Click here to [close]

Winterreise: Alexander von Schlippenbach (p), Rudi Mahall (cl), Dag Magnus Narvesen (dr)

Ausland, Berlin. Dec 2021

An Ayler Xmas: Aaron Gonzalez (b), Mars Williams (s) Gaika James (tb), Jonathan Horne (g), Helen Gilet (c), Rob Cambre (g - n/p)

The Broadside, New Orleans. December 2021

Kuzu: Dave Rempis (sax), Tashi Dorji (g), Taylor Damon (dr)

Manufaktur, Schorndorf. November 2021

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Daniel Carter’s Great Year in Duets (Part 1 of 3)

Daniel Carter fans had an amazing set of offerings in 2021. On the blog our writers have talked about Playfield (also here ), Just Don’t Die , New York United Vol. 2 , and Painter’s Winter (with William Parker and Hamid Drake), and a few others. But there is so much more. Nick Ostrum and Gary Chapin talk about some of those.

By Nick Ostrum and Gary Chapin

Daniel Carter and Matthew Shipp - Dark Matrix (Not Two Records, 2020) *****

Gary : Hello, Nick! The first one I’m going to bring up is Dark Matrix. I’ve seen this dated as both 2020 and 2021. I’m including it because I could easily have done a piece like this on Matthew Shipp. He and Carter practically define my sweet spot of free improv and free bop jazz structure, and this recording is exactly what I would think of if someone asked, “What’s a perfect, representative Daniel Carter recording?” The opening title track is a sort of overture. Carter is such a seamless multi-instrumentalist, and his instrument switches create a sort of narrative structure in the long piece. One thing I do notice, though, is that Carter’s harmon muted trumpet evokes Miles Davis for me SO MUCH that it’s almost a distraction. Perhaps I am a slave to association. I definitely hear the roots of Dark Matrix in Davis’s Nefertitti (an album I love). After that, we go into a more abstract space and the duo becomes very knotty and intriguing. It never stops being a thoughtful and spacious endeavor, with subtleties that make you smile when you notice them and just feel good when you don’t. (I never quite noticed how clever Shipp is with the sustain pedal until now. How did I miss that?) What’ve you got for me, Nick?

Jessica Ackerley and Daniel Carter - Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel (577 Records, 2021) ****

Nick: The first on my docket is another duo, albeit between the elder statesman Carter and an emerging guitar wizard Jessica Ackerley. The album is Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel and it marks a departure from the free improv/free bop of Dark Matrix and Painter’s Winter . The music is still quite open and, as far as I can tell, largely unscripted. However, this is a more intimate affair, a tender dialog between musicians of different generations but who share an aesthetic drive. This one sounds like two musicians jamming on a cold winter’s day in a flat with two mikes: one right in front of Ackerley’s acoustic guitar and the other at the bell of Daniel Carter’s horns and flute. Carter plays with his characteristic soulfulness and precision. No surprises there. Ackerley, however, stands out as her acoustic lines are much more restrained than some of her electric work. Actually, her work here sounds a lot more like her solo release Morning/mourning than, for instance, than the apposite poles of noise and quiet she explores on Extremities, her duo with Patrick Shiroishi. Friendship has brief moments of churn [1] , such as that at the end of the closer 'Awakening' [2] . Those examples are few, however, as it seems that these two musicians decided to keep things subdued, and focus on blended scales and lonely, elongated melodies. And, they do this to great effect. So far, this is one of my favorites of the bunch. What about you, Gary? Is anything else really resonating, or not, with you?

Shawneci Icecold and Daniel Carter - Familiar Roads (Zachary T. Raskin, 2021) ***½

Gary: I suppose we should spend a minute talking about the abundance of duets because Familiar Roads with Carter and Shawneci Icecold, on piano, is, of course, a duet. Free improv has a long history of great duets, something that became possible once the idea that a “rhythm section” was necessary ditched. It’s also an especially vibrant combo for a music form based in the model of an unfolding conversation (or argument, or seduction).

This recording (which seems to only be available on the streaming services) is a short one at 31 minutes and change, but it’s a different kind of space for Carter. At the beginning of the title track, Icecold’s piano has a sound to it (either because of the instrument or the room or the production) that feels evocatively noir-ish. When Carter begins playing in a breathy and ballady mode (à la Ben Webster) I expect someone to order a Manhattan from the bartender. The track doesn’t stay in that space, abstraction ensues, but I think it’s fair to call this a ballad record. Icecold has a great touch for melodic playing and resonance. The heavy use of sustain reminds me, for moments, of Alan Hohvannes’s archived solo piano recordings. It’s a quiet, close record, and intimate.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

William Parker and Patricia Nicholson - No Joke! (ESP Disk', 2021) ****

No Joke! is a collaboration between Parker and his wife. Nicholson is a performance artist, dancer, improviser, poet, and choreographer. She recites verse against the background of energetic, cleanly rhythmic jazz on the 1st, 3rd and final cut. You can hear something very similar on Open the Gates by Irreversible Entanglements ( very well reviewed here by Martin Schray ). In addition to Parker’s bass, the band consists of James Brandon Lewis, tenor sax; Devin Brahja Waldman, alto sax; Melanie Dyer, viola; and Francesco Mela and Gerald Cleaver trade off on drums.

The album is explicitly political. Nicholson’s poetry provides the kind of content of content that is rare in jazz generally and especially rare in free jazz and Avant Garde jazz. It is not unprecedented. One could compare 'Flare Up,' the opening number of No Joke! to Charles Mingus’ 'Fables of Faubus.'

