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In Order to Survive: Cooper-Moore (p), William Parker (b), Hamid Drake (d), Rob Brown (s)

Shapeshifter Lab, Brooklyn, NY. July 2017. Photo by Paul Acquaro

KALABALIK: Raoul Bjorkenheim (g), Gerald Cleaver (d), Anders Nillson (g)

Downtown Music Gallery. June 2017. Photo By Scott Friedlander

Anthony Braxton

jazzwerkstatt Peitz Nr. 54, Petiz, Germany. June 2017. Photo by Paul Acquaro

Thomas Herberer (t) and Pascal Niggenkemper (b)

jazzwerkstatt Peitz Nr. 54, Petiz, Germany. June 2017. Photo by Paul Acquaro

Ravi Coltrane (s), Matthew Garrison (b), Jack DeJohnette (d)

Jazzfest, Denton, TX. April 28, 2017. Photo by Rick Joines

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Peter Brötzmann / Steve Swell / Paal Nilssen-Love - Live in Tel Aviv (Not Two, 2017) ****½

By Eyal Hareuveni

Live in Tel Aviv is the third live album of the powerful trio of German reeds player Peter Brötzmann, American trombonist Steve Swell, and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love since its formation in February 2015. It follows live documents from Krakow, Poland and Copenhagen, Denmark (all released by Not Two). Live in Tel Aviv was recorded at the Levontin 7 club, the same club where Brötzmann and Nilssen-Love recorded their previous duo performance.

This album is more concise than the previous live ones, only 43 minutes long, but captures the trio energetic dynamics at its best (I can testify to that as I was sitting in the first row). It opens with the 31-minutes “The Greasy Grind”. The first sounds come from Brötzmann, his typical, muscular sax roar. Swell and Nilssen-Love join immediately and charge the stormy intensity with the power of a hurricane. Both criss-cross Brötzmann's muscular cries and eventually release the cathartic tension with moving melodic lines, and light infectious rhythmic detours. This play of building and releasing tension continues along a massive, propulsive grind, and stresses the role of Nilssen-Love as the beating heart of the trio.

Nilssen-Love shifts the storm dynamics with masterful, totally natural leadership. He constantly varies and colors the pulse with imaginative bare hands drumming that suggest new, exotic scales, scratches of the drum skins and cymbal surfaces with varied objects, and dances with inventive cymbal touches. Nilssen-Love knows when to push Brötzmann or to offer fresh rhythmic ideas that highlight his strong bond with Swell, as they explore different sonic avenues. Inevitably, he directs this muscular grind towards another ecstatic tour-de-force that ends with an emotional duet of Brötzmann and Swell.

The second piece, the shorter, 13-minutes of “Ticklish Pickle”, solidifies Swell masterful exploration of sonic ideas. Swell transforms these abstract sounds instantly to rhythmic patterns that correspond with Nilssen-Love's drumming. Soon both lay a light, free-associative pulse that accommodates Brötzmann's lyrical and gentle cries on the clarinet. Both comment on these tender cries with brief emotional blows and delicate cymbal touches, patiently concluding this inspiring performance with a surprising, peaceful, and compassionate coda.

[See also Derek Stone's review of Live in Tel Aviv.]

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ripsaw Catfish - Namazu (Raw Tonk Records, 2017) ****½

By Lee Rice Epstein

There’s something inherently revealing about a duo performance. Being let into a discrete conversation between two musicians creates a kind of intimacy, I think, between the duo and listener. This is heightened in person, but a great recording can also bridge this gap across the digital divide. Case in point, Ripsaw Catfish’s latest, Namazu. A guitar-baritone sax duo based in England—guitarist Anton Hunter resides in Manchester, while saxophonist Cath Roberts is in London—Ripsaw Catfish is as stunning as its biological namesake.

Namazu is the duo’s second album for Raw Tonk, following their debut, For the Benefit of the Tape. This new album was recorded over two live shows. “Stone” and “Mud,” from October 2016, comprise the first half of the album. “Thrash,” from November 2016, wraps things nicely with a non-stop 20+ minutes of fierce improvisation.

“Stone” begins with an almost skittish tease. Around seven minutes in, Hunter breaks into some grandly abstract noise, and Roberts goes searing off-planet into the upper register of her baritone sax. As radical as the shift seems, it's just as rapidly deconstructed. The track ends as Roberts blows a relaxed melody contrasting Hunter’s punk-ish feedback. These contrasting textures reappear in “Mud,” a longish textural improvisation that sustains its high-wire tension for over 15 minutes. Hunter has a way of subverting the guitar by pushing it to some highly unexpected places. He’ll drag his pick across the strings, then quickly shift into muted staccato.

