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.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Leap of Faith Orchestra, The Expanding Universe

Boston is PEK country. The avant reedman-composer is on a mission up there: to turn the world onto free improv music, free jazz. He's been recording prolifically lately with a number of his ensembles. The Leap of Faith Orchestra is no doubt his most ambitious project and can be heard to very good advantage on their album The Expanding Universe (Evil Clown 9110).

The release gives us one very long and rather exciting work for the full ensemble, which at that point consisted of 15 members, including Yedidyah Sid Smart on drums, Charlie Kohlhase on saxes, Glynis Lomon on cello. aquasonic and voice, in addition to reeds, trumpet, vibes, two more drummers, two basses, two violins, trombone-tuba, and piano.

This is a bracing collage of ever-varying sound color universes and at times they kick up a hell of a fuss! Other times they are a bit more focused within.

But all told you are in for a wildly free trip into the nether worlds of the universe. Nice one!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Fred Hersch Trio, Sunday Night at the Vanguard

There is something about pianist Fred Hersch's trio and the new album Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto Records 2183). It is further growth. They are reaching higher and getting there magnificently. It's a full program of standards and originals with John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. And it is a sterling example of the post-Bill-Evans-style piano trio in the hands of the three.

The standards are not entirely standard: you get Rodgers' "A Cockeyed Optimist," the Beatles' "For No One," Rowles' "The Peacocks," Monk's "We See" in nicely wrought versions with the kind of sophisticated voicings one expects from Hersch and with some glorious right hand lines. There are four substantial Hersch originals, too.

And throughout the trio swings and finesses its way through the material on a highly elevated, highly evolved plane that all who dig the piano trio tradition will take to heart.

It's one all Hersch fans cannot afford to miss--and a great one to start with if you do not know his music. Do not hesitate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Le Grand Fou Band, Au 7eme Ciel

Synth master Jean-Marc Foussat and some of his illustrious European colleagues have gathered together as the 17-member Grand Fou Band. They show us a wide swatch of enlivening, colorful free improvisations on their recent album Au 7eme Ciel (petit label 020).

Guitar, piano, drums, synths, accordion, voices, six horns and five strings (including contrabass) make up the confluence of sounds. Joao Camoes, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Sylvain Guerineau, Makoto Sato and of course Jean-Marc Foussat are some of the more familiar artists involved. It is very much a group effort, however, a collage of great power at times, great introspection at others, but ever in motion.

It is surely one of the outstanding large free band ventures in recent years. The kaleidoscope of sound is spectacular and unrelentingly focused. Beautiful!

Monday, August 22, 2016

J. Blake Fichera, Scored to Death, A Conversation with Some of Horror's Greatest Composers

You no doubt have a favorite horror film. And as you think back to it you may also recall some of the music that was a part of it. Virtually everyone remembers the shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho and the screeching violins Bernard Herrmann wrote for it. Yet many of us are ignorant of the intricate interactions both technically and aesthetically that go into the creation of effective soundtracks for a great horror film.

J. Blake Fichera, a horror film fan, film music commentator and musician, has gathered some of horror's most prolific living soundtrack composers, some 14 in all, and interviewed each individually on his art, on what it takes to put all together in a finished product designed to scare the hell out of you.

The substantial dialogs are now out in a fascinating, provocative and entertaining 356-page book entitled Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror's Greatest Composers (Silman-James Press, paper, $19.95).

Each composer tells a bit about what got him started as a soundtrack composer, the creative process of making a great soundtrack, his interaction with directors, producers, sound-effects people and other key personnel, time frames, budget considerations, personal idiosyncrasies and the various stages of composition that take place.

The changing role of technology over the years, both in audio production and synchronization are key themes as well. How much of the music is extensively mapped out in terms of timing? What is the role of the director in the ultimate outcome? What has happened as composition essentially went from a demo tape, a rough score or a simple live piano demonstration in the old days to the ability now to lay down a live, multi-track demo directly onto a copy of the digital film? How has the expectations of directors changed over the years?

All this and very much more is what makes the book great. The recollections of the composers on specific films and how the end result was reached is the most interesting part of the book, I would say. But it is fascinating as well to take in the particular influences a composer has had in his work and how he uses them, whether it be rock, electronic synth music or avant garde modern classical, or you-name-it, and the spectrum of inputs one can get from a director, whether it be vague impressionistic thoughts or very specific directions.

