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Friday, May 31, 2024

Bruno Råberg Tentet – Evolver (Orbis Music Records, 2024)

By Nick Ostrum

Swedish-born but, through decades on the faculty of the Berklee College of Music, naturalized Yankee Bruno Råberg has quite a pedigree. He studied with figures such as Bobo Stenson, Monica Zetterland, Miroslav Vitous, George Russell, and Ra Kalam Bob Moses, among others. He has collaborated with sax giants Sam Rivers and Tony Malaby and, on Evolver, Kris Davis and Walter Smith III. The former is likely familiar to many readers. The latter should be, if he is not already, through his work with Ambrose Akinmusire , Dave Holland, Jason Moran, and Christian Scott, among others. Accompanying Råberg (the bassist and leader of this effort) and guests Davis and Smith III on this album are an emphatically international band: with musicians from Brazil, Kazakhstan, Japan and the US.

It is difficult to approach a bassist-led large ensemble without figures like Dave Holland and Charles Mingus coming to mind. In this case, rightly so. Evolvercomprises music not just penned by Råberg for this outing (with the exception of one track, Elegy, he had previously released with a quartet), but also led by him, often from behind. This is contemporary big-band jazz, in the vein of some of Dave Holland’s more recent larger group work (Octet, Big Band). Or, maybe the sunnier side of Gil Evans, if he had composed and performed on bass.

Evolver is not free jazz, or extreme in any way. It lies on the contemporary progressive side of jazz and follows the mainstream, with elements of the third stream, most of the way. It is generally composed but it avoids the bland formalism that traps many projects treading similar aesthetic ground. The sounds are tender – my three-year-old instructed me skip one track because he does not like “sad songs” – and polished, but any tendency toward routine is quickly interrupted by various solos (nearly every member of the group gets one, some get several, Davis and Smith III are the standouts), the frequent time changes and the quick melodies that seem to roll over each other. To keep the water metaphor, these would be the cataracts.

The first half of this album consists of six pieces largely in the style described above, with enough deviations to add character and texture to the otherwise glossy veneer. The second half is The Echos Suite, which is what really makes this album. The first section, Echos I, slowly unfolds from flutters to fuller movements tied by a two-bar leitmotif. Playing with similar themes as Echos I, Echos II slows into a gradually descending dusk of comfort, solitude, and an underlying unease. Echos III takes a step further into freer territory as Davis, Smith, Allan Chase (baritone sax) and Nate Radley (guitar) each seize the opportunity to unleash some brief but biting solos. Between the tempo and key changes, as well as the ways in which the sections of the piece tumble over each other, this movement evokes some of the jauntiness and playfulness of the Willem Breuker Kollektief and Frank Zappa’s proggier side with smoother edges. Echos IV returns to contemporary blustery big band approach, grounding the suite and drawing the entire album to a sweet, wistful close.

To be released on Orbis Music Records June 1, 2024. For those of you in the greater Cambridge, MA region, there is a release party that night, as well.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chad Fowler, George Cartwright, Chris Parker, Kelley Hurt, Luke Stewart, Steve Hirsh, Zoh Amba – Miserere (Mahakala Music, 2023)

By Matty Bannond

Improvisers from across generations and geographies met up for this sonic showdown. Together, they aimed to evoke desperation and hope in these times of social and political turbulence. It’s a supergroup with a bold vision – with big names attacking big ideas at a studio in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Voices are tough to separate on its four tracks, with multiple multi-instrumentalists and many manic passages. Kelley Hurt (voice), Luke Stewart (bass) and Steve Hirsh (drum set) stick to just one weapon. Chris Parker (piano and voice) and Zoh Amba (tenor saxophone and flute) go double-or-nothing. George Cartwright adds alto and tenor saxophones, plus an electric guitar. And Chad Fowler rounds out the hardware with a baritone sax, two flutes and a stritch (a curveless alto saxophone).

The title piece kicks off with a composed shape like a free-jazz overture. There are vocal contributions often, with drumrolls and anticipatory squeaks from the saxophones. A fight-or-flight spirit takes over. It’s a track of rising-water panic, fueled by Hirsh’s high-energy drumming and Hurt’s ghoulish wailing.

Two tracks lean up against Baptist hymns. “Wonderful Words of Life” tugs at the leash for twenty minutes like a car driving slowly in a high gear. It offers the album’s most damp-eyed mood. The final track, “Ut Queant Laxis”, investigates an eighth-century hymn honoring John the Baptist. Full and fuzzy flute tones provide a pretty starting point. There’s a period of pandemonium, but it’s a sultry track overall that creates a feeling of humidity-tiredness and hanging flowerheads.

“Inhaling and Exhaling - For Davey Williams” begins with a reading from Solo Gig, a collection of essays describing Williams’ experiences of free improvisation. The instruments take time to ruminate on ideas from the text. Then they unpack a dizzying spectrum of extended techniques. Zoo animals and barn animals get locked in the same cage, with growls and quacking and something goaty too.

Miserere brings together big-name improvisers to explore the world’s biggest problems. Its sparser moments are spellbinding. The heavier material is a challenge. Perhaps those extremes reflect the supergroup’s aim of evoking desperation and hope. It’s a bold vision – presented in technicolor.

The album is available on CD and as a digital download here .

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Luke Stewart Silt Trio - Unknown Rivers (PI Recordings, 2024)

By Ferruccio Martinotti

After zillions of rounds made by our turntable, we eventually developed the “Martini straight-up theory” applicable to music ensembles. Super easy, as follows: 1) few, basic ingredients (no symphonic jazz, no paper umbrella in the glass); 2) top notch quality of them (powerhouse rhythm section, Piedmont vermouth and extra dry gin); and, fundamental, 3) the final result must exceed the sum of the parts. Check it from the Stones to Miles’ and Trane’s quintets and you won’t go wrong. Or take the Irreversible Entanglements, surely one of the best and most meaningful bands emerged in the last years. You got four extraordinaries albums showing a full cylinders, pedal to metal unit and at the same time the excellent body of work of the single members: Moor Mother will be surely remembered as the Black Voice of a generation but the musical outcome that is backing her outspoken, inflammable words is simply terrific; Keir Neuringer’s 2020 album with Rafal Mazur has been defined by Stef “a real treat” (and you don’t cheat with Stef...); Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes’ 2019 Heritage of the Invisible II is a super favorite of ours. Last and for sure not the least of this stellar lot is the bass of Luke Stewart.

