Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tyshawn Sorey - Alloy (Pi Recordings, 2014) *****

By Josh Campbell

Tyshawn Sorey has consistently released albums about every two years. With the every album he has changed the configuration of his lineups. His latest is Alloy, released on the Pi Recordings label, is a traditional piano trio configuration with Corey Smythe on piano, who also appeared on Sorey’s That/Not, and Christopher Tordini on bass, who previously appeared on Oblique-I. Anyone familiar with Sorey’s work will undoubtedly hear his fingerprints all over the music. For the unfamiliar, Sorey’s compositions tend to focus as much on space and touch, leaving you in a space of reflection and thought. Probably due to the lack of a brass or wind instrument on this album, Alloy reminds me most of his 2009 release, and one of my all-time favorite albums, Koan.

Given Sorey’s penchant for space in his compositions, the piano trio setting proves to be a wonderful avenue to display his sound. “Returns” begins with Smythe searching through the keys to find the right notes, as Sorey and Tordini lock in behind. As the searching increasing a mild chaos ensues only to return to a more melodic and contemplative tempo.  “Return” flows directly into “Movement”. Building on melody, Smythe weaves in and out of Sorey’s light cymbal play and Tordini’s steady beat. After two 15 plus minute tracks, the trio jumps into “Template”. Honestly, Template will either scare the crap out of you, or make you wonder if you cd player changed discs. The surprise of the album, 2 and 1/2 minutes into the track Sorey lays into a groove on his drum kit that will shock you and make you undoubtedly bob your head in approval. It’s so beautifully out of place I love every time it kicks in, and I’m never expecting it. Finally, Sorey ends with the 30 minute “A Love Song”, and returns to the meditative spacial compositions that Sorey specializes in. This album is already rivaling Koan as my favorite Sorey led album, and currently my favorite release of any artist this year. Released in the typical Pi Recordings digipak, This album has excellent sound quality with one of the most beautifully mic’d pianos I have ever heard.

Highly recommended.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Circum Grand Orchestra - 12 (Circum Disc, 2014) ****½

By Antonio Poscic

For a while it seemed that the big band format in creative and adventurous jazz was slowly fading into oblivion. The economic situation was and is not favorable (culture somehow always gets the short end of the stick) and there are various, often insurmountable challenges and problems when composing and creating music for such groups. For many musicians, the effort is either just not worth it or they feel that the needed inspiration and creative catalysts have been depleted. When two years ago Peter Brötzmann announced that he was retiring his Chicago Tentet, the future looked bleak. But here we are, in the final third of 2014, and a multitude of great big band albums have already been released in the past 9 months. Lille’s Circum Grand Orchestra, a sort of supergroup or collective comprised of musicians gathered together under the Circum label, make an interesting and fresh proposition with their new album “12”.

There are two guitars in this band, but before you get a chance to call it “rock influenced” or even “fusion”, you realize that the only thing borrowed from rock here are the energy, the bite, and some rhythmic patterns. Indeed, the electric guitar is used in a nuanced and clever way, sometimes hinting at fusion, but never crossing into kitschy territories. And this is only natural as the core of this record stems purely from free jazz and improvisational origins. Yes, the songs are composed because it’s hard not to have at least some sort of foundation when dealing with large groups. Yes, the band follows some predefined patterns and sections. But the structures are only loosely set, leaving a lot of space for the musicians’ improvisations and experimentations. Basically, it’s authentic big band (free) jazz with elements from various genres mixed in, performed with a sense of flow and joy.

Music that is not afraid to wear various motifs and influences on its sleeve. Circum Grand Orchestra take the middle road between accessible, easily enjoyable jazz and intricate, contemplative improvised segments. Especially striking are the duos and dialogs that take place between different combinations of instruments throughout the tunes. Even though it’s a large ensemble (two guitars, two basses, two drums, a piano, a five-piece brass section with saxophones, trumpets, flugelhorns, clarinet, and vocals), each musician has a distinct, individual voice, but it also completes and complements all others. There’s so much airiness and space in the music, pensive moments that makes you feel, at times, as if listening to merely a trio or a duo. The band works great whether everyone’s playing with full force or improvising within a smaller subgroup. What this dual paradigm means is that you’ll start following an infectious, swinging melody or a rhythm only to wind up in an improvised section carried on by two or three instruments and their sparse notes.

