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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stephen Gauci - Absolute, Absolutely (CIMP, 2008) ****½

This is the second CD by the Stephen Gauci Quartet, with the leader on sax, Nate Wooley on trumpet, Ken Filiano on bass and Lou Grassi on drums, and it is actually the second release of the same recording session which led to the earlier "Wisps Of An Unknown Face" (CIMP, 2005). Apparently Gauci had more material than fit onto a single CD, and it's amazing how prolific he is, especially because he only started recording after he turned 35. I was already very enthusiastic about his CDs released last year. And again, this one is great too. It balances between free jazz and free bop, with great themes and long improvisations, but as Gauci's own liner notes describe it :

"Inside, Outside
Free, not free
Who cares? ...
As long as the source is pure.
Absolute, absolutely"

And the source is pure indeed. This is rhythmic, inspired, expansive, melodic, emotional, controlled and free music, with four musicians in top form, clearly enjoying the gig, but in a very concentrated an focused manner. It is really hard to believe that the material on this CD came as second choice from the performance. It is so full of creative ideas, warmth, sensitivity, soul and musical freedom, that it's a real treat from beginning to end. Gauci's sax sound is one of the most appealing at the moment, capable of many shades of human emotion, with a warm, round sound. The other musicians are also excellent : Filiano and Grassi I already compimented enough in earlier reviews, but Wooley is a different ball game. I never understood that someone with his technical and emotional skills could move so much into avant-garde meaningless sounds (but what does that mean?), but when he's part of a band like this one, he really demonstrates his skills, without relinquishing is natural drive for sound exploration, but it's harnessed, and hence also coming to fruition. An excellent album.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Eivind Opsvik - Overseas III (Loyal Label, 2008) ****

When I heard Norwegian bass-player Eivind Opsvik's first "Overseas" CD in 2003, I immediately fell for it, because of its highly unusual style, which he managed to expand on "Overseas II" and now even further on "Overseas III". This is definitely not free jazz, but modern free-spirited jazz, with influences from rock music and country. Opsvik's compositions bring gentle, unhurried low-tempo, low-density, high intensity jazz, without complexity or pretense, carefully orchestrated with lots of attention to overall sound and mood. The band consists of Jacob Sacks on keyboards, Tony Malaby on tenor, Kenny Wollesen on drums and percussion, Larry Campbell on pedal steel guitar, Jeff Davis on vibes and Eivind Opsvik on bass. All musicians are excellent of course, and perfectly manage to catch Opsvik's musical concept. The second track, "Everseas", is exemplary, as slow as it can get, with Malaby's sax more whispering than producing sound, supported by monotone moody organ and electric piano, and with the arco bass playing like slowly rolling waves on a windless sea. Sure, this is progressive music, but with a sentimentality that is rare in the genre, an emotional honesty that is genuine and authentic and which transpires through every note being played. The long last track illustrates this well, starting with a long and slow almost modern cool jazz intro, then shifting in the middle to single-toned arco bass drone, single notes on the piano, and echo from the organ, with dark and rumbling percussion on the background, and the gentle piano tones suddenly create rhythm, followed by bass and drums, with Malaby's plaintive sax playing a sad beautiful melody with the pedal steel guitar in support. For those of us who enjoy soft and subtle creativity played by a band of great musicians. It is sweet, but with the deep taste of quality. Enjoy!

Listen and buy from CDBaby.

Elton Dean & The Wrong Object - The Unbelievable Truth (Moonjune Records, 2007) ****

The Soft Machine was a British 60s prog rock band, releasing two albums with Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen, Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt, mainly bringing surrealistic psychedelic poppy tunes. After Ayers and Allen left the band, and in order to reward contractual obligations, Ratledge and Wyatt asked Elton Dean and some others to join for their Third album, released in 1970, an album which for me has been an all-time favorite, creating an unbelievable mixture between rock, jazz and psychedelia, and still now, after all these years, the record is worth listening to because of its unrestrained creativity and powerful drive. It set the stage for many similar endeavors by The Soft Machine themselves, but also for many fusion bands, more often than not without much success. The Soft Machine has continued to perform in a large number of various line-ups and musical styles, and I must admit, they lost me in the process. Now, in 2005, just a few months before he passed away, Elton Dean recorded this nice CD with the Belgian jazz-rock band "The Wrong Object", live in Paris. Dean and the band rehearsed each other's material before the performance, but never actually played together because the band's van broke down, and they arrived just in time for the sound check. The band consists of Elton Dean on saxello and alto sax, Laurent Delchambre on drums and percussion, Fred Delplancq on tenor sax, Michel Delville on guitar and voice, Jean-Paul Estiévenart on trumpet and Damien Polard on bass. It's hard to believe they never rehearsed, because their interplay is excellent. The music is propulsive, rhythmic, hypnotic, magical at times, sometimes reminiscent of the early Soft Machine, or of the Electric Miles, with long yet focused soloing, and with Dean literally shining, especially on the first two tracks. Not all the pieces are to my taste though, especially when they throw in little gimmicks like the vocals on the introduction of the fifth track, not all the compositions are on the same high level, but the most important thing is that they remain the vehicles for long and enjoyable improvisations, with an unmistakeable seventies rock drive. Great fun!

Listen to
Seven for Lee
The Unbelievable Truth
Baker's Treat
A Cannery Catastrophe

Watch "Seven For Lee", from the same live performance in Paris, October 18, 2005

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sylvain Guérineau - Dies Irae (Amor Fati, 2007) ****

There is more to come about Sylvain Guérineau, later. Here, he plays alto and baritone sax, solo, with a lot of chamber effect, as if he's playing in a church or something, and that is correct, now that I check it, recorded on the 25th of October in the church of Saint Côme and Saint Damien in Luzarches in France. Don't ask me where it is or who those saints are or why it takes two saints to name a church. He plays sax as if his life depends on it : fierce, violent, but meditative too. It is quite enjoyable. Guérineau started his career as an accountant in a bank. He played sax in the local brass band as a kid. He liked listening to music, but forgot about his instrument. Only later, when his own kids were older, did his former creative interests come back, adding painting to it. As he writes it himself on his website : "Then, I tried to recuperate the time I lost : Soutine, Fautrier, Van Velde, Dubuffet, guided by my holy trinity : Bach, Coltrane, Basquiat. I do not paint paintings, but rather fetishes, talismans, "botchios" : those sculpted pillars that people in Benin put at the entrance of villages to keep evil spirits away and to protect its inhabitants. I would like to achieve with my music and my paintings a kind of wildness. Wildness against "barbarie" (a French word which is hard to translate : something like stupid uncivilized cultureless violence), as if painting and music took hold of reality, as if paint brushes could erase human misery". The cover art of all individual CDs of the entire label is hand-painted by him. There are surely sax players with more technical skills than Guérineau. But there aren't many with the same attitude. And the latter shines through in his music.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dans Les Arbres - Dans Les Arbres (ECM, 2008) *****

