Monthly Archives: September 2007

All About Jazz Review by Nic Jones

Wishful Thinking – Wishful Thinking (CF 078)
In days like these acts of musical subversion are always welcome, especially if they have the effect of provoking the conservatives into apoplexy, as this one just might.
What we have here is the “classic” hard bop quintet line-up of trumpet, tenor sax, piano, bass and drums putting out music that has next to nothing in common with that or any other overt strand of the tradition. What’s here instead is a program of group originals that are largely the antithesis of the rudimentary line for blowing on.
Tenor saxophonist Alipio C. Neto’s “Shi Jing” is a case in point. Over the course of almost nine minutes, nearly all the things that make this so distinctive a group come to the fore. Drummer Rui Goncalves’ snare drum crack is every bit as distinctive as Louis Moholo’s and the energized rushes of sound from all five members of the group sit remarkably easily alongside a line which echoes that of Miles Davis’s Four & More (Columbia, 1964), perhaps as an oblique nod to precedent.
Bassist Ricardo Freitas’s “Zombra” is a whole different deal and as such, a benchmark for just how much ground these guys are capable of covering. Alex Maguire’s piano work shows no overt allegiance to anyone and it’s always a joy to hear a musician whose work is so self-contained. Again there are the abrupt changes of tempo and mood which are hallmarks of this band’s work, but the fact that they’re brought off with such uncontrived aplomb offers maybe the best insight into just how well they function as a unit.
The contrast between the formal and the informal is one of the many things this group brings to the figurative table and this is especially evident on Neto’s “Urs’s Epitaph -DER HIRT. In Memoriam Urs Zuber,” where a dark but translucent line is realized through deft, multi-shaded contributions from the whole group. Again the listener is reminded of just how dense and enigmatic this music can be.
Neto and trumpeter Johannes Krieger are never featured in solo as such, though the subversive heart of this music lies not in such relatively superficial breaks. Krieger’s wistful “Bundawar” encapsulates just how different their roles are throughout the program and the underlying impression is of just how much importance these men attach to color as opposed to the sometimes tiresome results of extended soloing in an idiom that’s been around for over half a century.
Over the course of a program that arguably owes as much to more overtly formal Western art music as it does to jazz as such, it becomes clear that this group has marked out some singular territory. Their efforts in doing so pay ample rewards when it comes to stimulating listening.

Clean Feed NYC Fest review by Martin Longley


Martin Longley pulls together highlights from the recent NYC fest thrown by Lisbon’s forward-looking jazz label, Clean Feed.
Lisbon’s Clean Feed label is a lifeline for jazz players who dangle at the end of the music’s exploratory end, its catalogue stuffed with works by just about every key exponent of free improvisation, controlled improvisation or pre-meditated composition that sounds akin to the act of improvisation. Not so many of the label’s acts are actually Portuguese, and most hail from the US Of America, continuing the venerable tradition of hardcore Stateside music often being nurtured more in Europe, from blues to abstract crunching. Clean Feed’s roster can boast reedsmen Anthony Braxton, Charles Gayle, Steve Lehman and Evan Parker (the latter from the UK), and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love (a Norwegian). A very prolific catalogue has been built up since they began in 2001.

The Cornelia Street Café played host to a four-night mini-fest, featuring three combos on most nights. This Greenwich Village joint has been running for three decades: upstairs a lively three-roomed eatery, downstairs a den of underground iniquity, a long sphincter-walled room, pulsing with amber candlelight, with a tiny stage lurking right down the far end. It’s a fine place to listen, acoustically channelling music within an intimately cosseting tunnel. The Café also hosts a regular poetry evening, the Pink Pony, which has been running for six years, and there are regular platforms for blues and singer-songwriter fare…

Plenty of violins on the Friday night. Mat Manieri was bowing and plucking as a third of Russ Lossing’s Metal Rat, opening the evening with some exceedingly sparse, highly sensitive combinations. New York pianist Lossing released his Metal Rat disc at the year’s beginning. Sean Conly is tonight’s bassist. Together they negotiate delicate, maze-like themes, giving each other plenty of pauses, and relishing the sound of their own spaces. It’s all highly structured, but doesn’t sound overly cerebral. There’ll be another Rat band on tomorrow night, the first sub-theme of the festivities…