Fittingly, the final piece, “Thrash,” recapitulates several ideas and threads first presented in “Stone” and “Mud.” Opening with a ping-pong game of Roberts’s pops and Hunter’s muted picking and plucking, the single performance very quickly shifts into a playful, driving improvisation. These constant shifting dynamics mean no one person stays in the lead for long. Roberts plays some melancholic lines midway through “Thrash,” which Hunter gently steers into a kind of post-rock drone, before the two pivot again into a section of thorny, abstract interplay. There’s a sense of humor underlying some of the more heightened improvisation, befitting a band that named itself for a dangerously thorny fish. Similarly, the album title, Namazu, comes from a Japanese folktale about a large fish. The triptych retells the myth of Namazu, who is kept in place by a stone, buried in the mud beneath Japan, until it gets free and thrashes about, causing major earthquakes. ‘Nuff said?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mama Luma – S/t ( Krapp’s Tapes / Noise-Below, 2017 ) ****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Mama Luma is a free jazz/improv trio from Thessaloniki, Greece consisting of Christos Yermenoglou on drums, Pavlos Pavlidis on alto sax and Haris Agoritsas on tenor sax and electric guitar. On this self-titled cassette their sound is expanded into a quartet with the addition of Illias Fillaridis on piano.

Any way you see it - as a trio or quartet - Mama Luma have a rough path to follow. Their choice of playing this kind of music in a country shredded to pieces by austerity - with a left government that nullified the last hopes of the majority - is a hard one. Why? Because, basically, almost no one cares.

Very few are taking into account the way Mama Luma have absorbed both traditions in free playing. They incorporate the energy and pathos of free jazz from the other side of the Atlantic, while in their music you will find the never-ending search for non-linear progression of European improvisation. Well, they do seem to enjoy it!

Mama Luma’s music is definitely structured (or, better, balanced) around Yermenoglou’s percussion skills. While the other two seem to move in and out of focus, he stands – even at his freest moments – audibly in the middle of their sound. With Fillaridis joining in the added piano brings a second point of focus. The feeling you get from this recording from 2014 is a similar sense of the urgency to the first generation of European free jazz. The audio quality – so suitable for a cassette – isn’t the best you can find, but it adds up to the aforementioned feeling.

The louder parts are saturated by this audio quality. You kind of feel like you have to lean towards your cassette player and try harder to listen. This kind of audio hiss and lo-fi noise felt very satisfying, certainly a piece of the whole experience. Their music – as also presented on a live setting – is not one of a linear progress but, on the contrary, one of highs and lows. I definitely enjoyed the fact that the piano is part of the whole noise aesthetic of the cassette.

Why buy this cassette? Because this is a free jazz quartet who is not taking itself seriously while they are trying to present their take of free jazz through a lo-fi noise aesthetic. If all the above are not enough for you, then I do not know what else to say…

Listen here:


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Unique Vocal Artistry of Isabelle Duthoit and Viv Corringham

Two recent releases, presenting two unique vocal artists - French, Vienna-based Isabelle Duthoit and British, New York-based Viv Corringham. Both demonstrate how even the most weird and experimental music can sound sensual and tempting...

Isabelle Duthoit / Franz Hautzinger - Lily (Relative Pitch, 2017) *****

The duo of Isabelle Duthoit (who also plays the clarinet but not on this recording) and Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger, a couple also in their private life, has been playing together a great deal in recent years, including in a quartet with Czech trumpeter Petr Vrba and Austrian synthesizer player Matija Schellander (that recorded Esox Lucius, Corvo Records, 2015) and recently at Nickelsdorf’s Konfrontationen festival in the Uruk quartet with American drummers-percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang. Lily is their first recording of Duthoit and Hautzinger as a duo and it compiles eight studio improvisations, recorded at Park West Studios, Brooklyn in March 2015 and a live improvisation, captured at Philly track Crossroads Music, later that month.

Lily is an intimate meeting, not only because of the personal connection between Duthoit and Hautzinger but more due to the emotional tone of this album. Duthoit and Hautzinger sound like opposites who attract and complement each other. She employs her expressive, wordless voice to suggest physically intense, deep emotional states of mind while he prefers a more reserved and introspective playing. She sound completely intuitive, totally possessed by her uninhibited, extrovert feelings while he adopts g a more cerebral sense of control. But such distinctions are eventually superficial. Duthoit and Hautzinger are strong-minded improvisers who like to take risks and experiment. Both know how sketch profound, fascinating sonic universes with minimalist, simple means.   

Hautzinger keeps developing on Lily his idiosyncratic vocabulary that translates reductive, electronic sounds to microtonal trumpet sounds, often using a quarter-tone trumpet to produce pure, abstract sounds and silent breaths. Duthoit spirals Hautzinger's abstract expressions into turbulent, ecstatic moods, with her immediate, natural stream of cries, groans, shrieks, gasps and whispers. Their interplay is simply telepathic - quiet, close and naked. Sometimes it is difficult to know who is doing what, Often both leap instantly between quiet, meditative expressions to cathartic peaks. On other times, as on the urgent “Un Serpent Dans la Nuit” or on the last, live playful piece, the only improvisation where Hutzinger references sounds of a conventional trumpet, Duthoit and Hautzinger sound like sonic lovers, literally, enjoying every second and every aspect of their unique relationship.

