Monday, April 24, 2017

Brian Marsella - Buer: Book of Angels 31 (Tzadik, 2017)

Well versed in the music of John Zorn, the trio of Brian Marsella on piano, Trevor Dunnon bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums is the perfect group to interpret a collection of compositions from Zorn's Book of Angels. This is one for the jazziest albums in the series, with echoes of McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill setting the scene for this collection. "Jekusiel" opens the album with a strong trio performance, and everyone is playing in a very fast and percussive manner. The brash and intrepid piano soloing resonates through the music with thick elastic bass and insistent drumming in support and on the full band improvisation. Crisp-sounding drumming opens "Akzariel," leading to a rattling and flowing trio section. Storming keyboard work keeps the excitement building, and crafty drumming adds to the feeling of propulsion, making for a fast and ferocious performance. "Parymel" uses powerful bass to begin, and intensely hued piano playing and ripe percussion draw from a deep well of energy. The music is loud but impeccably played, taking the interesting melody and expanding upon it, creating music that is at the same time provocative and probing, with Marsella moving percussively up and down the keyboard and recalling the great Don Pullen. There is a haunted medium tempo theme to begin "Karkiel", which gives way to a tempest of piano, percussion and bass that delves deeply into the music's emotional resonance. This track uses dynamic tension to provide shades of light and shadow, from sudden slashes of piano to rippling cymbal play, then coming together with high-speed cooperation. "Tsirya" is another short and furiously played performance, with an excellent drum solo and then the trio coming together to create music that’s both vivid and self-reliant. The improvisation is brimming with energy and dizzyingly well performed and together the trio creates a boiling stream of endlessly fascinating rhythm. Another very exciting fast paced performance is "Zagin," with muscular piano abutted by the interplay of powerful bass and drums. Much the same is "Petahel," developing deeply percussive music from all three instruments and allowing the music to take energy from a choppy theme and ply it in a sparkling improvised section. This makes for a spirited performance, encapsulating a some fine drum soloing and trade-offs between piano and drums. The music on this album is made by a trio of kindred spirits, and they make sounds that are inventive and inviting, using the memorable themes from the Book Of Angels and cooking up superb music from them. Buer: Book of Angels 31 - amazon.com

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ivo Perelman - The Art of Perelman - Shipp Vol. 7: Dione (Leo Records, 2017)

The concluding volume of this excellent series of meetings between tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp welcomes the legendary drummer Andrew Cyrille who famously recorded with Cecil Taylor and other luminaries in addition to a vibrant solo career. He fits in beautifully with the two principals and works with them to develop eight pieces of collective improvisation. "Part 1" opens the album with a subtle drum solo that leads into the trio developing a vibrant collective improvisation, with emotionally resonant tenor saxophone, and strong and percussive piano, and Cyrille's open ended drumming weaving in and out of the music's structure.  "Part 2" has a quieter nature to it with Shipp playing soft and melodic piano with rising tones of saxophone greeting him. The music is open and spacious, and takes a patient and gentle path. The longest track on the album is "Part 3" which develops like a improvised suite, beginning with a raucous din of powerful trio playing, with percussive repetitive piano building energy that the potent saxophone and free ranging drums tap into. The music is played with a great deal of clarity and focus and the development of the interplay is very impressive. The combination of their individual instruments into a collective whole is very powerful before the music throttles down to a spacious murmur, with soft percussion on cymbals, then raw long tones of saxophone and softer piano which take the music to its conclusion. "Part 4" takes flight at a medium tempo, with the members circling around one another as the improvisation gains pace. The music develops a faster stride, with sweltering saxophone weaving in and out of the piano and percussion keeping the music upbeat and energetic. Spare tones and  rhythms set the foundation for "Part 5" with thick piano notes and skittering percussion along with Perelman's smears of colorful saxophone playing adding urgency to the performance. On "Part 7," dark tones of piano and scattered percussion with saxophone move carefully, and dark storm clouds envelop, infusing the music with crackling energy and potent wind. The music is powerful and exciting and the trio develops it in a wide-ranging fashion. The culmination of the album occurs on "Part 8" which has an onrushing torrent of music from the trio, creating an exciting and wild-eyed form of fresh jazz. This is a thrilling end to this extraordinary collection of albums. Adding the drum legend Cyrille is the perfect finishing stroke to this very impressive and sustained run of creativity from Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp. Dione - amazon.com

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp - The Art of Perelman-Shipp Vol. 6 (Leo Records, 2017)

Of all of the music released in this impressive series, this duet may be the centerpiece for tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp, whose musical partnership goes back decades. This cumulative experience allows them to pare away anything extraneous to get to the core of the music which is presented shorn of ornamentation or sentimentality. The music is a ten part improvised suite, beginning with "Part 1" which has a melancholy and mournful theme, with raw emotional content. Drops of piano glisten against pinched peals of saxophone and "Part 2" which follows up with urgent and raw playing from both musicians with the pushing and pulling of their playing developing a kinetic energy and heat that powers their improvisation. "Part 4" develops some ripe piano and saxophone interplay building a dynamic loud to soft dynamic structure, while "Part 5" develops a spacious and thoughtful improvisation where hearty squalls of saxophone are met with globules of piano in near telepathic interplay. The openness of the terrain leads to nearly endless possibilities for the music and there is a sense of mystery inherent in the their playing that keeps the music continuously compelling, especially on "Part 7" where they employ great patience in creating sounds that are spare and deep building to "Part 9" where massive low end blocks of piano set the stage for flying sparks of saxophone. Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp share a deep musical connection the is on fine display with this album. Trust is the key, the understanding that however out and abstract the music may get, they support each other and persevere, continuing to make fine art completely in the moment and creating a celebration of musical freedom. Saturn - amazon.com

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Eivind Opsvik - Overseas V (Loyal Label, 2017)

Norwegian bassist and composer Eivind Opsvik is on the fifth volume of his Overseas series which deftly combines progressive jazz with tinges of rock and electronic music. He is joined in this endeavor by Brandon Seabrook on electric guitar, Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Kenny Wollesen on drums and percussion and Jacob Sacks on keyboards. The band is open in time and space, and the improvisations are very thoughtful and exciting. "Hold Everything" melds strong drumming with electronics making for a tight foundation. The leader's thick bass adds further strength and there are sparks of guitar accenting the music. Malaby's tenor gradually folds in, developing a gutsy and immediate tone that provides contrast to the electronics. There is an urgency to the strong rhythm on "Brraps!" with sawing bowed bass playing off against ecstatic guitar. The band comes together for a very nice collective section, taking aspects of funk and adding potent saxophone for a very interesting mixture. The rhythm and the beat are central to this performance, and they allow for a great sense of propulsion leading to an abrupt ending. "First Challenge of the Road" features an insistent and strong rockish sensibility and a sense of repetitiveness that allows the music to gather strength and energy before finally breaking free to a powerful full band improvisation that takes the music to new heights, a post-modern combination of modern jazz and alternative rock that would fit comfortably with the likes of Tortoise as they mine a deep and memorable groove. "IZO" has shifting rhythms and tumbling grooves that are alluring and allow the music to move organically within certain boundaries. Instruments bubble up for short solos and features only to be dragged back into the tumult. Brawny saxophone meets disjointed piano and scratchy guitar to excellent effect, creating music that is both engaging and intellectual. The finale, "Katmania Duskmann" is an excellent example of genre-bending improvisation, with raw guitar and saxophone butting heads with strong rhythm section. The music twists and turns through ever-shifting textures, creating a very exciting and compelling performance. This album gives the listener an excellent example of how modern jazz musicians are incorporating popular music forms into their sound without undermining the complexity of the form. Overseas V - amazon.com

