Monthly Archives: July 2007

Alvin Fielder: It’s about time by Clifford Allen

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Drummer Alvin Fielder grew up in Mississippi, but the fruition of his musical career in Chicago came in the 1960s, when he worked with Sun Ra and appeared on Roscoe Mitchell’s legendary Sound (Delmark, 1966) LP, one of the first AACM recordings to be released. After returning to a pharmacy career in Mississippi in the late 1960s, Fielder began working regularly with New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan in the Improvisational Arts Ensemble.
A relationship that spans over thirty years, Fielder and Jordan have collaborated frequently with bassist William Parker, pianist/saxophonist Joel Futterman, and tenor man Fred Anderson among others. Steeped in the music’s history, and especially that of the drummers, Fielder took time out from his schedule to speak with writer Clifford Allen in late 2005. Unpublished until now, the writer feels that—on the heels of a tour with Jordan and the release of Fielder’s Clean Feed Records debut (featuring another longtime collaborator, Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez), A Measure of Vision—now is most definitely the time.

 Interview here: http://www.allaboutjazz.com:80/php/article.php?id=26294

Cadence Magazine review by Jim Santella

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Scott Fields Ensemble – Beckett (CF 069)

“Beckett” features the Scott Fields Ensemble in a tribute to the work of playwright Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Running helter-skelter and varied with much emotion, the quartet members interact as characters in a play, letting their conversations come and go without restraint. Tenor saxophone, cello, drums & percussion and the leader’s fiery guitar make each composition sparkle with animation. They prefer short, choppy statements that move back and forth from one artist to the next. Whereas most Free Jazz ensembles fit the pieces together in such a way that they’re able to deliver their music simultaneously, Like the script for a play, each artist here becomes a character in the composer’s arena. They juggle their musical lines with such seamless delight that it all seems quite natural. However, the music runs detached and choppy for the most part. While much of the program flits back and forth, there’s considerable space between the lines. Fields’ comfortable guitar remains capable of expressing a wide range of emotion, from quiet inhibition to rage. Cellist Scott Roller fulfills the role of melody-maker as well as providing the underlying rhythmic pulse. John Hollenbeck colors with swirling activity, while saxophonist Matthias Schubert contributes considerable thematic material. Beckett was a minimalist who allowed his work to grow increasingly cryptic. What a perfect match for Scott Fields, who points his latest improvised project in the same direction with much success.

Cadence Magazine review by Michael Rosenstein

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Broo/Lane/Nilssen-Love/Vandermark – 4 Corners (CF 076)

The quartet on “4 Corners” is an ad hoc setting culled from three live sets Vandermark, trumpet player Magnus Broo, bassist Adam Lane, and Nilssen-Love played during the 2006 Jazz ao Centro festival in Coimbra, Portugal. While this was a first-time meeting for all four, the trumpet player and drummer play together in the group Atomic which toured and played with Vandermark’s group School Days. Though Lane hadn’t played with any of the others before, the four are able to find common ground around the compositions. Half of the pieces are by Vandermark and the other half are by Lane, and it s easy to tell them apart. Lane provides Free Bop hemes and the four use them as the basis for loose blowing. Vandermark’s pieces are more tructural forms with propulsive bass and drums arts that kick things along with boisterous energy. This is a muscular affair, with Vandermark on bari sax, bass clarinet, and clarinet blowing hard against Broo’s acrobatic trumpet. Though the reed player pushes hard, it is Broo’s lithe, free melodicism that really shines through. Lane’s bass often sounds like it is being processed by electronics as he throws things into overdrive, goading the others along with swaths of wild, distorted arco. Lane’s themes give the group a bit more to dig in to, though it may be that they just didn’t have enough time to get comfortable with Vandermark’s structures. There’s solid playing all around, and I’m sure that this sounded great live, but it comes off more as an energetic summit than a true ensemble.

