Click here to [close]

Ayler Xmas: Klaus Kugel (dr); Mars Williams (s); Mark Tokar (b); Jaimie Branch (tr); Knox Chandler (g)

Weikersheim, Club W71, 12/8/2018.

Punkt.Vrt.Plastik: Christian Lillinger (d), Petter Eldh (b), Kaja Draksler (p)

Schorndorf, Manufaktur, 11/22/2018. Photo by Martin Schray

OM: Christy Doran (g), Urs Leimgruber (s), Bobby Burri (b), Fredy Studer (dr).

Schorndorf, Manufaktur, 12/7/2018

Escalator: Ken Vandermark (sax, cl) Mark Tokar (b) and Klaus Kugel (dr)

W71, Weikersheim, Germany 10/27/2018. Photo by Martin Schray

Kaja Draksler/Eve Risser (p)

BASF Gesellschaftshaus, Ludwigshafen, 10/11/2018. Photo by Martin Schray.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Mars Williams - An Ayler Xmas Vol 2 (ESP Disc, 2018) ****

Last year, Mar William's released Volume 1 of An Ayler Xmas, this year, the saxophonist has followed up with Volume 2, which is another celebratory mash up of holiday music delivered in the style of Albert Ayler and with reference to his signature melodies.

Unlike the first volume that was recorded with his Ayler tribute group Witches and Devils from Chicago, Volume 2 is comprised half from a European version of the band, with the tracks pulled from a date in Vienna. So for half the album, joining Williams is cornetist Josh Berman, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, keyboardist Jim Baker, bassist Kent Kessler, multi-instrumentalist Brian Sandstrom, and drummer Steve Hunt, with a guest spot by trombonist Jeb Bishop. On the the other half, we have trumpeter Thomas Berghammer, bassist Hermann Stangassinger, drummer Didi Kern, and electronics wiz Christof Kurzmann.

The album begins with the 15 minute "Xmas Medley" in which we hear piano, cello, guitar, and drums in a royal rumble while the horns play with fanfare flare. The band switches between searing solos and traditional and not so traditional holiday songs, like the quote from the Waitresses ear-worm "Christmas Wrapping". Here, Jeb Bishop's trombone solo stands out, floating over the roiling undercurrents and weaving around the song quote studded accompaniment. The track breaks down in the middle and small instruments, like the finger piano, or forlorn calls from the bass, cry out from the void. The mood changes from bleak to hopeful, as there is a chorus from "Frosty the Snowman" followed by a chorus from a traditional tune, which finally pulls the group back to its feet as they go out in squelching triumph.

The next track, "O Tannenbaum - Spritis - 12 Days of Christmas" features the Vienna band. The mix of the two bands is noticeable at the start. Someone, possibly Kurzmann (who is credited with vocals), speak/sings the lyrics of "O Tannenbaum", first the original German version, then after an instrumental passage, the socialist anthem version known as "The People's Flag". Then, the group launches into Ayler's 'Spirits' and quickly gains momentum, showing the same enthusiasm and grit as their American counterparts. They reach a collective peak as Williams and Berghammer take off in different directions. William's wraps up the track with a fiery cadenza, stark against a silent backdrop, and signals the closing moments with a piercing note.

We're then brought back to Chicago, track three being a medley of "Love Cry" and "Christmas Wrapping" (the quote returns, this time growing and multiplying). Track four is an epic "Carol of the Drum - Bells - O Come Emmanuel - Joy to the World". The closing track brings us back to Vienna for a mashup of Ayler's "Universal Indians" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", featuring Kurzman's lloopp, a heartfelt solo from Williams, and a the refrain "we wish you a merry Christmas" and, whispered with an Austrian accent, "a happy New Year".

Volume 2 is another successful installment of Christmas and Ayler cheer. Whether you are tempted to pull it out between the holidays remains up to your feelings towards the songs out of their temporal context, but with the sheer musicianship and spirited deliver makes it a real possibility. Regardless, William's Ayler/Xmas concept remains strong and holds up well against international travel.

Annette Peacock 12-8-2018. Brooklyn, NY.