Bassist Christophe Hache, who takes over leadership and compositional duties from Olivier Benoit, claims that the compositions were inspired, peculiarly, by French chansons. This can be heard throughout the album, more on a subtle, structural and inspirational level rather than in the form of pure expression. Whether you’re listening to the opening “Tan son nhat”, that right away shows what the band’s capable of with a massive, imposing sound, or to a quieter track like “12”, the music is consistently captivating and beautiful. The highlight of the release probably comes on the aptly titled “Graphic”, a song featuring an awesome build up and groove, dissonant vocals, and a rather loose approach confined by composed parts. Yet, there’s a feeling that improvisations and solos build the structure of “Graphic”, not the other way around. This tune also shows Circum Grand Orchestra’s remarkable ability to remain cohesive during the busiest sections. But there are many surprise on the other tracks too, from giallo atmospheres on “Padoc” to songs dominated by rhythm (“Principe de précaution”) and noisy, Bailey-like guitar solos (“Hectos d'ectot”). Production is luckily great and makes the music shine even further. The sound is punchy, clear, and airy, regardless of the number of instruments playing concurrently. Really, the only criticism that I can think of comes from the fact that the musicians and the band as a whole don’t take many chances or risks and are often content to remain on the melodically and rhythmically defined “safe” side of things. Maybe not a record that will astonish you with something new, but a highly enjoyable and fulfilling accomplishment.

Standing alongside with releases such as Angles 9’s “Injuries” and Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra’s “Live in Ljubljana”, Circum Grand Orchestra triumphantly shows that the big band free, creative jazz format is alive and kicking. Highly recommended.

Circum Grand Orchestra are: Julien Favreuille and Jean-Baptiste Perez on saxophones, Christophe Rocher on clarinet, Aymeric Avice on trumpet and flugelhorn, Christophe Motury on flugelhorn and vocals, Christian Pruvost on trumpet, Sébastien Beaumont and Ivann Cruz on guitars, Stefan Orins on piano, Nicolas Mahieux on double-bass, Christophe Hache on bass, and Jean-Luc Landsweerdt and Peter Orins on drums.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ton Trio II - On and On (Singlespeed Music, 2014) ****

By Paul Acquaro

Ton Trio II is Aram Shelton on alto saxophone, Scott Brown on bass and Alex Vittum playing drums, and together they deliver a showcase of musical dexterity and ideas that grabs you the moment the needle finds the groove, or the laser hits the disc, or the data streams to the player.

Vittum's pulsating drumming helps kick off the album with 'This Reminds Me'. Shelton soon enters with a simple but effective theme that re-emerges occasionally as the song develops. Building in intensity during his solo, Shelton plays it cool with precision and control. "We Were Told," track 3, begins with a deliberate tempo as Brown and Vittum provide delicate support to Shelton's plaintive melodic work. Brown takes his cues from the Shelton as he builds his solo, and when they are both freely improvising around the melody, the trio's telepathy is most acute. The music never let up, even through the last track "Turncoats", which begins with a folky melody but following a short martial drum passage, quickly becomes a driving affair.

On and On is a nicely balanced mix of composition and free playing. The restraint that the group retains throughout, and the time they take to develop the tracks, really helps to accentuate the melodies, the dynamics, and the general thoughtfulness of the playing. On and On is a nice ride from start to finish, free, composed, and otherwise.

Monday, October 20, 2014

François Tusques & Don Cherry - La Maison Fille Du Soleil (Cacophonic, 2014)

By Stef

A 7" single with a total of seven minutes of a piano and a trumpet improvising on a basic composition : 25£. Worth your money? Absolutely. With handmade sleeves, limited edition. The improvisers are pianist François Tusques and trumpeter Don Cherry. Too bad. It's out of stock! But the good news is : there's also a download version. On the second track Beb Guérin joins on bass. The music is sweet, beautiful, intimate, expansive ... and far too short.

But don't hesitate a second : you can listen to it and buy it too : here! ... and read more interesting stuff too.

