Thursday, May 31, 2018

Axel Dörner, Snekkestad, Zanuttini & Walter - Bruit 4 (Umland, 2017) ****½

By Stef

Trumpet quartets are rare. But here you have one. The quartet are Axel Dörner on firebird trumpet,  Torben Snekkestad on reed trumpet, Flavio Zanuttini on (normal) trumpet, and Florian Walter on hechtyphone. Huh? A hechtyphone? Yes, a hechtyphone. The instrument is built by Bernd Schramm from Köln in Germany, and it consists of three bells, four pistons, a bassoon and two different saxophone inputs, and an optional integrated speaker. I guess there's only one in existence. It looks like this :


With these four variations on the trumpet, the quartet wants to create different sounds, exploring new 'noise' as the band's name suggests in French. Other albums by Florian Walter also carry the 'Bruit' title, so there's a link to the saxophonist's, clarinetist's, hechtyophonist's other work. Each track or improvisation is called an 'object', as if it was something tangible that you can touch and look at from various angles, or something that has a function, and definitely not feelings, in which case it would be a 'subject'. Interestingly enough, that is not the case. There are feelings, sentiments and sensitivities. Almost inevitably.

The overall sound is minimalist, with the various trumpets creating a collective kaleidoscope of shifting tone colours, often voiced with clarity, although once in a while whispered or snorted. Their explorations are called experimental, but they go beyond the experimental. This is not just some programmatic and systematic observation of possible interactions. No, it's music. It has its own aesthetic, a clear intent to create unseen perspectives as a coherent whole, and not just sounds for sounds' sake. It's calm, austere and well-paced, with sounds that sometimes emerge in a very organic way, as if representing animals twittering to each other, but most of the time there are underlying feelings of sorrow, distress, and joy that are uniquely human and lift the whole project into the world of art. It means something. It opens perspectives and it is - at least to people with open ears - a real joy to listen to.

It is not only unique in its purpose and line-up. It's also a pretty unique listening experience.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Tashi Dorji & Tyler Damon - Leave No Trace: Live In St. Louis (Family Vineyard, 2018) *****

 
 
By Lee Rice Epstein
The blog is quickly becoming a Dorji/Damon fansite, but the duo has been consistently releasing such incredible music, it’s hard not to shout out about it. And Leave No Trace: Live In St. Louis sits right alongside Both Will Escape and To the Animal Kingdom (their exceptional trio album with Mette Rasmussen) as a record of a remarkable duo.
Leave No Trace: Live In St. Louis is Dorji and Damon’s third duo album, following a Live At The Spot + 1 and Both Will Escape. It was clear on that first release that guitarist Tashi Dorji and percussionist Tyler Damon had each found a sonic soulmate. Their partnership is patient and focused, with rumbles of fury and joy. Long stretches of experimental deconstruction make up the majority of Leave No Trace: Live In St. Louis, but it’s not lacking in fire. Indeed, the following quote appears on the album’s page: "When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself," Shunryu Suzuki.
“Calm the Shadows” with Damon on bells and metallic objects, similar to the opening of “Both Will Escape.” But here, his rattling, alarm-like rhythm provokes Dorji to very quickly slide in with atonal chords and an early, striking solo. After only 3 minutes, “Calm the Shadows” has already passed become gorgeously harsh, with Dorji’s vibrato leading the duo into the next section. Damon stays low on the drums, eventually taking a relaxed solo around the midpoint. Part of what’s so enjoyable about this duo is just how hard it is to pin down their influences. Dorji melds jazz, improvisation, folk, and drone elements, while Damon combines crashing, rumbling percussive rolls with a wonderfully melodic style. Near the end, Damon begins rolling into bright cymbal crashes, playing against Dorji’s hard-driving finale.
On “Leave No Trace,” the de facto title track, Damon opens with a measured solo, as Dorji gradually fades in, emerging from the spaces between Damon’s drums and cymbals. Highlighting the patience I mentioned earlier, “Leave No Trace” takes its time. Even Dorji’s first big moment hangs suspended in the air, as Damon gradually opens up the piece. It’s well past the middle of the set before it’s clear the duo’s been steadily ratcheting up the intensity for nearly 10 minutes. And then, the bottom drops out, and Dorji takes a restrained solo, with Damon sitting out for a couple of minutes. It’s a dramatic turn of events, and the remainder of the set goes to some exciting new places. The stretch beginning around minute 12 is particularly excellent, and highlights just how much more ground there is for this duo to cover. Of course, I can’t help but look ahead to future releases, but there’s more than enough here. I’ve listened to this album around 5 or 6 times already, and the year’s still getting started.


Purchase from Family Vineyard or via Bandcamp.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Check Up! with Tom Burris - New Episode Tonight!


If you're passing through the Indianapolis area tonight (5/29) at 7 p.m. be sure to check in on Check Up! with Free Jazz Blog's Tom Burris on 99.1 WQRT.

The 3rd edition of Check Up! will be a tribute to the memory of Cecil Taylor. All Cecil, all two hours.


Playlist for Show #3: Cecil Taylor (1929 - 2018)


  • “Spring of Two Blue-J's, Side A” from Spring of Two Blue-J's (Unit Core, 1974)
  • Cecil Taylor – piano
    TIME: 16:19



  • “Student Studies, Part 1” from Great Paris Concert or Student Studies (BYG, rec. 1966)
  • Cecil Taylor – piano
    Jimmy Lyons – alto saxophone
    Alan Silva – bass
    Andrew Cyrille – drums
    TIME: 15:57



  • “Streams” from Dark to Themselves (Inner City, 1977)
  • Cecil Taylor – piano
    Raphe Malik – trumpet
    Jimmy Lyons – alto saxophone
    David S. Ware – tenor saxophone
    Marc Edwards – drums
    TIME: 23:00



  • “Second Act of A (Part 6)” from The Great Concert of Cecil Taylor (Prestige, rec. 1969)

  • Cecil Taylor – piano
    Sam Rivers – soprano and tenor saxophones
    Jimmy Lyons – alto saxophone
    Andrew Cyrille – drums
    TIME: 20:38



  • “One Too Many Salty Swift And Not Goodbye, Side C” from One Too Many Salty Swift And Not Goodbye (hat Hut Records, rec. 1978, rel. 1980)
  • Cecil Taylor – piano
    Jimmy Lyons – also saxophone
    Raphe Malik – trumpet
    Ramsey Ameen – violin
    Sirone – bass
    Ronald Shannon Jackson – drums
    TIME: 22:00



  • “Jitney No. 2” from Silent Tongues (Arista/Freedom, 1975)
  • Cecil Taylor – piano
    TIME: 3:25


  • “After All No. 2” from Silent Tongues (Arista/Freedom, 1975)
  • Cecil Taylor – piano
    TIME: 2:30

    Vision Festival #23 2018 - Day 6


    By Martin Schray and Paul Acquaro

    The final evening of the Vision Festival arrived. It was a bittersweet moment - memories of the past week of shows still lingered sweetly in the mind, but expectations were high for the stellar line up which included the highly anticipated New World Pygmies with Jemeel Moondoc, William Parker, and Hamid Drake and the Oliver Lake Big Band.