Annette Peacock (from Blank Forms)

By Eric Stern

On Friday, December 8th, I went to the First Unitarian Church in downtown Brooklyn to see a rare solo performance by Annette Peacock. The show was produced by Blank Forms and Artists Space. It was part of an end-of-the-year fundraiser for Blank Forms with the first few rows being set aside for donors. The room was full, and the audience waited patiently for nearly an hour before the performer took the stage. The lack of any audience response to the delay demonstrates that this behavior was both anticipated by the sizeable crowd and provided also a fortuitous opportunity for the community of music fans to socialize with one other in anticipation of the set.

Peacock, who is now 78 years old, demonstrated that time has not diminished either her playing or her singing ability. The most effective songs from the performance were those that did not include synthesizers and pre-recorded instruments. Those that did feature synthesizers often felt trapped in the time of their creation, the 1970s and the 1980s. Those pieces that relied only on her voice and piano skills felt fresh, exciting, and new despite that fact that most of these songs were written decades ago.

Annette Peacock's work feels sui generis, a prototypical "one of a kind." The first stage of her
musical career spans the decade from 1965 to 1975, during which Paul Bley recorded many of Peacock's songs including "Touching," "Blood," "Mr. Joy," and "Nothing Ever Was, Anyway." These important recordings helped to establish ECM Records, and they continue to be frequently covered by other artists, including recent versions by guitarist Mary Halvorson and Nels Cline. Peacock was an early adopter of synthesizers and was among the first to use a Moog to treat her vocals. Her songs are often notable for their oddly melodic structures and the frank discussion of sexuality and relationships. Since the ECM release of An Acrobat's Heart in 2000, there have been no studio recordings and only a small handful of live appearances.

While not the subject of a major re-issue campaign, Peacock has managed the trick of establishing a new audience even in the absence of new recordings or touring. The audience on Friday contained plenty of grey-haired persons but also a strong contingent of young listeners. Considering that the artist controls much of her own catalog, which was released on her own Ironic Records label, this would seem to be a good time for her to make them available again, at least in a digital format.
The set ran a little more than an hour. The singer appeared to be suffering from stage-fright which resulted in the feeling that she was unhappy to be performing, and indeed she disappeared from the stage as quickly as possible without a word to the audience when she was finished. Despite the audience's clearly demonstrated desire for an encore, no encore was forthcoming. Yet none of this behavior seemed to surprise those in attendance.

I had seen a very similar performance from Annette Peacock last year at the "Le Guess Who Festival" in Utrecht. She arrived late to take the stage and was seemingly miserable while performing, and then left abruptly while concluding. I checked a few other reviews of recent performances, and this does seem to be a pattern. If not for the truly original nature of her compositions and her wonderful voice I would not recommend this so enthusiastically!

Peacock's gifts are impressive and more than made up for her shortfalls. It was clear that this was a feeling that was shared by the members of her Brooklyn audience.

After coming to New York City in 1983, Eric Stern has practiced law by day and followed the improv music scene by night. He presently coordinates the House of Improv which organizes monthly performances.  

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Lotte Anker, Thomas, Håker Flaten & Liavik Solberg - His Flight's At Ten (Iluso, 2018) ****½

By Stef

If you're a lover of energetic music, raw, fierce and fearless, if you enjoy the adventure of four musicians interacting with assertiveness and sensitivity, if you like the unexpected, even if you're acquainted with free improvisation, and still like to be taken off-guard, if you like sudden changes, if you can appreciate chaos as both a source and end-point for a journey that can be full of calm, respect and sophistication, if you like pounding chords as well as subtle harmonics, if you like screaming saxes as well as precious timbral vibrations, if you like powerful bass-playing and screeching bows, if you like hard-hitting sticks and refined cymbal touches, if you like to be overwhelmed and impressed and taken for a wonderful trip without having anything to say except to become part of the music, then this album is for you.

The quartet are Lotte Anker on saxophones, Pat Thomas on piano, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on double bass, and Ståle Liavik Solberg on drums and percussion. They take you on board for a wonderful flight, from a rocky departure to a soft landing, and luckily the flight is not linear. The rhythm section, including the piano, is ferocious at times, yet Anker is a real master in keeping the plane stable despite the ongoing turbulence, keeping her beautiful warm tone, even in the harshest parts, human and sensitive. And it's a real quartet album, with all musicians contributing to the total sounds, including having their own short solo time, but the real treat is when all the violence and the power move together in the same direction, with speed and a common sense of destination.