Marc Ducret - Tower-Bridge (Ayler Records, 2014) ****

Review by Joe

For all of those who haven't heard Marc Ducret's Tower series, now is maybe the time to start. This record represents the last instalment of an incredible journey through many musical territories, yet with one musical thread tying them together, that of Marc Ducret's original musical thinking. Tower-Bridge is the fifth, and supposedly last part of the series (see below) which took as its inspiration Vladimir Nabokov's novel Ada. There are copious liner notes - as liner notes throughout the various volumes - which give some explanations to the connection between the music and the book, but for this short review it is suffice to quote the Ayler Record's presentation which states, "[t]he music [is] composed to convey Nabokov's text complex structure and writing process"¹.

Although I reviewed several albums from the series - digital versions sent by Ayler records - so I haven't seen the covers.  However, I did get a hard copy of this latest record. I'll mention the music shortly but the packaging of this disc merits a detour. The album is made up of double CD, with triptych folding sleeve, a small booklet with extracts from Nabokov's Ada, and an interesting fold-out with some notes from Ducret - which include a score of his composition Real thing #3. A last bonus is quite a crowd draw, access to exclusive video content, a 23 minute film by Sylvain Lemaire titled Tower in the Mist. I won't tell you what's on the film, after all that would only spoil the surprise! So, what can I say except buying a 'physical' copy is well worth the money.

The music on the album is taken from two live concerts recorded in Strasbourg in 2012, producing around a 100 minutes of music over the two CDs. Like the previous albums, this recording re-examines pieces from the 'tower' series. An example such as sur l'électricité (tk1 CD1), has been presented in two formats. The first time was on volume two with Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Dominique Pifarély: violin and Tom Rainey on drums, along with Ducret on guitar. The second time was on volume four (an excellent album), where Ducret performed a selection of these pieces in solo format on acoustic guitar.² The appeal of Tower-Bridge lies more in the extended performances of these pieces, and of course the line extended up that performs them. The musicians, 12 in all, are the sum of all the albums in the series, forming a sort of mini big-band. This produces plenty of sparks and some fine music with powerful solos supported by tight ensemble playing.

If you haven't heard Marc Ducret's music before and you're open to rock meets free-jazz meets Zappa meets contemporary classical music, then you'll love this. There's plenty of dynamic interaction between the musicians. Ducret has a knack in providing action-packed pieces, his rhythmic concept often develops around tight interlocking contrapuntal lines to produce long melodies which have a logic of their own. He also loves to use dissonance as a tool, combining it with rhythm in a powerful combination.

There is so much on this record it would be impossible to delve into each piece. A few highlights include Tim Berne's inimitable alto leading the way on sur l'électricité (tk1 CD1). This track has a lot of information, a great theme, and plenty of muscular interludes with several gripping solos. The fantastical atmospheres conjured up in Real thing #1 (tk2 CD1) builds around a succession of duet/trio sections leading gradually to feature for the violin of Dominique Pifarély. Track 3 (CD1), real thing #2 has a wonderful strident solo from Kasper Tranberg (trumpet) who manages to ride over the heavy rocking ensemble, punctuated by powerful piano chord clusters. Softly her tower crumbled into the Sweet Silent Sun (tk1 CD2) flies out of the speakers like an angry neighbour shouting. The final track of the album L'Ombra di Verdi (tk3 CD2) produces a mysterious theme in the closing half which hangs somewhere between a film noir theme and a 6/8 rock ballad.

What else can we say about such a great record? I guess that if you haven't heard Ducret before this is a good place to start, there's fine compositions and performances all here. And, if you like this then you'll need no encouragement to look into his work even further. As for Marc Ducret fans, if you haven't got this one, buy it!

The website says this is a limited edition of 1000. 

Here's a video of the group live. The recording is more 'centred' sound-wise, but here you get some idea of the groups sound, and size. If you look for Ducret's Tower-bridge project on Youtube you'll find plenty of other examples. 

