Friday, August 30, 2013

Matthew Shipp, Piano Sutras

Matthew Shipp goes his own way. Those who know his music know this. And I have no doubt that's the way it is going to be going forward too. A series of sketches and portraits of Maestro Shipp right now is to be heard to very good advantage on the new solo release Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear THI57207.2).

In it you get 13 moods and modes of Shipp the pianist and improvising-composer-thinker today. Some have balladic thrust, some a free originated walking postbop, some fourth chorded modality, hard scrabbling cascades, tender introspections, new music jaunts, out blues, the sound of an important talent thinking out loud musically, and a few gem standards played the Shipp way: Trane's "Giant Steps" and Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" (and yes, this is respect for the elders so you can forget about jumping on something he said isolated and taken out of the conversational setting).

Like Monk, Matthew uses technique not to wow, but to express what he needs to, the way he needs to do it. It's not like, "oh look at me playing fast" or "look at me giving you everything including the kitchen sink, here." It's a matter instead of Matthew carving out blocks of sound by hand, raw inspiration harnessed to the man, the artist, the original pianist that he most certainly is.

It's improvised music that rings true because there isn't a hollow note in the lot. It's Matthew Shipp music. Make no mistake. And that can be sublime. Here, it IS. Here it is.

Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue, 1958

The Bethlehem series of jazz recordings appear to be coming back. There have been at least two major reissue cycles that I can remember, the first as LPs, the second on compact disk. In the second cycle the Nina Simone debut from 1958 Little Girl Blue (Bethlehem) never got to me and so I presume it never got onto CD, but I did have the album originally on LP and I am glad it's back. It's Nina all the way, holding forth on vocals and piano in a jazz trio setting that includes a young Tootie Heath on drums and Jimmy Bond on bass. They sound fine but it's Nina who steals the show.

At the time Nina was aspiring to be a classical pianist, I read on Wiki, and you can hear that in some of the fugal treatment of themes--sounding oddly enough Brubeckian in those moments. Otherwise her pianism sometimes has a straight-ahead accompanying role, other times there is almost Duke Ellington, quasi-Monk-Basie solo and space in her playing. She convinces in the bluesy corners of her playing, less so with some of the nightclub fanfare things.

But as interesting as all that is, Nina the singer is what makes this album worthwhile. She already had it then. A slightly smoky instrument of great beauty, impeccable diction so that the lyrics come right at you without a moment of sacrificing lyric to melodic line--but she has a way with phrasing, a very subtle thing. In all that she comes across at this stage as somewhere between Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, only it's Nina with all that she was to build upon over the course of her career.

Other than a couple of piano showpieces mentioned above, the music has some well-known standards and some ones I don't think I've heard elsewhere. It's hard to imagine a more moving performance of "I Love You Porgy" than the Decca side by Billie Holiday, but Nina's version comes pretty close in its very own way.

So that's what this is all about. Some totally solid Nina at the very beginning, swinging, singing and giving notice to the world that here is a major voice. If you don't have it and like the greats being great, this one fills that bill well.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Melodic Art-tet, 1974

The Melodic Art-tet was an inspired band from the '70s that never quite got the recognition it deserved. A full-length WKCR broadcast from October, 1974 (No Business CD 56) tells the story with a full 80-minutes of music. The band by then consisted of Charles Brackeen on flute, soprano and tenor saxophones, Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet, William Parker on bass, Roger Blank on drums and Tony Waters (Ramadan Mumeen) on percussion. Now that is a heavy gathering, so you would expect high-level Afro-New-York modernity at its finest.

And you get it. Charles Brackeen, Ahmed Abdullah and William Parker are the kind of soloists you can expect lots of great invention from, and they do not disappoint. The rhythm section of Mr. Parker, Roger Blank and Tony Waters combined makes up the sort of conjunction where you expect the feel to be strong. And again this date has all of that.

But of course this was a band that worked on compositional ideas too, getting the concept-composition and surrounding, freely articulated improvising to mesh beautifully. It's a band that had intertwined both elements in ways that stand out, now as then. All the compositions are by Brackeen save one, which is by Abdullah. They work so well with the band that this long set seems to go by in a flash.

The music is great and the band is very much a single unified thing. Everyone however is outstanding. Brackeen, Abdullah and Parker by then had become masters, Blank a drumming dynamo of the first caliber, Waters an excellent percussionist. There are some fired up moments when Ahmed Abdullah really takes off that especially stay in my mind afterwards, but it's all good. And so they excel as a group and as themselves, so that five plus you equals one when you are listening.