The next Friday band boasts two violinists, a second sub-theme, with Tanya Kalmanovich and Christian Howes expanding Indian percussionist Ravish Momin’s usual Trio Tarana to a four-piece. The other player is oud-man Brandon Terzic. Jazz is not surprisingly taken on a journey through the Middle East, to the Indian subcontinent, with Terzic’s strings resonating with a beautifully ringing natural reverb, and Momin playing with a passionate intensity, tenderising his skins with a sequence of constantly surprising rhythmic emphases. He knows how to arrest a booming skin, curtailing his own strikes with a precise stopping technique. Momin will be touring the UK in April 2008…

As a deliberately bombastic contrast, Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra amazingly manage to (mostly) cram onto the stage. Horns are the thing, bolstered only by drums and Lane’s own upright bass. Once again, it’s another outfit with a driving, enthusiastic leader, whipping the butts of his trumpet, reed and trombone front ranks. On cornet, there’s Taylor Ho Bynum, an Anthony Braxton sideman who’s rapidly rising as a solo artist. He mutes cornet with his floppy hat, with his compact disc, and even with his conventional mute attachment, but none of these can fully disguise a stiletto-precise attack. Hard-riffing dominates, with the horn guys cuing tight outbreaks of their own, clusters that are lifted up and dropped down beside the soloist-of-the-moment. Urban nocturnal thrills abound, speeding towards neon seediness.

Saturday night commenced with The Gerry Hemingway Quartet, and really couldn’t get any better thereafter. This percussionist and drummer (here favouring a conventional kit set-up) made his reputation as a longtime Braxton sideman (him again!), but Hemingway’s own work has itself been crucial on the scene. Tonite, he’s in powerhouse mode, but this cannot ever mean meathead knuckling, at least not without attendant grace and complexity. Yes, he’s piledriving like it’s his final appearance on Earth, but can we ever have witnessed such force coupled with this kind of sonic finesse? The quartet cohorts are all equally startling, but even they are casting sidelong glances of amazement at Hemingway’s hypercharged display. Ellery Eskelin and Ron Horton navigate their locked lines on tenor saxophone and trumpet, coolly executed in front of Hemingway and bassist Mark Helias, who seem to have decided on adopting the role of an avant-funk engine room, riffing and pumping whilst the elevated horners ascend overhead. Their 2005 Clean Feed disc, The Whimbler, provides the compositional lodestone throughout.

The tough task of following such brilliance falls to Free Range Rat, with their tussling trumpet, saxophone and bass clarinet, backed by bass and drums. On any other night, they would have seemed more impressive, but straight after Hemingway and crew, they were merely engaging, which, under the circumstances, was sort of good enough.

CF 100 release to be released soon!


Clean Feed will release 7 or 8 new CDs by the end of the year including
CF 100, a historic meeting between Anthony Braxton (reeds) and Joe
Morris (guitar). This is a 4-CD set —a studio recording — of long
improvisations by two of today’s indisputable jazz masters. It should
be out no later than November and is truly an event to look forward to.

We are also proud to announce these other gems that will be available
by late 2007:

Steve Lehman Quartet – Manifold
Dennis González NY Quartet at Tonic – Dance of the Soothsayer’s Tongue
Tamarind Heart (Tony Malaby/William Parker/Nasheet Waits)
Stephen Gauci’s Basso Continuo – Nididhyasana
Júlio Resende – Da Alma
Herb Robertson Ny Downtown Allstars – Real Abberation

Clean Feed Fest II in New York

If you’re in New York don’t miss the Clean Feed Fest II at Cornelia Street Cafe.
10 concerts in 4 days by some of the greatest artists in today’s Jazz.

Check out the program at

Scandinavian Jazz by Peter Margasak

Free Jazz review by Stef

Ethan Winogrand – Tangled tango (CF 074)

Punk and rock drummer Ethan Winogrand has released a modern jazz album with the title Tangled Tango and which is dedicated to Elvin Jones. The relationship between these elements is still not clear after several listens. Winogrand uses the broad jazz traditions as a source for his compositions, and he brings them with a changing line-up consisting of Gorka Benitez on sax, Steven Bernstein on trumpet, Ross Bonadonna on guitar, Carlos Barretto or Eric Mingus on bass. It all sounds very safe, no risks are taken, and there isn’t much new to hear either. Luckily the musicians are good enough to keep the interest going. Nice enough record, but I would have expected more drive and fireworks from someone with a rock and punk background.

