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Aki Takase and Alexander von Schlippenbach (p)

Wabe Theater (by Ausland). Berlin. October 2020

Helmut "Joe" Sachse (g)

Au Topsi Pohl. Berlin. October 2020

Guilherme Rodrigues (c), Matthias Müller (t), Eric Wong (g)

Wabe Theater (by Ausland). Berlin. October 2020

Urs Leimgruber (ss), Jacques Demierre (spinet)

9/4/2020. Manufaktur, Schorndorf

Punkt.Vrt.Plastik: Christian Lillinger (d), Petter Eldh (b), Kaja Draksler (p)

9/2/2020. Au Topsi Pohl, Berlin

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Daniel Carter, Brad Farberman, Billy Martin - Just Don't Die (Ropeadope Records, 2019) ***½

By Gregg Miller

This album has grown on me. I am maybe 30 listens in, and the groove has started to take.

I’ve been a huge fan of multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter since at least 1998. He would play at Tonic (NYC) and when things got hot, he would take off his long-sleeved flannel shirt to reveal underneath, yes, a second long-sleeved flannel shirt. His work on Matthew Shipp’s Strata (hatOLOGY, 1998) first tuned me into his playing. His duo Astonishment (577 Records, 2001) with Frederic Ughi was on permanent rotation for many years, along with Principle Hope featuring the late Peter Kowald (Sublingual, 2002), Chinatown (Not Two, 2005) and the very relaxed Emergence (Not Two, 2009) with Eri Yamamoto and Whit Dickey.

On this record, Daniel Carter’s tenor sound is typically husky yet sinuous, his flute seductive, his trumpet with mutes is just so intimate. He is in direct communication always. Brad Farberman on electric guitar with some distortion and a drop of wah generally keeps it simple. He finds five note clusters and calmly works the variations until it’s time for a change. Billy Martin (of Medeski, Martin and Wood) generally keeps his attacks funky—usually in sync with Farberman’s guitar. Though his groove-setting prowess is formidable, the music here works best when Martin’s drumming loses the time-keeping and becomes another vector of improvisation with pulse, tones and energy. Martin’s brushes (track 4) on snare feel alive.

The record opens up with an Eastern flute vibe, a crushed, tremelo-wah guitar, and random crashing bells. The toms come in and a groove sets in which turns the Eastern into ornament. The drums and guitar synch up, and Carter’s flute is left to spin in the wind. The drumming speeds up, and the guitarist’s 2-note toggling becomes insistent. Martin falls a bit too readily into back-beat shuffles, which at times makes Carter’s looping daydreamy lines feel out-of-sequence wrong or superfluous; Carter sensing this tries a bit to get down with the groove, but that’s not quite his thing.

In the record’s best moments (tracks 1 and 3), we get a floating world of music, but more often we get two against one. The guitar/drums pair seem super in sync, which makes Daniel Carter, a true master, left too often out on his own, sometimes as leading melody, but more often just a tad lost. One of the free electric guitar/drum duo records I keep going back to is Giant DwarfRabbitwood (Engine Studios, 2012). It has the virtue of being decluttered and direct. It’s sort of the record I want the Carter/Farberman/Martin record to be (just add a horn player), which naturally is unfair, since this these three have their own chemistry. For a truly excellent exchange and integration of Daniel Carter with electric guitar/effects and drumming, check out the track “Harmoniums at Midnight” on the transcendent Mysterium (Eavesdrop, 2004) with Morgan Craft and Eric Eigner. (See here).

In his interview with Simon Sargsyan, here is Brad Farberman’s reflection on the outing:

“Recording Just Don’t Die with Daniel Carter and Billy Martin was a really special day for me. I had sort of grown up on the music of Medeski Martin & Wood and I was a little nervous. I had always wanted to play with Billy. And though I had been playing with Daniel for a long time, I wanted to make music he would be happy with. And at the end of the day, I felt okay about what had happened, but I wasn’t totally convinced it was a success. But when I listened back, I felt really good about it. We had all been listening so well. And as is so often the case, our first jam was the best. In fact, that’s the record—the very first hour we ever played. First-time energy can be really electric.” 


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Two from alto saxophonist Audrey Lauro

lauroshilau - live at Padova (el Negocito, 2021) ***½

By Keith Prosk

Audrey Lauro (alto saxophone, preparations), Pak Yan Lau (toy pianos, synthesizers, electronics), and Yuko Oshima (drums) freely play tense, textural, whirling soundscapes on the setlength live at Padova. It is the overdue followup to the self-titled debut from 2014.