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dennis Coffey - Hot Coffey in the D (Resonance Records, 2017)

This is a previously unreleased live album by Motown associated guitarist Dennis Coffey which was recorded live In Detroit in 1968 in the company of Lyman Woodard on organ and Melvin Davis on drums. It is a fine recording of the soul-jazz variety and one that is worthy of hearing as they cover a wide range of rhythm and blues and pop music with a jazzy flair and nonchalant virtuosity. "Fuzz" opens the album with a pleasing organ and drums groove, with some snarling and effects tinged guitar giving the music grit and propulsion. The trio moves together nicely with sparks of electric guitar igniting the clouds of swirling keyboard and snappy drumming. This was a weekly gig for the trio at the time and that led to some very tight playing and inventive improvising. The Jimmy Webb pop song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is taken with a lighter and more melodic touch, painting in pastel tones which made for a much jazzier performance. The longest piece of the album, "The Look Of Love" is another pop song, made popular by Dusty Springfield in 1967. The band patiently takes the listener on a journey from a plaintive statement of the theme, that is the foundation for a slowly unfolding extrapolation of the music complete with waves of rolling organ, shards of guitar and a deep rhythmic groove, making for a very interesting improvised jam. Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" brings the music back to modern jazz territory taking a subtle guitar-led reading of the melody over shimmering keyboard and percussion. They double down into a more complex and exciting improvised section, upping the speed of the performance, before delving back down for a subtler landing. "The Big D" takes the group back into rhythm and blues territory, with Coffey adding effects to his guitar and the organ and drums locked in tight, making for a storming soul jazz improvisation. This was a very good recording, and it was definitely deserving of release. Something special happened when these three people played music together, and their ability to meld jazz and soul contributed to a continuously interesting album. Hot Coffey In The D - amazon.com

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Gary Clark Jr. - Live North America 2016 (Warner Bros., 2017)

Modern blues guitarist and singer Gary Clark Jr.'s second live album in a few years is another worthwhile effort and it leans toward the exciting hard blues punctuated by some falsetto drenched soul. The best parts of the music embraces raw grit and funk, developing talented solo and ensemble performances, with several lengthy and memorable guitar led jams. He fronts a rough and ready band and they come out of the gate hard with the appropriately titled "Grinder" and "The Healing" which lead the way with some blistering riffs and soloing and setting the tone for the rest of the album. "When My Train Pulls In" was one of the foundation tracks of his extraordinary debut album and this live version is very potent, with huge slabs of guitar riffing and a massive solo framed by deep and powerful vocals. The group ends the album with an epic trio of performances beginning with a version of blues legend Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do" that is steeped in the country blues tradition and then the intensity begins to ramp up with some corrosive guitar soloing on "My Baby's Gone" followed by a triumphant version of "Numb" that brings everything together in a powerful conclusion of heavy guitar playing sand insistent rhythm. Overall this is a very good collection of rock tinged hard blues that should appeal to fans of both electric blues and rootsy rock 'n' roll. This album consolidates the raw electric blues of his early recordings and his sweet soulful ambitions and ties them together in a solid collection of live performances. Live North America 2016 - amazon.com

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Itaru Oki / Nobuyoshi Ino / Sun Bae - Kami Fusen (No Business Records, 2017)

This is an interesting and deeply emotional album of subtle and spacious music created by Itaru Oki on trumpet and bamboo flute, Nobuyoshi Ino on bass and Choi Sun Bae on trumpet. The lack of drums and a chordal instrument makes for a very wide open sound stage for brass and bass and allows the musicians to explore both experimental music and creative exploration of a few jazz standards making for a well rounded recording. The first four performances on this album consist of original compositions and free improvisations, in an exciting setting for double brass and bass. Ino's role as the bassist is very interesting as he acts as a fulcrum for the music, but also unmoors himself to create solo and collective statements of his own. The trumpet players are very expressive in a wide range of settings and when Oki switches to his bamboo flute, he opens up a whole new dimension for the music to travel in. It is interesting to hear the trio shift gears from free and abstract improvisation into playing a jazz standard "I Remember Clifford" and a medley of American popular songbook tunes "Old Folks / Tea For Two." What is most impressive is that the band is able to maintain their focus on exploration during these performances, beginning with the Benny Golson composition which is dedicated to the great trumpeter Clifford Brown who died far too young. The two trumpet players on this album use that familiar melody and their clear familiarity with Brown's playing to create an honest and powerful performance of this tune that is poignant and thoughtful. This deep melodic sensibility continues in the medley that closes the album, where the musicians are able to incorporate the themes of these familiar standards into an improvisation which shows their ability as improvisers as well as there ability as interpreters. This was a fine album, the musicians are very talented and patient, carefully letting their sound develop and broaden to encompass a wide range of feelings and emotions. Fans of creative improvised music will find a lot to like on this album. Kami Fusen - No Business Records.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Trio Heinz Herbert - The Willisau Concert (Intakt Records, 2017)

This is a young collective band consisting of Dominic Landolt on guitar and effects, Ramon Landolt on synthesizers, samples and piano and Mario Hänni on drums and effects. The three musicians set out to great a wholly individual music, one that combines precision and playfulness with a sense of exploration and experimentation. "Granulare Liebe/LEI" opens the album with a massive edifice of sound, one which sounds much larger than the work of three musicians, using electronic sound and percussion to develop a clicking, whirring and industrial sound that builds an angry and ominous energy, moving faster and faster to the end where the music drops off suddenly. Spacey drips of sound and mysterious smears of electronic noise swirl about on "Fragment Z/Brugguda" before the group builds more intense and repetitive nature to the music, using the coiled energy they develop to build a scratching and fractured rhythm. "Hyper Down" opens with spare sounds, near silence that allows spacious electronics to play off against open piano chords. Slowly, the music begins to spread out and fill in, as light percussion and low toned guitar with shimmering piano glide into the picture. Shards of guitar and electronics over a skittering drum beat, leading the rest of the concert into a loud/soft dynamism that alternates abstract passages of sound with sections of rocking jazz fusion as the music continually simmers and storms. The music on this album is spacious and textural, a weave that only hints at jazz, with a strong experimental sheen that makes it a challenging listen, infused with its freedom and spirit of adventure. The Willisau Concert - amazon.com

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Ed Palermo Big Band - The Great Un-American Songbook, Volumes I & II (Cuneiform, 2017)

