building the excitement of the music to a fever pitch. Tenor saxophone pushes gales of sound against exciting bass and percussion as fresh saxophones intertwine, pulling the music into exciting collective improvisation as piano slams into the music, goading on the waling saxophones and making for a very exciting free collective improvisation before slowing down to a quieter hymn like ending. This was a very good album of modern jazz; the musicianship is first rate and the fearless nature of the improvisations make for a highly recommended album. Anna Hogberg Attack - Omlott Records.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Six-In-One - Subjects and Structures (Slam, 2016)

Six-In-One is a powerhouse band featuring Bruce Coates on sopranino, soprano and alto saxophones, Paul Dunmall on tenor saxophone, Corey Mwamba on vibraphone and recorder, Walt Shaw on percussion and electronics, Seth Bennett on bass and Mark Sanders on drums. Six-in-One is comprised of six musicians chosen by Shaw Coates to celebrate the final night of their exhibition of the relief and constructed sculpture called Subjects and Structures. The opening performance “Subjects” has a slow probing beginning with vibes playing in open space, followed by abstract percussion and bowed bass. The saxophones weave in and out of one another looking for purchase with the vibes framing their dialogue. The music starts to get wilder and more exciting as time goes on, and saxophones build, drums crash and vibes reverberate accordingly. There is an impressive bass solo, and a quiet abstract section for percussion and vibes. Dynamism is the name of the game and the group uses it very well. Reeds flitter about each other in open space like birds around a fountain, and then they lead into a full band collective improvisation, which builds in intensity. The music becomes more strident and powerful as saxophones wail and drums thrash. There is a slow and cautions opening for reeds and percussion on “Structure” where vibes provide balance for flickering brushed percussion and reeds. The free collective improvisation is a high wire act, but the music the band plays here is balanced and nuanced. There is tenor saxophone soloing against and in alignment with complex percussion before the music blooms into a great free jazz collective improvisation, with drums getting deep and saxophones charging hard while vibes clank and sprint across the surface of the music. There is a fast and exciting section for vibes and drums in a percussive dialogue, which then backs out to a quiet and abstract silence. The music moves back to a two-reed conversation between soprano and tenor horns which make a dialogue with the skittering percussion. The horns begin to swirl dangerously and make for caustic commentary and an exciting exchange, then making way for a spot of bowed bass as well. The reed dialogue is really the highlight of this section, especially in association with shaken percussion and drums. There develops a section of clanging vibes and wheezing saxophones followed by a volley of hand percussion in the midst of a subtle backgrounds of reeds and vibes. The horns return with alarming intensity and develop into a full-blown collective improvisation by the group that is very exciting. “Nothing Is Paltry - After Antoni Tàpies” is the coda that has slow and probing instrumentation accentuated by the unexpected sound of recorder. Saxophone and recorder with light percussion, moving slower and quieter and the music is very subtle. This was a very well done performance of free jazz. The music on this recording celebrates the richness and complexity of improvisation while remaining accessible and thoughtful. Subjects and Structures -

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

David Gibson - Inner Agent (Posi-Tone, 2016)

Trombonist David Gibson has created a fine modern mainstream jazz album with his fourth Posi-Tone release. Performing alongside him are Freddie Hendrix on trumpet, Theo Hill on piano, Alexander Claffy on bass, Kush Abadey on drums. Saxophonists Doug Webb and Caleb Curtis guest on a couple of tracks as well. The title track “Inner Agent” opens the album in an up-tempo fashion with bright sounding piano and swinging cymbal play supporting punchy and brash horn riffs. There is an excellent section for the piano, bass and drums unit that swings very hard. “Axe Grinder” sets a funky groove with the horns harmonizing and then breaking free for solo sections, including some stratospheric trumpet. Gibson takes a rapid and smoothly executed trombone solo over rippling piano and subtle bass and drums. There is a fast and exciting sendoff to “The Sythe” with ripe saxophone soloing over muscular playing from the rhythm section, and Abadey’s drums driving the music hard. Gibson gets another nice featured spot, ramping the tempo down just a hair and developing a confident and well-articulated solo. “The Court” has a bouncy and interesting foundation from the piano, bass and drums, while strutting horns come out together and then diverge in short statements before returning to complete this pithy and concise tune. There is a medium tempo sensibility to “Gravy” with swaggering horns sounding good over strong rhythm and percussively comped piano. Gibson’s trombone glides through the rhythm with aplomb demonstrating an appealing tone to his music. The album is completed with a tasteful and restrained version of The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun.” The horns are very subtle and it isn’t until the piano references the melody that the penny drops and you hear what is happening. This performance is emblematic of the entire album, because it is music that is tasteful and thoughtful and should be well received by mainstream jazz fans. Inner Agent -

