Monthly Archives: August 2007

Epic India review by Richard Marcus

Ravish Momin’s Trio Tarana – Miren (A Longing) (CF 087)

When I used to work in theatre, in another life, in a land far, far away known as Toronto Ontario Canada, the majority of the work I was involved with was improvisation. As anyone who has done any improvisational work on the stage knows there is an incredibly fine line between coming up with something brilliant and stinking the house out.

Their are a few secrets to good improvisation in theatre; decide on a beginning, middle and end for each scene, know what information the audience needs to be told for the story to make sense, and trust your instincts. The first two are easily solved through rehearsal and coming up with a basic outline for each scene that tells each actor what they need to do in order for the scene to work. It’s that last one that’s problematic, because it’s not something that can be taught.

Being able to make a decision and know that it’s the right thing to do in the moment without having to think over the ramifications is the hardest thing an actor will ever have to do on stage. But if they forget a line, or a piece of scenery fails to do what it’s supposed to do, they must be able to find a way through without anything untoward appearing to happen. When the work you do is only loosely formulated like improvisation that instinct is sometimes all that stands between you and disaster.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between the work I used to do as an actor and some of the different modern musicians that I’ve been reviewing recently. While some have been popular musicians, the majority have worked in Jazz. Ravish Momin’s Trio Tarana are a group who fall into the latter category, but at the same time bring a unique aesthetic that sets them apart from a great deal of other Jazz combos. While the standard Jazz trio will either feature a horn, a keyboard, or a guitar in the front, with percussion and bass supplying backing, Trio Tarana are: Ravish Momin on either drum kit, percussion, cajon, or talking drum; Sam Bardfeld Violin; and Brandon Terzic playing the Middle Eastern instrument the Oud. (A mix of lute, guitar, and mandolin)

With Ravish being born in India and having lived in various places all over the world, Sam Bardfeld playing with everyone from Bruce Springsteen’s “Seeger Sessions Band” to Anthony Braxton, and Brandon Terzic drawing upon Middle Eastern playing styles, you know the Jazz they play is not going to be what you are accustomed to hearing. The first clue comes in the title of their soon to be released (Sept. 21st/07) CD. Miren (A Longing) contains only a partial translation of the Japanese word (miren) in the title. The full meaning, “a deeply-felt sadness resulting from a longing for closure on something form the past” would have problems fitting on a standard cover let alone a CD’s spine, but also gives a better idea of the music’s emotional and intellectual depth.

Like all good improvisers, they start with a composition (all by Momin except track 3, “Ragalaya”, a traditional South Indian composition he arranged) that acts as their outline. What I called the basic information of the script that the audience needs to know to be able to follow along would be the underpinning theme that is expressed by the composition. Either one of Sam or Brandon will begin the theme with Momin providing the percussive underpinning required, and then the fun begins as the two front men trade solos back and forth until it becomes a seamless blend of the two sounds and the aspects of the theme they have chosen to explore.

This is where their experience shines through, because not once do they let any of the pieces descend into chaos. They are very careful to keep within a framework that they seem to understand; the line they know not to cross that keeps the music on the right side of self indulgent. The object of improvisation is to elaborate on a theme, not to lose track of it completely so no one but you can understand what’s going on. Like any art form, music is about communication, and the last thing you want to communicate is I’m a self-indulgent wanker.

That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have any fun. All one needs to do is listen to the fifth track “What Reward?” on Miren (A Longing) to understand that. It leads off with an Oud solo that sounds like it was taken right from Jimi Hendrix’s fret board. The resulting creation ends up sounding like a mid-eastern/Blues number like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It was quite amazing and not since the Kronos Quartet performed “Purple Haze” have I heard anything to equal this for sheer energy and exhilaration.

Bringing together performers of different musical traditions; culturally and professionally, seems to have become something of a fad lately. While there are people who make it a life’s study to learn as much about other music as they can, (Ry Cooder, Bob Brozman, and Harry Manx spring to mind). Too many of the recent efforts are like what bands in the sixties did to sound exotic by throwing a sitar into the mix without taking the time to learn anything about the instrument’s tradition and culture.

Ravish Momin’s Trio Tarana is not one of those cheap exploitations of sound that passes for “world” music being sold in New Age stores. Miren (A Longing) is an example of what happens when three dedicated and experienced musicians of like mind come together to make music. Each composition has an intent that is adhered to as a framework. Within this framework, they each give free expression to whatever the intent has inspired in them making this one of the most interesting and exciting pieces of improvisational music I have heard in a long time.