This is an interesting and effervescent big band album with saxophonist and composer Ed Palermo's talented jazz orchestra moving through a very lengthy selection of arrangements of British progressive rock songs from the the nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies. These years were formative ones for that genre as well as progressive big bands led by the likes of Don Ellis. Palermo is best known for interpreting the compositions of Frank Zappa, and he takes that experience and brings it to the songs he grew up to make an album makes for a loving if exhausting double album. His band members are highly talented musicians which play the charts with enthusiasm and this makes for music which is accessible for both jazz and rock fans. Beginning, as it always seems to, with The Beatles, the band bounces through "Good Morning, Good Morning" and a violin tinged version of "Eleanor Rigby." There are short sections of jokey banter between some of the tracks like the trippy and swirling take on The Rolling Stones's "We Love You." The more complex music of King Crimson is just the ticket for this group, and their versions of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" features nervous percussion and violin while "21st Century Schizoid Man" adds vocals for an epic and imposing feel. Disc two goes off topic briefly, channeling The Nice's controversial organ drenched reading of Leonard Bernstein's "America" and then tacking on a brief snarky cover of Green Day's "American Idiot." They follow these performances with a nice spacey interlude of "Diamond Dust" and Traffic's "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys." The organ drenched madness of Arthur Brown's "Fire" gets things moving again before the group returns to where it all started with a trio of Beatles songs to finish the album. This may be an exercise in nostalgia, but the arrangements and the high quality of the ensemble playing and soloists keep the music fresh and interesting. The Great Un-American Songbook, Volumes I & II - amazon.com

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Interesting Links 4/11/2017


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Saturday, April 08, 2017

2017 Downbeat Magazine Critic's Poll Ballot









Hall of Fame: Sam Rivers, Thomas Chapin, John Zorn
Jazz Artist: Ivo Perelman, Ken Vandermark, John Zorn
Rising Star Jazz Artist: Kris Davis, Mary Halvorson, Jon Irabagon
Album of the Year: Cortex - Live in New York (Clean Feed), DKV/Thing Trio - Collider (NotTwo Records), Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord - 2016:EPs (Hot Cup, 2016)
Historical Album of the Year: Peter Kuhn - No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn 1978-1979 (No Business), David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp Duo - Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004 (AUM Fidelity); Sun Ra, Singles: The Definitive 45s Collection Vol. 1, 1952–1961 (Strut)
Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing, The Bad Plus, The Thing
Rising Star Jazz Group: LUME, Cortex, Made to Break
Big Band: Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit, Angles 9, Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses
Rising Star Big Band: Mary Halvorson Octet, Audio One, Oliver Lake Big Band
Trumpet: Rob Mazurek, Charles Tolliver, Wadada Leo Smith
Rising Star Trumpet: Ron Horton, Ralph Alessi, Jonathan Finlayson
Trombone: Steve Swell, Jeb Bishop, Grachan Moncour III
Rising Star Trombone: Michael Vlatkovich, Jose Davila, Jeff Albert
Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome, Vinny Golia, Branford Marsalis
Rising Star Soprano Saxophone: Phillip Johnston, Nat Birchall, Jon Irabagon
Alto Saxophone: Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Lehman, Oliver Lake
Rising Star Alto Saxophone: Anna Hogberg, Andrew D’Angelo, John O’Gallagher
Tenor Saxophone: Ivo Perelman, Jon Irabagon, Branford Marsalis
Rising Star Tenor Saxophone: Brian Patneaude; Nat Birchall, Keefe Jackson
Baritone Saxophone: Mats Gustaffson, James Carter; Gary Smulyan
Rising Star Baritone Saxophone: Dave Rempis; Gebhard Ullman, Michael Attias
Clarinet: Ken Vandermark, Anat Cohen
Rising Star Clarinet: Peter Kuhn, Josh Stinton, Aram Shelton
Flute: Henry Threadgill, Nicole Nitchell, James Spaulding
Rising Star Flute: Kali Z. Fasteau, Andrew Lamb, Sabir Mateen
Piano: Matthew Shipp, Vijay Iyer, David Virelles
Rising Star Piano: Kris Davis, Matt Mitchell, Craig Taborn
Keyboard: Jamie Saft, Craig Taborn, Rob Mazurek
Rising Star Keyboard: Jason Linder, Thollem McDonas, David Virelles
Organ: John Medeski, Brian Charette, Gary Versace
Rising Star Organ: Larry Goldings, Jared Gold, Mike LeDonne
Guitar: Jon Lundbom, Rez Abbasi, Mary Halvorson
Rising Star Guitar: Matt Hollenberg, David Gilmore, Tom Hasslan
Bass: William Parker, Michael Bisio, Jon Hebert
Rising Star Bass: Moppa Eliott, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Lisa Mezzacappa
Electric Bass: Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Massimo Pupillo, Trevor Dunn
Rising Star Electric Bass: Bill Laswell: 5; Jasper Stadhouders: 3; Linda Oh
Violin: Jenny Scheinman, Mat Maneri, Mark Feldman
Rising Star Violin: Jeff Gautheir, Jessica Pavone, Rob Thomas
Drums: Hamid Drake, Paal Nilssen-Love, Tomas Fujiwara
Rising Star Drums: Ches Smith, Kevin Shea, Kenny Grohowski
Percussion: Cyro Baptista, Kahil El’Zabar, Susie Ibarra
Rising Star Percussion: Harris Eisenstadt, Chris Corsano, Michael Zerang
Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz, Kenny Wollesen, Matt Moran
Rising Star Vibraphone: Chris Dingman, Stefon Harris, Kevin Norton
Misc. Instrument: David Murray (bass clarinet), Ken Vandermark (bass clarinet),
Rising Star Misc. Instrument: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Colin Stetson (bass saxophone), Ben Wendel (bassoon)
Female Jazz Singer: Leena Conquest, Linda Sharrock
Rising Star Female Jazz Singer: Jen Shyu
Male Jazz Singer: Mose Allison (RIP), Theo Bleckmann, James Blood Ulmer
Rising Star Male Jazz Singer: n/a
Composer: Henry Threadgill, John Zorn, Rob Mazurek
Rising Star Compser: Brian Patneaude, Florian Weber, Moppa Elliott
Arranger: Ken Vandermark, John Zorn, Ryan Truesdell
Rising Star Arranger: Ben Allison, Moppa Eliott, Harris Eisenstadt
Record Label: Clean Feed, AUM Fidelity, No Business
Producer: Dave Douglas, Jeff Gauthier, John Zorn
Rising Star Producer: Leo Feigin, John Corbett, Ben Wendel
Blues Artist: Joe Louis Walker, Garr Clark Jr., James Blood Ulmer
Blues Album: Rolling Stones - Blue & Lonesome (forgive me)
Beyond Artist: Sleater-Kinney, Jack White, Tortoise
Beyond Album: Sleater-Kinney - Live in Paris, Sleaford Mods - English Tapas, Various Artists - The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: Celebrating Mac & His Music

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Friday, April 07, 2017

Ivo Perelman - The Art of Perelman - Shipp Vol. 5: Rhea (Leo Records, 2017)

