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Matthew Shipp (l) and Ivo Perelman (r)

The Stone, NYC, July 2016. Photo by Paul Acquaro

Georg Wissel, Achim Tang and Simon Camatta (WisselTangCamatta)

at Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe. June 2016. Photo by Martin Schray

Susana Santos Silva Group

Silva (trumpet), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), Carlo Costa (drums), Frantz Loriot (viola). May 2016. 65Fen Music Series, Brooklyn. Photo by Paul Acquaro

Jürg Wickihalder (saxes), Barry Guy (b) and Lucas Niggli (dr)

May 2016. Schorndorf, Germany at the Manufaktur. Photo by Martin Schray


May 2015. Paul Hubweber (tb), Paul Lovens (dr), Jonas Westergaard (b) and Shelley Hirsch (voc). Photo by Martin Schray

Fire! Orchestra

June 2016. Zurich, Switzerland at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Martin Schray

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Introducing the French label Circum-Disc

By Eyal Hareuveni

One of the advantages of a label that relies on a local collective of musicians as the French, Lille-based Circum-Disc is the freedom to experiment. Circum-Disc was founded in 2004, enjoying the work of about 30 musicians of the Muzzix collective. The collective members include the French half of the quartet KAZE - drummer Peter Orins, who runs the label, and trumpeter Christian Pruvost, and the label offered orchestral and smaller groups projects with composer-guitarist Olivier Benoit, now the artistic director of the Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ). Since 2007 Circum-Disc began to offer a new series, Helix, specializing in free improvised and experimental music.

Bi-Ki ? - Quelque Chose Au Milieu (Circum-Disc/Helix. 2016) ***

The alto saxophone duo Bi-Ki ? -Sakina Abdou and Jean-Baptiste Rubin,  has been working since 2012, investigating the sonic parameters of a meeting of two highly personal sonic identities, both playing the same instrument. Both Abdou and Rubim aim to explore different aspects of the timbral range of their instruments: the density, fragility and elasticity in different spaces, with an open, intuitive approach.

Quelque Chose Au Milieu (Something in the middle) documents the duo collaborative work with fellow French sound artist, sax and keyboards experimental player Jean-Luc Guionnet. Guionnet recorded the duo improvisations in five urban spaces and noteworthy architectural buildings - “listening stations” -  in the suburban town of Lille, Lomme. Each of these distinct spaces subjected its own unique sonic qualities on the duo playing and forced the duo to adapt its playing. Guionnet used these recordings as sound material, mixed and edited them into 12 pieces that often sound as a quiet, almost silent, sometimes windy and sometimes even dreamy soundtrack of a very calm and peaceful town. Only on pieces as “C3/C5/∞”, recorded at the Église Notre Dame de Lourdes, and on “SIb” and “C3/C5/∞”, both recorded at the Marché Min Zamin, this town sound as charged with busy, stressful  urban action.

Jean-Luc Guionnet - Plugged Inclinations (Circum-Disc/Helix. 2016) ***

Guionnet often alternates between many left-of-center courses, all suggesting his unique conception of sound. Sound is as an elastic, fluid material that he can alter, sculpt and manipulate. Plugged Inclinations focuses on the bare basics of playing different electric keyboards, reducing the sonic output to mere electric current. Somehow it is an extensions of his approach to playing the church organ which he began to develop since 1993.

Guionnet compares the electric keyboards, mainly organs, to a “ship, a barque, a boat, a building within building”. He reconfigures the electric keyboard's stream of sound and its loose architecture as a pure and endless electrical current, of which he manipulates its blasts and peaks intuitively. He even compares this process to going back “in the machine as we go back in a train of of thought”.

The 57-minutes piece offers a weird feeling of being lost in waves of white noises that on one hand are so familiar from our home environment and daily life that we are hardly pay attention to them. But on the other hand the manipulated arrangement of these noises charges these sounds with a claustrophobic quality that is getting deeper and deeper, full of existential stress.

