Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dave Schildkraut, Last Date, August 12, 1979

The fact that the name Dave Schildkraut doesn't always ring bells among the jazz cognoscenti constitutes one of the sad realities of jazz history. He appeared with a flourish on a Miles Davis Prestige session, Solar (on alto), in 1954. He played with some notables before and after that, and appeared as sideman on a few other records, but mostly was lost in a haze of obscurity. To me he epitomizes the "falling off the face of the earth" syndrome. What happened? There are reasons. He apparently turned down some key opportunities, to record for Norman Granz, etc. Why that was I do not know. I only know that on the basis of the Miles session I knew from the first hearing that this was a very promising, even important saxophonist. Over the years I was only able to track down one old LP, a private recording where he was playing in a pickup group for one of the sides. It was a poor recording and didn't do justice to Dave's playing.

I recently found out through the kindness of saxophonist/author Allen Lowe that there was something else. Dave recorded in a New Haven club in 1979, right before he retired. In fact Allen was the man who ran a tape recorder to capture the gig. And the CD has apparantly been out since 2000. Last Date (Endgame 005) ironically, is also the only (real) date of Schildkraut as a leader.

With the proviso that "last" is not least, I was very happy when Allen was kind enough to send me a copy. And listening to it for a number of times now, I am not disappointed in what is on there. It's a home tape recorder that captures the extended set and the balance is not entirely perfect. But Dave comes through loud and clear, on tenor and alto, sounding a bit more evolved than what he did in 1954, occasionally faltering a little in his phrasing, but also unleashing torrents of bop/post-bop phrasing that show a sound his own and a sense of timing and line weaving that fully justifies the legend that he is in some circles. It's not a perfect recording; he is not perfect on that last date; the band is OK but doesn't stand out, though pianist Bill Triglia gets some decent solo time.

It is Dave playing bop standards and songbook standards in ways that suggest he of course had internalized Bird, and had some relation in his playing to early Trane and the Tristano saxophonists (Konitz, Marsh). But really he falls from the sax tree to a place of his own. Since we don't have a lot of documentation of his playing this CD becomes an indispensible record for all who would seek to dig him. He was good. VERY good. Original? Sounds that way to me. Listen!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SFE, Positions & Descriptions: Simon H. Fell's Mid-Sized Jazz Orchestra Composition

Fifteen musicians (many of them noted for their avant improvisa- tional talents) plus conductor tackle Simon H. Fell's full-length Composition No. 75 on SFE's Positions & Descriptions (Clean Feed 230). Not unlike Anthony Braxton, Fell seeks to create from the musical languages of modern classical and avant jazz a long-formed hybrid that melds some of the traits of each camp. Fell put together nine performance sections/movements in this composition that serve as vignettes and try (successfully, I believe) to hang together as a cohesive statement.

It was commissioned by the BBC and performed after only two-days rehearsal in 2007. Composition, conduction, improvisations and pre-recorded material come in and out of focus in interesting ways. It is a music to be heard with undivided attention to have an effect.

It is of necessity a first-stab at creating a more definitive version of the work. So there are times when one might hear that more could be done with what is being done. The logistical and economic difficulties of putting together a mid-sizable ensemble such as this and have them play through each section with systematic attention to detail is nigh close to impossible in today's climate, however, so in many ways we are lucky to have this version to appreciate.

Simon Fell is doing interesting work, this is an interesting ensemble and the piece moves the avant nexus forward several steps. It is worth your time to listen closely to this one.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gerry Hemingway Quintet, Riptide

Gerry Hemingway has been deftly mixing it up on drums with some of the most accomplished new jazz artists for years. He has a new album out with his quintet, Riptide (Clean Feed 227), and it shows how he is a jazz composer and bandleader of note as well. First, the quintet itself: along with Gerry on drums are a formidable two-reed tandem of Oscar Noriega and Ellery Eskelin, the electric guitar smarts of Terrence McManus, and the acoustic and electric bass of Kermit Driscoll.

It's a date filled with good improvisations, sometimes collective with horns and guitar taking the front line, sometimes individual. The compositions are excellent frameworks for the band, devoid of cliche. There is some space in the music for Kermit and Gerry's good feel playing to come through as well.

