Monthly Archives: June 2010

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

John Hébert – Spiritual Lover (CF 175)
Dopo la piacevole sorpresa di Byzantine Monkey – uno dei dischi che più ci aveva colpito lo scorso anno – il contrabbassista John Hébert accresce la propria discografia da leader con questo nuovo Spiritual Lover, per la portoghese Clean Feed.

Rispetto al precedente lavoro, in cui Hébert aveva costruito un gioco di gruppo denso e stratificato, alternando quintetto a sestetto, ora l’ambito formale cambia decisamente e i compagni di avventura sono il pianista Benoît Delbecq e il batterista Gerald Cleaver. Dalla varietà di soluzioni compositive di Byzantine Monkey, si passa qui a una formazione che si muove secondo altre logiche, che recupera in modo più diretto la fondamentale esperienza di Hébert con Andrew Hill [la title-track iniziale è una sua composizione, apparsa originariamente su Eternal Spirit] e che è necessariamente più aperta.

Il contributo collettivo al suono delle varie tracce è evidente e inevitabilmente rende meno marcata la “mano” del contrabbassista sul progetto: emergono così attorno alla densa cavata di Hébert, soprattutto l’intenso lavoro di Delbecq [che al pianoforte acustico alterna in alcuni momenti il clavinet e il sintetizzatore] e la consueta arguzia ritmica di Cleaver, in uno stimolarsi reciproco che si nutre di melodia e di respiro, di obliquità e ambiguità che spazia dalla ripresa della splendida “Cajun Christmas” fino a una rilettura di “Here’s That Rainy Day”.

Un gioco raffinatissimo e ammaliante, anche se non così stupefacente come era stato il disco precedente.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=5367

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Canini

Jorrit Dijkstra -   Pillow Circles (CF 166)
Rotterdam, Lisbona, New York, Chicago. Come nella settimana enigmistica, unite i puntini e comparirà la scritta Pillow Circles.

Il percorso immaginario lungo il quale si muove il disco inizia da Rotterdam, la città del North Sea Jazz Festival, che nel 2009 ha commissionato il qui presente lavoro al sassofonista Jorrit Dijkstra. Olandese lui, olandesi altri tre membri della band: il violista Oene Van Geel e i chitarristi Raphael Vanoli e Paul Pallesen. Seconda tappa Lisbona, dove ha sede la benemerita Clean Feed, la Black Saint del nuovo millennio, sempre pronta a captare i segnali di vita provenienti dal pianeta “jazz dei giorni nostri”. Una capatina a Brooklyn, New York, per raccattare Tony Malaby, e poi via verso Chicago, per affidare le chiavi del gruppo alla sezione ritmica composta da Jason Roebke e Frank Rosaly, e per imbarcare un autentico fuoriclasse come il trombonista Jeb Bishop.

Messo insieme un ottetto del genere, ci vuole una scaletta all’altezza della situazione. E le nove composizioni scelte per la track list finale, distinguibili soltanto dal numero di serie, lo sono, eccome. La firma è quella di Dijkstra, così come le dediche alla Vandermark che accompagnano ciascuno dei brani. La prima freccia va subito a bersaglio: “Pillow Circle 34,” non a caso dedicata a Henry Threadgill, coglie nel segno grazie a una progressione armonica che sembra presa da un disco dei Very Very Circus.

Più astratta e scomposta la successiva “Pillow Circle 41,” marchiata a fuoco dal banjo di Paul Pallesen. La dedica a Fred Frith dice tutto di “Pillow Circle 18,” mentre “Pillow Circle 55,” composta pensando a George Lewis, offre al trombone di Jeb Bishop una splendida ribalta. Il meglio arriva però in chiusura, con la romantica “Pillow Circle 23,” dedicata a Jonny Greenwood, chitarrista dei Radiohead, brano dagli equilibri timbrico-armonici praticamente perfetti, che sa tanto di dolce inquietudine.

Rotterdam, Lisbona, New York, Chicago. Il viaggio è lungo, ma ne vale la pena.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=5349

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita

Angles - Epileptical West, Live in Coimbra (CF 182)
Producer and saxophonist Martin Kuchen professes jubilance and assists with generating a distinct group sound, teeming with abundant contrasts, riotous exchanges and climactic passages.