    Lester St. Louis (c), Jaimie Branch (tp), Chad Taylor (dr), Anton Hatwitch (b)
    First up was trumpeter Jaimie Branch with her group Fly or Die. Branch’s debut album with this group rose to the top of many critic’s end of year best of lists, and it’s no wonder why. Branch mixes avant-garde tendencies with strong grooves and catchy bass lines. Her melodies are straight forward and she cuts through all clutter with a strong and assertive tone. However, she also knows when to hold 'em and allows the exploratory passages to make the the head-bopping parts even more tense and exciting. The group here was different than the album, so along with Branch and drummer Chad Taylor was bassist Anton Hatwitch and cellist Lester St. Louis. Taylor adds something truly special to the group, his kit was power and precise on the ‘themes’ and his small percussion items made unusual textures during the explorations. What stroke us about Branch was that we felt like we heard a channeling of Miles Davis’ 70 era music in the sense of recognizable themes appearing with sudden clarity amidst abstractions and swampy meanderings. This was a superb start to the final evenings music.
                                                   
    Cooper-Moore (p)
    Next up was Cooper-Moore’s solo program A Mourning Dove’s Call, an improvisation dedicated to Martha and Guthrie Ashton, which was accompanied by paintings of women by Kim Winkler. Cooper-Moore’s music was like the festival in a nutshell. He used ragtime and stride piano motives, combined them with folk songs and minor and seventh chords á la Keith Jarrett just to put them through the grinder playing Cecil Taylor clusters - a set that was very emotional and varied.
         
    Nasheet Waits (dr), Julie Ezelle Patton (poetry, Ken Filiano (b), Paul Van Curen (g)
    Also, the festival’s focus on women’s rights and spoken words was continued on the last day by a performance of Julie Ezelle Patton (poetry, visual art), Nasheet Waits (drums), Ken Filiano (bass) and Paul Van Curen (guitar). Everything in this set - the music and the poetry - was improvised with "the music chasing the words and the words chasing the music in overlapping spirals of sound", as Patton puts it. Especially the music was very subtle with Van Curen’s guitar being reminiscent of Universal Congress Of’s Joe Baiza.
                                                   
    Hamid Drake (dr), Jemeel Moondoc (as), William Parker (b)
    Then, New World Pygmies, the trio consisting of Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), William Parker (bass), Hamid Drake (dr) were scheduled. According to Moondoc the project is an overture of an old world culture, surviving and blossoming as a new world influence. Once again, one of the main aspect of the festival was picked up on. For Moondoc the question is, if "old" is "new", is "ancient" "modern"? The trio's mission is to "bop old and new dreams to the thrust of an avant-garde allegro moving past Saturn and a moon glow forever existing" and to remember Cecil Taylor, whose music has been a huge influence for all of them. Moondoc is still a very powerful saxophonist, he interspersed blues riffs, bebop lines and African melodies. Most of the set was freely improvised, but the trio also used composed material by him. However, the set remained deeply rooted in a classic free jazz context, so it leaned toward the "old" rather than "new", but regardless, it sounded wonderful and was warmly welcomed by the audience.

                                                      
    Oliver Lake Big Band
    The last band of the festival was the Oliver Lake Big Band consisting of Lake himself, Bruce Williams, James Stewart, Alex Harding, Darius Jones, and Mike Lee on saxes, Adam O’Farrell, Freddie Hendrix, Nabate Isles and Greg Glassman on trumpets, Aaron Johnson, Al Patterson, Terry Greene II and Robert Stringer on trombones, Yoici Uzeki on piano, Robert Sabin on bass and Chris Beck on drums. Lake’s compositions are influenced by Oliver Nelson and Duke Ellington, he takes a hint from both arrangers and creates vast colorings with the horns, which in turn he utilizes in compositions that draw on his avant-garde style. The result is music that also echoes the large ensembles by Charles Mingus, Gil Evans and Kenny Wheeler. Lake presented three new compositions and particularly “Say What“ stood out, with its very well organized chaos in which the solos collided and entwined. Lake wanted to play more songs but the strict timeline of the festival prohibited it. Nevertheless, it was a grand finale worthwhile of a very good festival.




    All Vision Festival 23 Reviews:

    Vision Festival #23 2018 - Day 5

    By Paul Acquaro

    The general consensus, as far as I could tell, is that this is a Vision to remember. So far, on this penultimate evening, the sets have been above average to stellar and a glance at the line-up for this evening suggested no radical departures.

    The change of venue, from the past few years at Judson Hall in Manhattan’s West Village has been mostly (quite) good, even though Roulette, in Brooklyn, is a tight space for a festival. Gone is the community room where people could comfortably mingle, eat, drink and peruse (the vendors were set up spaciously around the perimeter), gone is the upper loft with artwork, but also gone is a difficult sound and cavernous space. While there were early troubles with some unruly folks taking pictures (on day one there was one audience member making such a commotion, taking more pictures that anyone could ever need, that everyone wanted to punch!), by this evening the issue seemed to finally be solved. So, with the good sound and the concentrated energy buoying the proceedings, the evening started with a bang.

    Paal Nilssen-Love, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Frode Gjerstad, Steve Swell
    Actually, it was more a blast. Saxophonist Frode Gjerstad and his trio (with Steve Swell) wasted no time making a big noise. There was no slow burning fuse at work, this firework (and it was one of the big ones) went off as soon as the match touched the fuse, singeing everyone's eyebrows off. The group with Gjersted was half Thing - Paal Nillsen-Love on drums and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass, and trombonist Steve Swell. At the first let up of energy after the initial pop, Swell lurched into a thrilling solo over PnL's and Håker Flaten’s thrumming accompaniment. When Gjerstad took over, the rhythm section pulled back a little and he bit down on his reed and let our a ferocious squeal. His sound was sharp, pointed, and when he and Swell played together, provided a nice contrast to Swell’s rounder, brassier tones. Though it was not an “easy” way to ease into the night of music, it was damn appropriate and shook off any Sunday night audience complacency.

    David Virelles, Gerald Cleaver, Brandon Lopez, Chris Potter
    The second set of the evening may have been even more intense, with drummer Gerald Cleaver introducing his project with saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist David Virelles, and bassist Brandon Lopez. The set began with Cleaver introducing everything with a drum 'roll'. Building up intensity, he set the stage for Potter, who knew exactly how to bring the musical intensity, and always to be able to add just a little more heat. However, the group took its time. Cleaver kept a steady pulse going, while Lopez delivered a solid groove, the band’s tightness and focus was captivating. Through this collective control, they brought the music almost to a boil several times. Though everyone had chances to stand out and showcase their unique voices, their power came in their unity, and when they finally reached the apex, it was almost too much to bear!

    Charles Gayle’s group “By Any Means” were unable to perform as scheduled, and the last group on the schedule was Craig Harris’ “Brown Butterly”. Unfortunately, I was unable to stick around for this event, but ear-witnesses indicated it was, in keeping with the aforementioned high quality performances all around.



    All Vision Festival 23 Reviews:

    Monday, May 28, 2018

    Vision Festival #23 2018 - Day 4

    Melanie Dyer announcing the program of the day 4
    By Martin Schray

    On the fourth day of a festival, a certain fatigue creeps in. The turnout was lighter compared to the days before, some of the visitors moved in slow motion through the rather narrow lobby, the talks seemed to be less enthusiastic. When Melanie Dyer, one of the board members of Arts for Art, the organization responsible for the festival, announced the Visionary Youth Orchestra, the venue was rather poorly attended.

