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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ernesto Rodrigues, Radu Malfatti, Ricardo Guerreiro – Late Summer (Creative Sources, 2012) ***½

By Dan Sorrells

Late Summer may be the name of the album, but it also works nicely on this calm, quiet winter day. Stillness is required for an appreciation of this music, a soft blending of Ernesto Rodrigues’ viola, Radu Malfatti’s trombone, and Ricardo Guerreiro’s fragile sine waves and computerized hums.

Over the course of two 40-minute tracks, the trio exercises superhuman patience and restraint. There are no loud or sudden movements; everything is quietly calculated and deployed. The faintest whisper of breath through trombone, the slightest touch of bow to string, all riding above Guerreiro’s barely-there electronics, pitches that are often at the very cusp of our hearing range, tones so high or low that they hardly seem to originate from somewhere outside of our own heads. Drawn away by the smallest distraction, you can totally miss this music. Headphones are a must.

If Late Summer sounds boring, I say it’s all in how you approach it. It is music that demands time and attention—background noise in the wrong environment is enough to completely cancel out much of these delicate improvisations. Not that a state of pure silence is a feasible listening situation, either. In fact, what becomes fascinating about Late Summer is the way it sort of permeates your listening field, how you become unsure of whether certain sounds are the subtlest gestures from one of the musicians, or something seeping in from elsewhere in the house. The second piece even further amplifies this effect: the external sounds of traffic and birds and people in their recording environment are also mixed in, further blurring the lines between musical intention and mere circumstance.

Rodrigues and Malfatti in particular are known for their immense restraint and desire to subtract any perceived superfluities in sound or gesture. The music they make is not for everyone. Some may even question whether such extreme minimalism even constitutes music. But Late Summer serves as an important reminder. In our frenetic modern lives, it can be difficult to slow down to Late Summer’s pace. It almost seems paradoxical, perverse even, that the second recording appropriates rushed city sounds, deploying them to its own unhurried, introspective ends. Finding stillness and a few moments of contemplation in our daily lives is often a tall order. Late Summer makes a stand for these fleeting qualities, things we let slip away at our own peril: attention to detail, awareness of space, time to sit, room to breathe deeply and exhale.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Borgmann / Jordan

Thomas Borgmann, Wilber Morris, Reggie Nicholson - Nasty & Sweet (No Business, 2012) ****½

Thomas Borgmann, Akira Ando, Willi Kellers - Boom Box: Jazz (Jazzwerkstatt, 2011) ****½

Kidd Jordan - On Fire Vol II (Engine, 2012) ****½

By now, the movements in a work like Nasty & Sweet should have commonly used names. While unmediated dynamics still seems to deny This Music consideration by “real” scholars and critics of “real” music, the structural organization throughout Nasty & Sweet is a familiar one that spans all music. Nasty & Sweet Part I starts as so many pieces of music involving 3 musicians have and will, as there are only so many ways for a trio to go from silence to sound in any music. It is a sprawling alap setting the level of musicianship for the rest of the recording.

Thomas Borgman is one of those rare examples of equal part musician and instrumental virtuoso. The facets are many to Borgman's Tenor tone; in it one hears Coleman Hawkins, Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler and of course, John Coltrane. Borgmann transmutes those now familiar antecedents into something convincing. Less mugging in daddy's pork-pie, more a reading of the gospel before King James got a hold of it. His Soprano (and I believe Sopranino) playing, though not as tonally diverse, is no less tonally distinct than his sound on tenor. It is on the smaller horns where his virtuoso side waxes without the musicianship waining.

With Morris' bass and alternatively and Nichols' drumming, there is little Borgmann could have done to stall the momentum or derail the train. Morris was no less the bassist than Richard Davis, Fred Hopkins or Jimmy Garrison. Sonically and functionally, it is fair to place him in their company. Nichols, another giant of the rhythm section keeps pace with Morris and Borgmann at the same time—a feat that would otherwise necessitates two “normal” drummers. There is no immediate idiosyncratic hook to Nichols drumming, just above average skill firmly rooted in Jazz and the music that supplanted it as the central art music of our day. This is likely why he is so enjoyable to listen to.

Understandably Nasty & Sweet Part I and II have all the hallmarks of live performance—the grandeur of gesture and the bell curve shaped structure. It is interesting to hear Nasty & Sweet (the 5th track on the recording) which, based on the information available to me, I assume was not a recording from a performance. The difference is subtle, which leads me to believe live or in the studio, this group functioned on a high level regardless of the setting. There's an honesty there worth noting—or setting against the rest of the Parent Culture's fakery. Your choice.

Give or take a decade later, Thomas Borgmann's Boom Box dispenses with the feeling of ceremony with a studio recording of discreet, individual, crafted, manicured, memorable songs. Remember them? Not to be linguistically imprecise, but the last maker of “songs” within the “jazz” idiom I could really get behind, that comes to mind at this moment, was David Murray. And it is David Murray, particularly Flowers for Albert that pinged my memory when listening to Borgmann's For Albert and Frank. If I had an Ipod, those two songs wouldn't be too far away from each other—a mutual compliment.

Another standout on Boom Box is the fugue like proportions and dimensions of Little Birds may Fly. Like Bach (yes, that Bach) Borgman knows how to melodically set them up and knock them down with precision and invention. His task is consistently facilitated by the contrapuntal excellence of bassist Akira Ando and drummer Willi Kellers. Was there ever any question, both are forever now in The Book; ours is now to follow and listen.

Boom Box makes you wish you wish the Borgmann trio would come to your home town and stretch out on those songs at your favorite haunt.

Here at the Freejazz collective, we don't get the actual CD's, just the files. Sometimes (but not always) the player on my computer assigns a genre to the music in question. Nasty & Sweet came up as a Blues. Indeed the blues is grabbed for on Nasty & Sweet in a bald (and beautiful) way on We Went That Away.

On Fire by Kidd Jordan is without any such realistic renderings and yet, my blues needs are met far more convincingly within the first few moments than in all the recordings by Borgmann I've heard thus far. Were they both brush painters, Jordan and Mr. Charles Gayle's paintings would look alike, with Gayle's being a larger, more menacing. Borgmann's would show in the same gallery, but would immediately appear different. If pressed I might be inclined to suggest that difference (which isn't hierarchical) might have something to do with race, class, and the difference between the American and the European experience. The aesthetic terrior if you like.

With Jordan, there is the same willful jaggedness of line and joyous abandonment of the tempered scale without quite the same feeling of impending apocalypse as Gayle so gayly delivers. One can indulge in both without risking a panic attack. Even if Jordan was a school of one (and he hardly is), his tone and melodic contour is so fully developed, so confident and clear that when set against the parent culture's plonk, they deserve their own appellation. At the very least let's take note of the fact that Jordan (like Gayle) is part of that exclusive club of tenor players—the Fellowship of Reedsmen who have performed with Milford Graves.

