Monthly Archives: April 2007

All Music Guide review by Scott Yanow

Scott Fields Ensemble – Beckett (CF 069)

Although guitarist Scott Fields is the composer for each of the five lengthy compositions on Beckett, the music sounds very much like episodic free improvisations. The guitar-tenor-cello-percussion quartet has an unusual sound. The use of wit in places, along with occasional melodic passages, serves as a contrast to some rather noisy sound explorations. The musicians listen closely to each other although quite often they follow completely independent paths. The final results will certainly keep listeners guessing for just when one is ready to sum it all up as a freeform screamfest, the mood shifts and the band plays a spacey ballad. Listeners who are open to rockish sounds and avant-garde ideas will find this music of strong interest.


All Music Guide review by Scott Yanow

Alvin Fielder Trio – A Measure of Vision (CF 071)

Although not quite a household name in the jazz world, Alvin Fielder has quite a resume in jazz history. He was a member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra during the second half of the 1950s, played drums on Roscoe Mitchell’s groundbreaking Sound Lp, was one of the founders of the AACM, and has played with creative musicians for decades. The music on A Measure Of Vision, even at its freest, is somewhat mellow and lyrical. Dennis Gonzalez displays a thoughtful style and a warm sound on trumpet (he is in top form) while pianist Chris Parker gives a modal feel to some of the songs. Most of the set features a trumpet-piano-drums trio. Bassist Aaron Gonzalez is on two numbers, playing so well that one wishes he were present much more. Stefan Gonzalez is on second drums and vibes on two songs, one of which includes Aaron Gonzalez. Overall the music is at times a bit of a throwback to the late 1960s (“Max-well” quotes “A Love Supreme”) while not merely copying the past and looking ahead. This CD points out how aspects of the so-called avant-garde of that era are now the jazz mainstream. This set contains plenty of surprises along the way and rewards repeated listenings. Recommended.

All Music Guide review by Scott Yanow

Billy Fox – Uncle Wiggly Suite (CF 068)

Billy Fox’s ten originals included on The Uncle Wiggly Suite all have something to do with sleep, which is only right since the main theme was composed by Fox when he was nearly asleep. However the music is not sleepy at all and it covers a variety of moods and adventurous styles. New Orleans parade rhythms are utilized on one piece, another sounds as if it is Indian music and other numbers include melancholy mood pieces, brief sketches and selections featuring more involved improvising. The unusual ensemble features four reeds, one trumpet, a rhythm section, a percussionist and a string trio. While bassist Mark Dresser and altoist John Savage are often the standouts, each musician makes important contributions to the offbeat and successful music.

All About Jazz reviews by Mark Corroto

It was a revelation when Portugal’s Clean Feed label began producing new and exciting music at the turn of this century. There seems to be no let up to their activities and recent additions to the catalog are to be celebrated. 

Ethan Winogrand – Tangled Tango (CF 074)
Drummer Ethan Winogrand, formerly of the New York Punk Band Joe Cool, continues his association with guitarist Ross Bonadonna and Charles Mingus’ son, bassist Eric Mingus, in this very hip jazz ensemble. If you are keen on the music scene, the players—trumpeter Steven Bernstein (Sexmob), saxophonist Gorka Benitez and bassist Carlos Barretto—are three of today’s hottest properties. The twelve original compositions will appeal to fans not only of Bernstein, but also those who followed the late Lounge Lizards, Stanton Moore and the new Brooklyn thing.  

Shoup/Burns/Radding/Campbell – The Levitation Shuffle (CF 73)
Saxophonist Wally Shoup came to the attention of many of us on guitarist Nels Cline’s disc Immolation/Immersion (Strange Attractors Audio House 2006). The Seattle improvising player is steeped in the tradition of saxophonists Evan Parker and Peter Brotzmann. That is to say he can blow the doors off or fiddle with silence and construct a meaningful sound. Bassist Reuban Radding is in top form here too. The quartet, although built around Shoup, finds contributions by all involved. This is a challenging set of music making—but rewarding to the most adventurous listeners.

Carlos Barretto Trio – Radio Song (CF 072)
After the release of last year’s Lokomotiv and the attention bassist Carlos Barretto received, Clean Feed decided to release this 2002 session. Barretto’s very accessible inside/outside writing draws upon not only jazz tradition, but ethnic music. With the inclusion of clarinetist Louis Sclavis, the recording becomes a fully formed sound. If you were wondering about the connections Portuguese jazz has to American and European improvisation, this is one of the best examples of a cross pollination of jazz, folk and blues—via a very fertile musical mind. The attractive sound of this record is due to the open playing of all involved, especially Barretto’s huge sound. They have also included a video of the title track, a treat for your eyes.

Otomo Yoshihide’s New Jazz Quintet – ONJQ Live In Lisbon (CF 063)
Recorded in Portugal in 2004, this meeting of Japanese noise, Swedish saxophone legend Mats Gustafsson and classic jazz turns out to be the ‘new thing’ on steroids. The turntablist/electronics artist Yoshihide picks up an electric guitar for this recontextualizing of classic songs by Charlie Haden (“Song For Che”) and Eric Dolphy (“Serene”). Veering between outright energy production and moments of sheer quiet beauty on Jim O’Rourke’s “Eureka,” the quintet doesn’t fail to surprise listeners. Gustafsson delivers his now patented baritone sound with all its inclinations towards warm interstellar travel.