As Stewart's description on his website states, he is a "musician, performer, improviser-composer, organizer and writer-researcher whose work represents a deep reverence for the history and tradition of Creative Music: a tradition which encompasses the diverse styles of expression within the body of Black Music in the U.S.A., Africa and throughout the world. Regular ensembles, beside Entanglements, include Silt Trio, Exposure Quintet and Blacks' Myths". Small pieces of advice by our side to get acquainted with Mr. Stewart: The Bottom, along with Chad Taylor on drums, Brian Settles on sax, as Silt and the Exposure Quintet with the mighty Ken Vandermak and Edward Wilkerson jr. on reeds, Jim Baker on piano and Avreeayl Ra on drums. This time we see the usual Silt Trio line-up but with the drums duties shared by Chad Taylor (3 songs live in Detroit) and Trae Crudup (4 songs in a Baltimore studio), offering to the listeners the chance to navigate on waters of (music) rivers running at different paces.

The studio tracks' stream is pretty quiet, letting you the room to breath along with the instruments or at least so it seems, you don't lose the control even though it's easy to feel the situation could get severe in few moments and in fact this is what happens on the live side of the record: furious, roaring white waters but with the boat firmly keeping the route thanks to the astonishing rhythm section that, this time with Taylor, is setting the drumming according to the new situation. Finally, the icing on the cake: Brian Settles and his sax. We have to admit we knew very few of the DC's musician before and listening to him on this record was a real jaw dropping experience: cutting, warm, furious, smooth, colourful, old and new schools perfectly mixed as rarely seen, he brought us back memories of the late, lost legend of Massimo Urbani.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Maddalena Ghezzi and Ruth Goller - Dolomite (DēngYuè Records, 2024)

By Sammy Stein

‘Minerals’ is Milan-born Maddalena Ghezzi’s ongoing project (since 2020) to create a continuous album in the form of music that tells of climate change. Ghezzi sees herself as a collector (and teller) of stories. Each Mineral is a chapter of an ongoing story. Minerals endure but we might not if we do not notice what is happening and become attuned with Nature and react collectively. Dolomite is the awaited fifth release in the series – preceded by Amethyst, Halite, Opal, and Emerald. Each mineral is recorded in a different space, chosen by each collaborator, and released whenever the time feels right. On Dolomite, Ghezzi collaborates with bassist and vocalist Ruth Goller. Both Ghezzi and Goller composed the tracks and Ghezzi is the lyricist.

The concept of the EP is water traveling through the Dolomites, a majestic range of mountains in Europe, the water droplet passes through the water cycle and every time it returns, notices a change in the landscape. Ghezzi and Goller found inspiration in Nature and the environment. Ghezzi and Goller experienced the Dolomites when they were growing up. These lofty mountains were once part of the ocean floor yet now tower as some of the highest mountains in Europe. What feels permanent is in fact in constant flux. So our human experience is one of transience compared to the natural world and we, like it, balance between stability and movement. Ghezzi has spent days during the past decade at different altitudes, in seclusion as a pilgrimage to her father. Immersion in Nature allowed Ghezzi to heal and deal with the concept of death, as well as contemplate the essence of healing. She asks the question. As women, how do access remote places? If Nature is destroyed, forests are screaming, and freshwater is scarce, can we heal? Aren’t we just killing ourselves? How do we reckon with this? The EP is in four languages – Ghezzi wrote a poem in English and Italian and Goller translated it into German and Ladino. Italian, Ladino, and German are the languages spoken in South Tyrol. After WW1 South Tyrol, previously part of the Austrian Empire, was annexed to Italy and a ruthless Italianization of the area began under the Italian fascist government. In the area, these communities are intertwined not without friction, yet engulfed in the incredible nature that surrounds them.

Singing the same poem in different languages makes it resonate in more directions providing moments of reflection around similarities and differences. The fluidity of languages coupled with the communication that is possible even though we speak differently appealed to both musicians. Throughout the EP Goller experiments both with tuning and different bass sounds. In ‘Jole’ Goller explores unconventional bass tuning to create melodies with harmonics over a different harmonic backdrop. The result is an ethereal, atmospheric track with distinctive vocals from Ghezzi, backed by the equally distinctive musings of Goller. On ‘Flex and Float’ the music varies in tone and texture from light, transient whispers to deep, gutsy rivulets of sound, created by Goller behind the achingly beautiful vocals of Ghezzi, the title aptly reflecting the changing nature of the music, which is based on the concept of motion and the changeable aspect of water. In “I Fliag” Goller experiments with a short delay that crates a semi-staccato effect which works well under Ghezzi’s gentle vocals. Ghezzi creates breathy, immersive sounds that make it feel as if briefly, the listener is plunged beneath the cool depths of water. ‘Vole’ is a harmonious track with intermittent and arrhythmic knocks – which is hail falling, recorded in a storm in Milan.

‘Volo,’ ‘I Fliag’ and ‘Jole’ all mean ‘to fly’ while the track in English ‘Flex and Float’ brings into reflection the concept of motion and the changeable aspect of water. A beautiful EP that allows the listener to immerse in natural wonder and the concept of Nature as an ever-changing, yet constant presence.

Maddalena is writing a diary of each collaboration and is set to release an anthology of writings and a compilation when the 'Minerals' project is concluded.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Nico Weber Kwartett - Ela (Unit Records, 2024)

By Don Phipps

The Nico Weber Kwartett’s album Ela offers beautiful music that drifts through moods seamlessly – a gliding earnest effort that delivers sonic arcs in kaleidoscopic fashion, an aural display of shifting tones and patterns. With sweeping trumpet and flugelhorn lines that generate hazy yet distinct vibes, Weber’s intense playing highlights his focused yet flowing compositions.

With distant echoes of the Lande/Isham’s 70s Rubisa Patrol, the quartet Weber has assembled provides ample room for sidemen Maxim Burtsev on piano, Jakob Jager on bass, and Leo Ebert on drums to develop the music into a holistic experience, and on two tracks, Florian Trubsbach joins in on alto saxophone.

On “Different Shades of a Dawn pt. 1,” Burtsev’s piano work flows perfectly with Jager’s (Charlie Haden-like) imploring bass counterpoint. As the number progresses, Jager offers a delicate and forthright solo. The song merges into “Closing pt.2,” which features Weber and Jager playing in unusual but stunning trumpet/bass unison. As the piece concludes, Weber takes over with soaring lines as Jager exhibits his bowing prowess.