Jérémie Ternoy / Ivann Cruz / Peter Orins – Qeqertarsuatsiaat (Circum-Disc, 2016) ****½

The trio of pianist Jérémie Ternoy, guitarist Ivann Cruz and drummer Peter Orins, known in its electrified version as TOC, decided to unplug and to go opposite to all characterized it before, i.e. energy, density, volume, excess, channeled into a twisted mix of post-punk-post rock-post jazz. This time the trio opted to explore the timbral range of their acoustic instruments in a minimalist, sparse and spontaneously improvised interplay. To add an exotic flavor to this album, the title is the name of small settlement in the southwestern Greenland, while the other pieces are titled after remote towns in Algeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Mongolia, Hokkaido, and Okrug, Russia.

The established interplay of the trio, solidified on previous three albums of TOC, as well as the extensive experience of the resourceful Ternoy, Cruz and Orins in many other projects contribute to the success of this sonic adventure. The trio knows how to sketch multilayered and intriguing textures that flow organically by their inner logic. Pieces as the atmospheric “Djanet”, “Gilgit”,  the mysterious “Wakkanai” or the weird, hypnotic rhythm of the title piece, dissolve any attempt to distinguish such improvisation from a written, well-crafted composition. All these pieces sound fresh, eccentric with its inventive approach, but surprisingly coherent.

TOC - Haircut (Circum-Disc, 2014) ****

The third album of TOC - following their debut, a soundtrack to a wildlife documentary, Le Gorille (2009) and the sophomore work for a dance company, You Can Dance If You Want To (2012) -  is focused on different forms and levels of energy. Haircut is built as two consecutive pieces, and is an insistent, sometimes repetitive research of different modes of highly energetic interplay, built on the spur of the moment. The two pieces, “Half Updo” and “Updo”, do not settle on any pulse or structured progression, but developed as in waves and storms of effects-laden energy.

There are moments when TOC sounds as locking on a distinct form, as on the third part of “Half Updo”, in a heavy, spacey groove, almost with a dance-like pulse, or in the infectious, noisy beat on the beginning of “Updo”. But soon TOC transforms these muscular outpours into another sonic adventures that has an altogether different rhythmic characteristics, still charged with high-octane energy. Eventually all the energy is channeled towards the ecstatic climax at the end of “Updo” where TOC explodes in a fast, reckless and wild mode.

Sakay - Antipodes (Circum-Disc, 2015) ***½*

The Sakay quartet was born of an impromptu meeting in Lille on December 2013 between trombonist Jérôme Descamps who lives in Tahiti and the label regulars- double bass player Nicolas Mahieux and trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins.

Antipodes documents the quartet in the studio. The quartet experiments with different improvised forms of interplay, explores extended techniques and investigates their instruments timbral ranges. All is performed in an unassuming, open-ended approach, with no attempt to commit to any specific narrative or approach, and often within two-three.minutes pieces that suggest multifaceted exploration of a single sonic idea When the quartet stretches its sonic searches a bit longer as on “Architecture du Besoin”, “Distribution des Cartes” or “Bille en tête”, it sketches organically, arresting, eccentrically textured, full of invention, and rich with detail.

Quartet Base - Le Diapason (Circum-Disc, 2014) ***½

Quartet Base is one of long-lasting outfits of Lille, though La Diapason is only its sophomore album. This quartet is actually a quintet now, led by guitarist Sebastien Beaumont and featuring trumpet players Christophe Motury, who also sings, and new addition to the group, Christian Pruvost, who also plays the saxhorn, double bass player Nicolas Mahieux and drummer Peter Orins, who also adds electronics.

The eclectic repertoire references British, Canterbury-scene art rock groups as Soft Machine and Henry Cow, Frank Zappa groups, nineties incarnation of King Crimson, experimental and free jazz improvisation and clever pop songs sensibility. Quartet Base mixes such diverse elements into a wild ride, wrapped by the group tight and playful interplay, Moutry amused and often eccentric pathos is delivered with clever sense of humor and sharp sense of drama. Quite often Quartet Base sound as a French variation of the seminal great prog and fusion groups, especially on the demanding and wild virtuoso pieces as “That Too Much Hurts Me/Part 3”, but fortunately it lacks the pretentious approach these groups and it is much more open to sonic experimentation, as the impressive double solo on “Changes of Love/Part 1”..

