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Anna Högberg Attack

Summer Bummer, De Studio, Antwerp, 8/22/2019

B.A.N.: Peter Brötzmann (sax), Farida Amadou (b), Steve Noble (dr)

Summer Bummer, De Studio, Antwerp, 8/22/2019

Fred Van Hove (p), Peter Brötzmann (sax)

Summer Bummer, De Studio, Antwerp, 8/23/2019

Hanne De Backer (sax) / Paal Nilssen-Love (dr)

Summer Bummer, De Studio, Antwerp, 8/22/2019

Biliana Voutchkova (v), Susan Alcorn (g), Isidora Edwards (c)

Berlin, August 2019. Photo by Christina Marx

Friday, September 20, 2019

Ricardo Arias / Santiago Botero / Kim Myhr – Contrived (Raw Tonk, 2019) ***½

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

For the past three years at least Raw Tonk has been one of the most consistent labels in the whole free jazz milieu. Gradually building a catalogue of superb releases full of the pathos of the great free jazz tradition, always adding something new in this equation. Contrived, the trio release from Kim Myhr (guitar and objects), Santiago Botero (contrabass and preparations) and Ricardo Arias (electronics and objects) is a welcome departure into a more improvisational and less jazzy sound.

Ricardo Arias, writing for the press release of Contrived, isn’t afraid to pinpoint what has always troubled all improvisers: is it possible to catch the moment of improvised live sound? Is it by definition a process that can lead to something worth listening and joyful? By quoting Cornelious Cardew on this, he puts the listener into the great antithesis of this recording.Which is that what is taking place on Contrived doesn’t necessarily catch the moment of this recording made live in Bogota, Colombia. Of course Contrived has its moments and there are many of them. After a rather slow start, an interaction of low energy, on the third track, Charmingly Contrived, the trio start to get on a path that leads to a totally different direction. As the fourth track enters (even though I’m suspecting this less than half an hour recording was divided into six tracks for practical reasons only) Myhr’s guitar tends to be an instrument of menace, while the rhythms derived from the contrabass are never dominant, more often provide a solid backbone to the recording.

Listening to Contrived repeatedly, I got the sense that maybe (again an antithesis here) it’s less than half an hour duration doesn’t allow the musicians and the listener to get a clear look of the direction where this is going. It seems unfinished at some parts. But, yes, this is a strong antithesis: improvisation very often implies that there’s more to come and even more often you have to be there to witness, feel it, watch or listen to it. The cd as a medium for all the above has never been that revealing.

So, is this a mediocre recording? No way. But as Raw Tonk’s catalogue continues to grow, providing us various formations, line-ups and sounds, Contrived seems more like a promise for the near future. It is good but there are better things to come. And, of course, it doesn’t provide any answers, they never wanted that in any case, to the aforementioned question. Can we record the improvisational moment? They are not sure, I do not know.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Liquid Quintet ‎– Bouquet (Sirulita Records, 2019) ****

By Colin Green

“Fully ‘biodegradable’ structures, starting to disintegrate the moment they have been assembled, are nowadays the ideal.” (Zygmunt Bauman)

The Barcelona based Liquid Trio – Agustí Fernández (piano), Albert Cirera (tenor and soprano saxophones) and Ramón Prats (drums) – was formed in 2011, taking its name from social theorist Bauman’s metaphor of “liquid modernity”: that in the contemporary world our individual, social and political frameworks are in a state of almost permanent flux, spheres in which “fluids neither fix space nor bind time”. The concept resonated with the mutability of musical matter and the trio’s temporal experiences while improvising. There have been three albums to date, all recommended: Primer Dia i Última Nit (“First Day and Last Night”) (Sirulita Records, 2013), Marianne (Vector Sounds, 2016) and The Liquid Trio plays Bernouilli (Słuchaj Fundacja, 2017). Piano, saxophone and drums is not a standard combination but Fernández cites the Schlippenbach Trio as the most direct antecedent. In terms of visceral brio the comparison is apt, with the Catalonia trio having its own distinct, happy-scrappy quality.