An excellent date. We are fortunate that the session is coming to light. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sophie Agnel, John Edwards, Steve Noble, Meteo

I don't recall having heard pianist Sophie Agnel before her new trio release Meteo (Clean Feed 272), a live date. But apparently Sophie and the trio with John Edwards on contrabass and Steve Noble on drums have had others. This one gives us a long continuous improvisation squarely in avant-free territory.

We have here a very well integrated three-way effort with sensitive sonic sound coloring that is sometimes quite boisterous but more often on the less dense side--not sparse but pointilistically give-and-take, with as much in the way of sustained legato soundscaping as in the way of staccato hot-potato passing.

It's so successful a group thing that it's more a three-headed improvising beast than a matter of stars soloing, though what each is doing makes for a three-star constellation. Sophie gets a series of excellent sound-sculptured utterances via inside the piano jangles with added objects, plucks as well as conventional keyboard sounding, without resembling the freestyling of anybody else. And it turns out that John and Steve are doing just the right sort of complementary sound generating of their own to make the mix compelling.

So compelling free music is what you get. A very considerable 38 minutes' worth. Recommended!

Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope, Mirage

Brian Landrus is no slouch on the baritone sax, and he shows what kind of composer-bandleader he is with Kaleidoscope and their latest, Mirage (Blueland 2013). It's his quintet along with a string quartet. The fare is well-thought-out progressive jazz-rock with much more than a set of riffs and solos. Much more.

Kaleidoscope is Brian on baritone, bass clarinet, bass flute, contra alto clarinet and bass saxophone, Nir Felder on guitar, Frank Carlberg on electric and acoustic pianos, Lonnie Plaxico on acoustic and electric basses, and Rudy Royston on the drums. Then there is the string quartet: Mark Feldman, Joyce Hammann, Judith Insell, Jody Redhage. Ryan Truesdell conducts.

Everyone sounds very good. Brian, Nir, Frank, Lonnie and Rudy get time out front and they use it to their advantage. The combination of baritone and other low register winds from Brian, a crack band and the string quartet in the hands of the Landrus compositional touch makes for an excellent mix and some moving music. The string quartet writing really makes it all work. The parts really do enhance the music rather than sounding somewhat out-of-place, as one can often hear in less successful pairings of strings and band. And the compositional frameworks are very distinctive.

This one is a serious blast! If you like your jazz-rock with soul AND brains, and dig the baritone, consider this one essential. Even if you aren't sure. Good show!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cristina Braga, Samba, Jazz and Love

Music. Where some lead, we follow. That is, if we like what we hear. With vocalist-harpist Cristina Braga, I most certainly like. At least I like her album Samba, Jazz and Love (Enja 9593 2). I like her singing, which has that quiet sweet intensity that has some relation to Astrud Gilberto, though clearly this is Cristina in her own voice, but with that gentle quality. She lays back a tad on the beat which gives the delivery a pronounced swing. And I like her harp. I generally love the harp anyway but she really can play (what she chooses to show us of it, this isn't a harp showcase per se); it's a beautiful sound she gets in this set of samba-bossa classics and some lesser known but all worthwhile. And I like the band, which is I believe all-Brazilian, with some nice vibes, trumpet, contrabass, and drums. By the way that bassist, Ricardo Medeiros, is the musical director and has no doubt much to do with the arrangements, which are quite nice.

So she leads, I follow. I mean that. To me good Brazilian samba jazz is one of the joys of life. (Of course there are many joys, but it is one.) Combine a beautiful set of songs, a beautiful voice, a loosely swinging band and that harp playing of hers, and you have something. Really something good. Just get it. You'll get it.

Wheelhouse, Boss of the Plains

We return today to Dave Rempis' kickoff of his new label with release two, another good one. It's Rempis on alto and baritone, Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone, and Nate McBride on acoustic bass under the collective name Wheelhouse. The album is Boss of the Plains (Aerophonic 002).

The threesome has played together since 2005; since 2008 they have chosen to play exclusively in the collective free zone. This is their first recording but understandably it does not sound like a beginning. The years spent exploring free musical terrain together carry with them a development of a tripartite approach that by now is very much seasoned, aged, tempered-weathered (always a consideration in Chicago) and burnished.

So there is most definitely a sound that has come about, a chamber freedom that has heat but also space and mood. You can hear it fully on Boss of the Plains. Of course all three have gotten the respect of peers, critics and audiences alike in their own right.

Adasiewicz by now is well-established as a star of the vibes with much of something new to say within a lineage of important stylists on the instrument. He is not derivative in the least but he clearly carries that lineage with him as an unstated basis from which he springs highly and with agility. Nate McBride of course is simply one of the most inventive and complete contrabassists on the scene. And Dave Rempis is at the top of the list of the new Chicago saxophonists, no small feat given the wealth of horn talent there. He carries with him a feeling for the avant tradition of those that have come before (and right back to the earliest period of jazz at that) but he has an exceptionally fertile imagination and so creates inventive line and tone universes time and again. He is one inspired cat. And with him playing the baritone here as well as alto there is a second sound to bring his ideas and timbres further to the fore.