The trio language is tight, sticking close to each other in speed, volume, and timbre. So close sometimes that the ear might confuse fluted cymbals for shrill sax, saxophone bubblings and pops for cavernous synthesizer clicks, synth distortion for shimmering cymbals, so on. Movement is unhurried but constant, progressive but almost circular in the kind of tug and pull similar textures from dissimilar instruments. Volume is quiet - enough to hear a cough - but never silent and, while there are dynamic fluctuations perhaps familiar to the forty-minute free improv set, they are closer to hibernation and the onset of doom than ecstatic groove and climax. Textures come from a blend of traditional play and extended technique, languourous sax lines with air notes and chirpings, sparse tom hits and orchestral bass drum rumblings with parallel play, conventional synth sounds with alien ones and muted percussive piano. But the focus is always on the sound and its interaction with those from others, rather than melody. The tension never really releases, which only contributes to the kind of darker moods that Lauro seems to conjure up with much of her music.

live at Padova is available digitally and on CD.

Audrey Lauro/Giotis Damianidis - Dark Ballads (Mr. Nakayasi, 2021) ***

Lauro and electric guitarist Giotis Damianidis improvise moody, brooding atmospheres on Dark Ballads. Lauro and Damianidis have recorded together on The Ear Cannot Be Filled With Hearing from Giovanni Di Domenico, a fruitful relationship with whom they both frequently work with on other recordings (indeed mixing and mastering this one). Just last year, Damianidis released the propulsive fusion of The Miracle and Lauro contributed powerful, textural, tense pieces to 点字呼吸の領域 [The Region of Braille Respiration. Dark Ballads blends those two approaches for six tracks with a substrate of distorted riffage and saxophone that alternates between conventional and extended techniques to create a grim dialogue over 36 minutes.

The mineral tracks (1, 3, and 5), are textural playgrounds for Lauro. Like overblown, hoarse, high and tinny war horns on “Obsidienne” , or the percussive “Almandin” with pointillistic phrasings and the scratch and pop of saliva in the bore. The ballad tracks (2, 4, 6) are still colorful - containing reedy vibrato, key clicks, and smooches - but more characterized by sultry, noirish, dark jazz lounge musings; it might feel cheap to make this comparison but I couldn’t shake the image of Harry Caul soloing at the end of The Conversation, sitting alone in the apartment he’s ripped apart in a paranoid frenzy. Communication with the guitar is light and spacious, sometimes more obvious with call and response type reactions but more often through textural compliments; hairy distortion to match saliva in the bore, light feedback for overblows, staccato picking with cavernous reverb for key clicks. While spacious, there is never silence, but rather an amplifier hum or lingering pool of reverb. Damianidis sprinkles in effects and techniques like tremolo and palming but most often rips a heavy riff over which Lauro plays. Sometimes, as on “(part 2),” the undulations of the sax and guitar synchronize for a visceral throb. There’s heavier, doomier, harsher fusings of jazz and metal inspirations, and others revel in the kitschy dark lounge of a Lynchian nightmare to greater degrees, but Dark Ballads operates in strange and strangely alluring space between.

Dark Ballads is available digitally and on LP.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Vincent Chancey, Wilber Morris & Warren Smith - The Spell - The Vincent Chancey Trio Live, 1987 (No Business, 2020) ****

 By Stef Gijssels

A review of this album was long due. The trio consists of Vincent Chancey on French horn, Wilber Morris on bass and Warren Smith on marimba and drums, a live recording in New York from October 1987. 

The French horn is an unwieldy and rare instrument in jazz, and definitely as a lead instrument. We have covered several albums on which Chancey performs (with Kowald, with Taylor Ho Bynum and at the Vision Festival 2019). Other French horn mentions on our blog are about Mark Taylor, Elena Kakaliagou, Hild Sofie Tafjord (Zeitkratzer), Lis Rubbard, Tom Varner and Chris Weddle. That's not much in 14 years, and it makes this album all the more interesting and memorable. 