This album is highly unusual, extremely beautiful, utterly bizarre while still being accessible. The band consists of Norwegians Ivar Grydeland on acoustic guitar, banjo and sruti box, Christian Wallumrød on prepared piano and harmonium, Ingar Zach on bass drum and percussion, and Frenchman Xavier Charles on clarinet and harmonica. The music is minimalistic, almost chamber music, quiet, without any explicit melodies, yet rhythmic, with the instruments creating unreal sounds, creating layers one on top of the other, and by doing that, building a tension that is in stark contrast by the music's subduedness. There are lots of scraping sounds from the banjo, lots of high squeals, some hypnotic rhythms and slow, almost endless notes from the clarinet, subtle and at times almost classical piano, creating an eery, plaintive but magical atmosphere, which is at the same time attractive and frightening. The titles of the tracks all represent an emotion (indifference, phlegmatic, detachment, coldness, ...) and that is what this music is all about, creating a direct conduit from feelings to sound, and I must say that the result is extraordinary. These four musicians really got rid of all preconceived notions of music and re-built it from scratch. Some tracks are more "zen-like", with little sounds breaking through the silence, demonstrating the four musicians' empathy for each others approach. Their sense of unity in creating this music is probably the most astonishing aspect of it. Unreal. A unique listening experience. Highly recommended.

Listen and download from iTunes.

Nils Petter Molvaer - Re-Vision (Pid, 2008) ***

Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer has been one of the most successful artists to blend techno rhythms with electronics and jazz, bringing mostly atmospheric music with a wide public appeal, or at least wider than the material that usually gets reviewed here. Some of his work is really worth listening to, such as Khmer, Solid Ether and ER, because he manages not to cross the line into kitsch territory (unlike his Swiss epigone Erik Truffaz). This album is a compilation of the scores that NPM wrote for films, and which he selected because they can stand on their own, without the accompanying visuals. His soundtracks are, even more than his regular CDs, 100% Molvaer soundscapes, with repetitive rhythms over which his melancholy trumpet soars, dubbed and post-edited. You hear it once and you've heard it all. The adventurousness was of course created at the start with his first albums, now it seems that he's repeating himself over and over. That being said, there are still some nice things to be heard on this album, especially his solo trumpet piece "Trumpet Solo In The Backyard".

Listen and/or download from iTunes.

Watch a really great clip from "Khmer".

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten - The Year Of The Boar (Jazzland, 2008) ***½

Norwegian musicians are productive these days. More reviews will come in the following days, but let's start with this Norwegian Chicagoan band, consisting of Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass, Jeff Parker on guitar, Dave Rempis on sax, Frank Rosaly on drums and Ola Kvernberg on violin. In the style of the Vandermark 5, the music is rhythmic, structured with arrangements and with solos which are really free, wild and funky at times. The double string instruments of Parker and Kvenberg works perfectly for the long unison themes. The first track, "Maxwell's Silver Demon", give the record a really strong start, with a slow bass and violin intro, bursting open into an uptempo funky vamp, with Parker taking an amazing solo, stopped by an unexpected unison theme, leaving the whole space for an even wilder and unaccompanied solo by Rempis, then encouraged to even more wildness by Rosaly, while guitar and violin suddenly bring in a soothing long theme, with the drums-sax madness keeping on, which get slowly sucked up in an ever increasing tempo that drops away to let the violin do its thing, which is brought to a stop by a fusion-like unison ending. The second track, "Green Wood", brings a repetitive bass line and a beautiful theme allowing the violin to shine, stopping halfway and changing course to let sax and guitar take over for some real free improv, inviting the whole band in for some joint frenzy, but ending with in all back on the same theme. Håker Flaten's music is excellent, and he manages to present the band's skills in many styles of jazz, from strong bop to electronics, with elements of fusion, rock (listen to Parker's bluesy solo in the last track) and free improv, yet the overall result does not give a very integrated or coherent sound, offering a patchwork of nice musical explorations, unfortunately not all belonging to the same quilt. There are great things to be heard though.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Paul Dunmall/Trevor Taylor/Paul Rogers - Zoochosis (FMR, 2006) ****

Free jazz is all about freedom. Musical freedom, psychological freedom, personal freedom, social freedom, with often also direct links to political thoughts about freedom of speech and human rights in general. Rare is the music that comes up for the defense of animal rights. Charlie Haden played "Song For The Whales" for Old & New Dreams, and that's about all that comes to mind at the moment (but it's late and I'm tired), but here we get an entire album dedicated to the cause. Zoochosis is the psychotic behavior that animals demonstrate when caged in zoos or other confined spaces. Their repetitive movements, swinging their heads or trunks from left to right for an eternity, or for polar bears to endlessly swim around in small circles, or acts of self-mutilation even, are signs that something has gone terribly wrong. Paul Dunmall on sax, Trevor Taylor on drums and Paul Rogers on bass, evocate this "zoochosis" on this album, with the telling titles : "Bears", "Birds", "Monkeys", "Big Cats" and "Whales And Elephants". Suppose you knew nothing of this context, I'm not sure whether you could tell what this music is about. No, actually, I'm almost 100% certain that you wouldn't be able to, but that's not the point. Once you know, the stress, the distress, the repetitiveness and the pointlessness become clear. "Bears" is still relatively warm and gentle, on "Birds" you start to hear some painful bird sounds, with all three musicians scraping their instruments, once in a while erupting into a high squeal, but like in the first track falling back into total fatelesness. "Monkeys", interestingly, adds some fun to the CD, because of the steady rhythm of bass and drums, yet Rogers' arco playing adds pain and agony, with the percussion acting as a counterforce disturbing the patterns. Rhythm remains the foundation for "Big Cats", a little faster, with a soft fast walking bass by Rogers, and lots of high-hat playing by Taylor, and brilliant sax work by Dunmall. The best track is the last one, on which "Whales And Elephants", the largest animals, are evocated. The combination of Rogers' arco, Taylor's electronics and Dunmall's sax is both foreboding and beautiful at the start, but gradually evolving into a total madness of screeching sounds, not loud, not in your face, but so distressed, so full of pain, while still maintaining the overall attitude of resignation. A terrifying album, a unique listening experience.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Vijay Iyer galore ...

