Broo/Lane/Nilssen-Love/Vandermark – 4 Corners (CF 076)
I don’t remember ever hearing a double bassist playing a heavy metal-ish riff while plugged into a distortion pedal, but that’s the exact kind of welcome that I received with “Alfama (for Georges Braque)”, the furious opening track of this album. In “Tomorrow now (for Lester Bowie)”, he overdrives the arco, too. The Four Corners are occupied by Adam Lane (yes, THAT double bassist), Ken Vandermark (baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). This must be one of the punkest jazz records of the decade, if memory serves; intoxicating grooves abund, the solos are indeed incendiary, alimented by equal doses of technical expertise and rage. What Vandermark plays in “Spin with the EARth” or at the beginning of “Lucia” is definable as uncolonized virtuosism, his lines creating instant angles and rapacious shrieks that animate incredibly energetical vortexes. A great surprise comes from Broo, until yesterday an unknown musician for this eternally ignorant writer, whose playing is at one and the same time propelled by the general excitement and supportive of an incoercible fantasy, which allows him to jump from the wagons of tonalities to find himself covered with the cactus spikes of multiple dissonant convergences. Nilssen-Love (“a drummer who seems to have four arms and four legs”) is captured in all his octopusness despite the quality of the live recording, his convulsive metres and muscular rumbles exalting the torrential shouting of his companions. Apart from Frankenstein-like “harmolodic-cum-funky” bass designs, Lane confirms himself a fine crafter of heavy-duty low register melodies, furnishing the quartet with a steady drive that projects them towards the high spheres of contemporary jazz. Still, the monster octave walk that moves “Ashcan Rantings” is not exactly what I call blasé, but it rocks like a dinosaur plucking a Fender Precision, or a five-meter-tall Jack Bruce. If you crawl to that piece’s conclusion, look for your hair to turn orange and blue.
João Paulo- Memórias de Quem (CF 075)
João Paulo Esteves Da Silva is a pianist, composer and improviser who someone associates to Keith Jarrett. Sincerely, I don’t understand the reason of this comparison, given that I perceive his music as much more genuine, at least in regard to the current state of things. If releasing a set for solo piano is enough to be compared to Jarrett, there are still many different ways to touch the audience’s sensibility; this man explores most of them. Academically trained, he discarded an obvious predestination to the classical course to embrace jazz; but a jazz album this ain’t. Over the course of nine pieces, João Paulo shows his personal view of romanticism and, in a way, tradition through his splendid technique, which he always puts at the service of a well rooted spiritual profoundness; case in point is the adaptation of popular themes that he performs, an example being the heartbreaking “Durme”, a stark contrast with the sterile exercises of many so called virtuosos that have me snoring after five minutes. But wait – maybe you also want to hear some serious digital juggling. No problem: “O incêndio” and “Fantasmas” contain enough zigzagging counter-parallelisms to convince even the most skeptical sentimentalist-buster that the guy is also damn good in treating the ears to bittersweet harmonic candies coated with non-impossible dissonance. Both here and in the title track – enriched by the author’s chanting – a light went on in my mind, making me ponder about the more obscure work by Egberto Gismonti, certainly a more plausible choice to depict similarities in styles that, in any case, remain completely independent. Together with Bernardo Sassetti, João Paulo represents the most fulgid example of pianism from Portugal, music that doesn’t need explanations or clarifications to be enjoyed in all its delicate, melancholic grace.
Wishful Thinking (CF 078)
Nata per dar voce alla scena più creativa del jazz portoghese, la Clean Feed nel corso degli anni è andata via via allargando i confini geografici delle proprie produzioni reclutando artisti prestigiosi della scena improvvisativa mondiale. E incoraggiando operazioni come Wishful Thinking, collettivo multietnico composto da due portoghesi, un tedesco, un brasiliano ed un inglese.
Progetto paritetico (le dieci composizioni sono equamente divise tra i componenti del gruppo, ad eccezione del batterista Rui Goncalves) Wishful Thinking sembra trovare un leader naturale in Alex Maguire, pianista britannico già membro di formazioni guidate da Elton Dean e Derek Bailey. Sua la voce più originale, suoi gli interventi più fantasiosi e di maggior peso specifico, suo il ruolo di invisibile coordinatore.
Anche se Wishful Thinking rimane principalmente un prodotto collettivo, caratterizzato da un neo bop robusto, urbano, nervoso con fremiti funky grazie alla presenza del basso elettrico di Ricardo Freitas. Con qualche apertura a situazioni di maggior informalità, in “Electrico 28“ piacciono gli incroci pericolosi tra il tenore di Neto e la tromba di Krieger, o a momenti di intesa commozione, “Urs’s Epitaph – Der Hirt“.
Disco piacevole e ottimamente suonato, Wishful Thinking manca di quella dose di imprevedibilità e di gusto per il rischio che caratterizzano la maggior parte delle incisioni dell’etichetta portoghese.
Russ Lossing/Mat Maneri/Mark Dresser – Metal Rat (CF 064)
Come riferito nelle note di copertina, il CD è il risultato di un’intensa seduta di registrazione di poche ore. Non si puo’ che rimanere colpiti, quindi, dalla forte intesa tra i tre musicisti.
