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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Secret Keeper - Emerge (Intakt, 2015) ****

By Paul Acquaro

The concert for Secret Keeper's latest recording Emerge was at the Cornelia Street Cafe - and down in the cozy basement club space, it felt a bit like being in on a well kept secret itself. It was an intimate show as the duo of guitarist Mary Halvorson and bassist Stephen Crump captivated the attentive crowd for the evening.

Emerge is the pair's second recording under the name Secret Keeper and it is a another great example of their sympathetic and telepathic playing. The duo delivers composed and intricate melodies, with nice balanced counter motions, but they also surprise by suddenly throwing caution to the wind and diving into some aggressive passages.

The opener "What'll I Do" begins tentatively, Crump provides a loose foundation and Halvorson slowly drops musical pieces into place. They are building up to something: the squiggles of guitar and the bass runs become stronger and the music denser as the track continues. 'Emerge' starts big with vibrant chords and melody from the guitar and deep sells from the bass and 'In Time You Yell', things become agitated and the playing heavier. Halvorson leans on her inner rocker and uses power chords and purposeful slashing strumming before quickly pivoting to pointy arpeggiated lines and unusual chord voicings. Meanwhile Crump is a often a grounding element, providing a base that sometimes just cracks wide open.

This is a keeper of an album, literally dripping with atmosphere.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Songs for the people of Greece

By Stef

I am not sure what is going to happen in Greece. As an outsider, it's possible to understand the positions of the various parties involved and equally impossible to understand the positions of the various parties involved, but the thing is that the people of Greece are caught in a major situation they never expected or wanted. Hence an overview of some fine Greek musicians, to give them and their listeners a boost of confidence, because creativity will always win, and we'll have a closer look at this now.

Earlier this year, Paul already reviewed the Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet's excellent "Afterimage", but here is some more, and it must be said, the overall tone of the music is often not very joyful, and interestingly enough many of the musicians live outside of their Greek homeland. Nevertheless, these are all songs for the people of Greece.

Tania Giannouli Ensemble‏ - Transcendence (Rattle, 2015)

Greek pianist and composer Tania Giannouli is accompanied on this album by Guido De Flaviis on saxophone, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones and Giannis Notaras as a guest on percussion. The music could be a soundtrack, full of romantic sentiments, but without overdoing it, with an aesthetic that could be compared to many ECM albums: accessible, beyond genre, wonderfully performed and produced.

Giannouli mines deeply in the sounds of the Mediterrean and of various musical styles, using dramatic nature evocations as in "The Sea", folk elements as in "Sun Dance", modern composition as in "Mad World", or very unique sounds as in "Faster Than Wear".

An album with lots of rich ideas, a great variety of approaches yet miraculously coherent in its end result.

Mohammad - Segondè Saleco (Antifrost, 2015)

Some two years ago we reviewed their "Som Sakrifis" album by this Greek chamber doom trio, consisting of Nikos Veliotis on cello, Coti on bass and Ilios on oscillators. Now they deepen their specific and unique sound of experimental somber music, nothing to cheer you up, if not for the superb quality of the music itself, its intercultural source material and avant-garde delivery. We have the guest appearance of Erifyli Giannakopoulou on vocals on one track. This is a limited edition LP or CD and the last album of the trilogy.

Martin Küchen, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga ‎– Bauchredner (Cathnor, 2015)

Another "open ears" album is this duet between Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen and Greek zither-player Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga. The German title refers to the art of ventriloquism, or speaking without physical evidence for it apart from sound, but when you add the three titles of the album "Bauchredner und Rufer im Moor" (ventriloquist and shouter in the marshes), you get the title of a Paul Klee painting from 1923 (see below). As you can expect from such an ominous title, there is much loneliness and desolation to be heard on the album, with sometimes shrieking electronic backdrops laying the foundation for the more human and warm, but devastating saxophone. The end result is a fascinating electroacoustic soundscape, combining the contrasting notions of exclusion and openness, of artificiality and authenticity. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Zenjungle & Tunedin52 - Tales From Urban (Zentune, 2014) 

Zenjungle and Tunedin52 are the artist names of Irish guitarist John Daly (baritone and acoustic guitar, ebow, percussion, noises, glitches, loops, field recordings) and Greek sax-player Phil Gardelis (tenor and soprano saxophones, loops, noises, synths, voice, field recordings). They call their music ambient jazz, and that's what it sounds like. A sad sax sings and wails over a backdrop of electronic guitar-sounds, reinforced by real ambient pieces where every-day life seeps in.

The music itself has a strong linear and horizontal development, with slow changes in atmosphere and overall feel. This is mood music that may seem too easy at moments, but, well ... in a certain mood, this may be exactly what you want to hear.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Rank Ensemble - Papilio Noblei featuing Elena Kakaliagou (Leo, 2014)

A beautiful minimalist electroacoustic album by a Finnish ensemble, but featuring Elena Kakaliagou on French horn and voice, with music shifting between free improvisation and noise. It is daring music, on which the instruments are often hard to identify, except on the long Weitersfeld, on which Kakaliagou's horn sounds as you might wish to hear it and beyond : moaning, sad, ecstatic, generous.

The other band members are Solmund Nystabakk on guitar and voice, Saara Rautio on harp, ukelele, spring drum, and James Andean on piano, electronics, flute, melodica.