If you want some idea what the music sounds like. . . it has the long in-and-out group oriented development of DeJohnette's classic New Direction days and some of Tim Berne's ensembles at their best. The 13 minute "Gitar" and its segue into "At Anytime" is a good place to hear the fully stretched and limber group going at it for a long loose straight-time midtempo feel that turns to swingtime towards the end. This is just an example of the ensemble's strengths: they listen to one another and compliment what is going on while articulating the compositional elements along the way. There's a spacey balland and by the time you get to "Meddle Music" things are into a free rock groove that has some nicely out McManus guitar work. "Backabacka" combines free ska with minimalistic repetition in quite interesting ways.

Well that's enough of the highlights to give you an idea. Strong music in the in-and-out zone, fully contemporary, that's Riptide for you. There's enough electricity from McManus' guitar and Kermit's bass guitar in some segments to break up the acoustic qualities that predominate and set them off.

It is a fascinating and fun ride. Gerry Hemingway comes through as a bandleader and the band comes through as a band. What more? Hear this one, most definitely.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Upcoming Film on Pianist Matt Shipp: Funding Needed, How You Can Help

Pianist Matt Shipp, as many of you know, is one of the important voices on the improvisational scene today. Visual artist Barbara Januszkiewicz is in the midst of making a film on Matt and his music. In her words, "There is no conversation. It is all sound, movement, experienced in real time, the composer coming to the piano and working out a musical dialogue." It will be all about communication through Matt's music and Barbara's visual camera angles, an art of the melding of two creative mediums in a breakthrough expressive tandem.

But they need your help. Funding will make or break the project and they are seeking donations from folks out there. Anything you might be able to give will bring the project closer to reality. For more information and to find out how to donate go to

Harris Eisenstadt, September Trio

With Paul Motian passing away recently, he is on my mind. As I listen again to Harris Eisenstadt's latest, September Trio (Clean Feed 229), I am reminded of Paul's drumming and the sort of music the first Jarrett Quartet and Motian's own groups made. Not that Harris is copying. But his drumming, his composing, his group sound here is in a lineage that in some ways has evolved out of those milestones of our more or less recent past.

But September Trio stands on its own in an excellent way. The compositions are strong, Ellery Eskelin sounds great (with a hint of Dewey Redman here) and Angelica Sanchez comes through with a rubato creativity that does have some relation to early Jarrett, but expands outward with some beautiful voicings and note poems.

Three accomplished players, three strong concepts, carefully thought-out Eisenstadtian music. This has a cantabile quality and a thoroughgoingly modern lyricism. Beautiful music! Harris comes up with another winner on this one!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Fusk": Kasper Tom, Rudi Mahall, Philipp Gropper, Andreas Lang

Fusk (Why Play Jazz RS005), the self-titled first release by the Berlin-based avant jazz outfit, gives you some sharply defined compositional material by Danish drummer Kasper Tom Christiansen, who heads up the unit. He's joined by some of Europe's finest improvisers: Philipp Gropper (saxophone), Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet), and Andrew Lang (bass).

The Kasper-Andrew rhythm team is limber, loose and swinging in and out of time while Mahall and Gropper play some vividly angular written lines and well conceived solos.

What impresses me about this one is the total leverage of the unit. They kick the music with some torque and have well-poised forward movement. It's the kind of new jazz that takes the impetus of Ornette's early ensembles and the emerging masters of that era, like Simmons, Dolphy, the NY Contemporary Five, early Don Cherry and the Dixon-Shepp unit, and goes someplace new with that.

They do a very good job at it. If you like the propulsed freedom of the giants that came before, you will find something new to like with Fusk. Recommended.

Go to for more information.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Secret Handshake, A New Quintet On Engine Records

Into the ranks of new outfits out there playing a modern sort of jazz comes Secret Handshake (Engine 041). It's Brian Settles, saxes, Neil Podgurski, piano, Corcoran Holt, bass, Jeremy Carlestedt, drums and Jean Marie Collatin-Faye on percussion.

They run through eight originals, around half with a strongly compositional approach, the other half more "free". Podgurski shows some rooted piano in a bop and beyond camp but just as often takes it out a bit; Settles has a strong avant side but can evoke some history as well. The rhythm team can go into the symmetrical pocket or veer out of time with confidence.

Brian and Neal have their own way and they are presumably still in the process of gelling in their interactions. They sound like they are on the move as artists. The songwriting/compositional element is well in hand already.

