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Friday, July 31, 2009

Torben Snekkestad - Conic Folded (Ilk, 2009) ****

In the presence of pianist Jon Balke and bassist Jonas Westergaard, Norwegian saxophonist Torben Snekkestad releases his first album, and not of the kind that you would expect from a debut. The reason is clear : you rarely have debut albums that bring a voice so fully formed, and with a musical vision that is so focused and unique. Snekkestad's approach is minimalistic, zen-like, and abstract at the same time. The listening is not easy, because of the unexpected turns, the avoidance of anything familiar, yet the fluency of the sounds, combined with the concentrated focus on sound variation and spontaneous interaction, make this a very rewarding album. The playing is quiet and soft by default, sensitive to the level of fragility, until you get sudden explosions of intensity, creating emotional release rather than shock effects. It is too gentle for shock indeed, even integrating strong boppish elements in the short "Zobob". And that is another great quality of the album: its restraint balance. On the title piece, it is only after a solo clarinet exploration of some four minutes, the piano suddenly joins for a few chords to end the track. On "EP Flower", he gives some three minutes of hypnotic circular breathing over Balke's muted plucked strings, suddenly lifting the intensity of the album, only to move back to their subdued poetic musical artistry on "Icon". Some musicians spew notes in vast quantities and loud volume, as if there's an abundance of them, Snekkestad and band prefer less quantity, more quality and low volume intensity, as if notes were a sparse resource that need to be cherished and valued one by one. Avant-garde of the mature kind.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nick Howell & Collin Thomas - Floor Fifty (Self Published, 2009) ***½

Trumpet-player Nick Howell and percussionist/composer Collin Thomas have been producing many albums together, building soundscapes out of silence and ambient sounds, slightly adding emphasis and contrast with their own instruments. The music is quiet, meditative, with once in a while ripples of intensity, like a breeze creating waves over a calm see. "Floor Fifty" is their latest album, and possibly the most sparse of the lot, with "Spring Dance", one of their earlier albums being more rooted in the AACM school of free jazz, and the rest is in between. It is not in the same league as Wadada Leo Smith's and Adam Rudolph's "Compassion", but that's of course an unfair comparison, although it gives a sense of where the music is going. The endeavor is genuine, and the music has an austere beauty, although not with the distinctive power and voice of Smith, yet they keep far away from new agey kitsch. Nice and solid work. Quiet and calm. It will calm down the nervous and impatient, and it will please the calm and patient among you.

Free downloads from their website.

Watch video

© stef

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Julian F. Thayer - The Door Is Open (KSJazz, 2009) ****½

Bassist Julian Thayer and drummer Klaus Suonsaari lead a trio with the late Charlie Mariano as the chief soloist. The very versatile Mariano passed away last month, after a long career playing with jazz legends such as Charles Mingus. He was one of those great saxophonists who created their own way through jazz history, being a true world citizen, born to Italian immigrants in Boston, MA, moved to Germany in the 70s, married to a Japanese, then to a German, followed courses in local music in India, played in rock and fusion bands, was open to free jazz and world music. A man who looked at difference as a source of wealth, inhaling newness, incorporating it, and then blowing a new musical life out of his horn, integrating the things he had newly acquired into his own idiom. And that's why this album is such a great testimony to his skills. Even at the age of 84, when the album was recorded, his sound is joyful, profound and deep, full of play and sadness and life itself. The album contains 12 pieces, composed, but with a great sense of freedom. It is accessible, with lots of openness, great focus by the three musicians, and I must say, Thayer and Suonsaari are fantastic: sensitive, spiritual, subtle and finding the right touch to create a very pleasant mix of jazz with world and folk influences, spanning meditative pieces to high intensity free blow-out moments to slow bop. This is music that bubbles like good champagne. Rich without ornaments. Sparkling in its musical vision.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef

Monday, July 27, 2009

Joe Morris - Wildlife (AUM Fidelity, 2009) ****

It is extremely rare to have a record start with a three-minute drum solo, as an introduction for an uptempo free bop power improvisation by a trio. The band is Joe Morris on bass, Petr Cancura on sax and Luther Gray on drums. "Again?", you might think and you think right. No later than two months ago the almost same trio already released an album, "Fine Objects" on the Polish Not Two Records, only the drummer is different. And whereas the previous album still contained some composed material, the music is more free, more improvised, but as boppish and as likeable. Gray and Morris take care of the drive and the forward motion, Cancura keeps the attention going with his powerful and sensitive playing. The second piece "Thicket" made me think more than once of Ethiopian composer and vibist Mulatu Astatqé, not only because of Cancura's longing and very melodic development, but also because of the more expansive rhythms. Regardless of the influence, the piece is a pure beauty. The third piece "Crow" is more spiritual and bluesy, slow and deep and emotional and soulful, keeping the deep essence of the tradition, but packaged in a more modern and free way. The album ends with the upbeat "Nettle", uptempo and boppish again, full of great playing by all three musicians, and again, as unpretentious and musically honest as their previous release. Luther Gray is great. Morris as unpredictable as ever - and I always welcome his lyricism on bass. Cancura is a guy to watch. Enjoy!

Listen and download from eMusic.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Carl Maguire - Sided Silver Solid (Firehouse 12, 2009) ****½

On his band's second album, pianist Carl Maguire creates a musical experience that is really out of the ordinary, mixing lots of extended techniques, with cinematic imagery, eery sounds and beautiful soloing. The band, Floriculture, consists of Stephanie Griffin on viola, Oscar Noriega on clarinet, bass clarinet and alto saxophone, John Hébert on bass, and Dan Weiss on drums, all young yet already very experienced musicians. Together they weave sound that are unpredictable yet at the same time welcoming in their sensuality and precision. The pieces are composed and structured, yet leaving lots of room for improvisation. I think that even some of the most avant-garde parts, with just sounds overlapping sounds, were carefully prepared, because they all fit so perfectly well to create a mood. The most astonishing aspect of the music is its great musical vision and coherence, with many changes in orchestration, rhythms, moods, even within one piece, yet it all fits in the overall sound. It is nothing you've heard before, a wonderful mix of many known things, but then just not. It is different, and no matter how much you listen to it, you will discover new things. The musical world Maguire creates is not always a pleasant one: it is full of tension, agony, fear and dramatic evolution, yet beauty abounds. A great record.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dennis González - Renegade Spirits (Furthermore, 2009) ****½

Gongs, bells, shakers, cymbals, pao de chuva (a Brazilian shaker withseashell fragments and pebbles), balafon, agogo bells, congas, udu drum, two drums, bass, sax and cornet. You might expect some Latin American fiesta with these instruments, yet it's not. You get Dennis González' Yells At Eels, with his sons Stefan and Aaron, and with Tim Green on sax and no one less than Famoudou Don Moye on percussion. Like on many of González' albums, the music free and melancholy at the same time, with subtle themes and lots of space for his fellow musicians. Half the tracks are group improvisations, four are compositions by the leader and the last track is by the Art Ensemble's percussionist. The composed pieces set the scene, set the color for González expansive and spiritual musical vision full of soul and warmth, at the same time warming up the band members for the improvisations, that are driven by the many joyful percussion instruments over which the sax and trumpet blow their free-spirited phrases, almost in a minimalist way. I'm sure there are many, many musicians who wish they could compose a piece as compelling as the title track, full of hypnotic rhythms, a beautiful improvised theme by Green, haunting arco bass, and trumpet in counterpoint. But here it is created spontaneously, out of nothing, yet rock solid and extremely eloquent. As said earlier, the great thing about González and family, is that they love the music they play, they love how it sounds, what it conveys, the interplay, the fun, the shared feelings, the joint heritage of African music, bop, Latin and free improvisation all mixing together as if it was all meant to be, regardless of what the critics and art intellectuals might think or say. This is music that lives, and breathes, and with a heart that pumps and feels. Deeply so.