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Greg Ward and 10 Tongues - Touch My Beloved's Thought (Greenleaf, 2016)

Paying homage to the classic Charles Mingus album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady would be challenging enough, but writing an original suite based on that legendary work and then having it set to dance is a real test. Alto saxophonist Greg Ward succeeds admirably on all accounts, composing and leading a ten-piece band in a rousing suite of music that both honors Mingus and develops a fresh and original concept of its own. You can hear the great bassist’s musical style threaded throughout the work, especially on the opening “Daybreak” where there is there is deep and rich playing from the seven-member horn section punctuated by Ward’s tart and lively saxophone soloing. There is some appropriately thick bass on “The Menacing Lean” along with horn riffs that could storm any barricade, while a sense of wistful beauty on the lush ballad “With All Your Sorrow, Sing a Song of Jubilance” which is preceded by the chaotic brief intro sequence “Smash, Push, Pull, Crash.” The ballad has rich and velvety horn playing, particularly from the brass. “Grit” is a short and brief swinging performance with cooking piano, bass and drums supporting a muscular tenor saxophone solo, and “Round Three” moves even deeper with punchy horns and another fine saxophone solo framed by spare droplets of piano. There is another exceptional bass solo (Jason Roebke truly rises to the occasion on this album) on “Dialogue of the Black Saint” before the horns take flight with an excellent section of wah-accentuated brass. “Gather Round, The Revolution Is At Hand” ends the album with an episodic suite within a suite, beginning with light, nimble and very colorful horns. There are vibrant broad strokes of color, and a majestic trumpet solo that flashes overhead like a shooting star. Light toned saxophone with drums and percussion lead the band, which is very tight and seems to breathe as one organism before diving into one final cacophonous section that ends the album on a glorious resolution. The writing, arranging and playing are fantastic on this record. This is not repertoire, but a tribute album in the finest sense, one that takes inspiration from a celebrated musician and album but creates its own unique and original sound world. Touch My Beloved's Thought -

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kent Miller - Contributions (Tnek Jazz, 2016)

Kent Miller is an acoustic bassist on the Washington, D.C. scene, releasing his debut album in the company of Benny Russell on tenor saxophone, Darius Scott on piano and Greg Holloway on drums and percussion. The album is solid modern hard bop played with skill and panache, with solid compositions and accomplished solo and group improvising. “West End Carnival” is a fine opening for the album leading to some upbeat and bouncy performances, and a very well designed sense of rhythm as the music develops an Afro-Caribbean vibe that is jaunty and infectious. There is a choppy sense of swing on the soulful “Miss Lillie” which locks into an excellent groove when Russell lays out and the Scott solos over the rock solid bass and drum unit. Miller is a team player, but does allow himself a solo spot on “One For Two Blues” that is taut and well articulated. “G’s Bop” is one of the highlights of the album, because it is a bright and bouncy piece of modern jazz that allows for some good solo spots, especially from the drummer Holloway who makes the best of it by soloing and supporting the band and he is in pleasing form throughout the album. This was a well-done and very solid album of modern mainstream jazz. Miller and the group represent themselves very well throughout, making an admirable statement. Hopefully we will hear more from them in the future. Contributions - CDBaby

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tim Berne's Snakeoil - Angus Oleum (Screwgun Records, 2016)