So that is the basic set of player-ingredients and something of what they are about. And on this album they give us a generous set that shows you how far afield their explorations can and do carry them. There are free balladic episodes that showcase the quieter side, and in that probably no one can touch them for sheer free eloquence. Then there are the more heated moments and here too they come off as masters of their own sound and pacing.

There no doubt could be more I might say here about the music, but the point is the music more than my saying. So I will leave off with the idea that this is chamber jazz fully into the future of the present, here now and I do believe, here in the nows to come. It's important and it is satisfying. Give it a good listen and I think you'll hear what I am hearing!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sao Paulo Underground, Beija Flors Velho E Sujo

As if again to remind us what a creative, dynamic force Rob Mazurek is in today's music, we have a fine release with the Brazilian-tinged electric trio Sao Paulo Underground, Beija Flors Velho E Sujo (Cuneiform). It's electric, electronically drenched contemporary post-Milesian music (with a relation to tropicalia and electronica as well) with drive. I read that it's a kind of shout-out to Ol' Dirty Bastard, the Wizard of Oz and Sun Ra.

This is a powerful threesome formed by joining together Rob Mazurek on cornet, harmonium and various effects, along with São Paulo’s Guilherme Granado on keyboards, synths, sampler and vocals, and Mauricio Takara on percussion, cavaquinho and electronics.

This is their fourth album. Rob's cornet sounds just beautiful; Guilherme and Mauricio contribute mightily to the sound. It has the bite of the electronic, interesting arrangements, powerful drumming, enough outness to provide traction and Rob in a definite groove. What more?

For a free download and earful of "The Love I Feel For You Is More Real Than Ever" (mp3 download) by the band, copy and paste this address into your browser and hit enter

Andrea Centazzo, Marilyn Crispell, Stolen Moment

There is an Ictus (00180) CD-Rom and indeed a very good one that's been around for a short while. It features a duo of Andrea Centazzo on drums and percussion, Marilyn Crispell on piano in a series of four improvisations.

If like most of my readers you know the music of these two, you know that a meeting of them in a spontaneous setting is bound to be something good. And that is what it IS. Stolen Moment is something to behear, to mangle an expression.

There is an incredible aura the two create in this stolen moment together. It is filled with a haunting spaciousness, a concentrated drama of sound and silence, an uncanny simpatico between the two that is inspired. They create an interplay of varying density, sparse to full, slow and cosmic to rapid and fire-stoked.

Andreas Centazzo in his many years of wonderful activity has become a completely original and startlingly inventive percussion orchestra unto himself. He most certainly is that here in one of his most moving performances in years.

Marilyn Crispell is the master of many zones of improvisational pianism. Here she shines in a freely abstracted place that she more or less owns.

Put the two together and, certainly on this occasion, there is magic. Stolen Moment is a magical disk, one you should not miss.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Francois Carrier, Overground to the Vortex

Francois Carrier has shown himself especially over the last several years as an alto saxophonist and leader of avant freedom jazz that has consistency, fire and great invention. The latest, Overground to the Vortex (Not Two 904-2), confirms that and sends us to some nicely constructed new zones.

Francois is aided and abetted by John Edwards, bass, and Michel Lambert, drums, players who get it and give back in full measure for formidable threesome work. They are joined by English pianist Steve Beresford for much of this live set (at the Vortex in London) and that most definitely adds to the whole.

This is music of the well-turned line as much as it is sound sculpture. Francois is a master of both and comes through once again. But this is a group effort and everyone is on top of where the wave is riding, cresting and flowing.

Top avant jazz! No question. Ride this wave and you will get to a new shore.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Rempis Percussion Quartet, Phalanx

Dave Rempis, a saxophonist composer-conceptualist of high repute and attainment, has launched his own label, Aerophonic, and gives us as first offering a 2-CD set of his Rempis Percussion Quartet live. Phalanx (Aerophonic 001) pits Dave on alto, tenor and baritone with a formidable gathering of Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass and the excellent two-drum pairing of Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly.

This makes for some very together free burning and a killer rhythm section. The quartet gets a disk each for two live sets, one in Milwaukee, one in Antwerp.

It's a matter of extended free blowing and a fine thing it is. Dave sounds great as always on tenor and alto but I don't recall hearing much of him on baritone, and that is a real treat. Ingebrigt as one can always expect brings a busy and smart bass approach to the mix and the one-two punch of Daisy and Rosaly is everything you could ask for. Not surprising given what we have heard them do in one drummer situations, but as a two-part percussion team they give complexity and depth to the blowing that sends it all over the top.