Watch a Youtube clip of the band's rehearsals and recording at the Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas. As usual with many Youtube clips, the audio and visual quality isn't excellent, it's high time to create a jazz video web with high quality recorded performances.

Buy from Instantjazz.
© stef

Monday, July 20, 2009

Louis Sclavis - Lost On The Way (ECM, 2009) ****

On his new album, French clarinet virtuoso Louis Sclavis gives his impression of Odysseus' travels. This theme makes the album epic in nature, trying to evoke the sentiments and experiences of the ancient hero's ten year travels on the Mediterranean before his return home in Greece. Not exactly the topic for a jazz album, but then Sclavis has always had his own vision, with jazz being just one kind of material out of which to sculpt music, often used in combination with other materials, such as classical or folk. On this album, influences from European folk and rock music abound, without making fusion per se. The music is in the same vein as the his very good "L'Imparfait Des Langues", with some of the same musicians: Maxime Delpierre on guitar, and François Merville on drums. Matthias Metzger plays soprano and alto and Olivier Lété bass. Some of the compositions are truly excellent, including the opening track "De Charybde en Scylla", or "Le Bain D'Or", on which great themes define the overall mood of the piece. Homer's story defines the nature of the music, which is more cinematic in scope, theatrical, dramatic, as the soundtrack for a non-existent movie. The strong compositions and even tighter arrangements lead to very dense and rich music. The downside of the approach is that it creates a distance between the players and the audience (you, me, the listeners). The musicians become the intermediaries, rather than expressing their own feelings, which is to me still one of the strongest elements in jazz. This is probably why I enjoyed the duo and trio pieces on the album most. The texture is more open, the delivery more direct and improvisational. But to be sure: the musicianship is strong, and the compositions are of a high level. Yet it lacks that direct emotional impact that makes jazz so compelling.

© stef

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Simon Jermyn's Trot A Mouse (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2009) ***½

Very much in the same modern jazz style as Chris Speed and Jim Black, Irish bass and baritone guitarist Simon Jermyn just released his debut album, with Chris Speed on tenor and clarinet, Loren Stillman on alto, Sean Carpio on drums and Joachim Badenhorst on tenor and bass clarinet. The European musicians already played together on Red Rockett's Mitten, and the addition of the two New York reed players adds density and richness to the music, making it softer in the process, yet adding improvisational power. The compositions are nice, well-crafted and executed. Very promising debut.

Watch a Youtube clip of the band (without Chris Speed)

© stef

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jacob William Quartet - Secondary Deviations (Ayler, 2009) ***½

A nice album that starts rather awkward. In the very first tune, "Welcome Steps", I got the impression that both trumpet and sax where hindering rather than reinforcing each other, not sure when to play or not, adding phrases that do not really match the other one's musical injections, further accentuated by the unequal sound quality of both instruments. But gradually the interaction gets better, more open, not only in that specific tune, but also on the CD as a whole.

Jim Hobbs is on sax, in a more free constellation than in his own Fully Celebrated Orchestra, and I must say, it suits him well. Forbes Graham plays trumpet, a musician not known to me, and he is good. Young Croix Gallipault plays the drums. But Indian bassist Jacob William is the revelation of the album, since no matter how good his frontline is, his open rhythmic pulse drives them on, slows them down, sets the tone and scene, like a solid and supple backbone that keeps the music focused and coherent. The music itself is slow, bluesy, full of soul, yet also with some middle-eastern tonal inflections, especially on the lengthy "Rishi Ways". "Palm Dance" is a little more rhythmic and possibly the best track on the album. "Upload Method" is a little more free, although because of too much repetitive phrasing it seems to stagnate a little, not going anywhere really. The last track, "Repetition", brings more tempo into the action, although the piece lacks a little depth and character. In all, an album with ups and downs. Some really great moments, some that will not really stick in your memory, but the promise is there, clear and loud.

Listen and buy/download from Ayler Records.

© stef

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trespass Trio - ... Was There To Illuminate The Night Sky (Clean Feed, 2009) *****

It is extremely hard to understand, let alone describe in words, why some music is excellent, and why it goes this little notch beyond what all the rest is doing. The Trespass Trio does exactly that: move the sax trio to a higher level while on the surface not changing the format too much. The Scandinavian trio consists of Raymond Strid on drums, Per Zanussi on bass and Martin Küchen on alto and baritone sax. So, on the surface this is indeed a sax trio.

Here is my possibly useless try at explaining why it's excellent. The three musicians improvise in the most disciplined mode you can image, telling one story together, building tension as they move along, without any sense of urgency, giving every note and beat relevance, meaning, emotional depth, full of focus and intensity, pushing the boundaries of expressiveness without the need to use extended techniques or shock elements, using all the subtlety and nuance of their instrumental skills, knowing how to use pace, and space, and volume and silence, and making all the eight pieces, with all their creative variation and differences in approaches into one magnificent unified captivating, gripping, mesmerizing, sad, angry, hypnotic, heart-rending whole.

And there is variation, and there is unity, built around Küchen's anger with the brainless violence in the world, by individuals, but especially organized by armies, and the title is a quote from a US army general about their use of WP, white phosphor, a modern kind of napalm, in Fallujah in Iraq.

The first track starts beautifully, with all three instruments creating a sad pure melodic soundscape, monotonal and deep, like a prayer of resignation, a tear of sorrow, reducing the power to use their instrument to an absolute minimum, and it flows on into "Sad salsa in F", which creates this wonderful contrast between the sad melody and the barely dancing rhythm. The third track is more boppish, but in a real free form, an opportunity for all three musicians to continue the story but then full of power and agony. "Walking The Dead" is a composed piece with unison bass and baritone, again slow and sad and beautiful, with tears dripping from every note played by the arco the sax the drums. The highlight of the album is the title track, which starts with Küchen using all his masterly technique to show all the shades and colorings of a single note, the kind of sound that is the prerogative primarily of the sax, yet the way he keeps the notes vibrating, multiphonic, overblowing slightly, vocalizing the tone, making it weep, cry, howl, and still without using too much power, full of restraint but evoking real pain, then adding power, shouting it out, repeating the same agonizing phrase, yet changing volume and timbre, hair-raising, and it tears your guts out. Can you make a powerful story with just a few notes? Yes. Listen to this track. It is absolutely phenomenal. And then you think, that whatever comes next will be an anti-climax. Well, think again. "Strid Comes" is again full of power, more direct, raw and intense, now with Strid having a go at it for a drum solo. "The Indispensible Warlords" is again slow, with an pressing tension under the surface, sounding a little like Joe McPhee, not only because it sounds like a spiritual with sharp modern emotional edges, but also because he plays his baritone with such an incredibly soft velvety touch, showing deep, very deep emotional powers. The last track is another take on the title track, now somewhat faster, and a wonderful ending to a magnificent record. I have listened to many sax trios, but rarely have I heard one that went as deep as this one, as complete, as coherent. Overwhelmed by the quality of his playing, I focused maybe a little too much on Küchen, but all three musicians perform brilliantly, sensitive, subtle, rich. Only three acoustic instruments, but what a world of sound. What a musical experience. Don't miss this one!