Like Borgmann, Jordan finds himself amply supported by an attentive, interactive rhythm section. Harrison Bankhead on bass (and cello, I believe) is as much a harmonic fixture as he is rhythmic. If there was any question why the drumming is so excellent, it is because the drummer is the very excellent and eminently melodic Warren Smith. Having worked with a diverse panoply of melodicists from Van Morrison to Bill Dixon, Smith sounds right at home with Jordan and Bankhead, adding to the music without ever unduly hogging the mic.

Together, these recordings point to a day when the saxophone trio is perfected, or at the very least exhausted. With so much music on these three recordings, it's hard to grapple with the fact that they are but a mere fraction of the trio sounds produced under the heading This Music, let alone music in total.

Available at Instantjazz.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Curtis Hasselbring and the New Mellow Edwards – Number Stations (Cuneiform Records, 2013) **** ¾

By Monique Avakian


This album is coming through like Joe Strummer channeling the all of Europe via Rune inside a receiver hidden within Area 54 inside an America well-acquainted with Oliver North baking cakes for Ayn Rynd’s architect who to this day remains talking, even if you are unaware of that.

: i. e . ;

we’ve got some “hypothetical” (**) interpretations of secret codes (musical and otherwise) via:
* scores derived from the metaphor and magic of song titles
  * number-puzzles translated through improvised music
  * thoughtful compositional bookending
  * authentic revealing of Dolphy-esque influences
  * employment of choice riff ideas from multiple genres
  * unusual orchestration (including two drummers and vibes!)
  * a repetitive motif of Morse Code bits that are somehow never repetitive
  * collaged images blending old and new

The result? A thoughtful and engaging treat so multi-layered you might miss all the nuance if you are a gobbler.

Take your time with the New Mellow Edwards septet and savor all the judicious and auspicious licks offered so generously to you by this stellar cast of musicians:  Curtis Hasselbring (trombone, guitar), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Chris Speed (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Matt Moran (vibraphone, marimba), Trevor Dunn (acoustic and electric bass), Ches Smith (drums, marimba), Satoshi Takeishi (drums, percussion).

Three (of Many, Many) Highlights:

Vibes: Within this context, it would be so easy to err on the side of over-doing it and end up sounding like a derivative sound track from BeWitched. Matt Moran not only avoids all the sonic traps laid out by this instrument, but wisely and adventurously takes us further into the eloquent beauty that is the future of this too-often side-lined instrument. If you like vibes, you will get excited by this development. If you hate vibes, you will be encouraged by this development. Moran brings a wealth of tradition into his uniquely modern point of view. His soloing choices and chord voicings reveal a comprehensively hued and shaded palette, an open heart, a sense of humor and a well-developed technical skill. (Of special interest: “It’s Not a Bunny,” “Tux is Traitor,” “Stereo Jack’s Bluegrass J’s”).

While Hasselbring offers rhythmic support via guitar on Tracks 1 and 4, it is Halvorson at the helm. As usual, she takes care to provide thoughtful and inventive choices at opportune moments. One of the finest examples begins at 6:40 on “It’s Not a Bunny,” where she seamlessly brings the band from one dimension into the next with a subtle wave of arpeggios. As for the topic of risk and restraint, Halvorson exemplifies a Protean balance that is as mind-blowing as it is consistent. Somehow, she’s able to walk like a giant without stomping on anyone. In terms of sonic inventiveness, Halvorson continues here to blaze her trail with unique bendy notes and wavy chordal splicing. Hers is a path that at times might be easy to miss. Maybe she doesn’t want you to find it, if you’re not really ready.

The listener is brought into a realm of depth via cross-genre adventurousness framed by Hasselbring’s conceptual Zeitgeist for this project (funded in part by Chamber Music America's 2010 New Jazz Works Program/Doris Duke Charitable Foundation). Number Stations is based around espionage: specifically, secret codes broadcast by governments to agents around the world via shortwave radio. These messages (denied by governments as real) consist of 5 digit number series streams accompanied by female or children’s voices and musical riffs. Hasselbring wryly extends this method of communication to his band, boldly challenging members to form and break alliances based on numerical ideas and metaphorical instructions. The listening experience is enhanced with this arty, witty nod to Spy v. Spy cartoons, chase scenes from Lancelot Link and choice memories of victorious afternoons playing Stratego with disgruntled siblings. Note also Steven Erdman’s CD-insert collages as his intriguing images round out this frame of reference.

Stand-Out Tunes:
1) A song called: “37 degrees by 56 feet by 39 inches by 111 degrees 32 feet.” Part of the code for me involves the slant quoting of “Baby Love” a la 1964, as well as the embedded magic of the song title, which must have been crafted by the superior mind of a 10 year old running free in the woods with friends disguised as rogues on a long, hot summer day. This tune sticks with you!

2) “Make Anchor Babies”: Every player stands out on here. The tune takes off during the first half into a Latin free sailing vibe, and it’s a sunny day, and you’re driving along a mountain curve in your little red convertible, scarf flying, all too soon plunging over the cliff! And then, the band uses the repeated motif of the two-note interval pivot to get us somehow into the outer space feel of a foggy fjord, and now you are on a small motor boat of some kind, worrying about the gas gage, searching carefully for clues. The electronic sound-play here is evocative and emotive, with a mysterious ending.

3) “It’s Not a Bunny”: Another tune where all players stand out. The form is created by a bookending of the melody hook, making a satisfying sandwich that telescopes out into the most outrageous of wildly concocted funky, jazzy, free-form Scooby-Snacks before upending, accordion-like, into your open mouth and down through your gullet with a snap of one note on the woodblock. Zoinks!

Curtis Hasselbring's New Mellow Edwards, 2012 NYC Winter Jazz Fest:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Paul Smoker Notet - Cool Lives (CDBaby, 2012) ****½

By Stef

Sometimes you wonder how musicians promote their albums, or rather try to avoid fans to know that they  actually have new music ready for purchase. If your humble servant did not scan places like iTunes, CDBaby and other eMusic sites and even more disorganised sources (if that is possible at all), spending hours scrolling down new releases of mostly junk (did you know that every day new albums by Louis Armstrong are released, every single day?), and then purchased some of the more promising albums, some great music would never even been reviewed, ever!

Take this fantastic albums by three technical wizards : Paul Smoker on trumpet, Steve Salerno on guitar and Phil Haynes on drums. All three musicians have extensive track records, are as comfortable in classical as in traditional jazz as in free form, have a great warm tone, an adventurous spirit and an incredible sense of pulse.

Put them together - and they have played before - on various CIMP albums, but not as a trio, and you get this little gem. It starts like cool jazz - and the iconic reference to Chet Baker on the cover picture is no coincidence, but what they do with is somethign else  - it swings, it sings, it chills and it pops. The trio move boundaries throughout, changing jazz styles as they see fit, pushing the tradition into unheard areas, without actually losing the connection. And on top of it all ... the three musicians have great fun (despite their cool).