All About Jazz Italy review by Ermes Rosina

Anthony Braxton / Joe Fonda – Duets (1995) (CF 079)
Questa ristampa di materiale già pubblicato dalla Konnex riprende il confronto tra il polistrumentismo di Braxton e il contrabbassista Joe Fonda, avvenuto nel maggio del 1995 alla Wesleyan University.
Questo tipo di incontro non è nuovo, avendo Braxton già inciso duetti con altri importanti esponenti delle corde gravi, come Mario Pavone e Peter Niklas Wilson.
L’ascolto di questo lavoro consente di apprezzare due aspetti dell’arte braxtoniana: l’amore per gli standard di Cole Porter (All of You) e Vernon Duke (Autumn in New York) evidenzia il debito verso Paul Desmond, omaggiato con sonorità calde, a tratti avvolgenti, mai torride o ribollenti come in altre occasioni.
Ai classici si affiancano composizioni originali dei contitolari del disco: in Out of the Cage, di Fonda, i due si concedono ampi margini di libertà da rigide maglie armoniche, per concentrarsi sull’esplorazione timbrica dei rispettivi strumenti, perseguita anche in Something from the Past – brano anch’esso a nome del bassista – dove il sassofono pare avvitarsi su se stesso in spire sempre più strette e soffocanti, inframezzate da brevi pause di distensione e respiro.
Nei brani a nome proprio, sempre puntualmente assecondato e ispirato da Fonda, il fraseggio di Braxton si fa frastagliato, talvolta deformato da un’emissione onomatopeica (come nella lunga composition 173, dove si apprezza in maniera particolarmente limpida il gran lavorio di Fonda).
Un’autentico compendio di materia jazzistica che – lungi dall’essere un abborracciato e asettico “bignami” – appassiona l’ascoltatore per l’originalità e la varietà dei suoi contenuti.

Gaz-eta review by Tom Sekowski

Scott Fields Ensemble – Denouement (CF 088)

Guitarist Scott Fields points out in the liner notes to his latest record “We Were The Philks”: “It is my habit to set myself some rules for each project I compose. Otherwise the world is just too big for me. For my contributions to The Phliks book I made myself a rule that every tune would include traditional notation, graphical notation, and improvisation?in the Phliks pieces I would blur the distinction between notated and improvised material.” When one listens to the 70-minute work, a distinct sense of confusion comes about. What is composed and what is improvised? Then again, when the music is this solid, does it really matter? Fields has assembled a stellar cast for the project. His ensemble includes Thomas Lehn on analogue synth, Matthias Schubert on tenor sax and Xu Fengxia on guzheng. Fields’ music sparkles with an unspoken intensity. While his guitar hums with electric sparkles, put together with Xu Fengxia’s distinct hollow guzheng, it is a killer. Add to this Schubert’s intensely satisfying tenor gale blows and Lehn’s other-worldly synth slabs and you’ve got yourself a tight band kicking up a storm. As the sounds alternate between more serene passages and those that simply rock, the music moves in a natural, nearly cyclical way. If there is one factor that sticks out of the mix, it’s got to be Thomas Lehn and his squeaky synth. In applying simple pressure tactics, he often times convinces the other players to follow along into alien territories he favours to tread. Wildly satisfying record from beginning to end.
Working in a different ensemble altogether, Fields’ playing turns into a different animal altogether. Double trio that he put together sometime around mid 90’s, provides the leader ample opportunity to stretch out as a composer and improviser. Competing with him on guitar is Jeff Parker, while the rhythm section is made up of Jason Roebke and Hans Sturm on bass and Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake on percussion. Best thing is each player has its own channel to play into, thus giving perfect chance to hear point-counterpoint between what the other partner is doing at the same time. Fields here sounds more relaxed. In fact, his playing is akin to his better Music&Arts records from mid 90’s. A little on the angular side, but still romping up a healthy dose of all over the map picking. At times bluesy, while other times completely free, it’s difficult to imagine all of these pieces were actually composed. Much of the guitarist’s work sounds somewhat similar to what James Blood Ulmer used to do in the mid 70’s. Roebke and Sturm complement each other quite well, shifting between pure arco and some nasty finger picking action, while both percussionists keep a firm beat on the proceedings. Each takes a turn at soloing, while Drake is master of keeping his distinct personality on the record. Originally released in limited quantities on Fields’ own Geode imprint, the record is finally seeing a much deserved reissue. Glowing with a warm heart and ideas to spare, it’s safe to put “Dénouement” as re-issue of the year so far.