Listen to samples at Clean Feed.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quartet Offensive - Carnivore (Self Published, 2009) ****

There are many young bands who merge the solid elements of rock with the sophisticated harmonics of jazz without falling into the trap of fusion. No pyrotechnics, no technical bullshit, just music with a story first and foremost, which doesn't mean that the band is not technically skilled, only that their skills are at the service of the music. Other bands in the same vein and line-up, but under-recognized and under-recorded, are the German band Firomanum and the US/Finnish/German band UNKL, and close enough to some of Hilmar Jensson's and Andrew D'Angelo's endeavors.

Quartet Offensive, from Baltimore is a good example of this. The band consists of John Dierker on bass clarinet, Eric Trudel on tenor sax, Matt Frazao on guitar, Adam Hopkins on bass, and Nathan Ellman Bell on drums. And yes, you count correctly, this is a quintet. The album starts with a strong guitar rif and rock beat, propulsing forward the double reed front line, but once the whole thing gets going, the piece collapses onto itself in raw chaos and musical debris, but needless to say the theme gets picked up again and ends in full power. Raw, entertaining, fun. After that strong opening statement, the band becomes a little more sophisticated, with unison themes and counterpoint, showing their gentler side, yet also demonstrating their unmistakable instrumental skills in the ensuing solos. The quality of the music lies in the nice combination of sensitivity, melodically and in the delivery, with the no-nonsense and straight-forward approach of rock. And the band varies quite well between wild powerful drive and sophistication. Recommended.

For more information on Quartet Offensive, check on MySpace.

Any suggestions on new and upcoming young bands? Let me know. I'll turn it into a special section.

Watch the band here :

The M.B.S. by Quartet Offensive from Nick Prevas on Vimeo.

© stef

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Daniel Levin Quartet - Live At Roulette (Clean Feed, 2009) ****½

Cellist Daniel Levin keeps pushing his own musical boundaries. With his former quartet release, "Blurry", he already partly moved away from compositional structure, but with this album he completely drops melody and fixed rhythms. Nate Wooley is still on trumpet, and Mat Moran on vibes, but now Peter Bitenc plays bass instead of Joe Morris. Doing away with melody and rhythm, has also decreased the density of the music, creating a light texture of sounds that come and go to form a single musical unity, while maintaining the chamber-like approach and lyricism of his previous album, except for two pieces, called "Lightspeed Particles" where the title aptly describes the piece's feel, full of wild intensity and sound collisions. The music flows organically, growing as it moves along, with instruments coming and going, like birds or bees passing by, coming and going, yet all taking part in the same unpredictable yet not unfamiliar scenery. Despite the apparent freedom, it all sounds very focused and coherent and it was possibly discussed before playing, or maybe not, and these four stellar musicians are just so good and so used to playing together, that this symbiosis of fragile and raw sounds was created spontaneously. Highly recommended for those with open ears.

Order from Instantjazz.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef

Friday, July 10, 2009

Masada - Stolas - Book Of Angels, Vol. 12 (Tzadik, 2009) ****

After the original Masada series, John Zorn started with the Masada Song Book Two, the Book Of Angels. A series which is possibly among his best projects. The Radical Jewish Music series becomes a little repetitive, the Anniversary series was not always of the same inspired quality, but the Book of Angels is among my favorites for the variations in approach and some of the superb surprises and high quality. This is the 12th album, with the real Masada band, but with some changes. Zorn himself plays on only one track, and is replaced by no one less than Joe Lovano on sax, with Uri Caine on piano, Dave Douglas on trumpet, Greg Cohen on bass and Joey Barron on drums. This slightly altered line-up also changes the music. The compositions themselves do not vary from the known music with the usual klezmer angle, but the style is now mainstream, and hence much more accessible than anything Zorn has ever done. Nice, sweet and of course with the expected high quality delivery. Douglas is stellar.

I am not a specialist in angels, so I checked the internet to verify where all these angels keep coming from, wondering whether Zorn kept inventing names, what their characteristics are, and what their number is. From the list below, and the overview of all Book of Angels albums, you can see that
- some of the Masada song book angels do not figure in the list I found
- the Masada song book has not yet reached a third of the existing angels.

Stolas, the one that is the title for this album, is again a fallen angel, a commander of twenty-six legions of demons and he teaches astronomy (?!). The same angel may have several small changes in its names, depending on the tradition (jewish, christian, muslim). Stolas, is also Solas as listed below. Volac is the same as Valac in the list below, etc.

So, like it or not, there is potentially still a lot to come if Zorn wants to cover the whole list with songs. Also interesting to notice is that the songbook luckily covers as many, if not more, of the fallen angels, than of the good-natured ones. I have some natural sympathy for the fallen angels.