Friday, July 22, 2016

Magimc - Area Sismica (Setola Di Maiale, 2015) ***1/2

Magimc is a trio formed by Edoardo Marraffa on tenor and sopranino saxophones, Thollem McDonas on piano and Stefano Giust on drums and percussions. This is their second album together, a live recording of a concert held at Area Sismica, one of Italy's main venues for free music.

Marraffa, a powerful voice in Italian free jazz and a veteran of the scene, has an immediately recognizable tone on the tenor saxophone, reminiscent of the tradition of Fire Music, capable of intense atonal cries but also of more restrained tone color explorations.

McDonas, a pianist and composer from California, shows impeccable technique and a strong contemporary sensibility, with an elegant approach to both melodic and harmonic developments. Giust, another important figure in the Italian free improvisation scene, acts as a sort of bridge between the freer expressions of the saxophone and the richly layered excursions from the piano, assuming different roles depending on the necessities of the performance, keeping all together or providing additional ideas with diverse stylistic approaches to the kit.

The record follows a typical free music encounter, with the musicians carefully listening to each other, testing moods and expressions before committing to a common language. The group shows strong affinity and cohesiveness from the beginning, but the exploration process is always in full display, presenting an engaging overview of different improvisational strategies, from textural soundscapes to powerful rhythmic explosions, from simultaneous free jazz attacks to delicate melodic passages.

Each musician has a strong personality, and the contrast of styles and instrumental voices constitute one of the most interesting aspects of this album, a sonic snapshot of both a working group and a spontaneous musical meeting, showing all the subtleties, difficulties and brilliant solutions to that most difficult task — listening and talking to each other, in spite of the differences.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Christian Weidner - Every Hour of the Light and Dark (Pirouet, 2016) ****

By Derek Stone

When it comes to so-called “free” jazz, there’s a lingering misconception among some listeners who’ve only heard Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, or late-period Coltrane - there’s the belief that “free” means “fiery,” and that all of the music, by necessity, comes out of the same white-hot barrel as Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun. Of course, that’s not true; while some of the genre’s best recordings are, indeed, explosive, there are just as many that evade that descriptor. In short, there are many shades of freedom. Some sound like spiraling shrapnel from a hand-grenade, and others are closer to the lazy flights of migratory birds.

Christian Weidner is one of those artists who sticks to the cooler, calmer side of the free jazz spectrum. His compositions are, well, composed, and they always seem to maintain a certain reserve, an equable demeanor that lends itself well to the late hours. On this, his latest album, Weidner returns with the trusty group that helped him deliver the enchanting Dream Boogie: Achim Kaufmann on piano, Henning Sieverts on bass, and Samuel Rohrer on drums. Dream Boogie was a stellar effort, with pieces that ranged from the architectural elegance of ECM, to pieces that wandered down more unpredictable paths.

After one or two listens, there might not seem to be much to distinguish Every Hour of the Light and Dark from the previous album; both exist in a world of dreams, and the compositions themselves mirror this fact - sometimes, they glide along with a sensible, transparent beauty. Other times, they come to us in fractals, shards of melody that skip and stutter and swirl. Like the duo of Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp, Kaufmann and Weidner have a certain simpatico when they play together, and they tackle all this stylistic variation with astounding proficiency.

Though this newest album shares many attributes with the 2012 outing, I would say that it’s a refinement of what made the last one so compelling. It’s even more ethereal, and it strikes me as (yet again) an album that is practically made for nocturnal musings. “Tethys” is lovely, yet slippery, with Kaufmann’s notes sometimes clustering, sometimes cascading, but never spoiling the listener with a straightforward progression. In many ways, the crystalline delicacy of his playing on this piece recalls Debussy’s compositions - impressionistic tonal swaths that are near-spectral in their lightness. The title track develops in more direct ways, but still maintains a heart of inscrutability; Weidner is endlessly expressive here, but he is also laconic - each note arises as if it were the last drop of water squeezed from a damp towel. This terse approach is shared by the rhythm section: Henning Sieverts plays with great economy, not often taking solos or busying up the compositions with undue complexities. Likewise, Samuel Rohrer has a soft touch - he plays just what is necessary to maintain the foundation of Weidner’s shadowy sound-world.