This shows a band with promise. It's a great start. This may not be an indispensable release but it is also not at all the same old formulas. They remind me a little of some of the early AACM and ESP units in their gamely experimental, anything-goes approach. It leads to some good results over around half the album, and some interesting refigurations in flux for the rest. That's what we need right now--to forge ahead without fear. Don't you think?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Larry Vuckovich, Somethin' Special: Hard Bop, NuOldBeBop and Old Thing Done Right

Here in the waning days of 2011 it strikes me that one of the hardest things to do right is what many jazz musicians are attempting today, to play in an older, more traditional style in a way that not only rings true, but also rings good, that's worth hearing.

Larry Vuckovich's Somethin' Special (Tetrachord Music 686) does that, all of that. He picked the right guys for this: tenor reconstructionist Scott Hamilton, a man who recrafts classic styles like no one else and so consistently so; Noel Jewkes on soprano and tenor, a player I'll admit I have not heard since Jerry Hahn's old Arhoolie album from the '60s, still sounding great; rhythm teammates Paul Keller on bass and Chuck McPherson, drums, with the right notes, the right sound, the right leverage. Then of course Larry himself, playing a fully ten-digit piano with the harmonic flourish and the soulful right hand. Mix nine jazz and songbook standards with a couple of Vuckovich originals and...presto, an album that sounds good coming out of the gate, at the finish line and on the hairpin turns in between.

Why is it so is hard to pinpoint exactly? Maybe it isn't in the end. Learning the right notes to play does not mean that you can do a credible job working in this style. The masters of hard and be did more than string notes together, of course. They cultivated a sound, something you cannot notate with any precision. And they played (swung) in a style that also involved infinitely gradatable points of attack, again which cannot be set down with any easily read accuracy onto music paper. It's something you feel, intuit, bring out in your playing. And they are doing it here.

Scott Hamilton makes a great example because he channels a tenor sound steeped in the nuances of past masters and has impeccable timing. By now it's hard to say, like a Romper Room session with the Magic Mirror, "I hear Hawk, and I hear Lester, oh, and there's Arnette Cobb and Lockjaw Davis, Ben Webster..." and so on. Because he's internalized it all and made it his own. Larry V. is his own man too, incorporating all the nuances and subtleties of the style without copping licks.

Hey, this is a good one. It is. Listen to it a couple times and you'll see!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Mingus On Mingus" Documentary Seeking Your Support

Kevin Ellington Mingus, the grandson of Charles Mingus, is making a documentary about his grandfather's life and the journey to knowledge and understanding that Kevin has taken in search of his family roots. The film needs funding and has turned to Kickstarter for public support. They must raise $40,000 in the next days or receive no funding. Go to their site at for more information. Go to to watch the Kickstarter video devoted to the project.

WJO (Westchester Jazz Orchestra), Maiden Voyage Suite

The WJO (Westchester Jazz Orchestra) is a Westchester County, NY, based 16-member big band under the direction of Mike Holober. He and three other arrangers (two also band members) have penned some nice big band re-arrangements of Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage, the famous Blue Note album of the mid-'60s. Their CD Maiden Voyage Suite (self-released) gives us the result, a well put together rethinking of the classic, with sophisticated, idiomatic, straight-ahead big band writing and some quite decent soloing. There are notable artists in the band, namely Ralph Lalama, Jason Rigby, Marvin Stamm, Jim Rotundi, Ted Rosenthal, and Harvie S, but everybody pulls together for some very tight, well-executed performances.

This is arranging that does justice to the striking melodic and harmonic style of Herbie's "mid"-period while never sounding the least like a mere transcription/blow-up of what the original smaller group was doing.

This is their second album and it is solid, very solid indeed. Certainly those who love the original Maiden Voyage album will have plenty to dig into here, as will those who like a modern Jones-Lewis style big band.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble, Black Man's Blues/New York Collage

The late violinist/
new jazz luminary Billy Bang had a lengthy and fruitful career creatively, with a discography of seminal recordings that are ripe for re-evaluation. As if to extend that legacy, No Business Records recently issued a 2-CD set (NBCD 30-31) covering two very solid and moving sessions, one previously unavailable, the other out-of-print. It's Maestro Bang with his Survival Ensemble, 1977, and it's entitled Black Man's Blues/New York Collage. The first session is a live appearance in Harlem in support of Solidarity with Soweto, May 1977. There are effective head melodies, recitation of some free-thinking poetry, and heated collective and individual soloing from Billy on violin, Bilal Abdur Rahman on tenor, William Parker, bass, and Rashid Bakr, drums. The second disk gives us "New York Collage," an extended WKCR NYC studio session from a few weeks earlier, which adds Henry Warner on alto and Khuwana Fuller on congas.

