Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Raphael Rogiński - Plays John Coltrane and Langston Hughes. African Mystic Music (Bôłt, 2015) ****½


By Eric McDowell

Readers of this blog may know Raphael Rogiński for his justly celebrated treatments of Jewish and Eastern European music, including his Shofar trio (with Mikolaj Trzaska and Macio Moretti) and his work with Wacław Zimpel (Music of the Yemenite Jews, Hera’s Seven Lines). Though these and related projects are important to Rogiński’s ambitions as a guitarist, composer, and activist, his interests and influences range widely—see for example his collaboration with DJ Lemar (also reviewed on the blog) or his recordings of Bach. In his latest solo guitar effort, released earlier this summer under the Polish label Bôłt’s Populista series, Rogiński turns his attention to one of the giants of the jazz canon, John Coltrane.

On African Mystic Music, Rogiński reworks eight Coltrane compositions and offers up two of his own as accompaniment for text by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes (sung by Natalia Przybysz). But “covers” would certainly be the wrong word here. Rogiński’s interpretations of Coltrane, compared for instance to Mary Halvorson’s new Meltframe, are at times quite abstracted from their source material. While the purists may be disappointed, though, the rest of us will marvel at Rogiński’s musical alchemy.

The opening rendition of “Blue Train” sets a very high bar for the tracks to follow. Eschewing the self-possession of the original, Rogiński builds his take from starts and feints, gaining momentum with gorgeously elastic and permutating finger-picked arpeggios that dig down, rise up, and then resolve into perfect gifts of sound. The balance Rogiński cultivates is expert—the music manages to be light but not delicate, dense but not muddled, intense but not frenzied. And because of the intimacy of the recording itself, the friction of the guitarist’s fingers on the strings and the sounds of his breath become complicit in the devastating beauty of the playing. The ultimate result is more head-nodding than foot-tapping as we find a center in the nest of rapidly woven notes.

Track by track Rogiński redeploys variations of this same basic strategy, but the effect across the album is unity, not repetitiveness. After versions of “Equinox” and “Lonnie’s Lament” (appropriately plaintive), “Walkers of the Dawn” introduces a new element as Przybysz delivers Hughes’s poem over an almost mbira-like guitar. Again, rather than any performative extroversion, it’s the closeness of Przybysz’s singing, as if we were overhearing a prayer, that lends intensity to the performance. Together with the darkly manic “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Przybysz’s contributions offer a worthy complement to the Coltrane interpretations and qualify among African Mystic Music’s several highlights—two of which round the album out. “Seraphic Light” matches the agitation of the original, the guitar somehow capturing the blistery, stuttering quality of Rashied Ali’s drums. And “Naima” closes the album, sublime melody intact, a dynamic meditation full of bent notes and pregnant hesitations. It’s obvious that Rogiński knows just where to stop, but as the final notes fade it’s hard not to start the whole thing over.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Darius Jones Quartet (featuring Emilie Lesbros) - Le Bébé de Brigitte (Lost In Translation) (AUM FIDELITY, 2015) ***½

By Joel Barela

This record may be destined for greatness. Perhaps in an era where every album wasn't immediately available for streaming; perhaps where we had a little more time to fall in love before the next something else. For now, its arrival is still pending. It's not from fear. For anyone familiar with Darius Jones, think Little Women. The man is not afraid. In fact, the album's title alone makes reference to Brigitte Fontaine and, in doing so, shows his hand before you hear a single note. The quartet is joined by French vocalist Emilie Lesbros. On the slow but hopeful opener, 'Two Worlds, One Soul', it might seem a mistake, her inclusion. By the time the song gives way to 'Chanteuse In Blue' however, Lesbros has thoroughly poisoned such doubts. More on that in a bit.

'Universal Translator' stumbles pleasantly and sticks to a morphing rhythm section. Its nod-ability is important, as 'Beneath the Skin (We Are Already One)' returns to the silkiness of the opening piece, pleasing, if uneventful. 'I Can't Keep From Weeping' shifts its initial sonic deployment to match Lesbros's devastating vocal conclusion before the album finishes with 'Quand Vient la Nuit', a Lesbros pinned track and one that returns the record to the singer's smoky and twisted blasts. Which brings us back to 'Chanteuse In Blue'. It isn’t often that a nine-minute freight train of a track begins with a bassline that walks around simultaneously dipping its toes in playful cliché and something sinister enough that it reminds us that this form of music largely originated in brothels. By the two-minute mark however, Lesbros’s vocals turn from the incantations of a bouncy temptress to a hybrid scream/retch, at once furious and in absolute despair. Jones’ saxophone returns the noise with a solo like a bid to win her heart back. She eventually responds with her own “solo” of sorts, a series of spoken blasts that seem to reduce the evolution of human language to one fantastic leap from primal, stone age grunting to the cadence of malfunctioning robots. At the seven-minute mark, Lesbros returns with another retch before the band launches into a jackhammer funk that sees the track to its swaggering, sweltering close. It is one of my absolute favorite musical moments of 2015 thus far. And it almost rescues the aforementioned slower moments of the album. Almost. That it exists at all makes this album worth listening to. Jones is on the brink of something, composing without restrictions to defined form, without haste, and absolutely without fear.


 


Monday, September 28, 2015

Otomo Yoshihide – Guitar Solo 2015 LEFT (Doubtmusic, 2015) ****

By Chris Haines

In 1982 Masayuki Takayanagi, one of the greatest free jazz/improv guitarists, released an album of mainly covers played on solo electric guitar.  Unlike many solo jazz guitar albums Takayanagi did not employ the chord/melody technique, where the guitarist can play a tune whilst accompanying themselves with chords giving a full harmonic rendition of a piece.  Instead he recorded it just using the single melodic line of the tunes he chose to cover without any accompaniment, with this approach being used as the format for the whole album.  The album being discussed, Lonely Woman, took its name from the classic Ornette Coleman tune that was the opening track on the album.  Now a classic work in it’s own right the pieces that were covered (also including Charlie Haden’s “Song for Che”, another tune by Lee Konitz, a piece by Lennie Tristano, a folk tune and an original) were used as vehicles and jumping off points for Takayanagi’s spontaneous and extended melodic improvisations on solo electric guitar.

Now thirty-three years later Otomo Yoshihide releases Guitar Solo 2015 LEFT as a tribute to the great Takayanagi.  Having acquired the guitar of his former teacher, Yoshihide pays honour to him by not only using this historic guitar to produce an album of solo improvisations but also taking in two of the pieces originally included on the Takayanagi album, both “Lonely Woman” and “Song for Che”.

