Monthly Archives: December 2007

Tomajazz review by Diego Ortega Alonso

Lisbon Improvisation Players – Spiritualized (CF062)

Nuestros vecinos portugueses se siguen tirando al barro, y cada vez lo hacen con más gusto, más riesgo y más gracia. Prueba de ello es el impresionante resultado de este Spiritualized, que goza de un desparpajo que ya lo quisieran muchos de los nuevos improvisadores, ya no sólo europeos, sino de cualquier parte de la escena mundial. La conexión Amado-González funciona como un engranaje perfecto al frente de los vientos de la formación, y ambos músicos demuestran tenerse el uno al otro un feeling que no puede sino desembocar en diálogos que parten de melodías sencillas, y que se persiguen mientras van complicando sus respectivos solos. Con ello, dan las alas suficientes a Gonçalves y Pedroso para que se unan a la fiesta musical in crescendo que se va montando.

Lo que en principio parece un caos de sonidos poco a poco se va configurando como una estructura sólida, siempre al antojo de los músicos, aunque estos mismos vuelven a desestructurar las melodías cuando creen oportuno. Si a ello añadimos el virtuosismo con manejan sus instrumentos, sólo nos queda disfrutar de los envites musicales que nos ofrecen. Sin embargo, hay que entender que se trata de música tal vez difícil para el aficionado que comienza a aproximarse a la libre improvisación y al Avantgarde, pero si hacemos el esfuerzo y entendemos la música como un lenguaje que no se debe de quedar en el oído simplemente, sino que ha de trascender un poco más adentro, nuestro esfuerzo se verá recompensado gratamente. Incluso los títulos de los temas nos invitan a situarnos en un plano distinto: “Tensegrity”, “Dreams/Reflections”, “Rising Spirits”, “Spiritualized”… Porque además de desenfado y virtuosismo, esta música se caracteriza por su hondo calado espiritual, especialmente a partir de la mitad del disco, y culminando en los temas en los que participa el violonchelista Ulrich Mitzlaff, que aporta con el sonido característico de su instrumento la base perfecta para que las improvisaciones de Amado y González adquieran cierto carácter místico.

La cumbre de esta búsqueda está en el tema que da título al álbum, un estupendo “Spiritualized” que los músicos bordan, con un fenomenal Pedroso inventando ritmos austeros que, sin embargo, rebosan vida, y un Gonçalves que aprovecha el colchón que le ofrece el chelo sonando como viento junto a la trompeta, envolviéndolo todo con un colosal sonido.

Free Jazz Top 10 2008 by Stef

Top 10 in random order (and as said before, I am not good at maths)

Raymond MacDonald & Günter “Baby” Sommer – Delphinius & Lyra : raw, expressive, creative
Tony Malaby – Tamarindo : raw, deeply emotional, sensitive, creative
Larry Ochs & Drum Core – Up From Under – powerful, creative, expressive
Exploding Star Orchestra – We Are All From Somewhere Else : an absolutely unique listening experience
Louis Sclavis – L’Imparfait Des Langues : a wonderful integration of many styles
Padmanabha & Daniel Carter – Nivesana : the essence
Wadada Leo Smith & Günter “Baby” Sommer – Wisdom In Time : the essence too
Dennis Gonzalez – Dance Of The Soothsayer’s Tongue : emotional and sober jazz
Mark O’Leary – On The Shore : superb and sober creativity
Other Dimensions In Music – Live At Sunset : this is free jazz
Marc Ribot – Asmodeus : power guitar with subtlety
Brian Groder – Torque : subtle creative
Henri Texier – Alerte à L’Eau : Texier, himself