Of the four tracks (two on each side) two are penned by Morris, one by Chancey and one by Smith, and with the exception of the one by Smith, the pace is slow and bluesy, the perfect tempo for the lead instrument to reach its full power of emotional depth and more supple changes of pitch. Apart from Chancey's beautiful horn, the other memorable aspect is Smith's marimba playing. He starts on drums on the long first track, but switches to marimba halfway and the combination with the French horn works really well. The short third track is led by Smith's drumming and offers a more free form uptempo work-out. 

Morris is the ideal partner in the trio, moving easily between pizzi and arco, often creating the solid backbone of the pieces. The infectious theme of his composition "Afro Amerin" will keep playing in your head long after the album is finished. 

On the downside, the 'live' effect has been edited out with no applause at all, and second, the quality of the recording is not excellent, leading to a quite remote sound. But I guess that was a decision the label had to make, and we can only be extremely grateful that No Business did release this music. I'd rather listen to this great music with suboptimal sound quality than to have missed it altogether. 

A unique and compelling album. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Olaf Rupp - NOBEACH (Audiosemantics, 2020) ****½

By Martin Schray

For Olaf Rupp, playing solo is an ensemble form like any other. As to his musical philosophy social and musical interaction is an interesting part of improvised music, but nothing more. It’s primarily about the music itself and the spontaneous development of musical ideas, which is just as complex in solo improvisation as in other forms of playing. In an interview with the Austrian magazine Freistil, Rupp said that in solo performance he knew what he had to play, that he only needed his hands and that everything then runs by itself. In groups, the music depended on many factors, he continued. For him the chemistry between the musicians is difficult to assess because the interplay doesn't always work. The larger the group, the greater the share of concepts, rhetoric and dominance. He thinks that it’s not the best ideas that prevail, but those that are presented most skilfully. He himself is rather interested in the spontaneous development of musical ideas, which is why he prefers trios, duos and especially solos.

His latest solo release, NOBEACH, is Olaf Rupp’s bow to Hans Reichel, the late great German guitarist, especially to his albums Bonobo Beach and Coco Bolo Nights (which can also be seen in the titles of the individual pieces). But while Reichel always had a smorgasbord of his often self-made instruments at hand, Rupp limits himself to the electric guitar and effects units. Similar to Reichel, Rupp doesn't care about stylistic boundaries. You can hear wide spatial sound surfaces, percussive tone chains rich in overtones, arpeggios and whistling harmonics, major and minor tones, echoes of Tortoise and Sonic Youth, scraping and scratching noises. It’s like bringing together a philosophy of sonic condensation and piling up sounds in the style of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman with the more open, spacious approach of - say - Bill Frisell and Kenny Wheeler. On the one hand, this is absolutely avant-garde (as in “NOWHERE“) and on the other hand, it’s reminiscent of post rock or Jimi Hendrix’s sound garden, because Rupp does not shy away from tonal harmony and subtle melodies, even if they are strangely alienated (“NOKOKOBOLO“) or buried in noise (“NOVEMBER“). Some of the music does have a disorienting effect, but there’s even a weird ambient music feel to some of the tracks, which has the effect of crawling into the ear almost casually. It’s music that follows the sounds and lets the notes unfold in space.

Rupp’s idea of playing is rich, deep and mysterious; it’s diverse and complex without being “off the wall“. However, it has nothing ordinary about it since it’s interwoven with a supernatural beauty. It seems as if the sounds are carried like a feather in the wind - light and supple they glide up and down. Besides the unpredictability of form, his music is characterised by tenderness, care and clear-sighted passion. And by uncompromising authenticity. Olaf Rupp simply plays life.

NOBEACH is available as a digital release. You can buy the album and listen to two tracks here:

A short interview with Olaf Rupp about digital releases and music in times of the pandemic

Olaf Rupp, photo by Marcel Meier

By Martin Schray

FJB: How do you get through the pandemic?

Olaf Rupp: The emergency aid for freelancers may not be used for living expenses, while large companies that receive emergency aid may even distribute dividends to their shareholders. At the same time, musicians are not allowed to have too much non-musical income in order not to fall out of the KSK (the German health insurance for artists). All musicians are sent into the HARTZ4 system (social welfare) while the income-neutral crisis basic income is not really discussed. That’s a crass state of affairs. In times like these, I wouldn’t dare talk in public about how I get by. There's a rough wind blowing. However, I do get by. There are always sensible, responsible, helpful people in all this madness.

FJB: Have you released more music via platforms like bandcamp since the pandemic began?