Guitar Solo 2015 LEFT is anything but a re-hash of Takayanagi’s Lonely Woman, and although a former student of the great master, Yoshihide has taken his own course over his career path so far and he continues with his own style and way of playing throughout the six tracks on this album.  On “Lonely Woman” he immediately takes more liberties with the tune, ornamenting it with improvised angular phrases and allowing the guitar to feedback on the long sustained tones, which he extends even further by allowing them to ring on.  Utilising what some would consider a weakness of the Gibson archtop guitar, (it’s frequency to easily feedback), and turning it into a strength for his interpretation of the Coleman tune.  On “Song for Che” he incorporates a low open string to act as a drone for the tune, therefore giving it a simple harmonic accompaniment, and carefully uses effects such as reverb and overdrive each time round on the tune to add a different colour to the sound.  Yoshihide also utilises ringing chordal passages in his improvisations, which at times turn into noise based materials giving a much fuller sound spectrum than just the single melodic line.

There are also three originals and a reflective and introverted version of the anti-war song “Kyokun I” (translating as “Lesson One”) by Japanese folk singer Kagawa Ryo.  “The Blue Kite”, a Yoshihide original, starts with a simple traditional style melody, using sustained tones, which gradually develops into something more ferocious and complex, with slashing chords and discordant notes.  The other two tracks are short pieces, “Sono Machi No Kodomo” (The Town’s Children) a simple chord/melody piece, and “2020 Tokyo” a wild frenetic burst of feedback and activity.

There is a sentiment about this album that is partly a memorial for the late great Masayuki Takayanagi, whether through the choice of the covered tunes, the inclusion of extreme noise-based sounds, or the simple pieces that reflect the complexity of the majority of the music on the album.  However, there is also a continuation, a will to carry on and forge something new, through the use of this historic guitar, the established forms that can be used for fresh ideas, and the simpler themes that present a strong contrast to what has gone before.  Yoshihide’s Guitar Solo 2015 LEFT not only provides a meaningful homage to Takayanagi, but is also a musical critique on one of the most important past masters of free jazz guitar.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ben Goldberg - Let's Cool One

Ever curious what it would be like to pack a small room with Ben Goldberg on clarinet,  Steve Cardenas and Liberty Ellman on guitar, Trevor Dunn on bass, Ches Smith on drums and Rob Sudduth on tenor saxophone and then play a Thelonious Monk song so slow that a single 4/4 measure takes almost a minute?

Yes, of course you were, and you will not be disappointed with the results. Check out this gift from Ben Goldberg from his residency at The Stone last winter. It's a free download on Bandcamp.


Evan Parker, Joe Morris and Nate Wooley – Ninth Square (Clean Feed, 2015) ****



With two grizzled veterans of free music, Evan Parker and Joe Morris, working alongside one of the “young guns” of the genre, Nate Wooley, this recording looked on paper to promise a stimulating hour or so of creative, expertly-played improvisations.  And it doesn’t disappoint.

From the album’s opener, “Temple Elm” onward, these guys display the confident assurance of knowing what they’re doing, and trusting in their chops, to allow them to establish conversations in which each can contribute as he sees fit, without trying to dominate the music.  And that’s saying something, because each of these musicians is an outsized presence in free improvisation; for the three to work so well together, really as a unit, is indeed noteworthy.  If the moment calls for Parker to take an extended turn, whether on tenor or soprano sax, Morris and Wooley are content to let him have it; and the same goes for the others.  And it’s just as likely for two of the three to collaborate for a stretch, while the third conceives of a way to join in the conversation, eventually taking the result to another level altogether.  And there are some truly striking moments on this disc: when Parker engages in a sustained solo bout of circular breathing on the fourth track, “Grove State,” for example, it’s an effective example of what his fans have come to love about his music: potent, searching, technically brilliant.  But when Morris and Wooley then join in, three minutes into the cut, the effect is bracing.  They enhance the power of Parker’s already-formidable playing, vividly revealing the potential of what all three are capable of producing together.

Of course, Morris and Wooley are no slouches either, to put it mildly.  Wooley utilizes his usual arsenal of smears, sputters, and other breathing techniques on the trumpet to generate surprise and dynamic flexibility, with frantic flurries of notes alternating with long, sustained tones.  Morris has a wide range of effects and stylistic devices he uses to draw out different sonic textures from his guitar, helping to give a different feel to each of the record’s six tracks.  And the recording quality is quite strong, with Morris in the left channel, Parker in the right, and Wooley in the center, allowing for easy recognition and appreciation of each player’s contributions.  The clarity of the recording is especially striking given that it’s a live performance – one recorded at Firehouse 12 in 2014, in fact.  Really the only thing missing from the recording is the audience, and I’m sure there was a good deal of genuine enthusiasm in the room as these three masters of free improvisation dazzled with their respective talents. 

Yet another exciting recording in the Clean Feed catalogue, highly recommended.

Available from Instantjazz.com and Downtown Music Gallery



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fred Frith/Evan Parker - Hello, I Must Be Going (Victo, 2015) ****½

By Martin Schray

Of all the albums reviewed this week Hello, I Must Be Going, Evan Parker’s duo performance with guitarist Fred Frith, is my favorite one. Although Frith and Parker are both British (however, Frith doesn’t live in Great Britain anymore) and belong to the same generation of European improvisers, this set from Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville 2014 was only their third duo performance.

What makes it different compared to the other reviewed duo albums is the fact that Frith has a very individual and highly elaborate musical language at his disposal with which he can contribute to the musical dialogue with Parker. Frith, who plays his guitar mainly on his lap and who uses an arrangement of objects like e-bows, chopsticks, ashtrays, paintbrushes etc., tries to built up various sounds and musical textures that contrast Parker’s lines on the one hand, on the other hand they provide an almost orchestral background in front of which Parker can elegantly solo. Whether these textures are created by classical strumming, flageolets, feedbacks, repeated tapping on the strings or processed loops, Frith is always a classic team player who seems to  presage where Parker wants to go. And though both players search for novel timbres, Frith makes it always clear that it is a real electric guitar that is being used here (and by the way you can hear that Thurston Moore is obviously influenced by Frith).

The effect is that Evan Parker uses much less or shorter circular breathing passages than in the other two duo releases, he rather throws in short licks or even classic jazz themes (in “Read Thread“ there is a short allusion of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful“, in “Je Me Souviens“ there is a even bebop passage). Frith’s alienated drones and echoes meet typical Parker lines in the title track, and in “Particulars“ Frith’s percussive contributions seem to stem from what sounds like highly fragmented Robert Fripp samples. There is a point where Frith does not provide textures any more, instead he contributes to the improvisation with electronic shrapnel. On “Red Thread“, the longest track,  Parker’s squeezed saxophone tones result in the largest circular breathing passage and Frith simply responds with dark guitar thunder and bass-like sounds.