To see the categories “special mentions” and “re-issues” please check

Free Jazz review by Stef

Tony Malaby/William Parker/Nasheet Waits – Tamarindo (CF099)
The end of the year still held a serious contender for the best albums of 2007. Tony Malaby is an absolutely exquisite saxophonist, whose first records “Sabino”, “Apparitions” and “Adobe”, offered a modern creative kind of jazz, but then he moved into free-er territory with Angelica Sanchez (his wife) and Tom Rainey (two albums which are easy to recommend), but what he brings here exceeds all expectations. This is free music of the highest levels, with three musicians at the top of their skills, with William Parker on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. It seems after several listenings that for each of the tracks the only anchor point is a wonderful melody that Malaby keeps up his sleeve for a long time into the piece, while the trio builds up to its release. And the build-up is extreme, moving over the whole emotional range humans can have, from anger and fear to joy and happiness, with everything in between, captivating from beginning to end, with all three musicians exceeding themselves : Malaby can play hesitantly, sensitively, he soars, sings, stutters and screams, Parker too is sensitive, playing his raw arco, but every so often falling back on powerful vamps, then releasing tension again for more pointillistic efforts, and Waits is stunning too, creating wonderful accents, impacts and depth into the music, counteracting with violence when the melody is soft, or being very subtle in the harder moments. And all three play with melody, sound, rhythm and tempo as if it’s the easiest thing on earth, changing them, playing them, changing them again, …

On the first track “Burried Head”, Malaby’s playing is sensitive, hesitant, while the rhythm sections just offers support, no rhythm, acting as a sounding board rather, then Parker starts a fast bass run, followed by Waits, pushing Malaby to some high rhytmic stutters, evolving into a repetitive theme conjured up from nowhere, leading into a powerful, fast and mad solo in the middle section, then breaking down again in plaintive and melodic resignation, while Waits plays in different tempo, with counter-rhythms, yet Parker brings them all back together, Malaby ending with a soft melody, a precursor to the albums main theme coming up later.

“La Mariposa” is a softer piece, more abstract in its harmonic development, with Malaby on soprano soaring high like a butterfly. The most beautiful piece is the title track, which starts with a great melodic theme, evolving into some more free expansion of it, then repeating the theme in a whailing, lamenting kind of way, somewhere between jubilant admiration, joy and pain, evolving into screeching fear and utter chaos of the whole trio, until they find their footing again, repeating the theme, resigned, somehow still in jubilant wonder.

On the intro to “Mother’s Love”, Malaby creates flute-like sounds on his sax, gentle, moving, inviting Parker in to the music with some subtle arco, Waits adding raw percussive accents, flowing the whole into some ambiguous environment of beauty and emotional strain.

The last track “Moving Head” starts with a nice Parker ostinato bass, Waits lightly propulsing the track forward, while Malaby flies above this, not really playing a melody, but talking really, speaking, crying, … lightly touching upon the theme of the title track, ending in a plaintive long whail.

What they play here is so free, so open, so melodious, yet at the same time so coherent in its sound, its structure and execution, that you wonder how they did it. I’ve listened to it more than ten times now, I think, yet it’s a revelation again with each listen. It’s broad, deep, rich, intense, beautiful. This album is superb. Not to be missed.

Jazz Review review by Glenn Astarita

Tony Malaby / William Parker / Nasheet Waits – Tamarindo (CF099)
This is a high-impact free-form progressive jazz extravaganza brought to us by three hard-hitting heavyweights of the genre. No doubt, this trio comes at you from all angles, to include avant world-music tinged passages to asymmetrical swing vamps, often accelerated by drummer Nasheet Wait’s pulsating ride cymbal strokes. Tenor/soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby pronounces moments of angst and terror while bass great William Parker punches out the sinewy discourses via fluid lines and gruff, arco passages.It’s a mighty force of three that lays it all out within various rhythmic matrixes. With jangling drums, pounding accents and a great deal of counterpoint, the band also delves into nip and tuck style motifs. They instill a sense of perpetual movement throughout. And it’s the largely, budding frameworks that often serve as the foundation for Malaby’s spiraling sax lines. For example, on “Floating Head,” the rhythm section executes a cascading Latin vamp, while subsequently slamming matters into overdrive. In effect, sparks are flying everywhere.

The band tones it down and alternates the flow in numerous segments, but the preponderance of this set is designed with fortitude and power. To that end, the musicians integrate numerous emotive aspects that shine glisteningly through the art of intuitively generated improvisation. They’re at the top of their game here.

like rain whispers mist review on Clean Feed by Michael McCaw

Label of the Year

If you look in the jazz magazines, the label contests are pretty much a three horse race between Blue Note, Verve, and ECM. But dig deeper into the great music being released nowadays and you’ll find there are a lot of creative labels out there releasing great music.

