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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Powerhouse Sound - Overlap (Laurence Family, 2010) ****

The second album by Powerhouse sound brings several tracks of the first album : "New Dirt", "Coxsonne", "Acid Scratch", "2-1-75", "Shocklee", "Exit Salida". Actually, only "Broken Numbers" is a new track, penned for the band in 2007, properly rehearsed, and with two versions on this album. This repetition with their debut album more than explains the album's title.

Powerhouse Sound is Ken Vandermark on saxophones, Jeff Parker on guitar, Nate McBride on bass and electronics, and John Herndon on drums.

I think the album is much better than the first one: it has the same rhythmic power with McBride and Herndon making the music an absolute fun and funky joy. As we all know, Vandermark is a great improviser on funky beats, and he does not disappoint us here. Parker is excellent, from the raw noise to rock-like bridges, reggae touches, jazzy and rock soloing, with wah-wah and all, sometimes all in the same piece, as on "Exit Salida". Together with the electronics, Parker is a kind of jamming station for the overall sound, at times breaking the rhythms and the tempo, adding abrasive touches to smooth surfaces, adding doses of toxicity, which by itself are sometimes off-putting but when the quartet picks up the compelling rhythmic musical power out of the debris, you want to jump up and dance.

Despite the overlap, this is an easy album to recommend. If you like great rhythms, high energy playing and raw power, brought by excellent musicians, then look no further.

Watch the band with "Coxsonne" some years ago

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky - Pieces For String Trio And Trumpet (Leo, 2010) ****½

Russian trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky usually does several things to me : his technical skills are awe-inspiring, with a background from classical to avant-garde, but with a musical vision that is so full of conflict that it disturbs me. The conflict is the one between serious heart-felt emotions, musical playfulness and even silly jokes.

The same is true on this great album with an equally fabulous string trio, with Vladislav Pesin on violin, Dmitry Yakubovsky on alto violin, and Mikhail Degryarev on cello. But the good thing is that the majority of the ten pieces are serious, with elements of classical romanticism, avant-garde dissonance, folk tunes, middle-eastern scales, ... you name it, it's here. "Pastoral Fugue" is a nice example, starting with solo trumpet, heart-rending, then being joined by a lovely folk tune on the violins, which evolves in Bach-like counterpoints of the three string instruments, with the trumpet acting as the improvising party.

All pieces are through and through composed, at least for the strings, which gives Guyvoronsky the ample opportunity to soar over it and react in any way he feels, including not playing at all on the third piece, "Puzzles". 

On "Fugure With A Lost Theme", his trumpet-playing, unvoiced and weeping, acts as a disturbing factor over the classical trio, a great conflict of styles, but the effect is fantastic. "Sol-fa In Tibetan Style" starts with drone-like strings and bluesy sad trumpet, but then the piece starts picking up speed, with a more middle-eastern than Tibetan feel, adding rhythmic complexities and vocals, full of rhythmic emphasis : weird but it works well. "Ballad" is again all melancholy, but then on the right side of sentimentalism. But I assume Guyvoronsky thought that four minutes of seriousness was more than enough, so then comes "Burgher's Concert", a fun piece, and a great showcase for his exceptional technique, with a tune fit for the "Comedy Capers", which even includes his trumpet laughing full-heartedly.

The album ends with the slow and beautiful "Saraband".

In short, it is fantastic. But then I wonder what it would sound like if he had left out the jokes. Would it be better? Would it be more coherent? Would it still be Guyvoronsky? And then I think possibly not. In contrast to some of his previous albums, I think he found the right balance between artistry and entertainment.

Highly unusual, but great music by four stellar musicians. 

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mark Dresser - Guts (Kadima, 2010) ****

When I introduced myself to Mark Dresser after a concert, he said "So, you're the guy who always writes negative reviews", and that was the end of the conversation. Until earlier today he was of course totally wrong, but now he's suddenly right, but not because of this new CD and DVD he released.

If you ever buy this album, listen to the CD first. And listen in wonder.

Then watch the DVD. On it, there is an interview with his colleague college professor Roger Reynolds, and an interview with Dresser himself about music, interplay, spontaneous creation, context and control, the use of eletronics, and many more topics. Lots of interesting stuff. But the real treat, for bass-players and non-bass players is the following hour of Dresser's explanation and demonstration of the tricks of his trade. This is very rare and incredibly instructive.

You get information on two-handed pizzicato, on falsetto flautando, on bitones and artificial harmonics, lots on partials, on bowing techniques, on multiphonics, just all these great sounds you often hear without actually knowing how they're created. This is stuff that you hear at a Dresser concert, but actually never manage to notice because of the distance or the speed. But he is a great teacher: his explanations are precise - though read - and his demonstrations are easy to follow and understand. To the non-bass player that I am, it was all very enlightening, and I hope it will too for those of you playing the instrument.

Then listen to the CD on which all these techniques are put into practice, not for demonstration purposes but to make music with. True, the CD will keep its didactic nature (it kind of lingers on in the brain), but then the sounds and the music he displays here are absolutely fabulous, from the gut-wrenching Hendrix-like tones on "Innard Pulse", on which sliding near unisons break up into sliding descending gestures returning to bitones, over the weird sonic environment of "Demus", which starts intimately yet gradually destabilises the listener with haunting urgency, to the more common sounds of the bass played pizzi on "Duohandum", but then played with both hands plucking the strings and playing the notes, giving the impression of two basses playing simultaneously, or the magnificent "imagE/contrabass" on which his subtle arco tones will move you to tears.

The CD could stand on its own. The upside of the whole is also its downside. When listening to the CD, you cannot but think back about the wealth of demonstrated techniques, wondering which one is being used, and that's detracting the listener's attention  - or at least mine - from some great solo bass. So you should keep listening to it again and again, till the only thing you hear is the music.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Guitars, guitars, guitars, guitars

The guitar is possibly the only instrument in jazz without a natural voice. It needs amplification so as to be part of the overall acoustic sound of a regular jazz band. The electric guitar is a dead instrument without electricity. Since Hendrix demonstrated the power of the latter in creating sonic expressivity, the instrument became truly something else.

Through rock music, the guitar has become a symbol of machism. None of the other instruments even come close to the number of Youtube clips of young guys demonstrating the speed and complexity of their skills, in the ongoing competitive guitar battle to be the fastest, the loudest, the most energetic, the rawest. Why is that? And yes, it is sometimes amazing what technique they have at a young age. But musical skills? None, more often than not. Why? Because it's not about the music.

