Monthly Archives: June 2008

Tom Hull review


Scott Fields Freetet – Bitter Love Songs (CF 102)

I’ve played this record a lot on the road the last month, and it’s never let me down. The avant-guitarist has a tendency elsewhere to diddle in abstractions, but he plays with remarkable logic here — bitterness must focus the mind. The Freetet adds bass and drums, bulking up the sound and punctuating the emotions. A-

Le Son du Grisli review by Grisli


Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore: A Calculus of Loss (CF 104)
Ancien guitariste passé à la clarinette sous l’influence d’Eric Dolphy, Jason Stein a, depuis, étudié auprès de Charles Gayle et Milford Graves avant de se faire remarquer au sein du Bridge 61 de Ken Vandermark. Sur A Calculus of Loss, il fait état de ses prétentions à la tête d’un trio que forment avec lui Kevin Davis (violoncelle) et Mike Pride (batterie).

Pas pressé d’en démontrer, Stein expose sa pratique expérimentale – à l’influence de Dolphy (qui lui conseille d’ailleurs la compagnie d’un violoncelliste)  ajouter maintenant celle de Braxton – sur la suite de pizzicatos angoissés servis par Davis. Dérangé par la progression chaotique de ses deux partenaires, le batteur ponctue leurs interventions avec sagacité, pour parfaire chacune des déconstructions lentes exposées sur le disque.

That’s Not Closet, par exemple, que Stein ouvre en répétant une phrase mélodique jusqu’à la faire tomber dans l’oubli pour laisser toute la place à un développement qui rappelle l’usage que faisaient, à la fin des années 1960, Steve Lacy ou Jacques Coursil du free jazz. D’un genre ancien rattrapé par le silence, Locksmith Isidore fait une nouveauté irrésistible.
http://www.lesondugrisli.com/

Culturejazz review by Jean Buzelin

Quatre nouveautés américaines produites par un beau label portugais.
Fondé en 2001 à Lisbonne, le label Clean Feed s’est rapidement constitué un joli catalogue — plus de 50 parutions — selon deux axes principaux : d’une part la mise en valeur d’un jazz contemporain portugais encore très mal connu au niveau international, et d’autre part une politique d’enregistrements de musiciens majeurs de la scène américaine la plus inventive et souvent négligée par d’autres compagnies. S’ajoutent des confrontations et échanges avec d’autres musiciens européens (Joëlle Léandre, Bruno Chevillon, Louis Sclavis…). Parmi les Américains, citons Charles Gayle, Ken Vandermark, Gerry Hemingway, Joe Morris, Rob Brown, Vinny Golia, Tony Malaby, Elliott Sharp, etc., et de grands “anciens“ comme Anthony Braxton, Roswell Rudd ou le regretté Julius Hemphill.

Herb Robertson NY Downtown Allstars – Real Aberration (CF 096)
Un All Stars, comme on aurait dit autrefois. Et c’est vrai. Car il est rare en effet qu’aujourd’hui un orchestre soit entièrement composé de musiciens qui comptent, pour quatre d’entre eux, parmi les plus importants de la scène créative américaine, auxquels se joint la pianiste suisse Sylvie Courvoisier, de même niveau.

Deux suites d’une quarantaine de minutes occupent chacun des deux CD. La première, découpée selon la répartition géométrique des instruments, fait se succéder des solos et duos (souvent basse/batterie et trompette/alto) reliés par de courtes et puissantes parties orchestrales, alors que le piano joue un rôle très pertinent de base, de lien, souvent très enveloppant. Parmi les grands moments, relevons, dans la quatrième séquence, un duo trompette/alto, contrasté et d’une vivacité incroyable, assez époustouflant. Au jeu d’alto parfaitement placé de Tim Berne, qui maîtrise admirablement son instrument — remarquons la qualité et la justesse des aigus — se superpose dans un contrepoint de notes rapides, la trompette éclatante, mais jamais trop cuivrée, de Herb Robertson. La seconde pièce, très ouverte et diversifiée, jouée avec une tension soutenue, est parfaitement négociée de bout en bout. Du très grand jazz contemporain. À noter qu’il s’agit du second album du groupe après « Elaboration » (CF 042).