An eventful, fascinating and exhaustive flight.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Kaja Draksler/Petter Eldh/Christian Lillinger - Punkt.Vrt.Plastik (Intakt, 2018) *****

By Martin Schray

Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler, Swedish double bass player Petter Eldh, and German drummer Christian Lillinger founded their trio Punkt.Vrt.Plastik at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, where they played a completely improvised set at the famous October Meeting in 2016. Their name is composed of “Punkt“, which represents a view and a musical statement for Petter Eldh (it’s Swedish for “point“), “Vrt“, the Slovenian word for garden and according to Draksler the place where the musical philosophies are planted and cultivated, and “Plastik“ (German for “plastic“), for Christian Lillinger the symbol of plasticity of musical forms and structures.

After I had seen them at the Just Music Festival in Wiesbaden in February this year, I couldn’t wait for their debut album, however it was announced only for November. They had played a spectacular gig displaying a cornucopia of idiosyncratic, weird hook lines, harmonic shifts and unpredictable percussive ingredients. Yet, when the CD arrived and I listened to it for the first few times, the magic of the concert somehow wasn’t there anymore. When I recently heard the trio at Schorndorf’s Manufaktur though, I was blown away again. Do they just feel more comfortable in a live context than in a rather confined studio atmosphere (the album was recorded at the Loft in Cologne)? Can they just take higher risks live when they are able to let themselves go on the basis of preconceived ideas? After the Schorndorf gig I’ve listened to the CD over and over again and I’ve found a different access to it. In this band three very different musical personalities crash into each other, at first sight contradictory, yet also consistent. “I was both excited and scared of the power Christian and Petter have together as a rhythm section. It’s like riding a wave,“ says Draksler in the very insightful liner notes by Peter Margasak. On the album the power of the rhythm section is guided by the compositions, they set a certain direction, Draksler’s improvisations are less exuberant. The music here is like the essence of the live gigs.

One of the most interesting aspects on Punkt.Vrt.Plastik is Eldh’s and Lillinger’s different approach as to time. While Eldh is rather grounded and robust, Lillinger is busy and incredibly dynamic. They seem to constantly negotiate where the music should go to, based on a common ground of musical phrases in general. This allows Draksler to find her space, her style being structurally unusual with its intricate counterpoint melodies and rhythmical motives (see “Life Is Transient“, that comes across like a Bach piece). This is also obvious in Christian Lillinger’s “Nuremberg Amok“, in which the melody played by the piano is literally shredded and torn apart. Occasionally it reappears in different shapes, while the drums quote hiphop beats suggesting a groove, but actually Lillinger just dissembles time varying rhythmic cells, which brings his approach close to postmodernism. Eldh is the one who holds this fraying structure together with his rootsy, powerful playing and with his steady presence, which in turns allows Draksler to create crystal clear melodies zigzagging between the twitching pulse. Another example of the band’s outstanding qualities is Draksler’s composition “Evicted“, which directs the energy of the rhythm section with frugal chords. Lillinger and Eldh throw in sudden stops and starts, the bass even taking the lead as to melody. The piano is reduced to essentials, the chords are stripped to the very bare, they’re free of any mannerism. Finally, Draksler contrasts extremely low and high notes, she carries the dynamics and the folksy melody all by herself, bass and drums drop out. This extreme reduction creates a somber atmosphere - another characteristic of the album.

In general, the pieces morph and stretch forms and grooves, the music is constantly coloured anew. This is a very exciting band - both live and in the studio. Draksler, Eldh and Lillinger are among the most thrilling and promising figures in today’s European improvising scene, hopefully Punkt.Vrt.Plastik is not just a one time thing. It’s one of the best albums this year.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Ivo Perelman and Rudi Mahall - Kindred Spirits (Leo, 2018) *****

By Sammy Stein

Ivo Perelman is a prolific free playing saxophone player. He has collaborated with too many musicians to mention but which include some jazz luminaries like Matthew Shipp, Peter Erskine, William Parker, Paul Bley, Billy Hart, and a host of others. He is tenacious and affable and his free playing, often switching up a register, is renown. When paired with other empathetic improvisers a complex and deeply satisfying interaction can happen.