Cadence Magazine review by Jerome Wilson

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Billy Fox – The Uncle Wiggly Suite (CF 068)

Billy Fox is one of those composers, like Maria Schneider, who uses an orchestra as his instrument. On “The Uncle Wiggly Suite” he puts a changing group of musicians through a set of long pieces and fragments inspired mostly by dreams. Bassist Mark Dresser sets the pace on most of the longer works, like “Uncle Wiggly,” where his furious playing leads to the horns blaring out a spare five note theme against a brisk rhythmic pace. “Eyeball” is classic small group Jazz with trumpet and saxes pushing along a mellow theme reminiscent of some of Oliver Nelson’s or Andrew Hill’s writing. “Guzzle” has flute and cello leading the group in a placid Arabian setting, “Do The Wiggle” is a tight New Orleans brass band funk shuffle, and “Kooky Spooks” is a lovely waltz feature for the piano of Deanna Witkowski and the trumpet of Percy Pursglove. The five short pieces that alternate with these are tantalizing little fragments that could have easily gone longer, like “Stories,” an overdubbed clarinet and baritone sax fugue or “The Ghost Of Col. Cobb,” a nice taste of Blues played by violin, cello, and a shamisen riffing madly like a banjo. I’d like to hear these tiny pieces worked into something longer. Maybe Fox will get around to that later but he still shows plenty of composing and arranging skills on this CD.

Cadence Magazine review by David Dupont

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João Paulo – Memórias de Quem (CF 075)
Delivers a striking acoustic performance, albeit in a more rarefied setting. The pianist performs nine of his own compositions for solo piano (mi alma / ramagem / o incendio / durme / fantasmas / atraves / memorias de quem / soneto de Renato / ritspah. 56:24, Torres Novas, Portugal.) I can’t say to what extent these are through composed or improvised. I lean toward the composed side with some ad-libbed elaboration. Certainly, though, “fantasmas” with its insistent quick walking bass comes off as most spontaneous, and most like Jazz in quite a Tristano-like manner. Elsewhere several compositions draw on folk elements, Portuguese and Jewish (Sephardic?), to striking effect. “O incendio” is a raging affair and “soneto de Renato,” more meditative. In the end the timing of the inspiration matters little. This is a well-conceived, well-executed program of solo piano.

Cadence Magazine review by Jerome Wilson

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Wishful Thinking – Wishful Thinking (CF 078)
Wishful Thinking is a group of players from different parts of Europe who all (except the drummer) get to bring their own compositions to a fun session. There is a flavor of the bands of South African pianist Chris McGregor present in that the rhythm section seems to vibrate with energy throughout the session, creating a big raucous sound. Pianist Alex Maguire is the hero here threading through the tangle of horns and thick rhythm in constant motion. Trumpeter Johannes Kreiger and tenor player Alipio C. Neto have compelling moments all over the place while Ricardo Freitas’ viscous electric bass and Rui Goncalves’ noisy drums bring intriguing off-center rhythms to the party. Settings range from semi-abstract funk on “Hina’s Fate” and “Electrico 28” to crisp soul playing on “Buffalo Bill” and hurried, off-kilter balladry on “443” and “Bundawar.” All five men rarely seem to be playing all at the same tempo at the same time but the slightly off-center mix works in their favor. Whatever different things are going on the overall sound holds together. I have no idea how they achieve this but what should be a ramshackle mess sounds compelling throughout. It’s definitely worth listening to.