As its title implies, “Weightless” is a sparse affair, and its success owes perhaps more to the vacuum between the notes than to the notes themselves. Although it stretches to seven minutes, it never loses its enchanting quality - like being stranded in the depths of space, watching the Earth move from marble-to-pea-to-speck, it’s enchantment of a somber sort, but enchantment nonetheless. “Dance Fantasm” is a quick antidote to the solemnity, injecting the album with a burst of primal energy. It’s only a burst, however, being soon replaced by the elegiac wails of Weidner’s alto on “In Memoriam.” In this piece, the other players are slow to appear, giving Weidner and Kaufmann an opportunity to show just how deep-seated that aforementioned simpatico truly is. When Sieverts and Rohrer do arrive, it’s not to tie a rhythm to Weidner and Kaufmann’s productions, but to accent them with sibilant splashes (in Rohrer’s case) and leaden lumps (in Sieverts’). The final piece, “As Long as Now,” finds the album closing in much the same way that it began - somberly.

Weidner’s compositions are pleasant, and they never veer off into the harsh, uncompromising landscapes that many other albums lumped under the “free jazz” label tend to do. For that reason, Every Hour of the Light and Dark might strike some listeners as overly safe. While my first couple of listens seemed to be leading me to that same opinion, it was with a few more that I started to see the complexities buried in these compositions - yes, they are (for the most part) calm, but there is a knotty, mystifying heart in the center of this album. As with any exceptional recording, it is in the untying of those tangled threads that we receive the greatest sense of fulfillment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Full Blast - Risc (Trost, 2016) ****½

Full Blast is one of the most exceptional outfits of German reeds titan Peter Brötzmann. This is an equal trio that features classically-trained, Swiss electric bass player Marino Pliakas and drummer Michael Wertmüller. Both play leading roles and rarely are confined to the role of a rhythm section. Most of the Full Blast pieces are composed (the trio last album, Sketches and Ballads, Trost, 2011, was based on Wertmüller 50-pages, notated composition), or at least structured along a distinct narrative, and its sonic aesthetics is more open to sonic experiments. Still, Full Blast genre-bending blend of fiery, muscular free jazz, metal and noise suggests that it has its roots in another legendary group of Brötzmann, Last Exit.

Risc, Full Blast fifth release in the last decade, celebrates the work of German sound artists Gerd Rische, the former head of the Berlin Academy of Electro-acoustic Music, who sadly departed on October last year, shortly after the production of Risc was completed. Rische collaborated before with Pliakas and Wertmüller on a project based on the compositions of Charles Ives. While both were artists-in-residence in Berlin,  Rische added electronic treatments to the Full Blast pieces while they were recorded live, and added some more treatments, this time with Wertmüller, after the recording was mixed and mastered.

The electronic treatments and enhancement sound at first as adding elements of surprise and danger and as distancing the urgent playing of Brötzmann from its angry, emotional core with premeditated, cold and subversive sounds. But actually the dimension of arbitrariness and the repeated, abrupt alien sounding interventions charge Full Blast tight, volcanic interplay with additional layers of power and conviction, often channeled to an inevitable cathartic climaxes. The 12-minutes “Doss House” demonstrates best this kind of live and later enhanced interplay. The piece begins with Brötzmann warm yet tense playing, soon contrasted with an industrial, massive grind created by Pliakas and Wertmüller and enhanced by Rische electronic sounds. Still, Brötzmann struggles with this kind of grind, alters its mechanical tone into a more humane pulse, now sounding as a twisted, speed metal distorted beat, but one that also pushes Brötzmann to more extreme, possessed mode of playing.

“TTD” begins with a radio recording of Timothy Leary, calling the sixties, counterculture-era slogan - Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out - but this piece offers a sober, even ironic perspective on Leary innocent vision. Full Blast mix of heated interplay, accompanied by an uncompromising march-like beat with disturbing and brutal electronic sounds create a nightmarish soundtrack to that era that ends with a fitting, magnificent, multi-dimensional blast. The last piece “Roguery” succeeds to suggest a balance between Brötzmann powerful mode of playing and the massive, heavily treated pulse, in a manner that Full Blast, all and the three musicians individually, together with Rische, keep feeding this immediate interplay.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jeff Parker – The New Breed (International Anthem, 2016) ****

By Eric McDowell

What can’t Jeff Parker do? From free improvisation to jazz to post-rock, the Chicagoan guitarist (now based in LA) thrives in any number of habitats, though he tends to get more exposure as sideman than bandleader. Working brilliantly in the former capacity on Makaya McCraven’s In the Moment (2015), Parker connected with the folks at International Anthem, who released his latest album as leader this June. The New Breed looks both backwards and forwards. Featuring a yellowed old photo of Parker’s late father on its cover, the album is named after a clothing store he owned in the 1970s. But the title is also a projection, a promise even, for the future—Parker’s new breed of music, bringing together jazz improvisation, mellow soul, and sampled beats.