If free jazz ever sounded cool, here is your treat ... don't miss it! Enjoyable from the very first to the very last second.

Listen and buy from CDBaby.

PS - Musicians, label owners, music publishers .... please promote your albums! A single email to this blog may help. Don't let your efforts remain unnoticed. Thanks!

© stef

The Engines (w/ John Tchicai) - Other Violets (Not Two Records, 2013) ****

Reviewed by Joe

Unfortunately we lost one of the great innovators in the free jazz world in October 8, 2012. John Tchicai had been a face on the scene for many years, although sadly for many he was often just remembered as the man who played on John Coltrane's Ascension  along with other saxophone greats Marion Brown, Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders. In reality he made many great records that were quite easily accessible, yet remained firmly committed to the art of music and freedom of expression. One of my favourites is 'Satisfaction' with bassist Vitold Rek where Tchicai not only played some sublime saxophone and bass clarinet but also recited some of his poems to great effect. Somehow I guess for me he wasn't a free-jazzer, just someone who had a large palette of sounds and was open to playing in all musical situations.

So it's a welcome return to hear The Engines featuring John Tchicai on one of his last recordings. It's also a chance to hear John Tchicai in the very capable company of these great players, also a real band that's been in existence since 2008. For all that don't know 'The Engines' it's a group made up of Dave Rempis (saxes), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Nate McBride (bass) and Tim Daisy (drums). The music, which isn't much different in style from earlier albums, is post Ornette meets Mingus meets the Vandermark 5 .... which isn't surprising as they (Daisy, Rempis and Bishop) were part of the Vandermark 5! Their compositions are often mini-suites which develop throughout a piece taking the soloists into new areas where they are required to develop ideas that lead towards the next sections, hence the Mingus connection. Furthermore that means the music is very organic, the themes are small gems of development in melody and rhythm.

It's great to see that Tchicai isn't used as a 'featured' soloist, but as a true member of the band. He blends perfectly into the working sound of the group, so well you'd imagine that he'd always been part of that ensemble. As on all 'Engines' releases it's a co-operative effort with compositions from all members, and the same applies here with Tchicai adding two tunes to the bands repertoire. On tunes like the opening 'High and Low/Strafe' or 'Cool Copy/Looking' (tk3) Tchicai plays like a Dewey Redman, blowing bluesy growling lines over swinging free-bop. He duets on flute with Jeb Bishop on the beginning of his own 'Super Orgasmic Life' (tk4), but the main point of this group is being 'a group', and soloists come and go like trains in a station bringing new ideas and then leaving to make space for others, everything seemingly timed perfectly. The energy of the group is as always top notch, helped by the live recording (*) to inspire creativity, focus and direction for the group and each player. The glorious 'Gloxinia' (tk2) drifts over rubato rhythms which dance away with great energy giving the soloists a stormy ride clearly inspires them. Dave Rempis blows up a storm on his saxes on several of the pieces, often reminding me of Thomas Chapin mixed with Ornette. It seems that he takes fewer solos than normal on this recording leaving more space for John Tchicai. Tim Daisy is a marvel as always showing (for me) that he is one of best kept secrets in the history of the drums! Always creative with bassist McBride these two are certainly part of the success of this group, constantly full of energy and new ideas. 

A highly recommended album for fans of the Chicago jazz scene, free-bop, Mingus, melody and swing.  

(*)= I think most of their albums have been based on live recordings.   

I can highly recommend both recordings from The Engines:

© stef

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oh Poland .... A Roundup

By Stef  

The Polish jazz scene is without a doubt one of the most vibrant in the world, with many musicians, festivals and jazz clubs in all major cities. And then a great variety of jazz labels, of which Not Two, MultiKulti and Fennomedia, are the ones most featured on this blog. It is impossible to give an overview of everything that is being published. I will give a very sketchy overview, with emphasis on those albums I like best, and with Youtube or soundcloud links so that the interested listener can judge for herself or himself.

The Polish jazz scene of course brings music in the whole spectrum, from traditional jazz to the most avant-garde. I will of course only focus on the most adventurous ones.


Marcin Malinowski - The Dreams And Prayers Of Isaac The Blind (MultiKulti, 2012) ***½

Written in 1994 by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov, Polish clarinettist Marcin Malinowski brings his own version of the klezmer opus. Malinowski is accompanied by Dorota Roszkowska and Ewa Kaszuba on violin, Michał Piwowarczyk on viola, and Aleksandra Kuczewska cello.

This is klezmer music integrated with classical music, beautiful, full of passion and Malinowski's clarinet-playing is staggeringly good.

It is an excellent and worthwhile recoding but it lacks the shrieking violence of the orginial Kronos Quartet with David Krakauer on clarinet.


  Mazzoll / Janicki / Janicki - Minimalover (2012) ***

A beautiful clarinet trio album, with Jerzy Mazzoll on bass clarinet and on a, b and c clarinets, with Sławek Janicki on double bass, and Qba Janicki on drums and electronics. The result is a carefully paced and moving album, full of the sad compassion that I find so typical in Polish music, alternated by more daring explorations.

Listen and buy from Bandcamp


Paweł Postaremczak,  Ksawery Wójciński & Klaus Kugel - Affinity (MultiKulti, 2012) ****

A trio in the best of post-Coltrane free jazz tradition, with Paweł Postaremczak on soprano and tenor saxophones, Ksawery Wójciński on bass, and Klaus Kugel on drums. One album, three tracks with the longest over 33 minutes, with sounds as soaring and expansive as it gets, wailing, howling, full of lyricism, with unrelenting pulse, and keen focus. The core phrase keeps repeating itself at times throughout the album and creates a good sense of unity. Fans who liked "Undivided" and "Hera" will also enjoy this album. 


Piotr Mełech, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Witold Oleszak &Adam Gołębiewski - Divided By 4 (Multikulti, 2012) ****

The band is Piotr Mełech on clarinet and bass clarinet, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Witold Oleszak on piano and Adam Gołębiewski on drums and percussion. The album brings nine pieces of free improvisation, in which the Polish pointillists leave lots of space for Chicagoan Lonberg-Holm on cello, whose musical vision is actually a very good fit for the band.

We are as far removed now from the klezmer sadness and passionate expansiveness of other Polish bands. What you get here is very down-to-earth, intimate dialogues, of constructing small musical creations without any tradition, just on the basis of the raw materials as they are presented by the instruments themselves, from which they can invent on the spot.


Tomasz Dabrowski - Tom Trio (ILK, 2012) ****½

One of my favorites in the review here is the fascinating trio with your trumpet Tomasz Dąbrowski on his debut album with Danish bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Anders Mogensen. The trio brings free jazz but strongly rooted in thematic and rhythmic foundations.

Dabrowski's tone is warm and full and the music welcoming. bringing the kind of jazz that makes you happy while keeping the attention going. Not surprisingly the album received very positive reactions in Poland and Dabrowski even received the musical debut of the year award in Poland, and musician of the year award in Finland.

A musician to follow.