If you are interested in having your horizons and brain stretched simultaneously, keep an eye out for Miren (A Longing) being released this September 21st.

Bagatellen review by Derek Taylor

Ravish Momin’s Trio Tarana – Miren (A Longing) (CF 087)

Charting the progress of an improvising artist is always a pleasure, particularly when the strides made span significant distance. I’ve been following percussionist Ravish Momin’s work since his tenure in saxophonist Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre’s comeback trio, The Light. Momin’s merger of Indian and jazz rhythms in that context was an occasional wobbly fit, particularly in tandem with Jesse Dulman’s well-meaning but often lugubrious tuba. McIntyre’s sometimes mealy-mouthed reed work didn’t help in this regard either Soon after that association’s dissolution, Momin changed gears with Trio Tarana, an ensemble combining his ethnically informed percussion with two sets of strings. A pair of personnel changes underscores this second studio outing with violinist Sam Bardfield replacing the departed Jason Hwang and oudist Brandon Terzic occupying Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz’s stead.

The three players work from a resilient foundation of rhythm and melody that manages to sound at once Bedouin antique and dance boutique new. Bardfield bows his strings sans amplification sounding at times like a more measured cousin to Billy Bang and digging deep into Momin’s Middle Eastern influenced tune structures. Terzic combines the poise and dexterity of Hamza Al Din with a Western-inclusive attitude akin to Anouar Brahem, threading slivers of blues and funk into his more fevered string bending and sounding remarkably self-assured. Momin also upholds a strong affinity for hard grooves that breathe and undulate through a multiplicity of meters.

The opening piece pivots on backbeat-anchored rhythm over which Terzic and Bardfield grapple atop. Several pieces follow a pattern of somber preamble followed by spirited collective leap into undulating beats and Arabic scales. Terzic also draws on Asian influences, his oud adopting a brittle koto facsimile on the title piece. Violist Tanya Kalmanovitch bolsters the string section on a second version of “Fiza” another Arabic dirge peppered with resonating suspensions and rosin-igniting interludes. Places still arise where Momin’s ideations seem to eclipse his technique, particularly in the balancing acts that arise out of juxtaposing “in the pocket” playing with the complex meters drawn from African and Indian sources. The brave brinksmanship evident even when he falters suggests a creative artist fully intent on pushing himself inexorably forward.

The Wire review by David Keenan

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

A ruminative, elegiac atmosphere dominates much of this disc, somewhat unbelievably drummer Alvin Fielder’s debut release as a leader.  Fielder has roots that run deep, being a founding member of the AACM as well as playing on key sides by players like Roscoe Mitchell, Frank Lowe and Kidd Jordan.  Here he references his earlier work by including a reading of Jordan’s ”Time No Time” while focusing his gaze further up the road by gathering around him a fairly young outfit, with the core of pianist Chris parker and trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez further augmented by Aaron Gonzalez on acoustic bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums and vibes.  Dennis makes a particularly good showing, with his dramatic, declamatory style working as a black foil to the keening piano style of parker.  Fielder plays with a buoyant, propulsive feel that send benign waves of time surging beneath the melodies, and there is some imaginative writing to back it up.

Free Jazz review by Stef

Sonic Openings Underpressure – Muhheankuntuk (CF 081)


In truth, I wasn’t too thrilled with Patrick Brennan’s two previous efforts “The Drum Is Honor Enough” and “Rapt Circle”. Yet this one is different. Apart from Brennan on sax, Hillard Green’s bass is the only constant with the previous albums. David Pleasant plays drums and harmonica on this CD. And the music is totally different too. The more limited line-up has opened the music quite a lot, and the three musicians weave some sensitive and creative textures. You have the feeling that anything could happen on this album, and it does. The music is often tentative, timid even, creating soft but intense interplay, with the exception of “Hardships”, which is an uptempo high enery great anger vocal rap/spoken word piece. But indeed all the other pieces are free form open improvizations around agreed themes and structures, played with a musical delicacy and precise elegance that demonstrates once again that free jazz can be so much more than noisy blowing contests, and truth be told, even more subtle, nuanced and emotionally authentic than the large majority of more mainstream releases. The music itself is built around themes, that appear and then disappear again, depending on the mood of the musicians, like waves on a river. And that is what the title means “river that flows in two directions”, in the local native American language, referring to the Hudson’s typical tide currents. On “Flash Of The Spirit”, Pleasant switches to harmonica, which makes for an unheard of combination, but it works, and it works well. In “The Terrible” Brennan’s sax speaks in short bursts, words and phrases over a very varied rhythmic creation by Pleasant and Greene. The last piece, which I find the highlight of the album, starts with a weeping duo of sax and bass, moving into a lightly funky form, then almost organically shifting to a higher gear free bop, and the fun thing is that despite the ever increasing power play of the rhythm section, Brendan keeps his cool and his soft angle, right until the very end, when he does explode, only to come to a sudden halt for a final blow, literally. Open and intense music by three stellar musicians. There is much to enjoy here.

