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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Anthony Braxton's Sonic Genome LIVESTREAM

We thought this may be of interest - Anthony Braxton's Sonic Genome project, which is also the opening of the Jazzfest Berlin, will be live streamed today. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. CET... and right now that means it's 5 hours earlier in NYC (DST ended last weekend in Berlin).

The event is happening at the stately Gropius Bau museum where Braxton will be joined by 60 musicians from Australia, Germany, UK and US and for six hours, they will transform the museum into a cosmos of musical experience.

So, come back and check it out when it's happening for you!

The Blog will be providing coverage of the festival, check out the program here.

theBABAorchestra - Marigold (Thirsty Owl / Slow and Steady Records, 2019) ****½

By Bill Kautz

[Lauren] Elizabeth Baba returns with a new imagining of what theBABAorchestra can create, and how she as an orchestrator and conductor can push the group even further tonally, rhythmically, and communally.

Marigold is the latest release from composer, conductor and bandleader [Lauren] Elizabeth Baba performed by theBABAorchestra, a 17-piece experimental big band based out of Los Angeles. Marigold follows 2017’s release Another Ride on the Elephant Slide with an even stronger sense of group unity, vision and identity.

This is a 4 part continuous, unedited performance finding its origins from the immigration story of Baba’s family from Greece and Syria. Their tenacity is brought into the now by exploring one’s journey of self-discovery, inequality, immigration, and the reality that juggling all of this can lead to a breakdown. While highlighting that realness, Baba makes sure we understand that the largest theme which rises above is the indomitable pursuance of creativity. And there is nothing that is going to get in the way of the power of this sound on this record.

The album starts off with space and time in the forefront. A repetitive pitch is played by the piano and gradually spreads itself throughout the entire orchestra into the opening theme of the first movement. From there, listeners will go into a gradual escalation into powerful territory full of heavy groove, free playing and tight lines. Throughout the work, Baba holds on to themes and distributes them throughout the ensemble in multiple layers and adaptations. With this fiery melange, freedom with the ensemble and as individual players remains. Each of the 3 takes (you are hearing take 3 here) all venture into different areas with movements changing based off of how the group is making sense of them at that moment. Because of this, the group has to move together in order to survive. Much credit is due to Baba’s leadership here, but also the trust and understanding of everyone in the ensemble to immerse themselves into the music and to create something together that is bigger than themselves.
Marigold shows that [Lauren] Elizabeth Baba understands the inherent power and harmonic potential of the big band format. She honors the history of this medium while also pushing what it can do, reinforcing its relevance as a vehicle of the avant-garde and creative music.

This is music of a higher purpose. Of 18 artists’ unhinged passion and energy. Art that captures this dynamic and soul is worth experiencing, celebrating and leveraging.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

ON 音 Duet Nikolas Skordas & Alexandros Aivaliotis - Facing Infinity (SLAM, 2019) ****

By Guido Montegrandi

The Nikolas Skordas and Alexandros Aivaliotis duet develops his music on a path where west meets east. Skordas plays soprano sax but also traditional flutes, tarogato (a woodwind instrument rooted in Hungarian and Rumenian folk music, but also in free jazz – Peter Brotzmann and Evan Parker occasionally played it) and percussion. Aivaliotis plays the Shakuhachi (Japanese and Chinese longitudinal bamboo flute used among other things for the practice of suizen – or blowing meditation).

The name of the duet is a clear declaration of intents, in Greek ‘on’ is the sentient being, the same phonetics in Japanese means sound as the original form of frequency creation through air. The ideogram which stand for this sound, is composed by two other ideograms meaning ‘stand up’ and the ‘’sun’ viz the rising of the light.

And music is exactly what you can guess: an exploration of sounds, an interchange between the two players which produces evocative minimal soundscapes. The sax and the flutes interact creating a rich interplay which develops in the twelve pieces with a sense of continuity without being repetitive. The sound of the shakuhachi in the solo piece “The Joy of Loneliness” is clearly evocative of an eastern path but the blending with the sax an original sound which appears well represented in the track “on” where Skordas and Aivaliotis begin as solos to joins their music in the third part of the piece.

The last track “Farwell” introduces a new element, the chant of Sophia Koroxenou and the sound of the voice creates a natural interaction with the blow of the winds somehow closing the circle.

To listen to the point of view of the artists look at the short film “Facing Infinity”

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (CTS, 2019) *****

By Martin Schray

The waiting has come to an end - Matana Roberts is back with the fourth chapter of her outstanding Coin Coin series, which has rightfully been praised as the most interesting long-term project in modern jazz. For those not familiar with the idea of the project: the first three Coin Coin albums, Gens de Couleurs Libres, Mississippi Moonchile, and River Run Thee, released between 2011 and 2015, were supposed to present history from a different perspective. Coin Coin has been planned as a 12-part magnum opus based on the life story of the former slave and later entrepreneur Marie Thérèse Coincoin, who lived in Louisiana at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century and was an ancestor of Roberts, whose parents moved from the South to Chicago and also used Coincoin as a nickname for their daughter. The project is therefore also a personal quest for one's own roots, but in the sense of an alternative historiography it’s much more than that. As a result, this album - like its predecessors - is both field research, political intervention, and sound event at the same time.

On Memphis, Roberts displays a vision of the past, the memories of a young woman whose parents were killed by the KKK, a story handed down to her by her Memphis-born grandmother. Roberts structures this story on the basis of a sequence of weekdays, at first the atmosphere seems idyllic and peaceful - from the child's point of view everything is rather jaunty, symbolised in the repeated phrase “I am a child of the wind / even daddy said so / we used to race and I would always win and he said / run baby run / run like the wind / that's it, the wind / the memory is the most unusual thing / peace be still“. However, in “All Things Beautiful“ this phrase gets a deeper, dramatic meaning, because the playful context is suddenly gone, everything becomes deadly serious: the little girl has to run for her life, because the family is hunted down by a racist mob. The girl manages to escape in the woods but is never to see her parents again.

Apart from the multidisciplinary aesthetics and narrative power Roberts has used on the previous Coin Coin albums, she has also presented different compositional approaches - she calls this “Panorama Sound Quilting“ -, the music arrangements ranged from big band to sextet to solo. Her music has mostly been categorized as free jazz but in reality it’s more like a cacophonous soundtrack consisting of a loud bouquet of horns, ouds, jaw harps, mouth organs, violins, guitars and vibraphones. That’s why Memphis is reminiscent of Gens de Couleurs Libres, like on the first part of the series, Roberts uses blues, Latin American music, and gospel motives, she even quotes jazz classics (here “St. Louis Blues“ in “Fit to be Tied“). In the longest piece (the album consists of 13 tracks but is rather one long suite), “Trail of the Smiling Sphinx“, Roberts layers bluegrass fiddles, freely improvising wind instruments and dark rhythms on top of each other, a fascinating mess of styles that points out that the blacks and whites in the South were clearly separated (“the house of god, they say, was no place for the mixing of races“, the child remembers someone say at the end of the track).