Yannis Kyriakides & Andy Moor - A Life Is A Billion Heartbeats (Unsounds, 2014)

This is the second collaboration between Greek sound artist Yannis Kyriakides and Andy Moor to explore and mine "the rich and mysterious terrain of Greek rebetika music from the early 20th century". Rebetika are Greek urban folk songs which are here performed and transformed on guitar and electronics, resulting in a strange world of rhythmic soundscapes, with dry guitar, whistling electronics and sprinkles of ambient sounds, all brought with a kind of wonder and pleasure of discovery. The music is very hard to pigeon-hole, because of its chamber-like intimacy combined with the electronics, but is more than worth listening to.

Costis Drygianakis - Invisible And Hidden (No Label, 2015)

Costis Drygianakis is a composer of mainly experimental music, and sound collages, and a teacher of music. His vision of music seems close to its most basic definition of 'organised sound', and within this juxtaposition of 'found sounds' and 'created sounds' an interesting tension arises, including through the electronic alteration of both.

The music is uncommon, but not unwelcoming, something that will disturb and destabilise at times including the sounds of violence and shooting, yet that can be listened to. Participants on the album include Elena Kakaliagou on French horn, Christos Kaltis on bass, Nikos Veliotis on cello, Christos Chondropoulos on percussion, Corinna Triantafyllidis on electronics, Manos Michaelides on pipe and percussion, Lilly Varaklioti on vocals Nicolas Malevitsis 'makes' noise.

Savina Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico - Songs of Thessaloniki (ECM, 2015)

I'm not sure any other label could have produced this album but ECM. Savina Yannatou sings folk songs of Thessaloniki, in the north of the country, as you may have guessed from the title. The production is as you can expect from ECM, absolutely spotless, and the band is ideal to give the music a value which is more universal and genre-defying. The band is Kostas Vomvolos on qanun and accordion, Yannis Alexandris on oud and guitar, Kyriakos Gouventas on violin, Harris Lambrakis on nay, Michalis Siganidis on double bass, and Kostas Theodorou on percussion. The band is great, and Savina Yannatou's voice is angelic : subtle, moving and with an exceptional clarity.

Some compositions sound familiar, such as the sephardic "A La Scola Del Allianza", but I guess that's inherent in folk songs that melodies migrate across cultures and geographies. Many of the songs stem for other places than Greece itself, with influences from Armenia, Turkey and Slavic countries, which is not surprising, as Thessaloniki is a multicultural port on the Mediterranean.

Jazz fans: listen to this with open ears, but maybe this is something the rest of the family will for once also appreciate.

In sum, apart from some albums, there is nothing typically Greek to be found in the music itself, apart from its openness to the world, its inclusion and infusion of cultural elements from across the border, and a great sense of "voice", creativity and adventure. And these will always be winning characteristics.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

François Carrier & Michel Lambert - Io (FMR, 2015) ****½

By Stef

After Kathmandu (2007), Nada (2009) and Shores And Ditches (2013), this is the fourth duo album of François Carrier on alto and Michel Lambert on drums. On top of that, they have performed numerous times in various line-ups and albums, so no wonder they sound almost like one person.

The good thing is that these guys get better all the time, focusing on their incredible strength of sympathetic, empathetic and telepatic interplay, letting the music grow organically, as if the music determines its own destiny and the musicians just help to move it forward, and last but not least because of their energetic lyricism that I have mentioned in earlier reviews. Even if this is 'only' a duo setting, this is music that is expansive, meant to conjure up universal feelings of space and humanity and joy. And the great thing is that this is what you feel when listening to it. The music can be agonizing, as on some pieces of the lengthy title track when Carrier screams his heart out, or just playful as on "Mock Sun" when the melody almost turns classical folksy. Just to illustrate the quality of the improvisations, each track has phrases and moments that keep the improvisation focused, but each track also has phrases and melody lines that would make non-improvising composers jealous. That good.

So what has changed with the previous albums? I think the performance is even more direct, rawer and in that sense also more authentic. I also believe that they give themselves more time to develop and grow their instant compositions, in contrast to the shorter pieces on Nada. Carrier's use of the Chinese horn on "Big Bounce" takes us back to his admiration for Dewey Redman. Lambert's drumming is also at a very high level, just listen to "Albedo" to get an idea of how pulse and rhythm can sound different and propulsing the improvisation forward, how power and subtlety can be combined.

There is a kind of simplicity in it all that makes it doubly attractive. They find no need to complicate things, to demonstrate anything whatsoever, to create novelty per se, to put the musicians center stage. The real star here is the music, in all its freedom and beauty.

PS - I wish I could show you some Youtube video with both artists, but the only ones I could find where with larger line-ups.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Assif Tsahar & Tatsuya Nakatani - I Got It Bad (Hopscotch, 2014) ****

By Stef

Sax-player Assif Tsahar has a very distinct profile as a musician. With his own bands or with the Digital Primitives, his voice is one of soul, of the pleasure of sound, the joy of rhythm or the fun of the interplay with like-minded musicians. Drummer and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani is also a musical nomad living in the US, and his style is more cerebral with an approach that is more in the moment than Tsahar's linear progression, yet both are story-tellers of a different nature, but the interaction is excellent.

Their third album together is also named after a Duke Ellington song, but the music is anything but Duke Ellington's. Tracks like "Gaze", can be reminiscent of 60s cool jazz, a slow dancing piece, but then almost of a drunk nature, "Reclaim", is a fierce free jazz blow and beat session, "Whisper" is more fragile, performed on bass clarinet and multiple little percussion instruments, "Search" is slow and mysterious, and I have the impression that with each of the twenty short tracks, the music gets darker and darker, culminating in a wonderful bass clarinet on "Glow" to - almost - end the album.