“Executive Life” opens the album with a staggering loop over which drummer Jamire Williams and bassist Paul Bryan lay a sturdy groove. It’s not until almost a minute in that Parker and alto saxophonist Josh Johnson make their first appearance, dropping in with a melodic line you’ll find yourself humming a day later. But it’s the atmospheric, open-ended B section that takes over the bulk of the tune—a languid weave of fragments from all instruments (including a range of keyboards played by Parker and Johnson) that demonstrates both Parker’s knack for postproduction editing and his interest in cultivating a mood over showing off chops.

According to International Anthem, Parker has been living with and working on the samples and programmed beats on The New Breed for several years. They come to the fore early in the album with the fleeting “Para Ha Tay” and the spare, repetitive “Here Comes Ezra.” Other worthy if abbreviated beats are hidden at the tail ends of longer tracks—I won’t say where since part of the fun is encountering them unexpectedly.

One of the richest pieces on The New Breed, “Jrifted” offers the first solo proper, halfway through the album. Johnson’s alto playing here is well integrated into the mood and groove, nimble and inventive without calling undue attention to itself. On the following track, “How Fun It Is To Year Whip,” Parker himself steps into the spotlight, taking a laidback solo with echoes of Jim Hall. “Get Dressed” turns things up a notch as Parker spins soulful, jazzy licks over both a tight 16th-note ride cymbal groove and a bed of sampled voices, lending the track a just-right party flavor.

Bringing Parker’s emphasis on family history and future sounds together is the closing track, “Cliché,” on which Parker’s daughter Ruby sings in duet with Johnson’s alto. It’s possible to read the lyrics as a message to anyone distressed by the increasing union of jazz and hip-hop culture (remember when we reviewed Flying Lotus?): “He told me the end is coming / I told him that’s a cliché.” If Parker’s vision sounds to you more like a beginning than an ending, you can find The New Breed at International Anthem’s Bandcamp page and the Downtown Music Gallery.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Nate Wooley - Argonautica (Firehouse 12 Records, 2016) ****

By Lee Rice Epstein

Argonautica is yet another fascinating Nate Wooley project that’s been around for years but is only just now being recorded. As described by Firehouse 12: “Argonautica is a sonic analog to the epic poem of the same name. Built in three parts, or chapters, the music makes oblique reference to dodecaphony, ambient tape music, and the driving minimalist rock of Terry Riley.” Argonautica is dedicated to Ron Miles, though it owes a huge debt to Miles Davis and early-to-mid-’70s fusion, with its thick drums, double piano-keyboard middle, and piercing trumpet and cornet.

Wooley’s described the group as a double trio. One trio is Wooley on trumpet, Cory Smythe (a staple of Tyshawn Sorey’s trio and double trio) on piano, and Devin Gray on drums. The second trio is Miles on cornet, with Jozef Dumoulin (who also plays in Bureau of Atomic Tourism) on Fender Rhodes and various electronics, and Rudy Royston on drums. Royston’s presence is also a call back to his playing on Miles’s My Cruel Heart, which Wooley cites as a reference point (and which is criminally out of print, being a Gramavision title). On record, the trios sounds more fluid and cohesive than the description implies, with each player seeming to slide effortlessly from trio to trio.