Moreover, Roberts uses different vocal and verbal techniques: folk song, recitation, cathartic throat screaming, opera voice, soft lullaby, choir music, call-and-response schemes - in general the revival of various American folk traditions and spirituals. Still, in the center there’s always Roberts and her instrument - the alto saxophone. For Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis, Roberts founded a new band with Hannah Marcus (guitars, violin, accordion), percussionist Ryan Sawyer, the Montréal bassist Nicolas Caloia, and Sam Shalabi on guitar and oud (she has worked with him on her Feldspar album), as well as the extraordinary New-York-based trombonist Steve Swell and the vibraphonist Ryan White as special guests. Surrounded by these excellent musicians, Roberts’s alto is at its most sublime place, at the same time integrated into their sounds and dominating them. This arrangement makes her sound radiating even more beautiful.

In a nutshell: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis is the next element of Roberts’s contribution to 21st century liberation music, oscillating between meditative evocative explorations, jazz tradition and free improvisations. Without any doubt my album of the year.

Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis is available on vinyl (180g LP), CD and as a download. You can buy it from the label.

You can listen to parts of the album here:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Al Fraser, Sam Leamy, Neil Johnstone – Panthalassa (Rattle, 2019) ***½

By Nick Ostrum

To understand this album, one must understand its setting. Panthalassa is the ocean that surrounded the ancient supercontinent Pangea. It was immense, deep, and, with the onset of the Cambrian explosion for which the Paleozic Age is best known, rich with life.

Panthalassa starts as a soundscape shimmering, but desolate soundscape. A panoramic of haunting Lost-in-Space hums flutters in a desolate wind. An inconsistent ring seems to keep time as wooden creaks and scrapes drag the first track, “Paleozoic Dawn,” to its ends. The second track, “Bone White Moon,” then redeploys the soundscape to a dreamy backdrop over which Fraser lays his clarion nga taonga puoro – his assortment of Maorian wind instruments. This track has a pulse to it that the more skeletal, almost lifeless “Paleozoic Dawn” can only hint at. “Rorqual” returns to the welling atmospherics, but, again, in a more compelling manner than the first track. It is richer and glistens with activity and distinctively human sounds. Tracks such as the growling “Echolocation,” the eerily pacific, guitar-laden “Glacial Imprints,” spectral vocal-track “Hinatore,” and the funereal “Whale Time” do so as well, in their own distinctive ways. And this is quite fitting. The album is a journey from the abandoned and sterile to the increasingly organic and anachronistically anthropocentric world of wafting melodies and energy agglomeration and release. The crescendo is unsteady. Instead, the album rocks between absence and intervention, as if the more conventional, acoustic instruments (those focused on melody and those most deeply connected to the history of music) are fighting to break through the electronic haze. Then, with the “Mesozoic Extinction,” the life of the album comes to an end in a bittersweet return to the near-barrenness of the inorganic sonic-world that preexisted it. The extinction is catastrophic, though the song reflects the graduality of the dying-out, rather than the sudden rupture of a cataclysm. The soundscape fades and the hollow pattering from the background, almost rhythmic, carry the track to its final, silent end.

Reflecting the presumably strange diversity of the Paleozoic stew of life, Panthalassa is an odd concoction that comes into its own when the abstract synthesized ambience combines with the instrumentation, at times Maorian horns and other tools, at others bass, guitars, ocean harp, and vocals. It is these instances that this album rises about the more conventional morass of sonic landscaping, the pre-organic dawn and the ultimate extinction, and lets a glimmer of life shine through. This is an album that captivates in its contemplative subtleties rather than aggression or sheer novelty. And, indeed, if you have the attention to pay it and the open ears to hear it, it is well worth the close listen.

Solo percussion & percussion duets and even more percussion

By Stef

Is it possible to create meaningful music with only percussion? The answer is clearly yes. But the challenge to keep non-percussionists motivated to keep listening is high. The absence of any lyrical or harmonic instruments is a barrier to many. But I recommend to listen to some of the following albums, released in the last year: some solo albums and some duo albums, and one that is even not only percussion but one that still might fit in this overview.

In the last few years, we have seen how progressive music opened towards more open sonic environments, offering a new world of sound in which texture and timbre become more important than rhythm and harmonies. This increases the opportunities to explore, because the boundaries are gone, and it allows for musicians to deepen the possibilities and potential of their instruments. I assume that especially for percussionists, this opens new aural vistas, as you hear on the following albums.

Various Artists - Free Percussion (Tsss Tapes, 2019)

Let's start with the most exclusive one: a wonderful compilation of what modern percussionists have to say with their instruments. The artists are - in this sequence: Claire Rousay, Rie Nakajima, Chris Dadge, Håkon Berre, Ted Byrnes, Tim Daisy, Will Guthrie, Simon Camatta, Kevin Corcoran, Skyler Rowe, Francesco Covarino and João Lobo. Each one of them performs on one track, and as the liner notes say, using:"Snares, bells, sticks, cymbals, pinecones, rattles, brushes, bass drums, mallets & other objects that make a sound if you hit them, stroke them, let them bounce". Each artist has his or her own approach, yet all music is thoughtful and carefully paced, creating sonic environments rather than rhythmic explorations in which percussive sounds merge with silence, scrapings, stretched tones, combining minimalism with more expressive moments. A mixed tape for sure, but with unity. 

Listen and buy from Bandcamp

Tim Daisy - New Works For Solo Percussion (Relay, 2019)

Chicagoan drummer Tim Daisy is of course well known to the readers of this blog. He has performed with musicians such as Ken Vandermark,  Steve Swell, Dave Rempis, Jeb Bishop,  Mars Williams, Jaimie Branch, and many more across the continents. It's no wonder that he is in such demand. He is a drummer with skills and ideas, which he already sufficiently demonstrated in his many collaborations.
On this album, he takes the time to share his own thoughts on new possibilities. He combines different styles and types of drumming, sometimes rhythmic, playing different instruments at the same time. The long opening track demonstrates it all: marimba, toms, crotales, woodblocks, cymbals and gongs create a sonic universe that oscillates between tension and fun, between intensity and calm, between pyrotechnics and tenderness. I think especially drummers will revel in the new approaches that are presented here, yet there's sufficient variation and innovation to keep non-drummers interested.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Michael Zerang ‎– Assyrian Caesarean (Holidays, 2019)

Michael Zerang is mentioned in no less than 52 articles published on this blog, often in ensembles with Brötzmann, McPhee, Rempis, Swell and other free jazz luminaries. To my knowledge, this is his first solo album.

