Thursday, December 22, 2016

Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band Directed by Brent Fischer, Intenso!

Since the passing of jazz composer, arranger, pianist Clare Fischer his son Brent has been putting together various releases that offer us new views of his work in a vast spectrum of styles. Now he turns to the Latin-oriented Fischer on Intenso! (Clavo 201609), featuring the Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band under the direction of Brent.

Clare's son does a fine job putting together and completing tracks where Clare laid down the keyboard parts (for the most part) of numbers he wrote and/or arranged. Brent and several collegues orchestrated the numbers where needed and Brent comes through with items he co-arranged with Clare or realized on his own for some of the numbers.

The result is a full ten-song program of big band Latin jazz in the Clare Fischer mode, which insists on the Latin groove being at the forefront and then adds plenty of sophisticated big band flourishes.

Clare's "Gaviota" sounds great here with Roberto Gambarini on vocals. There is Clare's hip abstracted Latin version of Duke's "Rockin' in Rhythm," and lots more besides.

This is a crack big band in full flourish. Anyone who digs Latin Jazz in general and/or Clare Fischer in particular will take to this, I would bet.

It's a moving tribute to the Latin side of the Maestro!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Enoch Smith Jr., The Quest, Live at APC

When music conjoins with religious practice, my guiding view is first and foremost the quality of the music, in jazz as in any style. So hearing Enoch Smith Jr.'s fourth album The Quest, Live at APC (MisFitMe Music) I at first took no notice that the two piano trios represented here (Smith on piano for both) and the two vocalists who preside over several of the songs are making music for the Jazz Vespers service at the Allentown (NJ) Presbyterian Church, where Smith's music alternates with readings from the scriptures once a month.

No, the music first hit me and put a smile on my face. Only then did I recognize what the music addressed.

Enoch Smith Jr. is a fine pianist with a contemporary mainstream flourish, someone who can come up with very together compositional frameworks and arranged folk hymns.

This is hip music by any standard. The trio and vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles give us a stunning version of Chick Corea's "Open Your Eyes You Can Fly," and the Smith original "With Me." Emily Braden is no less convincing on "Creator," "Home" and the old "Jesus Loves Me."

This is good, excellent jazz that speaks with a modern day voice. I like it a great deal!

Jerome Jennings, The Beast

Jerome Jennings, fine post-Blakey drummer and bandleader, holds forth with a good band and compelling tunes on The Beast (IOLA). The stylistic spectrum from Hard Bop to very contemporary jazz is the order of the day. An underlying message is solidarity with Black Lives Matter, not made explicit in the music itself but present in the concluding words of the leader.

Nine numbers grace the album--"You Don't Know What Love Is" is the standard, nicely sung by Jazzmeia Horn. The rest are rousing instrumentals with Jennings ever-present as a drummer of swinging stature. Joining him are five adept jazzmasters in Sean Jones on trumpet and flugelhorn, Howard Wiley on tenor, Dion Tucker on trombone, Christian Sands on piano, and Christian McBride on bass. The rhythm section superbly sets up the drive of the music and everyone solos in world-class fashion.

Bassist Jon Burr contributes a Hard Bop gem in "Love the Drums," written especially for Jennings. It's off to the races thereafter, with four effective Jennings vehicles, Ben Webster's "Did You Call Her Today," Freddie Hubbard's "The Core" and a sparkling "Cool It Now" by Brantley and Timas.

The fit between tunes, ensemble, swing and solo work is near-perfect. It is one of the finest contemporary jazz mainstream sets I've heard in a while. Everybody deserves a brisk round of applause, leader Jennings especially.

Get into this one and you'll be hearing some of  the best today.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio, Desire & Freedom

When Albert Ayler famously said that his music and by implication the free jazz of the time was "not about the notes anymore," he described an important truth and guided the unprepared listener into the thicket of tenor saxophone timbre and extended sound vocabularies. But in a way it was always about that. Just listen to Coleman Hawkins, then Lester Young. Much of what makes the two what they were was their special sound. But then of course there was always the notes, the phrasing, that equally defined an artist. Even Ayler had a noteful vocabulary that by not being central, was a more open deep structure of notefulness in itself.

So we move on to today and the new tenors out there. A significant one is surely Rodrigo Amado, who with his Motion Trio have a worthy new album out called Desire & Freedom (Not Two 946-2). It IS all about the sound that Rodrigo on tenor gets, that celloist Miguel Mira gets, that drummer Gabriel Ferrandini gets. But it is most definitely also about the notes, how to sound lengthy strings of tone and sequence that do not depend on the obvious and predictable, but rather chromatically diverge in and out of tonal centers with little repetition and continuous invention. Perhaps that is most difficult for the drummer, who on the surface has only so many surfaces, but no, Gabriel knows about the variations to be gotten by touch and micro-spacial surface differences.

So this trio has as a foundation Ferrandini's variational sonic virtuosity, its irregularity but its continuous non-pulsing soundings. Miguel Mira approaches the cello somewhere between the understructure of a free contrabassist and the stop-action distinction of a front-line collectivizer.

Then, with the three long improvisations that comprise this set, Rodrigo puts his limber and ultra-spontaneous creative inventive brilliance to the test. He puts himself on a melodic tightrope and negotiates the line he chooses to walk with risk-taking dexterity. His sound is his own, a robust tenor heartiness more in line with a Rollins than a Coltrane, but readily identified as his own sonic person.

It's a tour de force set, some of the strongest and most directionally continuous music Rodrigo and the Motion Trio have made to date. This puts them in a special zone, up there with some very heavy company. I am glad of it, but more importantly you need to get with this one if you follow free avant improv unfoldings today. It's important music!

Monday, December 12, 2016

David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo, Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004

Undoubtedly no single collaborator looms quite as large in the discography of tenorist David S. Ware as pianist Matthew Shipp. He opened up the harmonic-melodic matrix for David in ways that nobody else quite did and was a catalyst for some of David's very best work. So of course it was with a sense of anticipation that I encountered the envelop that contained the previously unreleased duo of the two, Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 (AUM Fidelity DSW-ARC 02).

As Matthew Shipp notes in the liners, the duo setting differed from a typical quartet outing by the freedom it encouraged for both players to enter into open dialog not as leader and sideman but instead as two musical equals.

There is a freedom and a channeling of the free and jazz-historical continuum to be heard in lengthy developments. It is no coincidence that the set ends with a brief Ware quotation of the old "Wade in the Water" melody.  The music abstracts, deconstructs and reconstructs the spiritual and temporal phrasing of jazz tradition without letting it structure the totality of where the musical destinations lead.

And so David and Matthew let the expressive winds carry them to special testificatory territory. The two breathe-phrase as two-in-one yet never seek to repeat either what the self or the other has said in real time.

David sounds especially ebullient and fluid, a whirlwind within an improvisational vehicle headed further to its long delayed destination. Matt alternates between abstract riffing, simultaneous lining and a free comping carpet of directional warp and woof.

It was a poignant moment in time where thankfully the "tape" was rolling to capture it all faithfully. It is a tribute to what can be no more, the potent intersection of David and Matthew in an especially fruitful moment in time. And for that it is a classic free-frame expression with all the warmth, fire, and eloquence one could ask for. It reminds us how much we miss with the passing of David, but then how much remains with the continued brilliant vitality of Matthew!