Cadence Magazine review by Michael Rosenstein

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Shoup/Burns/Radding/Campbell – The Levitation Shuffle (CF 073)
From the ’70s onward, free improvisation in the U.S. has always depended on regional scenes to provide vital outposts. This recording features reed player Wally Shoup, one of the stalwarts of free playing on the fringes. In the early ’80s he was part of a Birmingham, Alabama-based collective along with Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith. But since the mid ’80s, he’s been based in the Seattle area, serving as both organizer, mentor, and creative focal point. This recording captures a studio session with Shoup, long-time collaborators Reuben Radding (originally from Seattle but nowbased in N.Y.) and Greg Campbell, as well as young pianist Gust Burns. The reeds, piano, bass, and drums lineup draws connections to the Free Jazz vocabulary, but the four musicians are more aligned with the extensions of European free improvisation. The collective improvisations have a flow based less on a pulse-based trajectory than it does on the shifting, overlapping courses charted by the players. Shoup’s acidic alto provides a commanding focus; slipping from keening cries to gruff, insistently stabbing vigor to shredded overtones. Burns plays with an angular abstraction leavened with an effective, light touch. His sheets of notes break in brittle shards against Radding’s muscular free melodicism. Campbell skitters around his kit, tempering thundering energy with the multi-textured sound of small percussion instruments. Over the course of the set, the group  drives toward a potent collective sound. It’s hard to believe that this is their first meeting. Based on this session it is a setting that shows plenty of potential for further explorations.
Michael Rosenstein

Coda Magazine review by Ken Waxman

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Scott Fields Ensemble – Beckett (CFO69)
Cologne-based expatriate American guitarist Scott Fields frames this memorable quartet session as a tribute to existential Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Unlike Beckett’s almost static works featuring lonely humans trying to articulate the unexpressive however, Fields’ compositions manage to be both stirring and affecting.

Although the longer tracks incorporate Beckett-like extended pauses, elsewhere all-encompassing, multi-voiced counterpoint recalls not the Irish dramatist’s bare-bones style, but the overlapping dialogue of film makers such as Robert Altman. American playwright David Mamet received a similar homage from Fields in 2000 and the subsequent years have fortified the guitarist’s playing and writing … or is it acting and directing?

Dramatis personae in this work include a cast of experienced actors … er, players. German tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert exposes timbres ranging from pumping atonal slurs to echoing, chesty vibrations; versatile American percussionist John Hollenbeck busily propels the splintered beat with his regular kit, while using water-glass-like pings, pealing chimes, and what sounds like rubber-balls bouncing on snare tops for added scene-setting. Yank expat cellist Scott Roller, of the legit Helios String Quartet, adds cross-swiped col legno jabs as effortlessly as vamping walking bass lines.

While the staccato “Play” projects quadruple counterpoint from all concerned – demonstrating call-and-call rather than call-and-response – the nearly 30 minute agitato “What Where” is Fields’ chef d’oeuvre. With his knob-twisting distortion and slurred fingering on show, the guitarist elaborates the accelerating explosive theme on top of solid rhythms propelled both by Hollenbeck’s unaffected smacks, slaps and pops and near-identical stop-and-start voicing of scrapes, whistles, stops and vibrations from cello and saxophone.

Thematically conclusive throughout, Beckett transcends its derivation to become CD that is certainly more polyphonic – and often more theatrical – than Beckett’s writing.
http://www.jazzword.com/nova/showreview.pl?item=artist&artist_id=102295&artist_name=ScottFieldsEnsemble

ejazz news review by Glenn Astarita

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Martin Speicher/Georg Wolf/Lou Grassi – Shapes and Shadows (CF 084)

This trio’s impetus is designed upon a cornerstone of free-improv and spontaneous composition. Here, reedman Martin Speicher darts around the rhythm section with jabs, upper-cuts and soaring frenzies. They circumnavigate various pulses amid quiet moments that often bust out into pounding accents and tumultuous storylines. On the piece titled “Le Star,” drummer Lou Grassi and bassist Georg Wolf anchor Speicher’s free-form blues lines, consisting of a sequence of pops, squeaks and topsy-turvy upper register phrasings. In spots, Speicher pronounces notions of loneliness and desolation, but more often than not, the rhythm section comes to the rescue as they encircle his parameters with boisterous escapades. Then on “Alors! Bill Dit,” Speicher generates minimalist-type panoramas via softly uttered lines, nicely counterbalanced by Grassi’s world-music percussion groove. Overall, the band pursues a credo that rings loud and clear as they enter discovery mode amid synergistic interplay and a ballsy approach – it all translates into something rather special.
http://www.ejazznews.com:80/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=8265&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

Dusted Magazine review by Jason Bivins

CLEAN FEED ROUNDUP

Sometimes I think that the Portuguese labels Clean Feed and Creative Sources are having a contest to see who can release the most discs in a single year. Here are some of the highlights from the first part of 2007, though by no means is this everything Clean Feed has to offer.