    Visionary Youth Orchestra feat. Dave Burrell and Karen Borca
    The Orchestra, which was directed by Jeff Lederer and Jessica Jones, has existed for quite some time and supports young jazz musicians, in general a main focus of the festival. The young musicians, all of them teenagers, learn the music of the old masters, and in their set they played compositions like “Sweet Sunset“ by John Carter and Bobby Bradford, Roscoe Mitchell’s “Jo Jar“ and Albert Ayler’s “Music is the Healing Force of the Universe“, a programatic title for the festival. They were augmented by Dave Burrell and Karen Borca, who conducted a Cecil Taylor composition for large ensemble, and the students did quite well dealing with symbolic notation and the use of the vocal parts, which were used to structure the composition. Especially the horns did a very good job.


    Michael Vatcher (dr), Jaimie Branch (tp), Luke Stewart (b), Fay Victor (voice)
    After a short break Mutations for Justice hit the stage, a band featuring Fay Victor (voice), Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Luke Stewart (bass) and Michael Vatcher (drums, percussion). The band was said to present a series of composition mantras out of the need to articulate political ideas in a minimal repetitive framework. The words and the music were written by Victor, who plans to write pieces for this band throughout the time of the Trump administration as “a document to memory of living in this time“. Their approach was close to the one of Irreversible Entanglements, which fits to the idea that music can serve as political protest. After a ritualistic, conjuring beginning Vatcher and Stewart started a hard funk riff with Branch playing flickering melodies and Victor using repetitive lyrics (“Let them try to get all brown people“) reminiscent of early spoken-word pioneers like The Last Poets. There was an intense aggression in the music, call-and-response patterns referred to blues songs, gospels and spirituals, even the feeling of songs like John Coltrane’s “Alabama“ hovered through the room. Then however, Victor became more concrete and commented on the current political situation with lines like “We’re living in a Trump administration / We got to survive / We got to stay alive“, which was a bit obvious. Somehow, the music became less punchy as well. When Victor decided to use more general lyrics, her message was more significant.

    Royal Hartigan (dr), Mixashawn (ts), Rick Rozie (b)
    Afro-Algonquin 2018, the next band, was completely new to me, although it was a project Mixashawn (sax, guitar, flute, vocals) already started back in the 1970s. Then it was intended “to celebrate the fusion of Afro American and indigenous music of the Americas but has been expanded to embrace full the Atlantic World“, as he says in the liner notes for the festival. Also, the name of the band refers to Native American tribes that speak the Algonquian (Native American) languages. The music was very spiritual, Mixashawn’s sax style is rooted in the music of Ayler, Trane, and Pharoah Sanders, his vocals reminded me of Native American shamans. Especially when he threw in hard funk riffs and Hendrix samples (“Foxy Lady“), the set was intense and tight. But like Mutations for Justice, the band couldn’t quite remain that level. When Mixashawn changed to guitar and flutes, the set became a bit more inconsistent.

    Jason Kao Hwang (v), Patricia Spears Jones (poetry)
    Continuing the day’s focus on spoken word, poet Patricia Spears Jones and violinist Jason Kao Hwang were scheduled for an interlude with their Time and Vision project. Jones’s poetry is influenced by the Nuyorican poetry scene as well as international modernism and the Négritude movement. What’s more, there was also an echo of the Beat Generation and the works of Walt Whitman. Her words were meaningful and gripping, she found a poetical way to comment on the social situation of these days by countering precise everyday-life miniatures with images of flowers in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, for example. Hwang accompanied her with empathic music, sometimes angular, sometimes beautiful.

    Kris Davis (p), Tyshawn Sorey (dr), Ambrose Akinmusire (tp)
    The expectations on Ambrose Akinmusire’s trio with Kris Davis on piano and Tyshawn Sorey on drums were high. Recording for the Blue Note label Akinmusire is one of the new jazz stars, however people were curious how he would master a freely improvised set. The music started very tenderly, as if they had to wrench every note from their instruments - until the improvisation literally exploded. From then on there was a brutal intensity to it, created by Davis’s arpeggios, her hard chords and Sorey’s drum rolls, which he used to interrupt with single harsh blows on the toms. Akinmusire decided to contrast this texture with almost painful lines, it was a magical moment when these repetitive staccatos clashed into each other. There was a constant up and down, the contrasting atmospheres and dynamics of the music were incredibly spectacular, passages that were strained to breaking point flowed into quiet, peaceful ones. But these parts were deprived of any kitschy beauty, they were mournful, bluesy, agonizing. These elements were shifted like tectonic plates, each of the musicians was able to initiate them. The final part of the set seemed to be exhausted, Davis playing minor chords, an immense melancholy dispersed through Roulette. It was definitely the best set of the festival so far, the music was full of drama - a drama that was created by subtlety and urgency. The performance was living proof that music can be more expressive than words. The audience thanked the band with ongoing standing ovations.

    AfroHORN Fellow
    The day was to be closed by AfroHORN Fellow, a project conceived by drummer Francisco Mora-Catlett, who played with Sun Ra’s Arkestra in the 1970s. The band consisted of the man himself, Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet), Alex Harding (baritone sax), Bob Stewart (tuba), Sam Newsome (soprano sax), Aruan Ortiz piano), Rashaan Carter (bass) and three additional Cuban percussionists. The name of the band goes back to Henry Dumas’ short story “Will the Circle Be Unbroken“, the central metaphor being that of the Afro Horn, an instrument so potent that it simultaneously unites and empowers. As an introduction Mora-Catlett told the story of Dumas, who was shot to death at the age of 33 by a police officer in the subway station of 125th Street in Harlem. The officer claimed that Dumas had been threatening another man with a knife. The circumstances of the shooting have remained unclear as no witnesses testifiedand no records could be found as the Transit Police Department's records of the shooting were destroyed when the agency merged into the New York City Police Department in 1995. Mora-Catlett said that the music of this band was dedicated to the children in order to protect them from such a destiny. The actual set started with powerful Caribbean drumming and a traditional head which resulted in a version of “When the Saints Go Marching In“. All in all the band was like a Caribbean version of the Arkestra, with a similar stress on percussive elements, but without the Arkestra’s unique eccentricity. Admittedly, after a spectacular gig like the one by Akinmusire/Davis/Sorey it would’ve been hard for every band.



    All Vision Festival 23 Reviews:

    Sunday, May 27, 2018

    Vision Festival #23 2018 - Day 3

    By Paul Acquaro and Martin Schray

    The line up of Friday night, squarely in the middle of the festival, seemed to showcase musicians at the top of their game - from the young (Irreversible Entanglements) to the established (Daniel Carter).

    Irreversible Entanglements
    And so, it was the young whippersnappers who began the evening. Philadelphia’s Irreversible Entanglements, riding on the success of their 2017 debut album, delivered a rousing set that began with a fanfare of sorts and laid the ground work for Camae Ayewa’s intense poetics. The group has a classic free jazz line up comprised ofq saxophonist Keir Neuringer, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, bassist Luke Stewart, drummer Tcheser Holmes, and by adding Ayewa’s vocals and electronics, the group becomes a force to reckon with. The instrumental portions are excellent as well, Neuringer and Navarro twist about each others lines, while Stewart an Tscher often reliably lay down a roiling groove. Ayewa’s background in hardcore and punk comes through and her use of politically charged poetry, from which she pulls snippets from her notes and delivers with ferocity and precision. Unfortunately there was a little too much reverb on her vocals - especially at the start - making the words hard to understand. At a previous show I had caught a little while back I recall there being much more poetry (which gave the words much more context) but less band. Tonight, it seemed to be a little in reverse, allowing Neuringer and Navarro time to deliver some intense solo parts of their own.