“Weimar” demonstrates Burtsev’s precise touch on the keys. When combined with Weber’s flugelhorn, the music propels forward like a clipper being driven by the wind. On “Boris on His Pentagonal Tricycle,” Burtsev’s modal playing evolves into a Jager solo which highlights the bassist’s deft touch. Deeper into the number, the music becomes more driving, with Weber delivering an intense solo above Ebert’s floating cymbal work.

The highlight of the album may well be its title cut “Ela.” Here Burtsev opens with an urgent piano line above Ebert’s drum and cymbal. Weber on flugelhorn and Trubsbach on alto sax enter together - in unison - announcing a leaping theme. Then Weber’s flugelhorn stands alone - airy and light - helped by Ebert’s cymbal work and the energetic and bouncy Jager bass beats. Trubsbach takes over from Weber with a bird-like rolling sax exploration above Burtsev’s modal piano. The group returns to the theme - this time with Weber and Trubsbach improvising together above Burtsev ‘s lyrical lines.

With Ela, Weber has certainly put himself in the constellation of excellent horn players. Add this to his compositional skills, and Weber demonstrates a significant talent to keep an eye (and ear) on. Recommended.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Kenny Warren - Sunday Interview

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

  1. What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

    Getting lost, sort of high, out of my head. When the music is really deep, you lose your sense of time and you experience a different type of consciousness.

  2. What quality do you most admire in the musicians you perform with?

    The ability to be in the moment, let the music lead, and go wherever it takes us. I know a lot of excellent musicians, but my favorite ones to play with are ones I trust not to control the music too much.

  3. Which historical musician/composer do you admire the most?

    There are too many to name, but my number one has to be Ron Miles.

  4. If you could resurrect a musician to perform with, who would it be?

    John Coltrane. Might be saying that because I'm listening to his music right now, but yeah, I'm sticking with JC.

  5. What would you still like to achieve musically in your life?

    I'm working to be a more complete musician and to bring my whole self to every musical experience. All I've ever wanted is to make records and play my music around the world. Looking for ways to sustain that for the rest of my life.

  6. Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like?

    I love Kendrick Lamar, Rosalía, Radiohead, Big Thief, do Meridian Brothers count?

  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

    For the past couple years I've been dealing with a random genetic thing in my hands called Dupuytren's. Makes me feel old. I wish I could just make that go away. I'd also like to have a better memory for names, and more time for my friends.

  8. Which of your albums are you most proud of?

    I think I am most proud of this new trio record Sweet World that is coming out in May.

  9. Once an album of yours is released, do you still listen to it? And how often?

    Almost never. I listen to a record so much and with such a microscope in the process of making it. By the time it's mixed and mastered, I'm pretty ready to let it go.

  10. Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

    Nefertiti? Tough to say.

  11. What are you listening to at the moment?

    Right now... John Coltrane Infinity

  12. What artist outside music inspires you?

    I love watching good films. Almadovar, Lanthimos, Kauismaki, Lucrecia Martel, dare I say Daniels! I'm impressed by the scope of making a feature length film. It makes making a record seem much more doable. Speaking of massive art works. I just saw the Taj Mahal. Unbelievable. I'm really not that into perfection in my own art, but wow. The Taj Mahal is perfect down to the last detail.

Kenny Warren on the Free Jazz Blog:

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band - all this, this here (Fundacja Sluchaj, 2023)

By Stuart Broomer

There is nothing quite like one of Barry Guy’s major works – each a broad tapestry, sometimes including a wealth of language, always a wealth of music, a skein of cultural references (this one touching on the poetry of Samuel Beckett and haiku as well as a welter of musics and free improvisation). Guy spent decades as a bassist in ancient music ensembles while also being among the most eminent of contemporary improvisers, and his large ensemble works speak to that unique experience and skill set. Guy came of age when large-scale jazz composition was a significant activity in England (typified perhaps by Mike Westbrook, Graham Collier and Kenny Wheeler), at the same time that Guy was active in free improvisation with John Stevens, Derek Bailey, Paul Rutherford and Evan Parker. In his large-scale works, Guy is a master at integrating musical styles and methodologies, often making things thought antithetical become complementary.

In late 2014, I was on assignment covering Jazz in Autumn in Krakow. Organized by Marek Winiarski, founder of Not Two Records, it’s usually a festival with a special plan. A large ensemble (repeat leaders have included Guy, Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson and the late Peter Brötzmann) gathers to develop and rehearse an expansive piece during the day, meanwhile performing in small sub-ensembles during the evenings in the basement club Alchemie. At the week’s conclusion the large ensemble work is performed in a concert hall. In 2014, it was Guy and the ensemble that has since become The Blue Shroud Band, named for the work that they were then developing in Krakow. I was fortunate enough to attend the band’s rehearsals during the later stages of their preparation. It was an extraordinary collection of musicians, gathered from across the spectrum of Guy’s associations, from baroque ensembles to free improvisation and several, like Guy himself and partner and violinist Maya Homburger, adept in both of those worlds. (My detailed account of the group’s first work, Blue Shroud, is available in my Ezz-thetics column at for March 2015.

A similar process is behind “all this this here”, though the title alludes to a phrase from Samuel Beckett’s final poem, “what is the word”. What is perhaps most immediately impressive, testimony to the esteem in which Guy and his work is held by his collaborators, is that only two personnel changes have occurred in the band since 2014. Tuba and serpent player Michel Godard has been replaced by tubist Marc Unternährer and trumpeter Peter Evans by Percy Pursglove. Otherwise, the remarkable personnel is identical.

Along with Guy and Homburger, there’s the Greek singer Savina Yannatou,Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández, violist Fanny Paccoud and Irish guitarist Ben Dwyer. There’s the stellar Northern European saxophone quartet of Torben Snekkestad (soprano and tenor), Michael Niesemann (alto saxophone, oboe and the baroque oboe d’amore), Per Texas Johansson (tenor saxophone and clarinet) and Julius Gabriel (baritone and soprano saxophones), as well as the percussion duo of Ramón López and Lucas Niggli, capable of everything from the explosively subtle and the subtly explosive.

The work will brook no easy summary. Its ultimate effect is not merely a matter of scale but the subtle grace of all of its individual components, its interactions between text and music, the individual realizations of voice and instrument turning score into sounds and also improvising within the context of this expansive form, whether individually or collectively.

It’s difficult to absorb or encapsulate, let alone describe all this this here : whether it’s the texts that Guy has selected – primarily that poem from Samuel Beckett – or the myriad ways in which Yannatou has invested them with extraordinary intensity, light and meaning, intensity, light and meaning that cannot be categorized by meanings beyond their aptness and intensity. The same can be said of pianist Agusti Fernandez’s many moments, whether profound or glittering, or the performances of the saxophonists: Per Texas Johannson, on tenor brings a focussed articulation and daunting force to “Time Thing 1”, playing with an oracular depth of chaotic energy that’s matched by all the synchronized and exploding bits of the scored ensemble.