Stephen Gauci’s Basso Continuo – Nididhyasana (CF 101)
Saxophoniste ténor dont on appréciera la qualité du son, Stephen Gauci, né en 1966 et résidant à Brooklyn, est un personnage très actif de la scène post free new-yorkaise (huit disques sous son nom en deux ans !). Il dirige ici un quartette singulier constitué par deux souffleurs dynamiques et souvent volubiles, et une paire de contrebasses qui assure une assise constante et essentielle à l’équilibre du groupe, d’où son nom. Sur ce soubassement profond mais extrêmement stimulant — toutes les formes sont utilisées, pizzicato et archet souvent doublés —, les deux “solistes“ se meuvent avec élasticité, aisance et acrobatie. Malgré quelques faiblesses temporaires pardonnables, l’auditeur sera séduit par l’engagement réel et généreux des quatre musiciens. Un beau morceau de musique vivante, ou comment l’improvisation dite libre n’est pas en reste de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique.

Scott Fields Freetet – Bitter Love Songs (CF 102)
Né en 1952 à Chicago, proche, durant sa jeunesse, à la fois du blues et de l’AACM, le guitariste Scott Fields commença par jouer dans des groupes de rock. Il s’inscrit donc bien dans les courants musicaux actuels qui ont été en contact avec de multiples influences. Il enregistre régulièrement avec son Ensemble depuis 1995 : treize CD parus avec des compagnons divers et renouvelés, parmi lesquels on remarque la pianiste Marilyn Crispell ou le batteur Hamid Drake. Il a réuni ici un trio, non pas minimal, mais volontairement économique et dépouillé. Sur un accompagnant foisonnant mais léger (la batterie), il développe sans interruption — il est, si l’on veut, le seul soliste mais en échange constant avec la contrebasse — un discours en un flux continu et coulé, avec un même son du début à la fin privilégiant la note, ronde et précise, à l’effet. Une approche qui n’est pas sans rappeler celle de John Scofield, en moins fatiguée et embourgeoisée. Recommandé aux guitaristes !

Empty Cage Quartet – Stratostrophic (CF 103)
Créé en 2003, ce quartette de jeunes musiciens de la côte Ouest des Etats-Unis s’est d’abord appelé le MTKJ Quartet (4 CD) avant de devenir le Empty Cage Quartet.

« Stratostrophic » est leur second disque sous ce nom et est parrainé par Wadada Leo Smith, avec qui le saxophoniste Jason Mears a étudié, ce qui est une référence. À ses côtés, l’expérimenté trompettiste Kris Tiner, complète un duo de souffleurs rayonnant d’autorité et constamment relancé par la rythmique. S’inscrivant pour le meilleur dans une lignée Ornette Coleman-Don Cherry relayée par Old And New Dreams, les quatre musiciens en ont puisé le meilleur tout en s’en libérant. Leur musique rebondit sans cesse, s’appuie sur des rythmes très variés et qui swinguent, et proposent un large éventail de compositions propices à l’improvisation. Leur vision artistique paraît excellente, exigeante et juste. Une révélation.
http://culturejazz2.free.fr/spip.php?article885

Jazz Word rebiew by Ken Waxman


Elliott Sharp’s Terraplane – Forgery
Elliott Sharp – Octal: Book One (CFG002)
Looking up a definition of polymath in a dictionary should produce a picture of Elliott Sharp. For many years the New York-based guitarist and reedist has been so involved in myriad activities that it’s impossible to classify him. He’s someone whose work encompasses both notated and improvised music, who has composed for large ensembles and small bands, and been involved with electro-acoustic and so-called serious music, plus variants of jazz and rock-blues.