The sextet often produces a buoyant and sweeping panorama as vibist Mattias Stahl adds a polytonal edge via circular ostinatos, tinted background shadings and jazzy soloing spots.  During several movements, the musicians combine a hard-edged mode of execution with melodic choruses to offset the hornists’ ballsy and forceful soloing escapades.  Although they are apt to temper the flow, then spiral back towards the stratosphere.  With brash and soaring motifs, the unit’s explosive live presence transforms to disc rather effectively.

The piece titled “Epileptical West,” is a boisterous and stirring swing/bop workout via high-flying horns, avant-rock, and whirlwind like solos.  The band pulls out the proverbial stops with complex time changes and snappy choruses.  Midway through, they moderate the flow but revisit the primary theme amid various expansions for the finale.  It’s an adrenaline rush, indeed. 

Angles is a unit that resides on the edge, yet underscores the hot and heavy episodes with a touch of modern mainstream.  Strong material and a deterministic mode of operations, yields the winning formula on this compelling effort.  Hence, it’s an exposition, teeming with raw firepower and finesse to complement the artists’ fusion of divergent angles into the grand schema.
http://www.jazzreview.com/cd/review-21085.html

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

Angles – Epileptical West, Live In Coimbra (CF 182)
Valutazione: 5 stelle
Gli Angles sono una delle band più emozionanti del jazz creativo di oggi. Politica, vibrante, libera, comunicativa! Se già il precedente Every Woman Is a Tree ci aveva colpito per la capacità di fare brillare di energie nuove un lessico condiviso come quello che deriva dalla grande stagione estatico-modale degli anni Sessanta, questo nuovo Epileptical West – registrato dal vivo a Coimbra – si candida senza dubbio a essere uno dei dischi dell’anno.
La formazione, guidata dall’imprevedibile sassofonista svedese Martin Küchen, è rmasta invariata, forte di Magnus Broo e Mats Älekint a tromba e trombone, del pungente vibrafono di Mattias Ståhl e della ritmica composta da Johan Bertling e Kjell Nordeson.

Si parte già al massimo dei giri, con una “Present Absentees/Pygmi” nella quale convivono echi folk e ipnosi alla Chicago Underground, per poi affidare al lungo e ieratico crescendo di “Today Is Better Than Tomorrow” il compito di far cadere ogni barriera emozionale tra musicisti e ascoltatori.
È una musica in cui vivono Africa e funk, free scandinavo e post-bop, tensioni collettive e voci soliste, il tutto in un costante dis/equilibro sorretto sempre da una solida vocazione alla condivisione: succede con la title-track [che sembra uscita dal songbook di William Parker], così come succede con la ipnotica e danzante “En Svensk Brownie,” in cui riecheggia il primo Hemphill.

Dal precedente disco viene ripresa proprio la simbolica “Every Woman Is a Tree,” dedicata alle donne irachene e i continui riferimenti sociali e politici della musica di Küchen e soci [che trovano spazio anche nel booklet] riescono a non sembrare mai pretestuosi, diventando energia pura, rabbia ma anche speranza. Il leader è protagonista qui di un solo lancinante, così come la sua voce al contralto è pregna di blues nella conclusiva “Let’s Tear the Threads of Trust,” ma tutto il sestetto sembra in stato di grazia.

Globale e incazzato, mai autoreferenziale e sempre consapevole, il jazz di oggi e di domani dovrebbe sempre essere come quello degli Angles.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=5368