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

Evan Parker / John Edwards / Chris Corsano – A Glancing Blow (CF 085)
Non se ne avranno a male Evan Parker e John Edwards, straordinari sodali da ormai qualche anno, se nel parlare di questo nuovo, importante, lavoro in trio, partiamo dalla presenza di Chris Corsano, elemento di novità e di grande vitalità espressiva nell’improvvisazione triangolata.
Il giovane batterista del New England, da un paio d’anni trasferitosi in Inghilterra, è infatti tra gli artisti più interessanti della sua generazione, un musicista in cui la congiunzione tra la potenza del rock e libertà del free avviene in modo naturale e incontenibile. Noto dapprima per le collaborazioni con Paul Flaherty e Thurston Moore, Corsano ha anche ottenuto gli onori delle “cronache” musicali recenti per la sua partecipazione al nuovo disco di Bjork, Volta, nel quale le improvvisazioni sue e di un altro fenomenale batterista come Brian Chippendale dei Lightning Bolt sono state editate dall’artista islandese nella complessa architettura finale.
Naturale dunque che, messosi in relazione con gli improvvisatori inglesi, Corsano si sia trovato telepaticamente attratto da due musicisti che con lui condividono la capacità di “muovere” il suono, oltre che di generarlo. Due lunghe improvvisazioni – lo “spazio” perché il suono si sposti – registrate a Londra nell’agosto 2006 e prontamente pubblicate dalla Clean Feed, sono il primo documento di una collaborazione che speriamo possa continuare, dal momento che gli esiti sono già considerevoli.
Già forte dell’esperienza con Flaherty, Corsano trova infatti subito le coordinate per scardinare assieme ai compagni le assi del tempo, complice di Edwards – tra i contrabbassisti più travolgenti degli ultimi anni – nel fare ardere una propulsione che al tempo stesso è sfaccettata e ricca di groove [si intenda ovviamente il temine in senso ampio] e lacerando con Parker – qui sia al soprano che al tenore – le trame del suono in perturbanti “zone eversive” che possono mutare rapidamente da uno stato di drone ipnotico [la seconda parte della title-track raggiunge livelli di doloroso “misticismo” laico] agli spasmi più violenti.
Mood, libertà, imprevedibilità, freschezza. La sensibilità con cui si apre “Out of the Pocket”, quasi da ballad infestata dagli spiriti, è una tela che avvolge silenziosamente l’ascoltatore, tale che quando lo stesso si accorge di essere al centro di un rituale pagano in cui ogni suo pregiudizio d’ascolto verrà sacrificato, la sensazione è quella che manchi la terra sotto i piedi. Straordinario è il lavoro di Corsano [sui tamburi] e Edwards, rotolante e magico, mentre Parker ricama alcune delle sue linee migliori.
more reviews in AAJ Italy

All About Jazz Italia review by Francesca Odilia Bellino

Joëlle Léandre / Pascal Contet – Free Way (CF 080)

Free Way è un lavoro che indaga sul mondo del basso. Non tanto e solo perché protagonisti sono due strumenti con spiccate caratteristiche “basse”, quali contrabbasso e fisarmonica, quanto piuttosto per la sensibilità e la sensualità, la concretezza, le tessiture e i mood con cui fisarmonica e contrabbasso per l’appunto si inabissano nelle dodici tracce. C’è corporalità, più che sostanza eterea in Free Way.
Facile rimanere ammaliati dal calore di questa musica, che a tratti sembra fare eco a certi contrasti di Satie (può essere?) incorporati all’improvvisazione di matrice più incontaminata.
Com’è oramai consolidata consuetudine nell’improvvisazione, Free Way è una registrazione live, effettuata alla Radio Svizzera nel settembre 2005, che documenta una lunga sessione (a mo’ di flusso ininterrotto) tra il fisarmonicista francese Contet e la Léandre.
Le linee di contrabbasso e fisarmonica si incrociano e si amalgamano spesso. Questo è un aspetto interessante in un lavoro con forti momenti melodici, di grande intimismo.
A certe condizioni, sembra che il messaggio sia che non si possa mai emergere.