Viv Corringham / Stephen Flinn / Miguel Frasconi ‎– Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens (Creative Sources, 2017) ***½

The trio of Corringham with American percussionist Stephen Flinn and glass objects player Miguel Frasconi was formed in 2015 and is titled aptly after the old public gardens in Kennington, on the south bank of the Thames river, now part of London. Listening to the debut album of this spontaneous-improvising trio, recorded at The Pencil Factory, Brooklyn in November 2016, may bring memories of an amusing trip to an enigmatic garden, full of weird, colorful sounds and visions.

Corringham is a certified Deep Listening teacher, after studying with Pauline Oliveros, and has worked before with innovative percussionist as Gino Robair and Eddie Prévost and vocal artist Maggie Nicols; Flinn is a composer who searches for unusual sound sources, uses rhythms to teach positive communications and social skills and has performed before with innovative vocal artists as Phil Minton, Jaap Blonk and Nichols; Frasconi is a composer specializing in the relationship between acoustic objects and musical forms, playing also on electronics and constructions of his own design and has composed chamber music, operas, film and dance scores.  

The six untitled pieces explore different, unchartered terrains of strange and even strangers sounds and dynamics, with elegance and impressive senses of adventure and invention. On the first one Corringham vocalizations mirror and extend the subtle, free-associative stream of  sounds of Flinn and Frasconi. The following improvisations are looser and more abstract, sketching detailed atmospheres with clear strokes of resonating sounds and a suggestive voice. The trio moves freely on these improvisations, offering on the third one an introspective and quiet texture and  sparse sonic searches on the fourth one. On the fifth one the trio explores game-like ideas. Flinn focuses on fragmented berimbau-like sounds, Frasconi dives into deep-space sounds while Corringham offers her uninhibited stream-of consciousness delivery. The last, short one is the most playful and passionate one, like three mad sonic scientists make mad sonic love.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Peeter Uuskyla / Tellef Øgrim / Anders Berg - Ullr (Simlas, 2017) ****

By Antonio Poscic

In Norse mythology, Ullr is usually depicted as a cryptic god “of snowshoes, hunting, the bow, and the shield.” So what strange motivation pushed drummer Peeter Uuskyla, guitarist Tellef Øgrim, and bassist Anders Berg to title their new record in his name? Perhaps it’s just a serendipitous result of the Scandinavian trio’s game of free association. Or could it be that Ullr is here to reveal an additional dimension of the deity’s symbolism, identified by some accounts as the god of duelling. The music on the record – boisterous and contained, silent and maniacal – suggests as much through a constant constructive tension between the players and a sense of confrontation that outlines the six intriguing cuts.

Take the opening “Disembark then Board,” for example, which rolls in with Uuskyla’s powerful, machine gun drumming that messily entangles Øgrim’s disjointed fragments of bluesy riffs and Berg’s bass twirls, swishes, and drones. It’s an energetic tune with allusions to a rock foundation disassembled and thrashed around an improvised framework. The flow of the track is nonetheless surprisingly stable, rhythmically anchored to Uuskyla’s vociferous drumming. The tense, aggressive mood brought on by the first track is partially dispelled on the second, “Ullr,” which is bare and simple, almost minimalist. It’s a song defined by Berg’s bass chugging and burrowing, resembling a caterpillar escaping its pupa, his tone reminiscent of Bill Laswell’s bulbous, distorted instrument. Meanwhile, Uuskyla will replace his drums for percussive elements on “Lusk,” steadying things even further and pushing Berg and Øgrim to the forefront while they create a seductive and pulsing breeze.

But it’s somehow always Uuskyla’s often spastic drumming style that dominates the proceedings, touching on the rapturous, bordering on the chaotic, even on slower cuts such as “By the Southward Verging Sun.” It’s not surprising then that the centerpiece of the record, the twelve minutes long “Shine Your Soul,” is also propelled by rhythm – first by firm handclaps, then by a sparse but long winded drum “solo” – and all the while haunted by a constantly rising tempo. Here Uuskyla provides a swooshing backdrop for Berg’s intermittent bass punctuations and Øgrim’s isolated, squeaky and nervous guitar riffs. It makes for a riveting, hypnotic piece. As this epic fades, two shorter, to-the-point tracks take over and close the album. Out of the two, “By the Southward Verging Sun” is especially soulful and calmly beautiful, formed as a dismantled ballad.

Emerging parallel to a very productive Scandinavian free jazz and improv scene, Uuskyla, Øgrim, and Berg end up doing their own thing. Contrasting the stylistic traits exhibited by some of their peers – Trespass Trio’s contemporary jazz sensibilities or Fire! (Orchestra)’s progressive approach – the trio’s music is an oblique and deconstructed but red-hot mix of jazz, rock, and several other styles in between. As a whole, Ullr is an engaging, captivating, and often unrivaled listen.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Mario Pavone – Vertical (Clean Feed, 2017) ****

By Troy Dostert

A reunion record of sorts, with bass legend Mario Pavone getting together with some long-time colleagues of old in a sextet format. And the results are predictably excellent: multiple horn parts giving life to Pavone’s thorny compositions, a strong yet occasionally unpredictable rhythmic current, and superb musicianship throughout.

