Daily Archives: July 24, 2007

Cadence Magazine review by Jerome Wilson

Wishful Thinking – Wishful Thinking (CF 078)
Wishful Thinking is a group of players from different parts of Europe who all (except the drummer) get to bring their own compositions to a fun session. There is a flavor of the bands of South African pianist Chris McGregor present in that the rhythm section seems to vibrate with energy throughout the session, creating a big raucous sound. Pianist Alex Maguire is the hero here threading through the tangle of horns and thick rhythm in constant motion. Trumpeter Johannes Kreiger and tenor player Alipio C. Neto have compelling moments all over the place while Ricardo Freitas’ viscous electric bass and Rui Goncalves’ noisy drums bring intriguing off-center rhythms to the party. Settings range from semi-abstract funk on “Hina’s Fate” and “Electrico 28” to crisp soul playing on “Buffalo Bill” and hurried, off-kilter balladry on “443” and “Bundawar.” All five men rarely seem to be playing all at the same tempo at the same time but the slightly off-center mix works in their favor. Whatever different things are going on the overall sound holds together. I have no idea how they achieve this but what should be a ramshackle mess sounds compelling throughout. It’s definitely worth listening to.

Cadence Magazine review by Michael Rosenstein


Shoup/Burns/Radding/Campbell – The Levitation Shuffle (CF 073)
From the ’70s onward, free improvisation in the U.S. has always depended on regional scenes to provide vital outposts. This recording features reed player Wally Shoup, one of the stalwarts of free playing on the fringes. In the early ’80s he was part of a Birmingham, Alabama-based collective along with Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith. But since the mid ’80s, he’s been based in the Seattle area, serving as both organizer, mentor, and creative focal point. This recording captures a studio session with Shoup, long-time collaborators Reuben Radding (originally from Seattle but nowbased in N.Y.) and Greg Campbell, as well as young pianist Gust Burns. The reeds, piano, bass, and drums lineup draws connections to the Free Jazz vocabulary, but the four musicians are more aligned with the extensions of European free improvisation. The collective improvisations have a flow based less on a pulse-based trajectory than it does on the shifting, overlapping courses charted by the players. Shoup’s acidic alto provides a commanding focus; slipping from keening cries to gruff, insistently stabbing vigor to shredded overtones. Burns plays with an angular abstraction leavened with an effective, light touch. His sheets of notes break in brittle shards against Radding’s muscular free melodicism. Campbell skitters around his kit, tempering thundering energy with the multi-textured sound of small percussion instruments. Over the course of the set, the group  drives toward a potent collective sound. It’s hard to believe that this is their first meeting. Based on this session it is a setting that shows plenty of potential for further explorations.
Michael Rosenstein

Coda Magazine review by Ken Waxman

Scott Fields Ensemble – Beckett (CFO69)
Cologne-based expatriate American guitarist Scott Fields frames this memorable quartet session as a tribute to existential Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Unlike Beckett’s almost static works featuring lonely humans trying to articulate the unexpressive however, Fields’ compositions manage to be both stirring and affecting.

Although the longer tracks incorporate Beckett-like extended pauses, elsewhere all-encompassing, multi-voiced counterpoint recalls not the Irish dramatist’s bare-bones style, but the overlapping dialogue of film makers such as Robert Altman. American playwright David Mamet received a similar homage from Fields in 2000 and the subsequent years have fortified the guitarist’s playing and writing … or is it acting and directing?

Dramatis personae in this work include a cast of experienced actors … er, players. German tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert exposes timbres ranging from pumping atonal slurs to echoing, chesty vibrations; versatile American percussionist John Hollenbeck busily propels the splintered beat with his regular kit, while using water-glass-like pings, pealing chimes, and what sounds like rubber-balls bouncing on snare tops for added scene-setting. Yank expat cellist Scott Roller, of the legit Helios String Quartet, adds cross-swiped col legno jabs as effortlessly as vamping walking bass lines.

While the staccato “Play” projects quadruple counterpoint from all concerned – demonstrating call-and-call rather than call-and-response – the nearly 30 minute agitato “What Where” is Fields’ chef d’oeuvre. With his knob-twisting distortion and slurred fingering on show, the guitarist elaborates the accelerating explosive theme on top of solid rhythms propelled both by Hollenbeck’s unaffected smacks, slaps and pops and near-identical stop-and-start voicing of scrapes, whistles, stops and vibrations from cello and saxophone.

Thematically conclusive throughout, Beckett transcends its derivation to become CD that is certainly more polyphonic – and often more theatrical – than Beckett’s writing.

ejazz news review by Glenn Astarita

Martin Speicher/Georg Wolf/Lou Grassi – Shapes and Shadows (CF 084)

This trio’s impetus is designed upon a cornerstone of free-improv and spontaneous composition. Here, reedman Martin Speicher darts around the rhythm section with jabs, upper-cuts and soaring frenzies. They circumnavigate various pulses amid quiet moments that often bust out into pounding accents and tumultuous storylines. On the piece titled “Le Star,” drummer Lou Grassi and bassist Georg Wolf anchor Speicher’s free-form blues lines, consisting of a sequence of pops, squeaks and topsy-turvy upper register phrasings. In spots, Speicher pronounces notions of loneliness and desolation, but more often than not, the rhythm section comes to the rescue as they encircle his parameters with boisterous escapades. Then on “Alors! Bill Dit,” Speicher generates minimalist-type panoramas via softly uttered lines, nicely counterbalanced by Grassi’s world-music percussion groove. Overall, the band pursues a credo that rings loud and clear as they enter discovery mode amid synergistic interplay and a ballsy approach – it all translates into something rather special.