As befits its fluidity, the trio has been expanded to a quintet on occasions, as in 2013 with Johannes Nästesjö (double bass) and Julián Sánchez (trumpet). For this latest incarnation it was decided to take advantage of double bassist Barry Guy’s visit to Barcelona in July last year in a session at the Rosazul studio, to which Don Malfon on alto and baritone saxophones was added close to the recording date, increasing the spectrum of reed registers. The tracks are named ‘Fire Rose’ 1 to 10; “La Rosa de Foc” was the name given to Barcelona after the events of the Tragic Week of civil insurrection in the summer of 1909 – another modernist image of a terrible beauty and an epithet for the city that has stuck. As a bouquet the album is anything but decorative however, having the irruptive energy of Cy Twombly’s floral paintings with their phosphorescent blooms flourishing and withering at the same time.

In many ways it’s a now familiar approach to improvisation: music at a molecular level in a state of constant fragmentation and reconstitution. The session adopts a similarly mobile approach to formations, comprising duos, a trio, quartets and quintets. This is geography without maps, a domain in which nothing is fixed – not even instrumental sonority that shifts with each new terrain – moving forward in digressions, advancing by indirection. The music is nevertheless unified by the same animating spirit, a self-replenishing fusion of expressive intent with an understanding of the physical properties and capabilities of instruments, the way transient materials guide and respond, something that has to be learnt in order to be discovered afresh and which in turn folds back giving rise to new locutions, pluralities and pockets of feeling. The pieces have a sensuous immediacy that echoes the rough-and-tumble of lived time and all its quirky drifts and detours, memories prompted but not processed.

The presence of Guy’s fulsome, yet also strangely incorporeal bass ensures that some of the quintet performances reach a level beyond which lies the possibility of complete combustion or total collapse. ‘Fire Rose No. 1’ begins with a series of aftershocks from some primal event trailing off into ephemeral, ever-flowing currents of sound. Like water, the music resists dissection as configurations surge and subside. During ‘No. 2’, the seething broth is so hectic that the ear temporarily leaves the discombobulated mind behind until the waves recede revealing pools of jerky, spluttering activity. In the more placid ‘No. 5’, solids crumble and time is distended as the quintet’s instruments gently dilute and coalesce into gauzy textures.

The other groupings retain this sense of alchemical transformation. The first quartet is a sensory network lit up, navigated by zig-zagging piano; the second made up from charged yet soluble particles in vibrant display where notions of orientation and trajectory begin to lose purchase. The trio with Cirera and Guy features Fernández’ seamless integration of keyboard and piano internals that metamorphose into exotic percussion, spawning jangly, metallic washes and muted twangs.

Malfon appears in all three duos. On ‘No. 4’, baritone and bass explore creaks, squeaks and the Stygian lower registers in a way that makes them sound like a single entity with a dual aspect. With Cirera, the saxophones are mingled in granular multiphonics, and on the pairing with Fernández his scruffy alto, then baritone, are accompanied by deconstructed piano. ‘Fire Rose No. 10’ returns us to the swirling turbulence and scrambled perspectives of the opening quintets; perhaps also – as with Twombly’s roses – a reminder of the fleeting impulses and fragile pleasures that make up our lives.

Bouquet is available on CD and as a download from Bandcamp.

Untitled (2001)
© Cy Twombly Foundation

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit – April Is The Cruellest Month (Blank Forms Editions, 2019) ****

By Chris Haines

There’s lots of ‘what if’s in life that can lead us to ponder key crossroads in our lives’ journeys and what might have happened if we had chosen a different path, or maybe if a certain event in history had or had not happened. This is a theme, which in itself has inspired a whole genre of alternative historical settings within fictional literature. Within music would things have been any different if Charlie Parker had managed to study compositional technique with Edgard Varese? Who knows? However, these events and moments can be fascinating to ponder over and if nothing else they add to life’s rich tapestry and our experience of it.

Another such event is the time Japanese free jazz guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi was invited to record a session for ESP-Disk recordings, a good conduit for avant-garde jazz at the time, only for the record label to go bust just before it was due to be released. A catalogue number had even been assigned to it! This was planned to be the first of many Japanese jazz recordings that the head of ESP-Disk, Bernard Stollman, wanted to release on the label, which surely would have catapulted the Japanese scene much more into the global picture, than the actual slow underground trickle of awareness that eventually happened, which would have included Takayanagi and friends nestling up alongside the likes of Albert Ayler within the roster. Apparently Takayanagi was publically quite philosophical about the situation, however, the session was buried and it didn’t see the light of day until just before the guitarist’s death. As with all Takayanagi recordings they can be hard to come by, especially if one doesn’t want to pay the over inflated prices that his recordings currently seem to be garnering. It is welcome news then that this particular session has recently been re-released on Black Forms Editions.