This is a group with a recognizable sound, in part due to the distinctive styles of Bang, Rahman and Parker, in part because of the overall group dynamic and the thrust of the rhythm section as a whole. It captures the sound of a great band during a less self-conscious phase of the music. And it gives you some prime Bang violin and Parker bass.

It provides me with a much greater appreciation for what Billy was doing in this period and seems to me one of the missing pieces in the puzzle of his development. It is essential Billy Bang, I think.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jimmy Halperin, Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen, "Joy & Gravitas", 2004

Jimmy Halperin has made some wonderful records in the last few years, especially when doing the music of Monk and Coltrane. Today we backtrack to an earlier goodie, an album of classic numbers, Joy and Gravitas (CIMP 301). It's Halperin on soprano and tenor, Dominic Duval on bass, and Jay Rosen on drums. This is a great combination. Halperin is a very lucid improviser on both horns and has plenty to say on these numbers; Jay Rosen gives his usual impeccably subtle but driving loosely free drum accompaniment and Mr. Duval sounds as always earthy and bursting with ideas. They tackle chestnuts like "Night in Tunisia" but also less traveled gems too like the Billie Holiday torcher "Don't Explain" and Jimi Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic."

This one may not quite reach the heights of some of the more recent Halperin sojourns, but it also has a wide-ranging inside-outside diversity that will make it an appealing listen to those who are less likely to seek flat-out energy drives for their listening pleasure.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Agusti Fernandez, "El laberint de la memoria": Solo Piano Improvisations

Pianist Agusti Fernandez was commissioned by Mbari Records to do a series of piano improvisations based on Spanish classical piano pieces. Over a period of two years he played around with motifs from those pieces, gradually fleshing out his impressions of the music until he was satisfied with the results. El laberint de la memoria (Mbari 04) is the resultant release, a widely exploratory plunge into the well of Spanish tonality and pianism.

Agusti does not often quote long passages from the source works. He rather lets the music inspire him to construct a set of free improvisations that present largo-esque balladry of deep ponderousness, notey, restless expeditions into freeform expression, quiet reminiscences on the musical forms evoked, droning minor-keyed flamboyance, dampened noted atmospherics, Cecilian cluster-bursts of piano utterance, and ringing cascades of sound blocks.

It conveys the imaginative depth of feeling Maestro Fernandez evokes in response to a musical tradition. It gives you a front row seat for an impressively, eclectically inventive piano recital.

Agusti impresses with poetic pianism and big musical ideas, intimately and thoughtfully realized. It's some rather engaging free improvisational music. It shows that Agusti Fernandez is a pianist of real stature. Do give it a hearing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Marc Ducret, Tower, Vol. 2: Vladimir Nabokov's "Ada" as Avant Jazz Continues

Guitarist Marc Ducret returns with his second volume of Tower (Ayler 119), a musical commentary on Vladimir Nabokov's novel Ada. I reviewed the first volume on my Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Site (www. several months ago. I review volume two here to ensure that the news of this project reaches the bulk of my readers.

This time out, Marc's well conceived guitar abstractions are joined by the alto of Tim Berne, the violin of Dominique Pifarely, and the drums of Tom Rainey. The music has a fair amount of through-composed passages and free interplay as well. The overall level of abstraction is a bit more present this time out. All four work extremely well together, with sax and violin affording dynamic-stylistic contrast, the drums often joining the front line as a voice with melodic implications not always heard from that instrument, and Ducret's guitar forming a part of the ensemble in the articulation of composed lines at times, and breaking off with independent chordal and textural elements at others. There are also some marvelous four-way collective improvisations to be experienced.

This is ambitious composed music that transcends category. It has modern concert elements, free-sounding elements and elements that fall somewhere in between.

Ducret's guitar work is highly original and very expressive here, though there is not as much of it in a solo context as one might expect. All come up with marvelous performances that turn what might have had an air of arid abstraction into a fully living, breathing vibrancy.