Olaf Rupp: No, I also started getting interested in download releases before the pandemic. There are simply too many labels that pass on all or most of the production costs for the recordings to the musicians. The idea of what the term “label“ once meant has changed fundamentally in the last few decades. Bandcamp is one of the ways to react to this change.

FJB: Consequently, you have recently published some things only via bandcamp, e.g. your solo album NOBEACH. Why have you only released it digitally?

Olaf Rupp: Well, it's still audiosemantics, my own label. Bandcamp is just the distribution, so to speak. At the beginning of the pandemic, that really helped me. I also think that downloading is definitely a good medium to fly under the radar of neoliberal insanity. Unfortunately, no one wanted to publish NOBEACH on vinyl or as a CD right away. At the moment I'm happy to pay my rent and buy strings.

FJB: Does it pay off at least a little bit?

Olaf Rupp: It was important to me to only offer really excellent stuff on bandcamp. So these are all works that I put a lot of work and heart and soul into, some of which I worked on for months, and which I would also release on CD or vinyl at any time. I think that in the long run, it’s worth it. People notice that these are not just quick recordings from the rehearsal room or bootlegs.

FJB: Do you think digital only releases will be the future for music?

Olaf Rupp: Improvised music is live music. Living music! Without concerts there will be no future.

FJB: Do you look forward to the summer/autumn and hope that there will be live concerts again?

Olaf Rupp: Due to social distancing rules, there will be no profitable concerts. So when all the shops open again and the Mallorca bombers fly south again, we will still be doing concerts where only twenty people are allowed to sit in large halls. That’s not feasible. Of course I’m happy about every single concert. And I hope that many organisers will creatively and energetically fight for new hygiene concepts in order to get at least a few performance opportunities. But that is no reason for excessive optimism.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Ivo Perelman & Nate Wooley - Polarity (Burning Ambulance, 2021) ****

By Sammy Stein

Ivo Perelman is a tenor saxophone player who has released over 100 albums across three decades so far. Nate Wooley is one of the leading trumpet players in the US and has played and recorded with many improvisers. This is the fifth time the pair have recorded together and the first time Perelman has recorded a duo with a trumpet player. Wooley is used to playing in the duo format with a reedsman as he has a duo with Ken Vandermark. The album was recorded at Park West Studios in Brooklyn in February 2020 and released in February 2021.

'Four' opens the album, and the track sees Wooley and Perelman engage in musical tag with Perelman setting out phrases which Wooley echoes, adding his intricacies before Perelman switches to elongated held notes with Wooley now setting the patterns - for a while at least this continues until the two enter into a fast and furious exchange of dynamics with the lead changing as quickly as the rivulets of notes which pour from the tenor sax in altissimo. In altissimo, Perelman is one of few players who is as furious as he is in lower registers. Often a player touches altissimo and lingers, maybe for a while as a novelty or to introduce a temporial change in the music, but Perelman uses it as his voice to speak and charge the music with an energy reflective of the man himself. Wooley, too is firing on all cylinders on the track and his intuitive harmonics and counterpoints are a revelation of the innate musicality of this player. The final phrases where Perelman warps and pushes, echoed almost tentatively by Wooley, are interesting.

' Two B' sees the saxophone set off at rapid pace in a series of loose reeded, breathy runs which Wolley echoes and disassembles the patterns to create contrasting runs of his own before both decide to extend and rise with elongated phrases, again swapped back and forth between players. The number is buzzy, fuzzy around the edges and considered - again, that contrast between the players finding a way to engage the listener constantly.

'Seven A' sees the sax largely answering the trumpet at a rate of around seven to one. The trumpet notes are held, the sax notes respond with precision and rapidity as if it has a lot to say, but the trumpet then adds its rapid-fire runs, matching the sax in note number in one fell swoop. The trumpet and sax seem to compete yet also supportive of each other, and the intuition between the players is tangible.

'Three A' is an explorative track where the musicians show their curiosity and their challenging nature, and restlessness. Wooley warps and wails across the phrasing, sounding at times like a drunken swinger, his harmonies hitting the mark just enough to remain connected with the saxophone lines.

' Five A', on the other hand, is disharmonic, copiously laced with challenging dissonance, and at times the contrast is harmonic. At others so disharmonious it could dry paint at 20 metres. Perelman is at once at his most melodic and at the same time at his most ferocious. Both musicians push the boundaries of their instruments, and the combination makes for a stirring listen. This is a joyous journey into duel improvisation, Perelman even allowing a rarely heard intake of breath to be recorded for emphasis.