From the more traditional sounding SteepleChase, Criss-Cross Jazz or even Palmetto Records, the distribution houses like Sunnyside, to the more avant and niche labels like CIMP, Pi Recordings or Rogue Art – never mind the ever present Tzadik label and the hundreds of other independents. Nonetheless, the most consistently invigorating label this year for my ears has easily been Portugal’s Clean Feed Records.

“Made in Lisbon,” Clean Feed was formed in 2001 and has quickly begun to release a steady stream of high quality jazz running the gamut from the more straight ahead to the freer sounds so many enjoy (but I yet to hear sometimes, sorry Evan Parker still doesn’t work for me really). From both local and international renowned artists including Ken Vandermark, Dennis González, Bernardo Sassetti, Joe Morris, Mark O’Leary, João Paulo and now Tony Malaby – everything is worth hearing, and often worth repeated listens. And how many labels openly offer that they “let the musicians decide what they want to do and having [their] ears as open as possible.”
No disrespect to Blue Note, which has ended up having a decent year mainly centered around live releases, but it is hard to argue that any label has had as many artistic high notes as Clean Feed this year. Beneath the music player is an informal email interview comprised of some questions I had for Pedro Costa of Clean Feed. The fist thing you’ll notice about his responses is that this is a music business based around the music, which ultimately comes across in the sounds. Just like the label name intends…

Below, you can hear some of the tunes from many of their 2007 releases by clicking play or just a particular tune below by double clicking on a song title. The tunes are what were hitting me today as I shuffled about the catalog, but damn if a lot of it doesn’t refute what some I know consider to be primarily a free jazz label.

Clean Feed, unlike many, European labels has worked hard to make finding their music easy including being apart of eMusic, AudioLunchbox and Amazon’s MP3 download launch. They also have a slew of MP3s available at Last FM that you can download and listen to at your leisure. Support these artists and labels by purchasing the music and seeing the artists in concert!

What was the impetus for the formation of Clean Feed?

I was always a record freak so to me starting a label was like a mission even before I started listening to Jazz. I worked in record stores for 15 years and too see that great musicians were not being taken care of by important Jazz labels gave me the strength to start this.

How did it come together?

That’s a long story but it started with me and my two brothers in 2001. We started the previous year when I and my older brother, Carlos, started producing some music events for others. We knew we had to start our own company and to have a label was a dream that could come true as an extension. So we had the Implicate Order (Steve Swell, Ken Filiano and Lou Grassi) touring in Portugal and also recorded them for the first Clean Feed record. Those were both the first concert the company organized and the first record we did. I’m very happy that we started with these people that are still our greatest friends.

So, we started as concert promoters and jazz label but also a distributor. We kept dreaming of a Jazz store that we now have. Now the dream is to have a Jazz club in Lisbon. Maybe it won’t take too long. That will really close the circle.

Now the company is me, my older brother Carlos, Ilídio and Hernani. Working with us we have Madalena (a true angel) and Jorge (a guy that can do everything and he’s willing to).

Why call the label Clean Feed?

This was saxophonist Rodrigo Amado’s idea. He joined the force briefly after the company started and that was the name he had for his first record. Knowing him as I do, I think this name was in his head for a long time. It’s a technical video term to define feeding a pure signal.
That’s the meaning of all this, let the musicians decide what they want to do and having our ears as open as possible.

Is there a label creed of some sort?

Not really we had such a belief before we started but now I can see one, to release organic improvised music that should also be called Jazz. At least I think this is the spirit of Jazz, freedom, openness, improvisation.

How do you guys operate in recruiting talent / releases? Off the cuff examples being Fight the Big Bull, Júlio Resende, Mark O’Leary, Vandermark etc…

Well, I try just to listen to the music whether it comes from known musicians or unknown. I have a special delight in releasing great young musicians with a concept which is something the big labels like Blue Note did once a long time ago. It’s a kind of obligation that we feel, to expose the talents of our time. Others do the opposite and that’s fine too. It’s funny that you mention Fight the Bull, a truly great project that I was listening again this morning on my way to work. Great music, great spirit.

Also it seems Dennis Gonzalez has found a real home with you guys, care to elaborate…

I was a Dennis fan for a long time. I always loved his music- always mysterious, organic but very sophisticated.

