Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mid-Week Round Up: Feb 13

Frank Lowe  – The Loweski  (ESP-Disk,  2012) ****½

By Tom Burris

Culled from the same sessions that birthed the classic Black Beings album for ESP-Disk in 1973, The Loweski does nothing to diminish the reputation of that majestic monster.  Actually, this material was recorded on the same day and amazes on its own merits; the fact that these are outtakes is unbelievable.  And it's all one long track divided into five pieces.  Believe!

The disc opens with Lowe playing an unaccompanied exploration of the many different sounds the tenor saxophone can make – and some I think only Lowe can make - before the entire band jumps in screeching and banging its yee-haw collective approval.  Lowe's interplay with Joseph Jarman on alto & Rashid Sinan on drums spins into so many simultaneous directions it's like they're playing hot potato with fifty spuds.

Raymond Lee Cheng (aka “The Wizard”) plucks & scrapes the strings of his violin in manner that comes off a bit like Arto Lindsay having an epileptic fit.  By the time he begins to bow the violin, it has become apparent that the boat is on fire and sinking; and this musician intends to serenade the passengers and the wreck with equal aplomb, making no judgment calls. Cheng actually gets cut off at the very end of the disc, leaving the impression that there might be even more material left on the cutting room floor.

This isn't the first unheard music from these sessions to see the light of day.  ESP reissued Black Beings with 15 minutes of extra material back in 2008.  The unbelievably high quality of BB music that has been let loose on the world so far leads me to wonder if there is a third disc's worth of material still lying around.  A boxed set of Frank Lowe: The Complete Black Beings Sessions would certainly be the very finest reissue of any year.  Believe.

William Hooker Strings 3 – A Postcard From The Road  (New Atlantis, 2012) ***½

Here stands the debut recording of William Hooker's promising new trio, which consists of drum god Hooker alongside electric guitarists Edward Ricart and Dave Ross.  It's an interesting introduction: a three-part suite presented in the form of an audience recording.  The lo-fi immediacy of the presentation makes the composition seem less precious; and this befits Hooker's seriousness and unpretentious qualities in equal portions.

And then comes the Afrobeat.  Yeah, after Hooker's introductory wobbly, unhinged solo, he comes down swinging hard like Tony Allen before taking the groove “out” without ever losing the basic element of the rhythm.  The guitars walk the line between chicken-scratching and psychedelic noise.  Fantastic!  Afrobeat makes another appearance later in the disc about three minutes into “A Fable”.
Saxophonist Glen Hall makes a guest appearance on “Harmony” and “Sweep the Wind,” the latter conjuring up a less claustrophobic Borbetomagus.  Other highlights include a short energetic freakout with a great solo from Ricart (“Tantri”) and the crazy synthesized sweeps of sound swirling around Hooker's manic drumming on “Kulit”.

Hooker's new trio is served well by this document, which I am more grateful for every time I listen to it, as it captures the excitement of the room as the music unfolds.

Gerd Dudek – Day & Night (Psi Recordings, 2012) ****

Saxophonist Gerd Dudek and pianist Hans Koller hand picked the cover songs to be included on the session for this recording.  It is a stellar list of selections with some curious inclusions, such as the originally piano-less “Congeniality” by Ornette Coleman, on which Koller makes the most of the opportunity by showing how the piano doesn't necessarily have to be a harmonic anchor for the other players.

Herbie Nichols' “Step Tempest” serves as a perfect introduction to the collection, highlighting Dudek's melodic sense, his full, gorgeous tone, and his open approach to familiar material.  On Wayne Shorter's lyrical “Blues a la Carte” Dudek shows off his fine chops, as well as the fact that he knows his way around a good line.  Mingus' “Duke Ellington's Sound of Love” is gorgeous, plaintive and sweet.  The Bach piece that closes the album was arranged by Koller, who positively shines here, spaciously riding the groove, dipping his oar into the surface only when it will propel the music forward.

This is not a revolutionary disc, but the playing is rich, thoughtful, dynamic and tasteful.  I've often heard that good taste is the enemy of progress, but when the end result is music of this caliber, progress seems a bit overrated.

Aaron Dilloway & Jason Lescalleet – Grapes and Snakes  (PAN, 2012) ***½

Should music with a closer kinship to 1980s underground cassette culture than free jazz be reviewed on this site?  It's interesting; it's good; they sent us a copy; that's good enough for me.

Noise heroes Dilloway and Lescalleet banded together for this record, utilizing only analog equipment to achieve two side-long pieces that sound at times like a strange balance between Minoy and Merzbow.
A long single-note oscillated drone begins “Shattered Capsules,” before different textures and notes slowly wind their way into the swirly frequency collage.  This is cut dead after six minutes; and a rumbling sub-frequency drone arises from the silence.  It is soothing and foreboding at the same time, with higher crackling sounds filling out the edges.  The chattering electronic chipmunk at the end of the track messed with my permanent tinnitus something awful.  Well done, I suppose.

On “Burning Nest” beautiful drones and loops lazily swirl around the listener's meditative head, not unlike Nurse With Wound's “Soliloquy for Lilith.”  It's slightly busier than that landmark work, but no less impressive.  Fifteen minutes into the track, however, things sound more sinister and claustrophobic.  The meditative experience has turned bad trip – and then a cartoon rhythmic synth loop rides by and offers to take you into the sunset.  You probably shouldn't go.  But you will.

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