“Mingus: Name me someone who’s ridiculous, Dannie. Richmond: Governor Faubus. Mingus: Why is he so sick and ridiculous? Richmond: He won’t permit us in the schools. Mingus: Then he’s a fool!” Not great poetry, but the judgment is clear and impeccable.

Here are some of Nicholson’s judgments, from 'Flare Up': “The red hats are bathing deep in the river of illusion” and “the rallying cry of the red hats is a blasphemy of all they claim to be,” and from 'Struggle,' “pushed aside by a main stream of angry creatures of indeterminate pedigree.” The word “mainstream” split deliberately in two and the Mingus. Whether it really furthers the cause of peace and social healing to accuse people of blaspheme, or the cause of anti-racism to question their pedigree, is beyond my jurisdiction as an amateur music critic.

Nicholson’s voice stands out brightly against the music and is perfectly complimented by the Parkeresque pace and beat of the instrumental music. That music is very fine. 'Flare up' is largely a dialogue between viola and the brass. Little Black Kid with the Swollen Stomach opens with the thump and whispery rattle of Parker’s bass, inviting the horns in during the first minute. Thereafter we are treated to a sax dialogue that turns occasionally to a wailing chorus. Drummer Mela wraps up with a powerful chant in a language that I did not recognize but an emotional content that was universal.

Struggle has a decidedly more James Brandon Lewis feel. It starts with another Parker signature, a pom pom pommmmm, pommm pom beat. Nicholson comes in with “you know how Sisyphus always be pushin’ that boulder up a hill… never getting’ nowhere, ump un.” This way of putting the Greek myth in a modern political context adds resonance to both traditions. Toward the end we get “streets that crack and turn with each movement in a body’s life,” delivered twice with her rhythm approaching singing without losing the magic of the chant. Wilted Light as a Flower is the only purely instrument piece, again a call and response/chorus between the horns.

I can’t leave this review without mentioning the brilliance of Melanie Dyer’s viola. She accompanies Nicholson and gives a rich, savory flavor to the background. I am going to have to look up more of this. Likewise, both drummers make me want to pick up sticks and tap something.

Ken says check this one out.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Das Kondensat - 2 (WhyPlayJazz, 2021) ****

War between people and machines sells a lot of cinema tickets – and has paid for a lot of ritzy Hollywood mansions too. Sometimes, however, humans and gadgets team up for the greater good. The second album from Das Kondensat is a luminous example of the turbo-charged musical moments that are possible when acoustic and digital forces combine.

Das Kondensat is a trio from Berlin featuring Gebhard Ullmann (saxophone, sampler, loops), Oliver Potratz (e-bass, analogue effects) and Eric Schaefer (drums, modular synth). Their collected credentials range across almost every genre and style of music imaginable. Now, with a new album called 2, they’ve cooked up something almost unimaginable. “I want to say things in new and different ways,” says Ullmann. “That gets easier over time, as artistic expression gets more efficient.”

Twists and turns, peril and panic

Listeners may be unsure what to expect from this group. The first track, '3031 A.D Variable,' deepens that sense of uncertainty. Sighs from the saxophone brush against digital scrapes and squawks. The second track, 'Pendulum,' emerges from this opaque paranoia with a synthy bassline and groovy drums, cuddled beneath a thick-quilt sax sound. The track gets carried away with its own danceable rhythm, then crumbles to dust, rises, crumbles, rises again. Schaefer’s interest in dub music is unmistakable here – but above the nick-nacks and doodads, Ullmann’s sax is the real storyteller, adding twists and turns, peril and panic.

The three musicians explore separate paths in 'Impromptu #5.' Sax howling through a gently-swaying forest, bass scrambling over rough terrain, drums sprinting over rickety rope bridges. They eventually meet for a prog-rocky groove with a swaggering attitude, as if strutting away from a bank robbery via the back door while the police surround the front.

Somersaults and the supernatural

'I Was Born in Cleveland Ohio Part 1' features another hip-bumping bassline, with the sax now somersaulting in zero gravity. From beyond the cosmos, we hear spliced-in samples of Albert Ayler explaining that music is a natural force. The drums patter and clatter, cymbals roaring. Then levels lurch. Volumes veer off. The entire universe collapses. A breath-taking piece of music.

'P (n+1)' combines broken hearts with racing pulses, its ballady beauty battered by rough-edged rhythms. For 'Bass Revenge,' Potratz cooks up a carb-loaded feast of low frequencies, seasoned by Schaefer’s peppery drumming and Ullmann’s creamy sax. 'Certain Patterns' in the Field then offers natural narrative progressions disrupted by supernatural sax sirens and gurgly robo-burps.

More questions than answers

Track 8, 'Lazer ’73,' is a riveting musical dialogue. Gizmos whir and whistle. Bass and drums inject a booster-shot of bounciness, laced with a purring sax riff. The party occasionally breaks down for sombre contemplations of existential despair, but quickly slips back into its dancing shoes each time.

Next is '3031 A.D. Stasis,' where the saxophone has fallen into an abandoned quarry and something scary has picked up the scent. Were those gunshots? Growling? Is anybody out there? The band answers with 'I Was Born in Cleveland Ohio Part 2,' a song that resists labels – and then dumps all labels into a toxic swamp. The last song, 'Étoile Schnuppe,' sends the listener away with more questions than answers. It begins introspective, with the musicians’ eyes shifted away from distant galaxies and now staring down at their tapping feet. Animal noises? A mermaid? A ticking timebomb? And then… nothing.