However, the definite highlight of the album is the closing track “Je Me Souviens“. The last five minutes are pure, pristine sonic rapture with Frith creating layers that sound like organ chords, in front of which he adds accentuated tremolos. Parker counters this carefully knit atmospheric wall of sound with very reluctant pitch variations, he immediately understands what is going on in the background and that you must give this moment time to breathe trying to weave the strands together.

It’s a passage that reminds of Spring Heel Jack’s marvelous “Live - Part II“.

Hello, I Must Be Going is the perfect example of what is possible when the chemistry between two improvisers works, when they are willing to listen and to risk something.  It’s a very recommendable album.

Hello, I Must Be Going is available on CD, you can buy it from www.instantjazz.com and the Downtown Music Gallery.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Evan Parker/Peter Jacquemyn – Marsyas Suite (El Negocito Records,2015) ****

By Martin  Schray

Marsyas is a character in Greek  mythology, sometimes he is referred to as a satyr, sometimes as a peasant. When  the goddess Athena invented the double-reed flute, the first ever reed instrument, she was very pleased with her playing and the sound of the  instrument. But then she saw the  reflection of her face in water and observed the distortion of her features (namely her ballooned cheeks) and threw the instrument away. The one who found it was Marsyas, who soon became a virtuoso double-reed player (some sources also claim that the flute was once inspired by the breath of a goddess and  therefore able to create the most beautiful melodies). Unfortunately, Marsyas became boastful and challenged Apollo, the Greek god and masterful lyre player, to a musical contest in order to find out who can play the more beautiful  music. The victor should be allowed to do what he pleased with the underdog,  the muses were asked to be the umpires. Both contestants played wonderfully and actually the match should have ended in a draw but then Apollo added his voice  to the music of his lyre and finally won. As a result, he punished Marsyas for his hubris, nailed him to a tree and flayed him alive.

A contest was clearly not the idea Evan Parker (tenor and soprano saxophone) and Peter Jacquemyn (double-bass) had  in mind for their album Marsyas Suites, it is rather the notion of what could have been the result of the mythic duel if Marysas and Apollo had played together. Four of the six pieces are duos, two are solos, one by Parker and one by Jacquemyn. Parker’s solo is a six-minute-orgy in circular breathing. The whirlwinds of the upper registers are often counterpointed by single staccato notes in the lower ones, which stresses the meditative and peaceful character of the music.

Jacquemyn, who takes over the Apollo part here, uses fierce bowing and crass overtones (which is quite close to the music Parker created in his solo but it sounds more belligerent) before he stops in the middle of the track adding his voice to his playing (here he reminds of Peter Kowald’s technique) and the music loses its aggressive character.

However, the two solo pieces do not compete with each other, they are interwoven in an artistic whole. In the fifth track conventional and unconventional bass playing, voice, circular breathing and classic saxophone playing are combined, they benefit from each other. Sometimes they dance around each other in the same registers, then again the dark notes of the bass are juxtaposed by high saxophone sounds, before the bass attacks the circular breathing violently.

Evan Parker seems to be on a winning  streak these days (he has released more very good albums, e.g. with Joe Morris and Nate Wooley). This is a rock solid free jazz album, interested listeners won’t be disappointed.

Marsyas Suite was recorded in Bruges in 2012 and is available on CD and as a download. You can buy it from InstantJazz or from the El Negocito website where you can also listen to short passages from the album.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Evan Parker/Motoharu Yoshizawa – Two Chaps (Chap Chap Records,2015) *** ½

 

By Martin Schray 

Being a fan of Evan Parker can be quite stressful for your wallet these days. There are a lot of new releases and then there is also an album with music that has been recorded almost 20 years ago. Two Chaps is a recording with late Japanese bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa (1931 - 1998) consisting of five tracks, four duos and a solo by Parker - but although it is mainly a collaboration, it predominantly highlights Parker’s magnificent technique. On the other hand Yoshizawa, a bassist that is actually underestimated even if he had played with Derek Bailey, Steve Lacy, Barre Phillips or Fred Frith, cannot quite compete with Parker’s enthusiastic playing on this album, it sometimes seems as if he has a hard time keeping up with the saxophone’s quicksilver lines. 

Already on “Two Chaps 3“, which presents him on tenor, Parker seems to warm up with a circular breathing solo, which he interrupts now and then, as if he wanted to give Yoshizawa time to follow him. As a consequence the highlight of the album is Parker’s soprano solo, “One Chap“, one of the best solo tracks one can possibly find. The track is an excellent example of what has become Parker’s trademark and what some people criticize as being redundant: the above-mentioned circular breathing, which he uses excessively, he actually pushes it to the limits here. In this improvisation he dives in the lower registers playing repetitive minimal lines which are foiled by short outcries in the upper ones. It reminds of an Indian snake charmer gone wild. However, the track that does not only prove his outstanding technique but also his exquisite timing and tone. Sometimes it even sounds as if two saxophones are playing and Parker seems to enjoy this so much that he doesn’t really want to stop - the joyride lasts more than 17 minutes (and you wished it would even go longer)!

In his best moments Motoharu Yoshizawa manages to match Parker’s energy with harsh and raspy bass lines (and he can be really good when he elegantly moves between bowing and plucking as in “Two Chaps 3“) and short vocal outbreaks. Unfortunately, he is not able to do this on all the pieces. But one has to be fair as to Yohizawa’s performance: It might have been better at the actual gig, yet on the album his bass is mixed in the background (especially in the more silent passages) which might be a reason why he cannot really shine.

Two Chaps was recorded live by Takeo Suetomi at Café Amores, Hofu, April 29, 1996.
It is available as a limited vinyl edition of 250 and on CD.  The CD version includes a bonus track (“Two Chaps 1“).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Evan Parker Days Intro & Live at Mulhouse


By Martin Schray

People like the British musician and author Peter Urpeth think that Evan Parker has “almost single-handedly re-invented the saxophone and the role the instrument played in improvised music“. Even if he might not have done it single-handedly, he is definitely one of the pioneers in improvised music.

I remember when I saw him first with the Schlippenbach Trio in the late 1990s and suddenly Alex von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens stopped playing and Parker was alone with his instrument playing a soprano solo full of continuous, multilayered sounds. Then I started to look for electronic devices because I thought that one man cannot do that alone. But there weren’t any. I have never seen - and heard - something like that before, such a mixture of spontaneous creativity and incredible virtuosity.

Today, aged 71, Parker seems to be more prolific than ever, which connects him to the other great European saxophone player of the first wave of European improv, Peter Brötzmann. Both have released a couple of albums recently (check out Colin Green’s wonderful review of Brötzmann’s Münster Bern), and both seem to be interested in how to combine their idea of music with as many other musical philosophies possible. Especially Parker moves to and fro between established constellations (Schlippenbach Trio, Evan Parker Trio, Electro-Acoustic Ensemble) and new combinations (for example with Colin Stetson recently at the Guelph festival or with The Necks, who join them for a gig in November at London’s Café Oto), between smaller groups and large ensembles.