Vijay Iyer is an unusual pianist. Mainly self-taught (although that's hard to believe), his approach to music is bizarre, interesting and captivating at the same time : often halting, thundering, with odd rhythmic explorations. Probably his education as a scientist partly explains his approach (BS in physics and mathematics from Yale, a master in physics from Berkeley), and he also publicized scientific papers on the cognitive aspects of music and music perception. That in itself is of course not enough to make music of any quality, but it certainly helps in understanding his interesting musical universe. He is a cosmic Monk, a disciplined Cecil Taylor, an avant-garde traditionalist. Some of his work, including last year's "Still Life With Commentator" is kitsch or too far out for me to understand and appreciate, but his jazzy work with Fieldwork or with his own quartet are of the highest quality. To please us all, he just released two new albums simultaneously with both bands.

Fieldwork - Door (Pi Recordings, 2008) ****

This is the third Fieldwork CD, with Iyer on piano, Steve Lehman on sax and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, the latter replacing Elliot Humberto Kavee. The album further explores the music of its predecessors, full of intense rhythms, angular turns, pounding chords, abstract melodies and high intervallic short sax phrases. It sounds odd and funky at the same time. This is not easy listening, but very rewarding. The music is structured in mood and rhythm, but all the rest is improvised, I think. Sometimes the sound is eery, then thundering, but never within the framework of anything you've heard before, with the exception of other albums by Vijay Iyer himself. And that's probably the only comment you can give, that he keeps working on the musical avenue he created. But it remains worthwhile and it is really hard to describe. Take "Bend" for instance, which is a slower piece, but still with that halting rhythm, it's melancholy with some beautiful soloing by both Lehman and Iyer, but so without any fluidity, so abrasive, as if it were deliberate to create the contradiction of "abstract emotions" if such a thing exists. The next track "Cycle 1" starts even more down-tempo with just some piano chords and a slow sax blowing long notes over them, and despite the strong emotional component, you feel that the whole tune is perfectly timed and balanced. Those of you who heard the former Fieldwork albums, will certainly enjoy this one, and for those of you who didn't, don't wait any longer.

Vijay Iyer - Tragicomic (Sunnyside, 2008) ****½
Next to Fieldwork, Iyer has performed and recorded extensively with Rudresh Mahanthappa, his soul brother on sax, here joined by Stephen Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Iyer's musical approach does not change, yet the music is. I would say it is a little less adventurous, more "inside", a little warmer, but still full of rhythmic variations, unexpected twists and turns and intense, intense, intense. The title again reflects his leanings for paradoxes, the level were art surpasses mathematics, the level where contradiction is possible. Music brings joy and pain, can be fun and sad. As he writes in the liner notes : “In our perilous moment of global transition, we have everything to learn from this sensibility. A tragicomic outlook can ease our pains of metamorphosis and help us dream the next phase into being. That's how and why this music was made." The music is much more centered around melodic themes, and this in contrast to the "Fieldwork" album, and you would have the natural tendency to compare the other musicians, but I really can't. Mahanthappa is a fantastic saxophonist, with a different approach than Lehman, equally emotional, but rounder, darker. For contrast : next to the darkness and drama in the music, there is a lot of playfulness : in the tempo changes, in the little altered repetitions, in the musical inventiveness, which makes you smile because it's so clever, but greatly conflicts with the overall tone and still it matches. You get it? I know it's hard to describe, but that's the way it is, that's why this music is of real interest. It's hard to choose, but my preference would go this album, because it has a little more soul, a little more warmth, while still being adventurous and creative.

Listen and download Door on eMusic.
Listen and donwload Tragicomic on eMusic.

Los Dorados - Incendio (Intolerancia, 2008) ***½

This is the third release of the Mexican jazz band Los Dorados. I will not tell you what score I gave to their previous CDs, but it wasn't high. This one is remarkably better, if only because of the presence of trumpeter Cuong Vu. The band consists of Daniel Zlotnik on sax, Rodrigo Barbosa on drums, Carlos Maldonado on bass and Demian Galvez on guitar. Their musical influences are relatively recent, with traces of the electric Miles Davis over regular rock to the more modern music of Cuong Vu himself, but also Jim Black, and despite the rhythmic and melodic foundation, they're not afraid to cross boundaries, nor to respect the tradition either. The good thing about this young band, is that fun and self-relativation are important elements in their approach, combined with instrumental skills and lots of discipline and drive, yet they are clearly still trying to find their own voice. Some tracks are really excellent, such as "Acapulco Golden", which has some great sax and trumpet interaction, or the title track "Incendio", which starts with a nice electric bass vamp, some scratching, halting drumming and Cuong Vu's trumpet moving into bluesy Miles territory with some Lester Bowie's trumpet whispers in between. The closing track, called "Marmotas In The Toilette" is also worthwhile, more uptempo, very structurally disciplined yet unleashing all their improvisational talent. A nice album.

Listen and download from eMusic.

They have a video on Youtube, but it's pretty boring stuff, stopping all the time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Francesco Bearzatti Tinissima Quartet - Suite For Tina Modotti (Parco Della Musica, 2008) ****½

Tina Modotti was an Italian model, actress, avant-garde photographer and revolutionary political activist who died in 1942. She moved from Italy to the US, then to Mexico, then to communist Russia, then to Spain during the Civil War and back to Mexico. There's plenty to be found about her on the internet, so I won't go into her life and works here. Italian saxophonist/clarinetist Francesco Bearzatti brings homage to her with this great CD, accompanied by Giovanni Falzone on trumpet, Danilo Gallo on bass and bass guitar, and Zeno de Rossi on drums. The album is relatively programmatic in its approach, evoking her life in a chronological order, with lots of drama, contextual elements (Latin influences on "Mexico", flamenco electric bass on "Guerra Civil", or the war-like sounds on the same track) but joy, fun and happiness too in some of the uptempo pieces, as in "America" or "Missions". All of the tracks fully fit within the "suite" concept, each evolving in tempo and approach as life itself does. The great thing is that the four musicians' technical skills are sufficiently broad to master all of Bearzatti's compositional excursions, playing their way across all sorts of musical genres and subgenres effortlessly, which allows them to really explore the emotional aspects of Tina Modotti's adventurous and unusual life and personality. From swing to free jazz and avant-garde, but there is some brass band music here too, Latin, flamenco and bop, some balkan influences as well as slow funeral marches. In a way, Charlie Haden's "Ballad To The Fallen" comes to mind, in its dramatic and overtly sentimental approach, but then performed by a quartet. The real highlights are the slower tracks, such as "Russia" and "Hermana No Duermes", the last track. On the former, Bearzatti's clarinet solo will make the tears jump from your eyes, and Falzone's trumpet will force the last drop out of you, while on the latter track, Bearzatti's final solo is absolutely hair-raising in its tearing wailing, played over a repetitive one-note bass drone and clattering drums, while the muted trumpet echoes sadly in the background. Amazing stuff at times. A very rich, varied and beautiful album.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Steve Moore - Stebmo (Self Published, 2008) ****