It's one of those books that virtually reads itself. You find yourself drawn into the subject and the pages turn quickly.

Scored to Death stands out as a lively set of insightful interviews that in the end gives you a very good idea about how the music comes to be and its function in the making of a modern horror film. I recommend it highly.

No Coming, No Going, The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-79

Peter Kuhn, reedman extraordinaire, was poised to become a major star in the firmament of free jazz in 1978-79. Personal problems got in the way and he disappeared from the scene. Now he is back, healthy and strong.

This issue, No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-79 (No Business 2-CD) is for CD 1 a WKCR broadcast of Kuhn on B-flat and bass clarinet, Denis Charles on drums, William Parker on bass, Toshinori Kondo on alto horn and trumpet and Arthur Williams on trumpet that became the album Livin' Right. It was out for a time back then on Peter's own label--and it is great to be able to hear it again. I would venture to call it a forgotten classic of the era, a marvel for all concerned.

The music is a series of three well conceived Kuhn compositions, with some very swinging Denis Charles and fundamental William Parker. On top of that everyone gets a chance to have their say here but ultimately Peter stands out with the three horns together doing some excellent collective improvs as well.

The second disk consists of an extended duo recording of Peter on B-flat and bass clarinet and tenor sax and Denis Charles on drums. It was a 1979 concert at the New England Repertory Theater in Worcester, Mass that was broadcast at the time on WCUW.

This is a creative two-way effort as interesting for what Denis was doing (he was a great drummer!) as well as what Peter conjured out of his horns.

If Livin' Right is the more exciting of the two, the second CD is nonetheless a very nicely done gathering of the duo and a documented revelation of the extended artistry of Peter and Denis in those days.

I most certainly recommended this one for your new thing collection. Peter was doing important work.

Happily there is a brand new New Business album out with the latest music from Peter and a trio that I will cover in a couple of days!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

d'une rive a l'autre, sylvain guerineau, itaru oki, kent carter, makoto sako

If a well-chosen international quartet playing cutting-edge free jazz sounds interesting to you, d'une rive a l'autre (Improvising Beings ib47) is a new release you should consider.

Each artist in the quartet has honed his sound over the years. The four make a grand noise together in five well-paced segments. The band is comprised of Sylvain Guerineau on tenor sax, Itaru Oki on trumpet, flugelhorn and flutes, Kent Carter on double bass, and Makoto Sato on drums.

There is inspiration to be heard throughout. The band has a real feel for dynamics, so that you get a spectrum of sounds from the introspective to the stormy.

It is a commonplace to expect a band like this to listen, or conversely to NOT listen to one another. The album gives you interactive interplay and a four-way independence at times for a varied and absorbing result.

No doubt, all four give us some of their most considered work here. It's avant improv that goes its own way and does it with maximum creativity.

Kudos to the quartet and for Improvising Beings for putting this out! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Naftule's Dream, Blood

Today we have a shining beacon in the "Radical Jewish" music realm, as John Zorn so aptly puts it. It is the sextet Naftule's Dream and their very lively new album Blood (Naftule's Dream Recordings 103). What we have is a absorbingly original hybrid of avant jazz composition and improvisation that has a healthy Klezmer-Yiddish-Jewish component and a little of the heft of rock.

The players and their instrumentation form the principal foundation for this musical mix. Glenn Dickson is on clarinet and channels modern and Klezmer elements; Gary Bohan is on cornet and has much to do with the sound color of the ensemble; Michael McLaughlin is a key element on accordion; Andrew Stern gives the ensemble a rock and explorative edge; Jim Gray has a vivid lower presence on tuba; and Eric Rosenthal does a fine job on the drums.

The compositions are intricate and involved and are critical to the sound of the band. McLaughlin contributes five of the nine, Glenn Dickson pens three, Bohan gives us one. The "Jewish Tinge" is pretty much out front throughout, and that combined with a modern small-big band fullness. Add to that an improvisatory edginess, and intermittent helping of rock heaviness and mellifluous compositional prowess and you have a band to reckon with.