Kamil Szuszkiewicz & Marcin Zabrocki - Piece II (Element Works, 2012) ****½

Produced in only 40 handmade copies, you can be very happy if you still can acquire a copy, but I can guarantee that it's worth more than its money and postage. The duo are Kamil Szuszkiewicz on trumpet  and Marcin Zabrocki on baritone saxophone and electronics.

The eight tracks are fully improvised and of an astonishing beauty, slow, deliberate, cautious, bluesy and sad. My favorite of the lot.


Krzystof Topolski & Tomasz Szwelnik - Polymer (2012) ****

Percussionist Krzystof Topolski is also known as Arszyn, and here we find him in the company of Tomasz Szwelnik on piano, yamha DX7 and tablteop guitar for minimalist explorations into the nature of music. The two lengthy tracks move into dark territories, with crackling noises and weird sonic backdrops. 


You can listen to the duo on Bandcamp.


Witold Oleszak & Roger Turner - Over The Title (Free Form Association, 2012) ****

On the same side of the avant-garde spectrum we find pianist Witold Oleszak with British percussionist Roger Turner. The pianist has his own personal style of percussive playing and at times it is hard to discern between piano and percussion, as the music erupts from both instruments in sudden short blasts, in rapid-fire reaction to each other, or more ongoing rumbling. This is free improv in its purest form, very "in the moment" with no preconceptions or plans, yet very intense.


Allright. And now to a few other bifurcations in the Polish musical roads - interesting new music with some unique qualities.


Male Instrumenty - Katarynka (2012) ***½

Małe Instrumenty means "small Instruments" and the band describes itself as "exploring new sounds using a wide array of small instruments", like toys from today and from older times. The music is comparable, with influences from traditional folk culture, jazz and street music, but brought in a playful new way. The music at times reminds me of the great Belgian band from the seventies, Aksak Maboul.

The musicians are Pawel Romanczuk, Marcin Ożóg, Tomasz Orszulak, Jędrzej Kuziela and Maciej Bączyk.

Listen to the music on Bandcamp


The Intuition Orchestra - Fromm (2012) ***½

The Inuition Orchestra is the brainchild of Ryszard Wojciul on sax, clarinet, flute, keyboards and vocals.

Other members are  Bolesław Błaszczyk on piano, cello, and keyboards, Jacek Alka ondrums, Marcin Olak on guitar, Marcin Krzyżanowski on cello, Piotr Gliński on percussion, Monika Szulińska on percussion, Marcin Szczyciński on double bass. Special guests on this album are vocalist Grażyna Auguścik and tuba-player Zdzisław Piernik.

The band brings a fine mixture of sonic exploration with madness and musical fun and a clear search for beauty - sometimes all quite conflicting concepts yet the band manages to bring this to a good end.


Sing Sing Penelope - This Is The Music (Serpent, 2012) ***

Sing Sing Penelope has been a mainstay of new Polish jazz, mixing rock, ambiant and electronics into their sounds.

The band is Rafał Gorzycki on drums, Wojciech Jachna on trumpet, Aleksander Kamiński on soprano sax, Tomasz Glazik on bass clarinet and tenor sax, Daniel Mackiewicz on Rhodes piano, organs and percussion, Patryk Węcławek on bass guitar, and with special guests DJ Strangefruit on live electronics and Sebastian Gruchot on violin.

It is all very nice, and often genre-bending, but the whole could have benefited from some intensity and energy.


 kIRK - Zła krew (InnerGuN, 2013) ****

kIRK takes all this a step further, and you can argue strongly that this is not jazz, but then what is it? The trio is Paweł Bartnik on electronic instruments, Olgierd Dokalski on trumpet and Filip Kalinowski on turntables. The band brings a fusion between jazz and trip-hop. Nils Petter Molvaer and nu jazz are not too far away at moments. Enjoyable and daring.


And is there more? Yes, there certainly is, but I think I've given you the titles of some nice albums illustrating the various roads that Polish jazz is engaged in - you can still expect new albums by Mikolaj Trzaska being reviewed soon, a new Tomasz Stanko maybe, a new one with Waclaw Zimpel. 

Spam, Spam!

When I was a kid back in the 60s one of my favourite sandwich/picnic filling was ... spam! Unfortunately this word has changed it's meaning in the past few years to a very negative term, which for all you internet users I probably don't have to explain too much. However, in the past few months we're starting to receive quite a lot of 'spam', which naturally means we have to look through our comments sections and wipe/ filter out the spam. 

So what does this mean? If you've left a legitimate comment and it hasn't been published please let us know as we're deleting mass spam comments every day from our comments box, and that means that occasionally real comments get caught up in the process. Sorry for inconvenience but it also saves you, and others, from being re-directed to a Viagra site, or having your email phished or simply reading nonsensical remarks which are of no real interest.

Thanks for following the blog ... happy reading, and of course if you like spam in your sandwiches ... bon appetite!   

© stef

Saturday, February 23, 2013


visitors since this blog's creation. 

Thanks for the loyal readership!

Oh Canada ... A Roundup

By Philip Coombs

To fly from St. John's International airport to the Vancouver International airport would involve approximately 6 1/2 hours of flying time (depending on the head wind) and would cover about 3132 miles or 5041 kilometers in Canada speak. A similar distance would be from London, England to Bahrain. You can well imagine how diverse our tastes and opinions about the arts can be solely based on our geographical upbringing. The east is ripe with Celtic music and an underground that hates it. The prairies are coming into their own with country music and an underground that hates it. This roundup looks at some jazz interpretations from the capital, Ottawa, and from the once financial epicenters, Toronto and Montreal, before oil transferred the money away to the west.

Craig Pedersen Quartet - Days Like Today (Bandcamp, 2012) ****

From Ottawa comes the Craig Pedersen Quartet which is comprised of Pedersen on trumpet and composition, Linsey Wellman on alto sax, Joel Kerr on bass and Mike Essoudry behind the drum kit. Days Like Today, Pedersen' debut full length recording, is a wonderful mix of clever composition and free jazz. There are no throw away numbers here. Opening track, "The Baron", is borderline kitschy in a film noir kind of way (sounds like it would be a jazz club favourite) but luckily it didn't follow through and there is no sign of it anywhere else on the album, which is full of well played and fully realized ideas. The sound itself is an ambitious choice as there is little to no reverb present which allows for a very crisp trumpet. An astringent tea for the ears. The title track, "Days Like Today", is a real winner in a pool of very competitive swimmers.

See Through Trio - Near Northern Static (Woods and Waters, 2012)***½

Based out of Toronto, this is the trio's third release. In a similar approach as Pedersen, the band jumps back and forth between sweet intros, which are so familiar that you would think they are covering jazz standards, and free jazz moments. This is a very pleasant listening experience but there always seems that there are more rules that need to be broken. The recording does kick up a notch on "I Got a Little Sidetracked", when the bass gets bowed for different feel and mood which goes a long way in a piano, sax, and bass trio. As well as they play together, their personalities get to shine as they each get a solo track to stretch their visions. Listen for Tania Gill's piano solo on "On My Sleeve", Mark Laver's sax solo on "Stars and Satellites" and Pete Johnston's bass solo on "On the Square".