Snakeoil is Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Oscar Noriega on clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano and Ches Smith on drums and percussion. This is a very exciting live album of music from the book Spare by Berne and Steve Byram that was “mastered into submission” by guitarist David Torn. Tim Berne is a wizard at bringing musicians together for a specific sound or mission and this band is particularly potent. They have recorded three studio albums for ECM with another on the way, but truly come into their own when onstage. Everyone is at the top of their game and completely engaged in the material and each other. The music is comprised of three very long and one medium long performances that allow the band to stretch out at length, improvising not only in solo contexts but as a collectively improvising unit and in groups of twos and threes. “Deadbeat Beyonce” is the leadoff track, and in the running for the best song name of the year. There is a fantasia of color and sound that is achieved here, whether on a full-bodied Matt Mitchell solo feature, or in the different shades of sound that Berne and Noriega are able to achieve from their instruments. Ches Smith has been one of the most exciting percussionists on the scene for some time, and he shows just how valuable he is on this recording, whether playing in a quietly abstract manner or driving the music forward, his drumming is endlessly fascinating. The other two very long performances, “Spare Parts” and “OC-DC” are both dynamic pieces of music, shifting from a quiet and impressionistic to thrilling free jazz cacophony. Berne is particularly inspired throughout and his tart saxophone tone is perfect for the edgy music that he has co-composed. There is a heart on sleeve emotion to the music that is gripping to hear and makes this album a must-listen for progressive jazz fans. Angus Oleum -

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

John Coltrane - The Atlantic Years In Mono (Atlantic Catalog Group, 2016)

In 1959, John Coltrane had conquered his personal demons and was looking forward to finishing his apprenticeship with Miles Davis while evolving with blazing speed. The albums he recorded as a leader for Atlantic in 1959 and 1960 are some of his most famous. This collection includes mono versions of the albums Giant Steps, Bags and Trane, Ole Coltrane, Coltrane Plays The Blues and The Avant-Garde. The original mono master tapes for My Favorite Things, Coltrane Jazz, and Coltrane's Sound were lost in a fire so those three are not included. The five albums in this set contain the originally released music, and a sixth disc holds some alternate takes and audio ephemera. In monaural sound one single channel is used. It can be reproduced through several speakers, but all speakers are still reproducing the same copy of the signal. It seems to suit this music very well, everything is clear and up-front and the bass seems to be very prominent. Giant Steps was Coltrane’s debut for Atlantic and it remains one of his towering achievements. The sheer speed of his improvising and the clarity of his articulation are still stunning today when listening to classics like the title track and the fierce “Mr. P.C.” Yet he was able to show that he was still a masterful ballad player with the soon to be jazz standard “Naima.” The Bags and Trane album placed him into a more traditional blues based format, co-leading an album with vibraphone master Milt Jackson. Although it might seem to be a mismatch, the album works very well, especially in the tumbling “Be-Bop” and the lengthy emotional resonance of “The Late Late Blues.” Ole Coltrane would him find pushing relentlessly forward, adding Eric Dolphy and Freddie Hubbard taking the Spanish tinged melody of the title track and improvising it into a LP side long wonder.  Coltrane Plays The Blues swings back to the middle again, but does beautifully with Coltrane playing more soprano saxophone on “Blues to Bechet,” while “Blues to You” shows the nearly complete classic quartet in excellent form. The Avant-Garde was recorded with Ornette Coleman influenced players Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. While it wasn’t released concurrently with these other albums (it was withheld until 1966) the music is excellent, showing that Coltrane had absorbed Coleman’s ideas and was rapidly developing his own. The final disc contains versions of standards like “Centerpiece” and “Stairway to the Stars” as well as untitled originals from these sessions. This is a very interesting set of music. You will probably have to be areal audiophile to understand and appreciate the difference between the mono and stereo versions, but regardless this is a fine look back on some of John Coltrane’s most formative recordings. The Atlantic Years In Mono (6CD Boxset) -

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I.P.A. - I Just Did Say Something (Cuneiform, 2016)