Pavone was quite fond of medium-sized groups on his early records as a leader: sextets, septets, and octets were commonplace. And a number of the personnel here are veterans of those albums, specifically drummer Michael Sarin, saxophonist Tony Malaby, and trombonist Peter McEachern. Trumpeter Dave Ballou is a more recent partner, having played on Pavone’s 2014 release Street Songs; and clarinetist Oscar Noriega is only now joining Pavone on record for the first time. It’s a wonderful ensemble, in any event, and it marks a departure from most of Pavone’s recordings during the last several years, as with the exception of Street Songs, he’s been working heavily in a piano-trio format. To be sure, they’ve been some outstanding piano trios: when your recent resume entries include outings with colleagues like Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver (Arc Trio, from 2013) and Matt Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey (Blue Dialect, from 2015), you know you’re at the top of the heap. But it’s a treat to hear Pavone returning to the larger group context in which so many of his excellent records, like Song For (Septet) (1993), Dancers Tales (1997), and Deez to Blues (2005) were made.

One crucial difference here from those earlier records, however, is the absence of a pianist. On almost all of his medium and smaller-group projects, pianists (especially Peter Madsen, a ubiquitous presence on lots of Pavone records) were there to complement Pavone’s lyrical side, enhancing the accessibility of Pavone’s catchy but sometimes challenging compositions. Without that role in this group, Pavone’s pieces are somewhat less immediately satisfying; they take a bit more work to grab ahold of. But while the pleasures of the music aren’t as quickly forthcoming, there are still some fine moments of collective music-making on this record.

Pavone’s skill at harnessing the strengths of his partners has always been a hallmark of his music, and it’s certainly evident here. Ballou should get a good deal of the credit in this regard, as he’s listed as the primary arranger on these eleven cuts.   His charts utilize the four-horn format splendidly, with interweaving parts that set up intriguing harmonies and rhythmic nuances. The compositions are also nice and compact, with no meandering: most clock in at around 5-6 minutes, rendering solo statements potent and focused. Even so, there’s an open feel to much of the music, as Pavone allows space for spontaneity as well. Especially memorable tracks are “Suitcase in Savannah,” where Sarin’s and Pavone’s airtight rapport sustain an intricate groove that supports feisty soloing from Ballou and Malaby; “Cube Code,” a catchy piece that features some riveting mutual improvisation between Ballou and Noriega; “Start Oval,” an irresistible track built around a sinuous ostinato phrase that will definitely get the toes tapping; and the closer, “Voice Oval,” which gives all four horns some room for stimulating group improvisation.

All in all, a welcome and highly worthy addition to Pavone’s substantial catalog of impressive mid-sized group recordings.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vasco Trilla

By Dan Sorrells

Barcelona-based drummer Vasco Trilla is having his moment—but he’s only just getting started. Last year saw a dramatic uptick in Trilla’s recorded output, with two solo records (The Rainbow Serpent on FMR and Suspended Step on Discordian), Tidal Heating on NotTwo (an absurdly virtuosic trio with Michał Dymny and Rafal Mazur), stunning duos with bassist Johannes Nästesjö, flutist Pablo Selnik, pianist Jivko Bratanov, and saxophonist Yedo Gibson, and still other recordings with groups like Obo, Tatvamasi, and Triplezero.

Trilla first came to music via metal, and has drifted more and more towards free improvisation after years of playing progressive and jazz-rock in groups like October Equus and Planeta Imaginario. Since 2011, he has been closely linked with the Discordian netlabel and the associated Barcelona scene. Trilla’s breadth of experience makes him a particularly protean drummer—he slides easily from playing precise time and complex changes to driving, pulse-based free drumming to almost indeterminate experiments in noise, using bells, bows, and other objects to create shimmering—and sometimes menacing—fields of sound. Surveying his work from the first half of the year provides an excellent overview of his varied approach, and leaves no question as to why he’s become an in-demand collaborator throughout Europe.

Völga – Völga (Multikulti Project, 2017)

Völga is the quartet of Trilla, guitarist Fernando Carrasco, bassist Àlex Reviriego, and trumpeter Iván González. The idea is to bring elements of disparate genres like black metal, folk, and ambient into free improvisation. In this, Völga is successful, although these strains of music are represented indirectly, imported more through a certain stance towards music-making than via tangible things like riffs or blastbeats. Theirs is a music of abrasion, ritual, and what Trilla calls “impossible textures.” Opening track “Valdái” is metal against metal, Reviriego's resounding bass plunking notes against a grinding, grating backdrop. There's a nearness to the recording that makes you feel like you're somehow inside all of the instruments at once, or maybe trapped at the bottom of a well, all four members peering over the edge and raining their sounds down upon you.