Michel Lambert - Journal Des Épisodes (Rant, 2012) ****

92 tracks. Yes, you read that correctly. 92 tracks. Structurally, this trio is the furthest reaching of the three reviewed and consists of Lambert, (drums and composition) as well as Guillaume Bouchard on bass and Alexandre Grogg on piano. The recording is a selection of Lambert's musical journal entries, a project he has been working on for quite some time now. This Montreal group take these distilled compositions to their very essence and perform them with intensity. When you only have 8 or so seconds to relay your message, you need to be in the pocket at all times, and these guys are.

Beware of tracks like track 61, "Mystère", as they will catch you off guard with their emotion. Lambert has a big sounding kit that is recorded well. When he hits a downbeat, sometimes only once a track, it fills the gap between the ear lobe and the brain. He crafts these tracks to become a jazzsaw puzzle that takes some imagination to put together but the final picture is worth the effort. You may even find you mind wandering and wondering what your own musical journal would sound like.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Guitar Week: In the Band

Today's post, the last in our guitar week series, is not a focus on the guitar as much as it is the celebration of two guitarists who are at ease participating in the shaping a group's sound as much as they are blazing their own unique trails. Today we feature bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten's quartet with guitarist Joe Morris and drummer Ches Smith's These Arches with Mary Halvorson.

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten NY Quartet - Now Is (Clean Feed, 2012)****

By Paolo Casertano

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten has already led under his own name an interesting quintet composed of renowned and young musicians (Dave Rempis, Frank Rosaly, the young and gifted guitarist Anders Hana to name a few) releasing two albums on Jazzland Recordings with the solid and eminent production of Bob Weston.

By the way I imagine that the responsibility of being the leader of such a stellar quartet as the one we have here featuring Joe McPhee on tenor saxophone, Joe Morris on guitar and Nate Wooley on trumpet is some kind of different. Especially if you consider that, according to the liner notes, there is only one written composition in the album and the rest of the music comes totally improvised. Who is going to tell for example to McPhee that the approach he may be following in a passage is even just slightly diverse from what you have in mind? Clearly, not me. It goes also without saying that being “the leader” in a more or less extended ensemble doesn’t mean to be the one dictating rules to impose his own instrument on the others.

This is a no piano and no drums quartet and many of the eight tracks of the album are largely built as bass/guitar duets that, working in a compact interplay, give to the brass section the chance to focus on lyricism. At the same time, even when trumpet and sax are phrasing synchronically with vigour, they rarely result as preponderant on the strings section. I like the versatility of Flaten’s style moving nimbly through a clean pizzicato and squawking notes as you may hear in the opening “Port” or in the dramatic bowing passages that gracefully link the two muted trumpets in the background of the acoustic guitar-driven “Times” (one of my favourites). “Pent” is the longest episode of the work and there is enough room for a bass solo setting a bluesy atmosphere that McPhee clearly enjoys (and that’s probably why Wooley answers him with bebop and Morris then thinks that some manouche can’t be wrong either). But the chemistry works well also when the musicians go for extended techniques moments as in “Knicks” or in frenzied interplays as in “Giants” (together with the title of another track -  “Rangers” - there’s an obvious reference to the three famous NY teams of basket, football and hockey).

I like the modular structure of “As if” where the bass/trumpet dialogue is at first hindered by the growing and wearing synchronic “singsonging” of the guitar and the saxophone. But roles in life as in music are bound to change and so, after a brief guitar/bass alliance, it comes the time of Morris’s guitar to be faced by the very same hammering chant of bass during his solo. Flaten seems to win because in the last minute Morris is again seduced by the hypnotic two notes phrase and re-joins him. But you know, life goes on and the bass player has already gone ahead for a new, just a bit evolved but always lullabying (a scale), litany together with the sax…

I can’t avoid thinking how it could have sounded this album with Paal Nilssen-Love behind all the other musicians sharing one time more the traditional rhythmic session with his long time pal on double bass.

Buy it at Instantjazz

Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (Clean Feed, 2013) ****

By Monique Avakian

Two saxes: one alto and one tenor, and on the recording -- one in each ear.  Ches Smith just made my brain the keystone of his group, These Arches! This album, then, perhaps, is as neurologically enriching as it is musically enticing.

The move from quartet to quintet is solidifying for this band. Tim Berne on alto joins Tony Malaby on tenor, and the two carry us into various parallel and perpendicular worlds with dexterity and ease. Fresh and lean, these guys are panthers on the prowl. “Dead Battery,” in particular highlights their inventive contextualization.

Actually, These Arches as a group have several interesting contextualizing habits, many derived, of course, from the members’ high-level jazz improv expertise. Additionally, these five players prove to be confident in their well-chosen moments of rocking out. Last, but not least, These Arches seem especially facile with adventurous choices made in regard to the infusion of multi-cultural folk styles. For example (again on “Dead Battery”), Mary Halvorson (guitar and bass lines) quotes from The Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me,” (itself a re-worked French tune). Almost immediately, she injects a subtle Middle Eastern flavor into the lick. The band responds with layering that texturizes the hell out of the familiar riff, which is quite satisfying. The title track, “Hammered,” is also a good reflection of the band’s strength at melding various rock, folk/ethnic and jazz styles into something not only greater than the sum of parts, but something parting into a summary of something greater.

Andrea Parkins on accordion and electronics takes an interesting position in the band, providing a level of intense, yet restrained, subtlety. And Mr. Smith, on drums and percussion, takes care not to dominate, driving with an egalitarian ease and a lot of sound play.

Beware, though. This band also takes the stance of a big tease, brazenly daring you to come back for more. For example, round about 5:40 on “This Might Fade Out,” Ches Smith lays into a phat, funky rock groove that evaporates almost instantaneously within 20 seconds. Ooooh! Why’d you do that to me? How did I end up in this worm hole? Oh, well, it doesn’t matter because already I am somewhere else, feeling like a campy TV detective driving a 70’s-era Camaro, screeching to sudden stops, spinning into smoky half circles, soaring through the air off rising bridge plates….and, well, yeah!

So, you gotta get “Hammered.” If for no other reason than to wave the CD case in front of your best friend’s face and make that irresistible joke.