The first thing that might come to mind upon seeing the instrumentation – pianist Russ Lossing, violinist/violist Mat Maneri, and bassist Mark Dresser – on Metal Rat (Clean Feed 064) is Matthew Shipp’s String Trio, a combo in which Maneri’s unique improvisational voice played a central role. Yet pianist Lossing is as different from Shipp as Dresser is from William Parker. He’s far more influenced by impressionistic players like Blake or Bley than by firebrands and cluster-pounders. The disc’s format is somewhat standard format, broken into trios, duos, and solos over the course of about 50 minutes. Generally the level of invention and interaction is very high, and the pieces range from somber ballads like “Turn” (which brings out the greatest creativity amongst these players, with Dresser’s rubbery lines seeming to coax micro-grains from Maneri and Feldman-like obliqueness from Lossing), concise chamber interplay on the title track (graced by some judicious percussive thwacks and spooky echoes), or fractious free noise on “Coming to Meet” (all jangling icicles). In general I prefer the trios, though some of the duos are quite rich (for example, the incisive strings duet “Damp(ness)” and “Dry(ist),” for cascading piano and viola). Fine stuff.

Contrabassist Carlos Barretto’s Radio Song (Clean Feed 072) – his second for the label – is a delight. With drummer/percussionist Jose Salgueiro and high-motor guitarist Mario Delgado, Barretto races through a set of eleven pan-idiomatic themes stuffed with exuberant playing (and on three of these tracks the trio is joined by reeds ace Louis Sclavis). It’s an extremely vibrant, often nicely raucous recording combining nice charts and really pumped up improvising in a way that’s sure to please fans of caffeinated combos like Adam Lane’s No(w) Orchestra, the Vandermark Five, and Exploding Customer, among others. The serpentine “Distresser” is a great opener, with raunchy bass clarinet. “Searching” sounds much more emphatic than its title suggests, coasting on an almost punishing rock groove. The later “Final Searching” sounds like one of those loping Dave Holland tunes from “Extensions” – gnarly and fun. There’s some Big Fun-style funk on “Luminae,” lonely and ominous even as it churns. The fine “O Rapaz” recalls early Frisell, surprisingly enough, in the way Delgado’s choked chords ring and resound (but then he adds a bit of Ducret scrape as a changeup). Barretto is an excellent, muscular player who combines the lyricism of players like Fred Hopkins, Cecil McBee, and Johnny Dyani with an ear for idiomatic references (such as the Afro-pop gloss “Radio Song”). But he’s also a wonderfully sober and accomplished player when his mood dictates this – listen to his gorgeous arco playing on his duo with Sclavis, “On Verra Bien.” A nice surprise.

Madison-based guitarist Scott Fields follows up his previous record Mamet with another literary dedication on Beckett (Clean Feed 069). It’s not always so clear how these sources necessarily inform the music, but the music is fine. Here Fields is joined by tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, cellist Scott Roller, and percussionist John Hollenbeck. The brief opener “Breath” sets the course for the mammoth “Play” – the rolling, often gauzy improvisations recall older Fields records like Disaster at Sea. But the almost serialist compositional language and the quite detailed unison charts yield another kind of music altogether. It’s pretty intense stuff – I’d like to see the score – but at 20 minutes or so the approach wears a bit thin and don’t go to quite enough places for me. Fields’ preferred strategies turn on unison, craggy pulse-based notated parts – he uses these as fulcra, setting up pauses, sub-groupings, free sections, and so forth. The basic materials are subject to wide variation, as on the slinky, dark corners of “Come and Go.” But there is an underlying structural commonality nonetheless. It’s when you get into the details that you realize this is very subtle music – and when you focus on harmonic shade and nuance, or a joint tugging at a rhythmic knot, you start to hear how it comes alive. Fields’ own playing sounds best on the closing “Rockaby,” taut and densely phrased. Throughout he uses effects judiciously – a bit of bowing here, a daub of distortion there. While some of the long pieces get desultory, there’s more than enough to enjoy here.