This is something you should hear. It is excellent.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Triptet, "Imaginary Perspective": A Visionary Trio Performs Nine Conceptually Advanced Free Improvisations

Triptet does something rather rigorously avant on Imaginary Perspective (Engine 040). Each of the members (Michael Monhart, sax, percussion, Tibetan horn; Greg Campbell, drums, percussion, French horn, Tibetan horn; Tom Baker, fretless guitar, electronics) for any particular piece chooses a particular playing parameter and sticks with it, so that each piece has a kind of three-fold structure of togetherness-in-separation. If that sounds opaque, an example I hope will clarify. For the opener, "Autumn Sonar," Monhart plays long-toned multiphonics centered around a particular pitch, Tom Baker plays long tones in the lower register, and Greg Campbell plays a rapid series of drum-percussion patterns that contrast against the long-toned mode.

There are variations and there is movement, there are some numbers that have a more open free-form feel like more conventional free jazz, but for the most part this is a group that thrives on a sort of "triptet" of tri-patterned sound making. It's as if each player is an independently functioning body part that coordinates with the other two in ways that lead to a result that is more than the sum of its parts. This is not freebop. It's abstract sound weaving of a provocative sort.

In that way the music is a bit akin to the classic formalist sublimities of AMM and MEV. There aren't many ensembles out there today pursuing the extension of what those pioneering groups conceptualized. Triptet is one. The music is a good example of why it all still rings true, of why there remains much more to be expressed along these lines. Triptet have found their own way to go about it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cheryl Pyle and Trio, "Soul Dust"

Cheryl Pyle, flautist, can be increasingly found around New York wherever free-form music is being made. Her flute has been gracing a number of sessions I have heard about. She often plays in fleet bursts and has a vibrant tone. Today we look at a recent self-released album of hers, Soul Dust. It's a trio with Cheryl on flute, doubling on electric bass, Max Ridgway playing some nice flowing guitar lines and overdubbing an interesting acoustic bass part much of the time, and Randall Colbourne on a slinky, free-form, swinging set of drums.

There are some nice jams and a few more composed sequences. What is striking is the way Cheryl will sometimes worry and do variations on a short motive or related set of them. In those cases she is more spontaneously composing than freebopping.

From first to last this is a group that sounds well together and takes full advantage of the contrasts between Cheryl's ravishing tone, long lines and phrasing bursts, Max's single-line pointillism and chordal thrusts, and Randall's effectively busy, quietly churning drums.

It is a vivid picture of three promising musicians frozen in a point of time. It is music that is "free", tonal and mellow. I think even people who don't ordinarily go for the free-er echelons of improvisatory music will appreciate this one. Cheryl does not emerge fully formed (as from the head of Medusa) but is a work in progress. Very promising. And very interesting music.

Go to Cheryl Pyle's My Space page to hear some samples of the music; go to her site for more info and/or to order the album.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra, "The Good News!"

Two-beat big band jazz a la Sy Oliver and Jimmie Lunceford lives! It lives in the lovingly produced vinyl debut of the Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra, The Good News! (self-released MIN-001LP). The subtitle, tellingly, is "An all-analog record in the swing style of 1938." And that says it. Nowlin and his producer-engineer colleagues set up the session to closely approximate the sound you would hear listening to an analog stereo recording from the later '50s: three ribbon mikes live, recorded onto a 1/4 inch tape machine matching those used in the era.

So the sound is vintage and lively. The music centers on original charts in the grand old style. They are good. Soloists are decent. The band swings. Those who love this era will certainly get a good feeling listening to this, as I did. It's good music.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Curtis Fuller, "The Story of Cathy and Me," 2011

Mr. Curtis Fuller, a giant of the trombone, the hard-bopping master on countless sessions from the '50s on... He is still doing it, though not as energetically and not as consistently as in his prime. Hey, he is not a young man. And with age comes a kind of reflective wisdom that you can dig for yourself on his new disk, The Story of Cathy and Me (Challenge 73309).

It's a heart-felt tribute to his late wife and how much she meant/means to him, in music and brief snippets of dialog. He brings in a group of solid musicians and everybody does a good job. There are standards and originals, some boppin' and some balladin', a little bit of vocals and a lot of instrumentals.