Teaming up for the greater good

As the name suggests, 2 is the second album by Das Kondensat. It was recorded live, without overdubs. The result is full of swoops, arcs and melodrama. The jagged corners are smoothed by honeyed, ghostly insinuations. The emotions are high and unashamed. It’s an album where people and machines get together to oil each other’s moving parts and unleash their combined force. Will it be enough to save humanity? Only time will tell. Perhaps a third album might resolve it once and for all…

The album is available on CD and as a digital download. Find more information here .

Check out this live performance to get a flavour of the band’s sound and style:


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Jennifer Allum, John Butcher, Ute Kanngiesser, Eddie Prévost - Sounds of Assembly (Meenna, 2021) *****

No free jazz here, just divine, top-notch free improvisation focused on timbre and texture to create an album of otherworldly soundscapes.

Sounds of Assembly was recorded in 2013 in London and not released until April 2021 on the Japanese label, Meenna. The album features Jennifer Allum (violin), John Butcher (saxophones, also mixing and mastering of the audio), Ute Kanngiesser (cello), and Eddie Prévost (percussion).

As the album notes describe: “This recording marks the second meeting of this quartet. The occasion was an afternoon session organised for inclusion in Stewart Morgan's film "Eddie Prévost's Blood". A special location had been chosen - the large assembly hall of Prévost's old senior school, Addey & Stanhope in Deptford, London, where he enrolled in the mid 1950s.” The film can be found here, and it includes footage from the recording session, as well as an excellent interview with Prévost that is definitely worth watching!

The five tracks comprising the album clock in at 48’27”, but this is time-suspending music that compels the listener with spacious, mysterious, atemporal, aural environments that seem to pass by too quickly. Each track has a sense of unforced drama propelling the music forward in continual, seamless development. Each player demonstrates a deep and careful attention to detail for every sound they create, as if they are handling something that is simultaneously fragilely delicate and intensely powerful. The group dynamic is borderline magical in terms of balance, support, like-mindedness, and reflexivity.

The recording quality here matches the performance; this is complex music of subtlety and extremity and the recording captures and reveals all of this for we lucky listeners.

Sounds of Assembly is free improvisation at its best: non-referential, self-organizing, questioning, searching, and devoid of cliché or touchstone…a rare must hear album.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Ivo Perelman - Brass and Ivory Tales (Fundacja Sluchcaj, 2021) *****


By Paul Acquaro

The small white box sits on my desk. Perfectly square, about an inch and a half high, featuring a light grayscale photo overlayed with white lettering. Inside, a slim booklet with saxophonist Ivo Perelman's image. Then, nine cardboard sleeves, each with a black and white image of a different pianist ... first, David Burrell, then Marylyn Crispell, followed by Araun Ortiz, Aaron Parks, Sylvia Courvoisier, Agusti Fernandez, Craig Taborn, Angelica Sanchez, and finally Vijay Iyer. As you can surmise, within each envelope is a CD documenting a fruitful encounter between the saxophonist and musician whose image is on the sleeve. Just a look at the list of musical partners and you can also safely surmise that the contents of the box are likely to combust. 

The more proper metaphor, however, is something regarding a book of stories rather than a book of matches. From the "tales" of the title, each one, a new collaboration, is broken into chapters - the track titles are chapter one, two, three, and so on. However, mere minutes into the over 1/2 hour 'Chapter 1' from Tale One, the first of two tracks with Dave Burrell, and the explosive imagery is just as appropriate. Burrell, 81, is ever a thoughtful and melodic player, and the interaction with Perelman is both delicately balanced and devastatingly precise. The energy already streaming from Perelman's instrument is heated, building in intensity as each minute goes by. They settle a bit later in the track, Burrell offering sparse dissonant lines and Perelman playing long yearning tones. The second track continues their adventure, the piano swings occasionally and the sax glides above and below the steady line. 

Tale Two, with Marilyn Crispell begins differently. Ruminative and gentle, the duo plays what sounds like a composed song, wistful and pretty, however unexpected tones and intervallic leaps belie the truly improvised nature. Then 'Chapter Two' flips the script. The romanticism turns to pointillism as Crispell's playing is quick, syncopated, and unpredictable. Perelman spars gamely, he is a blaze of notes and twisting musical logic. On this disc, 'Chapter 5' is standout. The two are again in a fierce match of agility, Crispell punctuating her ideas with percussive chords and Perelman jumping into altissimo range on a whim.

Tale Three finds Perelman working out some ideas with Cuban-born, NYC based Auran Ortiz. 'Chapter One' finds Ortiz providing spare, percussive chords for Perelman to climb over and dance around. The saxophonist smears high pitched tones between the spaces in the pianist's accompaniment. On many of the chapters in this collaboration, Ortiz employs a minimalist approach, which is quite interesting to hear in contrast to the denser duos on Tale Two. However, a rumble from the low end coupled with a twinkling cluster of high notes also gives Perelman a much different set of tones and textures to explore.

Brass and Ivory Tales is a generous and rich set of music. The recordings capture the saxophonist's inimitable style, as well as the spirit of pure improvisation. As the booklet with text from writer and de-facto Perelman scholar Neil Tesser indicates, each recording started with a blank slate, no discussion of ideas precede the push of the record button.

This collection took the prolific musician seven years to complete, with the final three recordings made during the summer of 2021. Most collaborations here are first encounters and it is fascinating to hear how Perelman adapts to each different musical partner. The one missing collaborator in this collection is long-time musical partner Matthew Shipp, but there are plenty of other releases available to enjoy their telepathic work.