For those new to this recording the New Direction Unit consisted at this time of Kenji Mori (alto sax, flute, bass clarinet), Nobuyoshi Ino (bass, cello), Hiroshi Yamazaki (percussion), and Takayanagi (electric guitar). The title of the album, April is the cruellest month, Takayanagi borrowed from the opening line of T. S. Eliot’s poem, ‘The Waste Land’, and consists of three tracks with titles that have also been pulled from the poem. The first ‘We Have Existed’ is a busy and anxious texture with skittering percussion, fast flitting melodic phrases on the flute accompanied by bowed bass strings and streams of feedback and noise from the guitar. The alternate take of this track that has appeared on previous editions of this album is not included, which gives us the album content and listings in the order they would have appeared if originally released by ESP-Disk. The second track ‘What Have We Given?’ being a bit shorter in length than the first, is characterised by some great playing by Mori on the bass clarinet and accompanied by a range of metal percussion sounds, barbed bass lines, and punctuated chords from the guitar which are allowed to ring on into feedback swells at times. The last track, ‘My Friend, Blood Shaking My Heart’ is a twenty minute, full-blown mass projection onslaught, with rapid drumming and nasally screeching guitar to the fore, which continues with much energy, continually and without break for the full duration of the piece.

The liner notes of this release are taken from Teruto Soejima’s wonderful book, recently translated and published as Free Jazz In Japan: A Personal History, and encapsulates some of the text that he wrote for the original release of the album.

So, we can muse upon the alternative historical aspects of this particular musical event and whilst it’s fun to do this within the cultural context, it’s even more important to enjoy the sounds for what they are and live the music in the moment of now. We are privileged to have such a classic and important free jazz work available once more.

- Postscript – Another release, Takayanagi’s Angry Waves “850113” has also just seen a new release on Octave Labs; this is a classic free jazz guitar trio. This recording seems to be much underrated and is an absolute gem! – Probably my favourite Takayanagi recording of all time.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Steve Dalachinsky (1946-2019)

We were surprised to learn about the sudden passing of poet Steve Dalachinsky early Monday morning. Steve was a omnipresent figure on the Downtown Music scene, a fan of the music, and one of those ever rarer true New Yorkers. At a show in Brooklyn this summer, he told me "Ahh, I like Berlin, I only have one enemy there. Here in New York, I have lots of them." From what I know, this was a good example of the type of self-deprecating joke that you could expect from him. Steve made his way into the pages of the blog from time to time, whether as the author of liner-notes, interviewed in documentaries, or having a song dedicated to him (see here). His list of accomplishments is long and varied, but some highlights include a book of poetry on saxophonist Charles Gayle, collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp on an album (Phenomena Of Interference) as well as a book (Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue) and had earned the prestigious Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award for poetry from France in 2014. Our condolences to his friends and family.

Enjoy this short documentary on Steve Dalachinsky:

- Paul Acquaro

Vergara/Longberg-Holm/Zarzutzki – Five arias for nalca (Inexhaustible Editions, 2019) ****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

It makes me really happy that there seem to exist a million ways to explore the possibilities of sound. Inexhaustible Editions is one of those small labels trying to present parts of this adventurous sonic spectrum. The trio of Benjamin Vergara on trumpet, Fred Longberg-Holm on cell and Aaron Zarzutzki on synthesizer and various objects allow us to make assumptions about their unusual instrumentation.

Those assumptions are mostly based on the given that their willingness to explore leaves the listener within a constant flux of sounds. That is a good thing though…They approach their collective sound in the same abstract way the cover art presents us this cd. You, the listener, will find more questions than answers within the five tracks (arias I to V accordingly) that comprise the bulk of this CD.
I would make a guess that calling each track an aria, considering the historical burden of the word, is a way to de-normalize, to provide it with a new meaning. Another thought would be that they really want to be humorous. Could be, but that wouldn’t say anything about how serious they are in what they present us.