Each of these notable CDs shows off a single facet of Sharp’s musical persona. Others such as his duets with turntablist Christian Marclay or violist Charlotte Hug are more involved with Free Music. Forgery is a blues-rock album, pure, but not simple. Featuring the guitarist’s band Terraplane, it yokes standard blues-rock progressions played by trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, saxophonist Alex Harding, bassist/tubaist David Hofstra, Sharp and drummer Tony Lewis, to post-modern and socially progressive lyrics sung mostly by Eric Mingus and on one track by Tracie Morris. All in all, it’s a CD you can tap your foot to while following the social commentary embedded in the song lyrics..

In contrast, Octal is solo Sharp wringing timbral variations created by using his Koll eight-string electro-acoustic guitar-bass. Custom-made, this arch-top, hollow-bodied electric guitar with two extra bass strings is rigged up with piezo pick-ups and other add-ons, and is miked so that every sound is heard.

Possessed of a gravelly voice tailor-made for the blues, Mingus’ vocal range on Forgery encompasses B. B. King-like grit and a Howlin’ Wolf-styled falsetto. Along the way, Mingus, who is also a poet, brings proper gravitas to the lyrics, though printing them in the booklet notes would have added to comprehension. All around him the baritone sax of Harding, who has been Sun Ra’s Arkestra and the tuba of Dave Hoftra, who have played with William Parker’s large bands, provide suitable R&B vamps. In blue parlance the harmonica is known as the “Mississippi trumpet”. Here, however, Fowlkes, who has also worked with Bobby Previtte among many others, has such a command of his trombone that he outputs both the gutbucket slurs of a brass instrument and the reedy wistfulness of the harmonica.

Adding crunching fuzz-tone, ringing chords and echoing frails, Sharp shoehorns post-Hendrixian knob-twisting into the sort of guitar-slinging that has characterized this sort of blues-rock since the early days of Mike Bloomfield and Eric Clapton. At points, however sitar-like resonations or punk-metal riffs are used as contrast. Meantime Lewis lays on heavy backbeats or shuffles as needed.

Interesting enough, Morris’ one outing, “Katrina Blues/How The Crescent City Got Bleached” frames its broadsides with the context of psychedelic blues, rather like the backing Marvin Gaye had on his later records. Weaving around her voice, sometimes double-tracked to create a call-and-response effect, Sharp pulses like guitarist Melvin “Wah Wah Watson” Ragin, Lewis channels Richard “Pistol” Allen and Hofstra’s electric bass recalls James Jamerson. Settling into the groove, Harding and Fowlkes could be any number of Motown stalwarts.

Not surprisingly for a group of mostly jazz improvisers playing roots music, the all-instrumental tracks are even more sophisticated. “Badlands”, for instance not only features snapping, penetrating steel-guitar fills from Sharp, but also a honking, smoking solo from Harding that seems to be two parts Leo Parker and one part Maceo Parker.

Even better is “Haditha”, in which the guitarist’s triggered pulsations contrapuntally expand and contract as he plays. Including some diatonic recapitulation, Sharps manages to reference South Asian scales and blues lines, constructing string inventiveness within the framework of foot-tapping blues-rock.

Subtract the other musicians and augment the number of technical gizmos brought to the session, including plug-ins and ProTools, and you get Octal. However it’s a tribute to Sharp’s dexterity and ingenuity that a soupçon of blues tonality is added to the sonic mash-up here.

With the piezos allowing him to construct various rhythm and lead lines, power chording can be matched with tough rasgueado as often as legato and dissonant lines can be kept separate from one another. One minute it appears as if Sharp is playing bottleneck guitar with a bow, in another, droning friction gives way to percussive hand-tapping and nearly endless string snaps and tremolo patterns.