Elsewhere, "Samara" builds to a remarkable crescendo of jangling metal, radio static and feedback. "Kalmukya" begins with ringing bells, a repetitive acoustic guitar motif, and González's fluttering trumpet tremolo. As with much of the album, it exists in a weird holding pattern between abrasiveness and beauty—and there's no denying the beauty and lyricism here, even as Trilla and González steadily intensify the tension and noise, like a folk song being played on an industrial factory floor. By subtracting the overt, familiar characteristics of their influences, Völga instead tap directly into their vital energy, resulting in a unique and immersive ambiance, and one of the best listens of the year.

Szilárd Mezei, Marina Džukljev, Vasco Trilla – Still Now (If You Still) (FMR, 2017)

Still Now (If You Still) is music of furious virtuosity. It is an album that makes you hold your breath as you listen. It is sound rushing into a vacuum. Paolo Virno says that virtuosity is “an activity which finds its own fulfillment (that is, its own purpose) in itself, without objectifying itself into an end product.” It is also “an activity which requires the presence of others.” These seem like particularly apt descriptions of improvised music, which is concerned with the process of creation rather than specifically what has been created, and requires the witness of musicians and audiences to come into being.

Here, virtuosity transcends technical ability—which is certainly on display by Trilla, violist Szilárd Mezei, and pianist Marina Džukljev—and embodies a nearly ecstatic act of creation. The whole album feels like a tremendous store of energy to which the musicians are mere gatekeepers; rather than a cathartic blast, Still Now seems an attempt to wrangle and channel incredible forces, to deploy Džukljev’s dissonant clusters and Mezei’s splintered microtones in an effort to responsibly mete out pent-up violence. At times, this is explosive, like the nearly unbearable crescendo that caps the title track, and at others, it is tightly-wound, as in the aching beauty of “Because Homework.” Still Now brings into the cerebral realm of chamber music the emotional, gut-reaction heft of free jazz, and maybe just a touch—true to Trilla’s roots—of the relentless, hypnotic intensity of heavy metal.

Ernesto Rodrigues, Yedo Gibson, Miguel Mira, Luis Lopes, Vasco Trilla – Nepenthes Hibrida (Creative Sources, 2017)

Trilla fits agreeably into the Creative Sources aesthetic, which values collective mood-building over individual displays of prowess. Nepenthes Hibrida was recorded live a few days before Christmas 2016, and features Trilla, violist and label boss Ernesto Rodrigues, cellist Miguel Mira, Yedo Gibson on soprano saxophone, and a notably minimalist Luis Lopes on electric guitar.

“I” ventures carefully, the players difficult to distinguish within the hushed activity. Eventually, Gibson begins to goad the other players into raising the volume, and the music moves fluidly between periods of agitation and near silence. By the arrival of “II”, the group have worked themselves into a knot of activity, with Trilla taking an open, aggressive approach and Lopes at one point sounding like he’s tearing the wiring out of his own amplifier. The track reaches the levels of terrible beauty that Völga have so perfected: a stationary, towering monolith of sound, conveying not narrative or moment, but only sheer presence. “IV” highlights the interesting interaction Gibson and Trilla have developed through their duo work, sounding like the groaning of swaying skyscrapers. In all, Nepenthes Hibrida captures a wide-ranging performance, one that nicely bridges some of the contrasting approaches and sensibilities the five musicians bring to the collaboration.

Harald Kimmig, Ernesto Rodrigues, Miguel Mira, Guilherme Rodrigues, Vasco Trilla – Blattwerk (Creative Sources, 2017)

Blattwerk’s two torrents of strings move like a waveform, cresting and dipping in volume and intensity. The quintet features an unusual line-up—violin, viola, two cellos, and Trilla’s drums—and shifts between an indeterminate world of creaks and pops and one of nocturnal, romantic lyricism. Trilla is integrated seamlessly, matching his cymbals to scraped strings and fleet arco runs and meeting pizzicato plucks and thumped wood with rolling toms and bells. His touch is such that he never once overwhelms, instead finding subtle gaps and openings to bolster the strings.

Both tracks convey a sense of dramatic, even cinematic, development, although the feeling of journeying is most pronounced in the darkened movements of “II”. “Blattwerk” is the German word for “foliage.” What I see in my mind’s eye when I listen is not leaves rustling in the wind, but instead the shifting black mass of their shadows dancing across the ground. Evocative music, of the quality we’ve come to expect with Rodrigues and company.