All nine CDs in this set are worthy of a close listen. They are accessible, but take time and patience. The effort though is not without ample reward. Tale Five, for example, is a set of eleven shorter stories, told with Swiss-born, NYC based pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, that are fulfilling and dramatic. The piano playing is rich and harmonically complex, to which Perelman response is rich and melodically.  Tale Six with Craig Taborn begins spiritedly, the pianist providing an expansive array of tones to navigate. Tale Four with Aaron Parks begins on a more subdued note. Known in more modern jazz circles, Parks offers Perelman a calm, expressive palette to work with. Tale Six is with Spanish avant-garde pianist Agusti Fernandez. Their collaboration also begins gently but soon splinters in many directions, sometimes simultaneously. By 'Chapter Three', the two are dancing on hot coals. Tale Eight is with pianist Angelica Sanchez and begins with the cheeriest of interactions so far as Sanchez's lithe playing rounds off some of the sourer timbers in Perelman's tone. 'Chapter Three' is intense, the piano plays tight a tight cluster of tones while Perelman reacts with similarly tightly clustered notes. The tension breaks soon enough, but not without leaving a lasting impression. Finally, Tale Nine is with Vijay Iyer. The two waste no time getting into a sprightly exchange, Iyer seems to envelope the entire keyboard with his ideas and Perelman masterfully matches the exuberance. The five tracks featuring the two of them is a fitting ending to this tremendous set of music.

Brass and Ivory Tales is a book of matches, both literally and figuratively. Combustible sticks on one hand, compatible musical partner on another. The music within is light and lithe, dark and dense, covering the keys, the octaves, and all the rest. 

The bandcamp site offers samples from all the CDs, here is a starter for you:

Friday, January 14, 2022

Fred Van Hove (1937 - 2022)

Fred Van Hove in 2019. Photo by Cristina Marx.

One of Fred Van Hove’s credos was that improvised music didn’t exist before it was played. He believed that the improvising musician had to create his own vocabulary on his instrument in order to achieve a unique sound. “Improvisation, you have never heard it before and you will never hear it again because it will never be the same again“, he said. Now Fred Van Hove, the great Belgian pianist, improviser, composer, accordionist, organist, juggler and prankster is dead. The European free music scene, with whom his name will always be connected, will never be the same again as well.

Born 1937 in Antwerp (his name is attached to this city almost as much as the one of Peter Paul Rubens), Fred Van Hove studied piano, theory and harmony at the Music Academy in Belgium and experimented with several jazz styles before making the transition to free improvisation. 1966 saw the beginning of his collaboration with Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink. To this day it’s rightfully considered one of the most seminal formations in European free jazz. One of the most striking characteristics of the trio's music was the principle of contrasting means of creation, which were raised to the level of a principle. The fact that this was rooted in the different temperaments of the participating musicians was not difficult to recognize. Van Hove was the counterpart of the extroverted poles Bennink and Brötzmann, even if in his early playing the influence of Cecil Taylor shone through. Tongue-in-cheek, Van Hove claimed that his musical career was less influenced by Taylor’s playing than by the glockenspiel of the Antwerp churches. In his playing with Brötzmann and Bennink, he soon developed a strong individuality, with emotional outbursts and energy play increasingly fading into the background. Instead, he created a more and more complex style with tendencies towards oddness and even musical jokes, he sometimes integrated traditional stylistic elements, which he interpolated collage-like into the musical events. Van Hove counterpointed Brötzmann's screams and Bennink's hectic drumming with contemplative major triads and arpeggios. In this way he broke up the already consolidated free jazz techniques.

After the split of the trio, Van Hove went solo and somehow re-discovered his instrument. He manipulated and prepared the piano, he ran at full speed to create sonic waves, but always came back to a melody. His multi-stylistic approach can be seen in his solo LP Verloren Maandag, on which he dispensed with technical virtuosity on purpose and preferred to surprise, create suspense and tease the listener by using Flemish local colour, which sometimes seemed deliberately dilletante. He really was the avant-garde of free jazz piano at that time. "Improvising is another form of composing. Instant composing such as instant coffee, but not such a surrogate,", he said. "Because of the lack of an external pattern, the music had to go back to its own inner tradition and its own inner nature. However, improvisation does not mean that the musical results, whether favourable or unfavourable , are random. On the contrary, the improvising musician remains open to all influences (…) because he has to play the music that each moment requires." In his search of pure sound he used techniques anticipated by John Cage, Karl-Heinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis. Apart from his solo work his duos and trios with Johannes Bauer were a perfect example of the quest for purity. Unfortunately, the duo remained unrecorded, but Organo Pleno (FMP, 1993) their trio with Annick Nozati (voice) is magnificent in its extravagance and evening-dress-madness.

Last but not least, even though his heart was set on improvisation, Fred Van Hove was also an outstanding composer, which he proved with ’T Nonet Fred Van Hove and on several WIM projects (Werkgroep Improviserende Musici, whose chairman he was for a long time).

Fred Van Hove has released a lot of outstanding albums, it’s difficult to select some from his great oeuvre. Certainly, the ones of the trio with Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink are must-haves. My favourites are The End and Tschüs (both on FMP), but actually all eight are superb. From his solo albums Fred Van Hove (Vogel, 1973) and Verloren Maandag (FMP 1977) are really recommendable. One of my personal favourites is MLDD4’s Was macht ihr denn? (FMP/SAJ 1983) with Günter “Baby“ Sommer, Marc Charig and Phil Wachsmann. Highlights of his late work are Quat - Live at Hasselt (NoBusiness, 2013) with Els Vandeweyer, Paul Lovens and Martin Blume and Fred Van Hove at 80 (Dropa Disc, 2019), a 3-CD-box-set celebrating his 80th birthday.