Like Sun Ra, no easy or likely comparison, Guy draws dedication from the members of the Blue Shroud Band. Certainly, there are the commonplace explanations: collegiality; shared technical excellence; mastering complex materials together. However, there’s something more as well: the chance to make music that hasn’t been made before or elsewhere and won’t likely be made anywhere else by anyone else ever, and yet it’s music that feels central to so much experience, common and uncommon, an assemblage of meaning-rich sounds that have never met before and might mean anything and everything.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Han-earl Park, Yorgos Dimitriadis and Camila Nebbia – Gonggong 225088 (Waveform Alphabet, 2024)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

What is absolutely inspiring with improvised or semi-improvised musics, is that you may be aware of the sounds the players have produced in the past, but you can never easily guess what this new interaction will bring. Probably this is where this great divide between many rock and pop music’s fans, who expect the “best” and most technically perfect version of same pieces, while the much smaller audience of improvised musics is happy to be puzzled by what will come next.

This is certainly the case when it comes to the trio of Han-earl Park in electric guitar and electronics, Camila Nebbia on the saxophone and Yorgos Dimitriadis on the drums. Their music never ceases to create new questions; their audio palette broadens with every new listen. Park’s use of –in extended passages throughout this recording- electronics creates atmospheres that tend to overpass the more natural and organic sounds coming from acoustic instruments, the drums and the sax this time. Within this electronic sound field, Nebbia and Dimitriadis never fail to join and create a parallel, more jazzy (but what is jazz, anyway, nowadays) audio world.

Once the guitar joins in the fragmental, percussion nature (from the Topography of the Lungs “tradition”) of it, makes Park a decisive addition to Dimitriadis playing, whose polyrhythmic, emotional give and take approach, creates small snippets of percussion sounds. Nebbia’s sax never tries to saturate the others (as such an instrument can do) but, willingly, follows and goes along in a -sometimes threefold, other times a duo- dialogue between the players.

Short, low energy passages from the sax are followed by energetic playing on the drums, while Park is taking advantage on the ambivalent nature of his amplified instrument to create, all of them together, a sound world that incorporates, at the same time, the electronic nature of the guitar with the more fluid and down to earth sounds of the sax and the drums.

On Gonggong 225088’s Bandcamp page the trio is noted as producing, a threesome entity, the music. I cannot find a better, more laconic way, in describing this fine recording of collective playing.

Listen here:


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Fiasco – Anger Artist (Unit Records, 2024)

By Don Phipps

Sonically intense, Fiasco’s Anger Artist is a mix of funk and abstract themes offered up in an unabashed prog rock setting. The result – first rate provocative yet enjoyable music that moves the soul while stretching the imagination.

Take the challenging title cut “Anger Artist,” which explodes virtually at the seams. Dougherty’s opening abstract guitar line exhibits robust vitality before settling into a solid rock rhythm. Combined with Arnold’s muscular bass plunks, Butler’s hard snare strikes, and Frankhouse’s sax rambles, the music climbs and swirls like stirred cream in coffee. As the song progresses, the piece (devolves-evolves) into bizarre electronic war zone effects and Frankhouse generates a dark and foreboding line that sounds like it comes from the unknown reaches of the galaxy.

This intensity is followed by the decidedly sedate “Before Times,” a gorgeous number that reflects a slow-motion landscape – almost as though one is climbing some new mountain trail, the cool wind blowing gently – making skin come to life. Dougherty’s lyrical arc floats like a feather and the effect is reinforced by Frankhouse’s broad legato phrasing.

While the band relies on electronic distortions, this does not hide the beauty of the various album compositions. Instead, it brings it home. One can mosh to the hard rock beat of “Golden Parachute.” Or shake to the prog rock energy of “Drop Test,” as Frankhouse’s fuzzed up sound adds to jarring but exciting music; and later, when combined with Dougherty’s abstractions to create a unified chorus, carries the listener on a fascinating journey to the number’s surprisingly sudden end. And the funky “Content,” with its swooping lines, feels like a bird gliding effortlessly over hard-blowing wind currents.

Finally, the composition “Bleak _ Dark” manages to distill the beauty of this album into a singularity. One can marvel at Dougherty’s gentle picks as Frankhouse’s sweet sax enters above. Then the theme emerges – as guitar and sax play a soaring, broad anthem in unison. As the song continues, a heavy beat emerges that seems to climb upward as Frankhouse’s squeals push the energy along.

There is much to admire in this effort – one might even use the word love. Certainly, a live concert would be of interest – where the artists likely explore their muscular offerings endlessly without time constraints. As it is, Anger Artist is Fiasco’s glorious offering – a wonderful combination of bitter almond and sweet fragrance.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Brandon Lopez, Chris Corsano, Sam Yulsman – The Mess - Alive at Issue (Eshu) (Self-Released, 2020)

By Matty Bannond

Empty space punctuates this album. Recorded live at the ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn during 2020, it’s a free improvisation divided into two tracks that are split again into segments. Sounds rise up, recede, reset and return. Tempers change and meteorological systems pass. It’s music to put listeners on the edge of their seats, sure. But it also feels like music that pulls the players closer to their instruments, straining to catch the sound before it flies out into the room and gone.

Sam Yulsman operates the piano via keyboard and hands reaching in beneath the lid. Brandon Lopez plays the double bass, via plucking and bowing (at least). They are joined by Chris Corsano on drums, who uses every micron of the kit to deliver a startling range of sounds and ideas. Across its many moods, the album is always marked by sensitive and generous interplay.

Track one, “Alive”, makes a tentative start. Spookiness dissolves into silence. It’s a pulsing performance with shapes and shades jumping in and out of view. Fingertips shiver on skins and cymbals. The temperature rises and there are fidgety sections, but the group finds drone-driven moments too. And always, empty spaces pop up to wipe the slate clean before the next sketch.

“ESHU” is another slow burner. The bass is chattering and the percussion adds a clicky, bird-beakish sound. Piano puts new energy in the room after four minutes and the velocity rises. Listeners get a wider assortment of extended techniques here, nestled between those breaks in the weather. The record’s only truly hectic passage arrives close to the end of the track.

This trio brings together rising figures in the experimental scene—and the young improvisers don’t rush in. Corsano, Lopez and Yulsman permit the music to emerge and re-emerge organically. Their imaginations combine, re-combine and re-re-combine with mesmerizing variations. Let this music pull you closer to your speakers before it flies out into the room. And gone.