This is one not to miss.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Keith Jarrett, A Multitude of Angels

For those who try and keep up with Keith Jarrett's recorded output there can be a daunting array of choices, given his long and distinguished history as one of contemporary jazz's very greatest exponents of the piano. Now we have a substantial 4-CD set of never before released solo concert material from a 1996 tour of Italy, A Multitude of Angels (ECM ). 

It was a last time that Keith played continuous sets without pause, long improvisations, and it was also recorded during an inspired period. The four separate nights are each represented on a single disk.

This is a Jarrett not as much concerned with the lyrical Lisztian  romantic side, nor is there much in the way of standards, one or two presented as encores. Instead it is a Jarrett immersed in the various jazz orientations he had become known for, minus the post-Evans bop/post-bop side of things.

He delves deeply into "free" avant playing, his personal approach to gospel-funk and otherwise very rhythmic or soaring flights, and some beautifully down-to-earth balladic moments.

It is one of his best solo outings of his later period, with free-flowing improvisations within his most original zones. Is it his very best solo recording? No, I would not say that. But anyone captivated by his more ambitious solo music will find it up there among the best of the "Beyond Koln" era. Any serious Jarrett fan/collector will welcome the music as I did.

Thank you Maestro Jarrett!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Nuova Camerata, Chant

The avant-free chamber jazz unit Nuova Camerata makes a modern "new music" confluence that is a product of the vibrant sonic combinations inherent in the group and the exceptional musicality of the participants. The instrumentation is marimba, violin, viola, cello and contrabass, played by the very imaginative and capable improvisers Pedro Carneiro, Carlos "Zingaro," Joao Camoes, Ulrich Mitzlaff, and Miguel Leiria Pereira, respectively, all for their very stimulating disk Chant (Improvising Beings ib50).

This set contains the kind of magic you get when five superior musical minds get together and forge a music freely and spontaneously made yet filled with an inner musical logic that is the sum of the five working against each other. It shows you how far the "new music" wing of free improvisation has come over its existence this past 50 years or so.

There are other ensembles doing music like this in Europe and the US, and each one is different, though there is a certain amount of interchangeable personnel that has to do with both geographical proximity and natural inclinations.

Nuovo Camerata surely is one of the very best of such ensembles, and we should give a shout out to the Improvising Beings label for covering such music when it is hardly an endeavor to make one rich.

One might remark that it is such boutique labels that have done a great deal in the past decades to keep uncompromising improvisation alive, just as ESP, Blue Note, and handful of others kept the most modern of jazz out in front of its potential audiences in earlier times.

But aside from all that, Chant is remarkable for the cohesiveness of the sonic envelopes it creates. This is music caught in freeze frame, a CD of remarkable togetherness that will never be duplicated in quite this way again. They could record yet another album, and one hopes they will, and it would not duplicate what transpires here. And out of that beauty is a fragility. Like snowflakes every one would be different, out into the air and then gone, and every one would also realize a unique structure special unto itself.

That's part of what makes this music so attractive. But even if you did not know how these special sorts of gatherings come together, you with keen and open ears would appreciate the sounds with a little effort.

So grab a copy of Chant and appreciate an especially fine musical snowflake.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Amazonas, Deep Talk

From Europe today comes a thoughtful set of free jazz from a very game quartet known as Amazonas. Deep Talk (SODA CD12) plummets the depths of significant musical dialogues that occur when everyone is in synch and has much to say.

Biggi Vinkeloe is here on alto and flute, doing what she does so well; Thomas Gustafsson sounds limber and filled with ideas on soprano also; and the rhythm section of Anders Kjellberg on drums and Annika Tornqvist on bass kick up some dust with power and finesse.

And as a foursome they tackle open and free territory from the tumbling all-timeful to straight-eighth pulsation and swing, never falling into cliche but ever keeping it new. This is what I've come to expect from Biggi and Thomas, and for sure we get them at a peak of expression. And the four together have just the right mix of imagination and togetherness so that there is not a routine moment in the ten works on the album.

Here is a band worthy of your attention. Perhaps they will tour the States sometime soon? In the meantime, for smarts and style, fire and lyric abandon, you cannot beat them.

An important and joyful offering!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Art Pepper and Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974, Unreleased Art: Volume 9

By 1974 anything associated with the "cool school" in general and Cool California in particular had reached a nadir in popularity among jazz fans. Neither Art Pepper nor Warne Marsh belonged in that category in some generic sense. Pepper may have had cool overtones from time to time but he ultimately came as much out of Bird as not. He had more in common with Jackie McLean and Phil Woods than, for example early Bud Shank, but he was important on the California scene in the heyday of West Coast Jazz and by the early '70s that was not going to get you much cache, or cash I suppose.

Tenorman Warne Marsh of course came out of the Tristano School and along with Lee Konitz were the major saxophonists associated with Lennie. Tristano and his acolytes were a great deal more than "cool," of course, but the independence of their sound and approach left them out of the "funk" reaction that was so influential, and so they tended to be lumped into the generic heap.

Pepper of course also had his personal problems with addiction and a number of lengthy incarcerations that took him out of the scene.

By the time they formed a two-horn front line for a gig at Donte's in LA, they were playing with a fire that had no relation to cool. And at that point especially the two brought out something in each other that was more than the sum of their parts. So we are lucky that Art's widow Laurie had inherited a set of tapes capturing in detail and decent clarity the two on a Friday night at the club and now is releasing it all in a 3-CD set Art Pepper & Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974 Unreleased Art: Volume 9 (Widow's Task APM 16001). Jack Shelton was in the lineup for the gig but for whatever reason could not make the Friday show and so Art nabbed Warne for that night.

Incredibly, Art and Warne had last played together in the '50s, yet there is such kinetic energy here you would never have thought it had it not been so. The repertoire was the bop standards each would know: "Cherokee," "Donna Lee," etc. plus some American songbook chestnuts like "All the Things You Are."

They were backed by a capable and enthusiastic trio of Mark Levine on piano, John Heard on bass, and Lew Malin on drums.

And it is the magnificent interplay of Art and Warne, so different from Warne and Lee Konitz and/or Art and any other horn player, that makes this a magic set. The interlocking dual counterpoint between the two in joint solo space is something to behold. But then the two on their own are equally fine. They play HARD and with lots of fire. That makes this set a beauty!! Get it for a special club date where everything is right and both Art and Warne play as well as they ever did!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Steve Heckman, Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute

Tribute albums to seminal jazz masters by contemporary players can go any number of ways, not always for the best. If the resulting music has its internal expressive fire burning, then it stands out as a performative whole of its own. If not, one might well ask, "What's the point?"

Happily we find an integral whole going on Steve Heckman's Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute (Jazzed Media 1074). Steve is in fine form on tenor and soprano, Grant Levin sounds well on piano, and the rhythm section of Eric Markowitz on bass and Smith Dobson V keeps things swinging.

The middle period of John Coltrane's output gets most of the attention, and that is fine given that the quartet and Heckman in particular have gained a great deal from studying the music of that time.

The Heckman original "The Legacy" spells out the indebtedness to middle-Trane while carrying on with good swinging ideas and an improvisational voice collective extending the sounds further.

"Resolution" and "Dear Lord" take from the early-late period and things like "26-2" and "Impressions" have the middle period resonance going nicely.

Of course if you don't know Trane you should start with his own recordings. But those Trane lovers like me out there will find plenty to get into on this album. Trane will never be replaced, but he can be honored, certainly. Heckman and company show complete respect while managing to breathe some new life into the music.