Steve Moore is a young multi-instrumentalist from Seattle, Washington, playing amongst others trombone and keyboards. He is accompanied on this album by Doug Wieselman on reeds, Todd Sickafoose on bass, Matt Chamberlain on drums, Eyvind Kang on violin, and the album was produced by Tucker Martine. An all-star line-up of modern jazz, with Martine as a top producer of modern rock. In contrast to much jazz, the main focus of the album is the music on the one hand and the production, with lots of post-editing, on the other, less so on the performance or individual soloing. What you get is dense but light-footed music, conjuring up lots of atmospheric images. Martine's impact is clear, and those familiar with Mylab or some of Bill Frisell's later albums will recognize his influence, but the music is all Stebmo's, using jazz elements, Americana,and sound track-like ingredients with lots of dramatic effects. This is gentle music, intimate and calm, but combining joyful and playful elements with dark and menacing background harmonies or sounds. The first track "Waiting Game" sets the scene perfectly. And on one track, "Majika", I thought darkness and gloom would definitely conquer, but then Wieselman starts playing an almost joyful theme on his clarinet. This is slow to mid tempo mood music, carefully crafted and composed, with lots of attention to detail, and overall hard to compare with other music. But if you like Chris Speed's "Deviantics", Wayne Horvitz's "Sweeter Than The Day", or some of Matthew Shipp's work on his Thirsty Ear label, you start getting a gist of what you could hear here. An excellent debut.

Listen and buy from CDBaby.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Frode Gjerstad/Kevin Norton/Paul Rogers - Antioch (Ayler, 2008) *****

Here's again a classic free jazz CD with three masters of the genre, Norwegian Frode Gjerstad on sax, American Kevin Norton on vibes and drums, and Englishman Paul Rogers on bass. This is probably Gjerstad's umpteenth sax trio CD and after all these years and all these performances and all these releases you may start to wonder if getting another one of his CDs is really worth it. And the simple answer is "yes". Not only Gjerstad, but the three men are really inspired. Rogers' bass-playing, especially when playing arco, as he does quite often on this 4-track release gives a haunting, deeply emotional background over which Gjerstad gives one of his best and most articulate, precise and heartrending performance of recent years. And Norton is excellent, adding great touches and shades of color with his vibes without overpowering the two other instruments. That being said, in terms of sound quality, this is also one of the best releases of Ayler Records in recent years. The music is entirely improvised, but the three artists are intelligent and creative enough to keep the attention going, moving between very intense, hectic parts to slow, meditative or plaintive moments, and the most important thing is that the three musicians almost permanently create the overall musical effect together, it is not a question of alternating solos, wich in a strict sense they hardly ever do here, just weaving their sounds through each other to paint a beautiful improvised canvas. Melody and rhythm in the traditional sense are not high on this trio's agenda, so I'm not too sure whether this music is accessible, but it sure is very attractive, as you get sucked in by the sublime interaction and magnificent musical expressivity. The only downside is that it stops too early (and cut off in the worst possible way, as a fast fade-out).

Listen and download from Ayler Records or from Klicktrack.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fond Of Tigers - Release The Saviours (Drip Audio, 2007) ****½

"Fond Of Tigers" is a Vancouver band which defies categorization : it's instrumental rock, it's jazz, it's prog rock, it's repetitive minimal, it's violent, it's high energy, it's extremely well-organized and timed, it's structured, it's avant-garde, it's emotional, it's free. The band consists of Shanto Bhattacharya on bass, Skye Brooks and Dan Gaucher on drums, JP Carter on trumpet, Stephen Lyons on guitar, Morgan McDonald on piano and label owner Jesse Zubot on violin. Their rhythms and rhythm changes are as excellent as they are unexpected, reminding of King Crimson (and the cover could be KC too!), they have the weird energy and full band wall of sound kind of approach like Soil & Pimp Sessions and the sense of adventure of the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio. And that's a compliment, there are lesser bands to be compared to. But the band's great success is that they actually are beyond comparison with an unbelievably strong musical unity throughout the album, regardless of the variety of approaches. Their unrelenting drive, creativity and emotional content make this a unique band, worth checking out by anyone interested in modern music. The band's musical accessibility, eclecticism and high quality is a guarantee that music lovers from many different horizons will enjoy their approach. Highly recommended.

Listen to
Pemberdunn Maple Wolfs
Let's Carve Forever Together
A Long Way To Temporary

Listen and download from eMusic.

Just some sounds

Just for a change, another list, this time a list of sounds. Describing music is not always an easy task, you just lack the words for what you hear. And that's good. You wouldn't want sounds to repeat what you already know. The list can also offer ideas to those that are in need of them. I'm sure there are thousands more to list and to find. Another trick could be to list the sounds below with the list of human emotions already published earlier. Sounds and emotions : music in its most basic form.
  • banging
  • barking
  • bashing
  • bawling
  • beeping
  • belching
  • bellowing
  • blabbing
  • blaring
  • bleating
  • blowing
  • blurting
  • bonking
  • bong
  • boom
  • braying
  • breathing
  • brushing
  • bubbling
  • bumping
  • burping
  • buzzing
  • caw
  • chatter
  • chewing
  • chirp
  • choo-choo
  • choking
  • chuckling
  • clanging
  • clanking
  • clapping,
  • clattering
  • click
  • clucking
  • clunk
  • coo, cooing
  • coughing
  • crackle
  • crashing
  • creaking
  • crowing
  • crunching
  • cuckoo
  • drip
  • droning
  • explosion
  • fizz
  • flapping
  • flicker
  • flip
  • flushing
  • flutter
  • gaggle
  • galloping
  • giggle
  • grinding
  • growling
  • grunting
  • gurgling
  • haha
  • hack
  • hammering
  • hiss
  • hohoho
  • humming
  • honking
  • howling
  • hooting
  • kerplunk
  • knock
  • jingling
  • lowing
  • meow
  • mewing
  • mooing
  • mumble
  • murmuring
  • ooze
  • ping, plop
  • popping
  • pounding
  • pouring
  • puffing
  • punching
  • purring
  • quacking
  • rattle
  • revving
  • ringing
  • roaring
  • rumbling
  • rustling
  • scraping
  • scream
  • screeching
  • screwing
  • shuffle
  • sighing
  • sizzling
  • slapping
  • slash
  • sloshing
  • slurp
  • smack
  • snarling
  • sniffing
  • snivelling
  • snorting
  • sobbing
  • splash
  • spraying
  • squawk
  • sqealing
  • squelch
  • squirting
  • static
  • sucking
  • swoosh
  • tearing
  • thud
  • thumping
  • thundering
  • ticking
  • tic-toc
  • tinkle
  • twang
  • wailing
  • weeping
  • whallop
  • whimpering
  • whining
  • whinnying
  • whip
  • whispering
  • whistle
  • whizz
  • whoosh
  • wiping
  • wooing
  • yawning
  • yip
  • yelp
For further reference : the International Sound Effects Library.