Zerang switches between percussive moments and sonic explorations by generating lengthened noisy sounds from his instrument, by rubbing the skins of his toms, or the sides of his cymbals with a variety of tools. His "Song for Mourners" is a good example of the latter, and it demonstrates the percussionist's skill to generate expressive sounds with varying pitches out of his drum kit, by itself already an interesting feat, yet it also has artistic value, as it offers a weird and unusual listening experience, one that you can get lost in, as in "Threnody for a Desert Storm", a multilayered piece full of tension and foreboding. On "Capitalism's Last Shred", the noise is utterly irritating, but I guess that's the point considering the track's title.

If you prefer straight drumming, the listener will definitely enjoy compositions such as "Assyrian Caesarean", a rhythmic delight full of shifting patterns played on his toms with just a few hi-hat sounds for contrast. The most complex percussive piece is "The Swift and Sordid Purification of Jimi Jihad", a rumbling improvisation full of variety and dozens of little things happening at the same time.

Zerang, himself of Assyrian descent (Iraq/Iran), creates a haunting, personal story that is both musical and political: thanks to his skills and inventiveness he transcends the natural limitations of his instrument, expanding its range and musical potential while at the same time evocating the pain and destruction in the Middle East.

Peter Orins - Happened By Accident (Circum, 2019) 

We've come across Peter Orins as the drummer of French-Japanese Kaze quartet or in some of Satoko Fujii's Orchestras, as well as being a member of th French Circum Grand Orchestra. Classically trained, he takes his music even a step beyond jazz on this solo album. He explores textures and sounds, influenced by minimalism yet at the same time - as on the first piece - creating quite a dense and warm multilayered sound that shifts in intensity. Other tracks are built around silence with the percussion instruments expressing themselves in unheard languages, chirping or twittering, scraping or whistling, or once even a deep bass resonance coming from who knows where (as on the fourth track). The title refers to the unexpected nature of his music, where things happen by chance, by accident even.

The result is mesmerising. Listen closely and you will be amazed that all these sounds are the results of percussive instruments, but even that no longer matters. The sound stands on its own, regardless of the instruments used. It's almost become ambient, the sounds of life, nature and civilisation, both equally unpredictable, captured in little sonic capsules with a high level of abstraction that is paradoxically also very physical. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Emil Karlsen - Flux (Noumenon, 2019)

Norwegian percussionist Emil Karlsen is based in Leeds at the moment, and becoming part of the avant-garde music scene. As far as I could find out, this is the third album on which he performs, and the choice to produce a solo CD is quite unusual. The album consists of twelve relative short pieces, on which he demonstrates the versatility and variety of his musical vision. The pieces are called "Waves", "Changes", "Air",  "Flow", "Rain", indicating that the music is either evocative or inspired by nature. "Air" for instance, offers a spacious soundscape of individual cymbal sounds that resonate through silence, occassionally alternated with a slight beat on a tom. "Flow" starts quietly, but gradually gathers intensity and density, with many percussive sounds adding power like a mountain river that swells with the falling rain.

His music is crisp and crystal clear.

Eric Thielemans - Bata Baba Loka (Oorwerk, 2018)

Eric Thielemans is a Belgian drummer and percussionist, whose new release "Bata Baba Loka" is already his sixth solo album. His instrument is the drum kit. His approach is exploratory but with a strong emphasis on rhythmic changes and patterns, deeply rooted in jazz and African polyrhythms, but making them branch in various new directions. It's a treat.

Eric Thielemans & Billy Hart - Talking About The Weather (Oorwerk, 2019)

And this one is even a better treat: Eric Thielemans invites his former teacher and master drummer Billy Hart for an unusual album, a collage of real conversations - about the weather to start with - and drumming, and often unusual drumming at that. It's a meeting of approaches, of inventive interaction, with different set-ups of the percussion instruments. Thielemans, no longer the student, and Hart, no longer the teacher, go for it, creative, subtle, determined, powerful, supple, not there to impress, but to enjoy the moment, to enjoy each other's technique and ideas and then to merge and co-create with a like-minded spirit, a rare moment for percussionists. You hear them smile to each other during the performance. You hear the respect and the appreciation and the admiration. Some pieces are minimal, some exuberant, but always rich.

The album comes with a 64-page booklet with all the conversations in full.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Jay Rosen & Brian Willson - The Mystery Brothers (Not Two, 2019)

Jay Rosen (Trio X, Cosmosomatics, ...) and Brian Willson (Ivo Perelman Trio, Pauline Oliveros, ...) have an equally intimate conversation between drum kits on this album. The wonderful recording puts each musician on one audio channel (Willson on the left, Rosen on the right), so you can hear how the interaction develops, often seemingly playing as one in these four lengthy improvisations.

For two artists who know their instruments so well, and who are so competent and skilled, the fact of having this opportunity to speak the same language appears to be infectious. They are not all over the place, quite to the contrary: the music is focused, and even if unplanned, it develops with its own logic and sense of direction, like stories unfolding. The long last track is called "Unity". And that's what you get.

Eventless Plot - Percussion Works (Dinzu Artefacts, 2019) 

Eventless Plot is an ensemble a little bit in its own universe. Their approach is minimalistic, with at least one or a few sustained tones that give the music a strong horizontal linearity, acting as a shifting foundation for the percussion to emphasise, contrast and disrupt. The trio, consisting of Vasilis Liolios, Yiannis Tsirikoglou and Aris Giatas, limit themselves to percussion on this album, in contrast to the use of piano and guitar on their earlier work. They are joined by Louis Portal for additional percussion. On the second track, Stefanos Papadimitriou joins with his viola, emphasising the sustained tones of bells. Evelina Krasaki sings - wordless - on the third composition. The main instruments are percussion, crotales, sound plates, singing bowls, cymbals, objects with the support of electromagnetic mics, contact mics, bows, sine tones, electronics Max/MSP.

Despite this line-up, the composed work is slow-paced, light-textured and ethereal. The collective effort of the musicians results in a sonic world of strange intensity. Despite its apparant calm, the music is rich and full of dramatic moments, and often of an eery beauty. Of all the albums reviewed in this list, it's possibly the least 'percussive' in the traditional sense, but at the same time it again reveals that with ingenuity and musical vision more can be done with less.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Tatsuya Nakatani - Yama Yaki (Self-released, 2018)

Last year, Japanese master drummer Tatsuya Nakatani released already his ninth solo percussion album. Nakatani is known to us for his collaborations with amongst others Peter Kowald, Gary Hassay, Asif Tsahar, Michel Doneda.

His approach to his instrument is a very physical one, highly energetic, even when he is using extended techniques as can be seen on the video below. On several of his previous solo albums he collected a number of different pieces, recorded at various intervals, but the approach on this album is different, as it consists of one long track of 45 minutes. And this approach works. Nakatani creates his sound art which requires time to develop, to build a sonic narrative that is full of intensity and an inherent level of violence and power.

Claire Rousay - various solo albums

To finish this list, I would like to refer to two albums already reviewed by Keith Prosk last month, but still worth mentioning in this series.