Vergara’s trumpet is an instrument of airy blurbs and constant small noisy gestures that never dominate but rather articulate an ego-less way of playing. Longberg-Holm’s cello starts, on the first two tracks, as a constant drone provider but in the process all noises are possible from its body and strings. The role of a synth or various objects in general in an improvisational recording always puts me in a position of trying to really listen hard so to understand what is going on. In Zarzutzki’s case his experimental approach on the synth and his, less is more, attitude by using small objects as percussion instruments, works fine. In fact he provides the glue that brings all the separate pieces together.

I really enjoyed all arias of the CD. There’s a constant flow of ideas, sometimes more than expected. If I had to pinpoint a flaw, it would be this saturation of ideas in some parts of the recording. But there’s another side to this as well. In all five tracks there’s never just a single idea of how the recording will proceed. They seem to decide on the spot, always ready to change direction or choose another path. This is probably the most important lesson learned in collective improvisation.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Fictive Five – Anything Is Possible (Clean Feed, 2019) ****

By Troy Dostert

On Anything Is Possible, the second release from the Fictive Five, the band continues its efforts to make music with cinematic scope and feel—appropriately enough, given the filmmakers who are often the dedicatees of the pieces. Wim Wenders, William Kentridge and Kelly Reichardt were feted on the group’s self-titled debut, while on the follow-up it’s Spike Lee and Warren Sonbert getting a tip of the hat—along with Cecil Taylor, whose music often had a certain cinematic power of its own.

This isn’t music that relies heavily on pulse or melody, but rather sonority and texture—and a heck of a lot of imagination, as each of these players possesses a command over their instrument that allows them to take full advantage of the freedom built into Ochs’s compositions. Most significantly, the group uses a two-bass approach, with Pascal Niggenkemper and Ken Filiano generally eschewing the traditional “jazz” role of anchoring tempo or harmony. Instead they use the full range of their low-end sonics, complemented by generous use of various electronic effects, to provide atmosphere and mood. Drummer Harris Eisenstadt takes a similar strategy, using his kit not so much to propel the music forward but to contribute as a colorist and commentator, with subtlety and nuance the name of the game. And the dual-horn threat of Ochs, who plays both sopranino and tenor saxophone here, and Nate Wooley, whose trumpet (as always) runs the gamut of expressive possibilities, makes for a superb complementary team, consistently responsive and sympathetic both to each other and to their counterparts.

Three of the pieces are exceptionally expansive and lengthy, with two clocking in at over nineteen minutes, so there is abundant room for ideas to develop and evolve. And although three are formally credited as Ochs compositions, Ochs always remains sensitive to channeling rather than stifling the players’ creativity and spontaneity, thus avoiding the temptation to over-determine the pieces. There is thus a lot of space in this music, and patience is crucial to the listening experience, as much of its value is found in the various interactions between the musicians, often just two or three at a time.

“Immediate Human Response,” the album’s opener, is representative of the group’s aesthetic, as the players enter and recede throughout the piece, occasionally converging on a particular rhythmic or melodic motif, but more commonly occupying a much less determinate space. Moments of energy and fire do arise, but like most of the album, the prevailing ethos is one of a lengthy conversation that takes its time—and with plenty of room for thought and reflection along the way. “The Others Dream,” like “Immediate Human Response” credited to Ochs, is similar, with even more room for individual expression. Ochs in particular is in fine form here, with pointed, acerbic cries, and Wooley characteristically finds his unique space between abstraction and lyricism. But to focus on the individuals over the group as a whole would be a mistake, as Niggenkemper and Filiano generate some exceptionally compelling atmospherics, with Eisenstadt adding the well-timed interjections and steady commentary needed to keep the conversation moving. And when Wooley and Ochs join forces, their mutual interactions are quite stimulating, taking the music’s collective power to another level. “With Liberties and Latitude for All” may be the most ambitious and far-ranging of the five pieces, with smaller exchanges that build gradually to something bigger—and even the emergence of a pulse, culminating in a free-jazz segment that represents the album’s most convincing nod to jazz tradition, as Wooley and Ochs soar over a hard-swinging rhythmic foundation provided by the basses and Eisenstadt.