If memory serves, Joao Paulo’s Memorias de Quem (Clean Feed 075) is Clean Feed’s first solo piano recording. He plays with a light touch and a slightly moody disposition, almost like a slightly slowed down (and less maudlin) Jarrett from the 1970s. Most of these pieces are freely improvised, though the pianist does incorporate themes from Jewish and Portuguese vernacular music (don’t expect anything as vigorous as Ran Blake or Anthony Coleman though). He doesn’t often work in the motivic style heard on “Ramagem,” which is a pity since it suits his elaborate imagination better than the chordal depth-plumbing elsewhere. The jumping “Fantasmas” – with a dash of Tristano in the left hand as the right spans some big intervals – is another winner. Also fun is the appropriately title “O Incendio,” filled with racing parallel motion and heavy on the pedals like Borah Bergmann. But there’s just a bit too much sickly sweet sentiment on tunes like “Durme” – I know that thousands of people go wild for this kind of thing, as it’s marketed to suggest that it’s the most personal and deeply felt music of all. But sometimes this music, while its day job is jazz, can be seen doing back alley deals late at night with New Age.

Drummer Ethan Winograd leads a boisterous session on Tangled Tango (Clean Feed 074), along with Gorka Benitez (tenor, soprano, flute), Steven Bernstein (trumpet and slide trumpet), Ross Bonadonna (guitar), Carlos Barretto (bass), and Eric Mingus (additional bass on a pair of tracks). A bit slower and more gauzy than Barretto’s release, there’s a similar kind of feel and a like orientation to groove-based idiomatic music. On tunes like “Broadway Jitters” or the slinky noir “Successions” they sound a bit like the Lounge Lizards or the Jazz Passengers, and fans of those groups should dig into this release. In places Winograd’s music is difficult to resist, as on the gnarly title track (with flute and boisterous slide trumpet), “She’s Flying Gumbo Low” (with a tasty backline groove), and the rocking “Nocturnal Snow.” There are rolling, swinging pulses everywhere and a fine front line (with the saucy Bernstein always adding a bit of flavor). But the album as a whole is a bit too diffuse, with too many different feels and not quite enough group sound for me.

Surface, the second release in Clean Feed’s European Echoes imprint, features – like the first – talented saxophonist Rodrigo Amado (alto and baritone). Unlike its predecessor, a boisterous free-bop session in the spirit of DKV, this disc sets the Portuguese reed-man in the middle of a string trio comprised of Carlos Zingaro (violin and viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello), and Ken Filiano (bass). It’s dark and moody, but filled with moments of grace and buoyancy, that sliver of light making its way into the cellar. The obvious touchstones for me are Kent Carter’s marvelous string trios and Dominic Duval’s String Ensemble (of which Ulrich was also a member, along with saxophonists Joe McPhee and Mark Whitecage). Something about Zingaro’s lyricism brings out a gorgeous, almost ululating quality in this group that recalls some of Gavin Bryars’ more lush writing for strings (“After the Requiem,” say). Not everything is a wafting dark cloud – check the furtive, pointillist “Natural Bridge” or the tart swing of “The City.” The record’s center is the five-part “Surface Suite,” which is relatively brief and condensed but not at the expense of interest or intrigue. Lovely wafting alto over hesitant pizz dance leads to some raucous and sawing groove on the concluding “Art is Truth.” Another fine entry from Amado.