As always : ideas are welcome. What is your favorite sound? Or favorite word for a sound?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poolplayers - Way Below The Surface (Songlines, 2008) ****

Here is another record of interest, which combines some interesting musicians of today's European avant-garde scene, and that is meant in the broadest sense, artists who do not belong to a specific genre, but who somehow are interested and master many, from jazz to ethnic music and electronics. Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, French pianist Benoit Delbecq, Danish drummer Lars Juul and British drummer Steve Argüelles, all have electronics as part of their instrumental credits on the album sleeve, yet the straight instruments remain the main voice on the album, once in a while altered or supported by electronics, and that makes it a good listening experience to me. The music is slow, introverted and improvised. It is much in the line of what we know from Arve Henriksen, including the vocal trumpet parts, the singing, but the combination with Delbecq and the two drummers works to perfection to build an enigmatic, contemplative atmosphere, and is best illustrated by "Time Makes The Tune", the longest track on the album, on which all instruments get different sound qualities because of the electronics, but nicely, gently, emotionally, creating a sound sculpture by adding layers of sparse notes and pointillistic accents, with Henriksen's high-toned wordles singing completing the eery atmosphere. Beautiful music.

Listen to
Beneath The Undercurrent
A Rumored Version Of Ourselves

Downloand from eMusic.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lisle Ellis - Sucker Punch Requiem (Henceforth, 2008) ****

As you may have noticed, I am not a fan of vocal jazz (with some exceptions), and frankly speaking I am not too often impressed by flute-playing in a jazz environment (I just don't like the sound of it), nor am I too much in favor of post-editing, mixing and electronics. But then you get this album : with Pamela Z on vocals and electronics and Holly Hofmann on flutes. You put it on out of curiosity, and what you get is a different musical world than the one you know. Add Oliver Lake on sax, George Lewis on trombone, Mike Wofford on piano, Lisle Ellis on bass and electronics and Susie Ibarra on drums and percussion. Also, forget your knowledge of Lisle Ellis's former CDs with the likes of Joe McPhee, Marco Eneidi or Larry Ochs. Ellis manages to create his own musical world here, based on the example of - and in homage to - graffitti poet and painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. The title from the album goes back to one of Basquiat's graffitti lines "Jimmy Best on his back to the sucker punch of his childhood files". Ellis describes in the liner notes how he uses Basquiat's painting technique to create the music : to use the simplest possible structure as a starting point, namely the traditional six part Mass Of The Dead of the Roman Catholic Church, then start making layers and layers of music over the theme, much like paint on a canvas, and then start removing parts of layers to uncover what lays below "to expose sonic images and overlapping musical shapes". When you read that, you may also think of the worst kind of hermetically closed avant-garde music. But again that's not what you get. The album consists of 16 tracks of relatively accessible musical explorations, with the electronics in a functional and serving role, and with relatively sparse instrumentation. The compositions are abstract, but full of emotions. The Roman Catholic Church may have offered the structure, but that's about all. The themes are jazz, and so are the rhythms. Some tracks are outright mainstream, such as the long "Suicide Study", with great walking bass, gentle piano playing and subtle drumming. Other tracks (luckily the shorter ones, all called "Perishables") use electronics and some hard to identify distorted instruments. The overall effect is excellent. It is bizarre at times, but always recognizable, in a way that you can relate to what is being played, while you can still be surprised at how it's brought. And the musicianship is truly great, with special mention for Lake and Ibarra : every note Lake plays is full of emotion, and with a broad range, Ibarra's drumming is very creative and unexpected at times, but always full of ideas and effect. It will not be to everyone's taste because of its novel approach and abstract, sometimes cerebral compositions, but its emotional value will become clearer with each listen.

Listen and download or buy from CDBaby.

Keefe Jackson's Project Project - Just Like This (Delmark, 2008) ***

I have mixed feelings about this CD. On the one hand it's great : the musicians are great and include some of the best of the Chicago scene (Josh Berman - cornet, Jaimie Branch - trumpet and flügelhorn, Jeb Bishop, Nick Broste - trombone, Marc Unternährer - tuba, James Falzone - clarinet, Guillermo Gregorio - alto saxophone and clarinet, Jason Stein - bass clarinet, Dave Rempis - baritone and alto saxophone, Keefe Jackson - tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Anton Hatwich - bass, and Frank Rosaly - drums), the music itself is not bad and the arrangements and the recording itself are excellent. And on top of that, the whole approach is very consistent from beginning to end, creating a real unique voice in mixing a "traditional" mini big band with free jazz element. So why doesn't it appeal to me? Frankly, I don't know. Maybe because it's too organized? But I had the same feeling with other Delmark albums which combine an expanded horn section with real free jazz thinking, such as Ernest Dawkins' "Mean Ameen". Is it because it's too cerebral? But so are Braxton and the Chicago Underground Trio, also on Delmark. The only reason I can think of is that I never saw them perform live. If I had seen them, I may have been overjoyed by getting the CD now. Unfortunately it's the other way round. It's an excellent CD by many standards, but it just doesn't strike a chord with this guy. But I would love to see them perform on stage.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Trevor Watts & Jamie Harris - Ancestry (Entropy, 2007) ****½

Brilliant! British alto saxophonist Trevor Watts and percusionnist Jamie Harris play 13 songs of free improvisation, but how : rhythmic, free, melodic, intense, jubilant, sad, with musical influences from around the globe : Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, Europe, and then jazz of course. Time-Out Magazine announced their life performance last year as an "intoxicating tribal jazz-dance", and that's a pretty good description. Watts has of course decades of musical experience, and he has played in all kinds of genres and ensembles, from the avant-garde Spontaneous Music Ensemble to his own Moiré percussion bands, which blend African rhythms with free blowing. On this album, he brings the music back to its barest essence, and as usual - for me at least - that works best. And his technique is superb. On "Maribor Memories", for instance, he plays the entire tune through circular breathing and extremely melodic, with tempo changes and all, instead of the usual repetitive drone you might expect. If there is one downside to the recording, it's the fact that some tracks are just extracts from the performance, with fade-ins and fade-outs. I hate that, especially when the music is so good, because it just gives you a taste of what you have missed.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Music from Israel ...