In his last years Fred Van Hove suffered from dementia but at the Antwerp Summer Bummer Festival in 2019 he reunited with Peter Brötzmann for a last duo show. One of the organisers of the festival helped him on the way to the grand piano, the ten meters took him about two minutes. The audience gave him a big hand but after a minute or so the applause died down. Van Hove was surprised, stopped and looked at the audience and made them understand that they should move on. Everybody laughed and when he finally reached his destination he sat down very slowly - just to explode as soon as he started playing. An unforgettable moment.

Now Fred Van Hove, this true revolutionary, has passed away after a long illness. Hopefully, the chimes of the Antwerp churches will play a serenade for him.

Watch Fred Van Hove solo:

and with in the legendary trio with Brötzmann and Bennink:

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Solo Double Bass Extravaganza


Listening carefully to many solo double bass albums over and over in a few weeks may cause a re-calibration of your body frequencies. The 14 albums reviewed below resist common descriptions, all experimenting with the bull fiddle (one with another sound artist and other teams with a vocalist). But all can guarantee that your sensitivity to the deep-toned vibrations may expand to other vibrations that move this planet and its living beings, and fulfils the wish of one of the prolific bassists, Luke Stewart, to lead to a radical change.

Joëlle Léandre - At Souillac en Jazz (Ayler, 2021) ***** 


French master double bass player Joëlle Léandre has recorded many solo albums since the early eighties, most likely more than any other free improvising double bass player. The last one, At Souillac en Jazz, was recorded live during the festival by the same title and in the Saint-Jacques church of Calès in Lot, with the audience and two short pieces as a private after-set once the audience had left, in July 2021 by jazz journalist and film director Christian Pouget (He directed her musical portrait Affamée, 2019). Pouget, who wrote the poetic liner notes, captured beautifully the spirit of the commanding of Léandre’s tour-de-force performance: “The huge sound, instantly gripping the body, is overwhelming far beyond the music, an experience so strong that tears flow when it comes to the sung parts. From the depths of the ages, evocative of a Native American medicine woman, an Inuit shaman, voodoo priestess or even blues woman, extracting with bare hands her strings rooted in clay, transcending the sound of her double bass, she awakens a thousand-year-old buried 'collective unconscious' with her voice of trance, inviting ancestral spirits to a form of resistance to fight all the injustices of the world, piercing with sound and love the hearts of both aficionados dreaming of impossible musical utopias and of novices stunned by her visceral ‘duende’” The audience thought that Pouget was absolutely right, and obviously, me, who was fortunate enough to experience a few of Léandre’s magical and highly poetic performances, could not agree more.


Nina de Heney & Lina Järnegard - Solo piece for peace, please (Geiger Gramophone, 2021) *****

Solo piece for peace, please is a composition by Swiss, Gothenburg-based double bass player Nina de Heney and Swedish contemporary composer Lina Järnegard. This composition was inspired by fellow-Swedish writer, poet and artist Cia Rinne’s “notes for soloists”, which experiments with the performativity of the text and language at all in readings and collaborations with artists and sound designers. De Henry plays the double bass and cymbals, and this composition was recorded at Cinnober Teater in Gothenburg in 2019. The highly poetic Solo piece for peace, please intensifies the dark, woody, resonating tones of the bowed double bass - with the bow often employed as a percussive instrument - with the resonating tones of bowed, metallic cymbals. It offers nuanced drones that seduce the listener to wander within its enigmatic tones and overtones. Often, De Heney suggests puzzling, chaotic soundscapes by the bass augmented with the cymbals, almost industrial ones, in a way that adds an abstract sonic dimension to the cryptic text of Rinne.

More to see here.

Gonçalo Almeida - Monólogos a Dois (A New Wave of Jazz, 2021) ****½


Prolific Portuguese, Rotterdam-based Gonçalo Almeida is known for the range of his musical tastes - modern jazz and free jazz, chamber music, brutal jazzcore and contemporary experimentalism with a few combinations in between. His extensive, restless work has sharpened his instincts, techniques and musical imagination and equipped him with impressive physical power. Monólogos a Dois is his second solo double bass album, following Monologues Under Sea Level, released on his own Cylinder Recordings in 2015. In between, Almeida recorded a double bass duo with Dutch Raoul Van Der Weide (Duas Margens / Live at Pletterij (Cylinder, 2017). Monólogos a Dois was recorded at the Old Church in Oud-Charlois, Rotterdam in July 2020 and released as a limited edition of 100 vinyls plus download option.

The 12 monologues are actually distinct dialogs with the double bass, covering the intimate, introspective and often stormy relationship with the bull fiddle. Almeida often sounds as charming and tempting the double bass, dancing gently with it, but also investigating its timbral qualities, provoking or struggles with it and attempts to submit the resisting instrument to his sonic vision, always with natural authority and captivating elegance. The acoustics of the empty, reverberating church contribute to the thoughtful, austere spirit of this album. Guy Peters, who wrote the liner notes, stresses the clever ways that Almeida corresponds with seminal double bass players, from Barre Philips to Charlie Haden, and, indeed, Almeida knows how to tie together different approaches, influences and a vast palette of sounds as well as an array of extended techniques and to own them all, in his own fascinating and special way.

See more here.

