Monthly Archives: May 2009

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF 137Denman Maroney Quintet – Udentity (CF 137)
In this fascinating 2009 release, leader Denman Maroney morphs the avant-garde implications of hyperpiano fare into a semi-structured progressive jazz endeavor with tunes that are largely melodic and uncannily attainable. The artist derives influence from avant-garde composers John Cage and Henry Cowell, who used nuts, bolts and other implements to perform on the piano via unconventional methodologies.

Maroney finds ways to exploit the piano’s mechanics by bowing, plucking and sliding on the strings with bowls, knives and other miscellany. His bizarre sounds intersect the jazz element without any clashes or train wrecks. Nonetheless, Maroney is a modernist who often straddles the free-form improvisational schema with many of the jazz world’s finest instrumentalists.

The quintet executes an odd-metered jazz-funk motif during the opening “Udentity I,” showing that the band aims to maintain an angular discourse amid subtle deviations and surprises along the way. Consequently, the musicians spawn a frothy sequence of movements, complete with winding themes and reverse engineering ventures. That factor is a pattern throughout, as Maroney slips, slides and intersects among the soloists’ exchanges and solo spots, while bassist Reuben Radding generates the pliant undercurrent.

Maroney is a cunning stylist and a strong composer within the progressive jazz idiom. “Udentity II” has a close relationship with John Coltrane’s classic “Blue Train” via a similar melody line, although the ensemble veers it off into a free-jazz meltdown, enhanced by Maroney’s slithery piano-string manipulations. Elsewhere, the pianist renders whirlwind interludes with his swirling chord progressions while projecting a rather illusionary mindset.

A few passages are built on dainty themes and unorthodox frameworks, in concert with trumpeter Dave Ballou and multi-reedman Ned Rothenberg’s yearning lines. This facet works wonders on “Udentity V,” as Maroney presents an off-kilter and fragmented muse to traditional jazz, nicely accented by Michael Sarin’s syncopated drum solo.

This is a formidable and rather enterprising slant on avant-jazz. Maroney merges the best of many musical worlds by seamlessly cross-referencing solid compositional platforms with improvisation and out-of-this-world hyperpiano articulations. It’s a masterful album, abetted by the leader’s ubiquitous implementations and forward-thinking impetus.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=32998

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF091Mark O’Leary – On the Shore (CF 091)
Guitarist Mark O’Leary has more than one way to create a musical statement. His two releases on Ayler records (which we covered in the last few months) were duets with drummers, flat-out “blowing” sessions, opportunities to lay down a barrage of intense, rapid passage work, to create long, flowing lines that synched with multi-valent percussive tangents. Those two releases were impressive for their consistently high levels of invention.

An earlier session contrasts dramatically the Ayler recordings. “On the Shore” (Cleanfeed) comes out of a 2003 date and has a different, slightly unusual lineup of O’Leary with Alex Cline on drums and the dual trumpet tandem of Jeff Kaiser and John Fumo.

This is music of a more contemplative bent, a more atmospheric, spatially sprawling set with supercharged electric work as well as more fragile sequences where every note cluster is surrounded by a bit of air, an emptiness that sets off the musical substance, as white on an abstract canvas can make the patches of color come forward dramatically.

The ensemble makes good use of the color combinations available to it: muted versus straight horn, electric versus acoustic, propulsion versus quiescence. . . .There is much of merit to appreciate on this recording. It’s another excellent example of O’Leary the musical artist and shows the more structured side of his conceptual gifts. As Con-Ed advertised many years ago when they were ripping up the streets of New York, “Dig We Must.” Well, I must. The music compels me. You have a choice. Clearly Mark O’Leary is fast becoming an important guitarist to dig.
http://www.gapplegate.com/musicalblog.html