In conclusion, it's amazing that percussion only albums are proliferating. The musicians listed above have taken this unique form to a higher level, demonstrating that even in a very limited setting, many new sounds can be explored and created. I'm sure there will be something for anyone's taste.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Ivo Perelman - Ineffable Joy (ESP Disc, 2019) ****1⁄2

By Sammy Stein

In 1967 Gato Barbieri's album on ESP In Search of the Mystery had a profound effect on a young fellow South American tenor player - that player was Ivo Perelman. Now, Perelman himself has recorded with the same label and includes Bobby Kapp the same drummer who was on Gato's album. Alongside Bobby Kapp, Perelman has enlisted bass player William Parker and his long-time collaborator Matthew Shipp on piano. Each of the musicians brings their own distinctive avant garde style to this recording and although Parker and Shipp have made multiple albums with Perelman, and each has played together before, their interplay remains fresh .

Ineffable Joy opens with 'Ecstacy' which announces itself with deep piano and bass before Perelman's tenor sings across the top line, rich, multi-registered themes emerging whilst the drums emphasise the varied licks and quibbles introduced. Parker's bass lines emerge from the depths, adding layers of resonant support and at times where piano meets bass, the lines created are liquid, like flowing rivers. The track builds to a crescendo which then descends to a gentle quietude. 'Ineffable Joy' is a lovely track with all musicians adding their quirky, definitive characterisation to the music, a mix of staccato, from piano and bass over which Perelman's sax sings, sighs and wavers , underpinned by percussion which is light yet fearsome and emerges into a drum solo which is heavy, rhythmic and glorious before the sax and sawn bowed bass take over and bring the track to its harmonic end.

'Jubiliation' sets out in a swinging style, the rhythm set out by the piano and bass in beautiful counter rhythms with each other creating a joyous free-bop introduction. There is a lovely descent from the piano chords, under which the bass and percussion provide solid support before the tenor of Perelman joins to add to the layers and lifts the octaves, sailing over the top, part altissimo, part lower registers. Regular interwoven themes come together and depart in different directions through the track, creating earworms which prevail. 'Ebullience' defies the title with its gentle melodic tenor theme over the top of gentle percussion and pervasive gravitas bass lines at the outset but works towards a regular beat section with bass and sax working together whilst the piano line offers contrasting harmonics in the chords.

'Bliss' is a lively affair with the musicians diversifying almost immediately , each travelling their own distinct path, coming together, then veering off in energetic pathways, which occasionally cross. Perelman here is intense and fractious in his delivery, creating a pivot around which the others work - and work well. The middle section is a contrast with open , lighter harmonies and a delicate percussion which serves to add accents and emphasis before the final, piano-driven section which sees bass and piano working the lower levels together whilst drums continue the pulse and Perelman drops out before re-entering on even more ferocious terms. Glorious. Again, there is a contrasting drop to quietude at the end.

'Elation' begins with soft piano over which the percussion skitters and plays before the tenor introduces a melodic theme and the bass fills the gaps in the extended chordal lines. The rhythm does not seem to establish in this track, and it feels a little lost for a while before the piano asserts a slow but insistent cadence which is carried to the end. 'Rejoicing' contains different patterns from each musician, coming together to create a patchwork of sound which melds into a comprehensive, yet characterful interlude, with roughly bowed bass adding yet more texture and friction to the mix. A set of repeated chords from the piano offers Perelman an opportunity to counter with a melodic ascent - and he take it with relish. The drum and bass conversation in the middle section is clever and luxuriously laden with echoes and crossovers as the deep reverberations are picked up by the bass, which emerges in its own line, picked up and extended by Perelman's tenor. 'Exuberance' tops out the CD with all the musicians coming together in expressive expression of the freedom that this music allows. Complex melody lines are interwoven and combined with dazzling dexterity and Perelman's tenor sax shines on this track.

This is a CD which uses the characters and distinctive styles which each musicians brings to the table, yet also combines them in many places to create new and different expressions. There is an exploration of ideas and different patterns throughout. A brave man is Perelman, bringing together musicians who each have such a distinctive style, this CD is an example of how it can work, and work well.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman, tenor saxophone;
Matthew Shipp, piano;
William Parker, bass;
Bobby Kapp, drums.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Simon Barker & Scott Tinkler - Interweave (Kimnara, 2019) ****½

By Stef

Eleven years ago, Australian artists Simon Barker on drums and Scott Tinkler on trumpet released "Lost Thoughts", an album that I really enjoyed. In the years in between, both musicians kept performing together and releasing albums in various ensembles, frequently also in the company of pianist Mark Hannaford.

It is good to have a duo album again. Both musicians are eclectic players, using elements from jazz, classical, avant-garde, carnatic and other Asian music. They know each other very well, and you can hear that. The interplay is strong, intense and with moments in which each of them takes a step back to let the other musician play a solo piece. And it must be said, the instrumental mastership of both musicians is not only stellar, the way they interact is even stronger.

Barker is a professor at the Sydney Conservartorium of Music, and has written about rhythmic and polyrhythmic traditions of various cultures, which can be heard in his playing, which is unusual and highly inventive. Tinkler's tone has at times a purity of sound as in the best classical trumpet tradition, but with the intensive freedom that is expected from this more adventurous genre. There are moments of such technical complexity, ferocious power and breathing control that the emphatic listener is guaranteed to be out of breath too.

Their combined music is expansive, jubilant, exuberant even at times, despite the limits of the small ensemble. There is an inherent joy in their interplay, a need to sing and dance that is uncanny, with the energy to keep things moving forward. Even in the calmer moments, the power of their attack does not diminish. In contrast to many bands, they have no obvious interest in extended techniques or  timbral explorations, yet they dig deep into the original - intended - sound of their instruments and take this a level higher.

Frequent readers will know that I am a fan of the trumpet-percussion duo, and this one is very high on my list. You don't need to be a trumpeter or a drummer to fully appreciate what's happening here. Despite the technical brilliance and subtle interplay, the format is one of pure simplicity, of the ancient coupling of percussion and singing, of fresh authenticity and direct expressiveness.


Listen and download from Bandcamp.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Made To Break - F4 Fake (Trost, 2019) ****

Made To Break is the most fertile and active outfit from Ken Vandermark in the last decade, and as we all know, Vandermark leads or co-leads at least ten more outfits simultaneously. F4 Fake is already the 9th album from Made to Break, recorded in November 2017 after concluding a short European tour at the Primitive Studios, Vienna.

The title of the album refers, obviously, to today’s troubled populist politics, but the three extended compositions relate to Vandermark’s common interests - art, cinema, fiction, songwriting and how it all corresponds with his musical ideas and language. Made to Break features Vandermark on reeds, fellow Chicagoan, drummer Tim Daisy, Austrian Christof Kurzmann who plays on the ppooll software and electronics, and Dutch Jasper Stadhouders who mostly focuses on the electric bass, though can be heard contributing some guitar as well.