This is a real-deal scorcher! A great kick-off to the label and plenty of heat throughout. Dave Rempis takes off in style!

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do, Time Stands Still

The unexpected and untimely death of bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu has brought the celebrated quartet Satoko Fujii Ma-Do to an end. Their last album, Time Stands Still (Not Two 897-2) gives us a kind of summing up of the band in their final phase and all that made it justifiably one of the more acclaimed outfits on the avant jazz scene today.

It was Koreyasu plus Natsuki Tamura, trumpet, of course Satoko on piano, plus drummer Akira Horikoshi. To hear this final CD is to hear how far the group had progressed in combining compositional brilliance with very closed-knit ensemble freedom and parcelled soloing.

These are all Fujii compositions and the band runs through them like players who fully grasp the style (which is by no means simple) and know where to go with it. The bass and drum rhythm-artistry was closely intertwined and smartly executed.

Fortunately we have this last recording. It is some of the best avant improv out there today. RIP Norikatsu Koreyasu.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Way Out Northwest, The White Spot

As I sit here writing up this review I realize that there are only about two weeks left of the socio-cultural summer season. I am glad of the weeks remaining but like a classic Twilight Zone episode I wish I had the ability to stop time now and again. I don't. In fact the older you get, the faster it all seems to go. But as if to counteract that we have at hand today an avant trio that plays in an a-temporal zone, a "classic" (probably shouldn't use that word, but I don't want to say "same old" because that doesn't work here) sound-against-sound free jazz outfit.

Who? Way Out Northwest and their CD The White Spot (Relative Pitch 1006). More specifically it is John Butcher on tenor and soprano, Torsten Muller, contrabass, and Dylan van der Schyff on drums.

This is full-out, hari-hair-standing-on-end screech-honk madness. Not always blowing the brains out madness, mind you, but consistently looking for that tone-into-sound grey area and consistently finding it. This isn't foot-patting groove, it has no bop roots, and it's isn't supposed to hearken back to anything. It's harmonics, multi-phonics, long-paragraphed freedom with room for all three players and the sense of space and pacing that keeps your ears from getting weary.

Everybody has their sonically expanded say, and they all have something to say. It perhaps sometimes sounds more European than New York New-Thingian. On the other hand there's more New-Thingian here than some European outfits. I like that just fine because they are good at it all. Jump in and get jumping! Defy time! Amaze your friends!

Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Geraldine Keller, Air Prints

There is music out there that may not get the attention it deserves because it is somewhat esoteric, demanding of concentration, not necessarily difficult but Zen-like in its singleness of purpose. I believe that would describe Jean-Luc Cappozzo and Geraldine Keller's Air Prints (Ayler 131). Now that is by no means a put-down. Far from it. It is only to say that this music brings its rewards like a well-crafted set of boxes-within-boxes. You must be ready to open up to each stage to get the whole set assimilated.

It's live music from 2011. Jean-Luc plays trumpet, horns and sound-producing objects of various sorts; Geraldine Keller vocalizes, plays flutes and also sounds objects.

The first thing you will notice is the almost ritual, chant-like vocals of Geraldine. It is a voice that goes well with her flutes, in fact is almost flute-like itself at times. On other occasions there is something a bit exorcising about what she is vocalizing. Her flutes have a world-sound at times. Jean-Luc plays trumpet with brassy boldness but can also take on sotto voce qualities. He has a slightly Dixonish growl sometimes, a Bowie playfulness at times, other times something else that comes out of where he is as a player right now.

It's a set of free avant provenance and it goes where you might not expect. So in some ways it's not only the novice that has work to do; the old hand at avant-free will find there are world and new music qualities here that need your attention if they are to come off. So in no way is this precisely easy listening in the Ivesian comfy-sofa sense.

I don't have much more to say except that after five hearings I still feel like I have not entered the inner sanctum of the duo's musical minds. That's saying something. I am not sure yet what. It's a definite adventure!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rob Mazurek, Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble, The Space Between

Having followed the doings of Rob Mazurek for some time now, I can say with confidence that he is pretty near fearless in what he dares to do. Innovation in today's musical world takes that. To be at the edge of what it is "permissible" to combine, to take it beyond what we are supposed to be doing, to put things together according to your own muse and not somebody else's set of musical "laws," it takes courage. And then, of course, it all has to work or it doesn't mean a thing (and it may or may not have that swing...that's up to the artist).

This seems very true to me with his recent recording by the Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble, The Space Between (Delmark 5007). It's a large group that includes Rob on cornet and electronics (also the composition and the recitation text), Nicole Mitchell on flute, Matt Bauder on electronics, Todd Carter, electronics and engineering, and a host of others.