Release street date: March 5, 2013

Shapeshifter Labs, February 26, 8pm, Brooklyn, CD Release
Rotunda, March 1, 8pm, Philadelphia
The Wind-Up Space, March 2, 8pm, Baltimore

Video with interview splice:

© stef

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mere - Mere (Gizeh, 2012) ****

Guitar Week
By stef

.. post-jazz post-rock psychedelic cinematic hypnotic repetitive post-jazz post-rock psychedelic cinematic hypnotic repetitive post-jazz post-rock psychedelic cinematic hypnotic repetitive full of trance-like yearning and sadness. Thomas Cruijsen fingerpicks chords on electric guitar with emphasis and repetition, supported with some free rock drums forward moving beat and accents by Leo Fabriek, over which Gareth Davis keeps repeating the same the same the same phrases full of longing and sadness on his bass clarinet and nothing changes except the power, the insistence, the drive, the emphasis and the volume with the guitar really hitting hard, keeping the forefront of the sound from beginning to end with drums and bass clarinet somewhere in the background and as a listener it just keeps coming closer to you occupying space in your mind your body your room until the thing fades and only the screeches remain like tails of a bad dream only to pick up again in the third piece which is basically the same thing repeated, relentlessly, mesmerising but slowly evolving to some quiet full of distress and built-up tension and as you can expect the madness picks up again full of repetition and trance-inducing rhythms and volume and terrifying howls and shrieks and ...

Markus Pesonen & Hakon Berre - Hautullin! (Barefoot, 2013) ****

Guitar Week
By stef

If Genghis Khan had played electric guitar, he may have sounded like Markus Pesonen on "Klein Bleus", the opening track of this album. Put it on full blast and entire populations will flee in anguish for his burn and destroy approach, adequately supported by Hakon Berre on drums.

Yet before you know it, the duo illustrates the subtlety of contrasting sounds with "Joutoma", brought by sensitive slide guitar, and thanks to the great percussion and electronics an overall sentiment of sadness and doom is maintained.

"Night At The Toy Factory" is more bizarre, with electronics and distorted sounds creating an odd soundscape full of unexpected events.

In essence, every track shows how the limited line-up of guitar and drums can bring completely different approaches, but thanks to the great artistry of both musicians it remains a coherent story, with a unique atmosphere and sound that maintains its focus despite the variation. You can hear fluid Indian sounds on "Mjölne", crispy electronics on "Monkey Rat Attack", , rage on "Quantum Foam" and "Short Circuit", space-age signals on "Tarantula Nebula", a more rockish style on "Discothèque", tintillating freshness on "Brahmanda", and slow undistorted beauty on "Nuts", which ends the album in an atmosphere of peace.

Even if this is in essence a guitar-percussion duo, both musicians use every kind of tool but the kitchen sink - although coming close to the latter by not only using ringing bells and chains but also tin pans, pot lids, tea towels, forks and chop sticks.

The great thing on this album is the music, no matter how it is brought, yet the unconventional approach adds new textures and offers at times fascinating listening moments.

Rage and gentleness - all on one dish : enjoy!

Watch on Youtube or listen on Bandcamp.

© stef

Guitar Week: Experimental and Noise

Music and sound to challenge your mind, body and soul. Yes, the guitar can be so many things ...

Peter Kolovos - Black Colors (Thin Wrist, 2012) ****

By Paolo Casertano

After the 2009 New Bodies LP always on his Thin Wrist Recordings, Peter Kolovos is here with his second full-length solo guitar effort and, if possible, he delivers an even more challenging work. If you know him already, you could say that listening to the sharp and strident sonic pilgrimages on guitar of Kolovos is a tough job but somebody’s got to do it, because the experience is strong and always rewarding.

I’d define his approach as maximalist being just the opposite of the minimalist style of other emerging and noteworthy guitarists as Manuel Mota or Filipe Felizardo. He seems not interested in any concession to harmony or intelligible structures; he hits the listener as he hits the guitar, never caressing a string, never sketching something that is less than a total, in some way aggressive, act of sound with no compromises. You may say there are no real tracks to analyse in this work, but there is for sure an approach to understand.

According to the liner notes “he draws form from open sequences of sound events merged and propelled by a distinct internal logic. In his music Kolovos attempts to erase the line between intent and impulse and to create sounds that are immediate and unrepeatable”.

He in fact progresses through hiccupping and fragmented stabs on the strings up to discordant walls of massive distortion where whistles and feedbacks fuel the creation of brief bursting drones and tides of feedbacks. He works unconventionally with reverb and delay, some of the notes pouring out of this stream sound more as early electronics samples than traditional fingering, remembering the tones of some vintage sci-fi movie. The fragments living in this work sound initially as schizoid dialogues between two voices. The first is prolific of dense shades of distortion, it is fractured by waves of delay, it is noisy but rational; it is the canvas waiting for the brush. The other one is stinging, shifty and unpredictable, it answers with howling high-pitched peaks plunging in the vortex where the first tries to swallow it. But you can’t really understand which one is chasing the other, which is attacking or how the other will defend its nature. They merge suddenly as they break up. You can’t relax, you can’t grow fond of a sound. Kolovos operates in the constant deconstruction of any musical meaning and coherent context. When you understand, he’s already gone ahead.

Black Colors is released as a triple vinyl housed in gorgeous heavy cardboard slipcase, each vinyl is then inserted in another slipcase with some interesting pictures based on the subjects of lights and darkness, specifically realized and coupling with the music. The vinyl is mastered at 45 RPM, and this means that if you have a decent record player and you’re so brave to close your eyes, maybe you will believe that Kolovos is there just behind you torturing his guitar. But I admit that if you’re not in the right mood, this image can be pretty scary.

Listen some excerpts (
Buy from the label (

Satanic Abandoned Rock’n’Roll Society: Bloody Imagination (Mikroton Recordings, 2012) ***

If Stanley Kubrick had known “Bloody Imagination” in 1968 he might have used it as a leitmotif for the appearances of the monolith in “2001 – A Space Odyssey”.  And if we follow one of Margaret Stackhouse’s interpretations according to its meaning it could stand for the “incomprehensible, -- man, with his limited senses, cannot comprehend the absence (perfect black) of color or light”.

“Bloody imagination” tries to transform this idea into music with this 52-minute sonic sculpture in which the four musicians (resonator guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama already produced this album in 2004, with Naoaki Miyamoto on mid-high frequency electric guitar, Utah Kawasaki on mid-low frequency analog synth, and Atsuhiro Ito on low frequency optron) put up layer after layer of extended frequencies with crass overtones and gloomy, penetrating sounds. It is an unsettling piece of work, pitch-black and mesmerizing, especially towards the end it is even hard to bear. The track starts with a deep buzzing which reminds you of a sputtering motor before high pitched whining, buzzing or hissing noise is added. There is something absolutely brutal in this strange beauty, in its bareness, in its naked sounds, like listening to a constant uproar in your guts and a tinnitus simultaneously. What makes it even more mysterious is the fact that there is no rhythm although there is a certain structure discernable.

But is this even a guitar album? Of course, since the day Keith Rowe has laid his guitar flat, decided to abandon traditional guitar techniques and prepared his instrument manipulating strings, pick-ups, toggle switches and volume/tone knobs turning it into a huge sound processor (according to the liner notes Akiyama uses a samurai sword with his guitar and I don’t want to know what he does with it). Or since SunnO))) have concentrated on pure atmosphere building up huge doom drones instead of using conventional forms.