Trilla will kick off the second half of 2017 with upcoming releases featuring the trio Phicus (with Ferran Fages and Àlex Reviriego), a duo with Mikołaj Trzaska, and a trio with Yedo Gibson and Hernâni Faustino.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Peter Evans and Alfred Vogel – Il Piccolo Incindete (Boomslang, 2016) ****

By Rick Joines

Peter Evans plays trumpet with an uncommon inventiveness, intensity, and athleticism. Strange and previously unimaginable sounds emit from his bell at an incredible speed and in limitless combinations. His breath and formal virtuosity are impressive all on their own, yet the sheer physicality of his playing and his endurance make an equal impression. Evans produces an unexpected onslaught of musical ideas, as if he aspires to play all the parts of an orchestra by himself—and all at once. While Evans’ playing on Il Piccolo Incidente is more playful than usual, it lacks none of his usual rigor or intelligence. The panoply of Evans’ vigorous and inimitable “extended” technique is on full display, but he deploys his profound facility with a lighter touch, and a little humor—beginning with the title. An “il piccolo incidente” is a “small accident,” like a faux pas. The idea of “small accidents” chimes well with the unpredictability of spontaneous composition and improvisation. There is also the literal reading: Evans plays a piccolo trumpet, so Il Piccolo Incidente is a record of the things that occurred, by chance, when he and Alfred Vogel invented seven songs lasting 33 minutes.

No forms, modes, or shapes can denote Evans truly. He moves, measure by measure, from the baroque through bebop to minimalism and back again, picking up what he missed the first time. The quantity of notes astounds the ear, and while this could come across as showing off, his playing is entirely devoid of arrogance. Instead, there is an obsessive insistence on aggregation, an almost manic anxiety that a timbral possibility might be missed. As in a cartoon thought bubble floating over a composer’s head, Evans’ mind seems to be madly flipping pages of scores, a blizzard of notes falling everywhere. Occasionally, he perseverates with dizzying speed on a phrase, and, as with a minimalist composer, the repetition begins to blur how we hear the notes—and the nature of the notes themselves. At other times, he’ll linger on a note or phrase, emphasizing the background of silence. He can sound like a tweaked-out Miles Davis with a Harmon mute, but he reminds me most often of Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp, solo and in King Crimson. Evans coaxes the animal kingdom out of his horn with the exuberance of Belew twang-bar-kinging the cries of a lone rhinoceros, an elephant, or a big electric cat. Then again, like Fripp, Evans can braid emotional and tonal registers with utter grace, frightening us then breaking our hearts with beauty.

Alfred Vogel does not attempt to compete with the blitzkrieg of Evans’ playing. Instead, like a magpie, he’s collected a nest of things, and all those things percuss. He does not “accompany” Evans, nor keep time; instead he plays around Evans. With sticks, drum kit and cymbals, bells and cans, and bits and pieces of this or that, Vogel is a vigilant partner, yet in a way that seems wonderfully indifferent to Evans. It’s easy pay little attention to Vogel because of the glam and glitter of Evans, but when one does one marvels at the genius of Vogel’s restraint, which contributes elegantly to the joy and playfulness of this album.

Album and samples are available here:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kate Gentile - Mannequins (Skirl, 2017) ****

A problem that I often feel I am running into when writing reviews is my flogging of a dead metaphor and over use of certain words like “texture” or “interplay”. So recently, in a ham-fisted attempt to expand my lexicon, I asked a musician how would you describe the compositions of drummer Kate Gentile … without a pause the answer was “well, it’s like jazz math-rock”. Yes, indeed it is, and I began imagining the pieces in terms of ∛, the occasional f(x), and a liberal sprinkling of \approx . Ok, forgive me, I have no idea what I’m writing. However, I can posit with certainty that an album like Mannequins is a deep dive into the swirling logic and exacting twisted phrases that end up equaling something quite special.

Gentile, who is immersed in the fertile music scene in Brooklyn, has worked with luminaries and peers such as Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Michael Formanek, Marty Ehrlich, Chris Speed, and Kris Davis. Her quartet here is comprised of herself on drums, Jeremy Viner on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano, synth, and electronics, and Adam Hopkins on bass. If you paused on Mitchell, and thought perhaps about his recent solo foray deep into the music of Tim Berne and his work with Snakeoil, then you'll have a sense of the polyrhythmic mind-teasers and deep melodicism that you encounter on Mannequins.

Track One, “Stars Covered in Clouds of Metal” is more than just a great name, it actually a perfect description: a slightly bruising beat-slipping thrust of chords from the synthesizer brings the Metal … its distorted and jerking rhythms sets a tone for the album and the clatter of Gentile’s percussion provides the stars. It’s a quick track, leading to “Trapezoidal Nirvana," which progresses along an unpredictable path. This time on piano, Mitchell provides the structure while he and Viner play tandem syncopated melodic lines that are at once teasingly divaricated and undeniably tuneful. Veering off the path that they have started down, “Hammergaze” begins with prismatic chimes, percussive and mesmerizing, which leads quickly into “Otto, On Alien Shoulders.” Following the earlier template, the shifting blocks of sounds have electronic sounds percolating through.

“Xenomorphic” is another short percussion heavy textual piece that eschews interplay for a more monolithic approach. There a is a great deal of variety within in the tune, though the dominating effect is the zigzagging lines from Viner and Mitchell. Hopkins and Gentile get into it during the penultimate “Alchemy Melt [With Tilt]” during a particularly free section towards the end of the 12 minute track. The closing “Ssgf” is an excellent summary of everything that came before, mixing the intertwining lines with an extended solo passages from Hopkins and Viner, into accessible but oblique patterns.