All About Jazz Italia by Neri Pollastri

Carlos Barretto – Radio Song (CF 072)
Trio portoghese guidato dal contrabbassista Carlos Barretto, questa formazione ospita in tre tracce le ance di Louis Sclavis e mette in mostra un jazz libero, dalle sonorità molto marcate, che si sviluppano a partire da latenti ispirazioni popolari.
Il disco è peraltro molto vario, passando dalle atmosfere sclavisiane del primo brano (Barretto ha soggiornato a lungo a Parigi) a successivi momenti di tradizione jazzistica bianca (“Radio Song”), fino a passaggi di avanguardia elettrica, con eco e rumori, e a sorprendentied originali fusione di stili (”Espirito de Solidao”).
I musicisti sono sempre al meglio, con Salgueiro efficacisssimo alla batteria, Delgado padrone assoluto delle molte possibilità espressive della chitarra elettrica e memore delle lezioni di Metheny da un lato, Ribot e Ducret dall’altro, Barretto in possesso di un suono di straordinaria profondità sia la pizzicato che all’archetto, con il quale caratterizza il lavoro in ogni suo momento, come avviene quando si è al cospetto di un grande contrabbassista.
Sclavis è perfettamente a proprio agio nelle tre tracce in cui figura e, pur conferendo ad esse un carattere proprio, sembra essere più efficace di quanto non sia nei lavori a proprio nome, forse perché libero di dedicare tutta la sua attenzione allo strumento.
Complessivamente quindi un lavoro più che eccellente, che non si consuma al primo ascolto e che mette in vetrina Barretto, un musicista da tener attentamente d’occhio, sia come contrabbassista (ascoltare l’esercizio di virtuosismo con cui conclude il lavoro, “Variacoes em Mi”), sia come leader.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

Trio Viriditas –
Waxwebwind@ebroadway (CF 003)
The most energetic side of Alfred Harth’s creativity, the one which fathers his incredibly inventive solo efforts, should never let us forget that the man was grown and trained, first and foremost, as a jazz player. An album like this is here to remind us, and it’s just unfortunate that this trio does not exist anymore as, sadly, bassist Wilber Morris (brother of composer Lawrence “Butch” Morris”) left us in 2002, the same year in which the record was released. Additional material by these gentlemen will see the light in 2008, though – on this very same label. Harth maintains that Trio Viriditas would have had a great future, because the special chemistry between him, Morris and percussionist Kevin Norton was felt as something truly special. In the latter’s words, “…each concert was a revelation of sonic, formal and even inter-personal possibilities”, the music indeed possessing a kind of “warm” vibe that’s rarely heard in contemporary jazz and remains evident also during apparently hostile fragment: check “Braggadocio”, with its convulsive intersections between Norton’s mallets and Harth’s piquant phrases, Morris calmly swinging a steady pulse in the background. The bassist defined this group as a “democratic working unit”, and indeed there is no doubt about the perfect equilibrium characterizing the material, which to these ears stands out as a well-tempered mixture of reciprocal understanding, immediate intuition and refined technique. “Auda-city”, for example, begins with a sparse dialogue between Morris and Norton, in which Harth enters almost without being noticed, his sax a gentle breeze of longitudinal savoir-faire that furnishes the music with a touch of alternative elegance. “Starbucks” and “Starbucks Variation” would have made Eric Dolphy quite envious; both were penned by AH, who at that time lived in New York’s Lower East Side and wrote the first compositions for the trio in the local restaurants. The only track authored by Morris is the quasi-ritualistic “Interstice”, where the bassist accompanies with his voice a dissonant invocation underlined by Norton’s elastic articulations, while Harth keeps one foot in the tradition and the other in a “no tomorrow” consciousness, his tenor calling out souls from graveyards in an energizing crescendo. The chamber-tinged “Fuer die Katz’s Deli(ght)” is another example of Mr.23’s versatility (by the way, the album title refers to the internet of course, and “www” is thrice the 23rd letter in the alphabet…), a filamentous liaison that ends rather abruptly after making us salivate in expectancy, while “Cue(ball) #1” is the only track credited to Kevin Norton, six minutes of ample intervals and “withdrawn extroversion”, all players very concentrated throughout. “Major Airports” meshes the musicians’ instrumental voices in a final jam where Morris and Harth wave to each other while directed to different circuits that, inexplicably, lead them to the same destination, with Norton using all his palette’s colours to depict the unstable passing of a by now in(di)visible time. The appropriate seal on a noble release.