     Douglass Dunn + Dancers with the Critical Response Trio
    Next up was the Critical Response Trio with violinist Jason Kao Hwang, guitarist Anders Nilsson, and drummer Michael TA Thompson, accompanied by an eleven piece dance troupe. It was fantastic. The trio, whom I had heard once before exactly one year ago at an intimate concert in Beacon, NY, were spot on again. An out curling fractal of abstract musical ideas emanated from the group, centered around Hwang’s heavily effected violin, they dealt our eclectric mix full of shrapnel and beauty, veering from flakes of tonal color to full bodies collective improvisation. The dancers - clad colorfully and moving about the stage in their own improvise synchronizations and stories, made the scene feel like a living Hieronymus Bosch triptych, of bodies twirling about each other, dragging and draping themselves across the stage - the only thing missing were the half-fish people with single crutches! A particular striking moment was when Hwang and Thompson morphed a particularly intense duet into an avant-garde hoedown (wich some of the dancers picked up on).

    Seraphic Light
    Next up was the highly anticipated Seraphic Light trio of Daniel Carter on sax and trumpet, Matthew Shipp on piano, and William Parker on bass. The trio just released a recording, Live at Tuft’s University, which has been receiving critical accolades. The group's music is a mature statement, one of restraint and patient unwrapping. This night, they began by Carter on trumpet blowing a cool muted tone as Shipp entered with quiet melodic phrases. Parker held long bass notes, and images of a smoky lounge came to mind. Dropping the mute, Carter began playing stronger phrases and Shipp began pawing at the keyboard vigorously. Carter quickly switched to soprano sax, which changed the tonality and direction of the group. In fact, Carter switched again not so long after to the tenor sax, again changing the direction of the music but also revealing the long deep connections between the band members who has been playing together for years in many different permutations. Each episode of music - basically indicated by a switch of instrument by Carter, seemed to be a conscientious cycling through of possibilities. Their music does not disrupt or confront aggressively, it’s light and spellbinding, revealing itself in peeling back layers of melody and motion. Projected behind the group were paintings from Carter’s recently departed partner Marilyn Sontag. It was over all too soon; however, it was great to see Carter, who has for 5 of his 7 decades has been dedicated to free jazz, on the Vision stage, and supporting a strong new release.

    Nasheet Waits Equality
    Following the trio was drummer's Nasheet Waits Equality quartet. While I had no expectations of the group, with Waits, bassist Mark Helias, saxophonist Darius Jones, and pianist Aruán Ortiz, I had no reason to expect less than the absolutely stunning set they played. Waits and Helias began the set quietly and deliberately. Jones then entered with a flutter of high trills and Ortiz punched out a series of tonal clusters. It was a music musical spread, smeary and thick with large gaps giving Oritz a chance to interject. His musical ideas were matched with his physical presence flowing up and down the keyboard, it was a spectacle to see. Waits is a powerful drummer, but also very conscientious of space. A solo mid-way through the set indicated a real change in the group’s overall approach, suddenly opening up the tune, and prompting Jones to drop down into the lower registers of this instrument, eventually leading to a head bopping bluesy passage. Following an exploratory section, Ortiz seized the energy and from the spark of an idea to a fully realized and passionate solo, he led the ensemble back into a ‘spiritual’ moment. The group took this to a music climax that invoked spirits of Coltrane and fire music, providing a musical high for the evening and a sharp contrast to the previous introspective set.


    Matthew Shipp Acoustic Ensemble / Inward Motion
    The evening ended with the Matthew Shipp Acoustic Ensemble / Inward Motion, a band consisting of Shipp (piano, conduction), Michael Bisio (bass), Newman Taylor-Baker (drums), Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Mat Walerian (clarinet) and Nate Wooley (trumpet). Like the evening before it seemed to be a rather formalistic and intellectual project. Shipp said that he wanted to develop springboards for group improvisation that operate outside of his piano-centered groups. The idea was to think in terms of morphing and evolving shapes that included a specific narrative that runs through it, although some of the parts are open for improvisation. Shipp created sonic pathways, vectors and events that can transform in many ways but have a specific destination. The composition itself started with different harmonic cells which appeared to have nothing to do with each other, for example trumpet and clarinet solos, a piano/drums duo, a trio based on a marching rhythm, a drone bass and Wooley’s trumpet floating over it. All these fragments seemed to be isolated until the whole composition flowed into a slow-swinging groove which was foiled by clarinet, trumpet and violin. Finally, the whole beauty of the composition became visible: All the fragments of modern classical music lead to a cool swing beat that turned out to be as solid as a rock, indestructible, shining in all its beauty. If it’s true - as the festival claims - that music can be a healing force, this healing force was presented in the structure of this composition. Beneath the abstract surface there was a tremendous intensity of playing, a marvelous compositional effort was revealed, it was a worthy ending of the best day of the festival so far.




    All Vision Festival 23 Reviews:

    Saturday, May 26, 2018

    Vision Festival #23 2018 - Day 2

    Code Girl: Amirtha Kidambi (v), Mary Halvorson (g),Michael Formanek (b), Tomas Fujiwara (d), Adam O’Farrell (t)
    By Martin Schray

    Compared to the celebrations for Dave Burrell on the opening of the festival, the following day seemed to offer a completely different program. Among others guitarist Mary Halvorson was to present her new project Code Girl. The organizers of the festival, obviously a bit wary of the festival's commitment to legacy, wanted to support artists like Halvorson (or Jaimie Branch, who will join the line-up on Saturday) as part of the avant-garde continuum. Todd Nicholson, executive director of the Arts For Art board, says: “Having grown up in the 1980s I always felt like the jazz scene was kind of binary - like it was always 'you're either one or the other,' with respect to straight-ahead or free jazz. I don’t think it's that simple anymore. These artists are finding a way to crack the code, and be truly themselves, and mix all these elements together in a way that we haven't heard before.“ So, even if the program for the second day seems to showcase music of a distinctive kind, there’s still the idea to connect tradition to present tendencies and to display in which way improvised music can function as a comment on the current social situation. On the that day, women’s rights were put to the fore. What’s more, the influence of New Classical Music on Free Jazz seemed to be another topic.

    As mentioned above, Code Girl, Mary Halvorson’s band with Adam O’Farrell on trumpet, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara opened the evening. The set contained six songs, starting with “My Mind I Find in Time“ and already here composed material dominated the songs Halvorson wanted to present with this group. The improvised parts wiggled around Kidambi’s vocal parts, which build the basics structure of the compositions. However, the improvised parts turned out to be the most interesting musical moments, when the band was able to leave the strict form behind. Especially a duo improvisation of trumpet and guitar and a solo by Halvorson, in which she meandered between Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock, stood out. Of course, one might ask if such music was able to carry on the fire music torch of the 1960s and 70s. But maybe it’s simply not this music’s intention and the political aspect of this band is just the fact that two women are the main forces behind this project.

    Karen Borca(bs), Jackson Krall(p), Rob Brown(s), Michael Bisio(b), Whit Dickey(d)
    After a short break drummer Whit Dickey’s trio hit the stage. The band actually consists of Michael Bisio on bass and Rob Brown on saxophone, for this set they were augmented by Karen Borca on bassoon and Jackson Krall on percussion. 79-year-old Borca is actually the only bassoonist who has made a mark in Free Jazz (to best of my knowledge). She was a member of Canaille, an international group of women composers, and she played and recorded with avant-garde pioneers like Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons. Along with Jackson Krall, another collaborator of the Cecil Taylor connection, they were the link to the golden age of this music. Honestly, I had hardly any expectations as to this group but it turned out to be the highlight of the evening. The overlapping of drums and percussion (Krall used a number of different bells and other stuff) propelled the 40-minute free improvisation, especially the beginning was incredibly intense. In any case everyone in this band wanted to encourage the others, constantly putting new ideas into the brew. Then the collectively improvised part dissolved into solos and duos (outstanding ones by Bisio, Borca and Dickey/Krall). Towards the end the piece was inflated by Borca’s runs, just to collapse into a wonderful meditation dominated by Bisio’s bowed bass, an excellent sax solo by Rob Brown and Dickey using mallets on his cymbals. The audience gave the band a rightfully deserved enthusiastic applause.

    Nicole Mitchell(f), Joelle Léandre(b), Patricia Nicholson(d), Melanie Dyer(v)
    Then, Women with an Axe to Grind presented the strongest connection to European avant-garde as to instrumentation (the quartet was Joelle Léandre on bass, Nicole Mitchell on flute, Melanie Dyer on viola and Patricia Nicholson on vocals/dance) and instant composing approach. Obviously, this project had a strong focus on women’s rights. Nicholson declaimed that “We 4 are women standing strong in the light of the creative spirit - passing through. We cannot stand silent in a time of assault on humanity. We’ll never accept the lies, the pettiness, the greed, the virulent racism and sexism as normal“. Léandre particularly stood out with her tight playing and wild yelling, which gave the whole performance an angry touch.

    Roscoe Mitchell(s), Thomas Buckner(v), Scott Robinson(s)
    The evening was closed by SPACE, a trio originally formed in 1979 by Roscoe Mitchell (saxes), Thomas Buckner (baritone vocals) and Gerald Oshita. Mitchell and Buckner had to replace Oshita (who died in 1992) by multi instrumentalist Scott Robinson. The project explores the timbral possibilities of a large scale of brass instruments from sopranino to slide saxophones, even a contra bass saxophone was on the bandstand (which alone was a sight to see). Buckner’s vocal style is similar to the one of Phil Minton, consisting of words bitten of their stems, of syllables thrown into an ocean of sounds. The performance was a conglomeration of dada elements, extreme circular breathing, opera and sound exploration. The best parts were those when Robinson contrasted Mitchell’s soprano with deep sounds from the bass or even contra bass saxophone. All in all it was a very intellectual and abstract approach compared to the evening before, but listening to the marvelous Roscoe Mitchell is always worthwhile.



    All Vision Festival 23 Reviews:

    Friday, May 25, 2018

    Vision Festival #23 2018 - Day 1


    Opening Invocation: Patricia Nicholson, William Parker, and Hamid Drake
    By Martin Schray

    Last year Paul covered the complete Vision Festival in a tremendous spree of reviews, an effort which is really stressful for a single reviewer. This year I’m able to visit the festival for the first time and Paul and I decided to split forces to cover as many events as possible.

    In general, most of the visitors, many of them regulars of the festival, were glad that it takes places at Roulette again, since the acoustics in Manhattan’s Judson Hall were difficult (to put it mildly). The venue is part of Memorial Hall in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District and offers a 400-seat theater which is perfect for smaller and larger ensembles.

    As usual, the festival began with an opening invocation by bassist William Parker and his wife, dancer Patricia Nicholson, who both co-organize the festival, along with percussionist Hamid Drake. Parker played the gimbri (a three string Moroccan bass) while Drake used a large hand drum. They established a traditional groove to which Nicholson delivered a dance meditation before she picked up a microphone announcing what this year’s festival will be about. She declaimed that there was a lot of work to do, which is why she was calling all spirits particularly evoking the powers of freedom, hope and justice in order to heal our hearts.

    It was the festival's clarion call: in times of a crisis of human rights and democracy it’s necessary to remind people of the great achievements of the civil rights movement and of the power and the anger that propelled this movement. On the one hand the festival showcases the musical heroes of this movement, on the other hand it presents young musicians who might be able to carry on the torch.

    Dave Burrell, Steve Swell, Darius Jones, Harrison Bankhead, and Andrew Cyrille
    This year the festival celebrates Dave Burrell, the great 77-year-old pianist, who lives his music with outstanding integrity and whose creativity is supposed to be an example for the new generation. Or, as the festival program says: "His open heart makes him an important light and place of hope as we stand under direct attack in this season of lies." Burrell attended his first Vision Festival in 2000. He has since appeared on several subsequent editions of the event, sometimes playing multiple sets. However, while Burrell is still an underdog, he has inspired many young artists with his music. His musical repertoire reaches from Jelly Roll Morton to Thelonious Monk to Duke Ellington and Cecil Taylor. “He embodies the continuum of Jazz“, as Patricia Nicholson writes in the notes of the festival. That’s why Burrell was scheduled with three bands on the first day, and particularly the first project, Harlem Renaissance, a quintet that includes legendary drummer Andrew Cyrille, the wonderful bassist Harrison Bankhead, Darius Jones on alto, and Steve Swell on trombone, gave evidence of Burrell’s roots in the tradition.  The first composition, "Paradox of Freedom," established a swing atmosphere at the beginning, as it referred back to the music of the 1930s and 40s. But just when the music was about getting too comfortable, Cyrille and Bankhead dropped playing time and the band seemed to abandon all preconceived ideas and changed to free improvisation. It was an excursion into jazz history, from the call-and-response patterns of the blues to free jazz and back again. In the liner notes to the festival Burrell makes clear that this wasn’t only about music. The compositions were "dedicated to all descendants of slaves freed from their owners during the Civil War". Again there it was: the political component reflected in the music itself.

    Dave Burrell, Archie Shepp, William Parker, and Hamid Drake
    For the second set Burrell re-united with saxophonist Archie Shepp, with whom he appeared on a series of albums in the 1960s and 70s (check out Blasé from 1969, on BYG). William Parker and Hamid Drake joined them on bass and drums. And again the link between tradition and the present became visible. Shepp decided to play "Sonny", a composition dedicated to Sonny Rollins, and "Revolutionary", a song he wrote for his grandmother. Surprisingly, Shepp was more powerful when he replaced the tenor (on which he chose to play rather balladesque) with the soprano, then you could almost feel the spirit of John Coltrane penetrate the venue. Finally, when he even started to sing, Shepp’s black power gestures were back for a moment. The audience loved it and celebrated him with standing ovations.

    After that there was an interruption by a dance performance by Warrior of Light, a collaboration of dancer/choreographer Djassi DaCosta Johnson and bassist Shayna Dulberger. Johnson recited a modern version of Billie Holidays "Strange Fruit" referring to recent racial lynchings in the US. The performance itself was very intense, Johnson seemed to  adopt positions of martial arts warriors. The metaphor of the Warrior of Light refers to personal strength and poise when faced with constant war and struggle. All in all a powerful statement that would have deserved more respect by a rather noisy audience.

    Dave Burrell, Kidd Jordan, William Parker, James Brandon Lewis, and Andrew Cyrille
    The evening was closed by Burrell’s quintet featuring Andrew Cyrille and William Parker, behind a pair of imposing tenor saxophonists: Kidd Jordan, 82, and James Brandon Lewis, 34 - another personification of tradition and modernity. In contrast to the other two sets this one was played completely free - and indeed it was the all-out alert, the full force that was expected in the run-up. Jordan told the story how he got his nickname. At the age of 17 he was the youngest one in the band which is why he was called “kid“. And even today, he said, he’s still the “kid“. He said that although he was sick he wanted to try his best. To cut a long story short: he really rocked the house. From the beginning of the 45-minute piece the playing was of the utmost intensity, fired by a very different Dave Burrell, who played clusters á la Cecil Taylor, and by an excellent William Parker, who seemed to be inspired by Andrew Cyrille’s light-footed drumming. Jordan played until he literally could hardly walk anymore and had to take breaks now and then - just to come back even better. James Barndon Lewis proved to be one of the players who might carry on the legacy, at his young age he has the lung capacities to develop a full, ripe and powerful tone (like the young Archie Shepp, for example). Jordan delivered the right attitude, the people simply freaked out and this frail, fragile man - who said that this was only the second gig he played this year - enjoyed every second of the show.

    All in all a very promising beginning of the festival, which will continue with a focus on younger musicians like Mary Halvorson and one on women (Women with an Axe to Grind) on Thursday night.

    All Vision Festival 23 Reviews:











    Thursday, May 24, 2018

    Gerry Hemingway & Samuel Blaser - Oostum (No Business, 2018) ****

    By Stef

    Since the early days of this blog, more than 11 years ago, we have reviewed only three trombone and drums duo albums. Indeed, the number of albums are rare with this line-up. And now we have this great duet between two masters of their instrument, Gerry Hemingway on drums and Samuel Blaser on trombone. This is not the first duo recording with a percussionist for Blaser, who released "Vol à Voile" with his compatriot Pierre Favre in 2010.

    The performance was recorded live three years ago, in the Kerkje van Oostum, in Groningen in the Netherlands, one venue of the bicycle tour summer jazz festival. The little church originally dates from the 13th Century.

    The opening track is surprisingly calm, as if both musicians are measuring the space in which they perform, and barely a whisper leaves their instruments, hesitating and sensitive to explore the environs, a kind of welcoming minimal disruption of what already is. Hemingway starts the second track with more gusto, creating a rhythmic foundation for more voiced and lyrical playing. Yet interestingly, they open things up again on the third track. A bluesy solo by Blaser expands with timbral and multiphonic explorations.  Hemingway joins with first implicit, then clearer rhythmic patterns, turning the sad beginning into a more playful and almost funky interaction with the horn.

    They keep changing the approach, changing the expectations between lyrical interplay and sonic explorations, between raw free improv and jazzy soloing, including even atmospheric and solemn singing in a dialogue with vulnerable trombone sounds. They change between sad and joyful moods, between calm moments and they end with a great and intense powerful finale.

    It is a real joy to hear these two musicians interact. The music is fresh, rich and a little like a crackling fire, vivid and moving, yet at the same time soothing and inviting to dream.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2018

    Dave Holland, Evan Parker, Craig Taborn, and Ches Smith - Uncharted Territories (Dare2 Records, 2018) *****


    By David Menestres

    Way back in the mid-1960s there was a truly creative upwelling of music coming out of England. Musicians like Derek Bailey, Kenny Wheeler, Evan Parker, Dave Holland, and many more were beginning to leave their mark on the music. One of the major documents of the music being made in and around London at that time was the Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s Karyōbin LP (read Colin Green’s review of the recent reissue here). Shortly after that recording session, Dave Holland moved to New York to begin his now legendary run with Miles Davis followed by his time with Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers (and John Hartford, let’s not forget Holland’s excellent bluegrass phase). Evan Parker has charted his own enigmatic course over the last fifty years. Uncharted Territories is the first full album Holland and Parker have recorded together since the SME days. (There is also a single released earlier this year to raise money for the Vortex Club in London.) And Craig Taborn and Ches Smith are certainly no strangers to the creative music scene.

    The music on Uncharted Territories is fully improvised, with the exception of Q&A, which first appeared on Holland’s Conference of the Birds. (There is also a great version on Circle’s Paris Concert from 1971.) The tracks cycle through all the subsets of the quartet, featuring duos and trios in addition to the full band, with the track names reflecting which permutation is performing. The tracks are mostly short by improvised music standards, mainly between four and six minutes. The relatively short track lengths allows for a wide diversity of ideas to be worked through over the course of the twenty-three cuts, presented on two CDs or three LPs or digital download. The album is so long, clocking in at just over two hours and ten minutes, that I was initially overwhelmed by how much music is presented here. The only choice was to dive in head first and let the ocean of sound wash over me.

    The music is as exciting as you’d expect from four creative musicians at the top of their games. Taborn’s use of piano, organs, keyboards, and electronics offers a wide variety of timbral possibilities as does Smith’s use of the drum set and a wider percussion arsenal. I’m particularly fond of the bass and percussion duets, as well as Taborn’s organ playing, but there is so much to hear, something for everyone. The real treat is of course the cuts featuring the full quartet. The album is well worth spinning many, many times.

    Uncharted Territories is the first time this quartet has performed together. I hope this group has a long life together. It would be a special treat to hear this group develop together over many years. I can only imagine would a beautiful mindfuck it would be to see them live.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2018

    Dinosaur - Wonder Trail (Edition, 2018) ****

    By Sammy Stein

    Dinosaur are a Mercury shortlisted band comprising award winning composer and musician Laura Jurd on trumpet and synthesiser, Elliot Galvin ( Elliot Galvin Trio) on keyboards and synthesisers, Conor Chaplain (Flying Machines, Fabled, Nick Costley-White 4tet) on bass and Corrie Dick (Little Lions, Elliot Galvin Trio, Blue Eyed Hawk, Lilli Unwin Band, Glasshopper, Leaf Cutter John and more) on drums. Laura Jurd probably will never fall into an easily assigned category and the music is all the better for it. She has worked in a range of styles and now it is the turn of jazz-synth-pop for this eclectic and gifted musician and her band.

    Renewal ( part 1) opens with a fanfare of electronics and horns followed swiftly by an up-beat time tempo established by synth and percussion which strolls along for a while before a bass pick intro to Laura Jurd sails in with a tuneful and time perfect trumpet solo. The rest of the band quieten down for a while, picketing behind and under her but the trumpet carries itself forward and over the top, creating a fluid line for the ears to follow and it builds, along with the band until the fading last sequences. Interesting but not mind blowing yet. ‘ Quiet Thunder’ is a swinging, Latin-esque style piece during the course of which the band explore and work together to create some great and strong dialogue, led by the trumpet but by no means carried by this alone. The bass line is very cool and the percussive interventions intriguing and dialectic. The track contains what are almost micro sections with a percussive line here, a rock based groove there but above all, there is a linear direction achieved which enables the listener to remain engaged throughout. The middle section is very interesting, with the bass establishing a solid groove over which the other instruments play and intermingle. Lots to wonder at here and the timing is exquisite on occasion. The ending announces itself and takes a while. ‘ Shine Your Light’ takes things down a peg or two, at least initially, with key board introduction before a slow beat and theme is introduces with some eerie and intricate trumpet searing coming in over the top before a break and a deeper bass line announces another section with mesmeric, threatening bass over which the trumpet speaks a mournful narrative all its own. A few unnecessary synth additions take a little from the trumpet line before the voices can be heard singing the words. Interesting structure and such a lot of changes in one short number. ‘Forgive, Forget’ is short at just under two and a half minutes but it is so, so good. Rickety tickety drums and a bottom line over which the trumpet dives, soars and travels at times a wondrous road, filled with Eastern magic. A completely lovely interlude. Just too short.