There is a DVD that supplements the CD in the packet, with the music plus coordinated video art by Marianne M. Kim. She gives us a stunning analog to the music, a fully integrated visual world of avant abstractions, visual collaging, bodily movement, color and line.

The music itself would be sufficient to wake you up . . . . It provides a maelstrom of acoustic, electronically generated and electronically transformed sounds that swirl around some excellent horn work by Rob and flute by Nicole. It is a complex, exciting soup of many ingredients, but most importantly it really does hang together as a large-scale musical statement.

For the avant scene, this is breakthrough music. This is art. And that's way more than you often find out there today. Jazz police, you have been warned. Artists must be free to be free! Rob is free. Really free. And really good at what he's is doing. Without fear.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Blaise Siwula, Nobu Stowe & Ray Sage, Brooklyn Moments, 2005

I backtrack today to a CD you may have missed (I did) from a batch that pianist Nobu Stowe kindly sent me recently. It's a very solid trio effort in the free zone, Brooklyn Moments (Konnex). It was recorded in 2005 and features a five-part set of total improvisations for Blaise Siwula (alto & tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, bamboo flute), Nobu Stowe (piano) and Ray Sage (drums).

We've encountered these artists before on this blog, perhaps Maestro Siwula more than any one of the three but more lately Nobu, and Ray Sage in his work with the pianist. I am happy to say that this 2005 encounter is a very good one. Everyone contributes strongly to the collective effort and there is much in the way of good free musical thinking and creation going on.

The mood changes and evolves as Blaise switches from instrument to instrument. It's not that the switch necessarily prompts the change in mood as much as the restarting of the creative cogs brings on a restart in the interactive process. The music can and does go from plaintive whisper to super-energized roar, sometimes as a climax situation, other times as discrete improvised segments. There can be utterly free phrasings or key-centered pulsations, too. Either way the three together inspire Siwula to some excellent expressions, Nobu free-wheels his contributions in multi-directional periodizing, and Ray Sage is an open-eared dynamo that goes with the trio, leading and following with genuine drum-set artistry.

There is a really nice conjuring of collective spontaneity to be heard, a testament to the talents and good chemistry of the three on this day in 2005. Listen and you will be transported back to that early September session, in a perennial vital Brooklyn, now eight years ago but as fresh as anything coming out today.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Marko Djordjevic & Sveti, Something Beautiful 1709-2110

When a band gets a froth going, gets a kind of late-bop, post-Trane kick to it like later Lee Morgan and some of the Trane-influenced outfits of that late-'60s early-'70s and beyond period, I perk up and pay attention. That happened to me from hearing the opening "grooves" on with Serbian-born drummer Marko Djordjevic and his group Sveti on Something Beautiful 1709-2110 (Goalkeeper).

It's a hard-hitting set of very solid Djorjevic numbers played by a trio of the drummer and Bobby Avey on piano, Desmond White on acoustic bass. For half the set the band is ably augmented by the tenor of either Eli Degibri or Tivon Pennicott.

Djordjevic is an excellent drummer with great forward momentum, strong swing and his own sort of busy flourishes. With Avey pushing some hard comping in a post-Tyner vein and White laying down a rock solid bass foundation, things set up nicely for a three way cooking that allows Djordjevic to show his original heat in a very good light.

But it is strong modern mainstream hard jazz in the whole sense, not "just" a drummer's showcase. Avey plays strongly and the two tenors when present account well for themselves.

The final element that brings it all together are the tunes. Marko pens some really effective vehicles and that makes it all stand out and hang together start-to-finish. It's not all burners. There are some balladic changes of pace too. And there are traditional Serbian influences there also on melody lines and time signatures now and again.

This is a well-paced scorcher of an album. Don't miss it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Alex Snydman, Fortunate Action

Alex Snydman is that most unusual of musical beings, someone who switched from one principal instrument to another rather late in the game. Namely in 2003 while a college senior he made the switch from guitar to drums. And he's been playing them ever since. Judging from his album as leader, Fortunate Action (self-released), the move was most certainly the right one. He is a drummer of excellent finesse, capable of all shades of power and push, a timekeeper with great inventive capabilities which he brings to bear throughout the album.

These are mostly piano trios with the addition of Carl Clements on tenor and soprano for two cuts. For the rest Alex has opted to feature three pianists alternatingly, players he has had significant experience interacting with. They are Chris Pattishall, Doug Abrams and Miro Sprague. The bass slot is ably occupied by Alec Derian for all but two pieces, when Tyler Heydolph takes over.