F4 Fake begins with “Aäton”, dedicated to the great director-actor-writer Orson Wells, and titled after the Aäton film cameras, invented by Jean-Pierre Beauviala, who passed away earlier this year. Its strong funky vibe is disturbed by the subversive electronic sounds of Kurzmann who forces Vandermark, Stadhouders and Daisy to alter their rhythmic sense and eventually open the interplay to totally alien sounds and abstract, spacious dynamics. But patiently, Vandermark, Stadhouders and Daisy integrate Kurzmann’s electronics interventions into their funky groove. This kind of interplay is suddenly interrupted again by the angelic sounds of Kurzmann who leads the quartet towards a chamber-like coda.

The second piece, “Meccano Number 7”, dedicated to the Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar and titled after an expression from the counter-novel “Hopscotch”. The atmosphere is still rhythmic, but lighter than “Aäton”. Here Kurzmann employs his ppooll software as another reed instrument with weird, fragmented sounds that enriches the dialog with Vandermark and pushes him to some wild, ecstatic outbursts, but also, again, to delicate chamber interplay.

The third and last piece, “Agora”, now in Portugese, dedicated to Brazilian protest singer Zélia Barbosa, is the most political piece here. Its urgent, raging spirit captures best the anger and dismay over the disastrous politics of the current Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who like his American colleague and model, relies on fake news to justify his idiotic acts. Here, Made to Break sounds like a four-headed massive unit that is in a holy mission, attacking with sheer force and boundless energy the demonic, fake politics. Made to Break combines fiery free jazz with raw noises and abstract electronics, all accumulates into a possessive interplay, sensual and extreme in its own way, but one that highlights Made to Break in its best.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Susan Alcorn/Chris Corsano/ Bill Nace – Live at Rotunda (Open Mouth 59/Live at #6) ****

By Phil Stringer

To begin with my conclusion: I think this is a stunning recording, which merits repeated listening. Actually, it requires repeated listening to reveal the patterns that unfold and the textures that Susan Alcorn (pedal steel guitar), Bill Nace (guitar) and Chris Corsano (drums) develop in an energetic interplay. So far as I know, this is the first time that these three have performed together, on September 5, 2018, at Rotunda, Philadelphia. It sounds, though, as if they have frequently played together and of course, all are familiar to readers of The Free Jazz Collective. I imagine the Rotunda is a conducive environment for musicians; at least, it seem to me that the venue has made its own textural contribution.

The first few times I listened to this (the vinyl version), I realised that I was playing it too quietly. I’m not suggesting that it should be turned up to 11 (one could try) but it certainly benefits from a good turn of the dial. It start with what I can best describe as shimmer of sound announcing the three musicians who immediately establish themselves in unison: reacting, challenging, cooperating. The opening rolls into a blizzard of sound that simultaneously evokes a cognitive and a visceral response. The pattern of music that emerges is like the weather outside just now: sunshine, giving way to darkening skies and then a heavy downpour. Just when it seems the rain cannot get any heavier, the music calms to reveal the distinctive elements that each contribute. There is no recording information to indicate whether this is the whole concert or if it has been edited, In any event, side two seamlessly continues the pattern. There is a relatively lengthy passage of calm with Alcorn shimmering away then turning to staccato passages, like a beacon through the gathering rain. Corsano maintains a steady presence with Nace contributing an incessant low vibration that builds and swirls. And then, the rain arrives, the tempo and volume increases. No musician gets lost or over dominates, unless it’s in service of the music. Finally, the music ebbs again into a remarkably rhythmic finale of stutters, pedal steel melody and percussive wash. Calm arrives. We are dry and happy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Christian Lillinger - The Meinl Sessions (Plaist, 2019) ****

By Martin Schray

German drummer Christian Lillinger’s The Meinl Sessions is a 20-minute-EP based on a video shooting at the cymbal manufacturer Meinl in 2019, a company whose products Lillinger really likes. The session was produced over the course of two days: on the first day with a band and on the second in a solo setting. As a result, The Meinl Sessions is like a condensation of Lillinger's musical philosophy. The album consists of brief characteristic fragments, which display the way in which he uses structures, phrasing and articulation. The tracks are like small parts of a collage, in which ideas are only hinted at but if you consider the EP as one composition they make up a wonderful piece of art. Especially the seven "Settings", the solo tracks, are like samples which represent Lillinger’s compact language: beats, cymbal overtones, varied material applied to the instrument, complex and polyphone rhythms. He calls it "improvised beats containing several layers and countless ghost notes creating a sound behind the sound."

As interesting as the solo tracks are (which stand nicely alongside other recent solo drum albums, e.g. from Rudi Fischerlehner , Eli Keszler and Paal Nilssen-Love ), the tracks with the band are more exciting. “COR“ is a piece Lillinger also recorded with GRUND. But while GRUND is a band with seven musicians, the line-up here is reduced to drums, bass (Petter Eldh and Robert Landfermann) and synthesizer (Elias Stemeseder), which extrudes tighter, drum’n’bass-like characteristics from the composition and turns it into something which could be called weird fusion. “A.S.G.“ goes back to “Als Sozialist Geboren” from the first Amok Amor album (another Lillinger band) and again the track is full of changes and expansions, however - compared to the version of Amok Amor - it sounds like played behind a wall of fog. The saxophone (Otis Sandsjö) is more blurred, the basses are darker and more present. “Kali Koma“ is originally from Petter Eldh’s album Koma Saxo, but here it is less funky and more abstract leaving Otis Sandsjö more space for improvisation. The key track is “Plastic“, which is based on a highly complex melodic and rhythmic structure of several comprised bars. The track culminates in collective solos, through which the form gets stretched and expanded. Plasticity (or plastic) is one of Lillinger’s favourite terms representing his quest for the perfect sound.

The Meinl Sessions is a perfect introduction for beginners who want to explore Christian Lillinger’s music. It’s presents an excellent overview of his oeuvre so far because it highlights the most important ideas of his musical universe. And once you’re hooked, I promise you want to get deeper into this cosmos.

The Meinl Sessions is available as a CD and as an LP. The vinyl has been cut at half speed to prevent loss of treble frequencies.

You can buy it from the label:

You can listen to “Kali Koma“ here:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Evan Parker & Kinetics - Chiasm (Clean Feed, 2019) *****

By Stuart Broomer

“Chiasm,” from the Greek letter chi, our X, literally a “cross,” has numerous applications: it can refer to literary patterns built up of two different grammatical structures, e.g., ABBA, a device employed in Hebrew poetry and present in the Bible; also the place in the brain where the optic nerves cross; further, a crossing of tendons. Chiasm may have numerous significances here. It’s the intersection of two musical units: saxophonist Evan Parker and the younger Danish trio, Kinetics, consisting of pianist Jacob Anderskov, bassist Adam Pultz Melbye, and drummer Anders Vestergaard. The CD consists of four tracks drawn from two performances presented in that ABBA pattern: London, Part 1; Copenhagen, Part 1; Copenhagen Part II; London, Part II.