A single, unbroken track, “Argonautica” opens on Miles unaccompanied, with the band members gradually filling in from the bottom up. Dumoulin brings a hefty dose of funk, and the drummers lock in a classic fusion-y jazz/rock groove. The whole first third is fairly straight, with Miles, Dumoulin, and Wooley alternately soloing and playing the melody. It’s the second third that gets truly expansive, with muted brass improvising, as snippets of the melody bubble up and fade away before they can coalesce. During a piano solo, there’s almost an inner call-and-response, with Smythe’s right and left hand playing off each other dramatically. The doubling motif returns when Wooley and Miles play a long, barely-accompanied duet improvisation. In the last part, Wooley and Miles play a gorgeous unison, Davis-inspired melody, while Dumoulin and Smythe loop a unison counter melody. Twinning the brass line is particularly effective, and Wooley really shows his respect for Miles here, with a melody that blends warmth and atonality, in a way Miles perfected during his career. Gray and Royston lay down fierce, driving beats, ultimately pulling the band apart, leading to a slow denouement of long tones and fading keyboard runs.

Argonautica is a heavy slab and shows yet another side to Wooley. Outside of BOAT, I don’t recall him going quite as deep into jazz/rock territory, but it so comfortably fits his compositional mode. The small duos and trios tucked into a larger piece, the way threads of melody come together and pull apart, all these emerging hallmarks of his style and interests really benefit from the boost of energy injected by Gray, Royston, and especially Dumoulin. Unsurprisingly, this would make a killer BOAT album, and I would love to hear that group also tackle “Argonautica.” It’s a composition that’s definitely ripe for multiple interpretations.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tim Daisy - Relucent (Relay, 2016) ****1/2

By Tom Burris
Last year Tim Daisy gathered up various radios, turntables, percussion instruments and kitchen utensils and hit the road.  These compositions are the result of working within the realm of random sounds and textures (radios, turntables) and conceptual ideas about time and space.  Sure, sometimes the passage he has chosen from a record is planned – but it can just as easily be a random grab, an educated guess about what is needed to augment the new sonic world in the moment of its birth.  The radio, of course, is far more of a crap shoot.  The marimba is the latest addition, percussive but also melodic in the most conventional sense.  It has become the center of this new music – but not as the staid old grandfather clinging to tradition.  It serves more as a glue that holds the carefully constructed collages together.  In fact, I'd say that the textural qualities of this music are every bit as important as its melodic ones –  probably more so.  Christian Marclay's turntable work, John Cage's Variations (check out that cover art!) and dadaist Kurt Schwitters are credited by Daisy as influential upon these works.  Something Daisy doesn't mention is the blues, for which these compositions might as well be a valentine.

So given all the high art background, the first imagery conjured up here is of a loose interpretation of Pharoah Sanders' “Thembi” coming from a humble jungle hut.  And dammit, that's as it should be!  Inclusiveness, randomness, the incorporation of the interruption – that's what life IS.  We can only benefit from variety in life, which here forms a shakedown dance line followed by a turntable downspeed drone into malarial hypnosis that is equal parts Ake Hodell and Moondog playing a balafon from Ghana.  Worst sentence ever, but you get the point.  The juxtapositions are all Daisy's.

It turns out that this music was not spliced together at any point.  There was no “cut-up” technique applied in the editing process.  I would have put good money down on the assumption that Mr. Daisy chopped off bits of various versions and inserted them into rearrangements post-recording, due to the fact that the incredible flights that sound like spontaneous creations HAD to have been from an early version – when the thing was fresh.  When it was still in the process of becoming.  Splice that into the finished piece.  Nope.  All live solo performances.  All, as the composer puts it “were recorded live in real time with three turntables, a marimba, and three radios.”  Unreal.

A full peaceful minute of radio static is followed by a three-note repeated pattern on “Naturalized,” before building into a high-speed chase for solo marimba. It's a Takemitsu film score gone car chase.  Prior to this was “Blue Rectangle,” which made this listener fully appreciate the idea of electronic static (and ticking sounds) as a solid background.  (The track sequencing is stellar.)

What follows “Naturalized” is a beautifully constructed aural collage called “Intermezzo,” bringing together all previously heard elements to form something new and indescribable.  Keep in mind the collage is happening in real time and has mostly been predetermined.  It is a magnificent piece.  “Rain Static” and “Tangent” follow, providing a subtle and ambient atmosphere in which melodies from marimba or recordings rise and fall in carefully measured intervals.  The disc closes with the sound of an electric fan on the verge of collapse accompanying a sleep-talking marimba's slumber.