'Eight' is a boundary-pushing track of interconnected motifs with the vocal Bel Canto - something which Perelman has been studying recently - style coming across. The voice is heard in tortuous snatches, which sound at once slightly mad but at the same time add another tone and texture to the already rich lines.

'Two A' is begun with a swing theme from Perelman in a nod to post-bop jazz elements - a melodic interlude which evolves into an improvised section, echoed and picked up by Wooley before the pair seek out their own improvised lines before interweaving for the final few phrases.

The eponymous 'Polarity' is aptly named for the players who each create their own voice and improvisation roads on this track- each being the guide and then the follower, the subtleties of interaction clear when they come together in harmonics, perfectly aligned and yet having the confidence once again to diverge and return.

'Nine Short' is short but very sweet with muted trumpet chuckling and warping across the sax lines - which offer little in the way of response other than intricate, short responses, making this track conversational and incredibly engaging.

'Six' finishes the album, and once again, the virtuosity of both musicians shows along with an adroitness for spontaneous yet considered improvisation. There is a poetic influence on this track. There is leader and follower as both musicians swap and throw the lead to each other. Driven by spontaneity yet considerate in the listening and interpretation of the other, the music itself is allowed to guide.

Throughout the album, there is an energy and sense of adventure, each musician willing to take the lead and also to follow, creating a sense of deep understanding between the two musicians. Although the recordings are spontaneous, there is enough coordination and innate harmony; it feels as if there was a lot of pre-thought. There is profound intimacy, yet also a sense of each musician having a distinct character. At once adventurous but also with a sense of reflection and examination, the tracks offer contrasts and conformity, diversion and unity in different proportions and at different stages. There is also a sense of enjoyment as the conversations evolve into cheeky retorts and challenging responses, each seeming to relish how the other player automatically picks up the essence of what they are saying.

Perelman recently discussed the future of jazz with me. He is very much of the notion that freer music is the future of jazz, a view hotly debated by enthusiasts but finding much agreement in players with a sense of adventure and sound music understanding. Hearing two improvisers creating such harmonious cooperation - in spirit and musical terms in the sense of finding out what they can create together whilst referencing classical, traditional jazz pedagogy and yet playing freely makes the idea of free jazz being the way ahead a definite possibility.

Interview with Phil Freeman from Burning Ambulance


We took the occasion of Sammy Stein's review of Ivo Perelman and Nate Wooley's Polarity on the new Burning Ambulances record label to reach out to label founder Phil Freeman with some questions.

Paul Acquaro: Burning Ambulance, the web site, contains a wealth of your writing and podcasts about music. This seems like a good amount of work already ... why take the plunge to also be a record label? Was the decision something long in the making or more spontaneous?

Phil Freeman: I've dreamed of starting a label for many years. I think it's a dream a lot of serious music fans and/or music journalists share — presenting the artists we love to the world, and maybe making a little money out of it. And since 2020 was the 10th anniversary of Burning Ambulance, I thought it was the perfect time to finally just do it. And to be completely transparent, the existence of Bandcamp as a platform made it very easy from a logistical standpoint. Here’s our Bandcamp page.

You started the label in October 2020 with a strong compilation album Eyes Shut, Ears Open, from which the proceeds were split between starting the label and helping with the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund. How did the compilation come about? How was the response to it?

First of all, I have to say that the response from the musicians I asked to contribute was unbelievably generous. Some people recorded brand-new tracks, while others shared outtakes from critically praised albums or allowed me to release things they'd been sitting on, all just to help me get the word out about the label. It really gave me the feeling that people had been paying attention to what I'd been up to with BA over the previous decade, and trusted that I was someone operating in good faith. And listeners responded very positively as well, which was great.

Aside from donating to the Musicians' Emergency Fund, do you think that the timing of the launch, in the middle of the pandemic, had any impact? In what way?

That's hard to judge. I expect that people who are stuck at home likely have more time to listen to music, so maybe it got more attention than it might have otherwise. Subsequent releases have been covered very positively, which is nice to see.

Your first release is Polarity by Ivo Perelman and Nate Wooley (see review), how did you select this recording to be your first one?