Sonic Openings Under Pressure is the apt moniker chosen by alto saxophonist Patrick Brennan, bassist Hilliard Greene, and David Pleasant (credited with an amalgam of percussion, harmonica, and voice referred to as densemetriX). Their sophomore release is called Muhheankuntuk (Clean Feed 081), or River that flows two ways. Most listeners hear Brennan’s playing and think quickly of Ornette or Lyons. Sure, that’s accurate. But there’s also this really intensely subtle rhythmic sensibility that reminds me of a cross between the late Thomas Chapin’s darting angularity and patient architecture of Rob Brown. It’s a style that works really well with the kind of dense interlocking cell structures that Greene and Pleasant whip up on tunes like “Tilting Curvaceous.” On a lot of these tunes (like the intensely rolling “Abundant”), Greene sets up a wide-open pulse that recalls some of William Parker’s intervals or arpeggiating. On top Pleasant rolls and piles up (often with sweet timbres that recalls Paul Lovens), while Brennan inspects and dissects motives very interestingly. The standout track is “The Terrible,” though I also really dig the warbling lyricism, sour blues, and haunted abstraction on “Flash of the Spirit” (I should also say that the vocal “rap” on “Hardships” is entirely forgettable).

Duets 1995 (Clean Feed 079) is a reissue of a Konnex disc featuring the indefatigable Anthony Braxton on reeds and one of his bassists of choice during the 1990s, Joe Fonda. Typical for the period, Braxton includes a couple of standards (“All of You” and “Autumn in New York”) to go along with his own pieces (136, 168+147, and 173) and several of Fonda’s. Fonda’s always exuberant, his rubbery lines an equal partner to Braxton’s own quirky perambulating. But there’s something patient and purposeful about these performances, even on Fonda’s jumpy, interval-happy “Relentlessness” (with some sly references to other pieces in the Braxton canon) or the harsh overblowing and arco on “Out of the Cage.” I actually don’t have any other examples of Compositions 168 or 147, so I can’t cross-checked the duo readings here. But it’s vintage late 1980s/early 1990s Braxton, combining some of the pulse track and language series into a newly textural approach (that foreshadows some of his current explorations). Some of the finest moments are lyrical – the beautiful serpentine clarinet that winds its way through tough double-stops on “Something from the Past” – and some are structural, as with the stutter-step pointillism on the mighty 136, leading into an intense 173 (with some gnarly detuned Fonda and closing contrabass clarinet madness). Yet another fine date from the master.

Dynamite alto saxophonist Rob Brown is back in the house with a new trio on Sounds (Clean Feed 077). Here he’s joined by the fab cellist Daniel Levin (with whom Brown has recorded some fine dates under Levin’s name) and the resourceful percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. While Brown’s language on the saxophone is increasingly distinct and rich (an amalgam of some of Jimmy Lyons’ phrasing and Jackie McLean’s timbres), the timbres and the spaciousness of this date clearly hearken back to the late, lamented Julius Hemphill’s sessions with Abdul Wadud (particularly Raw Materials and Residuals). Levin sounds more rambunctious here than on some of his more chamber-oriented recordings for Hatology and Riti – he explores technique wonderfully in a number of duo exchanges with Takeishi throughout, and even when he’s holding down some pulse or doubling Brown’s lines he’s far from an accompanist. Ditto for the percussionist, whose allsorts kit gives this music a range of colors you wouldn’t normally find from a conventional kit. The three-part title suite is fabulous, particularly “Antics,” a scalar frolic where Brown’s intervallic constructions pinwheel and lever around Levin’s riff. There’s similar energy on “Stutter Step,” but the second half of the disc moves into more spacious territory: the excellent lyrical invention on “Tibetan Folk Song,” the Hemphill-derived abstraction of “Sinew,” and the gorgeous concluding ballad “Moment of Pause.” Brown is in the zone these days, and this disc is top shelf.