It's one of those albums that stays in your mind after a while. The band stands out with a great set! Check this out.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Denny Zeitlin, Solo Piano: Early Wayne, Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions

When a jazz composer's work sounds as fresh as ever decades after being written, that is a sign of the lasting value of the music. The beautifully creative pianism of Denny Zeitlin gives us some extraordinarily new life to Wayne Shorter classics on his recent Solo Piano: Early Wayne (Sunnyside SSC 1456). These are pieces that already have great cache these days, and Denny manages via  swinging, substitutions, displacement and brilliant improvisations to give us a very rewarding new take on them all.

As early as 1971 when I was at Berklee it seemed that a lot of students would pull out some Wayne classics in those impromptu sessions in the practice rooms that were so important to me in the short time I remained there. Songs like "Speak No Evil," "Nefertiti," "Ju Ju," "Infant Eyes" were sounding really great right about then and here we are some 45 years later and they still sound revolutionary.

But in the hands of Denny and a solo gig we hear them even more vividly. Of course Zeitlin has had the touch and the feel for stretching music since he first started out. And with this album he reminds us how deep he has gotten into the four-dimensional world of Zeitological piano.

All you have to do is put this CD on once or twice and I wont have to say another word. It's a shining example of what sort of brilliant things Denny Zeitlin does these days.

No kidding, just get this one and hear it. You'll be very glad you did, I think.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Arsen Petrosyan, Charentsavan, Music for Armenian Duduk

The Armenian duduk is something like a cross between clarinet, a flute and an oboe in sound, which is to say that properly played it sounds like no other. It is furnished with a double-reed and ordinarily fashioned from apricot wood.

Arsen Petrosyan is a fabulous exponent of the instrument. He gives us a program of memorable folk and composed music on his beautiful Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk (Pomegranate Music CD-1929).

He is accompanied by ensembles varying from a single dhol drum, Armenian harp or guitar to a larger ensemble. His tone and phrasing are nothing short of exquisite. Arsen is a master in every way.

So stunning is the music that my mid-eastern neighbors heard me playing the album and knocked on the wall to say they loved it! Now that's a testimony and I surely agree!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rocco John Quartet, Embrace the Change

Altoist Rocco John is a fixture on the New York scene, keeping the new new thing free flames stoked with his own brand of avant jazz. He records more infrequently than I would like, but then that makes his new releases all the more welcome.

His latest, Embrace the Change (Unseen Rain 9947), features a cohesive and compatible quartet of Rocco John on alto and soprano, Rich Rosenthal on electric guitar, Francois Grillot on contrabass and Tom Cabrera on drums. Rocco John provides the originals, attractive springboards for the often collective improvisations that make good tracks into the horizon.

Rocco John sounds quite limber and full of spontaneous musicality. So too Rich makes creative paths that go well with what Rocco John is doing. Francois Grillot is, as always, the complete bassist, whether walking or making horn-like statements. And Tom Cabrera swings and frees it all up well depending on what is needed.

It is an album that stays in the avant mode with lots of fire and ideas. It's well worth hearing, another notch in the Rocco musical belt. Recommended!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Allison Au Quartet, Forest Grove

For contemporary jazz that has a little complexity, a little kick and some hardness within coolness, you might want to turn to Allison Au and her Quartet doing Forest Grove (AA-15). I may be a little late on this one, but my financial mess and move have gotten in the way...I apologize.

Allison never sounded better, with a sharply crisp alto and a bit of coolness but the post-Bird heat too of nicely phrased expressions. Todd Pentney on keys makes a crucial contribution in his comping and soloing. Jon Naharaj and Fabio Ragnelli (bass and drums, respectively) are busy with good ideas when called for, or laid back as needed. Felicity Williams adds her wordless vocals to three numbers and that makes good musical sense.

And Allison's originals (all nine numbers) are tunefully appropriate and modernly zinging.

In short all is well on this disk. It is a joyous outburst. Grab a copy.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Buck Curran, Immortal Light

It's time we stop feeling nostalgia for worthy genres that are still with us and wise up to the artistic content of them. Or at least I am thinking that as I listen to Buck Curran's Immortal Light (ESP 5014). This is an album of what one might call psychedelic folk, art songs that hearken back to The Incredible String Band among many others, yet sing to us today, with originality.

Buck I take it is playing acoustic & electric guitar and singing, along with some harmonium, banjo and flute. Shanti Deschaine sings and plays harmonium a bit.

Together they get a spacy sound via studio magic. The vocals are right where they should be. And the lyrics take you off on a trip.

It is music that transcends nostalgia by making advances in the genre, by the beauty of the tunes. It feels like today more than a wishful trip to yesterday.