List of Good-natured Angels
  1. Abasdarhon - angel of the fifth hour of the night.
  2. Abraxos - ancient name attributed to an angel.
  3. Adnachiel - angel who rules November.
  4. Adonael - an archangel .
  5. Adonai - one of seven angels of the presence, or elohim; creator.
  6. Aeshma - Persian archangel.
  7. Af - angel of light.
  8. Agla - angel who saved Lot and his family.
  9. Akriel - angel who aids those with infertility.
  10. Amitiel - angel of truth.
  11. Amriel - angel of the month of May.
  12. Anael - angel influencing love, passion and sexuality.
  13. Anapiel - angel whose name means "branch of God."
  14. Anahel - angel who rules the third heaven.
  15. Anpiel - angel who protects birds.
  16. Ansiel - name of an angel known as "the constrainer."
  17. Arael - variation of Uriel; prince over the people.
  18. Araqiel - angel with dominion over the earth.
  19. Araton - one of seven ruling angels over the provinces of heaven.
  20. Ariel - "lion of God;" angel of protection.
  21. Armisael - angel of the womb.
  22. Asariel - "whom God has bound;" rules the moon.
  23. Asroilu - guardian angel of the seventh heaven.
  24. Astanphaeus - one of the seven angels of the presence; third gate guardian.
  25. Asteraoth - name of an angel who thwarts power.
  26. Atrugiel - great prince of the seventh heaven.
  27. Ayil - angel of the zodiac sign Sagittarius.
  28. Azbogah - name of the high ranking angel of judgment.
  29. Azrael - archangel of death.
  30. Azriel - name for the angel of destruction.
  31. Balthioul - angel with the power to thwart distress.
  32. Baradiel - angel of hail.
  33. Barakiel - angel of lightning.
  34. Barrattiel - angel of support.
  35. Barbiel - angel of October.
  36. Bariel - ruling angel of the eleventh hour of the day.
  37. Barman - angel of intelligence.
  38. Barquiel - ruling angel of the seventh hour of the day.
  39. Baruchiel - angel with power over strife.
  40. Bath Kol - female angel of divine prophecy.
  41. Bazazath - archangel of the second heaven.
  42. Bethor - one of seven ruling angels of the province of heaven.
  43. Briathos - name of an angel who thwarts demons.
  44. Cahethal - seraphim angel over agriculture.
  45. Camael - angel name that means "he who sees God;" chief angel of powers.
  46. Cassiel - angel of Saturn.
  47. Cerviel - angel ruler of the principalities.
  48. Chamuel - archangel whose name means "he who seeks God."
  49. Chayyliel - angel whose name means "army;" a powerful angel.
  50. Cochabiel - angel prince who stands before God.
  51. Dabriel - angel of the first heaven who rules over Monday.
  52. Dagiel - angel who has dominion over fish.
  53. Dalquiel - angel prince of the third heaven.
  54. Damabiath - angel of naval construction.
  55. Dardariel - ruling angel of the eleventh hour.
  56. Diniel - angel who protects infants.
  57. Domiel - angel who guards the sixth hall of the seventh heaven.
  58. Dubbiel - guardian angel of Persia; name means "bear-God."
  59. Duma - angel prince of dreams.
  60. Dumah - angel of silence.
  61. Eae - angel who thwarts demons.
  62. Eiael - angel with dominion over the occult sciences.
  63. Elyon - ministering angel who brought the plague of hail upon Egypt.
  64. Emmanuel - angel whose name means "God with us."
  65. Erathaol - one of seven great archon angels.
  66. Eremiel - great angel who presides over the Abyss and Hades.
  67. Gabriel - archangel whose name means "man or hero of God."
  68. Gadriel - angel who rules the fifth heaven.
  69. Galgaliel - prince angel of the sun, like Raphael.
  70. Galizur - great angel who rules the second heaven.
  71. Gamaliel - angel who takes the elect unto heaven.
  72. Gazardiel - angel who supervises the east.
  73. Geburatiel - angel prince who guards the seventh heaven.
  74. Guriel - angel of the zodiac sign of Leo.
  75. Gzrel - angel who revokes any evil decree against another in heaven.
  76. Hadraniel - angel who stands at the second gate in heaven; "majesty of God."
  77. Hadriel - guardian angel of the gates of the east wind.
  78. Hagith - one of the seven ruling angels of the provinces of heaven.
  79. Halaliel - archangel known as "the lord of karma."
  80. Hamaliel - angel who rules the order of virtues.
  81. Hamon - a great, honored, beautiful prince angel in heaven.
  82. Haniel - an archangel who guards the tree of life.
  83. Harahel - angel who oversees libraries.
  84. Hasdiel - angel of benevolance.
  85. Hasmal - fire speaking angel of the throne of God.
  86. Hayliel - angel prince in the seventh heaven.
  87. Haziel - angel whose name means "vision of God."
  88. Heman - angel leader of the heavenly choir, whose name means "trust."
  89. Hermesiel - angel who leads one of the heavenly choirs.
  90. Hofniel - ruling angel of the bene elohim; name means "fighter of God."
  91. Iaoel - an angel of the lord; angel of visions.
  92. Iaoth - archangel who has power to thwart demons.
  93. Leo - an angel who thwarts demons.
  94. Iofiel - archangel whose name means "beauty of God."
  95. Israfil - Islamic angel whose name means "the burning one."
  96. Jael - cherub who guards the ark of the covenant.
  97. Jahoel - one of the angels of the presence and chief of the seraphim.
  98. Jaoel - guardian angel who lives in the seventh heaven.
  99. Jeduthun - angel whose name means "master of howling" or chanting to God.
  100. Jefischa - ruling angel of the fourth hour of the night.
  101. Jehudiel - archangel who rules the movements of the celestial spheres.
  102. Jeremiel - archangel whose name means "mercy of God."
  103. Kabshiel - angel of grace and favor.
  104. Kafziel - archangel who rules the planet Saturn.
  105. Kakabel - angel who rules over stars and constellations.
  106. Kalaziel - angel who has the power to thwart demons of disease.
  107. Karael - angel who has the power to thwart demons.
  108. Kemuel - archon angel and chief of the seraphim.
  109. Kerubiel - prince angel of the cherubim.
  110. Kokabiel - prince angel of the stars.
  111. Kutiel - angel of water and the use of diving rods.
  112. Labbiel - angel whose name was changed to Raphael.
  113. Lahabiel - angel who protects against evil spirits.
  114. Lamechial - angel who thwarts deception.
  115. Lassuarium - angel who rules the tenth hour of the night.
  116. Laylah - angel who oversees and protects childbirth.
  117. Machidiel - angel governing the zodiac sign of Aries and the month of March.
  118. Marmaroth - angel who has power to thwart fate.
  119. Mendrion - angel who rules the seventh hour of the night.
  120. Metatron - one of the greatest archangels, second only to God.
  121. Michael - great archangel whose name means "who is as God."
  122. Mihr - angel of divine mercy; angel that governs September.
  123. Miniel - angel invoked to induce love.
  124. Mitatron - an angel of the third heaven.
  125. Morael - angel of awe that rules the months of August-September.
  126. Moroni - brought messages to Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism.
  127. Muriel - angel who rules the dominions and the month of June.
  128. Naaririel - great prince angel of the seventh heaven.
  129. Nahaliel - angel who governs running streams; "valley of God."
  130. Nanael - angel who governs the sciences, and philosophy.
  131. Narcariel - angel that rules the eighth hour of the night.
  132. Nasargiel - good angel with a lion head that rules hell.
  133. Nathanael - angel ruling over hidden things, fire and vengeance.
  134. Naya'il - angel of testing.
  135. Nelchael - angel of the schemhamphorae.
  136. Nuriel - angel of spellbinding power and of hail storms.
  137. Och - one ruling angel of the provinces of heaven.
  138. Omael - angel of chemistry and species perpetuation.
  139. Onoel - name of an archon angel...
  140. Ophaniel - prince angel over the ophanim.
  141. Ophiel - one ruling angel of the provinces of heaven and Mercury.
  142. Oriel - ruling angel of the tenth hour of the day.
  143. Orifiel - archangel over thrones, and the second hour of the day.
  144. Orphamiel - angel known as the "great finger of the Father."
  145. Osmadiel - ruling angel of the eighth hour of the day.
  146. Ouriel - archangel who commands demons.
  147. Pamyel - ruling angel of the ninth hour of night.
  148. Pathiel - angel whose name means "opener of God."
  149. Peliel - angel who rules the virtues.
  150. Peniel - angel who rules Friday and resides in the third heaven.
  151. Pesagniyah - angel who ushers prayers of grief to heaven.
  152. Phaleg - one of the seven ruling angels of the provinces of heaven.
  153. Phanuel - archangel who is an interpreter of revelations.
  154. Phounebiel - disease thwarting angel.
  155. Phul one of the seven ruling angels of the provinces of heaven.
  156. Pravuil - an archangel who keeps all the records of heaven.
  157. Pronoia - an archon angel who helped make mankind.
  158. Purah - angel of forgetfulness.
  159. Puriel - angel whose name means "the fire of God;" angel of punishment.
  160. Qaspiel - angel who rules the moon.
  161. Quabriel - ruling angel of the ninth hour of the day.
  162. Rachiel - ophanim angel who rules Venus and governs sexuality.
  163. Rachmiel - angel of mercy whose name also means the same.
  164. Radueriel - angel who can create other angels and oversees archives.
  165. Raguel - angel who watches over the behavior of angels; "friend of God."
  166. Rahab - angel of death, destruction, but also the sea.
  167. Rahatiel - angel prince of the constellations; name means "to run."
  168. Rahmiel - angel of mercy and love.
  169. Ramiel - angel who oversees visions and souls during the day of judgment.
  170. Raphael - great archangel whose name means "the shining one who heals."
  171. Rathanael - angel of the third heaven and thwarter of demons.
  172. Raziel - angel chief over the thrones, guarding the secrets of the universe.
  173. Remiel - angel who leads souls to judgment; name means "mercy of God."
  174. Rikbiel - angel who oversees the divine chariot; chief of wheels.
  175. Rizoel - angel with power to thwart demons.
  176. Rogziel - angel of punishment whose name means "the wrath of God."
  177. Ruman - angel who takes account of evil men's deeds while in hell.
  178. Sabaoth - archon angel of the presence.
  179. Sabathiel - angel or intelligence who communicates divine light.
  180. Sablo - angel of graciousness and protection.
  181. Sabrael - archangel who guards the first heaven.
  182. Sabrathan - ruling angel of the first hour of the night.
  183. Sachiel - ruling angel of Jupiter whose name means "covering of God."
  184. Sagnessagiel - angel who guards the fourth hall of the seventh heaven.
  185. Sahaqiel - angel prince of the fourth heaven.
  186. Salathiel - rescuing angel of Adam and Eve.
  187. Samkiel - angel of destruction and purifier of souls from sheol.
  188. Samuel - fruling angel of the first hour of the day.
  189. Sandalphon - giant angel whose name means "co-brother" (of Metratron).
  190. Saniel - ruling angel of the sixth hour of the day.
  191. Sarakiel - angel who rules the ministering angels.
  192. Sarandiel - ruling angel of the twelfth hour of the night.
  193. Satqiel - angel prince of the fifth heaven.
  194. Seraphiel - chief angel of the seraphim angels.
  195. Shamsiel - angel whose name means "light of day."
  196. Shepherd - angel of repentance.
  197. Shoftiel - angel whose name means "the judge of God."
  198. Sidqiel - angel prince of the ophanim; ruler of Venus.
  199. Sidriel - angel prince of the first heaven.
  200. Simiel - archangel.
  201. Sizouze - angel of prayer.
  202. Sophia - angel whose name means "wisdom."
  203. Soqedhozi - angel who weighs the merits of of men before God.
  204. Sorath - angel who is the spirit of the sun.
  205. Sorush - angel who punishes souls on judgment day.
  206. Soterasiel - angel whose name means "who stirs up the fire of God."
  207. Sraosha - angel who sets the world in motion.
  208. Suriel - angel of healing whose name means "God's command."
  209. Tagas - governing angel of singing angels.
  210. Tartys - ruling angel of the second hour of the night.
  211. Tatrasiel - great angelic prince.
  212. Temeluch - angel caretaker who protects newborn babies and children.
  213. Temperance - angel of the elixir of life.
  214. Theliel - angel prince of love.
  215. Tubiel - angel of summer.
  216. Tzadkiel - angel of justice and guardian of the gates of the east wind.
  217. Ubaviel - angel of the zodiac sign of Capricorn.
  218. Umabel - angel of physics and astronomy.
  219. Uriel - great archangel whose name means "God is my light."
  220. Usiel - an angel who stands before the throne of God.
  221. Uzziel - cherubim angel whose name means "strength of God."
  222. Varhmiel - ruling angel of the fourth hour of the day.
  223. Vequaniel - ruling angel of the third hour of the day.
  224. Verchiel - ruling angel of the month of July and of the zodiac sign Leo.
  225. Vretiel - swift in wisdom archangel responsible for recording God's deeds.
  226. Xathanael - the sixth angel created by God.
  227. Yabbashael - an angel of the earth whose name means "the mainland."
  228. Yefefiah - archangel who is the prince of the Torah.
  229. Yehudiah - benevolant angel of death.
  230. Yerachmiel - an archangel who rules earth.
  231. Yeshamiel - angel who rules the zodiac sign of Libra.
  232. Yofiel - angel prince of the Torah commanding 53 legions of angels.
  233. Zaapiel - angel punisher of wicked souls.
  234. Zaazenach - ruling angel of the sixth hour of the night.
  235. Zabkiel - angel who rules over the thrones.
  236. Zachariel - angel governor of Jupiter.
  237. Zachriel - angel who governs memories.
  238. Zadkeil - archangel who rules heaven and stands in the presence of God.
  239. Zagzagel - angel prince of the Torah and of wisdom.
  240. Zakzakiel - angel of the seventh heaven who records good deeds.
  241. Zaphiel - angel ruler of the cherubim.
  242. Zaphkiel - archangel whose name means "knowledge of God."
  243. Zarall - cherub angel who guards the ark of the covenant.
  244. Zazriel - angel whose name means "strength of God."
  245. Zehanpuryu - high ranking angel whose name means "one who sets free."
  246. Zerachiel - angel of the month of July and the sun.
  247. Zophiel - angel whose name means "God's spy."
  248. Zuriel - angel ruler of the principalities whose name means "my rock is God."