This is intricate contemporary piano trio music that starts with a later Evans Trio sensitivity to interplay and builds upon that. None of the three pianists especially sound like Evans except in their harmonic sophistication; they are moving toward what they personally hear. They all sound good, as do the bass players. The main bulk of the compositions are by the various pianists and Snydman and they are worthy. Then there are a few classics like the Ellington-Strayhorn's "Star-Crossed Lovers" and Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me A Bedtime Story."

It's all so musical yet Snydman's drums are so important a component to the proceedings that you don't especially feel like you are listening to a "drummer's album," and I don't mean that in some pejorative sense (either way) but rather that this is an excellent set of piano trio/quartet sides.

And as you listen through a few times, everything hangs together so well you feel "fortunate" to be present for this "action," very much so. Recommended.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hope Wechkin, Leaning Toward the Fiddler, Music for Voice and Violin

When there's something unexpected but worthwhile and it fits not exactly anywhere snugly in either of the three blogs, I tend to put it where it might shake things up the most. So here we have today Hope Wechkin's Leaning Toward the Fiddler (Ravello 7872). It's a series of pieces performed simultaneously on violin and vocals by Hope. There are originals and Balkan folk songs in arrangement.

She plays excellent violin in an archaic folk-fiddle style. Her singing takes a little getting used to. It's a little less folkish than one might expect but puts across the songs in ways that project. I loved the folk songs. Her originals extend the sound and also take some adjustment on the listener's part, since they are contemporary songs with folk roots, not old folk songs per se.

But the fiddling makes it all worthwhile. She has a very interesting way! Get used to the singing and you will start appreciating what she does, or don't and revel in the fiddling anyway!

Ketil Bjornstad, La notte

Ketil Bjornstad, pianist, composer, leader of a sextet live at the Molde Jazz Festival in 2010, which is out as a CD entitled La notte (ECM 2300 3724553).

Ketil proffers what we have come to identify as "ECM Jazz," which means that it has a spaciousness, a lyricism, a composed element, an ambiance that essentially was stolen and bastardized eventually as New Age. To get back into ECM Jazz means in part to forget what New Age has made of it and appreciate the real thing, so to speak. Now not all New Age is terrible, but much of it doesn't stand up very well over time. ECM Jazz does.

So with that in mind we have some quite beautiful music from a sextet that includes Arild Andersen sounding great as always on contrabass, the brilliant Marilyn Mazur on percussion-drums, Andy Sheppard sounding a bit more Garbarekian than usual on tenor and soprano, plus Eivend Aarset in a post-Rypdalian mode on electric guitar, Anja Lechner on cello (sounding beautifully resonant) and of course Maestro Bjornstad on piano.

This is a sonically alive instrumentation that Ketil takes good advantage of in his compositions-arrangements and of course there is some world-class improvisation to be had from the band, including Bjornstad.

There is a lot of music to digest and it doesn't just follow in classic ECM footsteps but builds upon it. If you dig the Weber/Garbarek kind of ECM lyric sounds from the classic era this will remind you of it but it goes somewhere with it as well. Stunning and worth it for Arild Andersen alone. But of course there is much more! Listen and soar along if you will.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Jeb Bishop, The Flame Alphabet

It should come as no surprise to those who know their work that pitting tenor Rodrigo Amado with trombonist Jeb Bishop is an excellent idea. They join forces as Jeb joins Amado's Motion Trio in the incandescent scorcher The Flame Alphabet (Not Two 896-2).

Both players are among the very best out there today; both have made their mark on the post-bop avant jazz scene. And both play hard and well with absolute consistency. The Motion Trio context also is an excellent one, with Miguel Mira's cello and Gabriel Ferrandini's drums providing closely paired strength and freedom.

The five numbers are group inventions, a torrid yet very articulate fire. This is some of Rodrigo's and Jeb's best work of late and the foursome really kick modern tail. The front line interacts beautifully together too.

I could say a great deal more but instead I will say, "just go get it and if you like new jazz it will NOT disappoint." These are folks doing some of the most important new improvised music you can hear today!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pablo Ziegler & Metropole Orkest, Amsterdam Meets New Tango

Where we can go musically these days is...anywhere. And when we do and it goes well, we all gain a great deal in the process. That's how I feel about Pablo Ziegler & Metropole Orkest's Amsterdam Meets New Tango (Zoho 201307).

Now as we all know the tango is first and foremost a dance originating if I am not mistaken in Argentina and spreading throughout the world in a big way last century. Of course it is also a musical form, with a pronounced rhythmic feel and certain melodic-tonal aspects. The history of this music is so rich and evolved that my knowledge of it spanning the advent of recorded sound is growing month-by-month, thanks in great part to what I can experience of the very early recordings on the internet and its continued vibrancy. It is one of the musical frontiers for me right now. So this innovative musical treatment of the form comes at quite the right time, personally speaking.