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Vitali

CF 111Jorge Lima Barreto – Zul Zelub (CF 111)
****

In Portogallo Lima Barreto è una leggenda per quello che rappresenta come performer, scrittore e opinionista. Per quasi due decenni, a partire dalla fine degli anni Sessanta, la sua è stata la voce più autorevole sulla stampa portoghese su free jazz, minimalismo e altre tendenze d’avanguardia. Autore di libri di storia, filosofia, terminologia ed estetica musicale, è da sempre anche musicista ed esponente di riferimento della scena jazz portoghese più legata all’improvvisazione [leggi l'intervista a Pedro Costa della Clean Feed].
Vero pioniere di live-electronics negli ultimi vent’anni con i progetti Anar Band e Telectu – entrambi ancora attivi – con quest’album sembra raggiungere una sorta di punto d’arrivo, fondendo l’amore per il pianoforte, l’elettronica e la ricerca tra le diverse avanguardie musicali.

Lavoro concettuale, di grande fascino e suggestione questo Zul Zelub, layer sonori dalla diversa consistenza – sapiente elettronica di sottofondo su cui Barreto improvvisa al pianoforte alternando lirismo e romanticismo a frammenti sonori di piano preparato, cluster che evocano John Cage e alcuni dei più rappresentativi esponenti dell’area contemporanea colta.

Due lunghe suite colte dal vivo in momenti diversi a Lisbona, durante l’edizione 2005 del festival Jazz Em Agosto, presso il centro culturale Gulbenkian.
La prima suite, Zul, divisa in cinque atti, è basata principalmente su tessiture sonore di onde radio e tratti di piano preparato e non, ora più spigolosi e frastagliati, ora più melodici e struggenti… paesaggi sonori pieni di inquietudine e densi di emozione.

Più melodica, ai limiti della world music, la successiva Zelub: suoni della natura, uccelli e tanto altro costituiscono il tessuto sonoro del sottofondo su cui Barreto improvvisa al piano intersecando lunghi monologhi. Atmosfere assai meno tese e inquiete rispetto alla prima suite.

Nel complesso un bel lavoro che pecca forse di troppo intellettualismo, ma che sa coinvolgere ed emozionare l’ascoltatore dando una prospettiva teatrale e da videoart a una formula di apparente piano solo.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=3824

Dusted Magazine review by Jason Bivins

CF 119Fredrik Nordstrom – Live in Coimbra (CF 119)
Tenor saxophonist Fredrik Nordstrom hasn’t been quite as celebrated as some fellow Scandinavian reeds swashbucklers, but in the last half decade or so he’s quietly been releasing some top-shelf small group freebop on labels like Moserobie and, now, Clean Feed.

Sharing some group members with ensembles like Atomic, Nordstrom’s regular group combines the reflective qualities of mid-1960s Bobby Hutcherson with the improv-core of The Thing or Atomic. But here that regular group gets a moderate lineup change, and the resulting record is a vivid demonstration of how a regular band with a stable repertoire can get just the right kick in the ass when a couple members are swapped out.

There’s a kind of electricity on this 2005 date, as Nordstrom invites ace trombonist Mats Aleklint to sub for Magnus Broo, and Torbjorn Zetterberg occupies the bass chair instead of Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (regulars Mattias Stahl on vibes and Fredrik Rundqvist on drums are still here). They cycle through a really excellent set, from caffeinated proto-funk on “Yakiniku” to billowing impressionist performances like “Russian T” or the slightly edgier “In Motian.”

As the set goes on, they start to balance their pulse-driven inclinations with a greater attention to timbre – the leader’s grainy tenor on Bjork’s “Coccoon,” Aleklint’s lusty portamento set against emphatic percussive attacks from Stahl on “Pizza Girl,” and so forth. It’s crowd-pleasing stuff, as with the Vandermark 5-ish closer “Mister Barista,” but is also thoughtful in its arranging and attention to detail. An enjoyable set, just edgy enough to stand out from the pack.
http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/4932

Jazzword review by Ken Waxman

CF 127The Flatlands Collective – Maatjes (CF 127)
Tone Dialing – Rigop Me (Evil Rabbit ER 07)

Two complementary – and exemplary – looks at the compositional and improvisational skills of Jorrit Dijkstra, a transatlantic musician who frequently works with musicians both in his native Holland and the United States.