Paul Rogers - This Is Where I Find Myself (AudioSemantics, 2021) ****  

British Paul Rogers is known for his many collaborations with reeds player Paul Dunmall, including in the Mujician quartet. He plays the A.L.L. double bass, designed by him and built for him by Antoine Leducq, with 7 strings that cover most of the cello range and the double bass range, plus sitar-like sympathetic strings. This Is Where I Find Myself was recorded during April and May 2020, and Rogers says that he recorded with no goal, just letting his “heart, mind and soul be open. It's got nothing to do with what instrument you use, it's the spirit you put into the music”. Rogers plays the bass exclusively with the bow and often his extended bowing techniques suggest that he was playing simultaneously on a few strings instruments or cover the whole range of a string quartet. The two extended pieces “Flexible” and “Now” explore the infinite possibilities of the A.L.L. double bass, as an imaginative sonic generator of alien, resonant multiphonics, conventional and exotic string instruments, or dark overtones of a deeply suggestive drone. All reflect the restless, inquisitive mind of Rogers and performed with a sense of powerful urgency and captivating authority.



Gus Loxbo - Trådknaster (Noshörning, 2021) ****


Trådknaster ('threads' in Swedish) is the debut album of Swedish double bass player Gus Loxbo, who also plays in the experimental-pop bands Pombo (with sax hero Anna Högberg) and Silent Blossoms. Loxbo recorded nine compositions for this album at Elektronmusikstudion EMS in Stockholm in February 2020. His classical training, education in jazz, improvisation and electroacoustic composition enables him to harness experimental threads into subtle yet suggestive textures. Loxbo balances cleverly and organically his extended bowing techniques, the dark and woody, vibrating sounds of the double bass and brief silences to sketch fragile and tentative sonic images and stories, and attaches poetic titles to them. “Allt det vackra” (All that Beautiful) highlights a touching melody, and “Ett Spirituellt Liv Med Fågelerfarenheter” (A Spiritual Life With Bird Experiences) suggests a hypnotic, ritualist pulse. The longest pieces “Där Tankar Föds” (Where Thoughts are Born and “Pappa” capture best his imaginative aesthetics, often transforming the double bass into a totally abstract sonic entity. The beautiful cover art of Henning Trollbäck matches the sonic vision of Loxbo.

See more here.

Àlex Reviriego - Raben (Tripticks Tapes, 2021) **** 


Raben is the second chapter in the trilogy of solo albums inspired by German poets from Spanish, Barcelona-based double bass player Àlex Reviriego, known from the Phicus trio. This chapter is inspired by the writings of Paul Celan (1920-1970), who was born in Romania but wrote in German and follows Blaue Tauben (Sirulita 2018), dedicated to Georg Trakl. The upcoming chapter will be dedicated to Friedrich Hölderlin. Raben was recorded by Phicus colleague Ferran Fages in the winter of 2019. Reviriego says that this chapter retains the numbing cold of the winter days when it was recorded, and unlike the bleak expressionistic spirit of Blaue Tauben, it has a more contemplative and pensive mood. He imagines Celan’s stark and cryptic language with mysterious, dissonant sounds created by extremely slow and almost static, repetitive bowings, muted stubborn tremolos and luminous harmonics. The uncompromising music stresses otherworldly sounds of the double bass defined by its dark and austere suchness, with no attempt to suggest a narrative or overt emotionality. The music, like Celan’s poems, creates its own intense and evocative sonic environment and its inner chart of codes and meanings within which it must be listened to.


Paroxysm (A Front Recordings, 2021) **** 

Paroxysm, i.e. a sudden attack or violent expression of a particular emotion or activity, is the duo of Austrian, Berlin-based double bass player Werner Dafeldecker, known from such experimental bands like Polwechsel and Splitter Orchester, and Irish and fellow-Berliner sound artist Roy Carroll, who plays here on electroacoustic media. They describe this project as offering their “precisely articulated timbre-focused music traverses malleability of material and form, pitch interactions, timbral nature and psychoacoustic phenomena, through continually shifting layers and perspectives on singularities and recurrences. Paroxysm pulls apart the temporal structure of a moment, revealing the glistening molecular density within. They exude certain brutality towards their materials; visceral, emotional gestures amidst the forest of oblique and parallel connections/interactions that form their work”. Together, Dafeldecker and Caroll create an ambiguous sonic entity where the patient and methodical exploration of the double bass’ acoustic timbres is extended and mutated by the subtle, otherworldly electronic sonorities, and at the same time, the double bass intensifies the abstract electronics. The first piece “Tendencies” sketches a minimalist, cold and barren drone, while the second one “Basalt” begins with a darker, more sparse and melancholic tone but slowly aims towards a distant, almost industrial percussive coda, but like the first piece has its own accumulative, arresting effect.

See more here.

Vinicius Cajado - Monu (Urchin, 2021) ***½ 


The playing of Brazilian, Vienna-based Vinicius Cajado knows combine influences and techniques (and extended bowing techniques, including with objects and loops) from jazz, free improvisation and classical and contemporary music, and already praised by Léandre. Monu is his debut album, and he also leads a quartet that released this year its debut album, both on the label Urchin that he co-founded with Austrian-Japanese guitarist Kenji Herbert. Monu offers 12 brief perspectivess of the sonic palette of the bull fiddle, from deep-toned swamps to delicate, lyrical bowing, clever rhythmic patterns and to enigmatic, processes a meditative sounds and otherworldly multiphonics. All are performed with a poetic, sensual touch and often with a sense of reserved drama. The heartfelt “Clumsy” is dedicated to the great Austrian double bass player Peter Herbert, the uncle of Kenji Herbert.

See more here.