Despite the horror and human stupidity taking place in Israel and Palestine, there is still good music coming out of the region, and often artists are taking a leading position in fighting for mututal understanding. It is also clear that the events taking place there also affect the music and the emotions with which they're made.

Third World Love - New Blues (Anzic Records, 2007) ***

Third World Love is a band from Israel with Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Omer Avital on bass, Yonathan Avishai on piano and Daniel Freedman on drums. This album is much better than their previous release, because there is much more focus, nuance and emotional expressiveness. It is more jazzy, with great melancholy tunes, incorporating jazz, flamenco, mediterranean, Arabic and jewish influences. It is very mainstream without any pretence but fresh enough to be of interest. Some of the tunes are a little bit bland, such as "Hamina", because this kind of flamenco tune and rhythm we've heard a zillion times before, and the band adds nothing to it, but that should not spoil the pleasure, because other tracks such as the more African "Nature's Dance" or the sad "Beauty of Death" are great.

Listen and download from iTunes.

Amos Hoffman - Evolution (Razdaz, 2008) ***½

Amos Hoffman is an Israeli guitarist and oud-player. The oud is an instrument I really like because of its natural warmth and clean sound. His first release, "The Dreamer", was a jazz guitar album, and "Na'ama" from 2006, on which he already switched to the oud, incorporated more middle-eastern influences, but was still lacking its own voice. Now, with "Evolution", he goes a step further, again with Avishai Cohen (the other one) on bass and vocals, Ilan Katchka on percussion and Ilan Salem on alto flute. Some tracks are hypnotic like the long "The Journey", blending yearning solos with strong rhythmic drive. The music is at its best when it sticks to the more traditional Arabic influences, like in "The Wheel", on which Cohen's bass is instrumental in shaping the overall mood, yet the real highlight is Hoffman's solo piece "Takasin Bayati". Unfortunatly, not all tracks are of the same quality. But overall a worthwhile album.

Listen and download from iTunes.

Yitzhak Yedid - Oud Bass Piano Trio (Between The Lines, 2005) ****½

Moving things up a level is Yitzhak Yedid's "Suite In Five Movements", originally recorded and released in 2005, but since recently also available for download on the internet. Yedid is a very gifted piano-player with a solid classical education, with good knowledge and interest in modern classical music and jazz. On this album, he mixes these genres and adds middle-eastern influences. He is accompanied by Mikhail Maroun on oud and by Ora Boasson on bass. The latter kicks of the five suites with a dark and tremendously powerful bass intro, setting an eery tone and atmosphere. The first piece is hypnotic, with lots of unison melodies for either piano and oud, or oud and bass. Boasson's precision on arco is strong, especially in the highest tones, sounding almost like a cello. She is astoundingly good. The second piece is more ondulating, starting slowly, moving to a loud climax in the middle part, and slowing down again into a more resigned mood. On the third movement Yedid himself demonstrates his skills on the piano (see his intro on the video below), in a composition that starts off more light-footed, yet which is pulled back into a dark and solemn atmosphere when bass and oud join after six minutes (still on the video), yet the piano reacts to this by starting to improvise freely and in full jazz-mode, as he's trying to escape from the gravity created by the string instruments. On the fourth movement, melancholy sets the theme, again with Boasson on a hauntingly beautiful arco bass, and with Mikhail Maroun shining on a long oud solo in the middle part. The last piece is nervous and agitated, and if you want to hear a bass weep, this is the place. Sad, dark but immensly powerful. A major success.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ad Peijnenburg & William Parker - Brooklyn Calling (Dino CD, 2004) ****½

At times I wonder how it happens that I come across so many "four star CDs" a week, often doubting my own sense of judgment. The fact is that I mostly write about what I like, helping you, reader and listener, to new albums you might like (I hope!). To do that I scan the internet on a daily basis, from allaboutjazz to label sites, etc. Sometimes musicians or labels send me their material, as is the case here with Ad Peijnenburg, and it is truly mind-boggling that I wasn't aware of this CD, which was released in 2004. Either I was asleep at the time, or there wasn't sufficient interest in his music, or the more professional reviewers were also asleep. And that's a shame, because the nice, charming and warm duo-setting of Peijnenburg's baritone sax and William Parker's empathetic bass is truly excellent. Peijnenburg's playing is soft, gentle, hesitant and deeply emotional, and so free. He rarely falls back into musical patterns : what he does is new, created on the spot, and remaining that way, without creating tunes based on repetitions of notes or chordal progressions, yet managing to be melodious throughout. When he does integrate tunes into his improvisations, they are almost humoristic, as in the middle of "Many Things". Parker of course has played in many contexts before, and his adaptability to another musician's musicial vision is as brilliant as always. He sounds like William Parker, but the Peijnenburg William Parker, joining the Dutchman in his journey, in his concept, not afraid to lay accents or even push his partner on, or even shouting at times. The first track is called "Notes From Heaven", and this title fits the whole album. This is true, genuine, authentic music, by a skilled free-spirited instrumentalist who clearly enjoys every note the two of them play : sober and rich at the same time. Try to find it.