One might go further, into the multiply chiasmic structures of Parker’s music and the ways in which they arise here. Parker’s art and innovations have proceeded on two axes, one roughly horizontal, one (yes, roughly) vertical. The horizontal is linear, developmental, melodic and is typified to some degree by the tenor saxophone and his work in groups like Schlippenbach Trio; the vertical is simultaneous, multiphonic and characterized by his solo soprano performances and work with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and various electronic musicians (the recent Crepuscule in Nickelsdorf by Parker and Matthew Wright’s Trance Map + [Intakt] is a fine example).

The two patterns are always active to some degree (we act in time, time our opportunity and cross) but they emerge here in sometimes fascinating juxtapositions. “London Part I”, at over 18-minutes almost half of the 38-minute CD, begins with a few near-electronic sounding arco bass tones, then some looming bass notes in the piano’s lowest register, then the quartet is off, in classic free jazz mode, with Parker’s characteristic compound sound, somehow melding the woolly gruffness of Coleman Hawkins and the metallic glow of John Coltrane, his line a brilliant, expressive, pushing-ahead of unchained-if-not-unhinged melody, his partners assembling their own momentum, the current liberated point of the tenor-with-piano-bass-drums in a continuum that might be traced from Hawkins and Lester Young through Dexter Gordon, its most abstract (Warne Marsh) and visceral (Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis) forms, to Rollins and Coltrane (say with Monk) and then say Joe Henderson and Sam Rivers (the last two ideally with Andrew Hill at the piano). In the sonata curve that is, however, common to so much free jazz form, the ballad comes as an insert in the middle of a piece, and, chiasm within chiasm, Parker shifts from the dominant horizontal axis to his vertical, the ironic “timelessness” of circular breathing and fluting cyclical harmonies, before the trio takes it out with some finely turgid rhythmic emphasis in which bass and piano seem to drag themselves insistently forward while everything they do seems also to be dragging them back.

It’s at this point that the second form of the chiasm begins to appear with “Copenhagen Part I,” tenor and piano rustling in the firmament, the lines moving steadily upward with the increasingly active tenor and piano with active bass and energizing, insistent drums joining in until they find repose on a sustained note. “Copenhagen Part II” centres the tenor’s circularity, the circular breathing and the cycling patterns of the increasingly interlocking line, beneath them a rising cloud of dense bass register piano that will rise with the pattern. In the concluding “London Part II,” the music begins with a strong solo tenor moment; once joined by the band, Parker alternates the two dominant patterns, the reaching line and the circular pattern, each growing increasing in power and intensity until it concludes, things withdrawing into luminous piano tones and sparkling metallic percussion.

These movements, among two essential approaches, suffer in any verbal description, a reductive blow-by-blow making all punches equal, some just exaggerated; in practice, the segments vary in any number of ways, particularly in dynamics and kinds of interaction. Kinetics is highly responsive, often inspiring, creating a distinct group music with Parker in the process, while the editing and sequencing create another structural order, the chiasm creating a further dialogue among parts and processes.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Catherine Sikora – Warrior (self released, 2019) ****

Regardless you like or not, reviewing a solo recording can be troubling even problematic some times. Any solo recording can be revealing very personal thoughts and ideas. Those that lie on the thin line that expresses the inexpressible. There are times that I feel I am the recipient of messages that oblige me to listen carefully and respond accordingly. Putting out anything of your own (and only that) self expression is, even in today’s social media driven society of spectacle, a strong message by itself. You have to, you really want to say something. And the only suitable way to do that is by leaving no other to mediate your message that yourself.

Catherine Sikora, with Warrior, has something to say to us. I haven’t met Catherine in person or had the luck to catch her live. I live in Greece you see. We only have exchanged some emails. Warrior seems like a part of her, as it resembles some of the thoughts Catherine shared with me on those emails about her music. Warrior is about women, dedicated to the struggles of all of them in our so called modernized societies. I would dare say, once more I guess, also for the lack of them in the world of improvised music.

But do not expect Warrior to be a protest album per se. It is mostly associated with feelings coming from deep inside. Or, possibly, on the disgust for the normalization of inequality in the 21st century. Sometimes Warrior delves deep into the free jazz tradition to form, on some of the tracks a cry, as angry as possible. In other parts of this almost 40 minutes recording, the love Sikora has for melody and the blues formulates a Braxtonian bridge between instant improvisation and written material.

The symbolism of the title alone-women as warriors-is polarizing our societies today because, as always, those who are most privileged (straight white males indeed) feel most threatened by it. I wouldn’t mind if Sikora used her sax the way A. Shepp did back in the day. As a weapon for the cry of his people to be heard. Sikora’s breathing, the melodic lines she uses, even the times she instantly changes a direction, follow a more symbolic, more internal path. Instead of the, always necessary if you ask me, raised fist, there’s a gesture of a hand that touches and holds another hand. An act of unity, power and togetherness. I find Sikora’s music, and Warrior of course, through this gesture.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Spill - Stereo (Corvo Records, 2018) ****½

By Stef

What is the link between jazz and cats? Is it the animal's free spirit, its independence and unpredictability? Is it to do with its sense of precision and purpose? In any case, the cat staring from the cover of this album looks exactly like my cat when I was a kid.

Luckily that has no influence on my appreciation of this music, a duet between pianist Magda Mayas and drummer Tony Buck, both based in Berlin and performing as a duo since 2003. This is their third recording - next to a trio with Damon Smith on bass - and it contains two 20' minute tracks, designed for a vinyl production, called "Magnetic Island" and "Sway".

The two musicians create sound environments with pre-recorded elements from live performances with multi-speaker and multi-layered audio, on which they act and react. The music expands slowly and with precision. Despite the various layers, the texture is light and fragile. Every sound counts and has a value of its own in a larger space that still resonates with the traces of previous sounds. The calmness betrays an inherent intensity of contrast and anticipation. The variety of techniques they use to approach their instruments may be resulting in noise according to some, but in fact it's the exact opposite. It is sensual, elegant and refined. Once you immerse yourself in this beautiful and carefully crafted sonic universe, everything else will sound like vulgar noise afterwards.

We can only hope that the duo will release with a higher frequency in the future.

... and yes, they are free-spirited, independent minds with a high dose of unpredictability, as well as a sense of precision and purpose. Like cats. But you already expected this, of course.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Rosetta Trio - Outliers (Papillon Sounds, 2019) ****

Stephan Crump will always be associated in my mind with guitarists. The first time I saw him play was with his Secret Keeper duet with Mary Halvorsen. Admittedly I was there primarily to see how she got those squiggly bendy notes that are part and parcel of her precociously trademark sound (as a non guitarist I still didn't have a clue how she did it but she made it look real easy) but while I was doing that was also thinking "that bass player guy is pretty good". So good that I subsequently went to see his Rhombal quartet and trio with Ingrid Laubrock and Cory Smythe; in all settings he added his unique musical personality while seamlessly fitting into the group sound to the point that seeing his name on a recording puts it at the top of the must listen to pile.