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp share a unique enthusiasm about life and music and use this outlook to create an impressive method of interacting with other musicians that is continuously lively and refreshing. Volume five of The Art of Perelman - Shipp series returns to the quartet format with a crackling band consisting of Perelman on tenor saxophone, Shipp on piano, Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums. Perelman's quavering sound ushers in "Part 1" with an emotional and distinctive saxophone tone leading the way over simmering rhythm accompaniment, developing a memorable collective improvisation, that buzzes loud and furiously in a powerful performance. This is a lengthy improvisation, and Perelman steps aside at one point for a potent section of piano, bass and drums before returning and melding with the group and building up to a powerful finish from a fine bass solo. "Part 2" develops from a subtle and strong foundation, allowing the music to move in any direction the four choose, easing into "Part 3" which kneads in a boiling free-bop sensibility of rippling piano, taut bass and drums, and Perelman's epic post-Ayler tenor saxophone. The rhythm section is in fine mettle with Shipp dropping the occasional lower end depth charge, and Bisio and Dickey shifting the pulse and swing of the music relentlessly. Raw and rending sounds splice though "Part 4" creating interesting musical shapes that are in continuous motion within which the band's energy and patience gives the music a readily identifiable sound. Subtle and impressive bass opens "Part 5" setting the pace for the exhilarating entry of the remaining instruments. From this a vital collective improvisation that is born, with the music bursting out like a supernovae, enlightening everything around it. There is a flurry of notes from Perelman's saxophone that takes the music to an even higher level with muscular accompaniment which powers the music while also dynamically allowing the music to breathe in space and time. "Part 6" has Pelelman's saxophone sweeping across the sound stage, interacting with his fellow musicians and letting the moment fearlessly take them into their improvisation. The music turns darker and harsher, like a sudden storm that comes crashing down from the sky, climaxing in a massive downpour of sound that is one of the most thrilling aspects of this album. The concluding "Part 7" develops a quieter and moodier sound, building into a bracing improvisation of shifting rhythm and stark peals of saxophone. Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp have a very strong work ethic as can be seen on this album and on the series as a whole. They have a seemingly limitless well of ideas and use them to create endlessly compelling music. Vol 5: Rhea - amazon.com

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Miles Okazaki - Trickster (Pi Recordings, 2017)

Guitarist Miles Okazaki is well known for his complex compositions and nimble playing, and he uses these attributes to the fullest on his newest album, where the songs are inspired by the trickster myths of many different cultures. Since these characters are well known for slight of hand and offering things that are not always what they seem, these stories make for fine raw material which can be used to create composed and improvised music that is thoughtful and challenging. On this album, Okazaki is joined by Craig Taborn on piano, Anthony Tidd on bass and Sean Rickman on drums. The music they make is complex yet accessible, and takes the listener on a journey through a wide range of music, opening with "Kudzu" where there is a subtle rhythm that all of the musicians use as a jumping off point with rippling piano and guitar leading the way, including a spirited piano solo from Taborn, before the group comes together to close out the piece. The music is faster and more urgent on "Box in a Box," and the combination of instruments allows for varying degrees of intricacy in the improvised section. They show a bold imagination, stretching into unexpected areas, with brightly percussive piano and thoughtful drumming cutting a path through the music. The leader's guitar is interwoven with the other instruments, snaking though in an impressive fashion. "Eating Earth" has a mysterious vibe to it, with guitar and piano opening the tune, and then bass and drums filling in some of the wide open space. Gentle piano chords frame the music, with big droplets of sound falling from the sky amidst subtle drumming. The music has a shape-shifting nature to it and that brings a unique approach to their improvising, ending with a haunting piano coda. There is a rapid sensibility to "Black Bolt," which is a short and fast piece of music that moves forward relentlessly, with sparks of guitar and thick bass and drums demonstrating that stylistic cliches are not hinderances to their music. Muscular and rippling percussion and guitar open "The West" and build a great deal of enthusiasm into the performance, never landing in one set groove, but providing propulsion for a wide range of possibilities and playing with an impressive devotion and dedication. "The Calendar" follows immediately, and develops over nine minutes that cover a ride range of territory, engaging the head and body and melding both into a very compelling improvisation through which the musicians express their thoughts with prickly guitar and bounding rhythm which adds clarity and drive. "Caduceus" is quietly complex, softly exploring the nature of their chosen music. Taborn then jumps in, infusing the music with a bright modern jazz improvisation that brings a freshness to the music like a cool breeze and allows the true spirit of the music to emerge. Stark accompanied guitar is at the center of the concluding "Borderland" developing a haunted and sly sound that perfectly fits the overall theme of the music. This is a very good album, and the idea of taking inspiration from myths and legends provides a rich tapestry for the musicians to explore beyond the conventional borders of jazz. Trickster - amazon.com

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Ivo Perelman - The Art of Perelman - Shipp Volume 4: Hyperion (Leo Records, 2017)

The fourth volume of this seven disc extravaganza features tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew in the company of their longtime compatriot, bassist Michael Bisio. They play ten relatively short completely improvised tracks, beginning with “Part 1” which shows a gentler side of the music with Perelman’s lush breathy saxophone met by soft piano and full bodied bass. The music is spacious and wide open, and the musicians are patient in letting it develop of its own accord. “Part 2” takes things up a notch with a stronger and faster collective improvisation. The music sounds tight and muscular, with deep throbbing bass supporting and engaging the high pitched saxophone and piano, and the proceedings develop a thrilling pace with squeals and squalls of saxophone leading the way. The three work together flawlessly to make the longest track on the album the most exciting, and it seems like they could have kept this level of inventiveness up forever. The forcefulness slows a bit for “Part 3” but the level of intensity and interaction remains high. There is a deep seated interplay, where the musicians don’t need to shout to be heard, but the conversation remains vital at any speed. Perelman breaks out for a powerful leading statement before dropping back so a softer tone for the conclusion of the piece. The soft and spacious approach to the music returns on “Part 4” with each musician staking out a location in the musical firmament. There is a well developed collective improvisation taking place with the power and volume waxing and waning in a dynamic fashion. Piano and bass rumble with increasing speed as Perelman’s torrential saxophone gives the music the utmost sense of excitement. “Part 6” mines ballad territory in a surprising fashion, with delicate consistency. Shipp’s spare droplets of piano open the selection, and continue on a beautiful solo piano spotlight with a delicate and understated touch. The full band is back on “Part 7” winding up like a mighty engine. Each of the musicians has a strong personalities of their own, but they use sense of this identity to come together for a formidable collective improvisation, spooling out a wide range of techniques and abilities in the service of the whole, setting the tone that permeates the entire album. “Part 8” has spare piano and bowed bass with arcs of saxophone overhead like so many shooting stars, creating a very haunting and emotional feel. More urgency is applied to “Part 9” with the growth of the potency maintained by all three musicians. Shipp applies a bright, ringing sound to his instrument as the music bounds forward with a spring in its step. Matthew Shipp is once again given a beautiful solo coda to the album on “Part 10” ending the one of the best albums in this series in an elegant and thoughtful fashion. Hyperion - amazon.com

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Sunday, April 02, 2017

William Parker and Stefano Scodanibbio - Bass Duo (Centering / Aum Fidelity, 2017)