Downbeat review by Peter Margasak

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
4 Stars
Over the last couple years, New York trumpeter Kirk Knuffke has quietly emerged as one of the most exciting and flexible hornmen on the scene.  On Amnesia Brown he pushes his music in yet another compelling direction.  Joined by two of his cohorts in the Nublu Orchestra, Doug Wieselman and Kenny Wollesen, Knuffke shapes 16 pithy originals with an insistent accent on variety and concision.
When Wieselman plays clarinet there is a bracing polyphony to the proceedings, from the astringent harmonies and multi-linear improving on the title track to the Ornette Coleman-ish interactions on “Practical Sampling.”  But when he picks up the guitar he dramatically alters the complexion on the music, giving it greater muscle, intensity and motion; he’s not a virtuoso on the instrument, shaping textured arpeggios, sharply barbed runs and tangled chords, but they give Knuffke plenty to chew upon.  Despite the shifting landscapes, Knuffke maintains impressive restraint, shaping richly melodic solos that usually hover within his instruments midrange, both tonally and emotionally. Yet while he plays it cool, that doesn’t mean his performances are conservative; his lines are marked by tricky rhythmic schemes, unexpected loop-de-loops and curlicues, and sudden blurts.  Wollesen does an excellent job pushing it all along.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

A Big Wow for Mahanthappa & Lehman’s “Dual Identity”

Rudresh Mahanthappa / Steve Lehman – Dual Identity (CF 172)
Masters of the saxophonic arts. That would certainly be an apt description of Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman. Both have established a buzz among the jazz community as players to hear. With their Dual Identity (Clean Feed 172) CD, they are in a breakout mode. I’ll start right off by saying that this is an album one should not miss. The twin altos of Rudresh and Steve stylistically and aurally mesh in the best sort of way. They both run long and exciting modern lines; together they have a kinetic interaction that puts the whole sheebang onto a very high plane. Whether it’s matching solo for solo, simultaneously improvising, or working through the serpentine written passages, they shine and blaze like twin suns.

Their bandmates are not slouching either. Guitarist Liberty Ellman fuzes sophisticated post-William’s-Lifetime comping and solo distinctiveness worthy of the best of the modern electricians out there. The rhythm team of Matt Brewer and Damion Reid (bass and drums, repectively) take the straight-eight form of a post-rock-funk approach and make something driving, complex and catalytic. Think of them as musical catalytic converters if you like.

This music is NOT polite (which is one of the first prerequisites for the modern jazz scene in my head), NOT cool (‘though there isn’t anything wrong with cool, either) and NOT pandering in any way to those who look for a smooth ride. This is on-the-edge music, not exactly as much free as post-post-bop ultramodern. All the fire of the medium is brought into play, but harnessed to the interest of creating a self-contained, renewed sense of form.

The sound of the dual altos is cutting and brittle. The note-ing is worthy of the best of the “new” players. That’s because they are. Among the best, that is. This is the biggest thing since sliced bread. Bigger because once consumed, it can be consumed again with even more pleasure. Mahanthappa & Lehman get my BIG WOW and a vote for one of the best of the year! But I don’t really like the CD, NOT! It rejuvenates the scene for me. What more to say?
http://gapplegatemusicreview.blogspot.com/

Sound of Music review by Thomas Millroth

Angles – Epileptical West Live in Coimbra (CF 182)
För 40-50 år sedan, så långt tillbaka, brann jazzmusiken, det var svedjebrand. Den svarta musiken gick parallellt med litteratur, politik och en öppet undersökande och ifrågasättande attityd gentemot historieskrivning och ideologi. Det går inte se och höra den musiken utan den samtida kontexten, som ju också var dess styrka. En hel del kraft fann den också i en halvt ockult halvt andlig sfär, som kanske är svårsmält idag. Det är därför det också varit så svårt, ja hart när omöjligt att göra om konststycket. I alla fall inom karbonjazzen. Iggy Pop och Patti Smith och alla punkare lyckades desto bättre – för de hade anledningen.

Fortfarande idag finns en sida i den fria jazzen som vetter mot klichén. Det är väl i sin ordning, men också rätt tröttsamt att uppleva en musik som bara lyssnar på annan musik för att spegla den. Som om kontext och dekonstruktion aldrig hade existerat.

Nu tar saxofonisten Martin Küchen tillsammans med vibrafonisten Mattias Ståhl, trumpetaren Magnus Broo, trombonisten Mats Äleklint, slagverksspelaren Kjell Nordeson och basisten Johan Berthling sig an uppgiften att stilmässigt röra sig någonstans i frijazzens brännpunkt som Angles.