Els Vandeweyer at Chicago Reader by Peter Margasak

Belgian vibraphonist Els Vandeweyer began her musical career on the classical path, focusing on contemporary pieces while studying at a performing arts school in Antwerp, but when she noticed how many pieces simulated the feel of improvised music she yearned to play the real thing. She decided to study jazz at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where she’s still enrolled, but for the last two years she’s had the best sort of musical lessons, playing in real life situations. She’s spent time in Oslo, working sporadically with some of the scene’s most important figures—including Kjetil Moster, Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten, Havard Wiik, and Paal Nilssen-Love—and in Lisbon, hanging out in the record shop Trem Azul, which is owned by the same fellow who runs the increasingly important Clean Feed label.
While in Lisbon, Vandeweyer and Brazilian saxophonist Alipio C. Neto cofounded Imi Kollektief, an international quintet featuring French trumpeter Jean-Marc Charmier and the Portuguese rhythm section of bassist João Hasselbring and drummer Rui Gonçalves. The band’s sole recording, Snug as a Gun (Clean Feed, 2006), offers the only extended evidence of Vandeweyer’s work; while the songs are spiky and angular, her harmonically rich, jagged lines recall the golden era of Blue Note Records, when Bobby Hutcherson was a fixture on loads of classic albums. Sadly, Vandeweyer’s playing is too low in the mix, but when she solos or her darkly shimmering chords fight their way through, her talent is plain. The raw energy of the quintet and the predilection of Neto to ramp his solos into explosive free jazz terrain fits in nicely with some of the free jazz made here in Chicago, so Vandeweyer ought to feel right at home when she plays three gigs with locals this week.
Tomorrow, August 1, she’ll be joined by a terrific band (guitarist Jeff Parker, reedist Dave Rempis, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Mike Reed) on a program of her tunes at the Hideout; she says her music has changed greatly since she cut the Imi Kollektief record. Then on Thursday at Elastic and Sunday at the Hungry Brain she’ll improvise with two different line-ups of Chicagoans.

Touching Extremes reviw by Massimo Ricci

Bernardo Sassetti – Alice (TA 001)

“Alice” is director Marco Martins’ opera prima, a movie dealing with the anguish and solitude of a father whose daughter has mysteriously disappeared. He looks for her everywhere, to the point of placing many cameras throughout Lisbon in the hope of finding out where she is. Due to this search, his existence becomes a necessary routine, the only way to feel that she’s still with him, because he’s sure that, by interrupting this circle, he would lose her forever. Bernardo Sassetti realized the movie’s soundtrack with his customary sensitiveness, deciding to limit the timbral palette to three colours – his piano, Rui Rosa’s clarinet and Yuri Daniel’s double bass – thus creating what’s probably his most “minimalist” album, an opus that lives beyond its commentary scope and touches deeply with its simple structures and dejected melodic sketches. As a matter of fact, one of the main themes is a clear homage to the Philip Glass of “Glassworks” and “Koyaanisqatsi”, but Sassetti adds spice by subjecting the chromatic line to a 7/4 structure that melts its hypnotic quality down a little. Rosa and Daniel’s intense participation to the music’s sad intensity complements the author’s almost obsessive figurations in splendid fashion, letting us have a glance at the complex system of dazed gestures and desperate, if silent mournings of a man whose loneliness is concrete and burning. The sounds of the city appear every once in a while to highlight and, absurdly, enhance this incessant sorrow. If I’m not wrong, only a Portuguese version of the movie exists on DVD; while we wait for a larger distribution, getting yourself a copy of this beautiful score is certainly easier – and, of course, recommended.