William Parker has had an amazing career where he has climbed the ladder to become one of the finest bassists in modern jazz. But this is a rare format for him, a co-billed paring with a fellow virtuoso bass player on an album of very open ended duets. But the risk pays off beautifully and the music the two artists play is tightly focused and inspirational. The Italian bassist Stefano Scodanibbio (who has since passed away) had played and thrived in a wide variety musical situations, mostly classical, interpreting the music of a range of composers and counting the renowned avant-guardist John Cage as one of his biggest fans. Bringing these men together for an improvised performance was an inspired idea, and they met at the Udin Jazz Festival in Italy in 2008. Both Parker and Scodanibbio are composers and improvisers who have a deep sense of musical propriety and style, developing sources that are true, dynamic and personal. The two musicians develop a five part suite of prepared and improvised music that shows the length and breadth of what the upright bass can do in the right hands. They investigate an arena where classical music, jazz and free improvisation march proudly side by side. Bowing and plucking, slapping the bass to create percussive sounds and doing so in a sympathetic environment that allows each musician to display the best at what they do in a solo and duet format that maximizes the music whether it is subtle pulses or huge arcing drones that light up the sky around them. The music has a meditative nature that becomes the declaration of their own musical independence which transcends any genre and moves into the realm of pure artistry. This concert recording was prepared for release by William Parker on his own Centering Records imprint, which he reserves for his most personal projects, and is available through AUM Fidelity Records in a limited edition of 1,000 copies with excellent liner notes and photography included. If you are a fan of the bass or of creative improvised music, this should not be missed. Bass Duo - amazon.com

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Whit Dickey with Mat Maneri and Matthew Shipp - Vessel in Orbit (AUM Fidelity, 2017)

This is the first album in quite some time from drummer Whit Dickey, but it is worth the wait. He is joined by long time partners Mat Maneri on viola and Matthew Shipp on piano, and the music is thoughtful and focused, exploring structure and freedom in equal measure. "Spaceship 9" opens the album with urgent viola and stark piano amidst swirling percussion. The music is powerful, with Shipp's repetitive low end comping building tension, and the remaining instruments sounding cohesive and spacious. There is a dynamic springiness to the album that keeps the listeners attention riveted. A quieter approach is at play on "Space Walk" with the music floating freely between the instruments, creating a patient collective improvisation. Subtlety and patience are the key themes to this performance, while remaining lyrical with nothing being forced or rushed and a viola solo taking center stage. Shipp's rumbling piano sets the stage for "Dark Matter" and allows the other musicians to join on a fast and deeply felt improvisation. The music builds speed and culminates in a thrilling, barreling performance with the sound developing a nearly physical presence. "Galaxy 9" widens the sound stage, with brushed percussion, gentle viola and soft piano playing developing an ethereal sound that has seemingly endless possibilities. The environment of the music contains a brief interlude for probing piano and soft percussion, and it is one of Shipp's great talents that he can say so much with so few notes. The music coalesces again to become technically complex yet accessible, carving an independent streak through modern jazz philosophy. There is a nimble interplay between the trio on "Turbulence" which swirls faster and more strongly as the performance develops. The viola swoops and sways amidst the percussive piano and drumming to excellent effect. "To a Lost Comrade" has haunted and spare viola turning slowly amidst respectful piano and percussion. The music leaves a great deal of room for interpretation, and gradually gains potency as it develops, and using the available space to frame the music as it comes into being. Nimble interplay is at the center of "Space Strut" with the music gaining a manic energy that allows for a wide range of expression with punchy piano swooping viola and propulsive drumming into a driving collective improvisation. Finally, "Hyperspacial" develops slowly, with beats and tones that move suddenly and in an unexpected fashion. There is a massive edifice of music that is developed and then abruptly scaled back to a quieter sound. All three of these musicians has sent a lifetime committed to modern jazz, and they share a musical relationship going back decades. Dickey’s thoughtful compositions provide excellent raw material for the project and results in wide open and expressive music. Vessel In Orbit - amazon.com

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ivo Perelman - The Art of Perelman - Shipp Volume 2: Tarvos (Leo Records, 2017)

The second volume of the series chronicling the work of saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp welcomes drummer Bobby Kapp into the fold for an excellent excursion into spontaneously improvised jazz. Their music has the power of deep communication and presents it in a powerful and palpable manner. "Part 1" has Kapp leading the group into a robust performance with a solo opening that is eventually met with full bodied saxophone and finally strong piano playing combining for an excellent improvised performance which allows ample room for experimentation. They culminate with torrential saxophone and drums combing for a full frontal assault before dropping off for a gentle conclusion. Haunting saxophone as at the heart of "Part 2" with subtle piano and percussion accompaniment. Their group improvisation is of a more subtle nature on this track, before picking up the pace to a low boil with whinnying saxophone framed by rhythmic piano and drums. "Part 3" is a tightly wound piece that evolves gracefully and creating an interesting perspective that allows for immediacy and interaction in the music which is happening in the moment and creating a unique atmosphere. The development of "Part 4" takes a fractured sensibility and uses it as a springboard for an interesting three way conversation. The musicians communicate with each other beautifully and this is passed on to the listener as the music becomes more strident and powerful. "Part 5" has a thoughtful and springy tempo allowing the musicians to dance around one another, engaging in an exciting creation of powerful low-end piano, strident saxophone, and skittering drums. The improvisation builds to an interesting fast paced free section that allows each musician to play to their strengths. Spare and lonely piano opens "Part 6" creating a vast soundscape for cymbal percussion, and finally long tones of deeply emotional saxophone. There is an atmosphere of deep yearning and restraint as the music develops organically, creating thoughtful and incisive renderings of their original music in the moment. The concluding "Part 7" has some very nice and subtle piano and percussion interplay, followed by ripe peals of saxophone that launch the music to a higher plane of interplay. The sound comes fast and furious, with Perelman's unique tone alternating between abrasive and lulling, and the piano and percussion shifting immediately with any changes in the music and creating precision ensemble playing. This was a very good album, one that is aesthetically pleasing and creates an immediate bond between the listener and the music. The trio creates spirited and many hued improvisations with their hearts proudly on their sleeves. Tarvos - amazon.com

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Peter Brotzmann and Johannes Bauer - Blue City (Trost records, 2017)

Recorded live at Blue City in Osaka, Japan in 1997, this tape was found by serendipity, in a box of archived music labelled with date, venue, city. The music is a duet between Peter Brotzmann on tenor and alto saxophones, b-flat clarinet and tarogato and Johannes Bauer on trombone and they create some strangely fascinating music. "Name That Thing" is a raw and immediate journey, whose opening shows the music blasting off the launchpad on to a nearly half hour long performance. Great peals of saxophone fly over the accompanying trombone, creating sparks and opportunities for exploration allowing the musicians to make the most of the particular circumstances of the setting. The forces the musicians are experiencing in those two different directions make for delightful contrast and creating an underlying symmetry that is very impressive. There is an interesting unaccompanied section for Brotzmann, who is then rejoined by the trombonist for a raw and scouring section of music. Bauer repeats a phrase building focus and the music drifts to near silence. They build back up dynamically, with Brotzmann's exotic torogato creating waves of sound, shadowed by trombone, and slowly enveloping one another in an elaborate dance with a unique symmetry that shows the music transforming by degree over time. Brotzmann moves back to tenor for long tones of saxophone, haunting and powerful, punctuated by rending squeals and Bauer's contrasting sound. Brotzmann moves to clarinet for "Poppy Cock," swirling and swaying across the gentle accompaniment of the trombone. The music begins slowly and carefully, and the musicians take their time developing a fine improvisation, led by Bauer's thoughtful and patient tone which explores aspects of pure sound in open space for the majority of this performance. "Heard and Seen" takes the music in another direction, with powerful blowing and a scouring search, making their music enthralling for the listener. Raw sound is very exciting in this situation, suggesting infinite possibilities for improvisation. Ripe sounding saxophone bursts forward followed by subtle trombone riffs. They conclude with the very exciting "Hot Mess" which brings everything together for a fine concluding statement. Bauer, who passed away last year, had a very successful career in music including many collaborations with Peter Brotzmann and this album serves as a fine reminder of their empathetic relationship. Blue City - amazon.com