They have lots of different approaches here, lots of different styles, yet it's still coherent, unassuming but good.

And "they got it really bad". Nothing to cheer you up, but an album to thoroughly enjoy.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dom Minasi & Chris Kelsey - Duets NYC/Woodstock (Tzazz Krytyk,2015) ****

By Paul Acquaro

I recently covered a duo recording of guitarist Dom Minasi paired with saxophonist Blaise Siwula. Last year, I wrote about one with pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, and another with Hans Tammen. The duo format seems to be one that Minasi enjoys, and for that I'm greatful, as his latest with soprano sax player Chris Kelsey, Duets NYC/Woodstock, is an absolute joy of an album.

I was unfamiliar with Kelsey's playing but am hooked now. The duo locks into strong grooves that rely on implicit pulses - and how they move! There are a great deal of rapid fire runs, but they are balanced against an equal amount of reflective moments.

The opener 'Fondness & Trepidation' both sports a fun title and a wealth of musical ideas. I would say that fondness is the operative work and trepidation just a bit of self-effacing humor as the duo shows great compatibility from the get go. Minasi strums, plucks and picks, and you can sense the camaraderie after Kelsey's first few notes. Speaking of which, there are many, as his melodic lines rise and fall with vim and vigor. 

The two standout tracks are 'Rod Serling' and 'Say What', which come towards the middle and end of the album. The former starts with Minasi offering a melody and Kelsey reacting with a repetitive motif, gaining in speed and ferocity until reaching a breaking point, and beginning again. The latter features Kelsey's elliptical and syncopated melody against the fierce comping that Minasi uses to deftly manipulate the direction of the musical conversation.

If you only get one Dom Minasi duo album this year, get this one, and then while you're at it, pick up the others.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Open Loose - The Signal Maker (Intakt, 2015) ****½

The Signal Maker is the latest effort by the Open Loose Trio, comprised of Mark Helias (bass), Tony Malaby (saxophone), and Tom Rainey (drums).  It is a no nonsense affair, muscular in attitude, and as creatively involving as any jazz trio album I have ever heard.  Tony Malaby's playing is his finest on record.  Prodded constantly by Helias' pulsating bass and Rainey's dynamic percussion,  Malaby is stretched well beyond his usual range, notes pouring forth Mahanthappa like in intensity and lyrical, Kontiz like in quiet but intense improvisation.  

The album opens with the title track "The Signal Maker," with Rainey firing off an opening salvo of cymbals, simmering to a bubbling beat as Malaby and Helias launch into an exhilarating  free bop throw down.  Other outstanding tracks are:  "Ca Vous Gene," with its snake like interplay and rhythm between the musicians and  "Post Post," for it's balancing act of delicate emotion that threatens to veer into total chaos.  "End Point" is aggressive and fierce, each musician trading blows like fighters, highlighted by an amazing funky break 2/3 into the piece, a counter to the frenetic free form that preceded it.  Motoric" by comparison, is straight forward, but Rainey's machine gun beats and changes are outstanding, and Malaby responds with some of his most intensely lyrical playing to date.  

Throughout The Signal Maker is a passionate, intense work that exploits the best of their abilities.  Post bop mixed with improv at its finest. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Drum 'n' Bass update

By Stef

Over the almost eight years of this blog's existence, the line-up with only bass and drums is one of the least reviewed, because probably the least performed. Henry Grimes and Rashied Ali come to mind, and the brothers Marcin Oles and Brat Oles.

So here is a quick update on some recent albums with the same format, but with very different music.

Charles Rumback & John Tate - Daylight Savings (Ears & Eyes, 2015) ***½

Both Charles Rumback on drums, and John Tate on bass, have performed in all musical genres, including creative jazz, but also with rock and pop bands, and they met in the Chicago jazz scene. On this intimate and very jazzy album, they show how great the limited line-up of bass and drums can be. The accessibility of the music makes this an album that is somewhat out of scope of this blog's profile, yet the beauty of the sounds, the rhythmic subtleties and the overall warmth make it such a pleasure to hear, that I wanted to make sure that fans of good music, without pretense, but with excellent execution, could be made aware of it. The superb quality of the sound, and the perfect balance between bass and drums is a great example of how the bass-drums duet should ideally be recorded, and that's unfortunately not always the case. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Gonçalo Almeida & Friso Van Wijck - Dialogues, Quarrels & Other Conversations (Cylinder Records, 2015) ***½

It's only a short album, around twenty minutes long, with Gonçalo Almeida ("Lama", "Albatre", "Tetterapadequ"on bass and Friso van Wijck on drums. The single track starts with slow arco wailing, like whales, getting agitated when the percussion beats hit the ears, switching to pizzi and back to arco, creating soundscapes full of dramatic power and tension, in a well-paced and slow development. Van Wijk uses a whole range of percussion instruments and extended techniques on piano strings (?) bells and other objects. 

The end result is short, but is equally not very expensive. A great short performance. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Antonio Ramírez, Marco Serrato & Borja Díaz - Arconte (Sentencia Records, 2014) ***½

Despite the three names in the title, this is a bass-drums duo, with the third name of Antonio Ramírez being the illustrator whose work inspired bassist Marco Serrato and drummer Borja Diaz to perform their music. Each of the tracks is the result of the drawings by Ramírez, which come in a handy booklet together with the record.