Michel Blanc, Le Miroir des Ondes

Composer-drummer Michel Blanc comes through with a 33-minute chamber-electric work called Les Miroir des Ondes (Ayler 151). It was meant to capture the composer's reaction to a number of historical events that took place in his experience between 1972 and 1989. A track of event-related voices and sounds continuously blends with the chamber group's music, in a sense pinning the music with the experiences they were meant to comment upon.

The work is a seamless melange of new music, rock elements and new jazz overtones, performed magnificantly by Marc Ducret on electric guitar, Annabelle Playe, vocals, Anne Giminez, piano, Antonin Rayon, organ, and Blanc himself on drums and percussion.

The music has a wealth of arresting aural events that continually segue one with the other, creating long unfolding mood auralities that fascinate and draw the listener in.

It is a unique and very worthy piece, modern without allying to definite style categories, synthetic yet rather wondrously distinctive.

I've heard nothing quite like this out there before. Viva Michel Blanc!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Linda Sharrock Network, Live at the BAB-ILO

The comeback of Linda Sharrock, edgy vocalist of extraordinary power and presence, is not just notable for her vocal expressions. Her committed avant-free exuberance seems to get the very best out of her sidemen. This is no more true than in her latest release with her Network aggregation, Live at the BAB-ILO (improvising beings), which captures the cacaphonic brilliance of the band at that venue on August 6th of this year. 

With her is a potent Euro-Japanese configuration of excellence: Mario Rechtern, baritone, soprano, sopranino saxophones, saxolin;  Itaru Oki, trumpet, flugelhorn, flutes; Lucien Johnson, tenor saxophone; Claude Parle, accordion; Yoram Rosilio, double bass; and Makoto Sato, drums. Together with Linda's inimitable, extreme expression they rise above the everyday to a free height not often reached these days.

Make no mistake, this is music not for the timid or those seeking an easy repose. It is free jazz directly in-your-face, uncompromising yet filled with the human in its quirky universality.

Grab this at Bandcamp!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nate Wooley, Purple Patio, with Hugo Antunes, Jorge Queijo, Mario Costa, Chris Corsano

What happens when you put avant trumpet virtuoso Nate Wooley in the company of bassist Hugo Antunes and three drummers (Jorge Queijo, Mario Costa and Chris Corsano)? The answer is Purple Patio (No Business NBLP 95), a big, hugely expressive, explosive juggernaut of avant jazz.

This limited edition release gives you a charge forward into the fray of controlled and deliberate chaos. The three drummers provide a broad wash of smart sounds that is a product of close listening and productive talent. And there is space for Hugo Antunes' dramatic bass soundings, a second dimension to the whole that comes out of intuitive certainty and accomplished technique.

Nate Wooley takes advantage of the open singularity of the backdrop to be very much his special self, a trumpet voice with as always a great deal to say.

This is one of those sessions that lays itself out as a striking totality, a complete sound sculpture that creates a universe of possibilities which only can come about when five primo free jazzers come prepared to create something fresh and very vibrant.

You wont need a map to follow this adventurous musical journey. Just let go and the sounds will take you someplace very nice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Andrew Cyrille Quartet, The Declaration of Musical Independence

Over the years Andrew Cyrille has proven himself as one of the premier avant jazz drummers in the music, an extraordinary creative force as soloist and band member--and band leader. For his latest, The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM 2430), he assembles a band not entirely typical for him, but exceptional in its breadth and scope of musical expression.

Bill Frisell is here, a dynamo of electric guitar finesse and power; then there is Richard Teitelbaum, a pioneer of new jazz as a synthesizer proponent and a formidable pianist. Ben Street may not be as well known, but his double bass role on this album is exactly what is needed.

Andrew sounds as beautiful and as innovative as ever. Everything he does lays just right, whether it be as the open free time melder for the quartet or as a profound if all-too-brief soloist. This is about the group sound more than as a vehicle for him to show us his singular brilliance, but he nevertheless manages to give us a major statement on the drums as the music forges on with great presence.

There are originals by Frisell, Teitelbaum and Street. They give structure and purpose while allowing plenty of room for individual and group soloing of a high level. Then there are four-way free improvs that stand out for their special sonics and electricity.

It's a free and voltage-tapped music that gives everyone space and ambient direction of which they make ideal use. The result is startlingly unique and reminds us that the use of some electricity can still give us every bit of the open subtlety of an all-acoustic date.

I cannot recommend this one more strongly than I do here. This is one of the more profound avant jazz releases of the year. Hear it!

Friday, November 11, 2016

John Butcher and Stale Liavik Solberg, So beautiful, it starts to rain

Avant soprano and tenor magician John Butcher returns for a  bracing duet with drummer Stale Liavik Solberg on So beautiful, it starts to rain (Clean Feed 390). After a significant session with the Red Trio that I covered here a short time ago, he seems to be on a roll.

Here he turns in a rousing set recorded live at Cafe Oto. Solberg keeps up quite effectively with Butcher, matching him sonically and gesturally, whether it be a matter of high-pitched cries, spatial explorations or massive blocks of impactful energy.

Of course a sax and drum duo can take any number of directions, for better or worse. What's remarkable with this set is the artistic creativity each reaches deep to achieve. It tumbles freely forward, exploring expressive spontaneities with a good sense of space and pace.

It's another fine example of Butcher's art and speaks well for the drumming musicality of Solberg as well.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ravi Shankar, In Hollywood, 1971

Ravi Shankar was at the peak of his artistic powers when he invited a select group of friends and colleagues to his home in Hollywood for an informal concert on June 12, 1971. The music was captured in good fidelity on tape and we can at last hear it some 45 years later on Ravi Shankar in Hollywood, 1971, a two-LP or two-CD set now released as Northern Spy 073.

With him is his then ever-present tabla accompanist, the great Alla Rakha. Their long developing rapport is in full flower as they explore the possibilities of Raga Vibhas, Raga Paramashwari (composed by Shankar), a Dhun, and Raga Sindhi Bhairavi. The interplay between the two is something to hear, as it most always was in those days. Ravi himself is inspired to delve deeply and brilliantly into each raga with the kind of insights that made him one of the greatest sitar exponents in the history of the music.

Heedless of time constraints and fully engaged in the intricate unfolding of the improvisations, Ravi and Alla Rakha provide us with one of those special concerts expressly designed for appreciation by Hindustani music cognoscenti.

It is a wondrous moment that all who appreciate great Indian classical in general and Ravi Shankar in particular will welcome with joy. It also serves nicely to those who may not know his music well and would like to hear something exemplary.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jorgen Mathisen, Christian Meaas Svendsen, Andreas Wildhegen, Momentum

From Norway we have the fire-y, dynamic trio of Jorgen Mathisen on soprano and tenor sax, Christian Meaas Svendsen on bass and Andreas Wildhagen on drums holding forth with avant free jazz acumen on their album Momentum (Clean Feed 391CD).

Four segments segue from extended sax and bass techniques and color drumming to a sort of post-late-Trane foment. These are accomplished artists in a special zone where all move directly across aural territory as invigorating as it is uncompromising.

Mathisen is a holy terror, a dynamo of huge sounding, fast moving dramatics. Svendsen and Wildhegen keep up and plow the music forward with excitement and unrelenting drive.

Time goes by quickly but eventfully. Before you know it all is over, but not before the trio has made a major free statement.