Mannequin’s is an excellent debut recording, and Gentile taps into the jazz math-rock which it seems that pianist Mitchell sits in the middle of (I'm thinking of Anna Weber’s wonderful Simple trio, and Tim Berne's incredible Snake Oil recordings). Heady stuff for sure, and absolutely perfect for getting lost in its matrix.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Introducing Catalan reeds player Albert Cirera

By Eyal Hareuveni

In recent years prolific Catalan, Lisbon-based reeds player Albert Cirera became a powerful improviser and composer to reckon with. He may be known for his vigorous, in-your-face sound but this description hardly cover his qualities as a resourceful, restless improviser who is always searching and exploring uncharted sonic terrains. He is also a skilled conductor who understands deeply the mechanics and the spirit of game-like e improvisation and a clever composer who is not shy of reflecting on his gentle side.

Albert Cirera / Hernâni Faustino / Gabriel Ferrandini / Agustí Fernández - Before The Silence (No Business Records, 2016) *****

Cirera Lisbon Trio teams him with the rhythm section of the Portuguese RED Trio -  double bass player Hernâni Faustino, who also plays in the Staub Quartet and Clocks and Clouds quartet, and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini, known also from sax player Rodrigo Amado's Motion Trio and his collaborations with sax player Jon Irabagon and guitarist Thurston Moore, and fellow-Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández, a mentor of  Cirera “who enlightened and opened with a hammer some minds” of Cirera generational fellows, and now hosts him in his own Liquid Trio.  This quartet recorded its debut album live at the Catalan Voll Damm Festival Jazz Vic in May 2015.

The quartet flirts wisely between control, reserve and silence and eruptions of ecstatic, boundless power. The performance opens in a quiet, restrained mode yet a dense and restless one, but as Carlos Pérez Cruz writes in the liner notes “silence can catch fire”. This opening piece, “Before”, swings later on between fast and fiery improvisations and quieter, chaotic segments that still contain the accumulated tension of former segments, all highlight the colorful sense of detail and the intense, rhythmic drive. The four musicians play as a four-headed organism that sound like it established long ago its independent logic and strong-minded, focused voice. “The” deepens the quartet's strength as an organic and experimental unit as all employ myriad of extended techniques, searching and sketching strange, beautifully nuanced ideas. Then Fernández and Cirera harness all into another series of ecstatic, dramatic attacks, in its turn, stress the always inventive pulse of Faustino and Ferrandini. “Silence” begins again with minimalist, quiet search for almost silent common ground, comprised of faraway, fragmented sounds, suggesting looser, abstract aspects of free improvisation, but eventually transform into another passionate, manic conclusion. The short encore, “Coda”, is a gentle, melodic piece that reflects peacefully on the the magnificent, fiery storm.

Albert Cirera / Luís Lopes / Hernâni Faustino / Vasco Furtado - Temple of Doom (Discordian, 2017) ****

This is another new quartet from Cirera, featuring Portuguese noise guitarist Luís Lopes, double bass player Faustino, and drummer Vasco Furtado. This free-improvising  quartet was recorded on January 2016 in Lisbon, experimenting with its with physical, brutal interplay, focused on chartering extreme, unknown sonic terrains.

Already on the tense opening of “Dogmatic Elders Of Doom” all four musicians are busy searching and gravitating towards corresponding,  extreme and even more extreme terrains. They offer a series of tough, energetic collisions that cover all the spectrum,  from muddy, earthy ones - led by Cirera and drummer Furtado - to the most atmospheric ones, shaped by Lopes and Faustino. The shorter “A Lambskin Apron” and “The Sublime Degree” intensifies even further this restless mode, full of unpredictable, aggressive clashes.  The longest piece, the 19-minutes “Disrupted Sacred Geometry And The Void” introduces more space to the quartet improvisation and shifts its intense and fast interplay to one that reference a fiery, free jazz meeting. This piece also enables the quartet to investigate more open, and sparse textures and experiment with surprising, weirder sounds, spicing its interplay with generous doses of cinematic, raw noises and metallic attacks. The last piece “Outward Introspection” ventilates all the energy and chaotic power, accumulated in the previous abstract detour, now heading for a final brutal, ecstatic orgy of sounds.

Albert Cirera & Tres Tambors - Suite Salada (Underpool, 2016) ****

If Cirera sounded on the above-mentioned albums like a sax player who is well-versed in the legacy of charismatic fire blowers - from American Albert Ayler to German Peter Brötzmann - mixed with the sonic experiments of British John Butcher, now he surprises as he embraces modern jazz, sounding as modern-day incarnation of the lyrical side of Coltrane the singing tone of Jan Garbarek. Suite Salada also stresses Cirera strengths as composer and a leader. This is Cirera sophomore album with the Barcelona-based Tres Tambors - pianist Marco Mezquida, one of the busiest pianist in the local scene, Finnish double bass player Marko Lohikari (who plays in Mezquida trio) and fellow-Catalan, drummer Oscar Doménech, the same musicians that recorded the 2012 debut, Els Encants (FSNT).