But more than that Amsterdam Meets New Tango is one of those landmark new things that comes at you and you recognize it straight off as such. Pablo Ziegler is a critical and important exponent of New Tango. And he shows us why on this album in a big way.

Ziegler plays a very sophisticated jazz-tango piano throughout. He is joined by other soloists to good effect--namely Quique Sinesi on nylon string guitar, Walter Castro on bandoneon, Quintino Cinalli on percussion and cajon. The fully-engaged, fully fleshed-out Metropole Orkest also provides good soloists that enter into the music as called for. The group for this project is a conjoining of a big band jazz outfit and an orchestra with strings and the like. Jules Buckley conducts, and an admirable job he does.

So those are the elements. The point of it all is to create an innovative compositional large group New Tango setting that has tango, jazz, orchestral, big band progressive elements, and to do it with real flair and innovative authenticity. All but one of the compositions are by Ziegler; one is by Sinesi.

What makes this work is the vibrant contemporary tango-plus-jazz plus-modern-compositional-elements and wow, does it work or what? It's a beautifully performed, beautifully written, beautifully improvised series of pieces. It takes on traditional tango motifs and the world of music today and combines them in ravishingly terrific ways.

I can't say enough about this one without rattling on and on, so I wont. It gets my highest praise!! Ziegler is tango genius!

Albatre, Descent into the Maelstrom

Today, another volume in the adventurous Shh Puma series of avant recordings overseen and manufactured by the makers of Clean Feed. It's a good one. The trio at work on this program is Albatre. The disk is entitled A Descent into the Maelstrom (shh puma 005).

Albatre is a rather explosive grouping of Hugo Costa on alto sax and loops, Goncalo Almeida on electric bass and effects, and Philipp Ernsting, drums and electronics.

This is out, very edgy music with a pronounced electricity. It has the power of avant metal though it isn't quite that. It is highly energized avant free jazz-rock on the fringes. Hugo Costa warbles, screeches and blasts his way through walls on the alto. Goncalo Almeida hits the bass full-force and gets the power of hard and furious playing with the judicious aid of effects. Sometimes he sounds very guitar-metal like, sometimes it is a bracing set of low-frequency barrages, but it's good. And Phillip Ernsting hits the drums on all-fours, bashing, thrashing and weaving in and out of time. He also provides washes of electronics which add to the tumult.

Now I know there are some that might not appreciate this music. But hey, some of what I cover is not for the unwary, and so this fits right in with those sorts of recordings. It does it excellently, flat-out, with no attempts at commercial amelioration whatsoever. A first-rate avant blow-out! Recommended if you dig the interface between free jazz and metal thrash. Yeah!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Satoko Fujii New Trio, Spring Storm

One thing about Satoko Fujii, pianist, composer, avant bandleader. She will not be pinned down. You cannot predict what she will do from one project to the next. And that I admire. This is true of her "New Trio" and their inaugural Spring Storm (Libra 203-034). Satoko is on piano, Todd Nicholson on contrabass and Takashi Itani is the drummer.

Now what is interesting as ever with Ms. Fujii is that the trio is fully into the interactive piano trio zone with all three making this an intertwined musical statement. The second noteworthy part of this is how free tumultuous barrages alternate with open avant lyricism and pushing pulsation, often in the same number. Nicholson and Itani have much to offer and they come through in ways that further stimulate Ms. Fujii to dig in a little deeper, as it should be in this sort of outfit.

It is excellent Fujii, excellent piano trio new music-jazz, and it reminds you how important she is. Nobody quite has her outlook and she realizes it with style, grace, and fire! Listen to this one!

Peter Lemer Quintet, Local Color, 1966

Here we have a Peter Lemer Quintet album from 1966, his only as a leader and quite a nice one. Local Colour (ESP 1057) must have come and gone quickly because I certainly don't remember seeing it in the shelves by around 1970 or so when I started actively filling out my knowledge of avant jazz, but no matter because it sounds as vibrant now as it must have then.

Lemer studied with Bill Dixon, Paul Bley and Jaki Byard in the States, most certainly reflects the great deal he absorbed, later recorded with the Spontaneous Music ensemble, and also played with Annette Peacock and Harry Beckett, Gong and the Baker Gurvitz Army. Impressive credentials and he lives up to them.

John Surman is in the quintet on soprano and baritone. It was his first recording but he sounds already in full flower. The very obscure Nisar Ahmed Khan is on tenor sounding quite fit. But who is he? The press sheet tells me he was involved for a time with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Robert Wyatt. He fits right in here at any rate. Then John Hiseman is on drums, the fellow who later founded the jazz-rock outfit Colosseum. The bassist is John Reeves, who also was in that band.