The album is available on vinyl and as a digital download here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pharoah Sanders - Thembi (Elemental Music, 2024)

By David Cristol

In addition to its limited-edition archival releases of Cannonball Adderley, Yusef Lateef, Sun Ra, Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy, and Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon, the Catalonian Elemental Music label reissues Pharoah Sanders’ album Thembi on 180g vinyl. The gatefold cover reproduces the original art of the 1971 release on Impulse! with a large black and white photo of Sanders in action covering two-thirds of the open panel, plus smaller photos of musicians, a poem by Keorapetse Kgositsile, track titles and complete credits. Also identical to the original edition, the round stickers on both sides of the LP itself. Musically, the album has perhaps more in common with Sanders’ “Tauhid”, (1967) than with “Karma” (1969, both on Impulse! as well) and its lengthy statement The creator has a masterplan, with follow-up sides digging into the same groove, to great effect as on “Black Unity”. Unlike those, “Thembi” is an album of contrasting sounds, colors and moods. It was made in two sessions by a core trio of Sanders (on soprano and tenor saxophones, flutes, bells, koto, fife and percussion), Lonnie Liston Smith (acoustic and electric piano, percussion) and Cecil McBee (bass), joined on side A (recorded November 1970 in Los Angeles) by Michael White (violin), James Jordan (ring cymbals) and Clifford Jarvis (drums) and on side B (committed to tape January 1971 in New York) by Roy Haynes (drums) and a quartet of African drums and percussion players.

Each side has three compositions of moderate length, three by Sanders, one by Smith, one co-credited to Sanders and Smith and one by Cecil McBee. Astral traveling is a seductive opener, with its waves of hyper-vibrating electric piano, its raspy but restrained saxophone playing and its supple and warm bass contributing to the meditative atmosphere. Smith would reprise the tune on his 1973 album, unsurprisingly also titled “Astral Traveling”. Things get wild on Red, Black and Green, multiple gripping saxophone screams superimposed on top of each other in the introduction. The song progresses from that initial cry to less hostile waters while maintaining the superloaded approach to the end: one for the free jazz anthologies. Thembi (Sanders’ South African wife’s name, abbreviated from Nomathemba) is by contrast a miniature, lighter and upbeat version of the extended workouts Pharoah is known for. The association of instruments works wonders, Michael White’s violin a particular highlight. The spiritual quest continues on side B with Love (a freeform bass solo by McBee), that segues into Morning Prayer, starting off with koto and morphing into a magic carpet ride swarming with percussion and the leader’s breathy flute and mighty tenor, and Bailophone Dance , where hard-hitting African drums are joined by several wind instruments in succession from Sanders (tenor, flute, fife), with shouts and bird chirps courtesy Smith and McBee.

Those elements make for a satisfying listen and are a reminder that Sanders (1940-2022) had found a singular path after his association with John Coltrane. Over five decades later, the best manifestations of his visions still stand the test of time. 

N.B. This reissue of Thembi is licensed for Spain and Portugal exclusively.

Available from Jazz Messengers (Lisbon & Spain) and Guerssen (Barcelona)


This review is also appearing on the Portuguese Jazz website, in Portuguese here.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman – Magical Incantation (Soul City Sounds, 2024)

By Sammy Stein

What is it about the musical connection between Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman? Both are accomplished musicians, and both can hold attention on their own, but it is when they record together that the heart of each musician is revealed just a little more. It is conceivable that due to the number of recordings they have made together, the time may come when the music becomes predictable. However, that time feels a long way off. Because both are complex musicians with multiple influences and the ability to execute changes of style, tone, and atmosphere in a heartbeat, the possibilities are endless – and while they may have explored a small section of their musical potential, Magical Incantations, out on Soul City Sounds on 3 rd May 2024, demonstrates they are not done yet. The duo finds more ways to interact, react, and interpret ideas. Their exploratory natures mean they bounce ideas off each other – some work, some not so much – but the intention to push the boundaries of piano and tenor saxophone and the way they combine and converse, means they find new roads to travel musically and seem to relish the different approaches.

Watching the evolution of a musician is interesting and because Perelman records so prolifically with a range of different musicians, his journey is ongoing. Like Shipp, he has many influences and both musicians have a history steeped in musical education and experiences. On ‘Prayer’ for example, Perelman delivers a warm, melodic, introspective rumination and remains in the lower register, proving his respected altissimo is not the only register he can communicate in with profound effect. Shipp, meanwhile, intuitively contrasts with gentle counterpointed melodies on the piano.

The music on this recording ranges from fast, gentle but furious anecdotes swapped and batted back and forth – such as on ‘Rituals,’ where Shipp lays down tricky rhythms while Perelman shifts from altissimo to lower register and back in full flow – to gorgeous, rounded sections such as those from both players on ‘Lustihood’. Musical intuition abounds on tracks including the stand-out ‘Enlightenment’ where Shipp delivers a wealth of ideas that Perelman takes, shapes, and throws across the top for Shipp to capture and reflect. The concluding section of this number is beautiful.

On ‘Sacred Values’ there is an atmosphere of mystery and awe with both players introducing a sense of respect and almost tentative entry at times. The deep rolling piano provides the perfect backdrop for Perelman’s delivery at times, while at others, Shipp withdraws, leaving Perelman floating exposed across the top. The rising section is magnificent from both players as Shipp connects with what Perelman is doing and the texture and volume swells.

‘Incarnation’ is jumpy, forceful, and packed with energy, while ‘Vibrational Essence’ is as fugal as a two-part piece can be, with Shipp delivering classical-influenced lines transcending the keys in equal intervals and eloquent changes before Perelman enters.

Magical Incantation is atmospheric, thoughtful, and subtly powered by Shipp as he introduces changes of key and emphasis, to which Perelman reacts in Perelman fashion with a series of switches, ascensions, and descents of the keys. His musical reflexes are on point.

Perelman and Shipp have delivered another piece of their continuing musical dialogue – as beautiful and profound as much of their work before. Their multiple influences can be heard, from blues and classical music to freeform and complete improvisation and their ability to tell stories with music is a delight. One issues an invitation by pressing on with a distinct rhythm or pattern and the other either accepts the invitation and backs the other or invites the other to follow them as they diverge from the original concept – or maybe they come back to it. There is structure to the pieces however and they are not simply improvised meanderings that have no beginning, middle, and end. It is this structure that reflects the hardened learning of both musicians and displays their understanding of how music needs to make sense, to prevent it becoming simply noise. Shipp and Perelman prove music is a continuous journey and here, it feels as if two outstanding improvisers who understand each other have found the perfect partner to travel some of that journey with.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Clean Feed Tribute: Shhpuma Too!