Right on time for Evan Parker’s USA tour we present reviews of his latest releases and a concert review of his performances at the Festival Métèo in Mulhouse/France.

At the moment he is playing in New York City, yesterday he was at the Stone, tonight he is at Roulette and tomorrow at Jack. If you are interested in the other gigs, check out this website:
https://viennesewaltz.wordpress.com/parker/

If you have the chance to see the concerts, don’t miss them, I am sure you won’t be disappointed.


Evan Parker Trio plus Peter Evans / Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Nonet, Festival Métèo, Mulhouse, August 27th and 28th


Photos by Martin Schray 

Festival Métèo Mulhouse is one of the oldest and most prestigious jazz festivals in France, it has existed since 1972. I have visited it in 2012 and 2013, the line up was always very interesting and the locations like Noumatrouff (where the bigger bands play in the evenings) and especially the Chapelle St. Jean, where the matinées are and where they serve very good wine for free after the shows, are superb. The audience is well-informed and attentive, in contrast to German festivals it is a bit younger and less male. However, last year the program was not as exciting as before, but this year it was various and promising again. There were solo concerts by Okkyung Lee, James Blood Ulmer, Martin Brandlmayer, Michel Doneda and Akira Sakata and performances by bands like Arashi, ZU, Lotte Anker/Fred Frith, James Chance and the Contortions, Barry Guy/Fred Frith/Daniela Cativelli/Samuel Dühsler or Dans Les Arbres. And on top of it all they had the Evan Parker Trio + Peter Evans and the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Nonet.

It is nothing new that - at the age of 71 - Evan Parker is still at the height of his creativity. On the one hand he is always looking for new challenges (like his duo albums with Peter Jacquemyn or Motoharu Yoshizawa, which will be reviewed here soon) and on the other hand he maintains longtime collaborations like the Schlippenbach Trio, his own Evan Parker Trio and his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. The trio has existed since 1983 (at least they released their album Tracks then) and it has always been the nucleus for Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, which he founded in the early 1990s and which released its first album Towards the Margins in 1997. In the beginning it was a relatively small ensemble of six players and the idea was that each member of the trio was given a musical partner (in this early case there were Walter Prati, Marco Vecchi and Phil Wachsmann) who would treat the acoustic sounds electronically. Over the years the ensemble has grown to over 18 members (in Huddersfield in 2011) which made the band a logistic adventure which is why it became hard for Parker to keep such a huge line up. That’s why he obviously decided to reduce the number of members, and he released a fantastic album with a septet that played Victoriaville last year (see the review here). But while the Victoriaville ensemble consisted of US musicians only, the Mulhouse band resembled the original idea of this formation.

On Tuesday there was the Parker Trio augmented by Peter Evans on trumpet. All the band members were dressed in black T-shirts and black trousers, which stressed the character of the band as a real unit. The stage light was mainly brown and yellowish, the whole atmosphere resembled a theatre production, everything seemed rather sophisticated. However, this was a real contrast to the music presented: the first ten minutes were a real frenzy, the musical material was very tightly knit, it was a mixture of extremely fast free jazz combined with new music elements (Barry Guy’s bass was mainly responsible for that). Paul Lytton’s drum style reminded of Tony Oxley’s, his set was tuned up very high and he used a lot of extended materials. But the real sensation was Peter Evans, who opened new horizons for the trio. Like the others he is an outstanding musician, and his sounds are incredibly unpredictable, sometimes they were like gun shots ricocheting through the room. He seemed to enjoy to have this wonderful band in the background and was bursting with ideas. And Evan Parker? He was very reluctant, took very long breaks, he often simply listened, waiting for a perfect moment to join in. But whenever he did, he was absolutely present and his contributions were just perfect. It was an excellent performance, old-school European free jazz at its best.

The next day the stage was crowded, the outfits were various. The nonet’s approach to music was very different compared to the one of the trio, parts of the structure were given. Evan Parker was on soprano saxophone (for the trio he chose the tenor), three computers were placed on desks, Paul Lytton was wearing a white T-shirt, he was standing behind his drum set all of the time, it turned out that he was setting the pace. Parker chose an electronic sequence Lytton once used to start off, then the whole thing was free for nine minutes. After that Lytton had been supposed to set a mark, which the other players had been able to use to start, to stop, or they had also been allowed to ignore it completely, Evan Parker said in a radio interview after the concert.  There were slow and fast segments in the structure and these segments were all completely improvised. The players used this freedom excessively, Okkyung Lee (c), Sten Sandell (p) and Paul Obermayer, Richard Barrett and Sam Pluta (electronics) put the original quartet on fire. It was the reunification of two universes, there were about 50 minutes of musical fireworks, one of the most wonderful music I have ever heard live (I know we should be reluctant with gushing vocabulary, but in this case it was simply true). The acoustic instruments delivered fascinating material and the electronics processed it right away, you could hardly discern who created the music - the audience felt like it was watching a nuclear power plant at work. Smaller, rather reflective combinations (Sten Sandell with Okkyung Lee and Barry Guy, a duo between Parker and Evans) alternated with furious tutti passages, the music was a constant surprise.

The connecting line to the evening before was Evan Parker himself, who was really laid back again. He was watching and listening his ensemble play, as if he was very proud of the result - like a painter stepping back watching his work, obviously satisfied. And finally he decided to participate, just to play one of the best solos in his typical circular breathing technique I have heard from him. It was really a magical evening.

After the concert my friend Klaus, who accompanied me and who is usually not into this kind of music, looked at me and stammered: “That was really great!“ Indeed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bobby Bradford & John Carter Quintet - No U-Turn (Dark Tree, 2015) ****

By Stef

Few musicians have a combined history like cornetist Bobby Bradford and clarinetist John Carter, starting in 1970 with "Seeking", a title which says a lot. It was to be their music, and nobody else's. Highly recommended albums are "Castles Of Ghana", "Dauwhe", "Dance Of The Love Ghosts", and well, several others too.

Carter passed away in 1991, and that put an end to their combined output, but then now we have this wonderful "No U-Turn", a live recording dating from 1975 of a performance in Pasadena, California. The band further consists of Roberto Miranda and Stanley Carter on bass, and William Jeffrey on drums.

