Tony Malaby – Tamarindo (CF 099)
Tony Malaby, originario dell’Arizona ma emigrato a New York ormai da qualche anno, non è un “giovanissimo”, eppure compare sempre più spesso negli elenchi e nelle indicazioni sui migliori nuovi talenti.
Questo suo nuovo lavoro discografico, che viene presentato in Italia con una serie di concerti proprio in questi giorni, dimostra bene tutto il suo valore sia di strumentista che di compositore. Si tratta di un disco in cui l’improvvisazione conduce il trio verso dinamiche accentuate in un contrasto a tre serrato, con momenti molto liberi e punte drammatiche.
Il primo pezzo del disco e la title track presentano uno sviluppo lungo il quale di alternano dinamiche di segno opposto. Se in “Buried Head” un piatto ride frustato e velocissimo incrocia perfettamente il profluvio di Malaby, in “Tamarindo” una percussività sempre più tambureggiante trova in Parker (qui in forma smagliante) un sodale perfetto nel sostenere il greve suono sassofonistico e nel condurre il trio verso un apice di libertà.
Ma non sono solo questi due i pezzi da incorniciare. Il timbro a tratti violoncellistico che caratterizza l’esecuzione di Parker su “Floreus and Herbacious” conferisce al brano un andamento sinuoso ed è invece un respiro ovattato, rilassato ma febbrile, a incombere su “La mariposa”. Da ascoltare anche “Floating Head”, in cui il tempoo afro-cubano sorretto con maestria viene messo a dura prova e sconquassato da un improvvisazione sassofonistica vulcanica.
Tamarindo non riesce a sottrarsi al paragone con analoghi trii che hanno fatto epoca nella storia del jazz: a momenti viene in mente Albert Ayler, ma anche Sam Rivers e Charles Gayle. In questo senso questo ascolto potrebbe essere lo spunto per riaprire il recente dibattito sul free jazz, sul dopo free e sulla sua attualità o meglio, come alcuni critici sostengono, sulla sua “non attualità”.
Tuttavia, qui come altrove, proprio il valore dell’improvvisazione che è espressione del momento, e forse anche l’indiscutibile unicità di questo incontro, limitano il riferimento “storico” a degli inevitabili retaggi destinati a riaffiorare in chi suona e in chi ascolta più che imporli come dei modelli pedissequi.
Empty Cage Quartet – Stratostrophic (CF 103)
The Empty Cage Quartet moved back into the studio for a great record, and a much better one than last year’s “Hello The Damage”, and this for a variety of reasons. First of all, the sound quality is excellent, with all four instruments coming across perfectly and well-balanced. Secondly, the band brings brings more variation thanks to eleven tracks that – though not all of the same level – are all sufficiently coherent in their approach to give the album a strong sense of unity. Jason Mears plays alto sax and clarinet, Kris Tiner trumpet and flugelhorn, Paul Kikuchi drums, percussion and electronics, and Ivan Johnson double bass. This is an original Ornette Coleman line-up and the music is surely indebted to him, but even more to bands as Other Dimensions In Music, or Wadada Leo Smith, daring to take the time to improvize on a thin rope above empty space, but with sufficient instrumental skills and perfectly attuned to each other to keep the high quality of interaction going, without tumbling down into the void. Some tracks are fun, others are soulful and beautiful free explorations with lots of contrapuntal interplay by the horns, as on “Through The Doorways Of Escape Come The Footsteps Of Capture”. This title itself tells you something about the band : the music is serious but the musicians don’t take themselves too serious. Some tracks are hard bop with a rhythmic head, improv and back to theme, such as “Old Ladies”, on which all four musicians show their reverence for their musical tradition. But they go even further : “Steps of The Ordinarily Unordinary” sounds almost like medieval European court music. “The Power Of The Great” is dark and brooding. Variety indeed. The great thing about these young musicians is that they stayed and played together for many years and that really pays off. The way they interact on every track is a pleasure to hear, even at the most intricate moments, as in the first track “Again A Gun Again A Gun Again A Gun” – and the repititiveness of the title is also to be found in the music, with all the rhythmic subtleties you may want. They end the album with the 17-minute long climax “Don’t Hesitate To Change Your Mind”, which illustrates again the band’s strengths : a great sense of focused freedom, a great sense of rhythm and interplay, and so soulful and emotional throughout. This is without a doubt their best album so far, and with the upward curve they’re in, we can expect even more fireworks and intensity in the future.
One recommendation though for the band : delete these low quality videos from youtube – they don’t do credit to the band’s music, quite the contrary even.
Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore – A Calculus Of Loss (CF 104)
“Locksmith Isidore” is a trio consisting of Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Kevin Davis on cello and Mike Pride on percussion. Locksmith Isidore is also Jason Stein’s grandfather, figuring on the cover. Stein has played on some real free albums in the past year, Bridge 61, with Ken Vandermark, Kyle Bruckman’s Wrack and in Keefe Jackson’s Project. Mike Pride received good marks from your servant for his “Scrambler” last year, because of his uncompromosing approach. Stein started playing clarinet only when he was twenty, obsessed as he became with jazz after listening to Monk and Dolphy. That fascination drove him to study music at Michigan University where he graduated. Kevin Davis was unknown to me, and appears to be an experimental and free jazz cellist now living in Chicago. His cello-playing on this album is mostly limited to pizzicato playing. The music the trio performs here is special. Their approach is light, open, with lots of space for the individual musicians. The first track is very gentle, with all three musicians outdoing themselves in the softness of their touch and the sparsity in the use of notes, as if they were a rare commodity, to be used with care and in rationed amounts. The second track is more assertive in tone, with stop-and-go rhythms, now aggressive, then plaintive wails coming from the bass clarinet, all improvised but with a strong unity and focus in the approach. Only the third track, “That’s Not A Closet”, has a more traditional structure : a joyful theme is expanded upon with some raw improvisation. The longest piece, “Caroline And Sam” starts with slow experimental sounds, one woven on top of the other, more avant-garde than jazz, but gradually, ever so slowly, the cello starts playing some gentle and graceful arpeggios, accentuated by light vibe sounds, as a fragile lullaby. And that’s probably the strength of Stein’s musical approach : he loves sounds and he loves silence and he loves intimacy and the possibilities of free forms. Yet the trio does not shy away from intense interplay either, as they demonstrate on the fifth track, on which Davis plays arco, competing with Stein in shrillness of sound and both with Pride in some rapid machine gun interaction, but never (totally) out of control, using intensity to emphasize the contrast with the soft underbelly of their improv. The last track is again in a fully composed form, unisono even, sweet and nice, fading out in 30 seconds of absolute silence, resigned. A young band with a great musical vision and strong emotional approach.