Here, on 'Kindred Sprits' ( Leo records 2018) Perelman pairs with bass clarinet player Rudi Mahall and the result is something extraordinary. A 2 CD set, CD1 features 5 tracks, CD 2, 7 tracks listed simply by number. Track 1 features Mahall and Perelman in at times quite poetic interaction, each bouncing and reflecting the tempo and cadence set by the other, switching back and forth, the tenor commenting and the bass clarinet responding with uttered phrases and interjected sentences of music. The tone of the bass clarinet is sonorous, silky and laced with a touch of humour, reflected ably by Perelman's sax. One section feels like the two are engaged in musical hopscotch, each jumping into the brief pauses left by the other. This, as the opening track, sets the theme and standard of the rest that follow. Perelman's control at altissimo is superb. Track 2 sees the bass clarinet open with sax swiftly following , echoing at first, the rhythmic patterning of the clarinet but soon there are two melodic lines on the go, swooping towards, across and away from each other but returning to key and lines which cross and entwine. Absolutely charming. Perelman's joyful dance over the bass line of the clarinet is perfectly placed so as to enhance the lines which Mahall introduces. At one stage the sax gives a series of slurred notes over a tight rhythm of the clarinet which denotes the change and switch of the track into something a whole lot more than it was, with blisteringly fast passages from both.

Track 3 is opened with breathy, soft melody, which is offset by a slippery set of glissando explorations from first the sax, then the clarinet - or is it the other way around? At this point the musicians are trading commentary to such an extent it is difficult at times to pin point when one stops and the other starts, or when both are playing. It is hard to get across how well the improvisational element is felt here as each introduces changes, the other follows or not and there is a sense of true and complete immersion by one musician in the other's playing. Beautiful. Track 4 is of the same quality and vein, though it is defined by more series of fast, scorching blasts of fast-delivered changes and also a dynamic in the crescendo and diminuendo which add yet another texture but the essence of the sound changes is not attained by volume changes but intensity and the effect is not subtle. One section sees both screeching like banshees, Perelman stutting over a loose-reeded clarinet line creating a Brotzmann-esque sense of the bizarre yet perfectly acceptable. Track 5 is lyrical and melodic at times, interspersed with phrasing which could have been plucked from a film score - but only briefly. Song-like snippets flitting across the consciousness of the players, both, it seems simultaneously at times whilst at others, one leads, the other follows. There are some crazily beautiful and perfectly pitched disharmonies with 7ths and 3rds galore - not always form both and not always at the same time- across a small section which makes the ears prick up and the brain take note. This is decent music with hidden themes, fascinating under currents and superbly un thought-about delivery, which is the point - and it is beautiful.

Disc 2 is a musical continuum of the power-share of Mahall and Perelman , the opening track conveying an atmosphere which is soft and calm until Perelman decides to squeeze more emphasis and the bass clarinet responds by issuing forth a series of notes of such rounded depths, the sax can do nothing but contrast, as it cannot reflect so Perelman takes off on a fluttering flight of altissimo and higher register phrases which hover over the top of the smoother, well rounded and profoundly thoughtful bass clarinet lines before each acknowledges and reflects the other's phrasing . Track 2 sets off with a cheeky, walking little theme before it gets just a little silly and time warps into clari-sax land's version of the looking glass. In a good way, as this is verging on ridiculous in its exploration of different and contrasting phrasing from both players.

Track 3 is short but slightly wonderful with Perelman squeaking over the top, searching for the highest range of his tenor, whilst the bass of Mahall offers support but lets Perelman fly. This continues into track 4 but with a spacier, emptier feel, with gaps in the music allowing silence to be used as an effective tool into which both players tip their improvised sounds. Track 5 should be called '12 and a half minutes of very cool improvisation is done'. At times, though the music is completely improvised, the two players come together as one creating a curved edge feel as they come together, swoop away and back again. Complete overdose of loveliness for the improvised music listeners. Track 5 contains more harmonic development between the 2 players than some of the other tracks and also some playful reflection and echoing with first one, then the other taking the initiative. The bass lines are gorgeous. Track 6 is led first by the bass clarinet with sax over the top but by the second third who know who leads and who follows - actually neither and that is good.