The long first track, "Love's Dream" first appeared on the same-titled album from 1974 of Bobby Bradford with John Stevens, Trevor Watts and Kent Carter, as are "She (Woman)", "Coming On", while the last track, "Circle", penned by Carter first appeared on "Secrets" from 1973, and later on "Tandem 1", and it starts with a wonderful duet between cornet and clarinet, after which the band goes back into high energy mode. "Come Softly" is a more meditative piece with a central role for Carter's soprano and I think it is the only original composition on the album. That should not limit the fun, because all tracks are highly enjoyable, and the audience is quite enthusiastic and as much part of the music as the band. Their playing is good as usual, and the themes are either grand, as in "Love's Dream", and "She", or just platforms for free improvisation, as on most of the other tracks. The nature of the music makes it both wildly energetic and messy at times, and after a drum solo and bass solo on "Comin' On", the band has some trouble picking up the pace again, but these are minor comments.

The performance is great, very soulful, with moments of great beauty, and all four musicians give the best of themselves, to great acclaim of a relatively large and very attentive audience.


Available from Instantjazz.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Michael Bisio - Accortet (Relative Pitch, 2015) ****



Bassist Michael Bisio's Accortet begins with a breezy tune. Unusual in its texture, which is defined by Art Bailey's accordion playing, the track 'AM’ kind of actually sounds like waking up to a new day rife with possibilities.

Accessible and heartfelt, the opener features some excellent group playing. The following track, 'Henry's Theme', starts off with a shadowy intro featuring cornetist Kirk Knuffke and Bailey. The longing they project is tangible, and again, the accordion’s reedy touch is key. The playing feels a little freer on this track as if the group is starting to stretch out. Knuffke digs deep into his bag of techniques and uses breath, slurs and curt phrasing to great effect and Bisio's solo run in the middle of the song showcases both his melodic prowess and focused playing. I recall a recent duo gig with pianist Matthew Shipp where it seemed like the bassist was ready to rip the swings from the instruments neck, and it is that same type of energy applied here, however more refined and focused - contained and confident. 

'Giant Chase' sounds like the title suggests - it's a fast paced romp that sees the group working polyrhythmically, creating a tension that come to a boiling point between Bailey, Bisio and drummer Michael Wimberly. When Knuffke enters, his rapid line darts around the periphery of the form the trio have created, adding more excitement to the mix. 'Times That Bond' finds that group in free playing territory, building off mere suggestions and snippets, listening intently.


Accortet has a unique sound and it puts the accordion, an under represented instrument in free jazz, front and center. That aforementioned breezy start, it would seem, is like the lighting of a gas stove burner. Quickly the flame turns blue - concentrated and cooking. Give this one a listen - especially the middle tracks - it's a keeper.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hugues Vincent, Kudryavtsev & Logofet - Free Trees (Leo, 2014) ****

By Stef

If you think that the Masada String Trio is the ultimate string trio in new music, think again. Here is another great example of the same line-up, with Hugues Vincent on cello, Vladimir Kudryavtsev on bass, and Maria Logofet on violin.

On no less than twenty-one compositions, they bring an eclectic mix of free music with influences from all genres the musicians master, and that is a lot. As Kudryavtsev explains in the liner notes, the freedom of the tree to grow into something unique and unrepeatable, is the result of its roots being firmly planted in the ground, representing the influences and education we have received.

That being said, the trio indeed uses all these influences to deliver something with more ramifications than the freedom of a tree. Classical sounds of intense purity, mostly by Logofet's violin, are counterbalanced with the more extended techniques of the cello, with Kudryavtsev's bass occupying the middle ground to keep the whole tree steady.

This is really an amazing album, and if you're open to this form of avant-garde, I can strongly recommend it.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Giving Birth to Sound: Women in Creative Music (Buddy's Knife, 2015) ****


By Paul Acquaro

What a nice concept - this book, edited by publisher Renate Da Rin and co-edited by bassist William Parker, explores how gender and experiences have shaped the creative work of women who have made their careers in music. I was only three interviews in when I was struck by both the simplicity of the books construct and how, because of its approach, it drew such rich insights from the subjects. 

Here is how the topic is approached: each musician (48 musicians in all drawn from a broad swath  of the classical and jazz world) are asked a set of questions that are laid out at the start of the book. Ranging from the personal 'Did your parents encourage you to become an artist/musician?' To gender bias 'how has being a woman held you back in the development of your musical career?' to the creativity 'what is your process and system of putting music together?' and beyond (spirituality, truth, politics - you know - the fuzzy stuff). Perhaps from a researchers point of view, some these questions may be a bit leading, but that seems to work well for the editors.

For example, here is what saxophonist Lotte Anker says about gender biases found throughout culture: 
The hidden and subtle discrimination is for example when writers (and others) define you as gender/sex before artist/musician/human being. Or when gender stereotypes are reproduced in media, in commercials or in education among kids: for example never questioning why the girls run over to (or are put behind) a vocal microphone and the boys run to a guitar or to drums. Or when some promoters want to be progressive and support female musicians but end up ghettoizing them.
Or Violinist Renee Baker who addresses the historical role of women supporting partners at the expense of their own careers:
A part of me just decided that I could support other artists but my talents would not take a back seat for the sake of saving someone else's ego. I believe men expect to be supported and women don't expect success.
And there are moments of plain heartfelt advice. Says pianist Marilyn Crispell:
My advice to women or men who are trying to live the life of an artist is just to be true to yourself. Follow your heart, and do the best you can. It's probably not going to be easy, financially, emotionally, physically, but if it's something you NEED to do because you can't imagine not doing it and feel driven from the deepest part of your being, you will find some way to do it.
Without a running narrative or an attempt by the editors to intervene, they let their subject's word's fill the page. Some don't even answer the questions as much as improvise off of them like flutist Nicole Mitchell's story telling appraoch. Typographic changes indicate the answers to different questions, and through it, the book ceases to be a Q&A and rather becomes a musical text. The strands of thoughts flow together and apart, creating their own vignettes, clouds of thoughts, and articulated feelings.

The end result is a book that can be read as you please: be deep and methodical, connect the questions and answers, or let it flow around you, absorbing the text like sound. While not exactly focused on free-jazz, Giving Birth to Sound is an interesting book, built upon a simple concept that asks questions without solid answers, and asks you to examine attitudes and challenge perceptions.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tetterapadequ - Chlopingle (Creative Sources, 2015) ****

By Stef

Not exactly prolific this band: their first album "And The Missing R" dates from 2008 already, and now, seven years later we get their sophomore album, and that is many years too late, but their music is great. The band still consists of Belgian-Italian Daniele Martini on tenor sax, Belgian-Italian pianist Giovanni di Domenico, Portuguese bassist Gonçalo Almeida who resides in Rotterdam, and Portuguese drummer João Lobo. 