So that is the line-up. They run through Carla Bley's "Ictus" nicely, then proceed to five Lemer originals. They are fine, even memorable, but in the end you especially hone in on the new thing avant piano soloing Lemer, the two-sax punch of Surman and Khan, and the kinetic heat of the rhythm team.

It a very nice surprise to hear this album now. There is a timelessness that applies to any of the well-done New Thing sides from the era. And this one is so obscure you probably never heard it. Now's the time. Recommended.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Yma Sumac, Recital, 1961

Vocalist Yma Sumac was a supreme presence in the late-'50s early-'60s. She came upon the scene as part of Capitol Records' somewhat ambitious series of hi-fi exotica releases of that time. Space-age bachelors and other adventurous souls suddenly found themselves craving a music that satisfied the paradoxical two-fold need of furnishing an aural complement to their professed modernity while at the same time giving them access to the remote far-away ethnic paradises they envisioned after work hours, after the incessant strivings of the work day had taken their toll and it was time to get away into sanctuaries of cooldom.

Enter Yma Sumac, Inca Goddess. The original LPs combined Les Baxter's faux-ancient exotic arrangements with real contemporary Peruvian musical touches. And of course Yma Sumac herself. Hers was a voice of extraordinary range and color, trained yet let free to reach some thrilling heights of brilliance.

Some time in 1961 she appeared in Bucharest for a full recital with a few traditional musicians and the full sonic arsenal of the Romanian National Radio-Television Orchestra. Fortunately the tapes were rolling and the results are available on a new LP/CD all-inclusive package as Recital (ESP 4029). The LP omits the instrumental orchestral interlude cuts in order to fit the time limitations of vinyl; the CD has the full concert.

This live setting gives you a good bit of Yma, many pieces from her LP releases and several I do not recognize. Either way her vocal exceptionality is in full-force on that evening. There is power, freedom and an experimental side to her vocal barrage. Listening here to this decent, quite acceptable if sometimes a little orchestrally cramped sonic stage, I think of vocalists in the jazz avant realm who followed and wonder if they had listened to Ms. Sumac. It is possible. There is a certain avantness to her singing.

The producers-arrangers in their wish to create the exotic ambience allowed, even encouraged Ms. Sumac a good bit of latitude at times and her exceptional vocal prowess led to some pyrotechnics that one can hear as in the "out" realm. Because, after all this was suppose to be music in the realm of "out." Out of the ordinary, out of the mainstream. And too as I listened again after so long I realized that Yma Sumac was to Inca music what Sun Ra quickly was becoming in that day for the music from Outer Space. It all came about once one felt one could (assuming the talent, ability, sometimes genius to do it well) take latitude to create imaginary yet very much living musical cultures on the basis of musical free license. I would not like to compare Les Baxter with Sun Ra because Sun Ra far exceeded Mr. Baxter for musical innovation and importance. Yet there is a relation. There was something in the air, then. And, though it would never have happened I suppose, it would have been something else and not that far a stylistic stretch to imagine a collaboration between Yma Sumac and Sun Ra's Arkestra. It would have been something to hear, I am sure. Especially with Sun Ra's music as the focus and catalyst.

But what we do have is this Recital and the original LP sides. The music works best when there is enough of a Latin-Peruvian cast to the overall sound yet the full-blown exotica fantasy is also operative. There is plenty of that on the Recital. And there are some nice moments of traditional Peruvian music too.

It's a great way to introduce yourself to Yma Sumac the artist. And for those who have the LPs and love what they hear this will be a treat!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Michael Bates Samuel Blaser Quintet, From One to None

Samuel Blaser is one of the important new trombonists out there. I've covered two of his albums previously on these pages (see January 11, 2010 and March 28, 2013 posts). Now he returns with a quintet co-fronted with bassist Michael Bates, on a recent album One From None (Fresh Sound New Talent 414).

This is a kicker of a group going through some avant-propulsive jazz with real flair. Bates is a bassist anybody would love to have on a session--he boots everybody forward with style and drive. He also writes the charts for five songs and they work well. Blaser sounds excellent again and turns in three charts of his own. He has a worthy foil in the tenorism of Michael Blake, a player we've all gotten to know and dig for his post-Trane heat and inventive vocabulary. Russ Lossing plays the Rhodes for most of the session and gives us a reminder that someone who knows what to do can give such a quintet a real sound with that instrument (and so he reminds along with the band sometimes of the seminal early '70s lineups that used it) and he also gets in good things with the conventional pianoforte on one or two of the numbers. Drummer Jeff Davis is a push ahead, a combustible time keeper with finesse and fire and a freetimer that doesn't waste strokes but gets right to it.

Maybe most importantly this is a group sound, a group effort with all artists working together in the written and the improvised to get a cohesive and distinctive sound. They do it and they do it very well. Fully recommended!