The musicians on this record are: Kasper Tranberg - trumpet; Dominique Pifarély - violin; Tim Berne - alto saxophone; Matthias Mahler - trombone; Fidel Fourneyron - trombone; Alexis Persigan - trombone; Frédéric Gastard - bass saxophone; Antonin Rayon - piano; Sylvain Lemêtre - percussion,vibraphone, xylophone, marimba; Tom Rainey - drums; Peter Bruun - drums and Marc Ducret - electric guitar

Other albums in the Tower-bridge series:
Tower, vol. 1, Tower, vol. 2, Tower, vol. 3, Tower, vol. 4

¹, accessed Sept. 6, 2014.
² It's interesting to add that volume four is the only record that has pieces unique to that record. There are a few pieces which are re-examined from the other volumes, however, tracks: From a Distant Land; Sisters; Ada; ... A Distand Land; Sybil Vane, and Electricity (by Joni Mitchell), are to be found only on this album.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Max Johnson – The Prisoner (NoBusiness, 2014) ****

Deep Listening Weekend - Day 2

By Dan Sorrells

Looking back, Patrick McGoohan’s TV classic The Prisoner marked the point where the anti-establishment rebelliousness of 60s counter-culture started to sour into the paranoia of the 70s. Over the decades the show has remained tremendously influential, while the sort of surveillance society that it railed against is increasingly realized in our current hyper-digital, globalized world.

The concerns of The Prisoner are interesting in the context of Max Johnson’s namesake tribute album, performed by a quartet of Johnson, Ingrid Laubrock, Mat Maneri, and Tomas Fujiwara. As our anxiety grows about a modern culture that’s slowly warping into The Prisoner’s Village, we also live in a world that allows improvising musicians unprecedented means for inspiration and collaboration. As websites subversively build detailed profiles of all our likes and movements, The Prisoner’s musicians and I can go online and easily enjoy the cult British series made before any of us were born. As the NSA presses Google for warrantless information, Max Johnson can effortlessly send a promotional copy of his album to my GMail, and I can download it onto my computer within seconds.

But whatever the conditions for its conception, the music is what’s important. What makes The Prisoner a remarkable album is that Johnson’s loose compositions convey a certain narrative and drama all on their own, regardless of whether you’re familiar with the show that inspired them. And—just like the show—what they ultimately do best is imbue the listening environment with a sense of the uncanny, the queasy feeling that nothing is quite what it seems.

 “No. 6 Arrival/No. 58 Orange Alert” begins in a tentative, exploratory manner: low in volume, the music feels its way through unfamiliar territory, with long tendrils of strings reaching out through Laubrock’s hazy tenor and Fujiwara’s delicate percussion. It’s uneasy yet beautiful, slightly claustrophobic even as it picks up in volume and texture.  But before the piece comes to a close, the Orange Alert: Laubrock sounds a chiming alarm, and the music comes alive. It’s busy but short-lived, much like McGoohan’s first scuffle with the eerie Rover that can be seen chasing him across the album sleeve.

Elsewhere, “X04” has the jaunty swagger of the show’s jazzy interludes, while “No. 24 Hammer into Anvil” builds to a marching crescendo that erupts into a free improv workout. “No. 48 Living in Harmony” flirts with Alice Coltrane-style spiritual jazz, with some beautiful saxophone playing that calls to mind Pharaoh Sanders. Bolstered by Johnson’s thick, bowed double stops and Maneri’s skittering lines, the piece perfectly conveys the paranoid, suspicious nature of the show: beneath the placid melody, a dark undercurrent surges, the deep, uncertain flow that threatens the outwardly normal surface.

The Prisoner showcases music of many influences, but never blatantly declares itself to be any of them. The uncanny pseudo-familiarity is part of the fun. However untrusting No. 6 may have been of the others he enlisted in his escape attempts, Johnson can be assured he has a rock-solid crew of co-conspirators for his realization of The Prisoner. He’s proving to be a brilliant and surprising frontman as of late. To him I’ll simply say:

“Be hearing you.”

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Max Johnson – The Prisoner (NoBusiness, 2014) ****½

Deep Listening Weekend - Day 1

By Martin Schray

The Prisoner was a cult British TV series created by Patrick McGoohan, which has inspired metal and punk bands as different as Iron Maiden, XTC or The Clash. The plot is about a secret service agent who finds himself a prisoner in an isolated village after he decided to resign. The village, in which the individual is reduced to a number (the protagonist is No. 6), is controlled by a mysterious No. 1, although nobody gets to see him. The village is guarded by an elaborate surveillance system, including security personnel and a mysterious balloon-like device that recaptures – or kills – those who try to escape. The village administrators are various No. 2s, who are replaced constantly because of their futile attempts to find out about No. 6’s real reasons to resign. Aesthetically the series is a weird stylistic mix of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451, Orwell’s 1984 and James Bond films, but even 45 years after it was created you can still feel its claustrophobic and Kafkaesque mood.