Bagatellen review by Derek Taylor

Joe Morris / Ken Vandermark / Luther Gray – Rebus (CF 083)

Despite a reviewer’s best intentions suppressing them, heightened expectations have a habit of undermining the appraisal of certain albums. Regrettably, this newly released outing by the power trio of guitarist Joe Morris, reed player Ken Vandermark and drummer Luther Gray registers in that category for me. I have a great deal of respect for all three players, having thrilled to their previous work separately and in various combinations over the years. Morris’ meeting with DKV Trio released on Okka back in ’01 speaks to the strengths of Boston and Chicago improv sensibilities, and Gray has been a regular collaborator supplying sticks on some of his best albums. Along with these hits, have come the misfire of the last Morris/Vandermark project with pianist Hans Poppel, a case where the creative gunpowder was a bit wet and the fireworks dampened as a result This one errs closer to that one in that the music feels oddly stifled by the sharply delineated frameworks the players chose to work in.

Referencing the album title for a quick and dirty analogy: it’s as if the three are working from a sack containing too narrow a selection of puzzle pieces. Vandermark and Morris are both highly skilled rhythmic improvisers and it goes without saying that Gray shares similar abiding interest in this area. The stutter stop patterns of their fevered interplay generate a high amount of centripetal aural force that, calling upon a visual corollary, reminds me of an Olympic athlete running vigorously in place. Another binding agent is Vandermark’s decision to limit himself to tenor, the instrument in his armory where his harmonic encumbrances are often most manifest. Morris also often sounds tethered in this respect, his barrages of ricocheting single notes often bouncing within perplexingly confined corridors. His solo on “Rebus, Part 2” marks one of several refreshing exceptions where he opens things up. There’s a fair bit of flash to these pieces, with lots of notes and energy expended, but to my ears not a commensurate amount of heat. The disparity makes me mull again on the project title and the associative mystery as to why these musicians decided to hedge themselves in as they did.

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

Whit Dickey – Sacred Ground (CF 057)
Negli ultimi anni il batterista Whit Dickey sta lavorando proficuamente con lo stesso nucleo di musicisti: in particolare il sodalizio con Joe Morris, al contrabbasso, ma anche all’occorrenza alla chitarra come nel precedente In A Heartbeat è costruito su un concetto di tempo in cui le fratture segnano le criticità degli accenti.
Ma anche la front-line, con Roy Campbell alla tromba e Rob Brown al contralto, è da urlo e si nutre del continuo scambio dialettico tra due concezioni solistiche e di pronuncia differenti, ma splendidamente abbinate.
Sacred Ground prosegue dunque il percorso intrapreso, mantenendo come nei dischi precedenti una struttura in cui prevalgono brani estesi che consentono alla musica di svilupparsi compiutamente, solitamente a partire da temi semplici e spigolosi, come già emerge dall’iniziale “Vortex”. C’è un sapore aspro e malinconico, quasi threadgilliano, in melodie come quella di “Soldier of Uncertainty”, con i due fiati a rincorrersi in complesse linee sopra una ritmica quasi marziale.
La musica però respira, si dilata, consente al leader di introdurre compiutamente in solo la title-track, quasi che il tema ne rotoli fuori per spinta naturale, così come nello swing rapido di “Vital Transmission” lo spostamento verso territori progressivamente impervi avviene quasi per necessità [qui Dickey si lascia andare a un intenso quanto deflagrante lavoro sui tamburi].
Innestato su una tradizione consolidata – la formazione classica “ornettiana” – il quartetto del batterista è una formazione matura, cui mancano probabilmente una personalità più spiccata nei temi e nelle strutture, ma che dal punto di vista improvvisativo e dell’interplay sta dando ottimi frutti.