    ‘Old Times’ Sake’ is buzzy – and rhythmic, the keyboard setting out a simple theme before trumpet and the rest take it up and play and then off we go, suddenly , we are basing ourselves sin the root chord and whipping up a storm, albeit a very controlled one. It feels like the music is on the brink here, waiting to dive off the edge – but it never quite does, which is where control comes in. The countered rhythmic section between keys and bass and percussion is clever and spot on time-wise, it could all have gone wrong but it never is in danger of this. Another great track.

    ‘Renewal’ (part 11) is begins with synth, percussion and trumpet playing along nicely before something happens and the music is interrupted with some wild electronica before returning to trumpet over percussion. It happens again, sounding rather like a child has got to play with switches and keys making for disjointed and slightly irritating sounds which , coupled with the fanfare ending work to create the only track I fast forwarded on on the CD.

    ‘Set Free’ is gentle with almost choral, Olde English singing, harmony incorporated entering over the repeated chords. Then it develops into a charming and delicately presented trumpet over the top of strong, fastidious and completely engaging rhythmic and chordal changes. Then the singing again!! Some of the harmonies are intriguing and emerge form the background at strategic points. The trumpet around the 2.30 mark is lovely and takes the track into another realm of quality. Now we are free, now we are really, really playing. Wonderful.

    ‘Swimming’ is begun with deep chords over which the trumpet enters with a summery, wistful melodic line ( or two). Then, the piece grows into something quite organic with interspersed melody, a whacky off kilter rhythm between percussion and keys, a rolling section and then the theme again. This ensues for the entire piece, feeling rather like each has apiece of the jigsaw and they are trying to put it together to create a marvellous whole. It works. The echoed trumpet at the end is lovely.
    ‘And Still We Wonder’ is 4 minutes of something rather wonderful, with singing, charm filled keyboard lines and a ‘Kind Hearts and English’ feel to it all. It is a song but it is also a musical and structural scaffold upon which trumpet solos, keyboard solos and nifty percussive lines hang and twirl, at times creating a far ground like feel to the music, at others a very definite jazz influenced little item but whatever you want to try to label it, it is very intriguing and engaging.

    What is good, no great about this CD is the inclusion of a huge number of style references, yet it is all combined and whipped into a style which is pure Dinosaur and different from what has gone before. The range and different sounds the synthesiser can create are used to open up a wellspring of opportunities, which Laura Jurd and the rest of the band explore with an enthusiasm which is at once child-like and at the same time the curiosity of true musicians. The trumpet is played at times with an intensity which is mind boggling and at others with a surreptitious gentleness which belies the pin point placement of the notes. Miles influence in the intonation can distinctly be felt. Great music, great musicians, when it is as simple as that, what’s not to love?

    Monday, May 21, 2018

    The Latest from Didi Kern

    By Eyal Harueveni

    Austrian drummer Didi Kern is one of the busiest and most versatile in the Viennese scene. Readers of this blog may know him as the D in Ken Vandermark’s DEK trio (together with fellow-Austrian pianist Elisabeth Harnik), but Kern began his career as a drummer in local art rock, punk, noise, electronica and even techno outfits, among them BulBul, Broken.Heart.Collector, Fuckhead and Poisonous Frequenzies before establishing himself as a resourceful, energetic free improviser with a sharp sense of humor.

    Didi Kern & Philipp Quehenberger - Linz (Shameless, 2018) ***½



    Kern and fellow Viennese keyboards player Philipp Quehenberger have been playing together for more than 15 years and still enjoying refining their blend of brutal, atmospheric storms. Quehenberger, like Kern, enjoys experimenting with a broad spectrum of sounds, especially with noisy and electronic ones, and is associated with the local experimental label Editions Mego. Linz, captured live at Stadtwerkstatt Linz on March 2017, is the duo fifth full album (not including 5 singles and EP’s with guests as Marshall Allen, BulBul, Carla Bozulich and many others), release on vinyl plus download option.
    Linz lasts only 28 minutes but Kern and Quehenberger manage to do in this short free-improvisation much more than larger outfits may have done in twice longer time. Both do not spend their time and from the first second to the last one they set a hard driving, brutal pulse, and keep colliding with each other. But this performance is not only about boundless power, reckless energy and full-blast intensity. The rhythm is infectious and forces you, unconsciously and almost effortlessly, to move and even dance to, The dark, atmospheric keyboards deepens this kinetic feeling of time and space. And Linz demonstrates how a wild free-improv set can meet prog-rock and techno aesthetics, blow your mind, rewire your nerves and leave you smiling.

    Listen and download from Bandcamp.


    Mats Gustafsson & Didi Kern - Marvel Motor (Rock is Hell Records, 2018) ****


    Kern shares with the Swedish titan a common affinity to intense, earth-shaking energy, but Marvel Motor continues and deepens the wild-spacey spirit of Linz as Mats Gustafsson is credited here with “less reeds, more synth”. This album is the second collaboration of Kern with Mats Gustafsson, following the limited-edition, one-side vinyl Eissalon (Live) (Rock is Hell, 2013, only 222 copies, 44 were colored). Marvel Motor, recorded in December 2016 in Vienna, comes in a bit more generous edition, a limited-edition of 258 vinyls (two sided, three different, slipstreamed slip-in version) plus download option.
    Both Gustafsson and Kern sound as challenging and rebelling against any expectations from such a meeting. Free the jazz, as the slogan on one of Gustafsson’s favorite t-shirts. Both offer variations on a restless, fast and volcanic interplay where the electronics plus synths tornados of Gustafsson, with some sax wails (only on two out of six pieces, “Fun Generator” and “Besenkamme”), threaten to blow out everything around him while the manic drumming of Kern insist on piercing these walls of sounds. Eventually, both have perfected, alone, in other groups and together, a unique wisdom of how to shape and sculpt a nuanced and irresistible rhythm. A rhythm that is built of many, often colliding, but more often complementing, even enhanced sounds, as the title of best realized piece, “EnHANCEment”, suggests. Again, you may find yourself dancing, marvelled by your involuntary, motoric actions.

    Listen and download from Bandcamp


    Sunday, May 20, 2018

    Are Tribute Albums Really of Interest?

    By Stef

    Who is really waiting for tribute albums? They are created with the best of intentions, to celebrate the music and memory of an admired and influential artist. On the downside, they are often the result of  musicians playing together without a shared vision on the sound they want to create, and with a performance that can never reach the level of the original. Tribute albums may be of interest to fans of the celebrated artist, but more often than not they are disappointments, and possibly even more to the interested fans.