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ivo Perelman - The Art of Perelman - Shipp Volume 1: Titan (Leo Records, 2017)

This is the first volume in an audacious seven disc series that places tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp in a wide variety of formations. They are joined on this album by a longtime partner, bassist William Parker for a thrilling trio recording. "Part One" begins with spare air quivering in space, as piano and bass gradually build in near the vocalized saxophone. The music is spacious and open, as befits conversation between equals who have deep trust in one another, and have developed an honest musical discourse. The music will develop a raw edge to it, with bounding bass amidst strident saxophone and patient piano notes and chords. The Perelman - Shipp interaction is in full force on "Part Two" with Parker's sawing bowed bass providing and excellent foil for both the pianist and saxophonist. Waves of sound fade in and out with the dynamic nature of the music, allowing a quieter and more introspective sound space to develop and be expounded upon by the musicians."Part Three" has a more strident and passionate performance, creating a ripe collective improvisation that is quite potent with Perelman's raw saxophone tone amidst the fully developed piano and interacting to create an impressive whole. Powerful peals of saxophone rip forth with deeply pulled bass and droplets of spare piano. Building from a gentle piano and saxophone introduction, "Part Four" is yearning and emotional. Parker's deep bass provides a firm foundation for a performance that seems fraught with danger and sadness. "Part Five" develops a raw and urgent trio improvisation, with strong full band interplay driving the music forward with great passion and spirit. Perelman steps out for some wonderfully nimble piano and bass interplay and he returns with great peals of sound that arc across the other instruments, and leads into a torrid section of free improvisation. Everything comes together on "Part Six," a nearly twenty minute master class in group interplay beginning with long tones of bowed bass and saxophone framed by droplets of piano. The music seems to warp space and time and develop its own reality of pure sound, waxing and waning in intensity and pace as the narrative of the music develops in real time. The musicians form a single organic unit which evolves and grows with an epic performance, including a very compelling section where Shipp excuses himself creating a great bass and saxophone interchange, followed by a section for bass and piano. This is a great album, and an excellent introduction to the collection. Shipp and Perelman have a nearly otherworldly connection, and adding the great bassist Parker to the equation only adds to the excitement. Titan - amazon.com

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Interesting Links 3/24


  • NPR uncovers the bizarre story of the most pricey record never sold: "Discogs, Billy Yeager And The $18,000 Hoax That Almost Was."
  • There is a long and fascinating interview on bobdylan.com with the man himself: "Q and A with Bill Flanagan."
  • The Best New Jazz on Bandcamp: February 2017.
  • Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth is the feature on the most recent Bimhaus Radio podcast. "Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano/wurlitzer, Chris Lightcap on doublebass and Gerald Cleaver drums."
  • Chuck Berry died at age 90, he was one of the few musicians who legitimately changed the world.
  • Rob Mazurek speaks out about the new Chicago/London Underground LP, and his collaboration with Emmett Kelly. (Last week's link was broken... sorry!)
  • NPR has information about the new Lee Morgan documentary "I Called Him Morgan."


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup, 2017)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing have long been one of the most exciting bands on the progressive jazz scene. This expanded version of the group features Moppa Elliott on bass, Jon Irabagon on saxophones, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and electronics, Kevin Shea on drums, Ron Stabinsky on piano, Dave Taylor on bass trombone and Steven Bernstein on trumpets. This larger version of the group adds a few new faces and this allows the band to explore some interesting textures. The recording draws on books and music, with new compositions that explore early jazz with some dedicated to writers. "Hi-Nella" sways in on and old-timey groove with feathering banjo and punchy brass. Their commitment to the sound of the past is pure, but the improvisations are as fresh as today's news, particularly in Bernstein's solo which is wide open and unaccompanied. There is a languid and slow tempo on "Honey Hole" with slinky brass and a gentle beat. An easy swinging saxophone solo breaks out framed and then joined by the other instruments, building to a stronger and decidedly modern improvisation section. Strong piano band bass provide the backbone for "Bloomsburg" upon which the brass and rhythm build. The brass instruments snake through the tune as Shea's drums break up the rhythm and open the music for a nice collective improvisation. "Kilgore" has ominous bass and fearsome growls before the band comes together for a mid-tempo swing with filigrees of banjo, before going rogue with extended sounds for brass and reeds. This is the most outside track on the album, throwing the remaining performances into sharp contrast with a bracing free improvisation for very high pitched saxophone and then a section of madcap barrellhouse piano. The tempo mellows on "Mason and Dixon" with quiet and patient piano solo introduction followed by the rest of the band crashing the party with some torrential drumming leading to a banjo feature and a free for all that takes the music in an exciting new direction. "Meridian" keeps an even keel with a thoughtful opening and variations on the theme they establish. There is another fine solo section for the brass section buoyed by the band's impeccable support. A jaunty straw-boater tipping melody opens "Glen Riddle" with lightly stepping horns accompanied by vibrant piano and banjo, before the music takes a darker turn with a more open improvisation anchored by Elliott's bass. Everything comes together again as the group seamlessly rejoins for a rousing conclusion. Effects give "Five (Corners, Points, Forks)" the sound like it was being played on a at 78 RPM on an old Victrola, but the music is decidedly modern with choppy banjo met with growls and shrieks of saxophone and trumpet framed by twinkling piano, the remaining instruments fold in and the effects are dropped for a fascinating interpretation of the music's possibilities. This is another fine album from this relentlessly creative band. Elliott's compositions take into account the whole continuum of jazz from pre-bop to free improvisations and the band interprets them with grace and poise. Loafer's Hollow - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicago Edge Ensemble - Decaying Orbit (Music+, 2017)

The city of Chicago is know for it's broad shouldered head strong jazz from the time Louis Armstrong brought the revolution north on a train from New Orleans through to fellow travelers Sun Ra, the members of the AACM, Ken Vandermark and the modern day keepers of the flame. Guitarist Dan Phillips brought together a hard hitting crew to pay respect to the jazz of Chicago, enlisting Mars Williams on saxophones, Hamid Drake on drums, Jeb Bishop on trombone and Krysztof Pabian on bass. The music works very well, combining the brawny swing the town is known for with progressive free elements that add to the excitement. The album is dynamic and ever evolving, starting with the lengthy opener "Attitude Adjustment" which develops patiently with complex horn interplay and solos that seem to bubble up from the firmament of the music itself. "Bi-Polar Vortex" begins with a rush of fast and exciting sound, incorporating collective and solo improvisations. After the manic episode of the cascading free improv ripens until the inevitable happens and the music crashes into a descending spiral to its uncertain conclusion. "Uptown Swagger" has the leader's snarling and snaking electric guitar locking in with with thick bass and propulsive drumming and shades of brass. It's a righteous and exciting tune that moves at a snappy pace with the snotty guitar making way for muscular horns and a sparkling saxophone solo. A strikingly brawny theme open "Not Here You Don't," creating an urgent atmosphere of anticipation. The storm clouds arrive and squalls of torrential music rain down in a startling collectively improvised section, led by crashing drums. A sparking guitar solo breaks free showering the scene with showers of flinty sound before the brisk and no-nonsense horns return to usher the music to a fine conclusion. This is a fine album of interesting themes and powerful performances by the full ensemble and the soloists. Everyone draws deeply from the limitless well of the city's musical history and creates a bold and thoughtful statement. Decaying Orbit - Bandcamp