These three are outstanding proponents of the jazz-historical inflections of musical freedom.  I suggest that you check this one out if you seek a fresh set of voices for edgy outness! Go!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Music Soup Organ Trio, Cut to the Chase

A very good organ trio is hard to beat. One that takes the tradition into the present-day is especially interesting, to me anyway. Such a trio is Athens' own Music Soup Organ Trio, as you can hear nicely on their album Cut to the Chase (Chicken Coup 7025).

The band consists productively of Evgenia Karlafti on organ (as well as piano, electric piano, and some effective appearances as vocalist), Nestor Dimopoulos on electric guitar, and Vagelis Kotzabasis on drums. For two cuts they are supplemented by the solo worthy trumpet, tenor and trombone of Dimitris Papadopoulos, Dimitri Vassilakis, and Antonis Andreou, respectively.

Nestor writes many of the originals and there are some corkers as well as some ballads. Evgenia gets some compositional credit, too. It's generally good stuff, swinging in intricate ways, funking and laying back.

The drumming is in the pocket, and the guitar and organ work flourishes with taste and chops. 

This is a band with its own personality. And it moves the organ trio ahead without a lot of the requisite Jimmy Smith cliches. Good job!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus, Chiaroscuro

Baird Hersey and his pathbreaking vocal group Prana have embarked on a journey to an evolved, highly original kind of pan-world, post-minimal music on the latest, Chiaroscuro (Bent Records BRS9). The group is paired down for this program to just seven singers, Baird as harmonic tenor, plus harmonic baritone, mezzo-soprano, two altos and two bassists. They get an uncanny sound, a little heavier on the bottom end thanks to the lack of a soprano. But this leaves an open space for the upper soundings of harmonic overtones, so there is a full spectrum of ranges nonetheless, and that sound is part of what distinguishes the ensemble in key passages. You must hear it!

For this set they are joined by the talented percussion quartet Nexus, among whom one may well recognize several former members of Reich's ensemble. They play various tuned and untuned instruments, including the remarkable vistaphone, which is a set of chimes tuned to the harmonic overtone series. They pair in eerie fashion with Prana's harmonic tenor and baritone.

Performed here are two suites composed by Baird, "Chiaroscuro" and "Vox Pulsatio." They are extraordinarily striking, beautiful works that give us Prana's spiritually vibrant style mixed with Balinese, Taiko, Buddhist chant, minimalist classic and any manner of other elements.

To describe the music in further detail would not get you any closer to the actual hearing. It is heartening music, both eclectic and extraordinarily original. Yet the roots for it all go back many centuries, perhaps as far back as we all go as conscious, spiritual beings.

It is one hopes one further step out of many more to come from Baird and Prana. Superlatives I could add on surely, but you simply MUST hear this, because there is nothing like it!

My highest praise to all involved! Encore!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Kayle Brecher, This is Life

Jazz singer Kayle Brecher deserves your attention. Her album This is Life (Penchant Four S1293P4) makes for us a stimulating program of originals and rearranged classics, "Moon Dreams," for example, which you may well remember in the Flora Purim waxing, here with harp (Gloria Galante), guitar (Frank Butrey) and some excellent bass from Ratso Harris. She takes chances and improvises well around the song structure. She gives us nicely lyricised versions of "Red Clay" and "Dolphin's Dance." And the originals are rootsy, establishing for herself a soulful home base.

The varying instrumentation is a nice element here, too. Harp (Galante or Brandee A. Younger) brings an open, cosmic touch to many of the numbers. The aforementioned Butrey has some excellent guitar flourishes. Ratzo is a beautiful constant on bass. The formidable Grant Calvin Weston holds forth nicely on drums. Cameo appearances by Matt Cappy on trumpet, Benjamin Sutin, violin, and David Dzubinsky on piano make it continually new and jazzworthy.

It is one of those albums that sounds and feels right, loose and performative from first to last. Kayle is the complete vocalist, the complete leader on this date. And it is serious fun! Listen.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Black Bombaim & Peter Brotzmann

Black Bombaim & Peter Brotzmann (shhpuma 026 CD) reminds nicely of some of the classic music Brotzmann made with Sonny Sharrock and Bill Laswell, etc., now some time ago.

Black Bombaim is a Portuguese outfit of Ricardo Miranda on electric guitar, Tojo Rodrigues on bass and Paulo Goncalves on drums. They fill the air with plenty of heavy psychedelic froth and meld well with Peter's special fire.

Peter sounds as great as ever, with that huge sound and strong presence.

The long jam form is in order, with four or five interrelated parts burning, bashing and taking aural prisoners.

This is classic over-the-top fire, metal and avant jazz melding together in a fine set that will put you on the edge of your seat.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fire Maidens From Outer Space, Suddenly Alien

We are most certainly experiencing a flowering of women in jazz in the last several decades. When I went to Berklee College of Music in 1971-2 there were maybe three females enrolled. That no doubt has changed but beyond that we have plenty of women making great jazz out there now, outside of the schools per se. Sax, flute, electrician Bonnie Kane is one of the very worthwhile players in the avant camp these days, as you can hear readily on her trio Fire Maidens From Outer Space and their album Suddenly Alien (Starrynight Records snr6).

Joining Bonnie is the excellent bassist Reuben Radding, here cranked up a bit on the electric bass guitar, and drummer David Miller, who adds a good deal of pop and sizzle.

Bonnie brings a great feel for tone color on her saxes and flutes, a fanfarish presence that flows nicely overtop the churning rhythm section, a good incorporation of electronics and lots of open free energy-invention. Bonnie, Dave and Reuben kick up plenty of dust.

Here's a good one to clear the leaves and brighten your senses! Recommended.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Do Tell Plays the Music of Julius Hemphill, HotEnd

The advanced rootedness of Julius Hemphill's classic compositions sound well in the hands of the trio Do Tell on their album Hotend (Amirani Records 043). The trio is distinguished by the presence of the hip and backboned tuba work of Mark Weaver, the soulful cornet of Dan Clucas and the solid drumming and extracurricular electronics of Dave Wayne.

We get the churn and burn of vintage Julius with "Floppy," "Dogon A.D.," "Body," "Hotend," "The Hard Blues," and "G Song." Do Tell quite obviously relish the pieces and dig right into them like a hearty handshake from an old friend.

There is plenty of space, understandably, for all three to move around and through. They do not fail to get it all going. This is in the classic tuba trio zone. Weaver, like Joe Daily with Sam Rivers, gets into the riffs like a tuba variant of the contrabass role but then he also solos like a horn. He plays a nice part too in the melody-heads as warranted. Wayne plays a swinging funk to nail down the groove. And Dan is filled with good solo ideas and limber phrasing so nothing ever becomes tiresome.

A happy confluence is Hotend. It manages to be ahead avant wise yet remains accessible to anybody with a sense for jazz in the wide possibilities it has for us. Bravo!

Monday, October 24, 2016

I Belong to the Band, Bakers of the Lost Future

There is over-the-top music and then there is music that is over the top of that. I Belong to the Band and their Bakers of the Lost Future (inexhaustible editions 2016) belongs to the second tier of outness. It is a collective snort into deep space. I mean the snoring snort. The deep dream snort.