This is definitely not for the faint of heart. But maybe for you, Paolo.

This short clips says more than my review:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guitar Week: Composed and Otherwise

The reviews today are, in a sense, opposites. Tusk by Sean Moran is a set of compositions of some forward thinking songs for a quintet. Birmingham, 02-15-11 by Han-Park-Earl is avant jazz trio with two European free jazz luminaries. These two New York based guitarists have different approaches to expressing their creative energy and their efforts are well with your listen.

By Paul Acquaro

Sean Moran Small Elephant Band -Tusk (NCM, 2013) ****

The sound of the nylon guitar is an important element on Tusk, guitarist and composer Sean Moran's upcoming release with his group, the Small Elephant Band. It's something in the roundness of tone of the guitars attack that lends a special subdued bite that contrasts colorfully with the other instruments.

'Elliptical', the albums first track, begins with the guitar solo but soon all of the melodic intsruments are bobbing, weaving, and chasing each other. The finely piercing sound of Michael McGinnis' clarinet and the percussive chime of Chris Dingman's vibraphone, makes for a pleasant pallete of sound supported by acoustic bassist Reuben Redding and drummer Harris Eisenstadt.

Things really take off on the next track, 'Circle One, Two', of which I imagine a Venn diagram of overlapping ovals of composition and free playing, and their intersection portion burns brightly. Other songs like 'Moon Reflected' uses McGinnis' clarinet to set an meditative atmosphere, over which Dingman and Moran lend exotic overtones and 'Ten Mirrors' builds intensely with Eisenstadt's drums a key element. Throughout the album, tight interplay and angular twists make the songs quite attractive.

This is a really nice collections of songs, featuring both compositions and playing of which their layers will continue to reveal surprise over repeated listenings.

The album's official release is April 1.

Paul Dunmall, Han-Earl Park, Mark Sanders - Birmingham, 02–15–11 (Bandcamp, 2013) ****

Birmingham, 02-15-11 begins with indistinct rumblings, scrapings and the chirps. Soon, Park's guitar is sliding and sputtering, delivering accents and tonal clusters neatly between Mark Sanders pulsating percussion and Paul Dunmall's intense and melodic saxophone work. The three musicians are nicely balanced, each instrument an integral voice in the improvisation. Dunmall is the main voice as the first track picks up, and when Park's guitar emerges as the driving force, he relies on creating biting textures and rhythmic figures intersecting with percussion.

Sanders and Dunmall are veterans of free jazz and have worked together many times in the past. Here, as usual, Sander's percussion work is invigorating, pushing the musicians and directing the energy. There are moments where he drops out, or holds back, that reveal how powerful of a presence he is. Dunmall seems to always have the most appropriately unexpected lines, whether the solo voice or providing comping. Park is a newer voice, and he holds his own with this virtuosic crowd. His approach on the electric guitar veers between clean and slightly overdriven tones, and has unique melodic approach, favoring fragments and tonal clusters, often filling in the spaces and painting with contrasting colors.

The three together deliver an expert lesson on group interplay and spontaneous compositions. Check it out/download this re-release from Park's website.

© stef

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guitar Week: The Power Trio

Our guitar week enters it second day, this time checking out some recent 'power trio' efforts. There is something wonderfully elemental with the combination of the guitar, bass and drums delivering a pared back but typically power packed jazz/rock.

By Paul Acquaro

Nilsson/Fonda/Nilsson - Powers (Konnex, 2013) ****

Scandinavian guitarist, and current Brooklyn resident, Anders Nilsson has been creating some very interesting recording lately. Last year saw Kalabalik with fellow guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim and drummer Gerald Cleaver, as well as the dark and brooding solo album, Night Guitar.

This latest, Powers, features a power trio, with Peter Nilsson on drums and Joe Fonda on the upright bass is an exciting exploration of tightly wound jazz rock. Throughout, Nilsson's guitar unravels in dark snaky lines and tight total clusters. Fonda's bass and Nilsson's drums sound excellent as well, dry and crisp and to the point.

The crunchy beginning to the first song 'Powers' sets the tone for the album. In the background you can hear vocalizations for one of the musicians, spelling out the syncopations and rhythms undergirding the tunes, revealing that this must be a live in the studio recording. The energy is palpable. When we get to Nilsson's guitar solo (or rather perhaps it's still the main melody?) the tone is biting, the lines are clean, and the energy is high.

The second song, 'Tri-Cep', is a more open affair musicians exploring pushing different directions, indicating that this is not a one trick trio.

Dylan Ryan's Sand - Sky Bleached (Cuneiform, 2013) ****

The bassist on drummer Dylan Ryan's album is no stranger to the power trio. Devin Hoff, upright bassist for Nels Cline Singers is a powerful player whose driving lines support this fantastic organism. Indeed, the whole group group works together quite naturally. For example, the second tune, 'Barocco' begins with a bright and strong polyrythym from drummer and band leader Dylan Ryan. Hoff slips in between the accents and beats, filling spaces between the complex and buoyant grooves.

If drummer Ryan is this cell's nucleus, the cytoplasm is Timothy Young, who's guitar contributes to the overall harmonic gel of the group. His playing is not the flashy kind, but more in the style of say Nels Cline or Ben Monder (I'm thinking of Monder's album Dust right now).  His work on a song like 'Psychic Jouney' is a study in texture and tension. Giving way from simple melody to a crushing chordal crescendo, it's a powerful song that eschews flash for substance. The follow up track 'Mayan Sun' is a brief sonic improv that is tough but accessible. 'Time Stalkers' has a sound and feel reminiscent of Bill Frisell's work with the Ginger Baker Trio.

The rather dark monstrous metal riffs that kick off 'White Magic' morph quickly into shards of dangling melodic lines. The rhythm section pounds out the surf beat until the opening bass lines of the closing 'White Nights' change the mood drastically.

Overall, a really exciting album and an introduction to a new group from which I hope to hear more.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guitar Week: Solo Guitar

Over the course of the week, the Free Jazz Blog is taking stock of some recent recordings featuring the guitar. We begin today with a focus on solo guitar; Tuesday, the delicious fire of the power trio; Wednesday some other configurations; Thursday it is experimental and noise; and Friday, a couple of guitarists who are pushing the boundaries of the instrument's role in free music.

By Paul Acquaro

Eric Hofbauer - American Grace (Creative Nation Music, 2013) ****

What is it about a solo guitar that is so alluring? So rife with possibilities? So able to convey ...  a lot of information, a lot of emotion, a lot of music with just six strings (Or 42 if you've got one of these things). Is it the direct contact with the string? The flesh of fingers plucking, struming, stroking the strings and plumbing the depths? The natural reverb of an acoustic? The electronic wizardry of the electric? For me, I can just a strike a string or two, listen to it vibrate and it sounds like a song. 