The kids talk about their guitars and pedals and amps like car afficionados talk about horse power, and suspension, and aerodynamics, ... all very technical and impressive, but it's machism again. It's showing off, with the little kid still inside of them shouting, "look at me, look at, look at me, look what I can do".

Because there are today absolutely no limits to what you can do with the sound of a guitar, the real challenge resides in how to control this power to turn it into something meaningful, with new sounds, unexpected sounds, moving sounds, rather than the endless demonstration of technicalities.

Clean Feed asked Elliott Sharp to compile the modern jazz guitar album, highlighting some of today's best artists.

Various Artists - I Never Met A Guitar (solo guitars for the XXI Century) (Clean Feed, 2010) ***

The album consists of sixteen pieces, by the following musicians : Brandon Ross, Elliott Sharp, Gunnar Geisse, Henry Kaiser, Janet Feder, Jean-François Pauvros, Jeff Parker, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, Mary Halvorson, Michael Gregory, Mick Barr, Mike Cooper, Nels Cline, Noel Akchote, Raoul Björkenheim, Scott Fields.

The great thing about the album is the breadth of material that Sharp put together, and the quality and variety of the pieces.

There are some real discoveries here for me : Jean-François Pauvros is absolutely brilliant, demonstrating the beauty of slowness and emotional depth of his extended techniques; Mike Cooper playing on acoustic guitar, very bluesy and sensitive,

And my favorite guitar players of the moment are excellent too on the album : Noël Akchoté playing a crisp and sweet ballad, so does Nels Cline with possibly the most jazzy piece on the album, Raoul Björkenheim showing how subtlety and rawness can be combined, Brandon Ross on his six-string banjo.

Then there are of course the guys who have barely anything to tell, or at least they play stuff that we've heard so often before, and that leave me quite indifferent : either the blues (Michael Gregory), avant-garde emptiness (Kazuhisa Uchihashi), high speed emptiness (Mick Barr).

For the guitar freaks, some technical detail is given too about the mics and amps and guitar-builders, but it's all within the boundaries of acceptability.

That being said, most of the tunes are not jazz at all. Lots of new ideas and insights into modern guitar playing. Not everything works though, and that's possibly as well.

Elliott Sharp - Octal Book Two (Clean Feed, 2010) ***

As the sequel to his "Octal, Book One", Elliott Sharp keeps pushing the same envelope, playing little notes on his custom-made Saul Koll 8-string guitar, adding more pretense in his liner notes than ever before "The solo compositions are my most personal and while existing as formal music, they also exist as meta-music: outlines and strategies for ensemble pieces, examinations of orchestration and extended techniques, and most importantly, meditations on readings in various topics but especially in contemporary physics, genetics and mathematics". The guy's not only a guitar genius, he's just a genius "tout court".

I cannot keep myself from adding the following from the liner notes : "The piezo was plugged into a very hi-fi K&K Pure Pre-Amp and from there into my all-valve 1980 Fender 75 with a 15" speaker... The 75 was mic'd with a Neumann TLM170 condensor into a Styck preamp and the Pears with a Royer 121 ribbon into a Focusrite ISA220 preamp.A Neumann TLM103 into Sytek channel to gather some acoustic tones completed the picture".

Why is it that only guitar-players talk like that? And sure all this may be important and true, you still need the creative musical insight that is compelling to listeners. At the circus you are impressed by the skills of the acrobats, in the theater you are moved by the actors. That's the difference between entertainment and art. I fear the focus here is more on the former.

Dead Country, Featuring Eugene Chadbourne (Konnex, 2010)

The first track is fantastic because it's wild and unrelenting. The band is Şevket Akıncı and Umut Çağlar on electric guitar, Demirhan Baylan on bass and Kerem Oktem on drums. Eugene Chadbourne plays guitar, banjo and sings. The second track leads into total disillusion with the traditional "Mole In The Ground", a bluesy piece played and sung in the vein of Captain Beefheart, but then of poor quality and becoming pretty irritating after a few lines. Somehow it continues like this, sounding like a garage band on speed. I think this band may have been better off without Chadbourne.

Çağrı Erdem - Connected (Re:Konstrukt, 2010)

Also from Turkey, this band has a lot more to tell, and it does it well, with Çağrı Erdem and Umut Çağlar on guitars, Michael Hays on double bass, and Ekin Cengizkan on drums. At moments Çağlar looses himself a little too much in the possibilities of his guitar-synthesizer, especially on the first track, but the playing is good, jazz-influenced with a rock attitude. Especially the second piece, "The Flux Identity", is haunting.

Pascal Maupeu - Folk Standards (Sans Bruit, 2010) 

Pascal Maupeu plays acoustic folk blues guitar. An unexpected release from an avant-garde French jazz label, but then of course what would jazz be without the blues. Maupeu's playing is sensitive and precise, and despite the limitations of the setting, it is fun listening to.

Steve Tibbetts - Natural Causes (ECM, 2010)

On fifteen pieces of 12-string acoustic guitar with occasionally piano, Steve Tibbetts, assisted by Marc Anderson on percussion, does his best to keep the attention going, but the monotony of the playing fails with me. Sure, his technique is strong, but his compositions are not memorable and you really need someone like Egberto Gismonti's emotional drive, working with volume and rhythm and sudden changes, to be compelling for a mostly solo acoustic album. It is given to very few do bring that to a good end. Maybe I'm too restless for this kind of music.

Dither (Henceforth, 2010) 

Dither is a guitar quartet from New York, consisting of Taylor Levine, David Linaburg, Joshua Lopes and James Moore. Their music shifts with each track, from the quite minimalist, or all powerful drone with the occasional scream coming out of the background, to bizarre sound experiments and fully arranged compositions. Alright, so what?

I am not in a good mood, maybe, and I hate writing negative stuff, but there you go.

One message to guitar-players : stop ego-tripping and use your instrument as a device to tell a story, and not as the story in itself.

© stef

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Erik Friedlander

No doubt one of the most prominent cello-players in modern jazz, and an essential part of the overall sound of John Zorn's musical universe, Erik Friedlander has turned fifty, and for the occasion he brings us two albums. He has been searching for his own voice as a musician, hesitating between the jazzy "Broken Arm Trio", the more ambitious "classical" sound of "Grains Of Paradise", or the more modern studio work like "Block Ice & Propane", or avant-garde work as with Dani or Teardo. His work with the Masada String Trio is possibly the easiest to recommend.