Now based in the Boston area, Dijkstra’s partners on Rigop Me are Dutch guitarist Paul Pallesen – in whose Bite the Gnatze, the saxophonist also plays – and Berlin-based, Melbourne-born drummer Steve Heather. Curiously enough, all the other members of The Flatlands Collective are Chicagoans – trombonist Jeb Bishop, clarinetist James Falzone, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly – all part of that city’s explosion of now not-so-young improv talent. On Maatjes Lonberg-Holm also plays electronics, while Dijkstra plays lyricon and analog electronics as well as alto saxophone. However the sax is left in its case on Rigop Me as Dijkstra only works out on lyricon, loop machine and analog electronics.

Many of the tracks on that CD are built upon shattering electronic blasts that loop and pulse into a constant processed drone, leavened by clinks, flanges and claw-hammer banjo-like picks from the guitarist. Sometimes the timbres from each instrument are undifferentiated; other times sound(s) can be properly attributed. There are intermittent drags and bounces from cymbal, nerve beats from drum sticks and distorted downward runs from a potentially unplugged electric guitar. Most of the time, however, these textures are shrouded in part by flat-line static and crackling, as pinball-like smacks and celesta-type pings cumulate to waft across the full broadband spectrum..

Two divergent examples of this appear on “Fezex Me” and “Rigop Me”. Although eschewing the rock-star-like reverb he shows off elsewhere, the former is a Pallesen showcase. Here, his single-string picking and intense arpeggios are magnified with whirling e-bow pressure, as whooshes and crunches gradually move to the foreground as space-satellite signaling and quivering pulses fill all the remaining space. Eventually a combination of slurred string fingering and mouth-slapping, probably lyricon quacks lead to a diminuendo fade.

In contrast, “Rigop Me” is a group effort that reveals surprising lyricism among the guitarist’s rasgueado, Dijkstra’s slide whistle-like shrills and restrained drum beats. Moving from anadante to adagio, the broken chords linger and expand underlining seemingly random snare drum beats with stretched pitch velocity. Finally the piece reaches a climax of ring-modulator-like clangs and undulating pitch adjustments.

Minimizing the electronic interface and doubling the number of players Maatjes – named for Dutch raw herring, a popular street snack – was recorded nearly two years later in 2008, following a European tour by the sextet. Building on this momentum, the program is mostly made up of Dijkstra’s compositions whose arrangements emphasize the formalized and programmatic. Group improvisations, “In D Flat Minor” especially, provide the exceptions, with that tune traveling through the peaks and valley of interchangeable riffs. Stuffed into it are lower-pitched saxophone tonguing, double-gaited swing from both string players and quasi oomph-pah-pah from the trombonist.

Bishop’s plunger tones and cries from the reed section chromatically balance a track like “Mission Rocker” so that the higher-pitched voices meld into pedal-point bends from bowed bass and cello. Shifting to an adagio section, Falzone’s liquid stop-starts take centre stage, as blustery ‘bone brays plus Rosaly’s drum rolls and pops hold the bottom.

In contrast, despite double-timed ruffs and beats from the drummer “Micro Mood” emphasizes a more formal, Europeanized lilt with cello sweeps and trombone pumps The contrapuntal melody breaks apart – and aided by synthesizer twists – turns and pulses back again upon itself. Furthermore,”Phil’s Tesora” is filled with bow-snapping sul ponticello lines from Lonberg-Holm, tension-building ostinato from Roebke and rappelling rim shots and bounces fragment the narrative enough so that the popping notes from the horns don’t control the tune. The weather further clears up with reed-biting clarinet blasts, braying trombone grace notes and background hissing and fluttering synthesizer reverb.

Dijkstra’s multi-faceted contrapuntal structure is best expressed on the climatic “Sirocco Song” as contralto clarinet provides strident contrast to the other horns. Then, after Bishop tongues fragments of the intricate melody, the cellist sounds a tremolo version of the same pattern. The lyricon’s warbling trill is seconded by clarinet chirps until the vector shifts to a horn trio. Finally, as Rosaly’s clipping rim shots and press rolls maintain the beat, an echoing finale is constructed out of a smooth clarinet obbligato and thick trombone mutterings.