He can be folksy, as on “Through the Wormhole”, when Sharp takes on the guitar roles of both Doc and Merle Watson – that is until slashing pulses in double time turn the track urban, if still melodic. On the other hand “Strange Attractor”, wallows in its vibrating sul ponticello pulses, as droning fuzz-tone distortion finally subsumes fiddle-like bow strops and stops, muting fuzzy oscillated waveforms to such an extent that you can hear the fingers fretting as they slide up and down the guitar neck.

As well, “On the Brane” mixes downwards sliding delay and arpeggiated runs with low-frequency reverberations and echoing pick guard scrapes. Sounding as if a fretless guitar is in use, two-handed tapping and slurred fingering mesh to such an extent that three timbres seem to be created from one note. Eventually as the moderato pulsations become more obvious, steady and deliberate strums retard the progression even further so that every chromatic run is isolated.

Forgery and Octal are merely two of Sharp’s many roles, but they’re ones worth investigating if you’re a veteran Sharp fan, or one experiencing his talents for the first time.
http://www.jazzword.com/reviews/102117

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita


Sten Sandell / Mattias Stahl – GRANN MUSIK: Neighbour Music (CF 109)

Master Swedish improvisers, pianist Sten Sandell and vibraphonist Mattias Stahl, radiate gobs of colorific contrasts via these freeform-based duets. At times fluid, introspective and somewhat jagged in scope, the artists pursue the art of intuitive music-speak during the prevalence of this 2008 outing. On “ Sjöfortet,” Sandell executes cascading block chords with the semblance of a classical pianist gone awry, while Stahl’s contrapuntal statements inject a myriad of prismatic effects. The duo works within a similar musical plane throughout these eight works. They conjoin, detach and soar skyward as Stahl enhances the total effect with his use of marimba and glockenspiel. To that end, they merge resonating improvisation with multidimensional fabrics of sound.

This album communicates a fusion of fascinating propositions that approach from innumerable angles. More often then not, the duo dances and darts around some imaginary perimeter. Whether they engage in flirtatious exchanges or zoom in for the kill, the instrumentalists conjure up a feast for the mind’s eye that provides the winning edge.

Sandell is a master of restraint amid his shrewd use of space, whereas Stahl zig-zags across his vibraphone to assist with conveying a seamless—or perhaps transparent—tiny-group methodology. Sparked by asymmetrical rhythms and unorthodox phrasings, these folks subliminally intertwine minimalism with heated jazz improv to offset the overriding, freedom-of-expression mode of attack. Few can pull it off and sustain interest at the level evidenced here.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=29825