Albumet öppnar med ett gungande beat, sugande melodier och fett sextettsound vars konturer görs skarpa av Berthlings bestämda bas, Ståhls klirrigt nervösa vibrafon och Nordesons ytterst varierade rytmiska spel, ja, när de drar igång sugs jag obönhörligt in. Saken är förstås att kompet kan svänga ordentligt och blåsarna vet hur man suger sötma och märg ur en melodi.

I lamenterande långsamt tempo rullar musiken rytmiskt framåt. Blåsarna sjunger i extas. Broo är som vanligt lysande. Äleklint spelar som om han vore Roswell Rudd. Küchen spelar med blåtonad desperation, och hans låtar är fyllda av möjligheter för musikerna, och Angles blir en sextett av det personliga snittet där gruppen och materialet lyfter alla till något mycket mer än en individ. Kollektiv och person smälter samman.

Och musiken är inte ett slags projekt, detta söndernötta ord, att hylla den ena eller andra, buga åt ena eller andra hållet. Vad jag skulle önska dessa dagar vore en musik som tänds av vad som äger rum i tiden. Inte som pliktskyldiga dedikationer hit och dit, men en musik som vågar utsätta sig och försöka komma åt en struktur, som bär upp känslor framkallade av historia, poesi, ideologikritik – ta allt från Ship to Gaza till det allt brunare Mellaneuropa. Men jag menar inte alls något slags nyprogg med töntiga kamptexter. Hur var det nu? Det lönar sig lyssna på New York Art Quartet, Feminist Improvising Group, Archie Shepp. Utan att göra likadant, för vi måste växa ur det beundrande luftgitarrsyndromet.

Küchen ställer musikens starka flöde vid sidan av ett resonemang om lögnen, att historien måste skrivas om, han släpper fram röster från Baghdad och Gaza utan att ta till brösttoner i konvoluttexten. Han ställer frågor, arbetar med glödande paradoxer, där förstörelse ställs mot välstånd, och själva musiken tillåts vara – paradoxal. Välklingande, extatisk vred som någonsin Mingus eller Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Det är intelligent. Skönt att en musiker agerar lika smart som en textmedveten poet! Kritisk och omfamnande gentemot språket. Det är inte en musikmaskin det gäller, det är extasens och känslornas historia och anatomi. En anledning till musik, att borra sig in i tiden och låta den vara som ett eko. Tro och tvivla på strukturerna, bara vid tvivel spelar musikerna så bra som här.

En medveten poetisk klarhörd musiker som Küchen har lyckats skrapa sig ner till ett virrvarr av intryck som kan stillna i en enda politisk estetisk sekund. Patti Smith har skrivit om dagen då Coltrane dog. Jag minns den också. Allt tystnade, det mesta omkring sjönk undan, onödiga ilskor och meningslösa gester, oron över Vietnamkriget rev i bröstet, de svartas rörelse i USA ekade, och plötsligt rymdes allt i detta ögonblick. Och jag tror det var detta som slog likt ett bultande hjärta i varenda svart musikgrupp tio år framåt sedan.

Küchen har lyckats transplantera allt detta till idag.

Men det är ingen pastisch, ta mig Coltrane om inte det här är en av de bästa frijazzplattor jag hört på mycket länge.

Det är Martin Küchens tur nu! Som låtskrivare, solist och kritiskt och poetiskt tänkande musiker.

Master of a Small House review by Derek

Tom Rainey Trio – Pool School (CF 185)
A much-belated case of “giving the drummer some”, Tom Rainey’s debut as a leader is long-overdue formal recognition of his substantial talents. Leave it to the relentlessly prolific Clean Feed label to recognize and rectify the lapse. Rainey’s appeared on a number of the imprint’s releases over the years and his gig docket remains reliably full via projects with Tim Berne and a host of others. Typical to form and true to the press blurb on the CF website, this set “sounds nothing like anything recorded by Rainey as a sideman.” 