You can order directly from the musician :

Jim O'Rourke, Akira Sakata, Yoshimio - Hagyou (BounDEE, 2008) ****

It's always of interest to hear what the interaction will give between musicians from different backgrounds. As often as not the result is bad, but once in a while the result can be excellent. And this is the case for this album. Former Sonic Youth member and producer Jim O'Rourke (guitar), Japanese saxophonist/marine biologist Akira Sakata and Japanese rock multi-instrumentalist YOSHIMIO from The Boredoms join forces on this wonderful new album. The three musicians manage to create a very strong and very coherent gentle and emotionally strong piece of music, with ambient and slow guitar or keyboard backgrounds over which Sakata's sax weaves beautiful, gut-wrenching, screeching and heartbreaking solos. And on several tracks Yoshimio's high-toned, wordless singing is absolutely stellar. The band is more focused on creating atmospheric soundscapes through improvisation and careful mixing than through compositional strength, and yet the overall effect is strong. Many have tried the combination of slow ambient background music over which a lonely sax plays a sad tune, often falling into the abyss of superficial sentimentality and artificial tear-jerking, not rising above the level of the soundtrack for a soft porn movie. At times you get that kind of effect here too, but the musicians avoid the deep dive into cheapness, because the music is clever and creative, it's fresh and even daring at times, passionate and extremely well produced. Highly recommended for those who like a mix of progrock with jazzy influences.

Listen to samples.

For one reason or the other, when you google the name of this album, you get truckloads of torrent sites where you can download it, and hardly any site with information on the CD.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The September Quartet - What Goes Around (Loose Torque, 2008) ****

One day in September of last year Jon Corbett (trumpet) and Nick Stephens (bass), met for a duo recording. They asked Tony Marsh (drums) for the second day and recorded "The Play's The Thing", and Paul Dunmall (sax) joined on the fourth to record this CD. Three days, three releases on Nick Stephens' Loose Torque label. These four musicians know what music is, and they feel each other beautifully, they even sense each other blindly. The first track starts with a bizarre slow halting rhythm, as if bass and drums are trying to level each other out. Dunmall and Corbett weave their expressive tones over it. Throughout the album the atmosphere remains the same : mid-tempo free improv, with excellent interaction. These guys don't scream, they don't shout, they don't go to extremes, keeping the tones all within the middle range, using improvisational phrases unusually, keeping away from the expected, without totally relinquishing jazz tradition. As on Corbett's other albums, this music is very much in the moment, full of concentrated intense musical joy in the creation of sound and interplay. Most of the time this results in collage-like sounds overlapping each other and redirecting the music to other places, but once in a while the music flows together for some strong emotional playing, with the rhythm section rumbling along, full of surprises and creative insights. Really intense and interesting stuff.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mark O'Leary - Zemlya (Leo Records, 2008) ****

Irish guitarist Mark O'Leary has been quite productive lately, with an excellent CD last year on Clean Feed, with a double trumpet front line, some guitar trio outings, but always looking further for new combinations, and alternatives to what he has already created. Standing still or repeating the same is not part of his attitude apparently. Therefore each new album is a surprise, which you may like or not, but you have to grant it to him, there aren't many musicians with the courage to re-think themselves with each record, and hence keep pushing themselves to new boundaries. And regardless of his exploratory drive, somehow the music is still accessible in a way.

On "Zemlya" we find him this time with American violinist Eyvind Kang and Canadian drummer Dylan Van Der Schyff. I assume that the "Zemlya" in the title refers to Nova Zembla, the nordic archipelago of Russia, yet it also means "Planet" in Russian. Like "On The Shore", the band's music is at times very evocative of natural landscapes, including the sounds of seagulls or whales, generated through the many manipulative possibilities of guitar and violin and drums, aided by laptop and electronics. O'Leary clearly takes the lead on the album, often sounding like Terje Rypdal, trying to bring icy soundscapes, but much more nervous and less sentimental than the Norwegian guitarist. His guitar phrases are edgy, abstract, full of short bursts of note sequences, often alternated by long wails. Kang plays a lot of pizzi, often recorded very close, giving an almost intimate feel to the violin at times, with the guitar and the drums in a more distant background, but the musical effect of electric guitar and violin are at best when they move into long wails, acting in counterpoint and echo. All three musicians move between extremely busy musical soundscapes to more sparse evocations, without any clear melodic or rhythmic lines, but with absolute relentless energy and drive. There isn't much warmth to be found here. Lots of harshness and hardness. Lots of intense moving about. The very limited comments on the Leo website that this album is amongst others influenced by Korean court music. I'm not too sure what that sounds like, nor how to identify it on this album. I assume it's the last track but I'm not too sure. That there are many influences working at the same time is clear enough. In any event, there is a clear structure and build-up of approaches on the album, evolving from the sound of nature, a fusion-like part, then electronics, over avant-garde chamber, more electronics, more fusion, ending in the warm welcoming gentleness of the last track, which sounds like coming home after a night in the blizzard. A great listening experience.

Buy or download via Leo Records.

Mark O'Leary & Günther Müller - Skyshifter (Creative Sources, 2007)

On Skyshifter, O'Leary and percussionist Günther Müller make a totally different kind of music. Any reference to jazz is hard to find. From the very first notes to the last, there are layers of electronic drones in varying colors and intensity, sometimes dark, sometimes shrill, once in a while interspersed with repetitive percussive rhythms. This kind of music is totally alien to me. I do not understand it. I cannot evaluate it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

John Zorn - The Dreamers (Tzadik, 2008) ****

"The Dreamers" is a kind of successor to "The Gift", John Zorn's pleasantly dark mixture of surf music with jazz and modern electronics. This menacing gloomy atmosphere is kept here, despite the fun late 50s/early 60s melodies, especially on the long "Anulikwutsayl", on which Marc Ribot again demonstrates his skill at finding the right tone between bluesy guitar shredding while going outside the blues scale to add effect, supported by dark whispers and high female screams. The same ambiguity of gentleness and horror was a little more present on the previous release (the reason why it's called "The Gift" is because Zorn had to wrap the CD in an additional cover because of the sick art work of Trevor Brown) than on this one, but the style and musical approach is generally the same. Other band members include Jamie Saft on organ, Trevor Dunn on bass, Joey Barron on drums, Cyro Baptista on percussion and Kenny Wollesen on vibes, and of course Zorn himself on sax. The music is fully composed, with quite some attention to the final editing in the studio, and incorporates all Zorn's usual styles : rock, klezmer, cinematic elements (Morricone), jazz, latin, and of course surf music. Ribot and Wollesen are the lead voices here, and the rhythm section is unbelievable in its variety, forward motion and repetitive lines. It is fun. It is dark.

One warning : I downloaded my copy via iTunes and the album is incomplete : the last three tracks are missing. I only found out after I purchased it. So it's probably better to order elsewhere.