Both musicians offer us a broad spectrum from very expressive and expansive, rockish, sometimes aggressive playing, as in the title track, to more intimate free improv, with lots of silence and quiet subtlety. The music not only tries to reflect the visual impressions and transform it into sonic evocations, but it also tries to use the same technique of the illustrator's subconscious and automatic drawings.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Milford Graves & Bill Laswell - Space, Time/Redemption (TUM, 2015) *

I am not sure what to think of this album. On the one hand you have Milford Graves, who is a centipede on the drums, polyrhythmic and even beyond rhythm at times, wonderful to listen to, including on this album. On the other hand you have bassist Bill Laswell, whose music and playing has always left me quite indifferent, but here it no longer does, it irritates me. Laswell's electric bass and the electronic alterations create a fusion-like kitsch to most of his endeavours, and things are not different here. Pieces such as "Eternal Signs", "Another Space" and "Another Time" are bland fusion excursions, without the instrumental pyrotechnics. Tracks like "Sonny Sharrock" and "Autopossession" are better because the role of Graves is more dominant. Still, it's all a pretty bland and synthetic affair. Well, maybe I am sure what to think of this album. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

To Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman Update

By Stef

As a further tribute to Ornette, here is an updated list of the all 172 Lonely Woman versions in my possession. The composition's quality is so easily demonstrated by the large variety of genres in which it is being performed, from traditional mainstream vocal jazz, over free jazz, classical music, latin music, noise rock, modern classical, prog rock, ambient and avant-garde. Everybody seems to find something great in it, and is inspired to perform it, over and beyond all personal tastes. If you have additional suggestions, please let me know in the comments section below (and please not the Horace Silver composition with the same title). Thanks in advance!