What hits home on this CD is the joy of improvisation which can come when two players of similar musical thoughts and needs perhaps are put together and choose to collaborate. Mahall and Perelman both explore and there is a lot of adventure in the music yet you can hear the classical training and the links to strong jazz precepts as they never veer too far from the theme set, the melody is always there. Somehow, this makes the music more accessible because the mind , even subliminally, has something to follow yet the improvisational nature in which both play around the themes and lines is exceptional, natural and a joy. I had not listened to a lot of Perelman before , though he has been on the radar through other players or indeed Mahall, but the impact of this first intensive listen is such that I am now asking myself - why had I not heard more? That, I intend to rectify. This is improvised music at its best , delivered with power, joy and it is completely uplifting.

Personell: Ivo Perelman , tenor sax
Rudi Mahall: Bass Clarinet

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Trumpets and Bass

By Stef Gijssels

Not too much of an in-depth analysis, this time, just a quick overview of trumpet-bass duos released this year. An unusual format, but when brought to us by the best musicians, things can hardly go wrong.

Peter Evans & Barry Guy - Syllogistic Moments (Maya, 2018) ****

Here is what Barry Guy writes of this concert:
"Peter Evans and I have occasionally met in larger ensembles for special projects. This particular concert in Uster (Switzerland) within the PAM festival on 18. November 2016, allowed us to delve into the minutiae of duo performance where intense listening and decoding of intentions kept our minds and bodies in high alert. This occasion had us playing somewhat athletically, pushing and pulling ideas around, and to be honest, we both felt exhausted after the concert but also exhilarated. The joys of improvisation I guess…. and high speed communication".
It is an athletic performance indeed. Peter Evans is one of the leading voices on trumpet today, demonstrating new possibilities, timbres and musical exploration. The British bassist needs no further introduction. Both are very audacious musicians, extremely disciplined in their technique combined with extreme rebelliousness in their sound. A rebelliousness that is not only directed at destroying existing norms, but equally, and probably even more so, to show new creative options, new possibilities of sonic exchanges and impact, but then at a rare level of abstraction.

This is very headstrong music, without any compromise to the listener, and that's how we like it. That's how borders move, how frontiers of expectations get expanded.

A more in-depth analysis can be found in Colin Green's review of the same album.

Wojciech Jachna & Ksawery Wójciński - Conversation With Space (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2018) ****

Three years ago, this duo released its first album, called "Night Talks", offering an intimate overall sound for listening on quiet evenings. On their sophomore album, the intensity is a notch higher, with more attention to musical creativity. Wojciech Jachna is known to us and reviewed before, especially for his collaborations with drummer Jacek Buhl. So is Ksawery Wójciński as a frequent member of the new Polish jazz scene, often reviewed here, in the company of Charles Gayle, Agusti Fernandez, Waclaw Zimpel (I suggest readers to use our search engine for more information).

The main inspiration for both musicians comes from nature, with track titles such as "Sky", "Stars", "Waterfall", "Stones", "Lake", "Wind", "Dust", "Cloud", which suggests the impressionist approach by the artists, and indeed with the titles in hand, it is easy to imagine the music as an artist's reflection of nature, or an accompaniment of the pictures that unfold before your mind's eye. The tracks are short and concise, making a musical point with little development and without long excursions.

Two track titles are more human: "Song about Saint Wojciech Bishop and Martyr" and "Citizen Of The City". The first is an amazing piece, a Polish traditional, a duet of bowed bass, overdubbed and polyphonic, and offering a wonderful classical sound with jazzy influences, especially in the crystal-clear trumpet part, reverent and solemn, in stark contrast to "Hurricane", the angular and raw subsequent track on which guest saxophonist Tomasz Glazik joins.

"Dust", the shortest piece, is for bass only, both bowed and plucked, and uncanny despite the fact that it's only one minute long. It shows the inventiveness of both musicians: to deliver very compact and intense, imaginative and varied little pieces of music, that all have their own character and recognizable nature.

The album ends with the most sensitive and human piece, called "Citizen Of The City", a beautiful closing for a strong album.

A real treat.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Tomasz Dąbrowski & Jacek Mazurkiewicz - Basement Music (Multikulti, 2018) ****

Also from Poland comes this equally strong duo album with Tomasz Dąbrowski on trumpet and Jacek Mazurkiewicz on bass. Mazurkiewicz released albums with Wojciech Jachna before, and is member of the Modular String Trio, and he also released a solo album, all reviewed on this blog.