List of Fallen Angels

1. Abaddon - fallen angel of death whose name means "to destroy."
2. Abezethibou - one-winged Red Sea fallen angel.
3. Allocen - fallen angel who is a duke in hell.
4. Amduscias - name of the fallen angel who appears as a unicorn.
5. Amon - fallen angel who is a strong marquis over 40 legions.
6. Amy - name of a fallen angel who is a president in hell.
7. Andras - fallen angel marquis and appears raven-headed.
8. Andrealphus - fallen angel who can transform humans into birds.
9. Andromalius - fallen angel who appears as a man holding a serpent.
10. Apollyon - fallen angel of death; same as Abaddon.
11. Armaros - fallen angel who teaches the "resolving of enchantments."
12. Asmoday - fallen angel king with three heads: a bull, a ram, and a man.
13. Asmodeus - one of the most evil of fallen angels, being an archdemon.
14. Astaroth - fallen angel who is a grand duke in hell.
15. Azael - evil, fallen angel who cohabited with women.
16. Azazel - fallen angel whose name means "God strengthens."
17. Azza - fallen angel whose name means "the strong."
18. Baal - fallen angel whose name means "the lord."
19. Balam - fallen angel who looks like Asmoday with a serpent tail.
20. Balberith - fallen angel who is a grand pontiff in hell.
21. Baraqijal - fallen angel who teaches astrology.
22. Barbatos - fallen angel who is a great count, earl and duke of hell.
23. Bathin - pale horse riding fallen angel.
24. Beelzebub - fallen angel known as the "prince of demons."
25. Behemoth - fallen angel who is the "demon of the deep."
26. Beleth - fallen angel who is a terrible king over 85 legions.
27. Belial - deceptively beautiful fallen angel whose name means "without worth."
28. Belphegor - fallen angel whose name means "lord of opening."
29. Berith - fallen angel...
30. Bernael - fallen angel of darkness and evil.
31. Bifrons - fallen angel that appears monstrous and teaches mathematical arts.
32. Botis - fallen angel who appears as a viper.
33. Buer - fallen angel who teaches philosophy, logic and ethics.
34. Bune - fallen angel who appears as a dragon with three heads.
35. Caim - fallen angel who appears as a thrush or man with a sword.
36. Dantanian - fallen angel who appears as a man with many faces.
37. Decarabia - fallen angel who appears as a star in a pentacle.
38. Eligor - fallen angel who appears as a good knight with lance.
39. Enepsigos - fallen angel who appears in the shape of woman.
40. Flauros - fallen angel who appears as a leopard.
41. Focalor - fallen angel who appears as a man with griffin wings.
42. Forcas - fallen angel who teaches logic and ethics.
43. Forneus - fallen angel marquis who appears as a sea monster.
44. Furcas - fallen angel who appears as a cruel man with long beard.
45. Furfur - fallen angel who appears as a hart with a fiery tail.
46. Gaap - fallen angel who appears as a man with bat wings.
47. Gadreel - fallen angel whose name means "God is my helper."
48. Gamygyn - fallen angel who appears as a small horse.
49. Glasyalabolas - fallen angel who appears as a winged dog.
50. Gomory - fallen angel who appears as a camel riding woman of beauty.
51. Gusion - fallen angel who can discern the past, present or future.
52. Hagenti - fallen angel who appears as a bull with griffin wings.
53. Halpas - fallen angel who appears as a stork.
54. Imamiah - fallen angel who governs voyages.
55. Ipos - fallen angel who appears as an angel with a lion's head.
56. Kokabiel - fallen angel whose name means "star of God."
57. Kunopegos - fallen angel who appears as a sea horse and sinks ships.
58. Lahash - fallen angel who interferes with divine will.
59. Lerajie - fallen angel who appears as an archer in green.
60. Leviathon - fallen angel associated with the deep seas.
61. Lillith - fallen female angel who searches for children to kidnap or kill.
62. Lix Tetrax - fallen angel of the wind.
63. Lucifer - actually a Babylonian king whose name means "bearer of light."
64. Malpas - fallen angel who appears as a crow.
65. Marbas - fallen angel who appears as a lion.
66. Marchosias - fallen angel who appears as a she-wolf with griffin wings.
67. Mastema - fallen angel whose name means "hostility."
68. Mephistopheles - fallen angel; name means "he who loves not the light."
69. Morax - fallen angel who appears as a bull.
70. Naamah - fallen angel of prostitution whose name means "pleasing."
71. Naberius - fallen angel who appears as a crowing cock.
72. Obyzouth - fallen angel femal who kills newborns and cause still-births.
73. Onoskelis - female fallen angel who lives in caves and perverts men.
74. Orias - fallen angel who appears as a lion with serpent's tail.
75. Ornias - fallen angel who is annoying and can shape-shift.
76. Orobas - fallen angel who appears as a horse.
77. Ose - fallen angel who appears as a leopard and is a president in hell.
78. Paimon - fallen angel who appears as a crowned man on a camel.
79. Penemuel - fallen angel who corrupts mankind through writing.
80. Pharzuph - fallen angel of fornication and lust.
81. Phoenix - fallen angel who appears as a phoenix bird.
82. Procel - fallen angel who can speak of hidden and secret things.
83. Purah - fallen angel of forgetfulness and the conjuring of the dead.
84. Purson - fallen angel who appears as a lion-headed man on a bear.
85. Qemuel - fallen angel who was destroyed by God.
86. Rahab - fallen angel of pride whose name means "violence."
87. Raum - fallen angel who appears as a crow.
88. Ronobe - fallen angel who is a monster who teaches rhetoric and art.
89. Ruax - headache fallen angel.
90. Sabnack - fallen angel who appears as a soldier with lion's head.
91. Saleos - fallen angel who appears as a soldier on a crocodile.
92. Samael - evil fallen angel whose name means "the blind God."
93. Satan - christian fallen angel whose name means "adversary."
94. Seere - fallen angel who appears as a man on a winged horse.
95. Semyaza - fallen angel leader and one of the Sons of God.
96. Shax - fallen angel who appears as a stork; stealer of money.
97. Solas - fallen angel who appears as a raven and teaches astronomy.
98. Sorath - fallen angel to some whose number is 666.
99. Sytry - fallen angel; appears as a man with griffin wings and leopard head.
100. Uzza - fallen angel whose name means "strength."
101. Valac - fallen angel who appears as a small boy with wings on a dragon.
102. Valefor - fallen angel who appears as a many-headed lion.
103. Vapula - fallen angel who is skilled in handicrafts, science and philosophy.
104. Vassago - fallen angel who discovers all things lost or hidden.
105. Vepar - fallen angel who appears as a mermaid.
106. Vine - fallen angel and appears as a lion sitting on a black horse.
107. Vual - fallen angel who appears as a huge camel.
108. Wormwood - fallen angel who brings plagues upon the Earth.
109. Xaphan - fallen angel who fires the fires of hell.
110. Zagan - fallen angel who can transform things; looks like a bull with wings.
111. Zepar - fallen angel who makes women love men.