I.P.A. is something of a Scandinavian jazz supergroup, featuring Atle Nymo on tenor saxophone, Magnus Broo on trumpet, Mattias Stahl on vibraphone, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass and Hakon Mjaset Johansen on drums. Their music is vibrant modern jazz, which takes it’s cue from the classic mid-sixties Blue Note recordings while giving it a postmodern spin. There is a very Ornette Coleman like suggestion to the opening track, “Kort Hilsen,” with strong and powerful saxophone and drums hinting at the wild excitement of free jazz while the framing vibes and thick bass keep the music carefully grounded. The horns and rhythm begin to slow and open up toward the midsection, which allows a fine trumpet solo before the music winds down to a conclusion. “Sayembara” has light percussion and subtle horns that chop pensively against the beat, while hinting at a melody. The music blooms gradually, with a more active rhythm from the vibes and drums developing as the trumpet and tenor saxophone spiral around one another. Nymo’s saxophone breaks out to solo over strong drumming and trumpet support leading to a section of excellent interaction. There is a lively melody from the horns on “Globus” and thoughtful playing as the melody gives way to a ripe tenor saxophone solo. A subtle vibraphone interlude weaves amidst the understated bass and drums before the pace picks up and the full band comes together for a rousing conclusion. “Sir William” features dancing drums and vibes developing an excellent rhythm as Nymo’s strident saxophone begins to arc overhead, sounding free and potent. The full band struts together and then the tempo begins to open with fine bass and cymbals supporting a taut trumpet solo. The group then joins back together for a stirring cooperative conclusion. The spirit of Eric Dolphy’s great Out to Lunch album imbues “Slakt Sving,” where vibes shimmer against the horns as rolling drums and dense bass provide support. A deep tenor saxophone solo is rolled out, sounding pungent and strong against the powerful backdrop. Broo’s trumpet soars in this selection also, flying high and playing in a very authoritative manner. “I Just Did Say Something” concludes the album with a subtle yet fast rhythm being achieved that allows the saxophone and trumpet to gradually fill in. Everyone comes together for a theme that is quite alluring and allows the improvised sections to become woollier and more exciting as trumpet and saxophone reach for the sky and the rhythm deepens and pulsates. They move into one of the freest sections of the album, which leads to the finale. This was a very good album from a formidably talented group of musicians. The open sounding melodies and loose structure of the music allows for the musicians to take their explorations in a wide range of directions while maintaining the organized principles of robust group interplay. I Just Did Say Something -

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

Marc Ribot - The Young Philadelphians Live in Tokyo (Enja, 2016)

Guitarist Marc Ribot’s encyclopedic knowledge of music leads him to constantly seek new sounds and combinations whether it is the haunting sound of Albert Ayler or the hypnotic rhythms of Cuba. His newest band looks to combine the “Philly Soul” sound of 1970’s rhythm and blues with Ornette Coleman’s early Prime Time electric improvisations. It is a inspired melding,  as is the choice of colleagues. Mary Halvorson joins in on guitar, with Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass, G. Calvin Weston on drums and a three piece string section. “Love Epidemic” opens the album, with excited voices and strings, funky bass and drums lacing down an excellent foundation for a snarling guitar solo that is shooting sparks of fire as drums slash behind. There is a spare beginning to “Love TKO” and Tacuma takes an excellent bass solo before the focus returns to the guitarists, one of whom takes a torrid blues drenched solo that packs a sense of desperation into it’s searing sound. “Fly, Robin, Fly” has very funky vocals and strings framing choppy rhythm from guitar and drums. The band breaks out with guitar and drum solos, that keep the steamy music moving relentlessly forward. Spacious and string heavy, “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” builds a supple groove with the deep bass and drums kicking the rhythm into a higher gear, before a swirling, kaleidoscopic guitar solo weaves through a powerful backdrop. “Love Rollercoaster” has a fast funk feel with storming guitar and singing that makes the music surge forward. There is a very exciting feature for electric bass, using distortions and delay that finally gives way to the slamming full band and chanted vocals. The strings swoop back in on “Do It How You Wanna” amidst the talk-singing, snaking guitar solos and crisp drumming. A knotty guitar solo breaks aloud with epic bass support, droning against the vocalizing. “The Hustle” is the concluding track, beginning as a series of moody soundscapes that resolves in a buoyant bubbling rhythm, with the strings sounding majestic against the funky bass and cool heat of the guitars. This was an excellent album, it is hard not to get caught up in the go-for-broke enthusiasm of the band and the audience. It's a triumphant melding of cutting edge jazz and deep funk. The Young Philadelphians Live In Tokyo

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Monday, July 04, 2016

Woody Shaw - The Tour: Volume One (HighNote, 2016)