"Seven A" from Polarity also appeared on the compilation. Basically, when Ivo sent me the track, he said that he wanted to put out the entire album. And when I heard the album, I required no further convincing. Both he and Nate play brilliantly throughout, and as their first duo, it's a unique item in both their discographies.

Another recording on the Bandcamp site is Alkisah from the Indonesian duo Senyawa. It's a progressive metal recording and a pretty heavy affair, much different than Polarity. How did you choose this project?

That almost felt like fate. Very shortly after I decided to start a label, Senyawa announced that they were going to release their next album in a decentralized manner, licensing it to (ultimately) over 40 labels worldwide, each in a different territory. Since I love their music and had profiled them for Bandcamp Daily in 2018 , I reached out, and we agreed to work together. As it turns out, Burning Ambulance Music's version is the only CD edition available in the Americas or the EU (most of the other labels produced vinyl).

Would you say that there is a certain aesthetic that you are going for with the label - both musically and visually?

I think every release we'll put out will be the kind of thing that I would be writing about for the site if someone else had released it. Burning Ambulance has always covered a mix of jazz (both mainstream-ish and out-ish), metal, modern classical, experimental music...basically, we're open to a lot of different sounds. I don't think we'll be releasing any death metal records, despite my love of death metal, but I've been in touch with artists from across the spectrum about potential projects already, so we'll see what the future holds. Visually, we are definitely striving for something unique. All our releases will come in heavy-duty tip-on "mini-LP" sleeves, printed on textured paper, and all the covers and design work are done by BA's co-founder, I.A. Freeman, who has also designed covers for the ESP-Disk' label including Matthew Shipp's The Unidentifiable, Zero, and Signature; Whit Dickey's Morph; Matt Lavelle and Reggie Sylvester's Retrograde; and more. Her work for BA is abstract, with no text on the covers, the better to allow the music and images to harmonize.

Can you tell us about some of your other upcoming releases?

Our immediate future plans are a Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey duo album, Reels, and Echolocation, a collaboration between cornet player Graham Haynes and electronic musician Submerged. Both of those will be out in July. After that, we're working on the debut album by Breath of Air, a trio featuring guitarist Brandon Ross, violinist Charles Burnham, and drummer Warren Benbow, and a disc by Portuguese saxophonist José Lencastre.

To wrap up, is there anything that I should be asking you that I didn't?

Yes, we are accepting submissions for potential 2021 releases, thanks for asking!

Friday, April 30, 2021

James Brandon Lewis' Red Lily Quintet - Jesup Wagon (TAO Forms, 2021) ****½

By Kenneth Blanchard

One of my few memories from South Elementary School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was watching a film about Dr. George Washington Carver. Carver was the genuine Renaissance man. Born the legal property of another man, he was four years old (or so) when the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. He studied music and art, and then agricultural engineering. He is most famous for advancing the use of peanuts as a crop to restore exhausted soil. Here is a man.

He was a frequent subject of heroic paintings. It is doubtful, however, that anyone can ever produce a more beautiful tribute than James Brandon Lewis has in Jesup Wagon, his recording for the new label TAO forms. The latter is out of the gate with such artists as The Ivo Perelman Trio and Matthew Shipp.

Lewis composed the music and plays tenor saxophone. Most of the compositions are centered on dialogues between his sax and Kirk Knuffke on cornet. William Parker, in my opinion one of America’s greatest living jazz composers, plays bass on two tracks. Chris Hoffman is on cello. Chad Taylor plays drums and Mbira on one track, a traditional instrument from Zimbabwe that looks like a set of table knives packed for travel and sounds like a miniature metal drum.

The jazz is simply exquisite. Each theme is richly romantic and follows traditional form: the theme stated and used as portal to new realms of design space. Lewis’s horn reminds me of David Murray in albums such as Ming and The Hill. If you like Murray, you’ll like this.

Listening to “Fallen Flowers,” a call and response theme, did that avant garde thing to me, that feeling I had found it. There is a moment when a phrase that you expect will be played by a horn is instead articulated by the cello. That is a mark of genius in leader and composer.

If the former composition demonstrates Lewis’s surgical skills in the tissue of the human heart, the next one, “Experiment Station,” presents the raw power of his horn. Here is the hard boil of edgy jazz. The next cut, “Seer,” feels more in the mood of a church service. The mbira is a constant reminder of where we all come from. The last cut, “Chemurgy,” a term for the industrial use of raw materials, is a metaphor for jazz itself with an explicit Ornette Coleman vibe.