All came together, as these things sometimes do, as a near accident. Vocalist Jean-Michel van Schouwberg and live concrete artist Adam Bohman were invited to Budapest to do the soundtrack for Peter Strickland's second film, "Berberian Sound Studio." Multi-instrumentalist and electronician Zsolt Sores booked studio time and gathered together with the two and resident vibraphonist-synth-miscellanea transforming Oliver Mayne. Add Katalan Ladik on vocals for one cut and you have the spontaneous two-CD set on hand.

It is one of those sessions where everyone intuits the objectives and comes up with premier ultra-outer collective improvs that, to me anyway, completely nail down a long moment of utterly alien sound art. The melange of sound-timbre-tones is bracing, brilliant, bewitching and things too complex to give a name to.

Just listen to the CD-length "intergalactic goulash vs sneezawee gaspacho" for starters. It goes a long way and covers many spontaneous  movements where no one is attempting to stand out and in the process ALL stand out. It is a remarkably successful, poetically fulsome blast of creative nihilist affirmation.

This is seriously out music that manages to be great fun at the same time. The Budapest air must have had just the right makeup! Everything very much hangs together.

Anyone into a new outness, a collage of meaningful noise, seek no further!!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wadada Leo Smith, America's National Parks

Wadada Leo Smith embodies perfectly the adage "older and wiser." In the past decade or so his music has attained a kind of Zen perfection of balance, between the written and the improvised, between his trumpet and the band, between sound and silence, between soul and space.

The new one, America's National Parks (Cuneiform Rune 430-431), gives us two disks of thematically related pieces dedicated to the remarkable sites in the US and to celebrate Wadada's birthday number 75, which falls this December.

The integration of master improvisers and striking compositional structures is complete, directional in the most comprehensive and significant sense. Wadada on trumpet, Anthony Davis on piano, Addey Walters on cello, John Lindberg on bass and Pheeroen akLaf on drums are ideal proponents of the composed totality of this suite, but they also take on the improvisational spaces as the best Jazz ensembles have done, seemlessly yet with total personal presence. Like the Hot Five, Ellington's best units, Miles Davis's quintets there is an uncanny meld of individual and group. If Gunther Schuller's vision of Third Stream music was never quite realized in the '50s-'60s, the New Stream music of Wadada brings his own organic intersection of composed and improvised into play in ways that more than fulfill the promise of new music-avant jazz, because every note and the sum total of the music work together as one. It is Wadada music, long beyond the dual label of our past aspirations. Total and without flaw.

I cannot think of another artist today who has achieved such a level of art music without sacrificing the immediacy of improvisation. But all of this is made possible after years of AACM glories, many bright moments by the very best of the new jazz artists, and we must not and do not fail to appreciate all the greatness that precedes this wondrous phase.

But listen to this music and much of what Wadada has been doing lately. It has risen above what has been to be what is now! Like the Parks, Wadada Leo Smith has become a kind of national treasure. And America's National Parks is one of the pinnacles of his art.

No one with a serious interest in new music should miss this. The top of the peak is in site, or is already before us. It is here. Now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Benji Kaplan, Uai So

Benji Kaplan's Uai So (self released) is so unexpected that it cannot be pigeonholed. Not at all. Benji gives us an album of his songs, his vocals, his nylon-stringed guitar. They and he are Brazilian (by way of New York, but that is just a matter of space!), and there is substantial melodic content and lilt happening.

But then the music is arranged for chamber ensemble and so finely done as to fall into a new music classical camp as well as one for songstership.

And truth to tell the two aspects of this music fit together so well thanks to Benji's sensibilities that the results are absolutely uncanny.

The music flows beautifully and oscillates between Brazilian song and new classical so rapidly as to truly meld together as one unprecedented newness.

Honestly this one is so well fabricated and substantial as to get me reeling with surprise and delight.

This fellow is something else! Something else!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Matt Ulery's Loom / Large, Festival

Matt Ulery is one of those Chicago jazz presences that I welcome with virtually everything I hear of his, going back to my Cadence days. I may miss a few, but he never fails to interest me on those things I do receive.

His latest is a big band Loom/Large and the album is called Festival (Woolgathering Records 0003). Or rather, I should say that the first half of the program is a 14 piece outfit complete with strings and the second half is by his quintet.

An increasingly sure sense of "orchestration" is to be heard on the large band numbers, from the ravishing arrangement of Rowles' "The Peacock" through to the Ulery original.

Matt plays bass and tuba here in his developed, special way. The large band is especially well apportioned and there is an impressive handling of sections and good solo spots. Zach Brock is especially lucid on his violin solos.

The quintet numbers (Ulery plus Russ Johnson on trumpet, Geof Bradfield on bass clarinet and clarinet, Rob Clearfield on piano and pump organ and Jon Deitemyer on drums) show his increasing use of the small group as a sort of mini-orchestra with significant arranged passages and an overall lyrical compositional bent which reminds us where Ulery has been but also how his fluid line sense continues to grow.

Ulery gives us one of his very best here. More lyric than avant, you find yourself drawn to the endless charm of his inventive imagination.

Excellent album.

Trygve Seim, Rumi Songs

When one is on the receiving end of all the newness out there as I am in my reviewer-blogger capacity, one can never be sure what one will be exposed to next. Trygve Seim's Rumi Songs (ECM 2449) is one of those where I had no idea what to expect, and was happily shocked by the old-in-the-new, the lyrical-in-the-deep sort of music to be heard here.

Seim plays tenor and soprano sax in the way that ice on a small pond may build up over time. It is all of a piece as that sheet of ice, yet there is an ever-varying way it hangs together from section-to-section, piece-to-piece. Certainly Garbarek's imprint is upon what he does, but he transforms it all.

The program is a series of songs Seim composed out of the poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi in the English translations of Coleman Banks and Kabir Helminski. Now this is deep imagination at work to begin with. Seim sets them to music--his own saxophones, the accordion of Frode Haltli, the cello of Svante Henryson, and the stunning vibratoless mezzo-soprano voice of Tora Augestad.

There are tightly composed lieder where the sequence and arrangement give musical life to the poetry; and there are others where there is a looser structure that allows for improvisation. As a listener one suspends expectations and lets music and meaning wash over one's senses.

The unique ensemble sound in the hands of Seim, his appropriation of Indian, Arabic and perhaps Euro folk elements give depth and musical voice to the imagery of the poems.

I find the music haunting, not easily forgotten, ever opening like the paper-flower sculptures as a kid I mused over. There is more. And then more. And unlike the paper structures you can unfold the aural world repeatedly.

It is music that puts you somewhere you do not expect to be but are glad of it. This is the new ECM I suppose you could say, or a part of it, expanding the open and ambiant creativity the label has always espoused but giving us things with a further sense of depth, a sonance that transcends categorization.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Guy Klucevsek, Teetering on the Verge of Normalcy

Don't believe it when composer-accordionist Guy Klucevsek titles his new album Teetering on the Verge of Normalcy (Starkland 225). This is music that is nicely accessible but nonetheless extraordinary and delightfully subversive of categories. This album showcases especially the compositional side of Klucevsek, though there is marvelous accordion playing, too.

Violin down-townist Todd Reynolds is a beautiful presence on a fair amount of this, but then there are other contributors too, and all sound just right for the parts they handle.

Guy gives us a terrific mix of folk- and folk-dance-influenced pieces, but then there is a new music-new tonality side too, with a bit of jazz feeling surely. It is the vertical mix of influence in each work and the horizontal trajectory of the entire program that is a wonder to apprehend. Everything tends to stay in your head. The more you listen, the more the pieces seem like old friends you are visiting with again.