New York-based bassist Max Johnson, a man who has collaborated with artists as various as Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, The Butthole Surfers, Vernon Reid and several bluegrass (!) bands, has been fascinated by this series since he was a kid. But when he decided to compose a suite based on the series he was obviously not interested in interpreting or using the original score, which rather reminds of classic 1960s spy movie soundtracks. Instead Johnson tried to capture the above-mentioned atmosphere.  Even structurally he tried to transform the concepts, the “intricate webs weaved throughout the show, [the] loose ends that never get tied up, and huge questions that are never answered” into music. The music has an episodic character: Johnson said that “some of the tunes represent little moments or episodes, while the beginning and end of the suite signify bigger parts of the story.”

And the album is indeed bookended by the longest tracks, “No. 6: Arrival/No. 58: Orange Alert,” and “No. 2: Once Upon a Time/No. 1: Fallout.”  The first one introduces us to the world of the prisoner and sets the tone for the album – it is a gloomy and oppressive world and the musicians use long, deep and dark tones to illustrate this. The long and almost ethereal beginning is destroyed with a siren-like call by Laubrock’s sax which forces the group to test out the boundaries of the composition – just like No. 6 trying to escape from the village. The latter closes the album with a two-part finale (like the series). Part one begins almost melancholic, as if there was a certain nostalgia in the face of the near end, but the final part (like the episode) flows into chaos with Laubrock and the strings battling wildly and Fujiwara soloing (one of the great moments of the album, since it represents the brutality and action of the last part of the show as well) before the whole piece evolves into a funeral march meandering in a classic bebop improvisation – a final hint to the series when the protagonists finally manage to leave the village.

These two tracks are like blueprints for the other compositions. “No. 12: Schizoid Man/Gemini,” an episode when No. 6 is replaced by a spooky look-alike in order to crash his self, focuses on Maneri’s viola and Laubrock’s sax stalking each other mysteriously. And one of the more brutal episodes – “No. 24: Hammer Into Anvil”, in which a paranoid, sadistic No. 2 has taken over – begins with a painful sax call, before there are high-pitched scratching and straining tones from the viola, which leads to a pure free jazz fight in its last few minutes. It’s my favorite part on the album.

One of the most famous quotations of the show—“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered”—is like a motto for Max Johnson’s music: It is hard to pigeonhole this music, it is programmatic and notated yet free and excessive at the same time. And with Ingrid Laubrock on tenor saxophone, Mat Maneri on viola and Tomas Fujiwara on drums, he simply has a great band.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Solo Bass

Bass player on the way to play at a village festival, Serbia, 1965 
(by Henri Cartier-Bresson)
By Stef

The bad thing about being a fan of solo bass albums, is that I wait to long to review them, trying to bring them all in one article, but of course that doesn't work well, probably not doing service to the musicians, yet the good thing is that within the strict limits of this unwieldy instrument variation, beauty and adventure resides, depending on whose magic is at work.

Peter Jacquemyn - Dig Deep (ChampdAction, 2014) ****

The first musician on the list is Belgian sculpture, visual artist and bassist Peter Jacquemyn, who is a force of nature when you see him perform live, as the video below will testify. His playing is physical, direct, revealing an immediacy of thought and emotion, that is the foundation of further expansions, as if pushed by the moment itself. He himself uses the Spanish palindrome 'La ruta nos aportó otro paso natural', used by the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela : 'the road offers us the natural next step'.

The first track is a short introduction, but with "Low", a lengthy piece played arco, Jaquemyn demonstrates his skills and musical vision, evolving from intense repetitive bowing over deep drone-like scrapings to sensitive pizzi work.  On "Lower", he accompanies his playing by deep throat-singing, resonating with the bowing that keeps circulating around a low tonal centre, then the intensity increases with a more heavy attack on multiple strings, repetitive and hypnotic.

The music starts calmer on "High", in an amazing duet between bass and overtone singing, a sensitive and gentle exploration of timbre and glissandi, yet the rest of the track offers a contrast of noise and string multiphonics, possibly the result of two bows or prepared strings.