John Zorn's List of Angels

Jamie Saft Trio : Astaroth: Book of Angels Vol. 1

Masada String Trio : Azazel: Book Of Angels Vol. 2

Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier : Malphas: Book Of Angels Vol. 3

Koby Israelite : Orobas: Book Of Angels Vol. 4

The Cracow Klezmer Band : Balan: Book of Angels Vol.5

Uri Caine : Moloch: Book of Angels Volume 6

Marc Ribot : Asmodeus: Book of Angels Volume 7

Erik Friedlander : Volac: Book of Angels Volume 8

Secret Chiefs 3 : Xaphan: Book of Angels Volume 9

Bar Kokhba : Lucifer: Book of Angels Volume 10

Medeski, Martin and Wood : Zaebos: The Book of Angels volume 11
10.Malach ha-Sopher

Masada Quintet : Stolas: The Book of Angels Volume 12

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Luis Lopes, Adam Lane & Igal Foni - What Is When (Clean Feed, 2009) ****½

It was an honor for me, your humble servant, to be asked to write the liner notes for this album by Luis Lopes, Adam Lane and Igal Foni, a group whose performance I saw in Lisbon, Portugal, two years ago. Here is the text (with thanks to Scott Fields).

"What blues, early rock ‘n’ roll, and punk have in common, the source of their shared strength, is a dominating, unique, and truthful expression of emotions – sadness, anger, fear — sometimes in spite of musicians’ limited instrumental skills. These genres have a direct and true authenticity that is often so much more valuable than the cerebral polish that comes out of music schools.

This trio taps that true source of music: our human emotions. And despite these three musicians’ obvious skills on their instruments, they strip their music of all unnecessary ornaments, accessories, digressions, tinsel, and decorations. And even if there is a musical structure underpinning the compositions, the performances themselves, steering clear of the cerebral, are stripped to the music’s bare essence. The brain and instrumental technique are not switched off; they are bypassed.

You still get the sophistication of jazz, rhythmic complexities, complex scales and harmony, yet deliberately working outside those elements at the same time. But they stick to their unique vision: raw, true and authentic music. Real music. These three young jazz musicians play, despite the obvious jazz form of the music, blues, rock ‘n’ roll and punk at heart, with a touch of menacing darkness at times.

Portuguese guitarist Luis Lopes is an absolute master of finding the right note, of finding the right pace, a rare quality among guitarists these days. He is not into pyrotechnics. Better still, he seems averse to flash. It’s all about the music. The tone of his instrument is deep, sometimes slightly distorted, with limited sustain, leading to a dirty sound that softens to gentle and clean in the more lyrical moments.

Adam Lane is, as well as an excellent composer, a wonderful and versatile bassist. And although his electronically amplified bass can bring him into uncharted regions, his tone and compositions always carry that bluesy feeling.

Israeli drummer and former “genius goalkeeper” Igal Foni is less known. He has already recorded with Michael Attias and Avram Fefer, yet he clearly deserves wider attention. He is the perfect percussionist for this trio’s musical vision: subtle when needed, wild by nature, and creative at all times. He doesn’t restrict himself to his drum kit; in his eyes anything that can be beaten is an instrument.

The album will take the listener on a journey through diverse territory, starting with the odd-metered, changing repetitive phrasing of “Evolution Motive,” over the beautiful and slow “Cerejeiras” (again, listen to how few notes Lopes needs to tell his story), along the weird oddity of “Eufoni,” on which Lopes and Foni exchange instruments (which luckily doesn’t last too long), over the rockish “The Siege,” into avant realms with “Street Clown,” an improvised piece driven by Lane’s bass, with Lopes playing little notes à la Joe Morris, yet more controlled, along the slow and bluesy “Melodic 8,” (penned by Lane), which Lopes joins by playing one note every five seconds before moving to denser phrasing, then crossing a Lane classic “ChiChi Rides The Tiger,” which has a totally different flavor due to its jazz-into-fusion-into-punk, up-tempo evolution, a wonderful piece to unleash Foni’s polyrhythmic energy, for Lane to use his pedals and effects, and for Lopes to show a different side of his playing. A rich and memorable journey that ends with a five-minute heartrending arco bass solo by Lane.

Despite the variation and angles, the musical approach in all the pieces is the same and their coherence will strike the listener: whether slow and sensitive, up tempo and powerful, weird and unpredictable, complex and skilled, the underlying driver of it all is uncompromising emotional authenticity. Straight from the heart: raw and honest".


Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rodrigo Amado - The Abstract Truth (European Echoes, 2009) ****½

It is not entirely clear to me what the title of "The Abstract Truth" refers to: a philosophical discussion on the nature of our thinking and knowledge of reality or a reference to Oliver Nelson's classic "The Blues And The Abstract Truth", with an implicit message that there is no blues to be found here? Why leave the blues away otherwise?

To be frank, I wouldn't know. What I do know is that the music is good, and soulful, bluesy even. And it is dedicated to Italian painter Giorgio De Chirico, a surrealist who is known for his deep perspectives, the use of classical mythological iconography, and static cityscapes. But again, the link to the music itself is not always apparent.

The trio consists of Rodrigo Amado on tenor and baritone, Kent Kessler on bass, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, and after "Teatro", it is the second album of the trio. All eight tracks are freely improvised pieces, yet with a focused logic of their own. Amado is a great saxophonist, not necessarily in the traditional technical sense, but certainly in the musical sense: he can make his instrument sing, speak, tell a story, full of passion and emotion, yet equally full of surprise. The music holds the middle between expansiveness and intimacy, a rare quality and one that is also to be found in Amado's photography : a nice sense of contrast, clarity in the execution, broad themes, yet looked at from a very finite and unique human perspective. And a warm human perspective. Kessler and Nilssen-Love are excellent partners for his music, as usual rich in ideas, and also sensitive in the playing, only listen to the first track "Intro/The Red Tower" : a little capsule of their musical universe, with the arco bass building the tension, abstract sax phrases arise, the drums subtly creating a thundering backdrop and the sax gently and warm-toned introducing the tempo, with the drums picking up the rhythm and the bass switching to a boppish vamp, then the tempo changes again, slowing down, becoming bluesy. A little less than five minutes, but quite wealthy. And well, so is the rest of the album. Very much in the same style as their first album, yet slightly better on this album. Because the pieces are more compact: intimate expansiveness, grand in its finite limitations, universal in its all-too human reality. The blues and the abstract truth, dig?

Anyhow, as I've done before: here are the paintings of two titles of the tracks, bookending the album (it may be that other titles also refer to De Chirico's paintings, yet I didn't find them).

The Red Tower (one of the versions)

Enigma Of The Arrival

© stef

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Joe Morris, Jon Voigt, Tom Plsek - The Graphic Scores of Lowell Skinner Davidson (Riti, 2009) ***

This album by Joe Morris on guitar, Jon Voigt on bass, and Tom Plsek on trombone is a tribute to multi-instrumentalist and composer Lowell Skinner Davidson, who died in 1990 from tuberculosis at the age of 49. Davidson recorded only one album, on ESP, with Gary Peacock and Milford Graves, yet he composed quite some material in his own kind of notation system. All three musicians knew him and played with him. That being said, the music sounds odd : little sounds that make up a calm and unfamiliar sonic environment, although the instruments themselves remain recognizable, even in their most extended use. Sometimes the trio shifts moods and speed, and it is hard to evaluate whether they react to one another or whether they really follow sheet music. Despite all the abstract little noises and sounds, sudden and extremely short boppish rhythms arise on several tracks, such as "Index Card#3", "Double Sheet" and "Gold Drop#1", but these are the exception. What Morris, Voigt and Plsek do is certainly very reverent, setting down a coherent and unique testament for a musician we will never really know, and who would have remained unknown if not for this tribute album. That alone deserves appreciation. The music itself, well, history will tell, but to me it's a little too abstract and emotionally distant.

Listen and buy from Aum Fidelity.

© stef

Monday, July 6, 2009

Solo Trumpet

Playing solo is a unique and special musical endeavor, one that is extremely hard to perform well, yet is possibly the most direct, intimate and vulnerable thing to do as well, and because of that also the most emotionally powerful statement that any musician can make. I love solo performances, ranging from Bach's cello suites, over Munir Bashir's oud performances, to their contemporary equivalents in new music and jazz.

On the highly recommended "Destination: Out" blog, trumpeter Dave Douglas writes about his vision on solo trumpet performances, and he gives a list of recommended listening. I only give his intro and recommend you click on the link below to listen to his suggestions.

Dave Douglas:

"It’s an unusual breed, the solo trumpet recording. Surprisingly, the music is not really for specialists (not that there are many specialists anyway). More to the point, so much of the music goes beyond specifically instrumental interests. Though it is extremely demanding physically, the challenge is really compositional.

The demands are akin to an event like the Iron Man, a 2-mile swim, 120-mile bike, 26-mile run. It requires lots of different skills, enormous reserves of stamina, and a basic belief in one’s ability to pull it off. Preparation is never-ending. Persistence is indispensable, as well as a compulsive desire to see it through. It’s a commitment.

In addition, it requires a point of view. After all that’s been done with these instruments, solo pieces can’t be achieved with chops alone. Solo trumpeting is different from solo piano, for example, because all you’ve got is a metal tube, air, and three valves. Any counterpoint has to be an illusion. It takes a lot of ingenuity to create harmony from a single line. All of the tracks here attack these problems in one way or another.

There is one advantage to the trumpet: because a vibrating lip creates the main body of sound, there is infinite variety to the timbral and textural resources. Though two people may play the same horn, no two people have the same lip. That’s what makes each of these tracks come alive with the creator’s intention."

For the full topic, and Dave Douglas's recommendations : see Destination: Out

Apart from the jazz solo performances, as already indicated earlier on the same topic on my own blog, here are some solo trumpet performances of merit in the new music or modern classical genre.

Mark O'Keeffe - Knight Errant - Solo Music For Trumpet (2007)
Rex Richardson - Masks - Etudes for solo trumpet
Samuel Adler - Cantos for Solo Instruments (David Bilger, tp) (1998)
Gerard Schwarz - Performs New Music For Trumpet (1990)
Hans Erich Apostel - Sonatina for trumpet solo, Op 42a
Takemitsu Toru - Paths
Stefan Wolpe - Solo Piece for trumpet
Hanz Werner Henze - Sonatina For Solo Trumpet (1974)
Hakan Hardenberger - Exposed Throat
Hakan Hardanberger - Emotion
Choi Sun Bae - Freedom solo trumpet improvisations (1998)


© stef

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Peter Kowald & Vinny Golia - Mythology (Kadima, 2009) ****½

For all practical purposes, I labeled this review as a sax-bass duo, but in reality Vinny Golia plays Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano, piccolo, tarogato, Ab clarinet, contralto clarinet, baritone sax, alto flute, sopranino, A clarinet, chinese flute and G flute. Kowald plays his bass throughout, with half the tracks pizzi and half arco. Both giants of free improvisation had actually never played together, met shortly when Kowald was traveling in the US, recorded this performance, and they actually never managed to even discuss what to do with the material, and then Kowald passed away. Luckily bassist JC Jones from Kadima Records asked Golia whether he had any material with bassists, and that's the how this album came to be.

About the music : fourteen relative short tracks, on which both musicians play what comes to mind, yet the ease with which they find a common language is possibly the most stunning part of this album. Some pieces are abstract, some more melodic, some are abrasive, some tantric, some are intense, some hypnotic, others are calm and subdued, yet despite all the variation and the differences in mood and musical exploration, just a few scene-setting notes from one musician are sufficient to have the other enter the dialogue in the same language. The breadth of their musical baggage and the incredible scope of sounds they can get out their instruments make this possible. Two examples. On the sixth track Kowald's arco is accompanied by low monotonal tantric singing on his part, with Golia's tarogato playing a very sad and melodious line over it, and gradually they build up the momentum, the volume and the power of the piece, slowing down to a state of peace. On the twelfth track, the longest one, Kowald starts with repetitive arco phrasing, and Golia enters softly with circular breathing on his A clarinet, and when the arco moves into the higher regions with piercing sounds, the clarinet goes up too, with screaching phrases, then going down again, then up again, like two birds in full flight chasing one another, interchanging positions about who follows who, and the improvisation indeed has something of the flight of the bumble-bee in all its rapid progression. Every track has its own story, its own interaction. A rich album by two creative minds who know/knew what music is all about.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jon Balke - Siwan (ECM, 2009) ****

I'm a great fan of Arabic and Persian music because of the sound of its scales, but also for its often incredible technical skills, on voice and instruments, but first and foremost for the improvisational aspect and spiritual quality that it has. I lived for a couple of years in Morocco, in a flat almost above an audio cassette shop that played non-stop Arabic music in the street, from the most classical Oum Kalthoum over Fairouz to today's Rai music, so you either got to hate it or love it. In my case it was the latter.

Norwegian pianist and composer Jon Balke apparently feels the same, and he assembled musicians from around the world for his Siwan project, with Moroccan Amina Alaoui on vocals, Kheir-Eddine M'Kachiche from Algeria on violin, further accompanied by a couple of jazz musicians and a classical string ensemble.

The band consists of :

Amina Alaoui vocal
Jon Hassell trumpet, electronics
Kheir Eddine M Kachiche violin
Jon Balke keyboards, conductor
Helge Andreas Norbakken percussion
Pedram Khavar Zamini zarb

Bjarte Eike: violin, leader
Per Buhre: violin
Peter Spissky: violin
Anna Ivanovna Sundin: violin
Milos Valent: violin
Rastko Roknic: viola
Joel Sundin: viola
Tom Pitt: cello
Kate Hearne: cello, recorder
Mattias Frostensson: double-bass
Andreas Arend: theorboe, archlute
Hans Knut Sveen: harpsichord, clavichord

It is a worthwhile album, if only for M'Kachiche's heartrending violin-playing and Alaoui's brilliant singing. They play in the tradition of the muwashah, the Arab music that has strong links with Andalusia in Spain and hails back to the time when Granada and Cordoba where among the cultural centers of the muslim world, and even the world in general. Hence a number of the compositions are sung in Spanish, a language that is still quite known in the north of Morocco. The first three tracks are excellent, with violin and voice determining the music's deep melancholy and feeling of longing. It enters a stylistic danger zone when Jon Hassell plays his muted trumpet on the fourth track "Ya Safwati", but luckily it's only an intro to a tempo increase for the string section and Alaoui's voice. And to Balke's credit, he manages to keep the whole album on a relatively high level, with not too many concessions to accessibility for western audiences. At some moments the sugar coating becomes a little too heavy, on "Zahori" for instance, on which M'Kachiche's violin is superb and it would have sounded even better without the trumpet that plays in a different scale and mood even, incapable of matching the subtlety of the Arabic music. The highlight of the album is "Tulâthiyat", on which again the long central piece of the composition on which Alaoui's singing is mainly supported by the Algerian's violin : simply staggeringly beautiful. The last track in Spanish lacks the same emotional tension, because of its more familiar European scales.

In all, a good album, and let's hope it brings more people to Arab music, and to the other albums of Amina Alaoui.

Some of the better Arabian jazz albums to recommend is Lebanese Rima Khcheich's "Falak", accompanied by a Dutch band led by saxophonist Yuri Honing. Her voice is also among the best of the Mediterranean. On another album, "Yalalali", she even has an Arab version of "My Funny Valentine", just accompanied by a bass.

One of the better albums in the real Arabo-Andalusian genre is Ensemble Ibn Arabi's "Arabo-Andalusian Sufi Songs", with Abdellah al Mansour El Kheligh on vocals.

If you want to hear more female vocal virtuoso musicianship, you should move towards Iran for Persian music. Easy to recommend are Hossein Alizadeh - Birds, Parissa & Ensemble Dastan - Shoorideh, and Parvin Javdan - Rozaneh, three albums on which the singers will bring tears to your eyes.

Watch a video clip of Jon Balke & Amina Alaoui

Jon Balke's Siwan - Live at Stavanger from RADIALSYSTEM V on Vimeo.

© stef

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rozanne Levine - Only Moment (Acoustics, 2009) ***½

Clarinetist Rozanne Levine is possibly less known than the musicians she plays with on this album, Mark Whitecage and Perry Robinson, both on a variety of clarinets and saxes, yet she has played a lot with William Parker and Mark Whitecage, but also with the bands of Jackson Krall, Jason Kao Hwang and Jemeel Moondoc. She is joined here by Rosi Hertlein on violin and small percussion on a couple of tracks. The band is called "Chakra Tuning", although it is not really a band album, but rather Levine playing some solo pieces, and some with the band. As the name of the band suggests, spirituality is a determining factor in the music, and the cover and title could give the impression of an inspirational or new age album, genres I'm more than a little allergic to, for the simple reason that they usually have no story to tell. Everything is nice and beautiful, and even if this state of bliss and happiness is to be pursued, there is probably no place more boring than heaven. Stories are created out of the tension between different forces, characters, emotions, forms, ...

To make a long story short : Levine manages to tell a story, hence this review. It is spiritual music in its essence, but also an adventurous journey into musical form and dialogue, intense at times, then more relaxed and probing, now full of unexpected turns and interactions. All four musicians are excellent instrumentalists and their open dialogue is really worth hearing. Her two solo pieces, that bookend the album are nice to hear, but the real joy is in the intimate dialogue between the four musicians.

Listen and download from CDBaby.

© stef

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Robert Burger - City Of Strangers (Tzadik, 2009) ****½

I've always liked the Tin Hat Trio (Rob Burger, Carla Kihlstedt and Mark Orton), for their refreshing chamber-jazz synthesis of many styles, showing creative and intelligent musicianship without pretence. This album on Tzadik brings film music by Robert Burger, the accordionist, pianist, guitarist, organist, percussionist, banjoist, ukuleleist, harmonica-player, marimbaist, etc, accompanied by Eyvind Kang on viola, Max Moston on violin, Marc Ribot and Mark Orton on guitar on one track each, and Carla Kihlstedt on violin on one track too.

The album has 31 pieces of soundtrack for a movie that I haven't seen. The pieces are short (obviously), just snippets of music, evocating a mood essentially, but because of their short and concise form, they have to capture that mood in its bare essence, through some clearly delineated melodic lines and varying rhythms. The result is a kind of haiku in music : deep, with a feeling that still resonates long after the piece has stopped. In that sense Burger is a true magician : what you hear sounds familiar, you've heard it before, somehow, somewhere, it draws from folk, jazz, country, rock, world music, street music, ballroom dance music, film music, and many more styles whose definitions have disappeared into the blur of our collective musical memories, and well, to end, even some avant-garde, yet the combination makes it fresh, surprising, captivating. But blending styles is by itself a boring practice, but here's it's elevated to a high level because of the great skills in melody, rhythm and overall sound. The music makes a nice bridge between the music by the Tin Hat Trio and Evan Lurie, whose soundtracks I heartily recommend, especially Selling Water By The Side Of The River.

If you like snippets of music, that capture a mood in a few lines, whether sad, melancholy, joyful, distressing, resignated, and many more, carefully crafted, and flawlessly performed, you will like this. You will like this very much.

© stef