Our celebration of Clean Feed records comes to a close today with a focus on Shhpuma Records, Clean Feed's sister label.

Stuart Broomer:

Luís Lopes - Love Song: Post Ruins (Shhpuma, 2019)

Luís Lopes might be the artist appearing most frequently on Clean Feed and the sister Shhpuma label. He’s an intensely engaged guitarist who covers a range of approaches with many collaborators. His bands can range from free funk (Humanization 4-tet) to hard-edged composition (Lisbon Berlin Quartet) to large ensembles, always embodying intensity, a sense of freedom and commitment that can jolt. Even his solo music covers a remarkable range, from the noise solos of Lisbon Paris (Stereo Noise Solo) to the subtle nylon-string acoustic play of Love Song, Emmentes. Love Song: Post Ruins stands out, for this writer, as one of the most original and sustained – in every sense -- solo guitar works I’ve heard, his usual thin-line archtop lightly amplified, adding just a certain brightness and sustain to its sonic character. Lopes describes it as a nocturne: “To listen alone. somewhere between after 1 o’clock in the morning and 1 hour before sunrise."

It's quietly involving from start to finish, a wonder of psychological states and relations: always considered, yet spontaneous; always continuous, yet surprising, essaying a changing mood at once reflective and tinged with revelation. It’s sufficiently intimate to suggest a man talking to a guitar, or perhaps, more accurately, a guitar talking—reflecting, consoling, exploring moods, shifting positions, always constructing a space as alive to revelation as consolation or reconciliation. There are moments when semi-tones will gather in tense conclave; others when a bright single tone will repeatedly ring out until it eventually gathers a reaction, whether supportive or questioning, the guitar echoing the sustained concord or close-knit caution. Harmonics can ring out like a choir.

It's a sustained work (37:28) of late-night, contemplative, wondrous guitar music, sui generis, but with a certain quality of elemental kinship – nothing you could pin down to harmony or methodology, country of origin or astrology chart – to certain performances of the highest order, Grant Green’s Idle Moments or Derek Bailey’s Ballads.

An interview with Clean Feed's Travassos

To wrap up our celebration of Clean Feed, we reached out to Travassos, designer of Clean Feed's covers, curator of sister label Shhpuma, and electronic musician to tell us about his work and influences. Album cover images were drawn from the rich collection on Shhpuma's Bandcamp site. Throughout the week's celebration of Clean Feed, many other of Travassos' designs have been featured.

Photo by Petra Cvelbar

FJB: What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

T: My greatest joy it's breathing the feeling of freedom. No other form of music has the same open field as improvisation. It's an art of expression, an art of listening, of concentration, of imagination and instinct, of sharing the right amount of energy. It's not for everyone. It requires a lot of expertise and mastery. That's probably why my favourite improvised projects are the working bands, the ones that continuously explore the possibilities and know their partners from the heart.

Even so it's a very established form of making music with lots of vices and repetition of the same methods over and over. Reinvention is always urgent.

What do you look/listen for when you choose what releases on Shhpuma?

Shhpuma was born with the intent to release music without a fit on Clean Feed. In the beginning we were interested in releasing more marginally related jazz music. Rapidly, we changed that pathway and  started to accept all the music as long as we believed it was worth it.

What I look at when listening to a new proposal is to be fascinated with music more out of the box, different, inventive and original. Sometimes I listen to a record more than 20 times to make sure it´s the right one.

I'm really proud of Shhpuma´s late release: Caveira - Ficar Vivo, it's a blast.

What quality of the music for which you design covers influences your aesthetical choices the most?

If I genuinely like the music presumably, I will feel an extra excitement. But I consistently try to be a professional and take the most satisfaction from each design.

Which historical designer or label's design do you admire the most?

Blue Note and covers by Mati Klarweinis are an inescapable reference. Recently, I've liked Rune Grammofon and Astral Spirits. Anyway, I never felt directly influenced by any, I'm rather interested in following my own path.

If you could redesign any historical album's design, what would it be?

I don't have that dream. Those covers will always be related to that specific record. Bad covers in Jazz are, unfortunately, abundant compared with other genres. Mostly a consequence of precarious low budgets and some scarcity of visual culture. So I wouldn't know where to start. In the end I just hope to give my contribution to improve the overall scenario.

What would you still like to achieve design-wise in your life?

I would wish to continue to impress myself and to keep pushing boundaries like an endless search - fighting to not fall in the easy ways of doing it. Discipline, abstraction and love are necessary.

Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like?

Off courseI love all the music. Pop music is an inevitable reference to all of us. Recently, I've been curating playlists of pop music for my daughters and it has been a great joy. Just to name a few: The Doors, Queen, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rolling Stones, PortisheadTalking Heads, B52, Prince, The Clash, Radiohead, The Cure, Joy Division...this list is endless.

I confess that I don't pay much attention to pop music these days. But I do like the Idles and Marina Herlop very much.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I could be less anxious. I´m working on that every day.

Which of your album designs are you most proud of?

I have now made almost 800 covers, it's difficult to choose. I'm proud of the majority of them.

Once an album with your design is released, do you revisit it? And how often?

I always love to feel in my hands the printed outcome of a design, and make a complete analysis of the final result. I revisit them predominantly if the music interests me.

Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

I'm not the kind of person fixed in certain albums. Although I can say that the artist that I have listened to the most in my entire life is Monk. I never get tired of it. But also Sun Ra, Morton Feldman, Pharoah Sanders, The Stooges, Suicide or Oren Ambarchi, among many others.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I'm constantly listening to music all day. I'm completely addicted.

Besides all the stuff from Clean Feed and Shhpuma, here is a list of things that I've listened more than once in the last month: The Vampires' Sound Incorporation - Psychedelic Dance Party, Darius Jones - fLuXkit Vancouver, Zoviet France (Several), Terry Callier - What Color Is Love, Oren Ambarchi - Sagittarian Domain, Chat Pile - God's Country, Philip Jeck & Chris Watson - Oxmardyke, Hotel Spojár
 - Škvíry & Spoje, Emily Robb - If I Am Misery Then Give Me Affection, Angelika Niescier/Tomeka Reid/ Savannah Harris - Beyond Dragons, Steven Stapleton & David Tibet - The Dead Side Of The Moon, Xenakis - Persepolis, Éliane Radigue - L'Île Re-Sonante.