Peter Jaquemyn is the real thing, an artist without compromise, with a sound and a musical 'voice' that is incredible authentic and true to itself ... a thing of value, and great listening.

Mike Majkowski - Why Is There Something Instead Of Nothing (Bocian, 2014) ****

When playing this vinyl LP very loud on the turntable, my wife came running in wondering what was happening. The intense monotonous sound that shook her came from Australian Mike Majkowski's arco bass, who, on the first piece, manages to play a single note for twenty minutes, with slight variations that are sometimes deliberate, with the occasional plucked string in between the drone-like sound, but that are also less deliberate, as the result of sheer physical necessity to change the position of the wrist or the angle of the bow, and the amazing thing is that despite this narrow angle of approach, the music does change, and it is captivating and mesmerising.

The B-side is even more beautiful, with two repeated bowed notes piercing through a sea of silence, to be replaced in the second part of the improvisation with sparse but powerful plucked notes.

Margarida Garcia - The Leaden Echo (Headlights, 2014) ****

Of a totally different nature is this little gem by Portugues bassist Margarida Garcia, a 200 copies one-sided LP of seventeen minutes. The sound of her bass resonates like I've rarely heard a bass resonate, filling the space completely, with long bowed tones that make every nerve in your body vibrate in harmony, whether very deep or very high, it is sad, eery moaning and terrifying at the same time, hard to capture in words (luckily!). The second piece is played pizzi, but with the same calm and sober power, creating a desolate sonic universe that is compelling and unique.

I really and truly wish this album was longer, yet at the same time it creates a great sense of anticipation for more.

Tom Blancarte - The Shortening Of The Way (Tubapede, 2014) ****

Bass players apparently are into vinyl these days, and so is Tom Blancarte, who kicks off the first side with some ear-piercing ferocious bowing, that keeps its dynamics from beginning to end, relentlessly, resulting in an obsessive trance-like incantation, with deep undercurrents of pain and distress, creating wild multiphonics on the strings like several voices screaming to get some relief, to get some rest, to get some resolution, but guess what, they're not getting it at all, transposing the sense of anguish on the listener whose nerves become the instrument of the artist.

The second track is easily as intense, constructed out of quick bursts of sound, like furious scratches of pencil in a sketch, direct transposition of emotion to sound, without preconceived notions, without polishing, without ornaments, just the immediacy of sound as sound, abstract and tense, almost percussive at times, fast and hard-hitting.

Louis-Michel Marion - 5 Strophes (Kadima, 2014) ****

French bassist Louis-Michel Marion is possibly less known, and maybe because his art is a quiet one, an art of precision of sonic quality, of sensitivity to sound, of opening space for sound, yet in a gentle, elegant way. There is no screaming, no extended techniques, nothing obtrusive, no, you get well-paced bowed sounds, circling around a tonal center, with quiet repetitiveness, and intense deepening of the universe created. Even if he gives Joëlle Léandre and Barre Phillips as references, his music is something else entirely, often closer to modern classical music and minimalism than to jazz or free music. 

Ryan McGuire - Civilian (Bandcamp, 2013) ***½

Avant-metal bassist Ryan McGuire surprises with this solo double bass album, offering twelve tracks each with their own character and approach, played both plucked and bowed, and in contrast to what you wold assume, his style bears no relation with the avant metal of Ehnare. The music is varied, lyrical even at times, such as on "At Night", or on "Delicate Creatures", and especially in the middle of the album does he increase his explorations, as on "Quicksands", and "The Speaking Tree". I wish he would have given us some more of that. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Then there are some albums that were released in the past years, and which could also be of interest to fans of solo bass performances. 

James Ilgenfritz - Compositions (Braxton) 2011 (Infrequent Seams, 2012)

This album by James Ilgenfritz only now came to my attention. He transposes material from Braxton to solo bass, not a minor feat by itself, "integrating integrating well-known materials from Braxton’s quartet repertoire, trumpet cadenzas from Composition 103 (for 7 trumpets) and orchestral parts, with some of his numerous improvisation and structuring systems, including the Ghost Trance Music, Coordinate Music, Pulse Tracks, and Language Musics"

Shayna Dulberger - The Basement Recordings (Self, 2011)

Same thing with this Shayna Dulberger solo album, which is now available via Bandcamp.