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Interesting Links 3/18/2017

Aquarium Drunkard talks to Rob Mazurek about his recent Chicago/London Underground LP, and his collaboration with Emmett Kelly.
Bandcamp dips into the music of the great drummer Paal Nilssen-Love.
Ethan Iverson posts an interview with Geoffrey Keezer.
The Guardian on British experimental jazz at South by Southwest.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Led Bib - Umbrella Weather (RareNoise Records, 2017)

Led Bib is a consistently interesting progressive British jazz band with fusion overtones consisting of Mark Holub on drums, Pete Grogan and Chris Williams on alto saxophone, Liran Donin on bass and Toby McLaren on keyboards. This is a forward looking jazz ensemble that has evolved to the to a point where their trust each other implicitly and allow the music to flow naturally. They develop a muscular form of music that sets interesting and memorable themes which evolve into spirited improvisations. Most of the music on this album came about organically in the studio through a tight sense of collective improvisation, starting with “Lobster Terror," which opens the album with a choppy melody that makes way for some excellent collective playing from the group and then evolves into “Too Many Cooks,” which ups the ante even further, folding in elements of rock and electronic music to make for a very powerful performance. It's not all blistering tempos however, because on the wonderfully named “Insect Invasion” the band develops an atmospheric and spaced out groove which is also used on the melodic and jaunty concluding track “Goodbye." The group has become a stable and well oiled machine, evolving naturally and incorporating on each of the member's ideas and influences. The band adroitly travels the realms of jazz with pop and world music overtones, creating something provocative and memorable. Having two saxophones moving together over a heavy rhythm team that keeps the music moving continuously forward creates a very powerful sense of momentum. The band has developed gradually from a group that Holub put together for a university project into an organic and ever changing group of musicians. Hopefully we can receive more regular updates on their progress. Umbrella Weather - amazon.com

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Billy Mintz - Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note, 2017)

Drummer and composer Billy Mintz develops a free-wheeling double album in the company of John Gross on tenor saxophone, Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano saxophones, Roberta Piket on piano and keyboards and Hilliard Greene on bass. They cover a wide range of material from soul jazz to bop and free improvisation. "Angels" and "Vietnam" open the album on a serious note, moving from a spiritual jazz song to a sombre ballad. Things develop in a faster direction on "Dit," which has an angular melody that swings hard as the saxophones that swagger over frenetic drumming and strong vibrant piano. The music is propelled forward while cutting to a subtle piano trio section toward the end. "Flight" and "Flight (Ballad)" are two sides of the same coin, with the former establishing a classy and nicely mannered jazz sound, while the latter opening things further with a spare and spacious caress. "Cannonball" develops some storming hard bop with crisp drumming and some fine saxophone textures. The music stretches out further with lengthy tracks like "Shmear" giving the leader space for a interesting solo and some dynamic shifts in tone and and and alternate take of "Dit" which moves from an emphatic statement of the melody with cascading variations thereof. The second disc is even more expansive with tracks such as "Love and Beauty" and "Ugly Beautiful" which are lengthy improvised performances, growing from a graceful piano based ballad to a strong to a rippling jazz performance with taut saxophone and rhythm. The group ends the album with an extended version of "Cannonball" that allows Picket to develop a deep organ groove and the saxophones to stretch out accordingly. There is a lot of music to digest on this album, but it is quite worthwhile, covering a wide range of jazz styles with class and integrity. Ugly Beautiful - amazon.com

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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Microscopic Septet - Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues (Cuneiform, 2017)

The Microscopic Septet were one of the leading progressive bands in New York City during the mid to late 1980's, and then went their separate ways as performing opportunities began to dry up. Thankfully they returned to the fray in the late 2000's first with some fine reissues of their earlier work, and then a series of exciting original LP's for the Cuneiform label. The band consists of Phillip Johnston on soprano saxophone, Don Davis on alto saxophone, Mike Hashim, tenor saxophone, Dave Sewelson on baritone saxophone and vocals, Joel Forrester on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums. They play the blues in a jaunty and addictive fashion, opening with "Cat Toys" which is appropriately named, given the madcap nature of the music as the saxophonists chase the rhythm section like a wound up feline. "Blues Cubistico" adds some extra angles to the music, but sticks with the warmly swinging feel of their sound with some fine riffing and an extra dosage of baritone saxophone soloing. There is some sweet soprano saxophone melody to the nimble "Don't Mind If I Do" before the rest of the band crashes in to bump the music to a higher level with percussive piano supporting Sewelson on another excellent solo flight. Some storming riffs open "When It's Getting Dark" pushing the music forward in a strutting and memorable manner. All of the musicians  support one another admirably in solo and full band improvisations that are taut and powerful. "After You, Joel" sets up Forrester for some much deserved attention, and his playing is tasteful and thoughtful, making the most of a short solo spot with some pithy improvising. They turn the traditional "Silent Night" into a smoky ballad and take the music out in style on "I've Got a Right to Cry" which mines the Kansas City blues of the territory band years, even adding a gravely vocal turn for Sweleson. The format of the blues suits the band very well, allowing them to set their little big band riffs in their natural habitat, and then adding unique solos and improvisations that keep the music continuously interesting throughout the length of the whole album. Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues - amazon.com

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Interesting Links

Ethan Iverson interviewed Robert Glasper, creating controversy, commentary and responses, leading to a follow-up post about Mary Lou Williams.
PopMatters looks at books about jazz and the loft scene in the 1970"s.
The Irish Times interviews Evan Parker.
There is a BBC Radio special about Alice Coltrane.
The New Yorker profiles Jack White.
An excellent interview with George Coleman at Burning Ambulance.

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Luis Munoz - The Dead Man (Pelin Music, 2017)

Drummer, keyboardist and composer Luis Munoz's Quartet is an excellent band featuring Jonathan Dane on trumpet and flugelhorn, Brendan Statom on bass and Daniel Zimmerman on guitars, along with some special guests filling out the sound on a few tracks. The album opens with "Secrecy" which has a substantive sound with trumpet weaving through a thicket of guitar, bass and drums. They drop back to a distinctive melody, spacious and open, and the music unfolds majestically enveloping a bass solo into the group's dynamic shifts. The mysterious sound of dusty western guitar and subtle brushes and percussion are at play in "The Sleep of the Innocent (Trio Version)" which is a slowly developing gentle ballad. The vibe is akin to some of Bill Frisell's Americana tinged projects, and it suits the stripped down format well. The full group comes crashing back in on "Tierranegra" with a ripe fusion sound including electric keyboards and and a guesting flute player sitting in, offering up a classic Return to Forever feel, building to a fine conclusion of keyboard and flute riffs. "The Dead Man" has a mid-tempo beat with shades of keyboards, hand percussion and guitar. Tenor saxophone and bass clarinet burble just underneath the surface of the music, while keyboards and chimes give the music a shiny punch. There is another stripped down ballad on "Invisible (Trio Version)" which is slightly sentimental without becoming maudlin. Another fine bass solo bracketed by pure toned guitar evoke the feeling of a lonely highway on a quiet and still night. The concluding track, "Savannah," is another fine fusion performance, beginning with some quiet and subtle guitar and trumpet which develops an edge with the drums and percussion building in. The trumpet slides through with a lean edge to it, leading a dynamic rush as the band develops a powerful motif leading to a fine improvised section of flinty guitar and percolating percussion. This album worked quite well, moving from subtle ballads to muscular fusion with ease. And that album art is just awesome... The Dead Man - amazon.com