What artist outside music inspires you?

I don't have any special artists. I like to be influenced by everything. The sum of all the small parts contributes to form us as an entity and human being. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Bill Frisell at XJazz Festival, Lausitzer Platz, Berlin, 5/9/2024

Photo by Beat Halberschmidt / Victor's Places

The pulse of doof-doof resonates throughout the contemporary church, psyching up the Berlin punters for a night with the gentile American guitar legend, Bill Frisell. Soon after, the beat is switched up to a kind of Sunday chill-out groove, contemporary soul; the volume, slightly lowered. Before long, the techno is back. Only in Berlin.

In an act of public defiance, one anarchic, heavy-set man ignores the safety barrier to sit on the church organ stool. Soon after he is shooed away by a shocked sound engineer. It’s a rebellious city, this one. There are a good handful of Frisell clones in the audience and one guy who looks strikingly like bass player Nick Dunston. Turns out it is Nick Dunston. He’s in the support band. Most of the Bill fanboys hover around the guitar side of the stage, taking photographs of Bill’s resting guitar and his little collection of stuffed animals, all within grabbing distance. The crowd is split into two distinct areas: the guitar side, which is dense, and the piano side, sparse. Lotta greys in the church tonight but there was one silver-haired lady with a lip stud piercing, reminding you once again of the city you’re in.

Tonight's demographic? Old, white, but interesting. Bill is apparently some kind of style icon. He alone is responsible for the look of the circular glasses, the likes of which so many have since adopted. Is this a coincidence? An homage? For every clone, there is an atypical, younger counterpoint. The woman with the Kraftwerk Autobahn tote wins the merch game this evening.

Support act trumpeter Anthony Hervey commands the stage in his electric blue oversized shirt covered in bright yellow fans. The print is as fun and confident as the bouncy compositions.

“We play the way we live,” Hervey announces, “We’re gonna have a good time.”

It’s the speedier second piece that really wins over the crowd. The first trumpet solo cracks the ice and is met with thunderous applause which resonates up into the church’s high ceiling. Jesus is giving a thumbs up.

Pianist Johannes Von Ballestrem’s sock game is strong: rainbow argyle. At one point, he is offered the space for a sweet and delicate piano solo that segues into one of those jazz songs that comes on in the movie when the protagonist is strolling along in the moonlight, alone in the rain, wondering where it all went wrong in his life, possibly contemplating suicide, but most likely just in need of some tenderness and understanding, in the form of hard liquor. You know the kind of tune I’m talking about. During a ballad, some guy with a set of keys on his belt wanders the periphery of the room offering a free Wollesonic massage to every seated person he passes, and smacking one woman in the face.

Hervey’s anthem “Soul Food” is hard to resist. Guest singer Natalie Greffel is so contagiously joyful - she lights up the room with her happiness. When Hervey picks up the trumpet during the following song, folks in the audience are hyped and shouting "Woo" and "Yeah" before his solo is even over. It’s really infectious. The passive side is bopping. The "Bill" side is even starting to catch on. At any rate, the support act is qualified and fun. I’m so happy that Anthony decided to learn to play the trumpet because he is so good at it.

During the pause, the lines for the bar and the loo extend out the door of the church. Strategically, drinking is a bad idea as both queues are glacially slow. A few people appear to have obtained the elusive blood of christ, thanks be to the bar staff.

Beat Halberschmidt / Victor's Places
There is no bathroom backstage. This becomes apparent when the man of the hour is escorted through the crowd to use the one in the lobby – it's occupied. Everyone is playing it cool and just casually ignoring the awkward situation. Moments before the concert starts a conversation is overheard: “As these legendary musicians age, sure they lose their technical virtuosity but they gain… something else.”
Maybe it's patience. From time to time as he’s playing, a small smile escapes Bill’s lips. He’s famously gentle and introverted, yet confident and sure of his aural statement. Inquisitive picking and delay-pedal combos make for some satisfyingly obtuse harmonies. It starts out as mysterious, tending towards becoming a little repetitive, but soon enough we are blessed with some slightly prettier delayed loops to balance things out. A beer bottle rolls past in amateur accompaniment.

Bill seems totally elated and humbled by all the attention. During his only stage banter for the night, he can’t help but comment on the warm adoration and vast sea of fans, of which he is right in the middle: ”It’s like the Beatles or something!”

There is no doubting Frisell’s ability to write a tune, and indeed to play, still. You just have to be willing to come along on his journey, which is conducted at his pace. For some, that pace might be a little slow, but for the guy next to me, this was probably the best night of 2024. Maybe even his whole life. Not a song went by without an audible gasp, or an exclamation of joyous disbelief, both in German and English. Some people did appear to start yawning, others swayed with closed eyes. Sometimes Frisell just gets absorbed into his little world and it just loops around; mesmerising and hypnotic. It’s a mood.

People are getting tired of standing so they begin casually sitting down. The space and the music allows for it though, and it’s not particularly awkward. Rudy Royston’s drum solo brings the house down - a testament to just how restrained he has been this whole time. Actually, Rudy often steals the show, ever so subtly.

Beat Halberschmidt / Victor's Places
A good Frisell song feels like coming home to a familiar embrace with someone who has missed you very much. They've been wondering how you are, and can't wait to hear all your stories. One can't help but be moved by a slightly overdriven, lead-break over a seemingly familiar main melody. But it’s never too long before the dissonance returns, as Bill doesn't seem to want to let anyone get too emotionally attached all at once. He still has more than a few secrets and surprises left.

Bill’s classic version of the theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service closes out the evening and some audience members appear to be having a religious experience. It’s an effortless encore and Bill returns to the stage, genuinely overjoyed at the thunderous ovation. Berlin absolutely loves him, and seeing his humble delight was nothing short of heartwarming. He deserves the spotlight, and all the accolades. Sure, at 73, he’s in his autumn years, but Bill is all set - a beautiful church performance like this guarantees his entry to the Pearly Gates. Long may his entry be delayed.

Bill Frisell, guitar
Thomas Morgan, bass
Rudy Royston, drums

Anthony Hervey, trumpet
Johannes Von Ballestrem, piano
Nick Dunston, bass
Ugo Alunni, drums
Natalie Greffel, vocals

Clean Feed Tributes (3/3)

 Be sure to see day 1 and day 2 of our celebration of Clean Feed.