This music is playfully serious and seriously inspired.  It is obsessed with sonic juxtaposition, yet it is highly melodic.  It wears its influences openly, yet it is refreshingly new.  Born of improvisations, shaped into compositions, Daisy has written pieces that are sturdy, finely crafted morsels of musical experiences that the listener will return to again and again.

See footage from Daisy's “On The Ground” tour here:

Get Relucent at a ridiculous discount here:

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Free Jazz Blog on Air Available Now

Listen to Martin and host Julia Neupert on SWR2 for another excellent hour of Free Jazz talk and music, this time on large ensembles, with music by Globe Unity Orchestra, Brötzmann Tentet, Fire! Orchestra, Henry Threadgill's Ensemble Double Up, and more.

Craig Taborn, Christian McBride, Tyshawn Sorey - Flaga: Book of Angels, Volume 27 (Tzadik, 2016) *****

By Lee Rice Epstein

On this recent Book of Angels release, John Zorn brings together a new piano trio, with Craig Taborn, Christian McBride, and Tyshawn Sorey. All three have been on some superb albums from the past couple of years, including Taborn’s longstanding trio and the super-trio Farmers By Nature, Chick Corea’s conventional but killer acoustic trio with McBride, and Sorey in both his own Alloy trio and Mario Pavone’s Blue Dialect. The recorded output of these men is huge, so it’s no surprise the result is a scorching hour of music. As with all Masada projects, there’s the clever historical nod—this is clearly an acoustic piano trio in the tradition of pretty much every single acoustic piano trio ever—but nothing is ever simple with Zorn, who cleverly tweaks and twists convention to make Flaga recognizably his.

“Machnia” doesn’t waste a moment, with a single piano pick-up before the group enters into a floating, lush improvisation, led by Taborn, who stomps out the brief melody before launching into another fierce solo. On the follow up, “Peliel,” Taborn delivers the melody with such lightness and sensitivity. His emotional range on the piano is nearly unparalleled, and it’s a testament to the working relationship with Zorn that the pieces here draw on all his strengths. “Katzfiel” is a knotty pretzel of McBride’s walking bass lines intertwined with Sorey’s brisk tom and cymbal work, winding their way beneath Taborn’s, let’s call them supernatural, piano runs. He displayed some of this work on his ECM trio debut, and again I’d give kudos to Zorn for taking something even remotely familiar and making it fit squarely in the Masada tradition. “Talmai,” of which two takes are included, is primarily a showcase for Sorey, who is every bit Taborn’s counterpart, from his emotional drive to his dexterity and creativity.

I don’t think any readers of this blog will be surprised that McBride is the clear outlier in this group. His discography boasts over 300 albums (interestingly, he lists two Zorn albums). However, I was even more surprised to hear how well he integrates with Sorey and Taborn. There’s genuine rapport and equal space given up to all three players. Take “Rogziel,” where McBride and Taborn perform a hard-edged duet over and through Sorey’s crashing drums. This is followed by “Harbonah,” which hinges on McBride’s pretty flawless arco lead.

We are rapidly nearing the end of Masada Book Two, with both Book Three and Zorn’s Bagatelles on the way. It’s wonderful to hear Zorn continue to amass these talented, creative groups, and I’m thrilled by the promise of what’s still to come.

Friday, July 15, 2016

My Reading Diary

By Eyal Hareuveni

Three recommended books that offer different perspectives on distinct musical culture, creating music and life, poetry and art. 

The Sound of the North: Norway and the European Jazz Scene - Luca Vitali (Auditorium International, paperback, 2016) ****½

Italian journalist Luca vitali is the first writer who managed to explain what seemed to be the sudden popularity of Norwegian jazz, in its many formations and manifestations, since the mid-nineties and until today. Many articles in music magazines, websites and blogs or academic dissertations, attempted before to explore different aspects of this cultural phenomenon, but none of the writers succeeded to describe it from so many angles as Vitali did.

Vitali, who published the book originally in Italian, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Norwegian, and in many instances even an intimate and personal familiarity with many of the heroes of that scene. But not only the musical sphere. He tells in a concise and informative language how Norway cultivated a healthy, ever growing cultural environment - encouraging music education from early age, investing in excellent music academies, establishing many renowned jazz festivals, and supporting economic initiatives that fertilize mixing of genres and styles. He, obviously, knows all the local clubs, active and defunct, sound engineers, journalists, festival managers and many more. Vitali knows the history of Norway, have insightful remarks abbot its still egalitarian social and economic structure and identifies with the great love of the Norwegians with the local nature scenery.