Erik Friedlander - 50 Miniatures For Improvising Quintet (Skipstone, 2010) ****

Fifty short pieces of music are clustered in seven groups of seven pieces, plus one at the end to round it off. The structure is inspired by the "50 Gates Of Understanding": 49 days of self-evaluation and character development undertaken by Moses and the Israelites during the Exodus. After seven weeks, they were ready to receive the covenant, the "10 Commandments", on the 50th day. Apart from this being mentioned in the liner notes, I am not sure how this information is relevant for the music.

Sure, there are the obligatory klezmer influences, but the overall sound does not sound religious at all. And that's probably a good thing. The band is Jennifer Choi on violin, Erik Friedlander on cello, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Mike Sarin on percussion.

Despite the incredible short length of the pieces, the overall result is quite coherent, with sometimes sudden unexpected violent intrusion in more sensitive pieces, but the contrast works well. Not only is the playing excellent, but Friedlander is full of musical ideas, sufficiently so to make the short snippets of music - sometimes quite structured, sometimes seemingly improvised - utterly compelling.

The only downside of the approach is the total impossibility to expand on any given idea, somehow crucial to jazz, reducing the identification of the listener with the music, or to say it differently, not long enough to allow the listener to become truly part of the music. Each time you start to be in the tune, it's already gone, evaporated, sucked up by the past. And that effect is possibly what it may feel like to become fifty: time flows by, ungraspable, and it's gone before you know it.

Erik Friedlander - Alchemy (Skipstone, 2010) ***½

Originally only released on vinyl, this album brings a collection of moody and sad pieces, primarily played by Friedlander on cello with overdubs, and with Teho Teardo on keyboards and guitar on "The Wrong Answers".The music is almost like a soundtrack, full of direct emotions and easy to remember themes, quite accessible and atmospheric. Friedlander's playing  - on especially the opening track - is absolutely fabulous. Against the quiet and softly plucked backdrop, his arco will drag you from dark deep tones to heart-piercing and precise high tones, all in one natural and effortless movement.

Several of the tracks are dedicated to or inspired by authors : Ken Follett, Robert Frost, Cormac McCarthy, John Berryman.

Luckily it is not all misery and sadness, pieces like "Wag" often a fun change, "Lee Av" is a gospel tune, and because of its predictable harmonics somewhat less interesting, "Folly" is a short piece with eery electronics.

It is good, but not essential in Friedlander's discography. 

Erik Friedlander - Aching Sarah (Skipstone, 2010)

A digital single, released earlier this year, and freely downloadable from the artist's website, with Erik Friedlander, cello, electronics and piano programming, Michael Leonhart on trumpet and mellophone, Trevor Dunn on acoustic bass, and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion. Nice and sweet.

Listen and/or download the track here.

Listen and download all albums from Erik Friedlander's website.

Watch a great solo clip by Friedlander

© stef

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Clare Cooper - Hammeriver (Mikroton, 2010) ****

Sometimes, almost out of nowhere, new stuff arises that is utterly compelling as it is convincing. Australian harpist Clare Cooper does exactly that with her debut album. She is accompanied by a stellar and like-minded band, consisting of Chris Abrahams on grand piano, Tobias Delius on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Werner Dafeldecker and Clayton Thomas on double bass, Christof Kurzmann on lloopp, Tony Buck on drums.

The music is dedicated and inspired by the music of Alice Coltrane, the first piece even being an interpretation of the latter's "Ohnedaruth". The band keeps Coltrane's hypnotic, almost ritualistic use of repetition and improvisations around the same tonal center, but pushes it a step further into every modern music, far beyond jazz.

"First Free" consists of sparse notes and noises that create a kind of uncanny background of the stretched notes of the sax. The concept is even brought to its extreme on "E", in which the E chord is the solid anchor point around which everything evolves, expands and contracts. The minor variations and shifting sound colors of the instruments make it really hypnotic. On "DD" the minimalism is still more explicit, and it is hard to believe that seven musicians are at work here, but they are. "Heartbreaker" ends the CD, and despite its shortness, the sonic universe is as interesting as on the other tracks.

The harp is a very unusual instrument in modern jazz, with Alice Coltrane and Zeena Parkins the only musicians that come to mind, but Clare Cooper demonstrates that it can add magic to the genre if played well. And she combines this with her own powerful musical vision, and a remarkably strong one for a debut album.  

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef

Friday, September 24, 2010

DeepTonesForPeace (Kadima, 2010) ****

So far two albums were played by double bass quartets, William Parker's "Requiem" for four basses, in memory of Peter Kowald and Wilber Morris, with Henry Grimes, Sirone and Alan Silva, and with Charles Gayle on sax, and "For all it is", with  Barry Guy, Barre Phillips, J.F.Jenny-Clark, Palle Danielson, accompanied by Stu Martin on percussion.

Now JC Jones, a bass-player from Israel, and the boss of the Kadima label, and William Parker stretch it even further, with no less than fifteen bass players, playing together in two different locations over the internet, without being "compromised" by other instruments.

In Jerusalem, the musicans are Thierry Barbe (France), Mark Dresser (USA), Irina-Kalina Goudeva (Bulgaria/Denmark),Chi-chi Nwanoku (UK), Michael Klinghoffer (Israel),  Bertram Turetzky (USA), J.C. Jones (Israel), Barre Phillips (USA/France),

In New York, the musicians are Trevor Dunn (USA),  Henry Grimes (USA), Lindsey Horner (USA), Rufus Reid (USA),William Parker (USA),  David Phillips (USA), Sarah Weaver (USA).

The purpose of the meeting is to create a movement for peace in the Middle-East.  As William Parker writes in the liner notes "Philosophically, it is about making a commitment and truly believing that the music that we are doing can really bring about balance in the world".

The music is more than just dark and deep rumbling as you might expect. The long movements come and go like waves, but there is the occasional arco solo, jazzy or classical, or a common reduction of the volume, or explorations on the basis of a dissonant phrase, some sudden pizzi changing the course of the music again, .... or some sad and melancholy bowing over a backdrop of a mourning bass choir, It is more than just a political statement for peace. It is also worth listening to with shifting colors and shades of sound, pitch and volume.