The suite develops with a unique restraint, refinement and poetic elegance, from the folksy, enigmatic “S’auba” where Cirera focuses on the flute, followed by the sensual, infectious pulse set by Tres Tambors to “Tantra”, before Cirera takes the lead mid-piece his charismatic, lyrical Coltrane-ish solo. The passionate “Anys” is introduced by a dramatic piano solo of Mezquida that references Keith Jarrett in his most sing-along, rhythmic playing. Cirera joins only on the last part of this piece, after Tres Tambors solidified the rhythmic pattern, singing beautifully with his tenor sax as Garbarek to Jarrett melodies on their Scandinavian quartet. After the free-improvised interlude “Jaleo” the quartet returns with the tender, peaceful ballad “Es Fosquet”, led by Cirera thoughtful, melodic solo. The suite is concluded with another,  serene ballad, “Talis” where Cirera gentle, singing playing along Tres Tambors minimalist, refined playing sketch a beautiful conclusion to this emotional suite that lingers long in mind after it has ended.  

Memoria Uno - Cook for Butch (Discordian, 2016) ***½*

Memoria Uno is a musical lab, founded and conducted by Barcelona-based trumpeter Iván González, who played with Cirera in the now defunct Free Art Ensemble. Memoria Uno musicians meets once a month to experiment and expand on the the  conducted improvisation ideas and techniques developed by Lawrence "Butch" Morris, the Sound Painting of Walter Thompson and John Zorn’s game-piece Cobra.

Memoria Uno's debut album, Crisis (Discordian, 2014), featured a mammoth forty-piece orchestra, but Cook for Butch scales-down the number of musicians and offers a dialectic process between two sextets, Cirera and drummer Ramón Prats, both play together in Agustí Fernández's Liquid Trio, among others on the left side, and sax player Tom Chant, known for his collaborations with Eddie Prévost, among others on the right side, and pianist Mezquida in the middle. The album was recorded live at The Jamboree Jazz Club in Barcelona on October 2015.

Cirera co-conducts two short pieces with González. “Duot (Conducción #63)”, as the title of his duo with drummer Prats, sound as a concise, chaotic and wild free jazz improvisation that comes from the Sun Ra school. Cirera game-piece “Bingo” is the most interesting piece on this album. Cirera builds the tension and the driving pulse wisely, colors both with nuanced, resonating layers of ecstatic blows, and concludes with a powerful shout of his own.

Albert Cirera & Carlos "Zíngaro” ‎- Cròniques 4 (Discordian, 2016) ****½

During 2014 and 2015 Cirera recorded, in Lisbon, a series of free-improvised and intimate meetings with Portuguese double bass player Alvaro Rosso, German cellist Ulrich Mitzlaff, and Swedish sax player Olle Vikström. The meeting with violinist Carlos “Zingaro” Alves, one of the Portuguese pioneer free-improvisers - who has collaborated before with innovative improvisers such as Derek Bailey, Barre Phillips, Peter Kowald, Evan Parker and Joëlle Léandre - was the last one documented in this Cròniques series, captured in studio on October 2015.  

Cirera and Zingaro connect immediately as if they have been playing together all their lives. Their mutual, deep listening serves both beautifully as they process instantly each other ideas, already on the impressive opening, “From There Above Sides Wherefrom You Come, Run!” Cirera and Zingaro shift organically between different dynamics - muscular and tense, silent and introspective ones, focused on microtonal sounds, and sensual and lyrical that still sound weird yet tempting. Both employ different extended breathing and bowing techniques to sketch urgent, fast-shifting and kaleidoscopic textures - as one of the pieces is titled - that only gets more intimate, and more profound as this intimate, poetic meeting continues.  

DUOT & Andy Moor - Food (Repetidor, 2017) ***½

DUOT is the free-improvising duo of Cirera and fellow Catalan drummer Ramón Prats. Duot's fourth album, Food, is released only on vinyl plus a download option, and is a collaboration with British guitar player Andy Moor from the Dutch band The Ex, known also as an experienced improviser with Lean Left (with Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love) and a collaborator of French poet Anne-James Chaton and Greek composer and electronics player Yannis Kyriakides. Food was recorded in Barcelona on December 2015.

Moor blends immediately into DUOT's physical intensity but colors it it with his clever, economical playing. His playing on the opening, longest piece “Skim” intensifies the dramatic tension and its slow-cooking progression, but also suggests a slower, patient course to the erratical explosive one of DUOT.  The following shorter pieces “Slow Food” and  “Bass Cabinet” explore open-ended, expressionistic-cinematic textures, where all investigate timbres and fragmented tempos. “Gudi” even suggests a surprising and emotional variation of Moor's abstractions of old Rebetika songs with Kyriakides. Other, more intense pieces as  “Arrebato” and “It’s Your Business” sound as scaled-down variations on Lean Left massive, rhythmic interplay.