Dąbrowski is probably better known, and has been reviewed extensively over the years, both with Polish and Danish ensembles. This duo, just like the previous one, demonstrates again why Polish jazz is so "hot" these days. The instrumental skills of both musicians are exceptional, and to hear them use these skills with cleverness in a free environment of an open dialogue makes it even stronger.

If the Jachna/Wójciński album is more focused on a co-creation of impressionist improvisations ("a conversation with space"), the Dąbrowski/Mazurkiewicz duo is more a conversation among the two musicians themselves, challenging each other, listening well, joining and collaborating, more interested in creating new sonic adventures than in a common sound. The performance was recorded in the Basement of Fort Sokolnicki in Warsaw, 18 October 2015.

It does result in some beauties, such as "Pickled Cucumber", which starts with a long intro of solo bowed bass, and ending with Dabrowski adding only six notes to the piece. It also results in madness, as in "Something Fermented", on which the use of electronics adds a kind of weird intensity, or "An Ant Lobotomy", where Dabrowski explores the sonic vocabulary of his horn.

... and the exploration progresses into deep uncharted territory in the next few tracks, going further and further away from their base camp.

Mazurkiewicz says: “I’m inspired by people, situations, places, colours, scents and by other things related to my life. Lots of melodies and musical structures pass through in my mind quite quickly... Some pieces are inspired by sounds of a city; others are connected with places and people.”

It's great to be part of their adventures.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Taylor Ho Bynum & Mark Dresser - THB Bootlegs Volume 4 -  Duo with Mark Dresser (Self, 2018) ****

I hope that Taylor Ho Bynum will excuse me for putting a cornet among the trumpet review section. This album is one in an ongoing series of so-called bootlegs, which is of course not entirely true, because released by the artists themselves. Like the first solo album in the series, this one was also recorded at the Acoustic Bicycle Tour, recorded September 29, 2014 at Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, CA. The "Acoustic Bicycle Tour" is an artistic project by Taylor Ho Bynum, set up to perform with the musicians he encounters on his bike rides: 
"The Acoustic Bicycle Tour is an ongoing performance journey where I travel solely on bicycle, presenting solo concerts and playing with ensembles of area musicians. I see the entire trip as a kind of composition. Like all my music, it looks to combine the predetermined, indeterminate, improvised, intuitive and structured into an organic whole. The endeavor is an act of composition, a performance art piece, a philosophical statement, a celebration of musical community, and an exercise in extreme physicality. For me, there are clear analogies between choosing to travel by bike and choosing to pursue a career in creative music: the trip may be slower and more arduous, but it is ultimately more rewarding in its acoustic pleasures and unexpected delights".
Knowing the artistic talent of both Taylor Ho Bynum and Mark Dresser, this 'bootleg' is one to listen to. The interaction is as can be expected: creative, intense, intimate and deep. Some pieces start with a musical or even thematic concept, others are complete improvisations. Some are full of drama ("To Wait"), with low tones and bowed bass, others are full of joy and fun ("Coyote"), or even jubilant ("Coming On/For Bradford").

An absolute joy, this album. Don't miss it.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ab Baars / Meinrad Kneer / Bill Elgart - Live at Konfrontationen Nickelsdorf 2012 (Evil Rabbit, 2018) ****

There is no better place to flesh out your most intense, risk-taking and adventurous improvisation skills than the free-improv haven of the Konfrontationen festival in Nickelsdorf, Austria. Six years after performing there, the masterful set of Dutch reeds player Ab Baars, German double bass player Meinrad Kneer and veteran American, Germany-based drummer Bill Elgart is finally released, sounding fresh and invigorating as on the day it was performed.

This trio grew out of the Barrs-Kneer duo that began working in Amsterdam around 2008 and released the album Windfall (Evil Rabbit, 2010). It expanded into a trio after Elgart guested in the duo performance at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis club. This trio recorded its debut album, Give No Quarter (Evil Rabbit, 2013) in October 2011, nine months before its performance at the Konfrontationen festival in July 2012.