Interestingly, “And the Door Blows Open,” honoring Cecil Taylor, is both the briefest of the five tracks, at only four minutes, and also the least forbidding, with Wooley in particular sounding especially sensitive and tuneful. Along with the album’s closer, “A Fictive Form of Closure,” it’s collectively improvised; but it’s a credit to the rapport of these musicians that these tracks feel wholly of a piece with the rest of the album, making compositional origins more or less irrelevant.
Far from an episodic meeting of top-flight improvisers, the Fictive Five is a group with a well-honed, distinctive sound and identity, and Anything Is Possible contributes nicely to what will hopefully become a lengthy catalog.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Recent Solo Piano Albums from Elsewhere

By Eyal Hareuveni

The Elsewhere label offers for its first year anniversary new ways of listening, experiencing or perceiving new and innovative languages and discourses of composers and musicians who compose or play the piano.

Shira Legmann / Michael Pisaro - Barricades (elsewhere, 2019) ****½

The concept of Barricades began to crystallize when Israeli pianist Shira Legmann sent American experimental composer Michael Pisaro a list of her favorite music and included Les Barricades Mystérieuses by French Baroque composer François Couperin (1668-1733). Legmann’s wide repertoire encompases not only compositions from the Baroque but also Olivier Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, György Ligeti's keyboard music, Morton Feldman’s late repertoire and Giacinto Scelsi's piano music. Pisaro himself loved the idea of composing a web-like texture that refers to Couperuin’s polyphonic technique of overlapping and interlocking voices.

Pisaro compared the process of composing and working with Legmann on Barricades to “watching the barricades, which I pictured as a network of twisted vines, unravel.” Barricades consists of thirteen “studies” for Legmann’s piano with some sine waves played by Pisaro himself, who adds two interludes where he plays the sine waves. The album was recorded by Pisaro at CalArts, California on March and April 2019, later mixed and mastered by Pisaro.

Pisaro’s subtle, ethereal sine waves sound as organic extension of Legmann’s clean and supple piano presence. Legmann navigates wisely the enigmatic atmosphere of Barricades as if she is determined to blur the transparent sonic barricades between the dramatic and the cool and restrained, between the emotional and the cerebral or between the distant and what may be considered close. Her “studies” with Pisaro’s eerie “interludes” suggest a fragile balance between these somehow abstract concepts. Together, these pieces reflect the very nature of Barricades, a poetic attempt to create a captivating network of sonic vines that grow in their own accord and intensify by their inner logic; a network of pieces that not only echoes the French Baroque but also flows in a unique, fragile equilibrium. A dreamy and hypnotic, Feldman-esque equilibrium between the concrete and the imagined, the acoustic and its electronic extension, the earthly and the celestial.

Melaine Dalibert - Cheminant (elsewhere, 2019) ****

Cheminant presents the diverse aesthetics of French pianist-composer Melaine Dalibert. This is the third solo piano for elsewhere, following his first one for the elsewhere label that focused on one, extended composition, Musique pour le lever du jour (2018), and his debut one, Ressac (Another Timbre, 2017). The five pieces on Cheminant, all composed by Dalibert between 2017 and 2019 and recorded in Saint Maugan, France in February 2019, can be considered as studies in different schools of minimalism. These pieces reflect Dalibert’s interest in questioning how the harmonic shifts could affect the listening experience with subtly evolving chords through a scale or different tones, creating a similar state to vertigo.

The first four pieces of Cheminant are dedicated to colleagues and friends. The opening one, “Music in an octave”, is dedicated to David Sylvian who designed the artwork and advised about the mixing, and corresponds with Sylvian’s latest, poetic abstract-ambient works with its prolonged, resonating and meditative sounds. “Percolations (for right hand)”, for elsewhere founder, artistic director and producer Yuko Zama, is a rhythmic piece that sound as if it dances around itself until losing any sense of direction, “From zero to infinity”, dedicated for American post-minimalist composer Peter Garland, returns to a slow, minimalist mode that calls for another meditation about the accumulated effect of such listening experience. The longest, 21-minutes title-piece is dedicated to Dutch fellow pianist and composer Reinier van Houdt and expands even further and wider the enigmatic meditative ambience, as the highly disciplined delivery of single notes, their resonating sounds and their overtones float slowly through the deep space of the recording studio, gently disappear within each other. Dalibert performs this study in deep meditation with great control and exquisite beauty. The last piece “Étude II” is an exception with its up-tempo, almost playful insistence on repetitive hammered chords.