8 Bold Souls – Side Show
Aceyalone - Human Language
Addax - Pa' Mi Gitana
Agustí Fernández, Baldo Martinez & Ramón López - Triez 
Ahmed Abdullah’s Ebonic Tones – Tara’s Song
Aki Takase & Silke Eberhard - Ornette Coleman Anthology
Alain Sève & Yves Rodde-Migdal - Bleu Paris
Alan Broadbent - Heart To Heart
Alan Wilkinson - Practice
Albin & Rebekah Zak - Sphinx
Amon Düül - Hijack (bizarre rock latin version)
Aram Shelton 4tet - Everything for Somebody
Ariel - 31 Bars
Assif Tsahar - Open Systems
Astrosonic - Speeder People
Attila Dora - Solo Baritone Sax
Barney Wilen - Dear Prof. Leary 
Basquiat Strings - Basquiat Strings
BB-Band - Odissey On Earth
Benoît Delbecq & Fred Hersh Double Trio - Fun House 
Big Tall Wish – Leverage (Rock – ambient)
Bill Carrothers & Marc Copland – No Choice
Bill Smith Ensemble - The Subtle Deceit of the Quick Gloved Hand
Billy Bang - Bangception Willisau 1982
Bob Gluck Trio - Sideways 
Boel/Emborg/Vinding/Riel - Shadow Of Love
Borah Bergman & Hamid Drake – Reflections On Ornette Coleman
Brad Cox - Beginners
Brad Mehldau, Kevin Hays & Patrick Zimmerli - Modern Music
Branford Marsalis - Random Abstract
Bruno Angelini - Lonely Woman - Huit Femmes
Bushman´s Revenge: Electric Komle - Live! 
Carol Morgan - Blue Glass Music 
Cécile Broché & Etienne Bouyer Duo
Charlie Haden/Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell – The Montreal Tapes
Charlie Haden’s Quartet West – In Angel City
Charlie Haden & Jim Hall
Charlie Haden - The Private Collection
Charnet Moffett - Spirit Of Sound
Chris Connor - Free Spirit
Claudine François – Lonely Woman
Claudio Cojaniz & Gianarlo Schiaffini - War Orphans
Cooke Quartet – Searching
Cruel Frederick - Birth of the Cruel 
Daniele Cavallanti - A World Of Sound Quartet
Dave Douglas Trio - On Air London - Lonely Woman (Bootleg)
Dave Goldberg – Jazz Standard
Dave King - I've Been Ringing You
Dave Liebman – Ghosts (world)
Dave Liebman- Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman
Dave Liebman, Bob Moses & Eddie Gomez - Spirit Renewed
David Liebman, Richie Beirach, Ron McLure, Billy Hart - Redemption
David Rothenberg & Lewis Porter - Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast
Denison Kimball Trio - Soul Machine
Denny Zeitlin - Live At The Trident
Desert Island Dicks - The Shades Of Jazz To Come
Diamanda Gallas – La Serpenta Canta
Dominick Farinacci - Lovers, Tales And Dancers
Don Cherry – Featuring Ornette Coleman & Steve Lacy
Don Cherry Quartet - Live In Nervi
Double U – The Glands of External Secretion (slide guitar, blues)
Elise Einarsdotter Ensemble & Lena Willemark - Senses
Elsner/Räther/Maichel - The Song Is You
Frank Kimbrough - Lonely Woman
Fred Hersch - Evanescence
Fred Hersch Trio - Alive At The Vanguard
Freda Payne- After The Lights Go Down
Gary Bartz & Sonny Fortune - Alto Memories
Gebhard Ullmann and Andreas Willers - Suite Noire
George Gruntz - St Peter Power
George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band - The MPS Years
Giovanni Mirabassi - Huit Femmes
Good For Cows - Good For Cows
Greg Malcolm - Homesick For Nowhere (noise rock)
Grencsó Open Collective - Homespun In Black & White
Guarneri Underground - New World
Guido Mazzon - Other Line
Hanna Boel - The Shining Of Things (vocal) 
Hayasaka Sachi & Stir Up - Straight To The Core
Hellen Merrill & Dick Katz - A Shade Of Difference
HR Big Band - Plays The Music Of Ornette Coleman
Hugh Hopper - Hopper Tunity Box
Hugh Ragin – Metaphysical Question
Ignaz Schick's Decollage 3 - Lonely Woman
Jacques Berrocal - Catalogue
Jaki Byard - July in Paris
James Blood Ulmer - Music Speaks Louder Than Words
Janka Flachsman - Breath
Jarek Smietana - The Good Life
Jay Clayton - All Out
Jazz Doctors - Intensive Care
Jean-Paul Celea - Yes, Ornette!
Joachim Kühn & Archie Shepp - Lonely Woman
João Lencastre's Communion - One
Jocque & Le Scott - The Ornette Coleman Songo
Joe Giardullo & Michael Bisio – Primal Intentions
John Lewis & Sven Asmussen - European Encounter
Joe McPhee's Po Music - The Loneliest Woman
John Zorn – Naked City
Joleste - Who Knows? 
Joshua Redman – Momentum
Juhani Aaltonen Trio - Illusion Of A Ballad
Karin Krogg - Different Days, Different Ways
Ken Peplowski – The Other Portrait (classical symphonic)
Kiyoshi Kitagawa with Kenny Barron & Brian Blade - Prayer
Kronos Quartet – White Man Sleeps (modern classical)
Kyle Bruckman - Wrack
Larry Schneider Quartet – Ornettology
Lester Bowie – Fast Last
Linda Sharrock - And She Answered (vocal)
Lisa Manosperti - Where The West Begins : Voicing Ornette Coleman
Luther Thomas - In Denmark
Magos Herrera, Iraida Noriega - Soliluna (vocal)
Marc Copland & Bill Carrothers - Huit Femmes
Marcin Oles - Ornette On Bass (3 versions of bass solo)
Mark Doyle – Guitar Noir (rock)
Mark Wyand - I'm Old Fashioned
Marzette Watz - Lonely Woman
Masayuki Takayanagi - Lonely Woman (solo electric guitar)
Maurizio Brunod - Solo
Mecolodiacs - Glamjazz
Michael Bisio & Joe McPhee – Fingers Wrigglers (1) (free)
Michael Bisio & Joe McPhee – Fingers Wrigglers (2) (free)
Michael Bocian - Premonition
Misja Fitzgerald Michel - Encounter
Miroslav Vitous Group - Remembering Weather Report
Modern Jazz Quartet - Lonely Woman
Nancy Walker - Luminosity
Natraj – The Goat Also Gallops (world jazz)
Old & New Dreams – Old & New Dreams
Oles/Trzaska/Oles - Danziger Strassenmuzik
Ombak - Fan Bricks
Open Systems - Is
Ornette Coleman – The Shape Of Jazz To Come
Ornette Coleman Quartet - The Love Revolution
Otomo Yoshihide - Lonely Woman
Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Quintet - Live at Shinjuku Pit Inn
Panorama Brass Band - 17 Days
Paul van Kemenade & Ron van Rossum - Duo
Peter Brötzmann - 14 Love Poems
Petite Vengeance - Mon Amérique A Toi
Phil Grenadier & Bruno Råberg - Plunge
Pierre Dorge – Giraf
Popol Lavanchy - En Ver et Contre Tout
Quest - Quest
Quest - Redemption Live In Europe 
Radka Toneff – Live In Hamburg (vocal)
Ran Blake - Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano
Renata Friederich Close-Up - Lonely Woman
Renaud Garcia-Fons & Gérard Marais - Acoustic Songs (guitar/bass duo)
Rhinoceri Trio - Libera Me
Ryan Burns - Live At The Lab
Sachi Hayasaka & Stir Up! - Straight To The Core
Sergi Sirvent - Free Quartet
SF Jazz Collective - Inaugural Season Live 2004
Sheila Cooper - Tales Of Love And Longing (vocal)
Sigrid Meyer & Serene
Silvia Donati - Singing In The Brain (vocal)
Sophia Domancich & Goubert Simon- You Don't Know What Love Is
Sophia Domancich - Tirana Moods + You Don't Know What Love Is
Sophia Domancich - Washed Away
Stan Kenton - Concert In Progressive Jazz
Stan Kenton & June Christy - Duet
Stephan Oliva & Claude Tchamitchian - Huit Femmes
Stephan Oliva & Jean-Marc Foltz - Huit Femmes
Stephan Oliva & Suzanne Abbuehl - Huit Femmes
Stephan Oliva & Joey Baron - Huit Femmes
Stephan Oliva & Linda Sharrock - Huit Femmes
Stephanie Winters – Through The Storm (classical cello solo)
Steve Berrios And Son Bacheche - First World
Sunny Murray - Perles Noires
Sunny Sumter- Sunny
Susanne Abbuehl – I Am Rose 
Taarka - The Martian Picture Soundtrack
Takashi Kako - Long Journey
Takeda Kazunori Meets Furusawa Ryojiro - Infinity
Tango Lorca – Mujer Sola (tango)
Terumasa Hino -- Crimson
Terence Blanchard - Simply Stated
Tied & Tickled Trio and Billy Hart - La Place Demon
Tiziana Ghiglioni - Lonely Woman
Tiziano Tononi - Peace Warriors, Vol. 2
Todd Bishop Group - Little Played Little Bird 
Trio X - Live In Vilnius
Trio X – Roulette At Location One
Trio X – Moods : Playing With The Elements
Uschi Brüning - Ornette Et Cetera 
Vandermark 5 - Alchemia
Vic Juris - Omega Is The Alpha 
Waclaw Zimpel, Wojtek Traczyk, Robert Rasz - The Light
Willem Breuker Kollectief - Thirst
Wolfgang Pushnig, Linda Sharrock, Uli Scherer - AM4
Yochk'o Seffer - Ornette For Ever

To Ornette Coleman

In memory of Ornette Coleman, who passed away on June 11th, we are presenting reflections on selections from his influential discography. The recordings presented here not in release order but rather grouped by our contributors. We look forward to your thoughts as well.