But it is all more than just a CD + DVD, carefully produced and with a nice full-color booklet, it is also an ongoing project, with bassists playing their pieces for peace at regular intervals. Go to DeepTonesForPeace for more information.

DeepTonesForPeace will be performing on October 8 at the International Double Bass Convention in Berlin, Germany. 

An excerpt from the DVD can be viewed here.

William Parker ends his introduction with the following sentence : "May deep tones for peace echo and resound across the universe".

We hope they do.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Andrew Lamb - New Orleans Suite (Engine, 2010 re-issue) ****

In the wake of hurricane Katrina's catastrophe in New Orleans, several musicians captured tried to express what they felt about the situation in what they do best : their music. Possibly trumpetist Terence Blanchard's "A Tale Of God's Will" is best known, like its title a tasteless amalgam of strings, cheap drama en ditto sentimentality, but with excellent trumpet playing.

This album is almost entirely the opposite : a cheap production, with a musical and emotional authenticity that is as rich as it gets. The anger, the political criticism, the sadness, the powerlessness : it is all here, in the text of "Dyes and Lyes", the first track, but also in the music of this great trio : Andrew Lamb (aka the Black Lamb) on sax, Tom Abbs on bass and Warren Smith on drums, now re-issued on Engine records. All three musicians have played extensively before, and released in duo or quartet line-ups.

Their approach is direct and straight from the heart.  The cynicism and ironic joyful tune and text of the first track, with some great lines such as these ....

"Mother Nature just staged a terrorist act on ou' ass
And for once in a loooooong time, not a muslim was blamed"

"We're gonna rebuild it
Better than before
Of course we'll have to
Eliminate the poor.
That includes the culture
That the place was famous for"

... soon evaporates for the more serious stuff. The lengthy "Katrina's Path" is an almost intimate piece of subdued desolation and despair. "Rescue Me", with its pumping bass and high tempo percussion results in the cry for help the title refers to. "Black Water"starts with one of Warren Smith's major strengths : to tell stories through percussion. Listen to the initial chirping of the crickets over chimes and bells, contrasted by deep rumbling sounds of scraping his drum heads. The piece evolves with no real sense of direction, but the playing is excellent: unassuming but genuine, and gets even more sensitive and nuanced on the next, more joyous piece. The album ends on a positive note, with a joyful tune played on the harmonica, accompanied by whistle, bass and drums. Because of the lack of a strong lead instrument, it strangely lacks substance, ending quite indecisively and helpless with no climax or finale at all.

The album was possibly the first to commemorate the devastating events of 2005, and in my opinion a strong and real statement.

Watch Andrew Lamb and Warren Smith, here with Harrison Bankhead on bass :

© stef

Monday, September 20, 2010

Frode Gjerstad, Skaset, Grenager, Tafjord, Mølstad, Moe - Sekstett (Conrad Sound, 2010) ****

Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, here on clarinet, has many faces and has always been open to innovative approaches. On his latest albums he moved away from his former lyrical free jazz playing into more short bursts free improv, but on this album he ventures into totally new realms: those of the minimalist soundscapers or soundscrapers, in the "tradition" of AMM. He is accompanied by fellow countrymen  Håvard Skaset on guitars, Lene Grenager on cello, Hilde Sofie Tafjord on French horn, Børre Mølstad on tuba, Guro Skumsnes Moe on double bass.

All musicians manage to create sounds unknown to their instruments, through the use of lots of extended techniques, resulting in weird sonic environments with their own dynamics and tensions. The music is entirely acoustic and at more than one moment you wonder how these sounds have come to life : scraping hollow howls alternated by sustained and stretched overtones on all instruments, or percussive effects when no percussion is in the line-up.

Beyond that surprise, there is the fantastic joy of the end result, that is partly sad, partly gloomy, sometimes joyful, yet always sensitive and precise, full with gravitas. As is the case with the subgenre, there is no real soloing, but a communal creation of music. It has an authentic purity that is hard to describe.

Somehow, the future of music is here ...

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra - Ashcan Rantings (Clean Feed, 2010) *****

Wow, what an album! From the very first notes, you're sucked into jazz history, full of Africa, full of blues, with the interplay and the soloing of the highest level throughout. Adam Lane writes in the liner notes that "this is fun music, designed to uplift the spirit and bring the listener and performer to a more joyful place than they (we) were before", and believe, it more than delivers on that objective.

The band is Adam Lane on bass, Avram Fefer on alto sax, David Bindman on tenor and soprano sax, Matt Bauder on tenor and baritone sax, Igal Foni on drums, Reut Regev and Tim Vaughn on trombone, Taylor Ho Bynum and Nate Wooley on trumpet.

The themes are compelling, starting with funeral march-like first piece, "Imaginary Portrait", with African influences as on "Marshall", or Ellingtonian as on "Nine Man Morris", but the blues is all-pervasive, with great highlights in the quieter parts, as on the duet between Lane and Nate Wooley in the first piece, or Lane's intro to "Desperate Incantations". Despite the composed parts, the larger part of the music is improvised, over structural and rhythmic cells. Two of the compositions, "Ashcan Rantings", and "Lucia" already figured on Lane's "Four Corners" CD.

The solos are wild at times, bringing the music far beyond any concept a big band might have, with sometimes two or three musicians overlapping. giving expansive and expressive power to the already strong drive and pulse.

Lane himself is in full control of what is happening with his bass underpinning everything without limiting the band. The sound quality of the bass is absolutely exceptional too, with a kind of forefront presence that works really well.

The great paradox about this magnificent music is like the blues itself : it sounds so sad and melancholic at moment, so sweeping with "weltschmerz", sometimes so full of distress and anger, but the totality is so deeply emotional and full of joy that it's hard to describe. Lane's gut-wrenching and heart-rending intro of the title track says it all. The only piece that is joyful by itself is the last one, "Bright Star Calyspo" (sic), which collapses into wild and rhythmless soloing, before bringing the album to its great finale.

And it all fits, and there are no weak moments, not in the compositions (some of them, like "Mahler" will stick to your brain for a while), not in the interplay, not in the soloing. And you get your money's worth on top with this double-CD's more than ninety minutes of absolute musical delight. Adam Lane knows and feels and lives music. So far, all of his albums were among my favorites of the year, but this one is superb.