The impetus for the album is partly elegiac, remembering good people now gone from us, but it is celebratory of their lives perhaps more than a strictly mourning sort of thing. Heartfelt, certainly.

I will not try to tack on influence labels for each piece. It is something you must listen to to appreciate, after all. And the way Guy puts it together is a model of how personal musical lifeways can be put into play for something very contemporary and original yet rooted and earthy.

Normal? Only if a beautifully arranged and constructed patch quilt of the classic sort is in any way ordinary. If it is, it is HOW it all fits, but that is not usual but extraordinary, especially in music.

This is music that makes of diversity a happy thing, a creative and vital living thing.

Don't miss this. Thanks, Guy! Encore!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Four Pillars of Destiny

I find in general that free jazz vocalists have a hard road. What to do? It is not easy. Your being is out there, exposed, on the line.

Four Pillars of Destiny (Improvising Beings ib51) is a quartet date in the avant free jazz zone that features vocalist Maki Hachiya in congress with Shota Koyama on drums, Yuta Yokoyama on trumpet and Hugues Vincent on cello. We've encountered Hugues on these pages with many good things. The others I have heard-written about much less. But all four get something happening very interesting collectively on this album.

Maki uses her voice as an instrument and comes out with things uniquely hers. It took me a listen or two to get into the zone, but then I did. Vincent does what one expects from him, which is really worthwhile playing. Yuta plays a lot of trumpet and makes some excellent note-timbre choices. Shota drums with schooled freedom and energy. And together they make something truly worth hearing.

So I find myself transported after hearing this a few times.

How much free jazz do you need to own? My rule of  thumb is that if you want to hear something repeatedly then it belongs in your collection. That's me. You may not need 200 Evan Parker albums, but you need a full spectrum of that and alternatives, because each different set of players and lineups ideally gives you something different.

And I recommend Four Pillars of Destiny for that reason. It's different and it grows on you. But it is not something to play once and file away. Partly because once is not going to do it. Buy it to hear it! That I recommend! Happy autumn. 

Cortex, Live in New York

Some albums hit from the moment you hit "play" and never let off. I found that happily true of Cortex and their Live in New York (Clean Feed 381). These are not players I know well. At least not until now.

It's Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Kristoffer Alberts on saxes, Ola Hoyer on double bass, and Gard Nilssen on drums. Not New Yorkers per se but recorded live here at IBeam in Brooklyn last year. And they were most surely "on it!"

They have an irresistible swing going on and a pronounced old-new thing influence as they burn their way through two short and one longer Johansson tune. "Burn" is the watchword because they really do. Both Johansson and Alberts get a froth of energy and soul freedom going which is backed up by the flaming rhythm section that riffs and swingingly charges forth. Classic Ornette, the NY Contemporary Five and early Sonny Simmons come to mind as precursors to this music--in the best indirect sort of way because Cortex takes it all to their own present-day place.

This is a scorcher! It clocks in as an LP in length but that feels just right. Big recommendation!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bobby Kapp, Matthew Shipp, Cactus

When I heard drummer Bobby Kapp on Marion Brown's Three for Shepp many years ago I was jolted. Here was a drummer that swung in his own way and had a rootsy feel for the drum kit's many sonic possibilities. I caught him on some others but generally missed his later output...until now. But his presence on the Brown album has stuck with me all these years.

Following on the heels of an album out a couple of years ago, Themes 4 Transmutation, which grouped Kapp with Matthew Shipp and Ras Moshe Burnett (and I must hear that one!) we have a full CD of duets by Shipp and Kapp, Cactus (Northern Spy 079).

I've listened a bunch of times, and each time it gets better. Matthew, always at the forefront of the new free jazz piano, is relaxed and filled with great ideas, chordal-compositional spontaneity, beautifully abstract scatter, inside-the-piano projections, crazy-good outswing, open-form discoveries, he is inspired here and Bobby gives us an update on why he is such a sensitively effective drum exponent. And such a great partner to have on a free excursion. There is a natural rightness to his phrasing, a poise, a flowing torrent of the expected and unexpected.

And it all swings even when it is not doing so overtly. If there is no sound in life that is not followed by another, then all is rhythm. If there is no note that doesn't eventually fall into the lap or tag onto the sequence of another somewhere in time and space, then all is melody and harmony. When there is transcendent deliberation that makes it all meaningful, there are things like Cactus.

This album is a model for what great things can happen when two masters respond to one another and let it go where it may. Happy is the avant enthusiast who hears this. That's you. Grab onto this and it will stick to you in years to come. Brilliant!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Klez-Edge, The Struggle Can Be Enobling, Featuring Burton Greene

When I heard that pianist-avant-icon Burton Greene was doing something in the Klezmer realm, I knew that it would not be standard Klezmer fare but had no idea where it was going to go. Happily he sent me his 8th Klez venture recently and I have been very much digging into it. Klez-Edge The Struggle Can Be Enobling (Disk-Respect 01) is a very nice mix of rearranged Klez-classics and originals.

Klez-Edge manages to sound both Klezmer authentic and throughout free-loose in the classic Burtonian ensemble way. That does not mean this is specifically a "free jazz" set, but there is an invigorating openness that makes it edgy as well as "Klezzy."

That is made possible of course by Burton's arrangements and compositions but also by the quartet line-up. Burton is on piano and keys and sounds great. Alex Coke plays a limber and central role on tenor, soprano and flute, with a good open-jazz feel and a Klezmer flourish when it seems right. Larry Fishkind gives the band an old-timey-and-beyond sound with the tuba functioning in rootsy and avant ways where the double bass might otherwise be. That gives the band some flexibility too in that he can play counter-lines and solos that stand out as horn lines as well as bass foundations. He does well. Roberto Haliffi is the backbone of the group on drums, combining the snare-centric Klezmer drum style with more modern and open forms.

This is an album of lively music, some old favorites done newly, some new gems both Klez-like and beyond and an unmistakable Greeniana to it all.

Wipe away expectations of what the typical Klezmer revival band is supposed to sound like and instead dig the innovative world-jazz-Greene way through this music. I have been taking to this album more and more. I now perk up to see the cover and find it unforgettable.

Great album! Thanks Burton for taking us to a very good place here. Get this!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sonus Inenarrabilis, Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark

John Clark, of course, has been the first-call jazz French hornist of choice in the music for many years. He is also a very talented jazz composer, and his new CD may surprise a few and gladden many as to how talented he is! Sonus Inenarrabilis, Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark (Mulatta 033) is a rather breathtaking gathering of six chamber jazz works played beautifully by John, Dan Cooper, bass, and a nine-tet that includes clarinet, violin, cello, viola, drums, bassoon and keyboards, conducted by Thomas Carlo Bo.

Some of these pieces were written a while ago ("Turbulence" is from 1984), others are new. All are smart, musically profound chamber jazz gems with new music complexities atop a bedrock of soulfulness that makes of this music something outstanding.

The part writing and its judicious interplay between winds, strings and rhythm is endlessly stimulating and rewarding. It is music George Russell no doubt would have liked because of its substance combined with its drive.

We get a good bit of John's marvelous French horn work but this is especially about the ensemble interactivity and the stunning blend of voices, the sometimes startling, always original combination of lines.