The performance at the Konfrontationen festival allowed this trio to stretch out the format of short pieces that appeared in the Baars-Kneer album or the trio studio album. The trio plays two extended “Nickelsdorf Suites” plus a short “Nickelsdorf Fantasia”, all emphasizes the physical and intense, confrontational element of such a truly spontaneous meeting. These distinct, resourceful improvisers know how to play - literally - with all aspects of free-improvisation, often simultaneously. The trio moves instantly and organically between sketching a loose structure and then, alone or together, deconstructs it; builds the tension and immediately releases it; stresses muscular attacks but also highlights a more subtle, fragile and sometimes even a lyrical vein; searches for surprising variations of timbres and new sounds - especially Baars who plays the tenor sax, clarinet and the Japanese shakuhachi flute - and always alternates between consensus, dissent and echo.

This trio has become a powerful lab for free-improvisation strategies. It refuses to settle in any strict form or dynamics, but attempts to invent and reinvent itself anew again and again while keeping a playful flow, despite its fast-shifting, confrontational approach. You need the support of an open audience as the one of the Konfrontationen festival to choose this kind of challenging approach.

Perry Robinson (September 17, 1938 - December 2, 2018)

On December 2, Perry Robinson, the virtuoso clarinetist and free-minded spirit passed away at the age of 80. Robinson was a real "musician's musician", very sought as a member of bands and possibly the clarinetist of the early free jazz movement in the 60s (next to Jimmy Giuffre who was on a slightly different musical track). His first album was one with Henry Grimes - with whom he's kept a special relationship throughout his career - Paul Motian and Kenny Barron, just to show that excellent musicians find themselves from the start. Then he performed with Archie Shepp, was part of the famous avant-garde jazz big bands of the seventies: the Jazz Composers' Orchestra and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, while at the same time, across the Atlantic, performing extensively with German reed-player Gunter Hampel.

He performed on more than 120 albums, of which a about a dozen were released as a leader, or one album every five year. That he was highly esteemed by his colleague clarinetists can be demonstrated by his participation in the Clarinet Summit, a multi-country ensemble of some of the best clarinetists around in 1979, including John Carter, Gianluigi Trovesi, Bernd Konrad, Theo Jörgensmann and Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky. It is also not suprising that other clarinetists like Hampel and more recently, Polish clarinetist Waclaw Zimpel, asked him to join their bands.

He was also a citizen of the world, a free spirit, and basically open to play in any type of configuration or jazz genre, and he was even part of Klezmokum, a Dutch klezmer band, created by Burton Greene. This jewish heritage also shone through in his other collaborations with Anat Fort, Rozanne Levine and Waclaw Zimpel.

But whatever the genre, his approach was virtuosic, soft-toned and inherently melodic, often capable of combining tradition and adventurous moments in the very same solo.

We will cherish his heritage.

Albums with Perry Robinson reviewed on our blog:

Carla Bley & Paul Haines - Escalator Over The Hill (JCOA, 1971)
Anat Fort - A Long Story (ECM, 2007)
Nobu Stowe Lee Pembleton Project - Hommage An Klaus Kinski (Black Saint, 2007)
Burton Greene & Perry Robinson - Two Voices In The Desert (Tzadik, 2009)
Rozanne Levine - Only Moment (Acoustics, 2009)
Undivided - Moves Between Clouds (Multikulti, 2011)
The Lou Grassi PO Band with Marshall Allen - Live At The Knitting Factory Vol. 1 (Porter, 2011) Perry Robinson, Zerang, Roginski, Zimpel - Yemen. Music Of The Yemenite Jews (Multikulti, 2012)
Robert Kusiolek/Perry Robinson/Christian Ramond/Klaus Kugel - The Universe (MultiKulti, 2014)
Bobby Naughton/ Leo Smith/ Perry Robinson - The Haunt (No Business, 2018)

Watch his performance at the Kanjiza Jazz Festival (Serbia) in 2011 with Matthew Shipp, Ed Schuler and Ernst Bier. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Gabriela Friedli Trio – Areas (Leo Records, 2018) ****½

By Nick Ostrum

Areas is the Gabriela Friedli Trio’s second album. And, what a powerful album it is.

For those of us out of the Swiss loop, this trio consists of Daniel Studer on bass, Dieter Ulrich on drums, and, of course, Gabriela Friedli on piano. Composition credits split almost evenly between Friedli and Ulrich, but these seem to vary between loose graphic scores and more traditionally composed structures.