Man, man, man - this is music I will still listen to with joy in a couple of decades and recommend to my great-grand-children. (They will for once stop listening to the electronic rhythmic bleeps that some new device will integrate directly in the auditory part of their brains, they will for once stop being totally disinterested in the ashcan rantings of their great-grandfather and listen in awe to the great acoustic music of the past).

Highly recommended.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Saturday, September 18, 2010


No review today - I spent my time updating the "New And Upcoming CDs" page.

I cannot review all of them, but at least so you're aware of what will be released in the near future.

© stef

Friday, September 17, 2010

Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten - Blue Chicago Blues (Not Two, 2010) ****

Joe McPhee has already released several duets with bassists, including several with Dominic Duval and Michael Bisio. He had played with bassist Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten in "The Thing". Now McPhee plays this nice album, an almost complementary album to his duet with Pal Nilssen-Love, "Tomorrow Came Today".

For the occasional reader: I am a great fan of McPhee, and hence easily enthusiastic about any of his releases, and so it is with this one. I also like duo performances. So, McPhee in a duo album has a great probability for a great appreciation.

He brings nothing new here though, nor does Håker-Flaten, but the playing itself is so good, so expressive, that it is a worthwhile listen for the fans. The cover art with its ambiguous blue flame illustrates the music quite well, it is both heart-warming music to listen to next to the fireplace, but it can only be seen as a warning sign for highly flammable and explosive stuff.

The more explorative pieces are "I Love You Too, Little Baby", "Cerulean Mood Swing" and "The Shape Of Blues To Come".

The sad and bluesy pieces are "Requiem For An Empty Heart", in which McPhee sings while playing his sax, after a long slow bass intro by Håker-Flaten, and "Legend Of The Three Blind Moose", a slow spiritual improvisation, offering a great finale for the album.

The first track, "Truth In The Abstract Blues" has a rhythmic repetitive phrase, reminiscent to the Fred Anderson, the great Chicago sax player, to whom this album is dedicated.

But the music is fun too, as the titles of the tracks already indicate, with their references to some of the great bluesy tracks of jazz history.

"This is blue Chicago blues, 
nasty, low-down, trifflin',


© stef

Martin Küchen & friends & alone ...

Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen is a man with several voices, yet all of those are worth listening to. Whether all fun with "Exploding Customer", or deeply tragic with "Trespass Trio", one of the best albums of last year, or with "Angles", one of the best albums of this year. At the same time, he is also exploring more avant-garde areas, and to his credit, because the variety adds to his expressivity. This is music that barely touches silence, it is monotonous, drone-like, a sonic universe with a strange appeal.

Küchen does not have a quite optimistic worldview: his stories are about the abuse of power, war, death, decay, lies and deception.Yet, at the same time, he is inventive and boundary-breaking on his instrument and in his music. As can be expected, not everything works, or not everything works for me, to be more precise. On the other hand, he dares go to real weird places without resorting to the simplest elements of shock or outright violence. This is not in-your-face rebellion. It is about subtle musical experience.

Martin Küchen/Ernesto Rodrigues/Guilherme Rodrigues/Carlos Santos - Vinter (Creative Sources, 2010) ****

This is by far the best album in the series here reviewed, with Martin Küchen on alto saxophone; Guilherme Rodrigues on cello, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, and Carlos Santos on electronics.

This utterly sparse album consists of three tracks, with a interesting sounds evolving slowly and hypnotically into the longest last track, on which an ear-piercing repetitive phrase creates a haunting effect for other dark rumbles and noises to create an atmosphere you will not forget. Despite the original inhospitable environment, when you listen again and again to the album, it has a kind of comfortable recognition of wanting to be part of it.

Küchen, Rowe, Wright - At29 (Another Timbre, 2010) ***

On this album, Martin Küchen and Seymour Wright play alto, with former AMM guitarist Keith Rowe on electronics. I never quite understood all the fuss about the latter, whose music is pretty boring to my ears. In fact, nothing happens. This may lead to an avalanche of comments by fans, adding that the subtle changes require in-depth listening etc. I tried, but it remains boring, but time will tell.

On this CD, the recipe is quite similar to other Rowe albums, but with the difference that the two saxes add sounds, not always recognisable as saxes, with some radio sounds added once in a while. You hear scratching, rumbling, drilling, collected noise, but also primarily collective noise with no sense of direction, and ending in the kind of ultrasonic whistling that is guaranteed to break the last nerve in your body. The album is not bad, and it has the merit of being short, a little under fourty minutes.

Martin Küchen - Homo Sacer (Sillon, 2010) ****

Released in only 250 copies, this solo album by Küchen is also far into the avant-garde regions. Like with lots of avant-garde brass musicians, think of Nate Wooley, the sounds are no longer voiced, with the exception of the long title track, on which his alto takes on a kind of flute-like quality over a drone of other sounds.

The expressivity is not of the wailing kind, but of the infinite ranges of shades of gray that you find between notes. There is not much color indeed, but somehow it succeeds in transferring something deep while listening, and that's what art is all about.

Martin Küchen - The Lie & The Orphanage (Mathka, 2010) ***

This solo album starts with the kind of farting sounds that made my wife wondering what the hell I was up to, and when she heard it was a record I was listening to, her expression of disapproval did not really change. The farting soon stops of course, but the physicality remains, with muscular work-outs in the most unknown regions of baritone and alto saxophone. In most of the tracks, you hear wind and the clicking of the keys, or very suppressed sounds. The end result creates a lot of psychological tension, at least to me, and not because of my wife, but because of the built-up tension in the music that never ever gets any form of relief. What remains suppressed: the lies and the fact of being an orphan. Physicality becomes metaphysicality.

© stef

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rafal Mazur & Keir Neuringer - Improwizje (Insubordinations, 2010) ****

Keir Neuringer on alto saxophone and Rafal Mazur on acoustic bass guitar serve you an eighteen-minute delight of horrific music, with two instruments building a wall of sound that is hard to believe, screeching, wailing, howling: terryfying, pleading, hair-raising, hypnotic, numbing, mad, desperate ... but it is also light, sensitive, full of sonic subtlety and nuance.

Both artists create on this EP something that is quite unusual, with a very distinctive voice and character. They find a perfect symbiosis of sound, jointly creating something that goes beyond the voice of the individual instruments. Really strong. Really disorienting. Really modern. Really short.