Inventively transatlantic, Dijkstra’s music can be appreciated whether it suggests the flatlands of the Netherlands or Illinois.
http://www.jazzword.com/review/126776

Free Jazz review by Stef

CF 145Avram Fefer Trio – Ritual (CF 145)
****
Melodic, energetic, soulful, spiritual. Hesitating between bop and free jazz, this is a nice album, consisting of lengthy and focused improvisations by this great trio led by saxophonist Avram Fefer. The bass is in the masterful hands of Eric Revis, known from the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Chad Taylor plays the drums, known from the Chicago Underground Trio to give for both just one reference. Despite the limitations of the trio, all three manage to make this a captivating performance. “Shepp In Wolves’ Clothing” is a tribute to Archie Shepp with whom Fefer performed, but starts of like a Vandermark composition, uptempo and highly rhythmic, and Fefer even blows the theme on two horns simultaneously after a while. With a few exceptions, Fefer’s sax is almost permanently on the foreground, much like David S. Ware, filling all possible space with notes, and only pausing to let his band-mates take a solo. This absence of silence to a large extent determines the dynamics of the music, even in slower pieces such as “Feb. 13th”, and Fefer’s rhythmic lyricism is a pleasure to hear. The band does not take too many musical risks, but listen carefully how all three manage to maintain a strong focus on each piece, despite the apparent freedom. The quality of the music and of the performance is sufficiently high to make this a very enjoyable album.
http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

CF 145Avram Fefer Trio – Ritual (CF 145)
Saxophonist Avram Fefer has led a diverse career since his emergence in the early 1990s. An eclectic collaborator, Fefer has performed with pianist Bobby Few, The Last Poets, North and West African musicians, numerous acid jazz and trip-hop artists, and served in the big bands of Frank Lacy, Adam Lane, Butch Morris and David Murray, among others.

Ritual finds Fefer reunited with his longstanding trio-mates, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Chad Taylor, whom he first met in the mid-1990s. Revis is widely known for his work with Russell Gunn and Branford Marsalis while Taylor’s colleagues range from Rob Mazurek, Marc Ribot and Matana Roberts to indie rock acts like Iron and Wine and Sam Prekop.

Fefer’s varied experience, be it playing hypnotic West African traditional music or electro-acoustic trip-hop, informs his highly developed sense of swing. His coiled phrasing lends these propulsive excursions an infectious, groove-oriented focus. Even his most outward bound flights maintain course, whether fraught with chromatic slurs, multiphonic cries or altissimo squeals.

Such extended techniques are commonplace in Fefer’s spiritually-charged post-Coltrane language, and his tuneful writing relies on the same unadorned folk melodies New Thing practitioners embraced in the 1960s. Lending itself to extended variations, “Testament” features a jaunty Ayler-esque refrain, while the ebullient swinger “Shepp In Wolves Clothing” is peppered with quotes from Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, with Fefer’s doubled horns invoking Rahsaan Roland Kirk on the rousing choruses. The dynamic title track and “Blinky Palermo” push further afield, evincing Fefer’s mastery of thematic abstraction, fueled by Revis and Taylor’s empathetic interplay.

Fefer’s sensitive side materializes on the lyrical ballad “Feb.13th,” bolstered by Revis’ supple pedal tones and Taylor’s scintillating accents. The similarly mournful “Ripple” climaxing with a crescendo of circuitous tenor volleys. An adept multi-instrumentalist, Fefer’s soprano soars over the funky rhythm section feature “Club Foot” while his pungent alto scorches the frantically angular “Outspoken” and his vocalized bass clarinet ambles through the languorous modal vamp “When The Spirit Moves You.”

The harmonically austere setting of the trio format is often seen as a proving ground for saxophonists. Complemented by a congenial rhythm section, Fefer’s burly timbre, pithy phrasing and taut lyricism make Ritual a stellar example of the trio tradition.