Listen to iTunes.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tim Berne's Bloodcount - Seconds (Screwgun, 2007) ****

Tim Berne's Bloodcount consists of some of the most creative musicians of the New York jazz scene, with Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor, Michael Formanek on bass, Jim Black on drums and Marc Ducret on guitar. The idiosyncratic Frenchman is absent on this double CD, which was recorded in 1997, yet he is present on the accompanying DVD. The absence of Ducret has a great influence on the overall "color" of the music, which is a little warmer and more accessible without his raw, abstract guitar-playing, yet that doesn't mean the claws have been taken out of band, which is absolutely excellent in all its modern musical vision and unrelenting drive. Berne's sense of improvised melodiousness while keeping a strict grip on the structure of each long piece is astonishing. The music itself rocks and funks at times (often), but it can also be slow and bluesy, but always full of pathos and drama. Despite the length of the tracks, Berne never releases the tension, keeping the pressure up, but that's not something needed here, with someone like Jim Black on the drums, who plays as if his life depends on it. Berne and Speed's interaction is beautiful, twirling around each other like serpents, while Formanek provides the rock solid basis and lots of emotional depth, especially on the pieces on which he gives lengthy solo bass introductions. Truly great. I'm glad this one is now available on CD.

Listen to
Scrap Metal
Sense And Sinsemilla

Spring Heel Jack - Songs & Themes (Thirsty Ear, 2008) ****½

The British duo of sampler Ashley Wales and multi-instrumentalist John Coxon, better known as Spring Heel Jack, continue their search for new sounds and musical sculptures, combining electronics with the expressive openness of free jazz. And true to their former releases on the Matthew Shipp's Thirsty Ear label, the musicians performing here are of the highest calibre : Roy Campbell on trumpet, John Tchicai on sax and bass clarinet, John Edwards on bass and Tony Marsh on drums, with guests Orphy Robinson on vibraphone, J Spaceman on electric guitar and Mark Sanders and Rupert Clervaux on drums. This is possibly their lightest and most accessible release to date, with slow moving atmospheric pieces, over which Campbell and Tchicai weave their often melancholy solos, with some exceptions. On "1000 years", J Spaceman builds a wall of guitar noise, and on the beautiful "Folk Players", Edward's arco bass, accentuated with vibes and percussion, produces some heartrending sounds. Another highlight is "For Paul Rutherford", a subdued homage by Campbell, accompanied by one lonely drum, for the trombonist who died last year. True, the editing takes away a lot of the spontaneity and emotional expressivenes we expect from jazz, but on the other hand, Coxon and Wales do it with so much respect for the material, with so much eye for subtlety, and with a great coherence, looking for new musical avenues, that the end result is really great.

Listen and download from iTunes.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ketil Björnstad & Terje Rypdal - Live In Leipzig (ECM, 2008) ****

Two Norwegians with long-standing reference on the ECM label play a live album, recorded in Leipzig, Germany. Björnstad on piano, Rypdal on guitar. Two musicians that are not alike at all in style, yet very close in mood. Björnstad is classically trained, and plays in a rich romantic, impressionistic style. Rypdal comes from a rock background, and has hence a much more direct approach, not hindred by a broad guitar technique. But technique is one thing, playing music and making music is something else, and both are absolute masters at that, Rypdal even more than Björnstad, I think. But in essence, both are romantics, and it's not surprising that they meet in a jazz environment. Despite their difference in approach and style, they meet each other in perfect harmony of mood and musical vision. Rypdal's typical distorted high-toned full chamber full reverb guitar sound clashes with the piano's unadultered sound, but only initially. Once you get used to the combination, it works. It is clear that Björnstad has the lead, setting out the themes of the songs, with Rypdal reacting in counterpoint, or giving harmonic depth to the melody, or expanding it in wild improvisations. "The Sea II" demonstrates the full range of what these musicians can offer : emotional power, sentimental and musical explorations without becoming cheap, playing music that is as much Debussy as it is Pink Floyd or jazz. On the last-but-one track Rypdal takes the lead from Björnstad, creating a dark multilayered guitar synth environment full of echo and feedback, as a lead-in to the grand finale, which is jubilant, joyful and as expansive as you might hope for. I once was a fervent fan of Rypdal (especially for his "Odissey" (vinyl version) or his trio with Miroslav Vitous and Jack DeJohnette, both on ECM and highly recommended), but lost interest once he became too mellow and déjà-vu. But this one is great. Melodic, intimate and expansive, and the audacious confrontation between the soft and subtle piano with the sustained wailing guitar works well, works very well.

Listen and download from iTunes.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jörgensmann/Oles/Oles - Alchemia and Poznan

Theo Jörgensmann, Marcin Oles, Bartlomiej Oles - Alchemia (Hatology, 2007) ****

Listen to

Theo Jörgensmann, Marcin Oles, Bartlomiej Oles - Live In Poznan (Fenommedia, 2008) ****½

Listen to
Buy from Fennomedia.

German clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann issued two CDs before with the Polish Oles brothers, "Minitatures" and "Direction", both of which are excellent. To up the ante, the trio now released two live CDs, with some of the material coming from these studio recordings, and they are as good, no less could be expected from them. On both CDs Jörgensmann plays the basset clarinet, which allows for the playing of additional notes in the lower range. One CD was recorded at the now becoming famous Alchemia club in Krakow, Poland, in May 2006, and the other one in Poznan, Poland in March 2006. One might question the value of two live CDs with the same band, recorded in such a short time frame and with overlapping material : "Perrata", "Giuffree", "Menace", pieces accounting for half the length of both records, but since the 12 CD release of the Vandermark 5 at Alchemia, this kind of questions has become irrelevant, because the performance is what counts, on an equal level with the material, and believe me, both CDs are really worth listening to. And there are differences : "Menace" clocks in at 19 minutes on the Alchemia performance, while only at nine minutes in Poznan, just to demonstrate that the trio plays as the moment tells them to. Jörgensmann's playing is abstract but fluid, melodic and soulful, free and anchored in the tradition. He can play deliriously long high speed phrases, but also enjoy slow, bluesy and yearning moments as on "Giuffree", his hommage to Jimmy Giuffre, one of the icons of the jazz clarinet. And the Oles brothers? Well, what can I say more than what I wrote before? They are one of the best rhythm sections around : sensitive, innovative, intrinsically musical and free. One a treat for the ear, the other a pleasure to hear, and vice versa. If I had to choose one of the two albums, I would go for the Fennomedia release, because of the absolutely impeccable sound quality, giving the live performance an even more direct feel, as if you are part of the audience.