Aurelijus Užameckis - Signals (CRRNT Records, 2021) ***½

Signals is the debut solo album of Lithuanian, Copenhagen-based double bass player Aurelijus Užameckis. The music was recorded in September 2020 at the Brønshøj water tower in Copenhagen, known for its unique room ambiance with a reverb of approximately 13 seconds. Užameckis defines Signals as “an ambiguous manifestation of existential considerations that are sonically expressed through minimalistic themes and improvisations”. His approach is quite scholastic and methodic, investigating patiently and thoroughly the extensive sonic possibilities of the double bass, obviously, with extended bowing techniques, and the interaction between himself, the composer-improvisers, his instrument, and the highly reverberating location, the Brønshøj water tower. If I would borrow a few of Užameckis’ titles for his solo pieces, this album offers some imaginative ways to re-calibrate and tame your thoughts and dive into suggestive, nebulous dreams, all arranged as an arresting suite.

See more here.

Hernâni Faustino - Twelve Bass Tunes (Phonogram Unit, 2021) *** 

Prolific Portuguese, Lisbon-based double bass player Hernâni Faustino is known from the RED trio and his collaborations with Nate Wooley, Lotte Anker and fellow-Portuguese musicians like Rodrigo Amado, Sei Miguel and Ernesto Rodrigues. He is also one of the founders of the cooperative label Phonogram Unit. Twelve Bass Tunes is Faustino’s debut solo album and it was recorded at Namouche Studios in Lisbon in January 2020. The album surveys the full spectrum of the techniques and extended techniques of the self-taught Faustino. He is an agile and expressive improviser and a spontaneous composer who knows how to tell suggestive stories, equipped with impressive physical energy, and authoritative sound of his own.



Luke Stewart - Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 1 (Astral Spirits, 2021) ***½ 

Works For Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 2 (Astral Spirits, 2021) ***½ 

Works For Electric Bass Guitar (Tripticks Tapes, 2021) ***


American bassist Luke Stewart plays in the Irreversible Entanglements, James Brandon Lewis Trio and Heroes Are Gang Leaders and is also a booker, promoter, radio DJ, and musician who is determined to extend and expand the sonic palette of the double bass and the electric bass.

Writer and Historian Gabriel Jermaine Vanlandingham-Dunn, who wrote the liner notes for the two volumes of Works for Upright Bass & Amplifier, imagine Stewart’s playing as conjuring up “images of heat”, melting elements of hip-hop, avant-garde music and electronic music. The four-part Vol. 1 is, naturally, sound-oriented and has a quiet, meditative and introspective atmosphere. The sparse touching and bowing of the strings of the double bass punctuate the abstract humming of the amplifier, and these sounds of the amplifier intensify the delicate vibrations of the double bass. Slowly, the bowing of the double bass becomes more intense, raw and louder, deepening the tension with the amplifier’s sounds and suggesting a mechanical interplay. Only on the last part, Stewart’s highly percussive approach to the double bass addresses conventional yet repetitive, rhythmic patterns, eventually taming the amplifier’s humming sounds.

 

Vol. 2 goes even further with Stewart’s radical sonic experiments, investigating the relationship between the wooden instrument and the electric instrument that amplifies its deep-toned sounds. Each piece offers a distinct perspective of the intersection of acoustic and electronic music - one or two amplifiers or an amplifier with a no-input mixing board. Stewart sees these pieces as symbolizing the intersection of the elements in the natural world, intended “to further explore the developments of the Sound. To inspire deeper personal development, and radical change when needed”. Vanlandingham-Dunn borrows French historian and musicologist Alain Daniélou definitions, and compared these sonic experiments to what neo-Pythagoreans called “music of the spheres”, or what in Indian classical music theory is defined as the vibration of ether, which cannot be perceived in the physical sense, and considered as the principle of all manifestation, the basis of all substance. No double, Stewart creates a series of otherworldly, stubborn and some subtle, whispering drone vibrations while moving the bowed double bass back and forth and suggesting an effect of movement that in its turn, may bring the radical change he hoped for.

 

Works For Electric Bass Guitar is a collection of five focused and restless improvisations, all recorded in one take. Stewart employs extended techniques and fights with his instruments, scratches, rubs and grinds the bass strings in manic attacks, often in an attempt to mutate the metallic-percussive sound of the bass guitar and transform it into an entirely alien, unsettling and noisy sonic entity.

See more here.

Tülay German & François Rabbath (Zehra, 2021) **** 

French virtuoso double bass player François Rabbath (who was born in Syria in 1931) is revered by generations of double bass players from classical and contemporary music, or jazz and improvised music. The self-titled album is a remastered vinyl reissues of the two duo albums with Turkish great folk and jazz vocalist Tülay German (born in 1935, was forced to immigrate to France in the mid-sixties due to increasing political and cultural repression, and retired from musical activity in 1987). The album offers songs from a self-titled album from 1980 and Hommage to Nazım Hikmet from 1982. The album offers modern adaptions of poems by Turkish poets, mostly by Nâzım Hikmet (1902-1963), a political activist and a romantic, communist revolutionary, and songs in the tradition of aşıks (singer-poets and wandering bards), collected by German’s partner Erdem Buri. Rabbath plays here on the saz and the double bass and arranged the songs - all sung in Turkish - in a timeless, intimate and chamber manner that highlights the passionate, charismatic delivery of German. He alternates the leading instrumental roles between the double bass and the saz and serves beautifully the emotional dramas, all are glowing manifestos for love and justice. A real gem.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hank Roberts Sextet - Science of Love (Sunnyside Records, 2021) ****

When cellist Hank Roberts relocated to Ithaca, New York to raise a family in a less hectic setting his compositional drive never waned but it took returning to the city to interact with new voices to take the skeletal rough drafts to new levels. The new band members were assembled through chance encounters and friends of friends type relationships. As they became more familiar the compositions were modified in a collaborative manner to produce cohesive entities and synergies usually found in groups of longer existence while still not losing the edginess of new discoveries.

