Daily Archives: November 17, 2007

Cadence magazine review by Jason Bivins

Raymond MacDonald/Gunter Sommer – Delphinius & Lyra (CF 086)
The great Gunter “Baby” Sommer isn’t heard often enough for my taste, so it’s a treat to listen to his duet with the fine Scottish saxophonist MacDonald on “Delphinius & Lyra”. Make what you will of the title’s reference to constellations. What immediately leaps out to me is the wealth of shared history in this one—Sommer had performed with GIO, of which MacDonald is a member—and also the way this disc is one of those familiar but still exciting hallmarks of the cross-cutting paths of European free improvisation. I’d actually been listening to this one for a while by the time I got this review copy, and I’m happy to be able to write some positive words about this boisterous session. Sommer has always been unique in his ability to combine a serious percussive momentum—indebted to Rashied Ali and Sunny Murray, but with rolling repetitive patterns all his own—with pointillism and texture (primarily in his use of his cymbals). That makes him a great foil for the intense MacDonald, whose emotional playing is sometimes a bit harsh and hard-bitten (“Socialist Hip Shit” or the screaming altissimo of the last two tracks) and elsewhere quite plaintive (“I’m OK”). It’s not overly dour or long-suffering—and the guys have some good fun, occasionally breaking out in vocals and harmonica
playing—but has its own weight, achieved simply through focus and fellowship.
©Cadence Magazine 2007 www.cadencebuilding.com 

Cadence Magazine review by Jason Bivins

Mário Laginha Trio – Espaço (CF 090)
Espaco is a fine mainstream session that sounds indebted not only to the usual suspects—Keith Jarrett and Corea circa A.R.C.— but also to some more contemporary masters like Fred Hersch. It’s also got something of the antsy rhythmic sensibility heard from someone like Vijay Iyer. If this suggests a winning combination of vibrant improvisation and melody, that’s about right. From the excellent, bustling stuff heard on the opener—Laginha’s technique is pretty dazzling, but there’s nothing particularly show off-y about it—the disc charms. Part of this is because of the range of materials heard here. On the lovely ballad “Natural Bridge,” for example, the strong Corea vibe is still present but the most memorable aspect of the tune is the leader’s very subtle interplay with Moreira. “Paredes” is an extremely peppy piece, with a whip-crack groove equal parts Roy Haynes and Lenny White, and some Tristano-like improvisations spooling out from the funky core. “Baixo continuo”provides another great example of this group’s language, a complex rolling bass figure (shared by Monteira and Laginha) that is pried open and reassembled creatively. Nothing particularly radical about this disc, but it’s damn enjoyable.
©Cadence Magazine 2007 www.cadencebuilding.com 

All About Jazz review by Nic Jones

Patrick Brennan’s SOUP – Muhheankuntuk (CF 081)

For all of its commitment to a different aesthetic this could be a trio that takes its cues from the Ornette Coleman trio from some forty odd years ago with David Izenzon on bass and drummer Charles Moffett. As is so often the case, however, the comparison is as much hindrance as it is help in assessing the music they produce.

The bass-drums cartel of Hilliard Greene and David Pleasant is coherent and propulsive enough in its own right to prompt thoughts of a duo album. The fact that they lend such force to alto saxophonist Patrick Brennan’s flights makes for the kind of listening that’s both stimulating and deeply satisfying, lending substance to the idea that time spent in the company of this music is time well spent.

“Abundant’” is both an apt title and a case in point. Brennan’s work here has something in common with Marion Brown in the sense that his lines seem similarly pared down, stripped of excess. Pleasant comes on either like a perpetual motion machine or a kind of post-modern Elvin Jones, lending the music a momentum it would otherwise have lacked.

The rhythmic vitality of Greene and Pleasant is not, by any means, merely compensatory for the lack of harmonic input, however. Instead, this is music exhibiting a different kind of intimacy, giving rise in places to the notion that the listener is somehow eavesdropping. This is perhaps most evident on the lengthy ‘The Terrible 3s,” where Greene’s solo bass is commented upon by Brennan and Pleasant in turn, as if the three musicians are, in the best sense, in thrall to their collective musical endeavor.

The aptly titled “Flash Of The Spirit” features the trio of alto sax, harmonica and bass in sympathetic fashion, making for music paradoxically both warm and desolate; evocative, perhaps, of some blasted landscape made non-alien only by the human presence. This is especially evident when Brennan momentarily drops out to let harmonica and bass check each other out in some approximation of the move to understanding.

Placed half way through the program, “’The Hardships” speaks of fundamental truths through Pleasant’s rapping. On first listen it sounds anomalous, but repeated listening reveals it to be something else entirely, namely a kind of call-to-arms in the midst of music that speaks, if not of higher consciousness, then at least of how the interaction implicit in making music is and can be some kind of social panacea.

The Wire review by Barry Witherden

Scott Fields Ensemble – Denouement (CF 088)

This session, featuring two trios of guitar, bass and drums, was cut in December 1997. Chicago based guitarist Scott Fields hawked the recording around for two years, and the labels that bit either backed out or went broke. In desperation he pressed some copies and issued them through his own short-lived label, called Geode.

It would have been easy for the members of the twin trios to get locked into some kind of contest, but Fields chose colleagues aware and willing enough to co-operate rather than compete, and the two winds of the ensemble dovetail superbly into an integrated unit. Fields’s co-guitarist is Jeff Parker, the bassists are Jason Roebke and Hans Sturm, the drummers Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake: it would be hard to distinguish them in a blindfold test, as the players echo, interweave (and listen to) each other with considerable subtlety.

For the session, Fields devised related but dissimilar pitch sets for the two trios, and specified time signatures equal in length but divided differently. If this suggests the music is dry, it isn’t though it is often contemplative and a little opaque. Those, and there seem to be many, who hated Jeff Parker’s sometime gig in Tortoise and the 2005 Fields/Parker collaboration Song Songs Song (Delmark) are perhaps unlikely to connect with Denouement, but for my ten cents it’s inventive and consistently engaging.