Something Else!!!! (Atlantic, 1958)

The very first Ornette Coleman album from 1958, with a very programmatic title and four exclamation marks. An album with Coleman on alto, Don Cherry on cornet, Don Payne on double bass and Billy Higgins on drums. Amazingly enough, we find Walter Norris on piano, an instrument that is not usually used by Coleman, because the use of chords forced the band too much into a straight-jacket. Even if the album sounds very very very accessible today, with recogniseable structures and soloing, early listeners will have sensed the tension between Ornette's direction and the still conservative approach of his band members. The album has some fantastic compositions as "The Blessing", "When Will The Blues Leave?" and "The Sphinx". Today's listeners will find nothing bizarre about the album, and catalogue it as bop. For an in-depth discussion on this album, read Ethan Iverson's piece here.

Tomorrow is the Question! (Atlantic, 1959)

Dating from 1959, Tomorrow Is The Question! - with one exclamation mark - is a good continuation of Something Else!!!!, yet without adding much musically. The band is still not the right one to work with Coleman, with Don Cherry on cornet, and without a piano, but now with Percy Heath and Red Mitchell on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums. All good musicians, but not yet the ideal ensemble to take on Coleman's adventurous music. The absence of a piano gives Coleman and Cherry more freedom to solo without being hampered by chord progressions.

- Stef

Ornette! (Atlantic, 1961)

When first encountering a vast and important discography such as Ornette Coleman’s, where do you start? For me, it came down to pure chance as, many years ago, I picked up Ornette! from the bargain bin at a local record store. As it often happens with albums that first open up a whole new world of musical expressions and strange idioms to the listener, it remains one of my favourite Ornette Coleman albums to date. Recorded shortly after Free Jazz, probably and objectively not one of Coleman’s best records, it still dazzles me with its extended pieces, aggressive and propulsive sound, and an exhilarating, childlike sense of discovery. It shows Coleman and his cohorts beginning to find focus as they explore new venues freed from rules and preconceptions.

Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (Atlantic, 1960)

A record whose name today possibly supersedes the importance of the music itself. Free Jazz is still considered to be the one album that somehow defines Coleman’s music, at least to a larger audience, even if it’s not remotely as radical and unconventional as some of his later stuff. Historical importance aside, Free Jazz is a great, accessible yet powerful record that features a double quartet made of musicians that would go on to shape the face of jazz for decades to come. It still sounds immense today, even to spoilt ears, with powerful collective improvisations and clashes between horns laid atop an almost chaotic, complex but firm rhythm section.

Science Fiction (Columbia, 1971)

It’s impossible not to be nonplussed when confronted with the frenzied, electrifying music that Coleman and his varying, dynamic group push out on Science Fiction. A crossroads of sorts for Coleman (and his first record for Columbia), it fuses his earlier efforts with hints of what was to come. The album presents itself as an eclectic mix of influences and ideas, featuring pop-like vocals, recitation, musette playing, and swirling horns, but is also often dominated and formed by Charlie Haden’s visceral, liquid bass and by Billy Higgins’s and Ed Blackwell’s intense, focused and precise drumming. Science Fiction is yet another proof of how Coleman’s music was mercurial, ever changing, and with a penchant of defying conventions and fixed descriptions as the man himself.

- Antonio Poscic

Ornette on Tenor (Atlantic, 1962)

I remember asking a friend (another sax player) about this album many years ago, he replied, "It's great, Ornette sounds just the same, but on tenor", and he was right! Ornette on Tenor, recorded in 1961, is (or could be) the album that Coltrane wanted to record with Don Cherry, or that Sonny Rollins hoped to make when he recorded Our Man in Jazz. However it took Ornette to come up with the definitive album of freebop on tenor. This was his last record on Atlantic and I guess the end of the classic quartet - Jimmy Garrison replaces Charlie Haden on this one. At times Ornette sounds like Dewey Redman, with whom he worked later, using the tenor in a way that I guess must have influenced Dewey's vocal approach. Although the compositions are slightly less 'memorable', the group swings through the music and interact together in a way that wasn't on the earlier albums. After this Ornette disbanded the group and went on to form his classic trio.

The Empty Foxhole (Blue Note, 1966)

My second choice is the formidable trio record, The Empty Foxhole, recorded on Blue Note in 1966. This is another Ornette album that side-steps fans and critics understanding of his music. An album which has several oddities, it features his eclectic violin and trumpet playing, and also introduces us to his son Denardo on drums, only 10 at the time. In fact it's an album that you probably either love, or you just don't get! I love the purity of sound throughout, Ornette's brittle alto, the screaming trumpet and the scratching violin on Sound Gravitation. It's great to hear how Charlie Haden never faulters, keeping the music flowing, whilst Denardo adds-in rhythm and colour. In fact, I can imagine that back in 1966 this must have sounded very odd, but when thinking about modern free time players such as Nasheet Waits or Paal Nilssen-Love it all makes perfect sense now.