New Orleans drummer Alvin Fielder leads a cracking trio on A Measure of Vision (Clean Feed 071), joined by pianist Chris Parker and dynamite trumpeter Dennis González (whose sons, bassist Aaron and percussionist Stefan, are along for a couple tracks). Fielder’s rolling style, filled with space and rests, creates an interesting foundation for the contrasting styles of Parker (dark, dense, jabbing) and González (open, bright, lyrical). Far from your average free blowing session, there’s a ton of space in this music, even as it crackles with urgency. The rich group sound yields a tight, well-paced session that’s filled with visceral delights and some real surprises to boot. For example, am I wrong to hear the playful “A Mon Frere” as a Bacharach-like miniature? Regardless of its inspiration, it’s a lyrical treat. Equally good are the rolling, Trane-like “Camel” (with ripe bass from Aaron G); “Max-Well” no doubt a tribute to Roach (although I hear more Blackwell to be honest, almost like a lost track from El Corazon); and the rousing “Ripe for Vision,” a harmonically rich free swing piece, with Stefan G’s vibes providing some contrast and some wonderfully exuberant work from Parker. But perhaps the finest moments are heard on “Time No Time” (a simple cell structure becomes an epic, folded and unfolded, dissected and reassembled), “You Old Men Shall Dream Dreams” (with a gorgeous melodic core – and can any trumpet player so consistently spool out phrase after phrase of beautifully constructed lines, all with a tone to die for, like González can?), and the concluding rendition of González’ wonderful (and wonderfully titled) “The Cecil Taylor-Sunny Murray Dancing Lesson.” A strong record.

Veteran Swedish pianist Sten Sandell has long been a favorite for his playing in the exuberant Gush. His own trio – with bassist Johann Berthling and percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love – has been coming on strong of late. On Strokes (Clean Feed 082) they’re joined for an April 2006 concert by sax wizard John Butcher (who, in addition to tenor and soprano, busts out his amp for some saxophone feedback). The probing, prodding intro to “Study” sees the musicians making somewhat familiar gestures but slowly supplementing them with techniques generally used in electronic improvising. I love the general reserve of the opening sections, the wonderful interplay in the trio – each playing both percussively and melodically, shapes and blocks of sound rearranging themselves in space. Butcher responds to the shift into higher gear with some deft feedback, blending with Berthling’s big tone. Sandell’s electronics (he also sings here) are more caustic and old-school, but before the eruptions blow the whole thing up, we suddenly find ourselves in a superb pared-down section for soft slap-tonguing and arco. “Unsteady” moves about as far away from the opener as possible for its opening. Over several minutes of tightly focused near-silence, the micro-sound is very detailed, incandescent at times. Capped off by a brief, punchy closer – “Steady” – this is a lively, inventive concert.

Perhaps the best of the bunch is 4 Corners (Clean Feed 076), a sizzling live date featuring Ken Vandermark (baritone sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Adam Lane (bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). From the opening moment, you’re immediately envious of the folks who attended these concerts. The group’s music is big and full of life, jumping with multiple rhythms and soaring, hot melodies. You want burning tunes? Check out Lane’s “Spin with the EARth,” a piece he usually performs with his large ensemble but which he expertly adapts for the killer players here – it bounces along merrily, with a fine bass clarinet turn from Vandermark. Maybe you prefer open improvising heat. Then just listen to Broo in full flight on “Alfama (for Georges Bracque),” as he soars over the stomping riff for distorted bass and bass clarinet, or Lane’s intense arco on the gorgeously dark ballad “Lucia.” There’s tasty timbral contrast everywhere (not least between bari and trumpet on “Short Stop,” a dedication to Bobby Bradford) and fantastic riffs every (like the metal breakdown during “Ashcan Rantings” and the tempo mashing on the closing “ChiChi Rides the Tiger”). A glorious reminder of jazz’s power and beauty.
http://www.dustedmagazine.com:80/features/634