Did I mention that I liked this album? Don’t miss it.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Ayler Records is Back (Part 1)

By Nick Ostrum

This is part one in a two-part series. The second installment will run in a few weeks.

Ayler Records is back. After an encomium here on FJB and a year of inactivity, the label returned in 2020 and, since then, has already released six albums, with a couple more in various stages of production. Simply put, the label picked up right where the label left off, almost as if there were no hiatus at all. Much of the recent releases are not really jazz or free jazz, though they all lay somewhere on the musical fringes. Taken together, these releases point to interesting and unpredictable things to come for a label that has become increasingly dedicated to documenting a truly eclectic French scene, with, in a nod to Jan Strom’s original project, the occasional American release to keep things fresh, rooted, and trans-Atlantic.

Here we go, from the top.

Frederick Galiay – Time Elleipsis (Ayler, 2020)

Time Elleipsis comes across as a Theravada-inspired suite, wherein each track covers one section of an epic narrative of creation and destruction, or, at least, the return to such ontologies through ritual. Frederick Galiay is the director, composer, and bassist, and is joined by a line-up that, in their somewhat heavy instrumental arsenal, speak to the doomy art-rock that follows: Antoine Viard on electrified baritone saxophone. Jean-Sébastien Mariage on electric guitar, Julien Boudart, analog synthesizer, and Sébastien Brun & Franck Vaillant on drums acoustic and electronic percussion sets.

What unite Time Elleipsis are the persistent dark aesthetics frequently resting upon an undulating, engine-like thrump. Over this, heavy progressive metal drumming gives way to slow, hazy spacious environments informed by Galiay’s 2019 residency in southeast Asia. Glitched out distorted guitar shines at points, but, despite some violent thrash, is only able to break free from the ambient bass and synth morass for a few minutes at a time. Then, the beautifully dark guitar, plucky electronics and multihued drone seep to the fore. Admittedly, the drum-forward sections and guitar contortions are some of the most attention-grabbing. The potency of this release, however, resides more in its plodding gravity and the ways in which its focus on tonal decay and refraction contribute to a sense of suspended time. A sleeper hit from 2020.

Pinkish Black and Yells at Eels – Vanishing Light in the Tunnel of Dreams (Ayler, 2020)

I am a big fan of the González family and, really, everything they have released on Ayler. With the dark psychedelia of Pinkish Black, however, this is somewhat different from Yells at Eels’ previous classic free jazz reprise output. In short, I really dig it. Beyond those few words, I defer to Stef and his excellent assessment of the album from the middle of last year.

Eric Brochard & Fabrice Favriou – Derviche (Ayler, 2020)

This one might normally be a stretch for the blog, but that is hardly a criticism. It is more of a testament to the way Ayler Records has opened itself from its early mission to archive clunky Scandinavian and American free jazz.

Derviche is conscientiusly repetitious and gradually accumulative. Brochard and Favriou’s loops repeat, layer, and distort for an entrancing 7-14 minutes, but feel like they could do so endlessly. What is more, it rocks. Rather than the jazz tradition, Derviche seems more at home among the slow, ritualistic doom of fellow Frenchmen Aluk Todolo, the distorted incremental punk-rock drone of Dead Neanderthals (especially evident in Sequence IV and V), and the progressive instrumental post-rock of Mogwai and Godspeed!. This album really grew on me and, if any of the aforementioned projects or Utech Record’s recent output are your thing, I highly recommend checking this one out.

Sylvaine Hélary – Glowing Life (Ayler, 2020)

Ayler has been experimenting with less-conventional line-ups since Stéphane Berland took the reins in 2009. On Glowing Life, composer, leader, flutist, and vocalist Sylvaine Hélary is joined by Antonin Rayon on Hammond organ b3, Moog synth, piano, clavinet, Benjamin Glibert on electric guitar, electric bass, and Christophe Lavergne on drums. A perfect storm of musicians for a weltering of progressive freak rock fusion.