    The good thing is that they bring some older music back to your attention, and you will hopefully go to the original and enjoy its authenticity. Then you will understand why there is a tribute album in the first place.

    But it is a sign of respect for the old masters, so who can be against that? True, yet on the other hand, why do you need masterpieces to be re-worked if the original is so good? Do painters make copies of Picasso's "Guernica"? Do writers re-write Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow"?


    Dave Liebman & Joe Lovano - Compassion - The Music Of John Coltrane (Resonance Records, 2017)


    No doubt Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman are wonderful sax-players, and the skills of pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Ron McLure and drummer Billy Hart are among the best around. They were asked by the BBC, ten years ago, to perform to commemorate the 40th anniversary of John Coltrane's passing away. Not all material was released at that time, so today we get the unreleased tracks as a kind of 50th anniversary album.

    The music is good. It is John Coltrane's music of course: "Locomotion", "Olé", "Equinox", and the long "Compassion". But then you wonder about the quality of it all. It falls short of the original ... and at quite a distance. Technically this is good, but it's not Coltrane, nor his band. Have you heard Coltrane play? The good thing about tribute albums is that you're forced to listen back to the original, and then you listen to Coltrane again, as I do now, at this very moment, playing Compassion, you're blown away by the man's incredible power, soul and expansiveness. Here is the man who lifted jazz out of the commercial confines of night clubs and bars and dance halls and gave it the status of "serious" music, as opposed to mere entertainment. Coltrane is the man who changed jazz from being just fun into something more existential, more spiritual, turning it into a complete listening experience. Then you listen back to Liebman and Lovano, and what you hear ressembles the original, but then with all life drained from it.


    Sky Music - A Tribute To Terje Rypdal (Rune Grammofon, 2017)



    American guitarist Henry Kaiser brought together a band to celebrate Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal for his 70th birthday, consisting of keyboardist and long time Rypdal side-kick Ståle Storløkken, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, drummer Gard Nilssen, guitarists Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, Even H. Hermansen, Hans Magnus Ryan, Finnish guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske. Bill Frisell and David Torn deliver solo interpretations, Nels Cline and cellist Erik Friedlander play a duet. 

    The opening piece, "Omen" by Frisell is as beautiful and calm as you can expect from the master. David Torn, like Frisell does not fall into the trap of trying to emulate Rypdal's sound, but gives his own personal rendition of "Avskjed". "What Comes After" is a wonderfully tense and meditative piece by Erik Friedlander and Nels Cline. I think it's the album's highlight, if only because they capture the spirit of Rypdal's music : desolation, expansiveness, emotional intensity and sonic inventiveness. "Sunrise", with Jim O'Rourke on guitar is also acceptable, but still a million miles away from the power of the original (with Jack DeJohnette and Miroslav Vitous). 

    For all the other tracks you can wonder what the point is. Sure, the playing is good, and the guitarists lined up to play tribute to their role model know what they're doing on their instruments, but the overall musical vision and quality is quite well below the original. Tracks such as "Over Birkerot/Silver Bird Heads For The Sun" lack the sophisticated arrangement of the original with its sudden changes, its incredible power and darkness. 

    The same can be said for "Rolling Stone", one of the most memorable tracks of Rypdal's masterpiece "Odyssey", which gets a lukewarm rendition here, again highlighting the fact that superb music is not only the result of having a strong composition, but also of performance and interplay. Where Rypdal created an incredible sense of space, leaving room for other musicians, taking time to build the pieces, here you have the musicians tumbling over themselves to show off their skills. You also need the musical vision, sensitivities and competence to make it connect with the listener. These guys know their instruments, but I wonder whether they understand the music. 


    Various Artists - Celebrate Ornette (Song X Records, 2017)


    On "Celebrate Ornette" we get a mix of various performances, one on which Ornette was present, at the age of 84, and even if he was not expected to perform, he still did (on the first two tracks). The performers are stylistically as widely apart as Joe Lovano and Patti Smith, Thurston Moore and David Murray, Laurie Anderson and Geri Allen. Of course, they don't all perform together but in various performances and bands, but even then, the musical unity is lacking. The performances are live, not well recorded and some of the performances are relatively chaotic and primitive, like you would expect from a jam band. That is unfortunately also the case with "Lonely Woman", a twenty-minute destruction of one of the most beautiful compositions ever, with a super band including Geri Allen, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, Ravi Coltrane, David Murray, Wallace Roney Jr. and Denardo Coleman's quintet. Too many cooks spoil the broth. 

    Some pieces are well rehearsed and performed as, with the Denardo Vibe, the band of Ornette Coleman's son Denardo, who turn "Blues Connotation" into a high speed fusion romp.

    The more interesting pieces are the ones that go totally beyond Ornette's own style, as with the rendition of "Sadness" by Thurston Moore and Nels Cline. The two guitarists do something with the material. They make it all their own and bring something strong.

    CD3 offers the best part of the album. It was recorded at Ornette Coleman's memorial after his passing away. The mood is of course completely different, one of reverence and sadness, with solo pieces by Pharoah Sanders and Cecil Taylor, a duet between Henry Threadgill and Jason Moran, a beautiful rendition of "Peace" by Ravi Coltrane and Geri Allen, an interesting duet between Jack DeJohnette and tap dancer Savion Glover. The "Lonely Woman" version with Joe Lovano, David Murray, Charnett Moffett, Al MacDowell and Denardo Coleman is more palpable than the previous one, but it still lacks the deepfelt soul and sadness that the composition requires. 

    In sum, it's a little big of a mixed bag. I have the impression that this is just a quick collection of uneven material, with limited musical value. 


    Various Artists - Tribute To Andrzej Przybielski Vol. 1 (Jazz Poznan, 2016)

    The lesser known musician in this list who gets a tribute album is possibly Andrzej Przybielski, the Polish trumpeter who passed away in 2011, and who gets commemorated here by a selection of Poland's best musicians.

    The band consists of Maciej Fortuna, Marcin Gawdzis, Wojciech Jachna, Tomasz Kudyk, Peter Schmidt and Maurice Wójciński on trumpet, Jakub Kujawa on guitar; Grzegorz Nadolny on double bass, and Grzegorz Daroń on drums.

    We have reviewed some of Przybielski's later work on this blog before, and with enthusiasm. And I'm not familiar enough with the man's entire catalogue to be able to compare the tribute album with his original music. They perform four compositions by Przybielski and three collective improvisations.

    The opening track, "Afro Blues", is not my kind of thing, I must say, with a strange loss of stylistic unity, in the shape of Kujawa's howling fusion guitar and the unison big band horns, too much showing off and not enough real music. The last track starts with a long text in Polish spoken by Przybielski himself, interspersed by some trumpet phrases, but of course for those who do not understand the language, this is literally meaningless, and for Polish people nothing more than interesting for documentary reasons.

    Luckily, the rest of the playing is phenomenal, as in the hesitant and calmly growing "Free I", the bluesy "Free II", where the trumpeters take turn to solo over the slowest of tempi. "Arce" is a beautiful slow ballad, full of melancholy and sadness.

    Surely Przybielski deserves a tribute, and I can only recommend interested listeners to find out more about him. It's great that his Polish admirers release a tribute CD for him, and with some more unity of style, this could have been a great tribute. Let's hope that Vol. 2 solves some of the issues of this album.