Vitali begins the story of the Norwegian jazz more than fifty years back, with George Russell, the innovative pianist, composer and bandleader who lived in Sweden in the sixties, but often visited Norway and took young sax player Jan Garbarek to his group. This is the turning point that symbolizes the transformation of the local jazz scene from a huge American influence to the rise of local heroes with a unique sound, often described as Nordic, tough Vitali clearly does not subscribe to such superficial sonic descriptions.

Vitali tells the important role model that Garbarek set, still one of the most revered musicians in Norway, from a modern jazz sax player to a musician who sculpted his highly personal voice, tinged with local folk influences. He expands on the importance of the first generation of Norwegian musicians to be signed by the German ECM label- bass player Arild Andersen, guitarist Terje Rypdal and drummer Jon Christensen, all are still active, creative forces in the local scene.

But Vitali knows sketches also the counter movement to this generation, spearheaded by Nu-jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, and later by cross-genres bands as Jaga Jazzist, experimental labels as Rune Grammofon and free jazz pioneers as reeds player Frode Gjerstad and his close collaborator Paal Nilssen-Love. Despite what me seemed as opposed musical camps there are strong links and many collaborations between musicians from both camps, as well from other genres - noise, contemporary music, metal and naturally, folk music.

More on the book:

Listening - Urs Leimgruber / Jacques Demierre / Barre Phillips (Lenka Lente, 2016) ****

In 2015 the free-improvising trio of Swiss sax player Urs Leimgruber, French pianist Jacques Demierre and American, based in France double bass master Barre Phillips planned to celebrate its 15th anniversary, as well as the 80th birthday of Phillips, with tours on both sides of the Atlantic. This trio released so far five albums, the first Wing Vane (Victo, 2001) and the last one, 1↦3⊨2:⇔1 (Jazzwerkstatt, 2015), establishing a unique, experimental language, as Demierre describes it: “The silence between each performance is simply a period slightly longer than the silences played on stage. The listening process of the trio does not stop when the performance is finished, but continues, it constantly weaves dynamic links with our memory until the next meeting of us”.

Listening is a tri-lingual travelogue, beginning in March 2015 and ends on December of the same year, bringing the parallel narratives of the three musicians - Leimgruber in German, Demierre in French, adding many insightful photos, and Phillips in English. The book documents their personal experiences, focusing on “creating new spaces with sound”, as Phillips defined it, the hardships of any tour of such an outfit, travelling “thirty hours door to door. For just a hour concert?”, playing on a piano that is more a “sound sculpture” than a piano, but eventually meeting many curious audiences that are eager to understand “how it works”.

Unfortunately the touring plans were marred by Philips health problems, his continuous struggle with what he names the “Black bat”. Leimgruber and Demierre continued the American leg of the tour as a duo, but began the American performances with video montage of interview with Phillips and live footage of the trio. Phillips joins Leimgruber and Demierre again to few European performance, enjoying the “new-ness” of being back together: “the music took off, outward bound, to other universes and dimensions”, before being hospitalized again. Still, Phillips concludes this book with a great belief in the the trio legacy: “giving it a deeper meaning than ever before and creating a future that will carry on until the last drop, the last sigh, the last stroke”.

50 Couplers - Moondog (Lenka Lente, 2016) *****

This pocket-size, bilingual (English and French), 40-pages book is published on the 100th birthday year of Moondog (aka Louis Thomas Hardin), the unique blind composer, poet, homeless musician dressed as a Viking and inventor of instruments, hailed by innovative musicians as Charlie Parker and Philip Glass. This book collects the poetic couplets of Moondog, suggesting his words of wisdom, delivered in two line rhymes, often spiced with an absurdist sense of humor.

Here are two couplets:
An armored knight fell of a ship and sank into the blue. / He looked a lobster in the eye and said “you’re armored,to?”
Offensive and defensive weapons thought they ought to race; / but, as they ran, defensive weapons couldn’t keep the pace.