Reinier van Houdt / Bruno Duplant - Lettres et Replis (elsewhere, 2019) *****

Lettres et Replis captures a unique correspondence - literally - between French composer Bruno Duplant and Dutch pianist-composer Reinier van Houdt. This correspondence combines three Lettres (2017) - letter-form scores personally addressed from Duplant to van Houdt and containing letter sequences distributed across the page, with three more Trois replis d'incertitude (2018) - three letter-form scores but with the notion of 'repli' (meaning 'fold' in a Deleuzian postmodern Baroque sense, as well as 'withdrawal' of incertitude and reactionaries toward the neglect of ecology, humanism, and culture).

Duplant's realization of these ‘reading’ and ‘replying to' scores scores also reflect French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé's notion of textual space and chance, leaving a large room for the interpreter-performer. “The Lettres are connected to a melody spelled out and read in all directions propulsed by memory and gaze”, says van Houdt. “The Replis are connected to the harmonies from a place as they permeate and unravel through the metaphorical holes made by writing, linearly arranged again with recordings of a walk along the river that traverses this place”. The Replis also contain field recordings by van Houdt made on John Cage's 100th birthday on September 5, 2012 along the Maas Harbour in Rotterdam.

This mysterious, contemplative and delicately nuanced piano solo kind of correspondence is performed majestically by van Houdt. He lets the translucent overtones and rich resonances offer a sweet melancholy and nostalgic colors and shades, and only “Lettre 2” adds a fragile dramatic undercurrent to to the quiet exchange of cryptic thoughts and ideas. The words are morphed into a highly personal, suggestive language where “destruction and meaninglessness precede all possible worlds”.

You can trust van Houdt. He sure does know how to draw you into his fascinating musical world.

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Conversation with Mette Rasmussen

By Fabricio Vieira

In this special guest post Fabricio Vieira, who runs the Brazilian music blog, interviews saxophonist Mette Rasmussen, who is currently playing in Brazil, appearing in São Paulo on the 13th and 14th of September.

Farbricio Vierira: You have a very personalized sound ... what did it take to develop that sound? Did you take lessons? Did you find it through practice?

Mette Rasmussen: I did study quite a lot, yes. At schools and at the conservatory. And I took lessons outside of school as well. All a melting pot of components, that led me to how I play today. I think the real shift came, when I started touring a lot, playing in different bands and line-ups, and playing shows night after night, were my embouchure developed a lot because it had to. Also I am really fond of practicing on my own, as well as neerding out, when I have the time. I bring a few books for practice on tour with me, to study when place and time allows it. I used to practice a lot, especially right after school ended. That seems to be all I did for a year or 2, lots of hours a day. Working on sound, and technique, and preparations. I used a lot of hours, and still do, on long notes and overtones. The Holy Grail of Sound.

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

FV: This is the first time have played in Brazil. You are playing solo and with Brazilian artists (Rakta and Bella). What are the expectations for the tour?

Mette Rasmussen: This will be extremely exciting, I don’t really know what to expect, other than I am looking really forward. But I often find not knowing, to be when the most exciting things happen, in the meeting of the unexpected. At that point all your senses is wide open, and there is less or no anticipations. And often new impressions then becomes extremely strong. I am looking very much forward to be playing in a first meeting with both Rakta and Bella. And to be in Rio as well, playing a solo set at Audio Rebel and recording with local musicians. I was once in Rio, many years ago. Studying samba for some weeks. But that is a long time ago.

FV: From your earliest records, with Saft and Riot Trio, you have been working with free improv/free jazz. In your musical life, has free music always been present? Or did your interest in music start with other music genres?

Mette Rasmussen: I didn’t grow up in a musical environment, apart from singing along to the radio with my sister and mom, so in one way music was present in my childhood. To seek out things, I went to the local library and looked under the jazz section, where I would find my first influences. First jazz record I ever put on was Keith Jarrett, Expectations.

In Saft we worked around metric modulations, and both in Saft and Trio Riot we explored the written material as being the catalyst for the improvisations, or the frame around it.

FV: You have played with different veterans and key names in free jazz, but I would like you speak especially of the experience of playing with two: Paul Flaherty and Alan Silva. How were these partnerships?