And free.

You can download the entire album from Insubordinations.

© stef

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jason Ajemian & Daydream Full Lifestyles - Protest Heaven (482 Records, 2010) *****

Sure, these musicians did know each other, and they had played together, but not in this line-up, and not with this music. So they meet, they play for an hour, and the result is this incredible fourty-five minutes of freely improvised pieces of fantastic music.

The "Daydream Full Lifestyles" are Jason Ajemian on bass, Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Rob Mazurek on cornet, Jeff Parker on guitar, and Chad Taylor on drums. You can also consider it a somewhat altered version of  the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio/Quartet, with Malaby on sax.

The music is lyrical, open-ended, unhurried and deeply sensitive. The instruments weave wonderfully floating textures of sound, with a strong inherent beauty.The big difference with the later incarnations of the Chicago Underground bands is the lack of electronic/electric experimentalism: the music here is entirely acoustic, and there are indeed moments that are pretty extreme, yet the totality of the sound is rather eclectic, integrating all that is great in the American jazz tradition: there is some blues, some bop, free jazz and more avant forms. This forms are mostly integrated into the totality of the concept, but to the band's credit, the different tracks also have a different feel and character, showing the various aspects of the same approach.

The only concept the band had was to respect each other's breathing pace : "Instead of music composed to a time signature or external clock, this is timed to each performer's internal clock. Everyone plays along to their own breath patterns. It's a chance operation. You compose music so it can fit into any overlapping of people’s breath patterns."

The result is a staggering performance by five stellar musicians. Free jazz at its best : expressive, innovative, joint creativity, instant composing, and first and foremost a great listening experience.

Don't miss it.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Christoph Gallio - Soziale Musik (Vexer Verlag, 2010)

When you think you've heard it all, you're wrong. Here is music you can make yourself. Hence the title of the album "Soziale Musik", easily translated into "social music".

The project is Christoph Gallio's idea : he plays his usual soprano and alto saxes on not less than 147 snippets of music, electronically altered and played in loops. On some he is accompanied by other musicans, to know: Andrea Neumann on piano, Kazumi on voice, Hans Benda on electronics, Helmut Erler on voice and field recording, Sven-Åke Johansson on drums, Jan Roder on double bass, Olaf Rupp on guitar, and Oliver Steidle on percussion.

The snippets come on different formats :
1. a CD with 94 pieces
2. two 7'' vinyl singles with 12 to 15 pieces on each side.

The liner notes say that you are allowed to play the 7'' singles at 45 or 33 rpm.

So, what's social about this music? Well, you can sample them however you want, play along with them, or make a collage with the various pieces.  You can go to the specifically created website of "Soziale Musik" and play the various pieces in random order or whichever way you choose.

The liner notes explain : "The essential and the incidental become one, the Aristotelian distinction between substance and accident become obsolete. The repetitive inner structure of the individual pieces prevents narrative links without violating the linguistic character of the music. Rhetorical figures can be read out of the individual measure: between melancholy and loneliness, intimacy and agitation, pain or simply boredom".

Most pieces are between five to thirty seconds long, except for the last track, which lasts for a surprising two minutes. Great ingredients, yet it's not a full meal : you are the cooks. The concept is not new, as Boubaker points out in the "comment" section. French saxophonist Michel Doneda has done it before : here is the link.

Ye it is all quite unusual. Just play along. It is really great fun.

© stef

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sixty Interpretations of Sixty Seconds (Apprise Records, 2010) ****

Do you know an album on which Christine Sehnaoui, Andrea Centazzo, Paul Dunmall, John Butcher, Szilard Mezei, Gino Robair, Joe McPhee, Philip Gibbs, Bruno Duplant, Paulo Chagas, Kyle Bruckman, and fourty-nine other musicians from around the world play together, including the Guiness Book world record holder for fast banjo playing? Clearly, this is unique.

The project is the brainchild of Canadian guzheng player David Sait, whose "Postage Paid Duets" of last year was really strong. As on this album, he combines music by artists who haven't met, asking each one of them to play sixty seconds of their distinctive approach to this situation. Sait then compiled the snippets of sound into clusters of six pieces. It is a linear collage of sound if you want, with no overdubs.

Even if not everything works in terms of musical coherence, some are really strong, like the eletronic cluster on track 5, with Damon Smith, Lawrence Casserley, Tom Boram, Ignatz and Helena Espivall who embrace in their midst the sonic power of John Butcher's sax. I also like the great transition from oud-ukulele-viola-metalglassplasticstonemotors-alto sax-piano, among which McPhee and Mezei.Combinations unheard in the history of music, yet it works somehow. Not everything though. I have my doubts about the banjo playing, the hurdy gurdy and the whistling, but they help broadening the scope and the unexpected.

The music is intimate, refreshing, mind-opening, hypnotic sometimes, and well, somewhat irritating at others, but those moments are rare. The interesting aspect though is the incredible unity that can be found in this incredible bag of diversity, ranging from ancient music over folk to jazz and electronics. This is, in a way, an ode to music per se. It is no surprise that at times some radio program switching sounds intervene. Yet the ode is more to the individual expression of artists whose austere and often introspective solo moment actually shares a common understanding, emotional deep structure and humanity with all others.

It is a strange world we live in. Let its music be that way too.

Listen and download from CDBaby.

Listen to track 3

Various Artists - Sixty Interpretations of Sixty Seconds (Part 3) by endofworldmusic

© stef

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Taro - Flaechten (Self-published, 2010) ****½

This beautiful and intimate CD comes in the cheapest of black&white light cardboard sleeve, possibly impossible to find anywhere, except from the artists themselves, but if you know them, try to buy your copy.

TARO is Joachim Badenhorst from Belgium on clarinets & tenor sax, with Austrians Matthias Erian on electronics & sampling, Ingrid Schmoliner on prepared piano & voice and Martin Schönlieb on prepared banjo & guitar.

The music is quiet, unhurried, sparse, fully improvised yet staying close to the same tonal center on every piece. Each track is a carefully built and developed piece of emotional fragility, with Badenhorst's supersensitive and lyrical playing, quavering over the cautious backdrop of mostly Schmoliner's piano. You could think this is the best recipe for boring music, yet the musicianship is such that they react almost in the moment to each other's notes and developments. Badenhorst and Schmoliner's are incredible listeners building with an uncanny precision on the other one's ideas. The former is possibly best known on clarinet, but on one of the best pieces, "ae5", he plays tenor sax, and strangely enough he plays some phrases straight out of Tony Malaby's "Tamarindo" - coincidence or not - with a depth that is of the same quality, and that's a serious compliment.