I originally had trouble describing the music on this disc. It is at once abstract and straightforward, thoroughly contemporary but rooted in earlier traditions. One hears echoes of ECM-styled jazz, deconstructed blues, and contemporary classical spaciousness. The first track begins with a slow plodding that gives way to scraped strings and ominous piano lines based around short, meticulous clusters of notes. Studer is quiet, but energetic. Ulrich, meanwhile, plays with a measured freneticism that adds depth to the billowing tension of the piece. As with most of the album, this piece is structured around arrhythmic variation rather than melodic or chordal shifts. The second track, “Fil da Ramosa,” is one of few exceptions. Friedli and Studer recite a repeated angular phrase in unison, while Ulrich plays around the theme. The track dips into quiet, then improvisation after the first minute and is eventually brought to its conclusion in a final return to the theme.

The rest of recording fluctuates in a similar fashion between energy and restraint, composition and free playing. To address a few standouts: “Mildew Lisa” opens with string of staggered heavy bass thumps that is soon joined by Ulrich’s inquisitive drum explorations and the alternatively playful and nervous keys of Friedli, again more frequently opting for clusters rather than chords. In contradistinction to the wooly bass and Ulrich’s feints at laying a discernible groove, the piano is particularly crisp. The groove-laden “Miedra” begins with a jagged walking bass and maintains the most consistent jazz structure of any piece on the album. Clearly this trio has the chops to play in a more conventional vernacular while retaining its more meandering tendencies. The seventh track, “Um Su” (an alternate take of which graces the end of the album), is curious in its inclusion of Ulrich on a bugle. The horn sounds wounded, but tender. This mood is reflected in Studer’s bass explorations in friction and juxtaposed against Friedli’s concerted clarity and economy of notes. The effect is a disorienting but rewarding.

According to the liner notes, the album originated in a sojourn Friedli took in the mountainous region of Graubünden. Rather than composing as she had planned, she began to hike, converse with neighbors, and, apparently, internalize her temporary surroundings. A vast and jagged mountainscape makes perfect sense for this recording. Or, rather, it helps me better understand the album’s contours. The music rarely repeats or flows in a single direction, but instead rebounds and refracts. Stilted and augmented echoes outshine the few lengthier melodies. The sounds are spacious, but, as in the penultimate track “Masse,” can well and collide into claustrophobic outbursts that inevitably collapse back into their discrete elements. Absolutely recommended.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Uivo Zebra - s/t (Bocian, 2018) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

Uivo Zebra defines itself as a power trio but offers a challenging variant to this too common aesthetics. This Portuguese trio - electric guitarist Jorge Nuno, electric bass player Hernâni Faustino, known from the RED Trio and other local groups as Clocks and Clouds and the José Lencastre Nau Quartet, and drummer João Sousa, who collaborates with Nuno in the psych-improv group Signs Of The Silhouette - like any other power outfit operates in a high-octane stratospheres and always aims for almost unbearable levels of intensity, blending elements of free-improv, noise and psychedelia. The big difference is Uivo Zebra's total control of its power - the depth and breadth of it and the colors and nuances of the extreme power. Uivo Zebra may sound as being possessed by its brutal outputs, but knows how to tame and discipline these extremes, attaching its very own personal mark on these kind of sonic meltdowns.

The self-titled debut album of Uivo Zebra, following a self released cassette Gancho (A BESTA 033) from earlier this year, was recorded in Lisbon during March 2017. The album offers five pieces, structured as a dramatic suite that accumulates more and more tension and higher degrees of volatile intensity as it progresses. But at the same time Uivo Zebra is ready to grab more and more risky, free-form detours, insisting on eccentric walks on a tricky tightropes and jumping headfirst from impossible, surreal cliffs.

Uivo Zebra never employ tiresome clichés of reckless aggression. These singular musicians are perceptive listeners, know how to build a multilayered, cohesive interplay, full of sudden, inventive twists that not only keeps them all -literally - on their toes, but, most likely, will keep you - the listeners - out of any possible comfort zone. Nuno is master of of translating showers of buzzing feedback into ritualistic trance-soundscapes and knows how to light an infectious storm in an instant. Faustino keeps constructing deep-tones tsunamis and Sousa pushes this heavy, electrifying commotion forward with mighty blows.

Go and experience this sonic phenomena for your good. Uivo Zebra can rewire your exhausted nerves to a hyperactive and subversive mode. Just what these times demand.

More on Soundcloud...