Bernardo Sassetti – Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (CF 070)
Composer/pianist Bernardo Sassetti is perhaps best described as the signature artist of the Clean Feed label. Although his jazz is informed by pianist Bill Evans, the music he composes has a cinematic feel. He has written for Hollywood and that may explain the ongoing narrative he weaves through his recordings. This recording is contemporary classical, with a percussion ensemble, a saxophone quartet, and a woodwind/brass quintet. Think of Sassetti as a kinder, gentler version of John Zorn. Adding to his appealing discography, the soundtrack sounds of Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon is a great listen.

Charles Gayle Trio – Consider The Lilies… (CF 060)
The ferocity of Charles Gayle’s tenor saxophone is not diminished in the least when, as here, he picks up an alto or as he has done of late, sits down to the piano. Fans know his firebrand music is informed by his faith. His Lord is not the prince of peace, but the lion of Judah. His emotions come full force through his playing. Here with drummer Jay Rosen and bassist Hillard Greene (the same lineup as on the recent Ayler Records disc) the saxophonist gives us forty-one minutes of well spent energy.

Alvin Fielder Trio – A Measure Of Vision (CF 071)
Just why Clean Feed is the leader in creative jazz music for this century is highlighted by this recording. I suspect drummer Alvin Fielder’s connection with Dennis Gonzalez is the link to this outing. Gonzalez’s trumpet has been resurrected (and featured) on Lisbon Improvisation Players’ Spiritualized and on three discs under his own name, No Photograph Available, Idle Wild, and NY Midnight Suite. The pair have a long-standing association and this recording by Fielder proudly presents Gonzalez and his two sons. The AACM founder and former Sun Ra drummer presents a mid-1960s sound not unlike that of the John Coltrane quartet, with all the warmth—yet produces quite challenging music.

Scott Fields Ensemble – Beckett (CF 069)
The guitarist Scott Fields provides a tribute to Samuel Beckett with a dense and challenging bit of chamber jazz or maybe modern classical/free music that he describes as “post-free jazz” and “exploratory music.” His concept of tightly packed compositions with noisy breaches of the oft times violent surface tempts the outer reaches of sound. Perfectly matched by the overtly quirky drummer, John Hollenbeck, these odd structures ask many musical questions, and sometimes provide answers.

AAJ review by Glenn Astarita

Carlos Barretto Trio + Louis Sclavis – Radio Song (CF 072)
Originally released by the relatively obscure CBTM label and newly issued for this top-shelf progressive-jazz entity, we find Portuguese bassist Carlos Barretto pronouncing an up-tempo set which, in part, serves as a testament to his country’s fertile jazz scene. And with wider distribution, this well-rounded endeavor could find its way onto many of those year-end top-ten lists.

It’s a rock solid set on all fronts as highly-revered French multi-reed artist Louis Sclavis lends his wares on three works. On the opening piece titled “Distresser,” Barretto lays down a booming groove that sets the parameters for guitarist Mario Delgado and Sclavis’ torrid bass clarinet undercurrents, marked by buoyant unison lines. Moreover, drummer Jose Salguero keeps the train a-rolling with peppery African tom-tom rolls as the band instills notions of an ominously crafted travelogue.
The musicians construct linear motifs while often reversing gears to include the soloists’ often-slashing attack. Delgado is apt to slam on his EFX pedal in spots, where the unit engages soul-stirring jazz-rock passages. But the preponderance of these diverse tone poems are redesigned within a Euro-jazz mindset, devised with tricky time signatures and off-kilter shifts in momentum. They explore swing and the free zone. Then on “Searching” Delgado’s animated and expressive phrasings generate raw heat atop the rhythm section’s stinging mode of execution.
Complacency is not part of the group’s plan as they execute a Balkan motif during “Asa Celta,” sprinkling airy melodies above dramatic forays that instill mystical qualities. Regardless, it would be a criminal injustice if this wondrously absorbing program were to dwell in obscurity.

Free Jazz CD’s of the Month

Vandermark/Lane/Broo/Nilssen-Love – 4 Corners
Ravi Padmanabha & Daniel Carter – Nivesana
Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura – In Krakow In Poland
Rabih Abou-Khalil – Songs For Sad Women

Free Jazz review by Stef

Magnus Broo/Adam Lane/Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark – 4 Corners (CF 076)
This album brings us back to more familiar territory : the quartet à la Ornette Coleman with Vandermark on sax, Magnus Broo on trumpet , Adam Lane on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. All of them are fantastic musicians, yet Adam Lane is my favorite here (check out the CD’s he released in the past years). And the result of these gentlemen’s combined effort is excellent. The first piece “Alfama” immediately offers all the variation you might expect from such a band : strong pulsing rhythms with unisono sax and trumpet, coming to a sudden halt for a long unaccompanied bluesy trumpet solo, that is first supported by some subtle drums which forces the energy back into the piece, into higher and more intense spheres, picked up by a hard-bopping sax solo like runners in a 4 x 100 relay race. The second piece “Spin With the EARth” starts with an African theme and melody, reminiscent of Don Cherry, that is deconstructed into shreds of solo and it gets gradually built up again rhythmically. On “Lucia” Vandermark steals the show with his fiery bass clarinet soloing. This CD offers a lot : freejazz, hard bop, blues, afro-jazz, funk, intens harmonic interplay and shouting counterpoint.
Of all the line-ups Vandermark played in for the last years, 4 Corners is one of the best. Adam Lane brings a deep musical and bluesy feeling to the band, and Broo adds the melodic and sometimes joyous sound.