The first track, "Non Negative Python", is a slow intimate and intense piece, that starts with a minimalst piano intro with sparse notes and without clear rhythm, bass and drums limiting themselves to add accents and color, creating an eery yet gentle atmosphere. Then after some eight minutes, the tenor joins for slow wailing sounds, with sustained notes, increasing the tension even more, encouraging drums and bass to become adventurous and investigative, and the piano's repetitive percussive almost one-chord hammering changes the context again, forcing the sax to become repetitive too, and the whole piece turns again heads to tail, with the eery yet gentle piano intro ending the long piece. 

"Eprobly Fowler" starts with completely suppressed sounds, like they're trying to escape from somewhere, but are prevented from doing so, giving a kind of suffocating feeling to the listener, yet gradually bass and drums emerge from the background, offering some sounds, and then the piano takes over halfway, for solo, then joined by the rest of the band, with a strong rhythmic pulse that suddenly releases the energy that was waiting to erupt. 

The album ends with "Monogamy Frightful", again a very intense and fierce workout, that lasts 'only' six minutes, yet the band goes at it with full energy and power. 

Again, one wonders why it takes so long for a band this good to publish new albums. They don't lack the creativity or the energy or inspiration to do so. True, the musicians have each individually been quite prolific lately as leaders or as members of various bands, so then can be forgiven, as long as they don't forget that Tetterapadequ also exists!




Thursday, September 17, 2015

Paul Hubweber, Frank Paul Schubert, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Clayton Thomas, Willi Kellers - Intricacies (NoBusiness, 2015) ****

By Martin Schray 

In one of my last reviews I highlighted the underrepresented German saxophonist Stefan Keune and praised NoBusiness for releasing his great trio album Fractions (with Dominic Lash and Steve Noble). Today, this review could be called Part II of a mini series about German musicians that deserve more attention and which NoBusiness has taken under their wings (Part III will follow in autumn).

Trombonist Paul Hubweber (born 1954) is one of the most remarkable players of the second generation in German free jazz. He has worked with many great European improvisers, e.g. with Alexander von Schlippenbach’s Globe Unity Orchestra, Peter Kowald, John Butcher, Martin Theurer, Paul Lytton, Jaap Blonk and recently with young pianist Philip Zoubek.

Hubweber’s work mainly contains solo and duo recordings on which he often experiments with electrified trombone and additional effects like tube screamer, echolette or harmonizer.
Around the turn of the century he started PAPAJO, a trio consisting of himself (Paul), Paul Lovens (dr) and John Edwards (b), with which he released two excellent records on EMANEM and Cadence. However, Hubweber’s music is rather poorly documented (discogs lists just 16 albums).
Therefore it is all the more welcome that this release presents him as part of a generation-spanning project with Frank Paul Schubert (as, ss), Alexander von Schlippenbach (p), Clayton Thomas (b) and Willi Kellers (dr). They called their recording Intricacies, which is an almost programmatic title since it’s a lesson in filigree playing, in listening and stepping back. And it is also an album about taking chances and elegant transitions.

When he was asked if it was even possible to make mistakes in free jazz it was Evan Parker who said that you could consider missing the right moment for a contribution as a mistake because this moment will never come back. Intricacies could be regarded as a perfect example of seizing the right moment and about the subtleties of improvising. The musicians have a feel for the right tone, they build their contributions on excellent skills and on “the capability of making connections with their instruments, of matching, complementing or contrasting the timbres and textures of the other players“, as German critic Peter Niklas Wilson once put it.

Additionally, the whole set was carefully elaborated. The two long pieces on this album have a similar structure: At the beginning there are tutti improvisations (although of different intensity), followed by quieter passages of smaller formations, then there is room for solo parts (Hubweber in “Come To Blown“, Schlippenbach and Schubert in “Intricacies“ – all three are wonderful). Then the tracks seem to fray or even collapse, but at the end the musicians succeed in building up tension again before the whole band comes together to end each piece in a finale furioso.

What is also exceptionally great is the fallback on jazz history, respectively on sets of criteria the players have established in their career. Schlippenbach, for example, starts the second piece as he has often started the second set of a Schlippenbach Trio gig – by playing the interior of the piano using mellets. He also displays his passion for Thelonious Monk during his solo in the title track and when sax, bass and drums drop in giving the track additional drive we are listening to classical hard bop – wild, jazzy, elegant.

Intricacies offers a lot free jazz aficionados like: outstanding interplay, energetic outbreaks, introspective moments, harmonic twists and even classic melodic swing interludes. Plus, if you were not familiar with him before, you can discover an underestimated trombonist.

Intricacies was recorded in Berlin’s jazz club B-Flat in February 2014 and is available on double CD. You can buy it from the label www.nobusinessrecords.com.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Double-Basse – This is Not Art (Clean Feed, 2015) ***½

By Dan Sorrells

Double-Basse is the duo of Benjamin Duboc and Jean-Luc Petit. We’ve heard from this duo before on Duboc’s Primare Cantus, but here Petit trades his saxophones down to contrabass clarinet. Needless to say, This is Not Art dwells resolvedly in the lower registers.

Without regular exposure, it’s easy to forget how powerful contrabass clarinet is in the hands of a musician like Petit—at times massive and woody, like creaking sequoias, more fluid in others, the rippled surface of a pitch black pool. Duboc is just as versatile a bassist, and he and Petit work around the edges of their instruments, sounding against the timeworn arcade and into the vault of Eglise Saint-Martin. This is Not Art is most effective in its quieter moments, such as the opening and closing minutes of “Craftsmen, Pt. 1,” which loses much of its nuance when the volume increases. Perhaps surprising are Duboc’s vocalizations about halfway through—if not homage, then certainly the quiet influence of Léandre. “Craftsmen, Pt. 2” is a little more consistent in mood than the first piece, rumbling and percussive to start, with tongues slapping reeds and bows slapping string.

The album and track titles, as well as Julien Palomo’s liner notes, make it clear that This is Not Art is a paean to the craft of the instrumentalist: reclaiming music through improvisation, pulling it down from the lofts of culture and back into the hardworking hands of music-makers. A title like “This is Not Art” is to some extent tongue-in-check, but the underlying critique is sound. Double-Basse’s free improvisation is well-positioned to argue that the abstract concerns of aesthetics often side-step the more fundamental—even ontological—pursuit of craftsmanship. We all do well to remember that improvisation is bleeding edge musicianship. Risky. Physical. A product of the will, talent, and passion of musicians toiling in a precarious present moment. This is Not Art emphasizes the doing over what has been done, the act of making, rather than the idolatry of what has been made.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Liberty Ellman Sextet – Radiate (Pi Recordings, 2015) ****½

By Chris Haines

This is Liberty Ellman’s first solo release since 2006’s Ophiucus Butterfly and although it has been a long time coming it has been well worth the wait.  As a long-standing member of Henry Threadgill’s Zooid it is not surprising that he brings some of these elements into his own music.  With a crack band consisting of Steve Lehman on alto saxophone, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jose Davila on tuba and trombone, Stephan Crump on bass, and Damion Reid on drums, the guitarist delivers eight originals that are as consistent in artistic endeavour as they are diverse in mood and musical content.