Mette Rasmussen: Wonderful to see their names in the same sentence, would be great to hear those two play together. Paul I just toured with in the states in July, in trio with Chris Corsano and Zach Rowden joining on the last show making it a quartet. This was only the second time that we played together actually, me and Paul. But we kept contact through the years. I think playing together with Paul, has brought out some new lyrical way in both of us. That happened quite instant. The way the lines will unfold, very effortless. But also for this second time around, we explored even more the power of the two horns together, going into rough and scruffy edge stuff. It has been a while since I played with Alan, but touring with Alan in the past was always extremely insightful and intense in every way, music was engaged and present as so is Alan, Alan would always have more energy than the rest of the entire room, both on and off stage.

Chris Corsano has been an important partner of yours. How did you meet and start playing together?
Mette Rasmussen: We met first time in Oslo, playing the same bill. After that I was in New York, where we were supposed to do a session, but ended up doing a show. Kevin Reilly from Relative pitch was at that show, and suggested doing a record, which we did. That was sort of the beginning, back in 2013. Since then, we toured mostly in Europe, but also Japan, Canada, US and most recently last week in Scandinavia.

FV: His discography is mostly composed by projects in duos and trios. Do you have a preference for small formats? What changes when you play in a big band, like the Fire Orchestra?

Mette Rasmussen: I like smaller formats, but I dont see it as a preference. I do have my own quintet, consisting of two drummers and two bass players. I guess… I have a lot to say, and I like the freedom which a smaller format enables. Larger groups, when it is good, gets to be a small community feeling, which is powerful. Like with Fire! Orchestra, everyone was a family for a little while, and everyone had a big heart for the music that came out of that lineup. So it was a strong community feeling, that you were a part of something bigger, like a movement almost.

Photo by Peter Gannushkin
FV: What have been the big turning points in your career over the last ten years?

Mette Rasmussen: Definitely touring as much as I do. It has been, so far, a life lesson being on the road this much. It is hard work, living most of the year out of a suitcase. But I experience the music developing in real time. Functioning like flesh and blood…

FV: What type of music do you prefer to listen to at home? Can you name 5 essential albums for you?

Mette Rasmussen: Oh, tough one, I listen a lot of music at home, but all very different. Right now before leaving for Brazil, Marissa Anderson solo was spinning, and a Japanese folkway record.

FV: What else are you involved with at the moment and what are some of your future plans?

Mette Rasmussen: Right after Brazil, I will be doing a project with The Trondheim Jazzorchestra, Ole Morten Vågan & Cory Smythe, in Trondheim. And then after that, on the road with Norwegian MoE, the band of Norwegian bass player Guro Moe. Later on in October will be in Krakow with Ken Vandermarks Entr´acte Ensemble. November will be a lot of festivals, such as Wels Unlimited with Joe McPhee´s Special Quartet and at Berlin Jazzfest with Julien Desprez and Rob Mazurek´s T(R)OPIC Ensemble. There will be some one off´s, with The Hatch (duo with Julien Desprez) and duo with Sofia Jernberg and at the end of November a 10 day solo saxophone support tour, for Canadian Godspeed You! Black Emperor in Europe and Russia. All of which I am looking very much forward to!

See the original posting in Portuguese here.

Read more about Mette Rassmussen's recordings on the Freejazzblog.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Andrew Munsey - High Tide (Birdwatcher, 2019) ****

Drummer-producer Andrew Munsey has been working towards this debut album for over a decade, but as with any group workshopped in live sessions, I hadn’t yet had a chance to hear his quintet in action. Featuring Steph Richards on trumpet and flugelhorn and Sam Minaie on bass, the core of High Tide is the same as Richards’s quartet on Take the Neon Lights, with the addition here of Ochion Jewell on tenor sax and kalimba and Amino Belyamani on piano and Fender Rhodes. In more than one way, this echoes the sibling relationships of Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day and Nate Wooley’s quintet.