Mark Dresser, con il suo arco trascinante e profondo, quando non percussivo, e con i suoi pizzicati solidi e incalzanti risulta essere il perno dell’opera per la bravuca con cui riesce a mettere in comunicazione la versatile viola di Mat Maineri e il pianoforte di Russ Lossing che spesso si trovano a dialogare vivacemente, sempre pronti a inseguirsi nei registri. A Dresser è in gran parte dovuta quella tensione di fondo spesso guidata da una pulsazione inquieta, altrove associata ad una ruvida espansione temporale.
Russ Lossing dal canto suo è molto bravo ad avvicinare il suo strumento alle corde dei compagni.
Con un pianismo fluido e appena malinconico che tradisce la cultura classica e colta (da Scriabin fino a Boulez), ma anche grazie alla sua ricca esperienza live nei campi più diversi (rock, country, funk, r&b) Lossing riesce a creare spazi aperti per gli altri musicisti rendendosi disponibile ad ogni situazione. Interseca e mescola i piani sonori pizzicando le corde del suo pianoforte, preparate o meno, e quando, con il pedale inserito a lungo, tenta di allargare l’orizzonte volendosi accostare con i colori che si creano alla libertà espressiva degli altri due strumenti.
Atmosfere cupe care a Dresser colorate con tinte un po’ fosche dalla viola a tratti morbida, a tratti graffiante e dal piano sempre presente sempre pertinente, rivelano nel contempo una naturalezza e quindi una calma di fondo che potreberro essere scaturite da un anima alla Takemitsu.
Tre bravissimi improvvisatori capaci di muoversi in ogni contesto ci offrono duetti e terzetti molto belli, con due soli brani “scritti”. Senz’altro un ottimo disco per conoscere meglio Russ Lossing.
Scott Fields Ensemble – Beckett (CF 069)
One more ode to the Irish absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, with Scott Fields on guitar, John Hollenbeck on drums, Scott Roller on cello, Matthias Schubert on tenor sax. The CD offers an interesting musical expression of Beckett’s theater, with instruments communicating along different lines, with lots of open space, not always an obvious sense of direction, lots of creatieve angles. The album requires quite some effort from the listener because newly introduced melodies suddenly stop or are replaced by new ones. At moments sad (“Come and Go”), or chaotic (“What Where”), or even funny (“Rockabye”), this album is more than worth listening to.
Martin Speicher/Georg Wolf/Lou Grassi – Shapes and Shadows (CF 084)
**** (4 stars)
Freejazzers, rejoice! Here is a sublime sax trio. Martin Speicher (sax and clarinet), Georg Wolf (bass) and Lou Grassi (drums), bring some top level free improvization. I only knew Grassi from his great Avanti Galoppi album, and the other two musicians are unknown to me, and that’s unfortunate, because what they bring on this album is really very strong. The three musicians listen well and carefully to each other, they search for new expressive power, and they find it, bringing lots of variation, even within the same piece, sometimes intense and forward moving, then slow, sensitive, melancholic. Speicher has a warm tone, even in the most hard-blowing moments, Wolf offers nice telepathic interaction, and Lou Grassi keeps propulsing the band forward with excellent drum work. The album starts very promising with “Please, Confirm”, in a lightly dancing mode with loose tones, which evolves into a high and sustained powerplay, just to end with reference to the beginning. “Le Star” brings slow searching sounds, with Speicher looking for the high notes of his sax, eery, sad and powerful. “Claire’s Net” begins dissonant and abstract, with Speicher on bass clarinet and Wolf on arco bass, and although it would be too much to say that something like a melody is created, it is a wonderful experience to notice how out of this loose cluster of notes a musical unity evolves which is hard to define, yet which is unmistakably there. And that just characterizes the whole album. Strong discipline and self-control, together with a common focus on exploration in the creation of their musical vision permeate all tracks, and the result is more than worth listening to. The title song brings an excellent close to the album, with Speicher again on bass clarinet, and it is without a doubt the highlight of the album, ending in sad howling tones, the likes of which you will not have heard before. Don’t expect fixed melodies or rhythms, but what you get is a creative, intense and impactful modern jazz.
Ravish Momin’s Trio Tarana – Miren (A Longing) CF 087
Percussionist Ravish Momin comes with a new Tarana Trio : Jason Kao Hwang has been replaced on violin by viool Sam Bardfeld, and Brandon Terzic replaces Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on oud. This change gives the music a totally different color, despite the fact that the same instruments are used. Just like on “Climbing The Banyan Tree”, the rhythms and rhythm changes are at the center of gravitation, but just a notch more intense than before. Momin’s approach to music is hard to define, world music influences dominate, and then especially Indian rhythms and Middle-Eastern sound flavors, yet sometimes the melody lines are closer to European folk, but the real power of this music are the long improvizations which are definitely jazz-oriented. Bardfeld’s violin sounds less abstract, less varied than what Hwang brought, but it’s a little more hypnotic, basically because he’s not afraid to bring repetitive themes, in which he approaches the same notes with a different intensity, and that doesn’t miss its effect on the listener. The oud is also more prominent, because for Blumenkranz bass was his first instrument, and the oud was only used sporadically. And Terzic is good, even if it sounds at times ungrateful to play an instrument with limited natural volume against the hard driving drumkit, like in the title piece. The oud really shines when it can play solo, like at the intro of “What Reward” or when it’s just accompanied by light percussion as on “Tehra” or “Fiza”. This is a great CD, with strong emotional power and tension, and one that is easy to recommend to anyone interested in the combination of free jazz and world music.