Daily Archives: March 17, 2008

All About Jazz review by Clifford Allen

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Scott Fields Freetet – Bitter Love Songs (CF 102)

The Freetet is ostensibly Cologne-based guitarist Scott Fields’ “traditional blowing vehicle,” and Bitter Love Songs is his first in the guitar-bass-drums format since Mamet (Delmark, 2001), with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang. On Bitter Love Songs, he’s joined by German bassist Sebastian Gramss and Portuguese drummer Joao Lobo. What makes this date a semi- departure for Fields is that, in the last six years, most of his work has been for chamber ensembles with unique instrumentation; improvised but with challenging notation. These include Beckett (Clean Feed, 2006) and We Were the Phliks (Rogue Art, 2007).

”Yea Sure, We Can Still Be Friends, Whatever” opens Bitter Love Songs, an evermore scumbled improvisation on a simple-but-effective bluesy theme, from fleet mid-range choruses to muted smears interspersed with referential flecks. Gramss and Lobo make a solid post-bop pair, yet seamlessly enter into frantic collective interplay as Fields’ runs become blurred.

More pointillist is “Go Ahead, Take the Furniture, At Least You Helped Pick It Out,” occupying similar structural territory to Fields’ more delicate chamber pieces, while still sallying forth with a pliant groove.

What might separate this group from “traditional” theme-solos-theme orientation is that, for the most part, the leader is the only soloist (Gramss is spotlighted on “I Was Good Enough for You…”). Nevertheless, the Freetet’s approach is certainly unified—as Fields’ playing becomes more fragmentary and texturally diverse, Gramss and Lobo up the ante. Indeed, the bassist is frequently the first to follow Fields in speedy plucked lines, as mutual shading soon approaches a locking of horns.

”My Love is Love, Your Love is Hate” (winner of the shortest-title contest on this disc) finds the writing becoming progressively more seasick in a hellishly knotty melodic/rhythmic collision, Lobo’s suspended time gradually filling in momentum alongside the strings’ ornate picking, digs and scrapes. Sub-tonal jabs behind the bridge approach British guitarist Ray Russell’s territory, before the trio brings the tune into a muddy thrum. One must be prepared for relentlessness with this disc—even the brief calm of a dusky Grant Green-ish melody on “Your Parents Must Be Just Ecstatic Now” is quickly overtaken by a storm of fuzz and piercing shards.

When Fields and guitarist Jeff Parker convened a double-trio for Denouement (Geode, 1997, reissued on Clean Feed), the level of interplay from the “paired Freetets” astounded this writer. On Bitter Love Songs, multiplying the equation is unnecessary, as there’s so much music available here.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=28722

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All About Jazz double review by Marc Medwin

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Adam Lane – Buffalo (CIMP)
Magnus Broo / Adam Lane / Paal Nilssen-Love / Ken Vandermark – 4 Corners (CF 076)
These two recent releases prove, if further proof was needed, that Adam Lane is an original voice of which all bass enthusiasts should take note. His sense of groove is matched by his love of mode and penchant for stabbing at the dissonances just beyond.

The Buffalo set, a live date before a small but appreciative audience in that upstate New York burg, might have degenerated into a New Thing blowing session were it not for drummer Vijay Anderson’s affinity for shifting pulse. He switches it up several times throughout the first track, as we hear “Spin” being born out of collective listening. Sliding back and forth between swing and freedom, the quartet benefits from Lane’s solid guidance. Let no misconceptions abound though—he is no stranger to rhapsody, as the scorching but somehow meditative solo that opens “Without Being” makes plain. Saxophonist Vinny Golia and trumpeter Paul Smoker complement the rhythm section beautifully and if things are a bit loose throughout, the constant energy and invention keep things moving.

4 Corners, also recorded in performance but this time in Portugal, is an altogether tighter and harder-edged affair. This version of “Spin” broils and churns, thanks to Lane’s distortion pedal, but never looses a certain playfulness; Saxophonist and nominal co-leader Ken Vandermark bobs and weaves with sympathetic and airtight staccatos, no doubt due to his long experience with metrically-varied composition. When the groove dies down, there is room for wonderful duets between the extremely versatile drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and trumpeter Magnus Broo, the former able to change colors at the drop of the proverbial hat. The solos, largely of the “free” variety, never feel forced amidst the more rigorously composed passages—contributed almost equally by Lane and Vandermark—that pervade the energetic set.

Ranging from cool to red hot, these discs capture Lane and his fine work in the multiple roles of leader, soloist and composer. The jagged beauty of his compositions speaks to his knowledge of tradition and willingness to extend it.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=28639

Gaz-Eta review by Tom Sekowski

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Mark O’Leary – On the Shore (CF 091)

I can’t remember a time over the past year that I was affected by a guitar player as much as the playing of Irish string-whiz Mark O’Leary.  Though over the years, he’s released a number of solid records for Leo imprint, none have come close to what O’Leary achieves with “On The Shore”.  Here, he’s able to create entire landscapes from scratch.  When he’s surrounded by ace players – percussionist Alex Cline and trumpeters Jeff Kaiser and John Fumo – there’s a delicacy that is heard rummaging on the surface of the strings of his guitar.  His playing is pensive but he’s never unsure of the direction he’s driving the band in.  Though on first hearing, O’Leary’s playing may be mistaken for someone like John Abercrombie, on closer listen, one hears a distinct O’Leary style.  He’s more forceful and at the same time, plays with more care and delicacy.  Kaiser and Fumo work in tandem, trading off trumpet calls in a subtle way, while Cline is best when he resorts to using stones, sticks and shells in his percussive palette.  Resulting music is quite moving, without resorting to clichés or working against odds at turning the listener onto something entirely new.  The season of O’Leary is long upon us and “On The Shore” will stand as the cornerstone that pushes his music into un-chartered territories. 
http://www.gaz-eta.vivo.pl/gaz-eta/recenzje/gazeta.php?nr=64&id=s_1