Mostly it is Curtis expressing his love for his wife. Now that's touching and it sure touched me. It's good to hear Mr. Fuller hitting it and it's as much a tribute to HIM for that as it is to his wife. Yeah, Curtis.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tarfala Trio, "Syzygy": Live in Belgium, 2009

The Tarfala Trio is a hot avant trio commodity. It's Mats Gustafsson, tenor and alto fluteophone (?), Barry Guy, acoustic bass, and Raymond Strid on drums. You might well know Matt via his association with Brotzmann's Chicago Tentet. He is a blazing gamer and has big ears to shout or whisper as needed. Barry Guy is one of the premier new jazz bassists, of course, and can solo or play ensemble with his very own sound and inventive genius. Raymond Strid plays a damned fine set of drums and adds a great deal to the trio's dynamic.

They were fortunately caught live in Belgium for a date in 2009 when they were particularly inspired. The set has come out on two vinyl LPs and a bonus six-inch disk as Syzygy (New Business NBLP 35/36).

Far be it for me to tell you what to do or think. I do suggest however that you check this one out if you can. It's a limited edition of 600 records. And it's to me one of the more creative and satisfying reed-bass-drum avant trio recordings of the year. Gustaffson flames and finesses; Guy throttles, tumbles and bows through the session with energy and musical reflexivity. Strid gives the sound leverage and drama with some well placed period-punctuating, thrashing and slapdashing.

This is one for the record-books (collection)! They are hot and give it all they've got. Trust me, it's a goodie!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tim Hagans, The Moon is Waiting

The riff and space electric music of Miles in the late '60s to later '70s has shown a resiliency and resurgence in the jazz improv of today. Tim Hagans' The Moon is Waiting (Palmetto) gives a particularly lucid example of how creative players can continue to develop and expand within and out of the forms Miles devised back then.

It's a convincing ensemble of Tim going a post-Milesian out-and-in route, Vic Juris bringing out the more outer rock melodic-harmonic aspects of his playing, Rufus Reid anchoring the proceedings on acoustic bass with subtlety and style, and Jukkis Uotila providing fire and magnetic traction on drums.

The solos, collectively and individually, are saying something, the compositional vehicles have depth, and Mr. Hagans sounds great.

Give it a good listen and I think you'll go for this one.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The David Arner Trio: Out/In the Open, 2007

Pianist David Arner is a musical voice that does not fit easily into the various schools of improvisation that are widely influential among the free school of players. He's managed to forge a path that does not cross directly the Cecil Taylors, the Paul Bleys, the Keith Jarretts, or the Bill Evans influenced players. Not that he has ignored these stylistic landmarks. Clearly not. But he chooses to go his own way.

You can hear that quite readily in the 2007 recording Out/In the Open (Not Two 812-2). It's a trio date with the formidable alliance of Arner with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen, all key institutional-foundational figures in the creative improvisational music of the present era. The album's hour-long program features four collective improvisations, an Arner composition ("Intensities") and a standard ("My Romance").

There is remarkable piano trio interplay throughout. Rosen listens creatively to what Maestros Bisio and Arner are doing and gives out with the coloristic energy washes that he does so well; Bisio is alive with noteful counter improvisations to Arner's forward-pressing expressions; and David unleashes the full spectrum of the music he hears, which engages the jazz tradition, the expressive intensities of the avant, the expanded harmonic, melodic and textural potentialities of the piano and the musical ideas he has in abundance.

It's a documentary testament to what these three imaginative players can achieve in the space of a single session. And it's a sterling example of Arner pianism at its best.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Darren Johnston's Gone to Chicago, "The Big Lift"

Yesterday, Darren Johnston with the Nice Guy Trio.... Today, Darren Johnston with Chicago guys. Darren Johnston's The Big Lift (PFR Porto Franco 031) came out late this past summer (2011) and it's worth tracking down. A great lineup doing some very good music....It's Darren on trumpet, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jason Adasiewicz, vibes, Nate McBride, bass, and Frank Rosaly, drums. In other words, a kind of all-star Chicago lineup.

The group goes through its paces with Ornette's "Love Call", Duke's "Black and Tan Fantasy" and six Johnston originals, all of which make for fine semi-expanded springboards for these masterful improvisers. Needless to say Darren holds his own and each is an original voice. Jeb and Darren make for a wildly creative front line and Jason is his usual stimulating self with extended harmonic comps as needed and well chosen lines. The rhythm team socks the monkey in ways that make them a hell of a good choice for a freely propulsive set such as this.

Most definitely this is one you should not miss. It's a real feather in Mr. Johnston's cap and the Chicago crew is right there on it!