On the sixth track he demonstrates his skills with circular breathing on bass clarinet, creating a nice hypnotic and rhythmic support for Schmoliner's sparse notes on the prepared piano. The other musicians join for the last two tracks into a more weird but equally sensitive environment.

These young musicians belong the new generation of artists that goes beyond form, delving deep into human emotions thanks to their broad and open-minded skills on their instruments, yet staying away from speed and shock effects, and staying away from cheap sentimentalism on the other end of the spectrum. 

This is light music, easy to digest, but deep at the same time, offering a really rewarding listening experience.

Record labels, give this band some exposure.


Buy from Instantjazz.

Maybe you can get it from Joachim Badenhorst directly.

© stef

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet +1 - 3 Nights In Oslo (Smalltown Superjazz, 2010) ****

A quite ambitious project, to release a 5-CD box with a 30-page booklet of several performances by the Peter Brötzmann Tentet, with addtional performances of the Tentet members in various line-ups. The performances were recorded in Oslo, in February of 2009.

The tentet assembles the absolute crème-de-la-crème of today's free jazz, led by the ferocious German. Listening to the tentet by itself may be a hard nut to crack for any unprepared listener, but five CDs could even be too much for the most fervent adepts of the genre's wildest line-up in history.

Here is the line-up for this album:

Peter Brötzmann - tarogato, Bb clarinet, alto & tenor saxophone;
Ken Vandermark - Bb clarinet, tenor saxophone;
Mats Gustafsson - alto fluteophone, baritone saxophone;
Joe McPhee - tenor saxophone, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn,
Johannes Bauer - trombone
Jeb Bishop - trombone;
Per Åke Holmlander - tuba, cimbasso;
Fred Lonberg-Holm - cello, electronics,
Kent Kessler - double bass;
Michael Zerang - drums;
Paal Nilssen-Love - drums

It's hard to give a general appreciation for eight quite different line-ups, ranging from the minimal duets to the full-blown orchestra. Here it is : the Tentet, it must be said, is magnificent: wild, predictably unpredictable, raw, overwhelming, gargantuan, energetic, forceful and any other adjective that fits in this kind of thesaurus. But it is absolute fabulous fun for the lovers. You can laugh because of the sheer power and chaos, but the musicians are clever enough to vary with slower, often moving and sensitive moments, giving both artists and listeners a break before all hell breaks loose again.

Sonore, on disc two, with the three saxes of Mats Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark, performs two tracks. The playing is hard and intense, and calm. Gustafsson is great. These are followed by a long drums duet by Zerang and Nilssen-Love, not really my kind of thing: nice to listen to once, but then you wonder why you would listen again. Disc two ends with a duet between Johannes Bauer on trombone and Per Åke Holmlander on tuba. The improvisation has its sensitive, fun and sonic adventure moments, with a round of applause in the middle, or is it actually two pieces?

Disc three continues with duets, starting with Joe McPhee and Ken Vandermark, who play an absolutely stunning improvisation, it is fragile, deeply emotional, with Vandermark adding a kind of intimate rhythmic underground for McPhee's weeping phrases. The next piece is full of wild chattering between both virtuosi, a raw dialogue full of exciting expressivity ending in unison blues. The next duet is the trombone/drums dialogue between Jeb Bishop and Paal Nilssen-Love. Somehow it fell flat after a while, or I just could not keep my attention going.

The fourth disc starts with Joe McPhee's Survival Unit III, with Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and Michael Zerang on drums. The nice thing about this trio is the combination of McPhee's spiritual playing with the totally "out-there" sounds that the electronically-modified cello makes, but Zerang's unusual soundscrapings and unpredictable percussions add much to the overall texture. The overall effect is one of attraction and repulsion at the same time: it is full of dissonance and weirdness, but also warm, very warm. The next three pieces are played by the Trombone Choir, with Joe McPhee, Per Åke Holmlander, Johannes Bauer and Jeb Bishop, with the first one on pocket trumpet. The concept is great, and the band has it absolutely great moments, especially in the slower parts, on which multi-layered tones manage to create a beautiful and coherent whole. It works less well in the chaotic moments, but I might have to listen to it a few more times before appreciating it fully.

The box ends with two more improvisations of the Tentet on the fifth disc. The first of those is again a full power blow-out session, but the second is strangely cautious, with small sounds erupting from the instruments almost without any clear intention to do so, gradually building the intensity and when you think it will explode into full blast again, you are wrong, because McPhee starts blowing a bluesy line, boppish and mild, bringing this great album to a warm closing.

In general, a treat for the afficionados, and possibly a good introduction to the various styles and approaches that the same musicians can have with the same sub-genre of free jazz. It adds nothing new though to the already broad catalogue of the various bands.

Here is an excerpt from the performance in Oslo on February 19, 2009

© stef

Monday, September 6, 2010

Vijay Anderson - Hardboiled Wonderland (Not Two, 2010) ****½

I've been listening to this album for a while now, finding it so immensely rich that I thought I would do it insufficient credit by already reviewing it. So I listened again, and again, and again.

Even if totally improvised, the music sounds very structured, with themes and angles of attack coming and going, shifting in layers and floating forward quite coherently, despite the incessant changes. It all sounds like the long intro to something that it still coming, but it's there already, right in front of your ears. It does not sound like jazz at all, influenced by some notions of 20th century classical music, yet at the same time it is accessible and lyrical, and totally free.

The initiator and band leader is drummer Vijay Anderson, actually bringing together the two regular trios he plays in : Sheldon brown on saxes, Ben Goldberg on clarinet, Ava Mendoza and John Finkbeiner on guitars, and Smith Dobson V on vibes. Interestingly enough, both Anderson and Finkbeiner also are part of Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch.

The band's coherence is, as said, astonishing. They move forward like a shoal of fish, all together yet without a clear path, and remaining a single body, rather than an entanglement of clashing sounds. The line-up changes regularly, always in the same vein, a little raw and light-footed. And even if all the voices are there at one moment or the other, there is no real soloing to speak of, but rather a joint creation of a sonoric totality.