Stef Gijssels:

 Clean Feed and the discovery of modern jazz bands

Clean Feed also has had the knack to identify new bands who never released any albums before. The label's reach was relatively broad, ranging from what we could call 'modern creative' jazz to fully improvised music. Regardless of the style or subgenre, the musicianship together with the quality and coherence of the music always determined the selection for the release, but possibly even more so was the band's singular musical voice and approach. Needless to say that the recording quality is also excellent.

I select a few albums that illustrate this for me. From the tender story-telling of Baloni, the free chamber americana of Ballrogg, the trancendental sound of the Alipio C. Neto Quartet, the psychedelic listening experience of The Godforgottens, the marching band of Fight The Big Bull, the re-hashed bluesy tunes of Roots Magic, the ephemeral avant-garde of Memorize The Sky, to the terror jazz of The Ames Room, these are all albums that are artsy, 'independent' in movie critic terms, bands that stood out of the crowd because of their interesting and creative vision on how music could sound, familiar and yet innovative and boundary-breaking at the same time, welcoming and requiring active attention by the listener ... and of course the inimitable and infectious Angles, a band that was a kind combining all of this. 

There are of course many more examples, but looking back, these records showed something else, something that few other labels would invest in, because of their unconventential sound. "Who is the audience?" I hear other labels ask. 'It's too unusual for traditional jazz lovers, it's too gentle for free jazz addicts, it's too composed for free improv afficionados'. Clean Feed showed that they cared about the music, less about the mental boxes. Thanks for all these great discoveries. All these albums remain little treasures to cherish. 


Petra Cvelbar, photographer:

Clean Feed was one of my doors of entry into a new world of improvised music. I started to follow the label in 2010, at a time when I was also getting serious about photographing music. The most special album for me is Angles 8's By Way of Deception, Live in Ljubljana. Graphic designer Travassos used one of my photos for the cover and it was our first collaboration. I loved the band, which was a fresh discovery and I liked how everything turned out – both the music and the layout. The follow-up album Angles 9 Injuries is also often on my playlist. Another dear album is Joe McPhee's Sonic Elements. Hearing Joe’s music for the first time at the concert blew me away, after which Travassos & Pedro Costa picked some of my photos for the cover and inner sleeve. It’s actually pretty hard to choose out the albums from the great legacy of the label, but for sure they influenced and broadened my music photography language in many aspects.


Sarah Grosser:

The Killing Popes - Ego Kills (2021)

On Bandcamp it says that there are 200 limited edition green vinyl pressings of The Killing Popes Ego Kills, but I know for a fact that there are just 199, because the one I ordered in the mail was completely obliterated by the post. It was as if someone had folded the vinyl it in half on purpose. I will never forget the sound it made when I unpacked it: the sound of splitting plastic, crumbling into pieces against the cardboard packaging - shattered, like my heart.

Thank heavens Oli Steidle sent me a replacement because the music slaps.


Nuno Catarino, critic and editor at

Adam Lane / Ken Vandermark / Magnus Broo / Paal Nilssen-Love - 4 Corners (2013)

Reunited at the suggestion of Pedro Costa (Clean Feed), Ken Vandermark, Magnus Broo, Adam Lane, and Paal Nilssen-Love forged their collaboration as a quartet in the city of Coimbra, Portugal, during the Jazz Ao Centro festival in June 2006. Over three consecutive nights, the quartet played late-night sets at the warm Salão Brazil, in an “after hours” ambiance. The two North Americans, Lane and Vandermark, brought the compositions and the two Nordics, Broo and Nilssen-Love, got along. Vandermark left aside his usual tenor saxophone and showcased his versatility playing clarinet, bass clarinet, and baritone saxophone, displaying mastery across all three. Broo's trumpet soared with supersonic energy, adding layers of intensity. Lane's bass provided a robust foundation, occasionally incorporating distortion, while Nilssen-Love's drums drove the rhythm. From fiery close-to-hardbop numbers to tender ballads, the quartet demonstrated impeccable chemistry and musicianship. The audience observed the growth of the group along those three nights as the quartet set Coimbra on fire with its electrifying contemporary jazz. Fortunately, these performances were preserved in this album, a pure gem within a rich catalogue.


Marcello Lorrai, writer and critic with Il Manifesto and Radio Popolare:

Rob Mazurek – Milan (Clean Feed, 2024)

At Radio Popolare, an independent radio station in Milan founded in 1976, we have a little auditorium with a stage and 99 seats. I have attended many of Rob Mazurek’s concerts over the years, also his wedding in Sardinia in 2012, and have developed a friendship with him. Last year in May, I invited Rob to take part, along with Corrado Beldì, the artistic director of Novara Jazz, in my weekly radio program “Jazz Anthology” for a live presentation of the upcoming 2023 edition of the festival – where Rob was playing with the Exploding Star Orchestra and others projects – and to perform something during the show. Rob was pleased to find a piano in the auditorium and played two solo pieces with piccolo trumpet, piano, bells and voice. He enjoyed the acoustics of the place, and felt good with our technicians. 

The next evening during dinner, Rob reminded me of his solo album recorded in 2014 in Rome at the Italian State-owned radio-television Rai studios by the program “Rai Radiotre Suite Jazz”, resulting on the Clean Feed album entitled Rome and said: “What about a solo album recorded at Radio Popolare and entitled “Milan”? I can ask Clean Feed if they would publish it.”  

In the following weeks we agreed for a three-day residency at Radio Popolare in September, and I suggested beginning with a solo performance broadcasted live during the show. On September 25th, 2023 at 11 p.m. “Jazz Anthology” was on the air with a dozen friends in the room. After a short introduction, Rob started his solo. We agreed on letting the performance go non-stop until about 10 minutes before the end of the program, so we could have a little live talk after it. The solo turned out amazing. At 11.50 Rob stopped : I didn’t understand for sure if he was taking a break or if it was the end of the piece, and in doubt I preferred not interrupting the magic; from his side, seeing that I was not speaking, Rob thought he had to play some more, and played until a few seconds before the end of the program, just in time for me to thank the audience for their attention. It was a fortunate misunderstanding. We had a 50-minutes solo, perfectly rounded by the wonderful last ten minutes. During the next two days Rob recorded new material with the technicians, also in the auditorium. We listened to and mixed the new tracks, and Rob was satisfied with the result, thinking of releasing the “studio” recordings.

We didn’t listen to the recording of the live performance; I just told Rob that in my opinion that first evening of performance during the show had a strong and beautiful coherence, with great artistic value. At the last moment – almost for doubt’s sake – Rob agreed to listen to those live recordings. He immediately felt it was something of worth, and decided to use the live recordings – without any editing, only mixing – for the Clean Feed record Milan.