- Joe Higham

This Is Our Music (Atlantic, 1960)

Quite simply, this was my Rosetta stone, the album that decoded the potential freedoms of jazz by expressing them in the context of rules that had governed the music. Whilst all of the Atlantic period albums are of comparable quality and vie for pole in my affections, despite arguments for chronology this one pips them all. Ed Blackwell's presence and the melodic swing it imbues, and the one-two of the cover and title, asserting a stance and attitude that this is our music on our terms.

Chappaqua Suite (Columbia, 1965)

Coleman strove to address the confines of both the music, and the perception of what a 'jazz musician' should be and could achieve. This soundtrack, ultimately unused for fear of being so beautiful it would overpower the film it was intended for, is a sweeping orchestral statement which places his 'jazz' trio in a context which absolutely validates Coleman's assertion that he be considered as a composer, beyond the limiting stigma of his 'jazz' roots.

New Vocabulary (System Dialing Records, 2015)

It recent weeks it has become clear that this is a contentious album, it's release having not been sanctioned by Coleman's camp. However, the music within finds Ornette doing what he'd done time and again, finding a new way to frame his conception and express himself. To hear him guide his younger cohorts through areas which touch on the Dixon/Oxley 'Papyrus' recordings, or a skeletal Chicago Underground Duo, is sadly the final example of Ornette searching for new routes along the road less/untravelled.

- Matthew Grigg

The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959)

Rarely have a group of musicians – Ornette, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins (now all departed) – reached such maturity in so short a time, and under a title that from anyone else would have been monstrous arrogance. The length of Ornette’s shadow has a reach over which few have felt able to jump – there can’t be a jazz musician alive who hasn’t learnt something from this album – and yet his playing was so singular and his compositions so utterly unique that it’s often proved difficult for others to avoid sounding derivative. The album contains tunes that have become standards, most notably Lonely Women, one of the most haunting melodies ever written, and Ornette’s most covered composition; all the more surprising as it opens with two different pulses running simultaneously: part of its spellbinding effect.

At the "Golden Circle" Stockholm, Volumes One and Two (Blue Note, 1965)

This Trio toured Europe in 1965 – 1966 and although it hasn’t received the plaudits of the earlier Atlantic quartets – possibly due to the limited recordings that were made – it provided Ornette with arguably his most flexible and responsive rhythm section: David Izenzon (bass) and Charles Moffett (drums, percussion). As the sole melody instrument, Ornette’s alto (with occasional violin and trumpet) was not so much exposed as revealed in all its glory, showing how central the human voice was to his playing – its cries, laments and laughter. Think of speech patterns rather than bar line metre, and it all falls into place.

In All Languages (Caravan Of Dreams Productions, 1987)

A good way to hear how Ornette’s two major phases relate, as eight of these vignettes (only one lasts longer than four minutes) are covered by both his acoustic The Shape of Jazz to Come quartet and the electric Prime Time double-quartet (Ornette plus two guitars, two bass guitars and two drummers) allowing side by side comparisons. Ornette’s inspired melodic explorations -- the range of places to which a tune can be taken -- are common to both settings, but the acoustic quartet has the bonus of Don Cherry’s delicately chiselled contributions, Haden’s perfectly weighted notes and the melodic contours of Higgins’ drums. Prime Time, which was more about group texture than personalities, throws Ornette’s playing into sharper relief as his agile lines dance across the band’s glittering cross-currents.

- Colin Green

Twins (Atlantic, 1971)

An album of outtakes from the Atlantic years, Twins contains the first take of “Free Jazz” and a vehicle for bassist Scott La Faro called “Chalk Up,” which are probably the selling points; but the remaining three cuts almost outshine them. “Joy of a Toy” and “Little Symphony,” both from the This Is Our Music sessions, are full of light but challenging work, especially from drummer Ed Blackwell, who swings better than most hard bop players on their best days. The main theme of “Monk & The Nun” does its namesake justice while Don Cherry's solo predates the type of runs Miles Davis would play during his electric years a decade later.

“AOS” from Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band (Apple, 1970)

Yoko's warbled cries bury Ornette's crying trumpet warbles as an orgasmic climax turns homicidal on this rehearsal tape featuring Coleman's band from 1968. (The band is Blackwell, Haden, David Izenzon & Coleman.) Ono's cues lead throughout, making this more flux than free, and the piece ends with a few flying globs of phlegm in your ear.
Predates No Wave by eight or nine years.

Skies of America (Columbia, 1972)

Ornette's grandest orchestral work, Skies of America conjures up beautiful (but stormy) landscapes that encompass every stage of the American dream – including the fear, greed, and white self-righteousness that resulted in the blood of Native Americans and the horror of slavery. Is it any wonder that certain passages sound like Charles Ives scored a thunderstorm? I'm reminded of Ives and Duke and Partch and Moondog – iconoclastic brothers of Coleman's in a cruel, intolerant world – whenever I listen to this recording; but mostly I think about how wholly compassionate Ornette was to sift through the history and the landscapes and the God and the shit of America and mold it into a work of un-pretty, difficult, unflinchingly honest beauty so that we might recognize ourselves in it – as equals.

- Tom Burris

‘Free Funk Workouts’

Three of my favourite Ornette Coleman albums are some of his lesser-known works. In particular, I’ve chosen three albums which all have Bern Nix & Charlie Ellerbee on electric guitars and Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass. Combined with Ornette’s unique harmolodic approach these three excellent albums whip up a free funk that still sounds as fresh as the day it was recorded.