Equally crucial to the music’s singularity are Rainey’s chosen colleagues. Guitarist Mary Halvorson handles her Guild hollow-body with an ear closely-aligned toward eclectic sound production. Plugging-in through a trusty Peavey amp, her contributions have oblique reference points in the work of Joe Morris (a mentor) and Derek Bailey in the canny use of distortion detonations between spidery arpeggios and fills. Halvorson regularly invents melodic helixes on the fly, her intricate patterns spun in gossamer, near-acoustic filigrees or boldly crunching riffs. Add to that an uncanny and instantly-endearing ability to acrobatically twist notes like cherry-stems between teeth.

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, a new name to me, evinces a similarly broad-minded tack toward tone and phrasing. Post-Ayler squeals and sputters are a part of her playbook, but so are the dryly aerated breath sounds and reed pops that fall more under the common rubric of European improvisers like John Butcher. She’s also adept at straight melodic blowing that limns surprisingly close to postbop norms. Rainey revels in the strong support, his stick play often skirting strict meters in favor of a loose, but still carefully structured patter to clatter that keeps the program moving at a reliable clip.

A dozen pieces shuffle by in just under an hour, the resulting ratio keeping individual selections terse and to-the-point. The trio’s humor manifests in the title puns, “Om on the Range” and “Clean Feat”, the latter an obvious nod to their benefactors. From the spooky intervals of “Calico Road” and the fractured, hair-pulling funk of “Three Bag Mary” through the set closing shadow play of “Pacification” that finds Laubrock switching to what sounds like mouthpiece sans sax each piece has its own earmarks, but all hang together cogently as an album-organized statement. Rainey may be a late-bloomer on the leader front, but the wait was definitely worth it.
http://masterofasmallhouse.blogspot.com/2010/06/tom-rainey-trio-pool-school-clean-feed.html

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Tom Rainey Trio - Pool School (CF 185)
A pesar de una larga trayectoria en la que ha participado en multitud de proyectos, grabados o no, son muy escasas las grabaciones en las que el batería Tom Rainey aparece como líder o co-líder. Por ese motivo es especialmente bienvenido Pool School, el estreno de su trío con la saxofonista Ingrid Laubrock y la guitarrista Mary Halvorson.

A lo largo de las doce improvisaciones los tres músicos muestran que aunque tienen muchas cosas que contar y que contarse, no tienen ninguna prisa en hacerlo. Esto resulta especialmente destacable ya que los temas tienen una duración media inferior a los cinco minutos. Sus duraciones individuales que van desde los tres minutos y medio, hasta los siete y veinte segundos para la pieza más larga: unas extensiones que resultan cortas para lo que se acostumbra en la libre improvisación.

En su desarrollo se van narrando historias y encuentros en los que lo importante no es inundar al oyente con una cascada de notas. Al contrario, en el disco abundan los pasajes tranquilos y espaciosos. En muchos casos estos momentos sirven como punto de partida de los temas. Un inicio en el que los músicos construyen unos diálogos en los que van incrementando la tensión de un modo magistral, aunque también se da algún caso aislado en el que la música termina de un modo excesivamente abrupto. Por el contrario, también hay ejemplos en que los músicos comienzan punzantes y enérgicos, para finalizar en un tono sosegado.

Clean Feed sigue acertando con los discos que publica en su catálogo. Uno de los últimos es un disco magnífico como Pool School.
http://bun.tomajazz.com/2010/06/tom-rainey-trio-pool-school.html

NPR Music review by Lars Gotrich

Kris Davis / Ingrid Laubrock / Tyshawn Sorey – Paradoxical Frog (CF 183)
It’s almost a chore to keep up with the prolific Clean Feed. The Portuguese record label regularly releases albums in batches of 10, features a simple design aesthetic that both alludes to and looks past classic Blue Note covers, and mixes up the roster with well-knowns as well as obscure jazz musicians (often from the label’s native Lisbon). The draw for me on Paradoxical Frog was drummer Tyshawn Sorey, whose quiet Morton Feldman-like compositions are like raindrops falling into oblong ponds. But the discovery here is his two fellow players, pianist Kris Davis and tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock. All three share a similar approach to abstract jazz composition and execution: loose and unfolding like a flowering tea, yet full of unexpected color.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127987395