Like Eisenstadt, Munsey builds striking, addictive melodies, where horns, bass, and keyboards glide through spaces built on coordinated improvisation and lengthy through-composed sections. And like Wooley, Richards is one of the most imaginative, talented brass players, whose use of rhythm and space amplifies the complexity of Munsey’s compositions. Take, for example, the horns around minute 4 of the title track: after Munsey’s brief, percussive bridge, Richards and Jewell return on a lovely B section that has the feeling of a spontaneously assembled, well executed plan. Later, on “Requite,” Minaie sets a drone-like stage to highlight the melody, leading into lengthy, patient solos from Belyamani and Richards. On “Seedlings,” Belyamani’s Fender Rhodes pushes against Richards’s brief solo to create a heavy blanket that subtly hides the groove laid down by Minaie and Munsey.

The whole album drifts between an electro-acoustic dreamspace, overtly represented by the improvised transition pieces (“Petite Feast,” “Driftwood,” “Undertow,” and “Prelude: Tree Fruit”) between the more composed ones (“High Tide,” “Seedlings,” “Requite,” “Schema,” “Les Cinq Doigts: Lento,” and “Skyline”). But much of the credit also goes to Munsey’s use of The Bunker Studio, where the album was recorded. Home of recordings by David Torn, Tim Berne, Vijay Iyer, and Dave Douglas, among dozens of others, The Bunker provides Munsey’s producing, mixing, and mastering side with a draft of tremendous depth. The results are heard everywhere, and “Schema” and “Skyline” are among the album’s sonic highlights. Both combine a balladic timbre with a driving melody, “Skyline” in particular foregrounds the richness of the album’s mix.

Taken together, the elements that make High Tide one of the year’s highlights should also build excitement about Munsey beyond his reputation as a producer. The quintet’s debut is an excellent preview of what’s to come, and not to overdo the comparison to Eisenstadt, but Munsey clearly has a deep well to draw from, and I expect we’ll hear from him increasingly over the next few years.

Available on vinyl, CD and digital at Bandcamp

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Rudi Mahall Olaf Rupp Kasper Tom - s/t (Barefoot Records, 2019) ****

By Paul Acquaro

It can be a pretty special event when Berlin based guitarist Olaf Rupp and clarinetist Rudi Mahall get together with the Danish percussionist Kaspar Tom. It does not happen too often but when it does, musical sparks fly. For those unable to catch these rare appearances, we luckily have the eponymous titled recording, expertly captured by Rupp in concert at the popular Berlin Jazz spot Soweiso in late 2018.

Let's begin with just a little history: Mahall and Tom have released recordings with legendary pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach; Mahall and Schlippenbach have also released a duo recording; and Rupp and Mahall have also recorded together, for instance on Happy Jazz from a few years ago. All excellent recordings, this particular constellation of musicians is something else entirely. Wide ranging and free roaming, the music is at times rooted and other times floating free of any and all tethers. 

So where to start? One could focus on Mahall. The clarinetist - either on the lovely bass or precise Bb version of the instrument - works effortlessly a spectrum running from the traditional to avant-garde, always playing with a full-bodied tone. His playing can be fluid and connective like during the opening bars of the closing track "Zugabe", or fluid and abstract like on the closing moments of the opening track "Opening", or textural and exploratory like on the later half of the track 'Turm'. One could also focus on Rupp, whose playing is unconventional and evocative. He doesn't rely on the typical approach that one may associate with guitar, but rather is able to approach the type cast instrument like it is made for free playing, while not losing its spirit. He plucks, he uses chord fragments, sweeps and unusual arpeggios to make both melodic and non-melodic sounds, pretty much simultaneously. Finally, it may also be tempting to single out Tom's work on the drums. Like his partners, he employs abstracted playing, often pointed, using non-rhythmic pulses and often abruptly stopped cymbal hits and sharp hits on the drum as an equal voice in this trio.

However, it's best to enjoy the sound that they make together. Leading each other along, the music exudes a palpable sense of camaraderie and a friendly pushing of each other's playing. The melodies are very abstract and rely on the interactivity of their playing and quick witted responses. Like on the track 'Vier', where the three are engaged in a multi-layered game of call and response, Rupp smears the tonal palette with distorted tonal clusters and percussive vibrations, Mahall injects slippery lines,  oiling the connection to Tom's akimbo accents. The pulse and approach would be impossible with one alone. Bound by the disconnects, the music defies expectations, it can possibly drive one to madness, and/or raise your level of consciousness to heretofore unimaginable levels - or maybe something in-between.