Get this, you who want to hear some really great compositions, modern as a giant LED screen, as directly communicating as a good storyteller in front of a glowing campfire. Bravo!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nedudim, Fifth House Ensemble, Baladino

Nedudim (Cedille CDR 90000 164) is what you get when the Fifth House Ensemble, Baladino and composer Dan Visconti put their collective creative energies to work. The three together give us a beautiful fusion of Middle Eastern, European and American folk traditions--with direct channelings of Israeli, Iranian, Spanish, and Indian folkways into a contemporary amalgam both extraordinarily diverse and effective.

My expressive self has been a happy recipient of this music for several weeks now. Each number shows off the sizable amassed forces, say for example vocals, violin, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, clarinet, oud, percussion, nay and shofar for "Si Veriash a la Rana."

Each number reflects the varied backgrounds of all concerned with traditional songs arranged deftly or new compositions reflecting and combining the collective heritage of all.

It takes a bit of adjustment and a release of your everyday expectations. Once that happens you will revel in a sophisticated and musically keen world amalgam that is a joy to hear.

Heartily and happily recommended!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Okkyung Lee, Christian Marclay, Amalgam

Christian Marclay's abstract, new music turntable infusions blend vitally with Okkyung Lee's extended cello techniques on the impactful duo improvisation amalgam (Northern Spy 082 CD).

It is a continuous barrage of lively sonic collage we hear for some forty minutes, nimbly bounding from sound-event-station to sound-event-station, ever in development, ever pursuing an open destination.

The album was captured live at Cafe Oto and nicely expresses the creatively spontaneous inspiration of shining in the moment.

There is a beautifully open rapport between Lee and Marclay that involves an acute awareness of the sonoric possibilities of color-timbre discourses in real time. The noise element contrasts with notefull textures dramatically throughout the set.

This is a vibrant contemporary example of the exceptional flowering of new music improv that has taken place in this century thus far. As talented individuals encompass a greater and greater spectrum of  sound poetics we begin to see a dramatic increase in spontaneous expressivities and at times a great distance between the language of such performances and earlier "free" vocabularies.

A brave new sort of world confronts us on the best of such event gatherings. Amalgam reminds us how far we have come, how Lee and Marclay are exemplifying and pointing towards new sonic frontiers.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Joe McPhee, Flowers

Saxophonist Joe McPhee has been a key member of the new jazz community for so long now that some might tend to take him for granted. They should not. After all his long-time partner in Trio X, bassist Dominic Duval, has recently left us. We must appreciate and celebrate our masters while they continue to flourish.

And so as a timely reminder we have a newly released, all-alto-solo Joe McPhee album Flowers (Cipsela 005), which was recorded live at the 2009 Jazz ao Centro Festival in Coimbra, Portugal.

It is a thematically unified affair--with a series of dedications (for Ornette, John Tchicai, Anthony Braxton, etc.) which serve as catalysts for some state-of-the-art improvisations.

Joe is in great form, seemingly inspired by the appreciative audience. And you find yourself caught up after a few listens in the logic-soul of the spontaneous moment.

It is an excellent set, a great one to have. Long live Joe McPhee!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nick Fraser Quartet, Starer

Here's a crack quartet led by drummer Nick Fraser. Starer (Ontario Arts Council) deftly combines new music and free jazz with Fraser's compositional frameworks that set off the open drumming, the bottom density of double bassist Rob Clutton and cello intensities of Andrew Downing, nicely balanced by the tenor and soprano exuberance of the formidable Tony Malaby.

This is music that wakes you up to new possibilities that lay out well and pointilistically drive forward with a contrapuntal kind of avant swing that starts with Nick's all-over fullness of tone and gets handed forward with the complex string work and sax soulfulness. It is a furtherance of the Too Many Continents album Nick and Tony did a while ago with Kris Davis. Clutton and Downing give the music a different spin but it's all on the road to the very new.

It is both very original and very successful in its free-structured juxtapositions.

One of the more startling avant jazz albums this year to date. Bravo Nick and Quartet! Get this one!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Kasper Tom, Rudi Mahall, One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure

The ever-present duo formation in avant jazz gets another fine example with drummer Kasper Tom and reedist Rudi Mahall's One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure (Barefoot Records 050 CD). The two have been regular performing partners for some time now (type "Kasper Tom" in the search box above for three examples of the two in a larger group setting). But this is the first to my knowledge of the two in duet.

Nine spontaneous numbers fill out the CD with nicely turned improvs, Rudi unleashing his arsenal of clarinets in his special way and Kasper Tom playing consistently brilliant and inventive free drums.

Clearly, the two are in top form and engage in high-level dialogues throughout. Once again we have some elevations of the spirit that bear repeated listening, marking the Euro scene as a hotspot for the new jazz. Kasper Tom and Rudi Mahall make for essential listening.

I do recommend you get this one!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Keefe Jackson, Jason Adasiewicz, Rows and Rows

From the continuing renaissance of avant Chicago jazz we have another interesting reunion and an album of bold sonic assertion--namely tenor-bass clarinetist Keefe Jackson and vibist Jason Adasiewicz on their latest duet Rows and Rows (Delmark 5024).

Each has of course developed his own sound and this duet is free flowing yet structured with some excellent compositional ideas from the two. That makes considerable difference in giving us a stand-out album.

And that's one of the hallmarks of new Chicago--they challenge themselves to pull a little bit more forward with every project via good ideas and excellent execution.

You listen to these two together and how they have devised worthy motifs to improvise around, fulcrum points as it were, and you get a program that speaks freshly of the continuing evolution of the avant improviser.

This session has it all going on--concept, motifs, beautifully thematic improvisations and an adventurous dynamic.

Another great example of how Chicago continues to remain vital!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lefteris Kordis, Mediterrana (Goddess of Light)

Something fascinatingly different is in store for us today. Greek jazz composer-pianist Lefteris Kordis presents his album Mediterrana (Goddess of Light) (Inner Circle Music 052). It is a stunning example of cross-cultural fusion (Greek and jazz in an acoustic setting) that features Lefteris and his very ear awakening way with the fusion he is all about (piano, and added synth for one cut), plus a trio of Petro Kampanis on bass (replaced by John Lockwood on one cut) and Ziv Ravitz on drums, a very artistically capable threesome in themselves. They are joined at various times on the album by the specially colorful sounds of Harris Lambrakis on ney, Roni Eytan on harmonica, Vasilis Kostas on laouto, Alec Spiegelman on clarinet and bass clarinet and Sergio Martinez Diaz on cajun and claps.

The additional players color the music nicely and set up the compositional thrust of Lefteris in ways that stand out.

The music rocks and swings genuinely and makes the composed and improvised material especially vivid.

It is a music so thoroughly woven together with the strands of Kordis' background and very contemporary jazz that there is no pulling apart at any time.

It is an outstanding vision of real fusion today, as valuable for Lefteris' piano as it is for the compositions and arrangements. Kudos for this! Get it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Julien Palomo, Scutigere

Julien Palomo, head of the avant Improvising Beings label, is also a gifted composer-instrumentalist.

His newest venture is a full CD-length electro-acoustic work entitled Scutigere (E198). It is a soundscape that takes a long-form approach to its sprawling, ever-unwinding sonic tapestry. There are event-oriented sections but also an endlessly floating, suspended continuity. Sustained elements evolve and change while a sort of orchestral blend of distinctive timbral washes ebb and flow like the tides.

It takes its time and ideally you the listener need to slow down and surrender to the flow of musical ideas.