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Chicago London Underground - A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform, 2017)

This version of the ever changing Underground is a fascinating meeting of the minds with mainstays Rob Mazurek on cornet, sampler, electronics, voice and Chad Taylor on drums, mbira and electronics. On this album, they are joined by British musicians Alexander Hawkins on piano and John Edwards on bass. This album was recorded live at Cafe OTO in London on April 21, 2016. "A Night Spent Walking Through Mirrors" opens with pinched sounding cornet playing in open space, while bowed bass and propulsive piano provide wide slabs of sound from all directions. It is an urgent music with shades of electronics, space and dynamism at play. Punchy brass moves through deep piano and percussion, developing an excellent full band improvisation with squalls of piano and thick muscular bass. Wordless vocals are added, and that gives the music a new direction to explore. The group drops to near silence at the halfway point and plays with the sparsest delicacy, gaining volume ever so slowly with bowed bass, piano, and voice. Electronically enhanced cornet leads the group forward and the music develops a vigorous excitement with excellent driving piano and bass from the London contingent. "Something Must Happen" has compelling piano and percussion leading the music powerfully forward, with everyone coming together nicely building a stimulating improvisation. The tempo drops off a bit for a subtle section of spacious bass, percussion and buttery cornet. Scorching piano and drums rebuild the pace, with sawing bowed bass increasing the edginess and when slashing cornet enters, the music becomes truly enthralling. The music goes off on a tangent of spooky electronics reflecting differing images like a funhouse mirror. Electronic sounds add texture to "Boss Redux," with exciting drums and bowing, while Mazurek's cornet eases in, giving the music an updated Electric Miles feel before pulsing piano stretches the group's improvisation in a electro-acoustic direction. The group shows a lot of imagination as if they were making a soundtrack for their own private movie and continually adding different settings to explore. The music then moves into a leaner, softer section, with Mazurek showing his jazz chops by playing ballad brass with a quiet fire. "Mysteries of Emanating Light" has an excellent solo of rumbling drums to start things off, with Taylor demonstrating fabulous power and technique before the bass joins in and adds to the rhythmic sound. There's a fine acoustic quartet interlude here, and it's interesting to hear the way the music moves from electronically enhanced to acoustic, with the musicians using all of the possibilities at their disposal. Reverberating and echoing vocals take the music further out, and the music takes another turn with echoing horn, and boiling piano, bass and drums. This was a very good album with the four musicians at the top of their respective games. The wide open nature of the four long performances led to inspired soloing and very impressive group interplay. A Night Walking Through Mirrors - amazon.com

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

DEK Trio - Burning Below Zero (Trost, 2017)

This is a very exciting and free-wheeling improvised performance by a collective group consisting of Didi Kern on drums, Elisabeth Harnik on piano and Ken Vandermark on reed instruments. Recorded October 2, 2014 in concert at RAJ in Klagenfurt, Austria, the music is comprised of a three part collective improvisation, beginning with "RAJ 1" which opens with some initial probing, followed by everyone quickly slipping into gear and building a very compelling performance. The drums and piano are played in a fractured and unpredictable manner and Vandermark's saxophone is raw and powerful. These musicians have performed together in 2016 as part of Vandermark's residency at the Stone in New York City and in other configurations and use the camaraderie they have developed to excellent effect. Vandermark drops out briefly for a section or ripe piano and slashing percussion and then uses peals of pained sound to frame the other two instruments. The music is able to weave together quieter passages, with great bursts of sound, including sections for solos and duets in addition to the full trio. The rhythm of the music is full of surprises and dynamic shifts, dropping to silence near the halfway point. Vandermark moves to a lower toned instrument and develops a hypnotic motif that is elaborated upon by his partners, and is turned into an eerie, abstract fantasia. A thrilling section of high pitched piano and saxophone closes the first section of the performance in a memorable way. "RAJ 2" is open on all sides, the music is quiet but very active, it's energy percolating just below the surface. The music patiently gains volume around a repetitive piano chord, building potential energy all the way. The music has a nervous nature that is quite unique and everyone in the group has an interesting sound to add to the mix and the overall structure of the music. With powerful keyboard playing, rattling drums and potent saxophone and clarinet. There is a short coda entitled "RAJ 3" a taut and spirited improvisation that wraps the entire performance up nicely. Burning Below Zero - Trost Records.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Lisa Mezzacappa - avantNOIR (Clean Feed, 2017)

This interesting album is a suite of compositions for jazz group based on noir crime fiction, taking inspiration from the literature of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster among others. The band is Lisa Mezzacappa on bass, John Finkbeiner on guitar, Aaron Bennett on tenor saxophone, Jordan Glenn on drums, Tim Perkis on electronics and William Winant on vibraphone and sound effects. "Fillmore Street" has a stuttering propulsive theme with peals of saxophone and kinetic bass and drums. Vibes shade the music, and effects add to its interesting nature. A spiky guitar solo breaks out, and the choppiness of the music gathers momentum with unusual sounds adding a mysterious sheen. There is a beat the underpins "Army Street" and sets the tone for the music with its strong saxophone and burbles of electronics. The music has a distinct feel and pace to it, aided by a flinty guitar interlude which is accompanied by taut bass and drums. The return of the saxophone gives the music a jaunty sensibility, right up to its abrupt end. "Medley on the Big Knockover" bursts out with rippling energy, adding found sound to a mad percussive rush. The music has a dynamic downshift to quiet subtlety with gentle saxophone and percussion, probing guitar and bass. The music gains an abstract nature, offering many possibilities, with kaleidoscopic swirls of sound and a complex improvised section. Raw saxophone lurches forth, amidst a percussive cacophony that has a thrilling rush as it barrels forward, creating a very exciting performance. A tactile groove of drums, vibes and sounds is at the center of "A Bird in the Hand" and the saxophone weaves it's sound through this texture, slowly and patiently. There is added film dialogue, presumably from The Maltase Falcon, with a forlorn musical backdrop framing those lines. The mysterious nature of the music unfolds slowly, never tipping its hand as to a possible resolution. "Ghosts (Black, White and then Blue) adds sound effects to a haunted musicscape, as typewriters clank and footsteps clop against the cinematic musical background. The band fully engages with the music nearly halfway through the piece, with saxophone and percussion fleshing out the sound amidst bursts of guitar. The band begins to flex its muscles and the music grows powerful and ominous. The drift back to near silence is jarring, with the sounds returning to the spare framework, leading to its conclusion. The album is concluded by "Babel" with some muted film dialogue added to a medium tempo backdrop of music making for an unnerving combination. The music picks up and takes off on its own with electronics adding an edge to the proceedings, and a slow deep rhythm, with raw saxophone developing a grinding solo, building to a powerful collective improvisation to end the album. avantNOIR - Clean Feed Records

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