When we met, it was like two bothers separated at birth. He’s like a twin to me. A beautiful person with a beautiful family that we try to keep with us the most we can. When he plays a note in his trumpet, it is like a sun ray, sometimes only his presence is such a thing. Very powerful yet very delicate human being.

Global outlook? It’s obvious you see the internet as your primary means of distribution especially in making the music available through associations with Audio Lunchbox, eMuisc, etc…

When we first started out, I felt sorry that Clean Feed wasn’t in New York or Chicago, close to a strong scene. But today I see it as a blessing to be away from everything else that is killing the music, be away from strange politics and just hear the music, this is very clear to me. Besides, from here I can see a lot of things that most of the people that live in New York, Chicago, Paris or London where there’s strong Jazz scenes can’t see, the entire world.

The internet just makes everything close, as close as you want; it’s just a matter of keeping contact going. I have a great relationship with musicians I never met or hardly met. Of course I have the vibe through the music and that says a lot of the people that plays it. It’s incredible how the music can really speak and tells what’s in people’s minds. That’s to me the strongest quality of Jazz, revelation.

Personal favorites, releases or artists?

I can say that from the catalogue you can see how much we care for people like Dennis, Gerry Hemingway, Scott Fields, Joe Morris, Will Holshouser, Bernardo Sassetti, Ken Filiano, and Lou Grassi. All great people that play great music.

What are your plans for the future, outlook, etc…

The plans are to keep releasing unknown great musicians, keep working with the ones we care and try to have others join the rooster like Ellery Eskelin, Louis Sclavis, Craig Taborn, Alex Schlippenbach, Joachim Kühn, and many others from both sides of the Atlantic.

By the way, a good way to gauge what releases might hit your ear best is to visit the Clean Feed Records Blog (with one of the best headers I have seen) which collects all the press relating to their releases as well as other randomness.

Free Jazz review by Stef

Stephen Gauci’s Basso Continuo – Nididhyasana (CF 101)
The Basso Continuo in the title of this album refers to the double “double basses” of Michael Bisio and Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten, with Nate Wooley on trumpet and Stephen Gauci on sax. An unusual line-up, but what what an album! The title track starts with both basses exploring the tune, reacting to each other, as a lead-in for Gauci’s wonderfully warm and melodic tenor. The title means “uninterrupted contemplation”, illustrating the spiritual elements underlying Gauci’s music, which is spacious and open, but intimate, in the moment, in the notes almost. Wooley is the perfect counterpart for this : one of the best avant-garde jazz trumpeters of the moment, versatile, eloquent and creative. In the first track he brings the melody to a staccato rhythm, with one bass changing to arco, and then the whole quartet joins and the music they play is like layers of sound intermingling, fast, nervous, yet focused at the same time. The absense of percussion adds to the intimacy, yet the basses offer each other sufficient support to cover for that absence. The first track ends in some incredible bowed bass duet, over which Gauci plays plaintive emotional tones. The second track is more joyful to start with, with the horns echoing each other in long sustained tones, with a slow walking bass providing the rhythmic basis, but the mood gradually shifts to pumping basses and anxious horn sounds. The third track is my favorite, with some haunting sax-playing by Gauci, unusual experimental stuff by Wooley, evolving a into heart-rending bass-trumpet duet, then the other bass takes over with a simple line over which Gauci plays beautiful sax phrases. The last track is the shortest, starting very agitated by bass and trumpet, and the overall mood is not changing when the other bass and the tenor join. In short, this is very powerful, very open music, with lots of intensity. It shows that all musicians have played together before in one or the other band. Gauci’s musical vision is one worth further exploring.

Jazz Review review by Glenn Astarita

Alípio C Neto Quartet – The Perfume Comes Before the Flower

Brazilian saxophonist/composer Alipio C. Neto has been working the Portuguese free-jazz scene for a few years now, but performs with three prominent New York-based jazz acolytes on this vibrant new outing.  Layered, boisterous and operating from a nicely in-your-face impetus, the music spans avant-garde New Orleans second line jazz (featuring tubaist Ben Stapp) amid frenetic and kaleidoscopic movements.  Here, Neto and trumpeter Herb Robertson’s plaintive cries ride atop semi-structured arrangements and garrulous, group-centric free improvisational maneuvers.