The great trumpeter and composer Woody Shaw apprenticed while quite young with the likes of Eric Dolphy and Art Blakey. This imbued in him the twin ideal of exploration and tradition, which guided his all too short career. This album comes from an unknown date and location on the 1976 tour of the band that Shaw co-led with the drummer Louis Hayes which included Junior Cook on tenor saxophone, Ronnie Mathews on piano and Stafford James on bass. It is a splendid performance from a band that crackles with energy in both the ensemble passages and some extraordinary solos that are woven through the performance. The album opens with what is perhaps Shaw’s most famous composition, “The Moontrane,” originally recorded for organist Larry Young’s classic album Unity. The memorable theme comes cascading out of the band immediately led by Shaw and the under-appreciated Cook, before allowing the rhythm section to make its presence felt with a rapid and classy trio section. Shaw’s trumpet bursts forth for a solo, buoyed by powerful bass playing, and his crisp and beautifully articulated playing is a reminder of how potent he was. The horns come together to trade phrases with Hayes and then launch him on an exciting and deeply rhythmic solo of his own. “Obsequious” shows with full band blasting off, and then propelling Cook out for a fast and confident saxophone solo. The piano, bass and drums unit boils mercilessly underneath him and Cook makes the most of it, spinning out a grand feature. Shaw them steps up and glides beautifully over the rhythm, and his ability to think and respond at such speed is very impressive. The performances on this album are all lengthy, but they never turn into boasts, everyone is playing for the team, which makes the music so special. The piano trio slows the breakneck tempo a bit with Matthews adding colorful swathes to the music. He leads the rhythm team back to the boiling point, before the horns re-enter and conclude the performance. There is a really nice rhythm from Hayes and Matthews to open “Book’s Samba” and they use it to develop a buoyant up-tempo presentation with swelling horns and propulsive bass. Shaw solos first, carefully considering his alternatives, jabbing and feinting like a prizefighter, as the rhythm section supplies the jaunty feel. He passes the baton to Cook who begins to sculpt his own personal statement from the materials at hand. He them spools out bright ribbons of saxophone with a powerful and confident tone. Cook should have been a star, since he was a treasured sideman for many great leaders, but the chips just did not fall his way and he only recorded a few albums as a leader. “Ichi-Ban” is another steaming performance, with strong ripples of piano underpinning the brass, particularly a molten solo from Shaw aided with thick elastic bass that adds propulsion and generous support. Shaw is extraordinary here, playing with perfect enunciation and amazing speed, as his partner Hayes ramps up the beat. There’s a fine section for wailing saxophone, bass and drums playing a wide-open and exciting improvisation together. “Sun Bath” slows the series of hot tempos down to a simmer, with Shaw blowing the majestic theme, supported by Matthews excellent comping. Shaw’s solo builds over an interesting rhythm, he moves gracefully from point to point, never overplaying his hand. Strong drums and bass usher in the finale, “Invocation” with potent horns pushing theme along. Shaw’s solo is burning at a blue flame, fast and cool, while framed by pulsating bass and dexterous drumming. After a long and very impressive solo, the baton is passed to Matthews for a nimble-fingered piano solo. A section where the members of the group trade off short solos, especially Hayes who is prominently featured, follows this. Woody Shaw was going places when this was recorded, soon after he would become the straw boss of Dexter Gondon’s band then sign with Columbia for a series of well received albums including the career defining Rosewood. The only knock on this album is that the sound quality is a little muddy, but the performances are so extraordinary that it makes that point moot this is glorious. The Tour - Volume One -

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Friday, July 01, 2016

Hedvig Mollestad Trio - Black Stabat Mater (Rune Grammofon, 2016)

With one foot each in the rock and jazz camps the Hedvig Mollestad Trio are a very formidable unit. Consisting of Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen on guitar, Ellen Brekken on bass and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums, the group keeps much of the album on the heavy side but also ventures into more free and open improvisational landscapes. The album opens with a rush, as “Approaching/On Arrival” shows the trio rocking out in a heavy formation at a very fast tempo. The group drifts into a more open and spacey section toward the middle of the piece, developing the music dynamically, as their sound arcs and fades within the wider vistas. Things are brought back up to speed as the trio approaches the conclusion, with sparks of wicked electric guitar flying over heavy bass and drums. “In The Court Of The Trolls” has another fast and heavy beginning as the group puts forth a massive edifice of sound, with Mollestad’s guitar twisting and turning like a snake. They move into a spacier and more abstract section on “-40” where Mollestad weaves gently chopped guitar against waves of heavy cymbals. “Somebody Else Should Be On That Bus” concludes the album in fine fashion with thick bass providing the foundation for Mollestad’s guitar to dart to scalding and abrasive heights like a spaceship being launched into the great beyond. The trio’s music is seemingly motivated by hard rock like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, but it also includes and eclectic mix of musical ingredients like avant garde jazz, progressive rock and psychedelic music. It is a heady brew regardless of the ingredients and should be of interest to fans of both jazz fusion and heavy metal. Black Stabat Mater -

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