Actually, the overall tone of the music fits well with the title, a reference to a novel by one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami. The Japanese author is, apart from being a jazz fan, the master of describing ordinary life, but beyond his perfectly normal characters, the mystery hides, not even magically, but as a presence in the subconscious, or in nature, or in evil. Check him out, you won't be disappointed.

The same effect is generated here : wonder and surprise are created with limited means : there is no shouting, no special effects, no clashes or crescendi or climaxes: what you get is a slow evolution of elements that all together create something new and eery. Lighfooted and menacing.

Great tension is the result. Great listening too!

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef

Saturday, September 4, 2010

EA Silence - Flatime (Grim, 2010) ****

I was quite enthusiastic about ElectroAcoustic Silence's previous album,Cono Di OMbra E Luce, centered around the majestic duo Mirio Cosottini on trumpet and fluegelhorn and Alessio Pisani on bassoon and contra-bassoon. I was stunned by their great combination of gravitas and lightness.

On this album they are accompanied by Taketo Gohara on sound design, Filippo Pedol on double bass and electric bass, and Andrea Melani on drums.

The interplay between trumpet and bassoon remains exceptional, and the best moments are for sure where both instruments play the lead role, sometimes in unison, often in counterpoint, weaving great musical textures. The addition of the rhythm section adds a kind of nu jazz element to it, bringing the music closer to for instance Nils Pettr Molvaer or Markus Stockhausen, with obvious reminiscences to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, especially when the electric bass and the drums adds some funk to the proceedings. Gohara's "sound design" is sometimes excellent, especially if he goes into the lower tones, but at moments it sounds like a five-year old kid playing with a radio dial. Luckily, these moments are sparse.

The best piece is "Ming's Attempt", possibly because the bass is acoustic, the world has turned a little weirder, and the band manages to show the true potential of its own voice.

In all, less original and strong as their superb previous release, but a nice album nonetheless.

© stef

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Les Yeux De La Tête - Nerf (Rude Awakening/Head Records, 2010) ****

Sam on sax, Ivan on drums and Luc on basses form an absolute power trio, playing short uptempo pieces mixing jazz and heavy rock into a fantastic and fun album.

Think of the Swiss Lucien Dubuis but less funky, or the power of Thomas Chapin, or of Andrew D'Angelo with Skadra Degis. Great references for any modern sax player. The music, is like these examples full of passion and intelligence, and the last is really needed to keep surprising the listener with such a small line-up. Luc's approach to bass, playing full chords like in heavy metal bands is surely one of the most discerning elements.

But they go further than pure rock 'n' roll. "Barghest" sounds like a cinematic mad car chase soundtrack, full with a strong theme, sudden stops, then picking up speed again. You get some Zorn too in the wild sax playing, or Led Zeppelin in the unrelenting drumming, ... On top, I find it also incredibly ingrained in the French culture,  even if the music is only instrumental, think of Lucien Dubuis, or Slang, or Camisetas : rebellious and clever.

It is mad, it is hard, it is passionate, it is fun. Don't miss it.

Listen further on MySpace, and check out the dates of next concerts in Europe.

Watch a short promo clip.

© stef

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Piano ....

Being far from home, alone in a hotel room, no better context than to listen to the more melancholy kind of music, full of despair and lonely sadness.

There are also times when a person wants some rest, some quieter moments, with some romanticism maybe, but then of the more intellectual kind, the one that is stimulating and interesting without being too demanding. The piano, solo or in a small ensemble, is your best bet.

Here are three albums that will please you.

Stéphane Oliva- Lives Of Bernard Hermann (Sans Bruit, 2010) ****

French pianist Stéphane Oliva is possibly the best known pianist in this series, a lyricist with quite a solid background and experience. On this album he brings a live version of his previous "Ghosts Of Bernard Hermann", the famous composer of soundtracks. Hermann's name is possibly not very familiar, but he composed for such movie masterpieces as "Citizen Kane", "Vertigo", "Cape Fear", "Psycho", "Obession", "Sisters", "Taxi Driver", and many more. Not only an integral part of movie history, from Orson Welles to Martin Scorcese and Brian De Palma, but also the top films in the thriller genre. When listening to Oliva's playing, you can understand why. Hermann's music is all about tension and contrast, like black and white movies : romanticism shifts into menace, and suspense evolves into deliverance.

The suspense becomes even more accute because the music is so light, like the footsteps of a person, alone in the dark. It's what it is not there, what is suggested by the silence and the lack of expansion that is the real threat (and treat), the creation of the unreal, conjuring up images in the mind, making it darker and more ominous. Every note is one of anticipation, made even more impressive by Oliva's rubato style of playing.

A great album.

Katya Sourikova - Angels & Satellites (Weave Records, 2010) ***½

This album could well fit within the ECM catalogue, because of it's genre-defying nature. Yes, it's jazz because of the instruments. Musically though, it is as close to romantic classicism or soundtrack music. For the latter, the music is certainly visual and imaginative. The notes are sparse, clustered around silence, and the music develops slowly, like morning mist slowly dissolving with the upcoming heat of the day. The texture is light, transparent and open-ended, like poetry without rhyme. There are even moments, as on the last track which are directly reminiscent of Jarrett. Yet the album has its moments of instensity too, adding character and variation.

The band is Katya Sourikova on piano, Curtis Macdonald on alto sax, Ivan Bamford on drums, Remi-Jean leBlanc and Rick Rosato on double bass.

The quality of the production, including the cover art and the booklet are also quite close to the ECM standard. Sourikova is a young pianist who deserves wider attention and who is clearly worth following. A great promise.

Listen and buy from CDBaby.

Jim Hegarty - Cut It/Out (Self-published, 2010) ***½

After trying out guitar and sax, Chicagoan Jim Hegarty stuck to piano, his original instrument, for which he further polished his skills in high school, to be followed by studies in composition. His sol album brings  free interpretations of several standards including Billie Holiday's God Bless the Child, John Coltrane's Impressions, and Leonard Bernstein's Maria, interspersed with some of Hegarty's own compositions.

His playing is bluesy, with a very light touch, nice pulse but with an approach that goes a little against the grain, sometimes angular, sometimes hesitant or cautious on purpose, as if the notes themselves are living beings wondering what to do next.

Nice album!

So, no free jazz today. Coming soon.

© stef