Body Meta (Artists House, 1976)

Recorded before the Dancing In Your Head album but released after it, this was a new and welcome departure for Coleman, who yet again dared to do something different. His horn sounds at home amongst the angularities of the guitars and the funky bass, which is rhythmically delineated by the drumming of Ronald Shannon Jackson. A gem in his back catalogue that surely now deserves a long awaited re-release.

Of Human Feelings (Antilles, 1982)

This album features similar personnel to Body Meta but this time with two drummers. Released under his own name again but practically a Prime Time album where four to the floor disco beats mix it up with heterophonic melodies. This is a right royal funkster that is as dense at times as it is downright groovy.

Opening The Caravan Of Dreams (Caravan of Dreams, 1983)

This live album billed as ‘Ornette & Prime Time’ features Coleman fronting the full two guitars, two basses and two drummers line-up. There are six originals on this that show why they were THE ‘free funk’ band. Sharp contrasts of simple riff-based melodies, chaotic sounding textures, free blowing and more spacious interplay makes this album a great document of Ornette’s music around this period.

- Chris Haines

Beauty is a Rare Thing - The Complete Atlantic Recordings (Rhino/Atlantic Jazz Gallery, 1993)

By the time that this box was released Coleman’s legendary quartet music did not sound radical or revolutionary, at least not to me. Still it taught me a lot about freedom, beauty and love. Even today, I am still fascinated by its intuitive melodic, its impeccable rhythmic drive and its urgent passion and joyful spirit. The music radiates a great need to shout - I, we, the quartet - found a new sound, beautiful sound, and our search for this sound was, still is, so liberating and full of joy.

- Eyal Hareuveni

Virgin Beauty (Portrait Records, 1988)

This was my first Ornette Coleman album, which I purchased because of guest guitarist Jerry Garcia (I was in college, it was the early 90s, and I had much to learn). I didn't get it at first - the music was often frenetic, the rhythms funky but the harmonies didn't conform entirely to what I had been conditioned to - and it took a little while for me to really hear it. "Three Wishes" has a single note motif that repeats incessantly and devilishly as the music pivots around it. The track 'Chanting' is a lovely ballad with Coleman on trumpet, and Garcia contributes flair to three of the tracks, like on 'Singing in the Shower' over its 'Shakedown Street' like riff. The band is a double quartet with guitarists Bern Nix and Charlie Ellerbee, electric bassists Al MacDowell and Chris Walker, and drummers Denardo Coleman and Calvin Weston.

Crisis (Impulse, 1969)

Crisis is a live album recorded at New York University in 1969 featuring Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Denardo Coleman and Dewey Redman. It's kin to Broken Shadows and Science Fiction (or, the Complete Science Fiction) and is an out-of-print gem.  The musical program features Haden's 'Song For Che' which simply levitates from the grooves and beautiful renditions of songs like 'Trouble in the East'. Just listen to how the peaceful flute-work that opens the piece is shattered by the saxophone, then coalesces into a frantic dance. The seemingly politicized album cover, sporting the Bill of Rights burning with the title printed starkly on it, is nearly reason enough to seek it out.

Song X (Geffen, 1986)

It's old news now, but Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny's collaboration was a surprise. The guitarist  can be a bit saccharine at times but then comes up with brilliant project like Song X. The album was recorded with bassist Charlie Haden (who worked with both Coleman and Metheny) and drummers Denardo Coleman and Jack DeJohnette. The music is Coleman originals along with some mutually penned compositions. I think what Allmusic says captures it best: "Metheny often manages to be a quite expressive second voice, racing along beside the master saxophonist, offering alternative strategies and never showboating... and in fact, the album also contains some of Coleman's best work since the mid-'70s."

- Paul Acquaro

Change of the Century (Atlantic, 1960)

The record which revealed to me just how many chances a jazz musician could take and still swing. Yes, it’s true that this music doesn’t sound nearly as radical now as it did when it was released in 1960. But Coleman’s and Don Cherry’s playful leaps and heartfelt cries were (and remain) pretty adventurous stuff—and with the unfailingly nimble and fluid rhythm section of Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, each cut still possesses an irresistible groove. “Ramblin’” in particular is an all-time classic and a superb representation of Coleman’s most accessible work.

Soapsuds, Soapsuds (Artists House, 1977)

In a duet setting with Charlie Haden, Ornette’s melodic side comes to the surface with arresting passages of lyrical beauty. The dialogue between the two musicians is stunning on these five tracks, and the recording quality is superb, particularly noteworthy as it highlights Haden’s outstanding bass playing. This is now out of print, unfortunately, but certainly worth getting for the sheer joy of hearing Coleman stretch out on pieces that are consistently expansive and explorative.

Sound Grammar (Sound Grammer, 1996)

Released in 2006, ten years after his previous record (Sound Museum: Three Women), this worthy document reminded all of us of Coleman’s continuing vitality at a youthful 75 years of age. With an astonishingly tight group, consisting of Denardo Coleman on drums and two bassists (Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga, the latter heard to exceptionally fine effect on arco), Sound Grammar showcases Ornette in a live performance of mostly classic Coleman repertoire, and the energy and sense of adventure that define each track more than justify the record’s winning the Pulitzer Prize in music that year. The rendition of “Song X” that closes the record is at times jaw-dropping in its group cohesion and righteous fury.

- Troy Dostert