So if one guitar is good then two must be better, right? Because that's what you get with the Rosetta Trio featuring Liberty Ellman on acoustic guitar and Jamie Fox's electric, a group existing since 2004 which Crump formed as a one off to record material he felt strongly personally about for the Rosetta release under his name. But then the group assumed a life of its own and the guitarists began contributing works of their own and after Reclamation and Thwirl we have the current release.

If you're already enamored with the group there's plenty more to feast upon here. For those of you with an aversion to a drummerless trio of un firebreathing instruments, you might want to reconsider. The title piece, the core of which came to Crump in the back of a tour van in Europe, establishes the groove early after which the participants break away into slightly asymmetrical orbits which never escape the central gravity before finally getting back in sync. Synapse provides a scaled down arena rock feel of two guitars swirling around a propulsive bass figure, minus the drums and cacophonous volume.

When Stephan released Rhombal with a different quartet dedicated to his far too prematurely deceased brother, Patrick, it was accurately reviewed here as a joyous celebration of his life. Two songs were held back from that session specifically for this group. Dec 5 was Patrick's first birthday after his passing and the piece poignantly expresses the sense of yearning for what was lost, particularly in Fox's crystalline melodic notes. Middle March, the last time the brothers were together, is an uplifting tribute to his still vibrant spirit.

Liberty Ellman created Cryoseism, an intricate trading off of sprightly motifs by all three players, initially for Thwirl but the musicians weren't happy with how the piece had developed. Subsequent rehearsals and tours prodded and pushed it to a level they were satisfied with and here it is. That's how the entire disc is: well developed interplay between three simpatico players. Listening to it repeatedly as the weather was changing into cool autumn seemed very fitting.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Eugene Chadbourne and Henry Kaiser – Wind Crystals: Guitar Duets by Wadada Leo Smith (Relative Pitch, 2019) *****

By Nick Ostrum

First, a brief history. Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith have collaborated before, most notably on their Yo Miles! Project, as well as in various other settings. In fact, Smith had actually written “Wind Crystals” for Kaiser’s first recording for Eugene Chadbourne’s label…and the seeds of this recording were planted. Forty years later, Chadbourne and Kaiser decided to pay homage to Smith by recording several of his compositions for dual guitar/strings and rerecording the piece that started it all (with “it” meaning this four-decade triangle of on-off [and recently mostly off, it seems] collaboration).
Wind Crystals begins and ends with contending versions of the title track. The first is the 1977 version. The last, the 2017 one. The first is sparer and captures the spirit of windchimes. The second is one of the most active pieces on this album, and possibly one of the best. All sounds are acoustic, but there are times in the latter piece that I hear howls and hums amidst the frolicking dialogues. What a fine and different interpretation.

Other tracks are similarly off-kilter but focused. Pieces such as “Shabazz,” “Blue Lightning Blue,” and “Blue Case” run replete with bluesy undertones. Even more, however, they disassemble the tradition, using its pieces as a sort of spolia with which to build a new, warped edifice or sonic fragments with which to construct an aural collage. (Yes, Derek Bailey seems a major influence, though the tracks here have somewhat more melody and rhythm than Bailey ever let slip.) Other tracks, such as “Pacifica” have a twangy vibe and are in striking contrast to, but also in awkward continuity with, the version on Spiritual Dimensions. At points, they even capture the trills, runs, and even the cavernous qualities of Smith’s horn, albeit in a more sinuous, skrony, broken bluegrass sort of way.

In short, these are inventive and absolutely compelling interpretations of these compositions. If you are a fan of Wadada, I would recommend checking this out if for no other reason than to experience some of the alternate potentialities of his music. If you are a fan of Dr. Chad and the Kaiser, you already know what you are in for: craggy guitar music played to explore strings, vibrations, resonances, and spaces, rather than muffle them into something mellifluous and smooth. Even considering the catalogues of all three musicians/composers party to this project, Wind Crystals, in its dedication to the acoustic avant-garde, is really out there and a real triumph of invention, resourcefulness, and composition. One of the best albums I have heard all year.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fredrik Rasten - Six Moving Guitars (SOFA Music, 2019) ****

Six Moving Guitars is the musically and conceptually ambitious debut record from composer/guitarist Fredrik Rasten. The recording was made by Rasten and five collaborators -- both musicians and dancers -- at a church in Norway in 2018. The performance is an interactive sonic exploration of the space in which it was recorded, each performer wielding an acoustic guitar tuned in just intonation, a manner of tuning wholly different than how instruments are typically tuned. A choreography is played out with the guitars, which was developed as a way to link the unique sound of the guitars in just intonation and the space they were being played in. Rasten developed material and various playing techniques that are played out by both musicians and non-musicians. This is intentional, as Rasten refers to the music as " a study in how people, without necessarily being trained musicians, can act together in a musical situation based on awareness of listening and spatial orientation."

Musically the record is filled with seemingly simple plucked and strummed guitar patterns. The six voices bounce small ideas off one another, thoroughly in conversation, and ultimately create a complex fabric of sound. It is slow moving, steady and consistent, breathing gradually and moving between sections. Before you know it the music has reached a new section, bled into from what came before it. This is music that very successfully invokes elements of Minimalism, and nearly New Age.

Rasten has created a hypnotizing, beguiling listen, both in part to the aforementioned way the music unfolds, as well as the textures coming from the non-traditionally tuned guitars. Overtones abound -- they wobble and throb, and often it is hard to place from where a sound came. There is a spareness to the recording but the sound is nonetheless full, aided in part by the waving. encompassing chordal textures.

Though separated into five tracks, Six Moving Guitars is really one long piece. Consistent throughout is the footsteps and incidental noise generated from the movement of the performers. This becomes an essential part of the recording, an element not unlike the clinking of glasses of music recorded at a club. It acts as well as a near percussive drone, shuffling under the guitars like a quiet cymbal. The pulse really only changes during the fourth piece "Running," during which the choreography seems to be the namesake for the piece, as rhythmic running steps beat quickly in time, achieving a tone different than what came before. A phasing effect is even subtly achieved, as the steps come closer and drift further from the mic. The effect is mesmerizing.