The first track “Supercell” with it’s funky drum pattern and syncopated tuba line instantly conjures up a Threadgill-like feel where jagged rhythmic lines are well oiled and made to groove whilst the saxophone, trumpet and guitar initiate trading short phrases before Ellman excellently opens out his playing with some slick chromatic runs that pour from his guitar.  The piece ends with a strong punctuated motivic line from the band whilst Lehman and Ellman, in unison, play a rapid syncopated melody over the top that is beautifully executed.  “Furthermore” then offers a great contrast with it’s less overtly rhythmic feel and its open form that allows the individual musicians to really express themselves through their playing as if trying to reach some pinnacle of ecstasy.  Whilst “Rhinoceros” grunts along with it’s tuba line that conjures up images of the powerful beast at the beginning before losing some of its programmatic content as the piece develops.  Not being frightened to bring in some different sounds Ellman subtly introduces some effected textures into the background as washes of colour, which is also noticeable on the last track “Enigmatic Runner” with it’s inclusion of electronic drum ‘n’ bass type patterns. Liberty Ellman expertly weaves his melodic guitar lines through and around these rhythms to create a coherent and exciting finale to the album.  He mainly plays with a warm, smooth tone to his guitar but isn’t averse to overdriving the sound on particular moments and when the piece demands it.

The ensemble playing on Radiate is right on the money and the band groove, swing and motor along on tunes whilst leaving plenty of room for exploratory playing and solos.  Liberty Ellman is a fantastic free-jazz guitarist, composer and band leader, who has put together a really great album that contains a focus on a particular style and sonorousness whilst sounding liberating and fresh.  Fans of Threadgill’s Zooid, melodic free jazz guitar and well thought out creative music making will want to hear this and hopefully not have to wait so long for a follow-up.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Brötzmann – Münster Bern (Cubus Records, 2015) ****½


By Colin Green

Great musicians are often less skillful than mediocre ones. Proficiency is no guarantee of quality. Peter Brötzmann – who is quite candid about his technical shortcomings – is a good example. His limitations are his strengths: an expressive rawness free of any suggestion of slickness or flim flam. This can be heard most starkly in his solo recordings, now a significant body of work ranging from Solo (FMP, 1976) through Nothing To Say: A Suite of Breathless Motion Dedicated to Oscar Wilde (FMP, 1996) and Petroglyphs (Long Arms Records, 2004) to Solo + Trio Roma (Les Disques Victo, 2012) to which there can now be added Münster Bern, possibly the most impressive yet. The performance was given during the Festival for Improvised Music in October, 2013 at the Münster (Cathedral) of Bern: a generous acoustic in which the full colour and nuances of Brötzmann’s playing are revealed, as seldom before.

There was a time when Brötzmann’s music quite consciously rejected tradition, as if starting from a clean slate, and favoured the anarchic. This reflected a cultural temper – more emotional than aesthetic – particular to post-war Germany, as well as the internal dynamics of his trio with Han Bennink and Fred Van Hove, but he has long since moved on from this. In his solo work, it seems that we’re getting Brötzmann at his most personal, free of any responsibility other to hone his music, dig deeper and explore his own history. His solo recordings are full of allusions to the music he heard in his youth and the great jazz and bluesmen of the past. In the closing section of the otherwise frantic ‘Frames of Motion’ from Solo + Trio Roma, he seeks solace in the ballad ‘Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams’ (originally recorded by Bing Crosby); and on Solo At Dobialab (Dobialabel, 2012) – unfortunately, marred by audience noise – Brötzmann’s now trademark ‘Master of a Small House’ theme keeps returning, like an idée fixe. These tunes clearly mean something to him, though it’s pointless to speculate what, but as Lester Young said: every solo should tell a story. Brötzmann’s music is not programmatic, but it’s clear that a drama is being played out that has not changed significantly in recent years – darkness against light. To a certain extent one knows what to expect, but listen closely and the course of the narrative is never quite the same.

There remains a scorched-earth aspect to his music – and a tone like sandpaper – but there’s something more. As Brötzmann has said: “I’m getting closer to my idea of how the horns should sound”. This process of refinement (a word not generally associated with his music) has brought with it a sense that he is accessing some of our most basic and ineffable feelings. If there’s an inspirational core to his music “it’s the blues that each person has inside”.

The performance begins with ‘Bushels and Bundles’ on the Hungarian tárogató. One sometimes feels that the basic unit of measurement in Brötzmann’s music is the human breath; specifically, what can be done in the time it takes him to breathe out. By all accounts, this has become more difficult as he gets older (the respiratory force is so great that it’s rumoured he once cracked a rib while playing) but his music has become more focussed, less discursive, as each new burst has to make its mark. Here, the ambience allows the intakes of breath to be heard clearly, and the buzzing see-saw sound of the instrument is accompanied by the groan of Brötzmann’s exhalations and the afterimage bouncing back off the cathedral walls. As the piece progresses, other subtleties are revealed – the variations of mouth on reed and the differences in contrasting registers – more pronounced than in Brötzmann’s other solo recordings, even those made in the studio. 

The piece seems to be concluding, with a solemn statement of the ‘Master of a Small House’ theme – bathed in an acoustic halo – but any feeling of resolution is destroyed by Brötzmann’s splintered parodies of it. A new theme emerges, heavily distorted in the lower registers, which ascends until stated in its pure, unadulterated form in the treble, to close. If technique is equated with an ability to render a range of emotions with precision, Brötzmann has it in spades. 

‘Crack In The Sidewalks’ shows his appreciation of the performing space and relishing the diverse textures and dynamic contrasts it provides. He starts by placing pauses (cracks?) between the alto’s lyrical phrases so they can be filled with the shimmer of reverberation – Brötzmann as Bruckner. He references the familiar tunes – Albert Ayler’s ‘Prophecy’, ‘Master’ and Don Cherry’s ‘Brown Rice’ (maybe even ‘Sentimental Journey’) – but in snatches, like dim memories, or heavily modified as in a dream. A lush tone is set against shrieks and gut-bucket blasts that ring out in the echo chamber of the Münster.