The arrangements are always musical and give it all a variety of sonic landscapes.

It's an album I must say I increasingly welcome into my ear space.

Utterly recommended for those who want to forge ahead in the space music zone.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Os Clavelitos, Arriving

Anyone who loves Brazilian samba-jazz will want to hear the band Os Clavelitos and their release Arriving (Suonafrittata oc313). It is an album of very attractive originals, and with the real percussive drive of samba and the very directly sweet sound and impeccable pitch control of lead vocalist Chieko Honda you will be happily reminded genetically of Flora and Airto and/or those Corea albums that featured them. But Os Clavelitos are original, too, very much so.

The rhythm team sets up the solidly flowing, real samba grooves that give us foundational strength--Uka Gameiro on drums, Arei Sekiguchi on percussion, Dan Kendall on bass, cavaquinho, and accordion, and Anthony Lanni on guitar. Livio Almeida on tenor, soprano and flute gives us nicely the jazz solo strength that spells the vocals well and lifts the music to a higher plane.

The songs are just great, many by Lanni and/or Kendall and three by Honda. They have lyrical clout and work nicely against the samba feel.

They have it all. I listen and continue to grow with the process. This is just fabulous music that any samba-ista will take to readily. Beautiful! Grab it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Roy Nathanson, Nearness and You, Roy Nathanson & Friends at the Stone

Anything happening at NYC's venue The Stone gains in stature somehow just by association. Like the Village Vanguard certainly did and arguably still does, the Stone exemplifies the New York contemporary jazz scene, in this case specifically the "downtown" vibe in avant jazz, just as New York as a whole typifies by example improvised music in the US today.

So when we get an album of Roy Nathanson and Friends doing duets at the Stone, Nearness and You (CleanFeed 365), we give it our undivided attention, or I do anyway.

The duets pivot around several notable versions of the standard "The Nearness of You": by Arturo O'Farrill on piano with Roy on alto; by Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, then on vocal with Roy on alto and soprano, then on piano; by Anthony Coleman on piano and Roy on alto; with Myra Melford on piano and Roy on alto and vocal.

Each version is different, freely conceived, and in between we get some inspired duetting of Roy on alto, soprano and baritone with a wide variety of master improvisors, Marc Ribot on guitar, Curtis again with the addition of trombonist Lucy Hollier, and reprises by the other artists already mentioned.

It's a very creative outing, each improviser articulating his or her fingerprint statement and bringing forth a wide gamut of responses from Roy.

I am reminded favorably of the old Lee Konitz duet album on Milestone years ago. Like on that one everybody has something to say and the path from artistic duality to artistic duality fascinates by the definitive variety engendered and the spectrum and impact of them taken singly and all together.

This is one of those landmark creative duet dates. The music plays itself, so all you have to do is relax and listen. Pretty outstanding, this!

Monday, August 1, 2016

From-to-From, Alvin Fielder, David Dove, Jason Jackson, Damon Smith

Here we have a nicely energized set of free-avant jazz from Houston. It is another goodie in Damon Smith's Balance Point Acoustics catalog, bpa15 to be sure. From-to-From puts together some masterful spontaneous improvisors in vet titan drummer Alvin Fielder, trombonist David Dove, alto, tenor and baritone player Jason Jackson, and bassist Damon Smith.

It's a series of six off-the-cuff free improvs that show fully balanced strength between front line and rhythm. Dove and Jackson come through with fully expressed testification while Jackson and Smith make a thoroughly cohesive team as both chargers of the forward motion and line weavers in very much their own right.  David Dove, as William Parker's liners so aptly note, has been instrumental as main force behind the local cooperative Nameless Sound, keeping the spirit alive among the improvising arts community and ensuring that regular appearances of other improv giants inspire Houston's best in a series of concert gigs that mix it up.

What's key to this album's success is how central what all four are doing, by themselves and altogether.

Another factor is the free jazz-soul element. These four are letting the spirit-feel show itself consistently. They "tell it" and we are there for sure. Though shouting encouragement to a prerecorded sound event is of course not going to get to the players, you still feel like encouraging them on with "go!" "whoo!" or whatever a committed audience does these days.

It's that kind of set. Something to shake the starch out of your shirt with, if you can dig?

It's nicely fired-up music by an excellent quartet. So get a copy!