When listening to Rasten's record one may recall the music of the late guitarist Rod Poole (as well as Poole's Acoustic Guitar Trio with Nels Cline and Jim McAuley), a master practitioner of the guitar tuned in just intonation. Though of a different overall aesthetic and intention, there is indeed a comparison. Both make shimmering, ringing acoustic guitar music, that achieves a feeling of boundlessness among many sonic worlds. Rasten has released a beautiful debut record, and I'm excited to see what comes next for him.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Louis Moholo-Moholo’s Five Blokes – Uplift the People (Ogun 2018) ****

By Hinrich Julius

Louis Moholo-Moholo does not need an introduction here and still – here it is. Originally, from Cape Town he left South Africa with the racially mixed Blue Notes and finally settled in London. There he continued to play with the various bands around Chris McGregor, especially the Blue Notes and the Brotherhood of Breath. First prominence as leader was achieved with “Spirits Rejoice”, just rereleased as LP on Otoroku – a freejazz classic featuring the cream of British residing musicianship as Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler, Keith Tippett, Johnny Dyani, Harry Miller and Nick Evans. He continues the tradition of the Blue Notes’ style of African melodies with free-jazz outburst until today, now with the extended name of Moholo-Moholo, which he took up after resettling back to South Africa in 2005.

This blog has featured some output of Moholo, most notably Duo-recordings with Marilyn Crispell (Sibanye – We are the one, Intakt 2008) and Wadada Leo Smith (Ancestors, TUM 2012 ). This CD rather follows the tradition of his Afro-Free recordings, which go back to recordings of the Blue Notes, e.g. the dedications to former members Mongezi (Feza, Ogun 1975), and Johnny (Dyani, Ogun 1987). Louis Moholos continued this tradition with his smaller band Viva-La-Black (Exile, Ogun 1990; Freedom Tour – Live in South Africa, Ogun 1994) and his Dedication Orchestra (Spirits Rejoice, Ogun 1992; Ixesha, Ogun 1994), and latest with his Unit For the Blue Notes (Ogun 2014).
“Five Blokes” features exactly what it states and offers a concert recording from London’s Café Oto from 2017. Five musicians who have all played together for a while. Alexander Hawkins provides rhythmic power piano with free excursion. John Edwards anchors the music with a solid bass. The two saxophones cry out the melody and scream with joy over it – Jason Yarde and Shabaka Hutchings. Everything is held together and irritated by Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums. The songs use powerful and rather simple melodies with an African feel to it introduced and sustained through unison playing, mostly by the horns. This background is used by all players taking opportunities to freak out. In this regard, the record is offering more free playing than some of the other younger records offer, e.g. For the Blue Notes. Moholo-Moholo himself provides a constant beat (without always playing it) and creates a rhythmic pulse sustaining an atmosphere of excitement.

This constant tension filled with joy is probably the most special feature of this music. I month ago I had the chance to catch the “Five Blokes” live (with Tobias Delius instead of Shabaka Hutchings) in Holland during the yearly Jazzcycle festival around Groningen ( Zomerjazzfietstour 2019 – a trip highly recommended for readers of this blog). The saxophones shout the joyful melodies, piano and bass provide a solid bass and change the roles with the saxophones while the leader on the drums succeeds in providing both stomps parallel to complex patterns reflecting joys of African pop songs and the history of free drumming. It is the latest release of Ogun records, the label that opened the ears of the world to this free-form African music since the 1970s. Highly recommended, available as CD and download .

Monday, October 14, 2019

Angles 9 - Beyond Us (Clean Feed, 2019) ****½

By Stef

You can wonder about the value of a review for an album that all fans are already aware of and cannot but appreciate. Since the band's first album in 2008, Angles have kept the same unique high level of performance, adding members from a sextet to a nonet over the years, with a trio in between. 

The current nonet are Martin Küchen on alto and tenor saxophones, Eirik Hegdal on baritone saxophone, Goran Kajfes on cornet, Magnus Broo on trumpet, Mats Äleklint on trombone, Mattias Ståhl on vibraphone, Alexander Zethson on piano, Johan Berthling on double bass and Andreas Werliin on drums. 

At the first tones of the album, you already feel that this is good. The theme is as infectious as before, the band moves as one, the vibes offer a refreshing contrast to the powerful horns, the rhythm section including the piano drive the action forward relentlessly. As said before, this is not music to be heard through headphones, but to be enjoyed in a live setting, where you are as the audience close to the action, if not part of the action. This is marching band music, this is street music, designed to be close to everyday sentiments of joy and sadness, and a little indignation to for the way things unfortunately are. This is communal music, to be enjoyed collectively. It is also political music, designed to rally the forces of the people to overthrow the unjust rulers of our society. 

But since headphones are the next best thing, you are sucked up in the action, and you feel part of something grander and more significant. 

Despite the fact that this is the band's seventh album (taking all configurations into account), the musical vision that Martin Küchen developed from the start is still entirely intact. And yes, it would be easy to identify this ensemble's sound in a blind test, even if it would be hard to say from which album, because they have stayed so close to their core concept. 

"U(n)happiez Marriages" starts with beautiful piano, in a slow very boppish mode and respective harmonic structure, leading to yet again a wonderful theme, sad and moaning, recognisable and yet so inventive, as the backbone for heartrending solo work by the trombone and the trumpet. But the even more wonderful is the freedom of all musicians to colour outside the lines, even when participating in the theme, leading to a weird sense of controlled freedom, which sets this wide apart from any form of traditional jazz, as if the imperfections and the deviations make it more real and authentic. 

"Samar & The Egyptian Winter" is dedicated to the Syrian author and journalist Samar Yazbek, and by extension refers to the refers to the Arab Spring that has been quenched by the Sissi government in Egypt and by Assad in Syria. It starts with a sad solo sax intro, leading into a dramatic theme, accentuated by the vibes. Drums and bass lay the perfect ground work for the theme played by trumpet, cornet and baritone, tearful and sad, then for the cornet to improvise over calm piano chords, arco bass and it becomes even sadder, and the when the entire band starts again with the theme, the emotions the music evokes and the empathy you can feel with the Egyptian people are brought to their zenith.  

"Against the Permanent Revolution" starts with a piano and baritone sax intro, sonically reminiscent of the Ethiopian music of Mulate Astatke, for an incredibly exuberant and jubilant piece of marching revolutionaries. The title refers to a term - permantent revolution - used by Marx and later by Trotsky to describe how the proletariat should take over power without any compromise for opposing views. What the title actually means, we should ask Küchen himself. 

The album ends with "Mali", a high energy, uptempo piece, driven by Werliin's kinetic drumming, and leading into a wild theme, that could be the soundtrack for a 70s action movie (but then of the better kind). It is a maddening romp with unexpected changes and stops, including a two-sax vamp that brings the audience to shouts, after which the other musicians join in utter chaos and according to unknown principles and directions ... the audience cheers when piano and trumpet take over and again the other instruments join, first chaotically, then the whole massive sound coalesces again into the main dubbel-layered theme, ending with a massive stop to the enthusiastic cheers of the audience. 

The performance was recorded live August 25th, 2018 at the Zomer Jazz Fiets Tour, The Netherlands.

Fun and sadness guaranteed, together with a good level of admiration for the compositional power and musicianship.