Free Jazz review by Steff


Luis Lopes – Humanization 4Tet (CF 105)
****
I had never heard of guitarist Luis Lopes, and kudos to Clean Feed again for giving a lesser known musician a chance, because he deserves it. His Humanization 4Tet further consists of Rodrigo Amado, whose sax-playing and sense of music I’ve already recommended before, and with Aaron Gonzalez on bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums, two young musicians with great skills and even more ideas. Lopes’s playing is straight-forward, with a bluesy electric sound, more focused on delivering great music than on pyrotechnics or avant-garde excursions, and that’s the overall nature of this album. The compositions are nice, with great themes and especially nice improvisations. Lopes is really in full service of the band he assembled here, as self-effacing as can be, leaving lots of room for bass, drums and sax. On the second track, dedicated to Pier Paolo Pasolini, his only contribution is to add eery feedback sounds and colorings of sustained notes. The third track, dedicated to physicist Stephen Hawking and called “Principio Da Incerteza”, starts with a long and strong unison theme, and in line with the title, it brings changing rhythms and tempi, even to the extent that all rhythm, structure and melody dissapear for a powerful open improvisation. Again, Lopes adds sparse notes, but well-chosen, with the right timbre and sound, offering depth to the sax, bass and drums that really carry the tune, that gradually gathers momentum again, leading back to the original theme. “Big Love” is dedicated to Joe Giardullo, which is an excellent idea by the way, and it brings a more abstract energetic melody, which, as on the other tracks immediately leads into a sax solo, which is also a good idea because Amado truly is a great sax player. His tone is warm, his phrasing complex and focused. And what about Lopes? Well, at the climax of Amado’s solo, somewhere half-way the tune, when bass and drums have propulsed the sax into higher space, Lopes again adds support, by offering mute echoes and little sounds of admiration, enriching the whole without taking the lead voice. “The Long March”, starts with a long bass intro, joined by the drums once a fixed, and indeed march-like vamp has been established, and both sax and guitar join for the nice melodic theme that seems to end with an open question mark. Lopes then plays a solo. It is slow. It is full of openness. It is precise. It is deep. It is beautiful. And the way Amado takes over is brilliant, joining on the same note, extending it and then moving on, intensifying the piece a little, but not too much, moving it into more extravert regions. The last track starts in a totally improvised context, with all four musicians interacting in a hectic way, Amado full-voiced, Lopes with muted distorted guitar sounds, breaking into yet another unison theme, as a lead-in for Stefan Gonzalez to give a fierce drums solo, joined by Amado with a no less fierce sax solo, and then the bass joins, with the guitar adding shredded muted heavy notes, slowing down the massive sounds, bringing the guitar back to normal tones, with again bluesy, very emotional playing, very direct, sounding uncomplicated but again, precise. The strange thing about Lopes’s music is that despite the fact that he clearly has a free mind, moving the band into very free territory at times, that he sticks to the usual intro theme, then improv, then repeat theme to end, as if that kind of structure is needed or required. This is a great and stylistically balanced CD, by a musician who deserves more attention, and one who certainly deserves the prize for the most self-effacing participation on his own release.
http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/

All About Jazz Italy review by Gigi Sabelli


Empty Cage Quartet – Stratostrophic (CF 103)
****

I riferimenti più immediati vanno a Ornette Coleman. Sin troppo ovvio: basta leggere la formazione che rimanda all’epocale e classico quartetto sax alto-tromba-contrabbasso-batteria.
Ma questo notevole combo di giovanissimi musicisti provenienti da diversi luoghi degli States, e che gravitano (o hanno gravitato a lungo) attorno all’area californiana, non si limita alla celebrazione o alla riproposizione di cliché.
Così se all’ascolto del CD è inevitabile il rimando ad altri grandi come Julius Hemphill o Tim Berne, lungo i quasi settanta minuti del disco prende forma una personalità decisa nel costruire percorsi dalle geometrie di gruppo avvincenti.
Come nel caso del primo pezzo che è un vero gioco delle parti composto e scomposto. Dapprima un unisono lento ma marcato dei fiati sostiene l’improvvisazione di basso e batteria, ma poi segue uno scambio dei ruoli per ricombinare infine il gruppo in un gioco a quattro ben architettato e lungo un diversificato iter improvvisativo.
Almeno in questo primo pezzo su tutti emergono preponderanti la forte sonorità e la nitidezza di Tiner, ma anche la dote del contrabbassista Johnson, capace di puntellare l’enorme costruzione sonora con magnifica profondità.

Lungo tutto l’ascolto, senza fratture e soluzioni di continuità, si passa tra forme molto diverse che contemplano (in “Feeedom Is on the March”) l’improvvisazione rarefatta di contrabbasso appoggiata su una matrice fiatistica sviluppata per ottave successive, ma anche l’ornettiana “Old Ladies”, la marcetta free di “Steps of the Ordinarily Unordinary”, le linee segmentate e parallele di tromba, contrabbasso e clarinetto di “The Power of the Great” e la chiarezza “californiana” (con echi dolphiani) delle venti misure di “Beedie And Bob”.

La stessa formazione, arrivata al secondo disco come Empty Cage Quartet, aveva già pubblicato, tra il 2003 e il 2005, altri quattro CD col nome di MTKJ Quartet, tra i quali abbiamo recensito Day of the Race e Making Room for Spaces.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=2881