The album brings us a lot of varied and fresh sounds, with lots of interesting ideas, one or more for each of the tracks, which remain somewhat undeveloped, making the total package sound like the nicely prepared ingredients for a sumptuous dish which you do not get, or just like here, the ingredients can be eaten separately as finger food, and will taste as delicious. 

Paul Rogers -  Solo (Bootleg, 1986)

One of the real masters of solo bass performances is Paul Rogers, whose playing stands on its own, in a different category of music. This bootleg was recorded at Tony Levin's home  15 September 1986, and can be downloaded for free from "Inconstant Sol". Even if sometimes meanders a bit, other pieces are absolutely stellar. He is inventive, lyrical, generous, warm, adventurous, deep, moving, complex, authentic, straightforward, sensitive, intense, ...

Yoni Kretzmer - Protest Music (Out Now Recordings, 2014) ****

By Ed Pettersen

This is the second record I’ve been asked by the FJB to review this month where I knew absolutely nothing about the artist beforehand but yet again it’s a revelation.  Every track bristles with verve, passion and creativity and Protest Music is the perfect title for it as each track urges you to feel something, asks you make a stand without making you angry or agitated.  Call it compassionate provocation.

Yoni Kretzmer is an Israeli saxophonist who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.  He began practicing his particular blend of classical and free jazz in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and studied at the American School of Modern Music in Paris.  The band is only bass, drums and sax yet is excellent on this record and you’d think they had been playing together for ages though they’ve only been working for a short time (Mr. Kretzmer has a few units he works with since his move to the U.S.).  They are seamless and the interplay between them stellar, evocative and inspiring.  They sound like much more than just three pieces.  It strikes me that Mr. Kretzmer is probably highly influenced by Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and a bit of Sam Rivers but explores the lower registers of his sax more than those legends which is a good thing in my mind.  It would be too easy to mine the same territory in this style yet I found this music wholly original. The songs on Protest Music - This, Is, Our, Very, First, Album, Together - have a lot of variety for such a small band and though a lot is going on to propel the songs there’s plenty of room to breathe too.  None of the songs are very long, the longest is just over 9 minutes, but they hold your attention at every note and leave you wanting more.  Perfect.

The group is Mr. Kretzmer on sax, Pascal Niggenkemper on double bass and Weasel Walter on drums.  It was beautifully recorded at Park West Studios in Brooklyn by Jim Clouse.  Due to his classical studies he brings a unique sensibility to his craft and I think you’ll hear that classical influence in his songs.  He’s obviously found some very sympathetic players to his compositions.  This is terrific stuff.  I look forward to hearing more from this terrific young instrumentalist and composer.  I listened to this album at least four times while writing this review and will go back to Protest Music a lot more in the future.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Peter Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask - Bite My Blues (Clean Feed, 2014) ****

By Paul Acquaro

The second track, 'What?!' is a heart-stopping, hard-hitting, kind of feels-good-even-though-it-kind-of-hurts type of thrash-jazz-rock, which is all fine and good if you have stuck around after the first track 'Chained' peeled some skin off your face. It's Peter Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask - a heavy jazz trio from Berlin and their latest album, Bite My Blues, recorded mostly live, has been burning holes through my earbuds for a while now. It seems that each time I press play, powerful blasts of energy jolt me anew.

While Van Huffel's alto sax channels fiery from the gut playing most of the time, there is also a great deal of melodicism in his playing. Between the typically short and catchy heads, his fierce playing arcs with electricity. The track 'Fast and Furious' is a good example - a couple of minutes into the tune there is a pause and drop in volume that gives the track a chance to change gears from blistering to reflective only to quickly return to even more blistering.

Van Huffel's band mates are Roland Fidezius on bass and Rudi Fischerlehner on drums. Their accompaniment is an indispensable element to the album - the energy and forcefulness is kept in check by a mindful and subtle restraint that helps focus the lightning strikes. They have an extended interlude on 'Skunk' that showcases their rapport and a good display of their power can be seen in the track 'Z'. The track's stuttering rhythmic drive propels Van Huffel's slightly overblown lines further and further, while at the same time holding it all back just enough to make the release mid-way all the more satisfying.

My only complaint, if you can call it a complaint, is that this is a beast of an album, it's a thrill to take in all at once, but it may leave you a bit fried! Highly recommended.