There are repetitions that mostly occur over long time spans and those repetitions develop and mutate so you find every few minutes that the music has changed a great deal though you still remain a'swim in the sonic tidal washes.

It is one of those singular works that travels along so evocatively that the hour's elapsing play time seems much more brief, or even virtually timeless.

Kudos to Julien on this one. It is surely one of the most important electroacoustic works in the last few years, to my mind. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Peggy Stern, Z Octet

Jazz-composer-pianist Peggy Stern is new to me. Her Austin, Texas-based music is very nicely presented on her recent Z Octet (Estrella Productions).

The Octet is a lively group of musicians well attuned to Peggy's arabesques, her contemporary freshness, her well-voiced, very original contemporary approach. Peggy's piano (and vocals on one number) are joined by a somewhat unusual instrumentation of clarinet, flute, trombone, cello, bass and drums, plus Suzi Stern on vocals for two pieces.

The lines she writes have unexpected aspects and tonal yet not-at-all common touches. And the sort of thoughtful arranging of the voicings gives you a sonance that stands out. There are good players here--capable of improvisations that have the sound of surprise that goes with Peggy's music.

Pretty outstanding, this all is! Get a copy if you want to dig into something new and substantial in the jazz composition realm.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Red Trio, John Butcher, Summer Skyshift

The pairing of the excellent Portuguese avant blockbuster the Red Trio and the ever idea-and-fire-stoker tenor-soprano John Butcher is a great idea and it sizzles its way through a wildly lively set on the recent album Summer Skyshift (Clean Feed 372).

The trio itself has been outstanding for while now. Rodrigo Pinheiro's piano  is an explosion of wonderfully executed, dramatic ideas, Hernani Faustino responds with parallel virtuoso all-over heat, and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini gets his own sound with busy and very open creative time. Add Butcher's over-the-top energy and timing and you have a free outing that is hard to top.

This has all the good things about live jazz, recorded in a bright flame at the Jazz em Agosto series last year.

This one is a definite cork-popper, a model of extraordinarily productive four-way inspiration. Strongly recommended!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Eri Yamamoto Trio, Life

Eri Yamamoto, her piano and her trio return with a nice new one simply entitled Life (AUM Fidelity 099). David Ambrosio supplies the very fundamental bass playing that anchors the music fleetly and somewhat lightly, melodically and rock solid. Ikuo Takeuchi plays some swingingly busy drums with some subtle touches that set off Ms. Yamamoto's well-conceived and original pianism.

All but one of the compositions on the set are hers, with one by Ikuo. They have a great variety, from a jazz waltz to a jagged figure to improvise off of to a sort of zombie rocker, there is whimsicality but understandably a definite seriousness of purpose in all of this.

Eri's piano style has harmonic and melodic complexity--she may have been influenced by, say, Bley and Tyner, yet there is a great deal of originality on display, even a bit of humor.

Altogether a winner of an album!  Bravo Ms. Yamamoto!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Elektra Kurtis & Ensemble Elektra, Bridges from the East

Violinist Elektra Kurtis and her Ensemble Elektra are back again with a new one that once again sings out with a kind of fusion jazz that gives us a strong eastern folk flavor--from Greece, the Baltics, the Mid-East and combines it with jazz fusedom.

This one is called Bridges from the East (Milo Records 301). Elektra as you may well know is a gloriously rhapsodic violinist who has the brilliance to meld wonderfully the violin's eastern roots, its jazz heritage and its classical history into a style that is all Elektra. Curtis Stewart seconds her nicely as the other violinist in the band and he can swing! Then there is the irreplaceable eastern-jazz clarinet Lefteris Bournias, plus the crack rhythm team of Bradley Jones on electric bass and then the ever-insightful drumming of Reggie Nicholson.

Elektra's compositions are as ever right on the mark and the arrangements capture the special eastern fusion blend for which the ensemble is famous.

Nothing missing here. Another gem from the ensemble!

Sinikka Langeland, The Magical Forest

Some of the current ECM stable of artists have combined folk, early music elements and ambient ECM jazz in startling ways. Sinikka Langeland is one such as you can hear in her new album The Magical Forest (ECM 2448). "Magical," "enchanted" are words that some to mind listening. Sinikka has a lovely voice and plays the kantele, a kind of folk harp, and she is joined for this album by the Trio Mediaeval, three female voices of otherworldly grace and charm. Also on hand is her Starflowers quintet that includes Arve Henriksen on trumpet, Trygve Seim on tenor and soprano saxes, Anders Jormin on double bass and Markku Ounaskari on percussion, a very capable outfit that expands the sound with a folk-jazz spaciousness.

The lyrics and hence the theme of this album is centered around the legend of the World Tree, axis mundi.

It is an album that places you on a folk-jazz terrain that is exceedingly beautiful, like no other exactly, lyrical and sonically uncanny.

If you are looking for something new and lyrical and are not sure of what, this one may give you what you cannot quite name. It's like that. It is beyond our age yet belongs to it exceptionally well.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Quinsin Nachoff, Flux

Some albums suddenly grab you at the second listen or so for their remarkable qualities. Tenor saxophonist-jazz composer Quinsin Nachoff's album Flux (Mythology Records MR0012) did that to me. He works here with a bassless quartet of self on tenor, David Binney on alto, Matt Mitchell on piano and keys, and Kenny Wollesen on drums and percussion. These are players with lots of fire and soul that devote themselves to realizing Nachoff's unusual and sometimes complicated pieces with exemplary spirit and interpretive brilliance.

The lines are almost folksy-Bartoksy, but no, there is a Nachoff-sian something, too, that sets it apart.

If you are looking for brainy heat, you can put your money on this one. It is excellent.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Peter Kuhn Trio, The Other Shore

When a very well respected avant jazz reedist comes out with his first record date as a leader in 35 years, there is reason to take note, and in the case here, to celebrate. There were personal dragons to slay back in the late seventies and for a while Peter Kuhn stopped playing. But with The Other Shore (No Business NBCD 78) he is back and stronger than ever.

The trio is an excellent one with Kyle Motl on bass and Nathan Hubbard on drums. Peter gets his own sound on Bb and bass clarinet, tenor and alto.

What's especially nice about the album is the variety of moods. There are forays into energy music but always with space for all three players to get their ideas across. And there are what you might call free ballads, too, where there is a bit of introspection.

It is wonderful to hear Peter sounding so good again. This is the sort of album to live with and grow into, for there is as much subtlety as there is direct expression. It's no doubt the comeback album of the year so far!

Get it and listen!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Adam Matlock, Lungfiddle

Of accordion players in the new and avant realms there may not be all that many we are exposed to but there are more and more of them it seems. Adam Matlock is one. He's been showing up on sessions in good ways lately and he just sent me his album, thankfully. It's called Lungfiddle (Off Records) and I've been listening.

He manages to create a new sound with just his accordion. There are seven compositions/improvisations on it and they caught my ear. He's doing a sort of post-minimalist avant thing, not exactly jazz and not exactly new music but somewhere in between.

It's a sort of originality happening here with something interesting going on throughout. Don't ask me what it sounds like because it sounds like itself. Some musical ideas repeated and branched off on, some voicings and drones you do not expect, rather brilliant transitions to unexpected realms, and a sense of line that stands out. There's generally a solid key center and it's tonal but sometimes pretty outside what harmonic-melodic expectations you might have, especially from an accordion.

It is fascinating stuff. Adam Matlock is an original. Definitely recommended.