The solo guitar is its own puzzle. Whether you approach it like Julian Bream from a classical angle, Leo Kottke from a folk angle, Joe Pass simulating a jazz ensemble or Larry Coryell unravelling Ravel, the delicate balance of what is played and what is implied is fascinating. 

Guitarist Eric Hofbauer has created a masterful showcase with American Grace, a mix of folk, jazz, blues and rock styles. Or, perhaps best described as a deep exploration of American music. Unadorned and uninhibited, the acoustic guitar is recorded clearly, every hit or miss preserved in sonic crystal. Over the course of 19 tracks, he covers the early blues like 'West End Blues', rhythmic tone poems like 'Beat the Drum' and even lends a quasi-classical feel to a pop pieces 'True Colors'. 

The thoughtfulness he puts into songs, like the aforementioned arrangement of the Cindy Lauper piece is present throughout. Listen to the intervallic leaps on 'Mileage', it's pretty fascinating. Overall, a great listen, and for me, a new guitarist to check out. 

To be released on March 13th. 

Various - I Never Meta Guitar Too (solo guitars for the XXI Century) (Clean Feed, 2012) ****

If you're looking for a great starting place for understanding what a guitar is, then I've got just the album for you. Actually two. Clean Feed's 'I Never Meta Guitar' and now  'I Never Meta Guitar Too'  is an aptly titled clever play on words.

It's not an instructional CD/DVD, nor is it a text book, but it kind of is actually both those things. Imagine hearing everything a guitar is, in the hands of musicians who really have dedicated their careers to redefining where the instrument begins and ends...

... like Ava Mendoza whose fuzzed out shards of sound pile up over a solid little bass line loop on 'Mandible Moonwalk'. Or Ben Tyree who sonorous acoustic guitar moves sumptuously in an accessibly beautiful arc on 'The Gatekeeper'. And then there is Yasuhiro Usui gives us a head scratcher on 'Headland', moving between forays into noise, chaotic fretting, spacey textures and melodic snippets. 

Each piece is different, exploring and pushing the boundaries of the instrument. Joel Harrison creates a whole world of sound and acoustic textures on 'Loon,' while Zach Layton lays down an evocative and slowly expanding soundscape with his electric guitar and looping tools on 'Thus Gone,' creating a sonic temple of reverb. 

I Never Meta Guitar Too is a continuation of curator Elliot Sharp's work to bring both known and emerging artists work together. The pieces are all created by the artists and reflect a huge swath of what is possible with a single guitar (though not necessarily a single voice). 

© stef

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekend Roundup: Fractures, Fragments, Moments and More

By Paul Acquaro

As 2013 barrels along, the Free Jazz Blog is still hoping to sneak in some mentions of albums that came out over the past year that somehow slipped past. However, I will actually begin with a new release that is at once fresh, frightening and fascinating.

Matt Turner/Hal Rammel - Fractures and Phantoms (Penumbra Music, 2013) ***½

Matt Turner and Hal Rammel are on quite a unique path here. You've (probably) never heard a cello sound like Turner's, and Rammel is credited on the album with the intriguingly vague, but ultimately specific,  'amplified pallete'. Throughout, tones and notes the rise out of the sound but generally it's a frightening soundscape that is utterly compelling to get lost in.  Over the course of six tracks, alternatively titled Phantoms and Fractures, the duo creates a world of phantasmagorical sounds and situations. I had a hard time giving a star rating to this one, as there is little to compare it to, but it's utterly fascinating.

Oles Brothers - Fragments & Moments (Self released, 2012) ****½

How could we let this brilliant piece of go without mention earlier? The Oles brothers, bassist Marcin and drummer Bartłomiej Brat, have worked with some well known American improvisors such as Rob Brown and Ken Vandermark, and they also have cultivated an extensive discography with bass clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann. On this release they are also joined by vibraphonist Christopher Dell. Drum, bass, bass clarinet and vibes ... what is there not to love about that instrumentation?

The songs feature the strong melodic playing of Jörgensmann, the expert touch of the Oles' rhythms and the shimmering palette that Dell brings. From the upbeat opening compostion, "Ornettation" to the more spacious exploring "Deep Down" and the freely improvised series of "Moment I, II and III", the interplay is excellent and the energy contagious.

David Liebman & Ellery Eskelin: Non Sequiturs (Hatology, 2012) ****

Saxophonist Dave Liebman seems to be on a bit of Albert Ayler kick lately. On his excellent recent release Surreality, he recorded a version of "Omega is the Alpha" and "Ghosts" and on this release with saxophonist Eskelin, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Jm Black, Liebman re-covers "Ghosts". Pretty much a free jazz classic at this point, the version with Eskelin, Black and Marino starts fascinatingly with the drums and bass in a free form rumble, soon to be joined by the raucous double tandem of saxophones. There is a joy to the raw sound of the two woodwinds. Several of the tunes on the album are also credited to Eskelin, who has developed a rhythmic compositional style that leaves, as Liebman writes, "the pitch choice up to the improviser in the moment…a formula that ensures the music will be different every time." Overall, another a great album. (Check out Surreality too for some of Marc Ribot's guitar in the mix)

Trio M- The Guest House (Cryptogramophone, 2012) ****

The Guest House is this piano trio second outing, The first one received a short but rave review here. I have not yet gone back yet to listen to the older release, but Trio M's latest is my kind of piano trio - rhythmically strong, angularly melodic and generally feisty. The first song begins with a quick sort of elliptical melody over a loping rhythm. Soon, the piano drops out for a bass solo, then the group works slowly back into their three way conversation. The group locks together tightly, you get the sense that they really listen to each other and never play more than what is needed. Trio M is Myra Melford on piano, Mark Dresser on bass and Matt Wilson on percussion. They really work well together and I find the economy, punch, and melodicism quite attractive.

Sam Rivers - Reunion: Live in New York (Pi Recordings, 2012) *****

The historical circumstance of this album is worth reading up on - a rich connection to the fabled NYC loft free jazz scene of the 1970s, three free jazz giants, Rivers' passing last year - just so much context to this fantastic concert recording from 2007 at Columbia Universities Miller Theater. Take a moment to read up on it here.

Now, about how utterly captivating this two disc recording is. The sound is good and the is energy high, Rivers' sax just jumps out of the stereo (or ear buds) at you. His tone is gritty, strong and full, and he is prone to some well done overblowing, while always remaining grounded in solid rhythm and melodic ideas. Dave Holland's bass is incendiary at points, like his solo at the start of the track 'part 3' on Disc 1. Drummer Barry Altschul delivers an outstanding performance. He propels, colors and also brings a great deal of tension to the mix, check out 'part 3, disc 2' for a great solo free intro.

The spirit of the recording is infectious. Rivers, switching between sax, piano and flute plays with an undeniable amount of energy. Pulling from all genres and styles, the recording is ever changing, an endless variety of musical ideas growing organically and freely. Melody and freedom abound, and the whole damn thing grooves. Reunion In New York is a lovingly captured performance that can never happen again. It should be required listening.

© stef