At just over eighteen minutes, it takes on an epic quality with a counterpoint of call and response, and builds into playing of such ferocious intensity that it’s difficult to know quite how to respond. There’s a directness and an emotional pitch to Brötzmann’s music that can be exhilarating but at times frightening, sometimes both. These extremes, which can also be expressed as a single voice, are at the heart of his music. The combined cry of anguish and joy typifies the blues, but arguably the merger of these sentiments also puts Brötzmann in the North European tradition of the Sublime – Edmund Burke’s “delightful” terror. (It should come as no surprise that Caspar David Friedrich, the great romantic landscape painter in whose work the forces of nature have an almost palpable presence, is one of Brötzmann’s favourite artists, after whom he named his son.)

On ‘Move and Separate’ Brötzmann takes up the bass clarinet, initially dividing his time between its extremes of register. In the bass he’s gruff but in the upper registers, soft and breathy, playing another of those melancholic tunes (‘Prophecy’) in a manner that suggests a pipe organ. These layers do indeed ‘move and separate’, as Brötzmann picks out new strata but ultimately, they blur and descend to the depths as a sinewy line of multiphonics and moans.

A Gothic cathedral is a place for music that has a gravity of purpose. Brötzmann dedicates ‘Chaos of Human Affairs’ to the drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, with whom he played in Last Exit and toured as a duo, who had passed away just over a week before: “a good friend and one of my favourite colleagues”. On tenor, it is ‘Our Prayer’ – which was performed by the Ayler quartet at the funeral of John Coltrane – played nobly and in a coruscating tone. Gradually, clouds pass over and the sky darkens until the tune is almost lost, but the sun breaks through for two final statements of the theme: first defiant then conciliatory. A moving and fitting lament.

The performance closes with ‘The Very Heart of Things’, a revealing title as it’s actually Ornette Coleman’s ‘Lonely Woman’, a frequent encore. Coleman’s plaintive theme is played simple and straight, then repeated with heavy vibrato. It becomes more abrasive, and is eventually warped and fragmented beyond recognition, but Brötzmann closes by playing the tune as he opened. Whether we’ve ended at the place we began “And know the place for the first time” or somewhere else altogether, I cannot say.

Brötzmann’s music can be bleak, but there’s a beauty in it. I’m reminded of comments made by the playwright Harold Pinter, in a letter to a friend, about Samuel Beckett:
“The further he goes, the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, dogmas, tracts, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement…He’s not fucking me about, he’s not leading me up any garden, he’s not slipping me any wink, he’s not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basin full of breadcrumbs. He’s not selling me anything I don’t want to buy. He doesn’t give a bollock whether I buy or not. He hasn’t got his hand over his heart. 
Well, I’ll buy his goods hook, line and sinker because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty. His work is beautiful.”

Brötzmann, solo in Melbourne from 2010:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Matt Turner - Virion Impasto (Icker, 2015) ****

By Stef

The first time I heard an album with cellist Matt Turner, was on Ken Schaphorst's wonderful "Indigenous Technology", then some years later on the equally wonderful "To The Moon" with Jean-Marc Foltz and Bill Carrothers, two albums on which the cello's lyricism adds a great quality to the beautiful compositions.

In 1999 he released his first solo cello album "The Mouse That Roared", on which the instrument is still used in a very conventional way, bowed and very lyrical, even if he dares color outside the lines from time to time.

Now, on his second solo album, Turner overthrows all conventions, beginning by stripping the hairs of his bow, and playing the strings with the naked wood of his bow. Second, he does no effort at all to sound lyrical, quite to the contrary, his bowing results in dark, sometimes industrial sounds that resonate minimally yet have deep impact, sometimes even animal growls that unleash the most hidden side of the instrument, or repetitive washing sounds of waves coming out of the depths of its wooden body, or even some noise of basic organic 'humanness', you can wonder what it is or what it sounds like, but it is abstract and full of life, full of surprises, even if all the sounds are muted with a dryness that takes out all the fluidity that you associate the instrument with.

You cannot compare his playing to Okkyung Lee, that other iconoclast of the instrument, because Turner is not violent or exuberant or emotionally expressive, no, his approach is incredibly disciplined and focused, played with calm determination to bring other things to life than the instrument has ever done before.

You will need very open ears to appreciate the other sounds of the cello.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.


Albrecht Maurer, Lucian Ban & Mat Maneri - Fantasm (Nemu, 2015) ****

By Stef

The great thing about improvised music is its openness to other genres and styles, its basic inclusiveness often resulting in new and fascinating music, as on this wonderful album, an adjective to be taken in its original sense of being "full of wonder", offered to us here by Albrecht Maurer on violin, Mat Maneri on viola and Lucian Ban on piano, hailing respectively from Germany, the United States and Romania. All three musicians have made a comparable musical journey starting with a classical education, then shifting to the more open ground of jazz and modern classical music, atonal composition or experimental music.

The result is that all three find each other blindly, speaking the same language and easily shifting from one style to another in a seamless fashion, presenting music as a great whole without distinctions, offering us romantic moments interspersed with more hectic microtonal excursions or intense adventures into new realms. The basis is always a minimal agreement on a theme and a structure, but then they move this theme forward, expand on it, and make it all sound so natural, with beautiful improvised passages flowing organically forward, often in relatively compact pieces of around four to five minutes, each with their own character and approach.

As said, a 'wonderful' album full of musical treats.




Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rhodri Davies & John Butcher - Routing Lynn (Ftarri, 2014) ****

By Stef

Rhodri Davies on electric harp, and John Butcher on saxophones bring us a fantastic thirty-five minutes of forward-thinking music, a collaboration with sound technician Chris Watson.

The somewhat complex process was the following : "In January 2014, together with sound recordist Chris Watson, Butcher and Davies visited Routing Lynn, an area of ancient rock carvings in Northumberland, northern England. In this natural setting, Davies and Butcher played music and Watson recorded. Two months later, at a festival in Gateshead, England, Davies and Butcher performed along with the 4-channel playback of the recording made by Watson in Routing Lynn. The performance is documented on this CD as a single 35-minute track. The instrumental sounds blend with the sounds of nature (water, warbling birds) from this area of ancient rock".

The result is quite interesting and fascinating. The two musicians interact with their previous recording and with the sounds of nature, giving feedback (literally and electrically) to birds and water as if they are all part of one organic and natural sound. Butcher's saxes can flutter like birds, but he is equally capable of long extended drone-like sounds, and Davies harp, with electronics, is as we know,  unlike any harp sound you've heard before. The two artists blend these sounds into moments of quiet contemplation alternated by moments of heightened frenzy. You also get confronted with the paradoxical juxtaposition of sounds recorded indoors (more intimate) and outdoors (more expansive), yet presented simultaneously.

The amazing natural environment of Routing Lynn, with its cascades and incomprehensible but beautiful rock carvings, finds a great musical extension in this album, which is equally profound, with a touch of mysticism, reverence and wonder. Music to experience.

Available from InstantJazz.