Sparks are flying everywhere throughout.  The ensemble generally engages in climactic theme and story-building exercises as they inject a sense of drama into works that are often framed by powerhouse drummer Michael T.A. Thompson’s asymmetrical beats.  Featuring regimented horns-led choruses and elements of pathos and wit, the musicians even fuse some off-kilter world music motifs into the mix.  Then in other regions of this disc they abide by a jittery and somewhat neurotic gait via animated phrasings and periodic moments of angst.  On “la réalité – dancing cosmologies,” Stapp’s pumping tuba lines accelerate a jagged, New Orleans brass band motif, marked by Neto and Robertson’s torrid solo spots.  Either way, Neto casts a worldly spell during the preponderance of this most intriguing set.

New York Times review by Ben Ratliff

Joe Fiedler Trio – The Crab (CF 092)
A jazz trio led by a trombonist equals hard work for the trombonist. That’s especially true when the group’s sound and strategies are up to date, such that everyone’s more or less soloing all the time. Joe Fiedler, a New York trombone player who is genuinely all over the map — you’re equally as likely to see him playing with salsa bands as in free-jazz festivals — has made an excellent new record, “The Crab” (Clean Feed), with the bassist John Hebert and the drummer Michael Sarin. Even with so much to play, Mr. Fiedler doesn’t flag. And yet you don’t get tired of his sound, which is big and gritty. You can hear salsa trombonists like Barry Rogers in his playing, as well as the jazz improvisers Albert Mangelsdorff and Roswell Rudd.

All About Jazz review by Laurel Gross

Joe Fiedler Trio – The Crab (CF 092)
Trombone can be incredibly affecting and riveting but is too often an underappreciated instrument, not always receiving the full respect or platform it deserves, even when its inborn versatility is masterfully handled by practitioners who grapple with its challenges and make it soar. No matter what music, mood or master it serves, this long and shiny sliding thing is extremely capable of conveying the distinct personality and intent of each artist who fights the worthy battle to realize its (and their own) singular potential. On his latest release, The Crab, Joe
Fiedler shows what its diverse capabilities can be when excellently played – and his own adventurous, expansive spirit and technical prowess add to the pleasures. Fiedler has chosen a concentrated trio session, showcasing veteran rhythm spinners John Hebert (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums), that feels as organic but also as well-conceived and constructed as any object in nature. The result is a deeply expressive and highly effective modern jazz album. This inventive trombonist has performed Latin inflected music and clocked in many a night in such big bands as that of Charles Tolliver and Satoko Fujii. He produced a well-received tribute to trombone innovator Albert Mangelsdorff last year and his name
has been linked with the tradition of Ray Anderson and Roswell Rudd as well as Barry Rogers. But here, like the sturdy crab, Fiedler reaches for what he hears
in his own head and digs into his composing and playing resources, offering new ways of experiencing the instrument. The traditional term ‘solo’ seems inadequate and even outdated when applied to what happens on these aesthetically satisfying tracks, as all instruments are featured, their focused interfacing seamless and indivisible even though the trombone is out front, as it rightfully should be. This is an endeavor that merits repeated listening and adds to the overall sum of the trombone’s many charms.

WNUR Jazz review by Mike Szajewski

Raymond MacDonald/Gunter Baby Sommer “Delphinius & Lyra” (CF 086)

It is rare that free jazz drummer develops such a distinct style as German master Gunter “Baby” Sommer, one of the most noted free jazz players of the European scene during the 70’s and 80’s. Although he didn’t play on as many seminal albums as Han Bennink, who established himself amongst jazz aficionados as the pioneering percussionist in Central Europe during the 60’s and 70’s, Sommer is known for his ability to create an infectious, quirky sense of rhythm through use of a lighter approach to the percussion, as opposed to the sonic aggression approach. For more proof, see 1988’s “Reserve” and 1982’s cult classic “Pica Pica,” both featuring Peter Brotzmann. It is exactly this style that Sommer brings to the table in this duo with Scottish reed master Raymond MacDonald. MacDonald first began producing material in the mid-90’s, but has blossomed in the new millennium, most notably as the co-leader of an ensemble with George Burt. On this album, MacDonald thrives thanks to a master a furiously squeaky style which perfectly compliments Sommer’s earthy, and subtly catchy percussion work.