The opening cut, “Sat Sun Pa Tu X", is a recasting of the five part suite “Saturday/Sunday”, on Roberts’ 1993 trio release on JMT Little Motor People, and jumps right in by aggressively spotlighting the talents of clarinetist Mike McGinnis, trombonist Brian Dye and pianist Jacob Sacks in a rollicking swing romp through a fun weekend that seems to wind down before it exhausts itself. Next comes the centerpiece of the recording, a 14 part 45 minute suite known only as “G”. The component parts give each member a chance to showcase their talents in a natural uncontrived way as Dye and violinist Dana Lyn begin things on “G: B45L” before the other three join in once the rhythm of the primary motif is established. Drummer Vinnie Sperarrazza kicks off the suite with a rockish solo on “G: The Sharp Peak of the Science of Love” before Sacks melodically fills things in. “G: Shifting Paradigms in the Pre GLC 3” features oddly syncopated contrasting unison parts which somehow fit together. “G: GLC Magnetic Floating Stripper” has McGinnis switching to an aggressively probing soprano sax, adding a tonal color which fits very well. And Roberts is unobtrusively present throughout most of the suite.

The final composition, “205”, features the leader’s pastoral chamberish side with plaintive unison playing which shows why he's been a longtime bandmate of Bill Frisell. This sextet recording shows that Roberts temporarily removing himself from the Downtown scene hasn't dimmed his complex creative fervor so much as adding additional levels of richness.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Wojtek Fedkowicz Noise Trio - Distant Heroes (s/r, 2020) ****

By Ron Coulter

Distant Heroes is the November 30, 2020 release from Wojtek Fedkowicz’s Noise Trio. Based in Poland, the trio is comprised of Fedkowicz on drum set and electronics, Jacek Fedkowicz on bass and electronics, and Dominik Wania on piano and electronics.

This is very listenable, groove-oriented contemporary jazz, with nothing all that noisey going on, aside from some occasional electronic timbres and a few moments of energized “out” improvising. The album showcases a nice variety from the trio, from the purely acoustic to the smooth integration of live electronics, straight eighth-note grooves that go from smooth to funky to Drum & Bass, and even flashes of textural improvisation and rhythmic adventurism (see track #1 Intro and track #7 Distant Heroes respectively).

Tracks #2 Prosta historia, #6 Hope, and #9 Guru share forms, with contemplative introductions, long slow builds (rhythmically, dynamically, improvisationally) and a short recapitulation of the introduction. These three tracks are quite reminiscent of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.).

Track #8 Nobody Wants has a grandiose, driving eighth-note groove, and track #5 Imaginary Space, runs through intricate rhythmic interplay, a heavy piano-driven rock feel, free textural atmospheres, and a seven-second, hyper-rhythmic free improvisation to end. These two tracks have flashes of the Bad Plus, Robert Glasper Trio, and maybe even a bit of Flim & The BB’s!

The remaining tracks all have unique places in the whole. Track #3 Baroque has an aimless, hinting, ECM style/feel, while track #4 Norman’s Flight is certainly Drum & Bass influenced, and track #10 Polish Funk is just as advertised with a funky, bassline driven, off-balance 9/8 groove that proceeds to 5/4 during the piano solo.

The music on this album covers a wide gamut of style, sounding familiar and yet indistinct in origin. Some of the tracks are outliers, sounding like they may belong on a different album altogether. However, the unifying quality of Distant Heroes is a strong sense of musical rapport from the trio and a clarity of focus and adventurous spirit of improvising within each track.

This is an enjoyable album that doesn’t demand intense, focused listening, although it has the musical depth to support that sort of deeply engaged listening experience too. Listeners will find themselves returning to Distant Heroes for repeated listenings, whether on the road or relaxing at home.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Brgs – Breakfast With Cardew (Zvocni Prepihi, 2021) ***½


By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Cornelious Cardew was a very important figure for the avant-garde and experimental music of the 1960’s and 70’s. From his controversial attack against Stockhausen (well, I definitely agree with him on that), through the radical experiments of AMM, the Scrarch Orchestra, up to his solo work, being a militant for the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) and until his tragic death, his output was always controversial. His biggest legacy, probably, is that still his work and written thoughts provoke debates and are open to new representations.

I’m not familiar with the work of Jaka Berger and this fact, many times, can be of a benefit when writing a review. I have no certain expectations, no preconceived ideas about what I’m going to listen to. That suits tremendously Treatise (a graphic score by Cardew), I guess, a work that has improvisation and openness at its very core.

Berger (a.k.a. Brgs) utilizes a lot of audio sources to achieve what he had in mind –or, maybe, to improvise and see where his original ideas were taking him. Various objects, string boxes, a prepared snare drum, a modular synth and feedback speakers. Berger, I believe, tried to find a balance between timbre and texture, percussive elements and melody. His interpretation covers some of the pages from Treatise and not the whole work. This allows the CD to feel fragmental and totally personal at the same time.

Using all the aforementioned sound sources, Berger tends to resolve into a lot of rhythmic structures, taking advantage of the percussive nature many of them have. But it would be an oversimplification to say that rhythmology forms the basis of Breakfast With Cardew. Being such an open work (with graphic notations I must remind you) it is easy for every interpreter to get lost, or in other words to make it more his own than “Cardew’s”. The nature of Treatise is exactly what allows for works like Breakfast With Cardew to be called solo efforts and not (even) interpretations of existing scores. As Treatise balances successfully between improvisation and the written (whatever that is) language of a composer, it makes possible for a new gaze at the old picture.

Breakfast With Cardew feels like a nice start for a more detailed version from Brgs.

You can listen to the music here: 




@koultouranafigo