Somehow, I prefer this to Sylvaine Hélary’s deeply inspired Spring Roll|Printemps, which was conceived and recorded in response to the waning of the Arab Spring. Glowing Life has a stronger art-rock vibe, channeling, as the liner notes aptly attest, Henry Cow, Robert Wyatt, Arto Lindsay, and Stereolab. Add Zappa and whoever pioneered minimalist contact mic gargling to the list, and I think we are almost there. Naturally, there are jazz elements, but, again, this reaches far beyond that tradition. Hélary’s compositions are catchy and jumpy, and as much as the instrumentation drives the music, her vocals shine. Most of the lyrics are French and, therefore, sound sweet but inscrutable to me. The final track, Where It Begins, however, derive its lyrics from the PJ Harvey poem of the same name. What is not to like?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Microtub - Sonic Drift (Sofa Music, 2021) ****

 By Eyal Hareuveni

Microtub claims to be the first and most likely the only ensemble that plays microtonal tubas - British Robin Hayward on the microtonal F tuba, and Norwegian Peder Simonsen and Martin Taxt on the microtonal C tubas. This trio explores just intonation and the rich harmonic potential of the tubas and creates high nuanced and highly resonating drones that create the elusive sonic sensation of “doors of the underworld slamming”.

Sonic Drift is the fifth album of Microtub, and recorded at Studio Paradiso in Oslo shortly before the European-wide lockdown started in March 2020. The title piece corresponds with the trio’s previous album, Chronic Shift (Bohemian Drips, 2019). It was originally composed by Hayward for the Bohemian Drips festival and performed at the Großer Wasserspeicher (large water tower, a circular tower built to supply Berlin’s population over 100 years ago) in Berlin in June 2018 and was inspired by the exceptionally long reverb within this unique acoustic space. “Sonic Drift” is an evolution of “Chronic Shift”, developed through the process of live performances but still drifts and rotates through ‘neutral’ harmonies based on the 11th, 13th and 29th harmonics and subharmonics contained within the microtonal tuba tunings. The three microtonal tubas sound like one, sonic entity, sending meditative reverberations and overtones that offer a profound and immersive listening experience. Try to imagine yourself floating in the Großer Wasserspeicher space, gently caressed by the microtonal tubas harmonics subharmonics.

The second piece “The Pederson Concerto” is a collective composition by Microtub. It uses multiples of the 7th and 11th partials to create detuned perfect fifths and fourths, along with the unusually flattened minor third ‘169:144’. The piece features Simonsen oscillating through the brief intervals and triggering the other two players, using the electronic sounds of a Moog synthesizer. This delicate tension between the revelations sounds microtonal tubas and the subtle and almost transparent undercurrents of the modular synthesizer add a mysterious aroma to the extraordinary complex but always arresting deep tones of Microtub.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Andrzej Przybielski & Oleś Brothers - Short Farewell - The Lost Sessions (Audio Cave, 2021) ****

 By Stef Gijssels

In 2011, shortly after Polish trumpeter "Major" Andrzej Przybielski's death, the wonderful album "De Profundis" was released, a trio with the equally virtuosic Oleś brothers, with Marcin Oleś on bass and Bartłomiej 'Brat' Oleś on drums. It was only their second trio album after "Abstract", from 2005. Both albums come highly recommended because of the sheer musical and instrumental mastership of the three musicians. They feel each other, they share the same notion of jazz and improvisation. 

Now, ten years after Przybielski's death, this equally beautiful album finds the light of day. The album is even more special because the material was thought to be lost. The trio had a joint session in 2003 in a studio. Brat Oleś started talking to the studio people, and amazingly enough, some of the pieces were still found on tape. Not everything, unfortunately, and of some of the improvisations only traces were left on the tape. 

As a result, the album contains five tracks of less than a minute, excerpts of longer pieces that have been lost to humanity. Luckily that leaves us with six tracks that are a little bit longer, and one track of a full twelve minutes. The drummer managed to recreate with all the bits and pieces an album that can stand on its own. Przybielski was a colourful figure, a man who did not believe too much in rehearsing, who trusted his own skills and especially the skills of the people he performed with to do what was needed to make something meaningful. 

The outcome in the great presence of the Oleś brothers is also easy to recommend. This is free jazz, with all its nervous energy, its dynamic interaction between highly skilled instrumentalists, its warm feeling and sense of pulse, its creative possibilities of freedom to go wherever you want and still stay focused. The trumpeter's sound is unique, and the rhythm section of the Oleś brothers has been lauded before. The combination is a true joy to listen to. 

"A Short Farewell" is what it says. A far too short album that gives another farewell to the great trumpeter, ten years after his death. But it exists, and it is excellent. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp