Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Buy from Instantjazz.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Named after a Frank Zappa song, The Black Napkins' music doesn't sound like Zappa at all, except maybe for the high quality instrumental skills and their sense of adventure. On this trio, the trumpeter is joined by Jasper Stadhouders on guitar and Gerri Jaeger on drums. The music is quite adventurous indeed and quite special. Each short track has its own left of center approach, setting a mood, a theme, a weird improvisation, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes it's all about the sound, which fluctuates between the traditional and the industrial, between jazz and rock and pure improv, between form and chaos, all quite full of character while remaining enjoyable. There are two long pieces on the album, "9.5" almost nine minutes long, which shows that the band is also capable of really building up a composition, expanding on the main concept and creating an interesting atmosphere : a cold and thorny melancholy. On the last eleven minute track, the band is joined by Jozef Dumoulin on keyboards, who moves the music into a more electronic environment and ambient sounds as the background for some great introspective soloing. Again, despite the sudden shift in approach, it fits well with the rest of the music, which is stubborn, single-minded and rich.
Listen to samples on MySpace and buy from Instantjazz.
Here in possibly the darkest Youtube clip imaginable:
Agent-K - Mouvements (CDBaby, 2009) ***
Agent-K is a band created by bassist Kenny Cordova, with David Burgos on trumpet & flugelhorn, Max Farber on keys, and Bobby Macintyre on drums. The references to the electric Miles are more than obvious, including the sound of the trumpet and of the electric piano, and if you stay in the same zone, you of course elicit a comparison which is hard to win. That being said, the music is worth a listen, rhythmic, atmospheric and fun.
Listen and download from CDBaby.
Iron Kim Style (CDBaby, 2009) ***½
Iron Kim Style is Dennis Rea and Thaddaeus Brophy on guitar, Bill Jones on trumpet, Ryan Berg on bass and Jay Jaskot on drums. The band brings a quite interesting mix of jazz and rock, strong compositions and subtle playing. Yes, Miles is present in spirit, and so is McLaughlin, yet less in the pyrotechnics and more in the overall stylistic development. Another great advantage is the compactness of the compositions, which helps them avoid the trap of the lengthy elaborations in which usually only the best can survive*.
Listen and download from CDBaby.
* free aphorism : if you can't swim, don't create your own ocean, but stay in the bath-tub
Listen and download from eMusic.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Buy from Nu-Jazz Europe or from CDBaby (with sound samples).
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
This year González seems to be very productive, releasing in quick succession his third, fourth and fifth album of the year. Dennis González has the incredible knack of making his albums, even the more free ones, accessible, recognizable too, yet while keeping a fresh approach, re-inventing himself, remaining open to the rest of the world. And you get the impression that the trumpeter gets as much pleasure from listening to his fellow musicians, giving them the floor and enjoying their music, as much as playing himself. A true musician. No wonder he has played with so many of today's top musicians.
The Great Bydgoszcz Concert (Ayler, 2009) ****
On this album the aforementioned trio (Dennis González on trumpet, Aaron González on bass, and Stefan González on drums) becomes a quartet with Portuguese Rodrigo Amado on tenor, a musician who we've reviewed before and with whom González already played in Amado's Lisbon Improvisation Players. The music here shows the wide variety of the band, together with their respect for the masters: Ornette Coleman's joyful "Happy House" gets a fine rendition, and so does Krzystof Komeda's sad "Litania", at the same time offering a great illustration of the musical span of this album, varying between the cinematic, the melancholy, the boppish and the free, but always with that modern infusion added by the González sons. Stefan González' long opening track "Crow Soul" has the kind of hypnotic rock rhythm that reminds a little of Terje Rypdal's Odissey. A great album.
Songs Of Early Autumn (NoBusiness, 2009) ****
"Songs Of Early Autumn" is possibly the best adapted for this season of the year, and it was recorded at an improvised meeting in the not yet heated (and therefore chilly) home of Joe Morris, who plays bass on this album. González and him are joined by this other bass-player turned tenor saxophonist Timo Shanko, and with Luther Gray on drums. Morris and González had played before on "No Photograph Available" and apparently the collaboration was worth a follow-up. Three of the eight tracks are compositions by González, all the other pieces are group improvisations in the real free (bop) tradition. The album starts highly rhythmic, uptempo with steady bass vamps and drum lines, and both horn players get all the space they need to enjoy us with their skills (and I laughed out loud because it is such fun at moments). But the album is balanced, with slower, more moody pieces, allowing the horn players to show another perspective, and I must say that Shanko outdoes himself, reaching the improvisational emotional power of González, howling, screeching, wailing, going deep, deep, deep, and making this again a great album.
A Matter of Blood (Furthermore, 2009) ****
There was already a hint to Tomasz Stanko in playing "Litania" on "The Great Bydgoszcz Concert", but on this album González moves more into the great Polish trumpeter's musical territory, also illustrated by the band's line-up. He plays C trumpet and B cornet, with Reggie Workman on bass, Curtis Clark on piano, and Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. And this band is truly excellent for this sad and dark post-boppish album. The playing is versatile, crisp, sophisticated, almost in the ECM way, with lots of open space, shifts in intensity and room for González to move in, yet so does the band. The long tracks are connected by some musical capsules of improvisation by each of the band members. But the long tracks are of course what capture the interest: their length provides ample time for spatious and careful elaboration of the themes, creating depth and a great sense of space at the same time. The music lifts you up, even if it's not joyful by nature.
So, you will ask me, which one should I buy?
Well, I will answer you, you make the selection, or buy all three.
These are three different albums, all three with their value and musical angle. But all three of a high quality, all three with excellent musicians who understand the musical project, improvise creatively and sensitively, and interact well. All the rest is a matter of personal preference.
Buy from Instantjazz.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The session? Two tracks, one of thirty and one of fifteen minutes of unadultered sax+sax+drums, with Carter occasionally switching to trumpet.
Doubts? No need to have them. In the hands of three such experienced musicians the end result is one well worth listening to, and for most of us, a great joy from beginning to end.
Essential? Not really. But listen how they find the right balance between power and subtlety, between violence and tenderness, between mutual respect and I'll-show-you.
Quality? You bet! In every note. Fine sound quality too. Great art work.
Will it sell? Surely not. Have you ever seen a paper sleeve with no names or references? You buy this? But I'm not sure selling is the objective.
You like free jazz? Order it through The Glass Museum.
And now with a Youtube clip (thanks Kevin!)
Listen and download from eMusic.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
"We recently asked 50 prominent writers and editors working in the jazz arena to complete a survey, with a special effort made to reach out to as diverse a sample as possible.
We asked them about their preferences for receiving information, how and where they listen to music and their interaction with publicists among many other things."...
"When tackling the subject of blogs, we asked respondents to list five of their favorites. Oddly enough, more than half skipped this question completely, and only 37.5% filled in all five slots. Some even dedicated one or more of the slots to expressing their dislike for reading and/or discussing blogs at all.
But this time, when we asked if what they read on these blogs influenced their own work, only 44.4% said yes."
So, it's good to know that this blog is being read by REAL jazz editors (even if only half of them). I'm not sure this means that this blog comes in the third place in the ranking, but it would seem so. I only hope that it will give some more exposure to the music reviewed here.
This blog is also in the fourth spot of the official jazz blog directory.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
One of the most noteworthy moments of the album is the integration of a field recording from 1969 of a song by then 75-year old Rosa Corn, one of the last traditional singers of the Valle dei Moccheni in Trento, Italy.
Although the different tracks vary quite substantially in style, ranging from folk, far eastern meditative influences, soundtrack elements, electronics, avant-garde jazz to the days of the early Soft Machine, yet it all fits well in the overall concept, and adding a sound sample of the music will not do it justice: it's the variation, the broad scope and focused approach of a combined intimacy, spirituality, weirdness, lyricism and musical drive, that makes the overall effect rather unique. Impressive result.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The title itself refers to the artistic traditions of African Americans that Tapscott tried to revive, the reason why he even left Lionel Hampton's big band, to start his own Arkestra (spelled in reference to Noah's Ark).
Here is the title track on Youtube: enjoy!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Watch the trio on a quieter piece on Youtube:
Monday, September 14, 2009
The Gordon Grdina Trio - If Accidents Will (Plunge, 2009) ***
The Gordon Grdina Trio is a different story. Accompanied by Tommy Babin on bass and Kenton Loewen on drums, the guitarist demonstrates the wealth of idioms he masters, but a little too much. True, each piece of the album is well-played and has musical merits of its own, but it is very difficult to find the commonalities between a 12-minute long oud improvisation - beautiful though it may be - with the harsh, raw and burning modern electric guitar trio tunes with which the album opens. And then we get the compulsory slow blues, and yes we like the blues, but what is it doing here? And then you also get treated to a more melodic post-bop piece to end the album. All nice, but no coherence. The trio can play, no doubt about it. But mixing it all up is confusing to this listener. The album starts full of promise, but then you get the impression that inspiration got lost, and that the band fell back on the more beaten track. The good news however is that with every release, Grdina seems to come closer to creating his own voice. And that's good progress.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Watch a performance in Philadelphia last year
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Listen and buy from the band's website.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Buy from Instantjazz.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Psalm Alarm - Like Machine, Like Voice (Brokenresearch, 2009) ***½
The music on this album is played by Zach Wallace on bass, Ben Hall on percussion, Chris Riggs on electric guitar and Hans Buetow on cello, but the listener who can discern these various instruments on the album should receive an award. The music sounds like endless notes played with slight variations around a tonal center over which the other instruments add texture and superimpose sounds basically, functioning like ripples on water, extending, broadening, disappearing. The overall effect is eery, dark, frightening, industrial almost, but also sophisticated. It is not noise. Noise repels the listener. Here the music has some strange appeal, something fascinating that lures you out of your daily routine, wakes up the dark side of your subconscious. That's the power of this music. Despite the minimalism, and the organized sound that to many listeners will not qualify under the term "music", it has a strange emotional power and intensity, and one that is kept throughout the album. But it is not jazz, for sure.
Chris Riggs - Achievement Is It's Own Reward (Brokenresearch, 2009) **½
Chris Riggs plays solo electric guitar. Again, as with the other albums, it does not sound like an electric guitar. It sounds primarily like percussion, with some whistling sounds at the beginning. Could it be that the wrong disc ended up in the CD sleeve? Is this guitar? Since none of the CDs contain any information at all, that might well be possible. Each of six tracks is exactly five minutes long, exactly, making this also a short album. I am at a loss of what to think of it, and that's good. Avant-garde that meets expectations does not really meet expectations.
Chris Dadge - I'd Drive Yr Ass Across The World If I Had To (Brokenresearch, 2009) **½
In the same series, Chris Dadge plays solo percussion, in two pieces adding up to approx. 30 minutes. You get normal percussive sounds, but also scraping, rumbling, clattering sounds and all variations around that. In stark contrast to most jazz, and much in line with the other music of the label, it's all very downtempo, with the musician taking his time to explore and expand and create an atmosphere that shifts expectations of what drums and music should sound like.
It is not really my thing. In all, utterly bizarre stuff, but worthwhile. Surely, it will not be to everyone's liking, but then, who cares? At least the musicians don't seem to care.