Daily Archives: May 2, 2008

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci


Tony Malaby’s playing calls your attention violently without sounding brutal. One just needs to leave material things going their way and dive down in the flow, especially when his soprano starts dictating the rules of an otherwise untranslatable jargon, where notes are not squandered around but are given as precious presents in a beatitude of furious consciousness and linear home runs. The rhythm section of Parker and Waits endorses the saxophonist’s vision with the ease that’s typical of trustful comrades, each one influenced by a different credo which, miraculously, reveals itself to be the same for the whole trio at last. The six tracks of “Tamarindo” fly away shortly, mixing a juvenile-like indifference to danger and the rapacious hunger of those jazz players who know, deep in the heart, that they’ll still need to learn something at the end of the path they’re following now. Music that invalidates the theory according to which inundating someone with ideas equals rendering the audience frustrated. In this case, it’s our body-and-soul totality that asks for more, be it Malaby’s whirlwind of prattle and invocation, Parker’s growling similarity to a severe father reproaching a son, Waits’ limb-stretching labour that refuses to negotiate with percussive cheapness. A sample of improvisational purity that must not pass unobserved, standing amidst the overall best Clean Feed releases – no questions asked.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

DENNIS GONZÁLEZ NY QUARTET AT TONIC – Dance of the soothsayer’s tongue (CF 094)

This record was born from a rescued 34-minute tape of a performance that Dennis González (trumpets), Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), Mark Helias (contrabass) and Michael T.A. Thompson (soundrhythium percussionist) delivered at the now dormant New York’s Tonic in the August of 2003 complemented by a studio recording from 2004, directly inspired by the previous year’s set. The whole can be considered as a homage to that historic site, which in 2007 was forced to closure due to the excessive raise of the rents in the Lower East Side. González doesn’t play too much yet he makes sure that every note counts heavily, the timbre softly scorching, the phrases always puzzling under simple dresses seamed with economy and intelligence. Indeed, this music might appear as deceptively skeletal, all the instrumentalists seemingly taking ideas from patterns and shapes that frequently get thoroughly disintegrated, ending their regular life in the clamour of scarcely controllable rituals. The most prominent presence as far as this writer’s feeling is concerned is Thompson’s – probably the true protagonist of the large part of the disc – who is often left free in expressing a total command of the anarchic mathematics of drumming in lengthy solo spots. Eskelin symbolizes the intricacies of jazz more than anyone else here, his reversible logic at the basis of smouldering fragments of lyricism camouflaged as blowing fuses. Helias’ bass is strong-armed and long-ranged, shouting the will of abandoning the constrictions of a rhythm section with thudding mementos that don’t go unnoticed, but also accompanying the leader’s voice with brilliant arco counterpoints when necessary. Bloody passion and killer-like coldness. Just perfect.

Touching Extremes reviw by Massimo Ricci

This is a quite atypical lineup, in that it presents two double basses (Mike Bisio and Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten) as a thick backbone for the evolutions of Stephen Gauci on tenor saxophone and Nate Wooley on trumpet. Upon reading the instrumentation, one could be justified in thinking of a god-awful jumble of low-frequency pumping with squealing swords agitated everywhere. Not so, and I had no doubt about that after having seen the involved names. There’s no abundance of moonbeams here: every note coming from Gauci and Wooley seem to derive from triturated melodies whose crumbles scourge the face of the listener like burning sand carried by the desert wind. In there, we can easily locate refined scribbles of intuitive geniality, which cancel whatever remote influence might have been traced (it takes a good auricular effort to realize that the leader was a student of Joe Lovano). Flaten and Bisio do what expected and a little more, building a booming cage of buzz, drone and pluck lodging their speculative philosophy of the bass, all the while remaining in the undetermined area of instant creation without losing a longitudinal vision of the whole. Being struck by the music at a first try is not easy: give it the necessary attention and the reward is all but assured, also thanks to a fabulously vivid recording quality.

Jazz Review review by Glenn Astarita


Empty Cage Quartet – Stratostrophic (CF 103)

This West Coast USA-based quartet brings quite a bit to the proverbial table.  With a seamlessly integrated bag of concepts and methodologies, the unit merges staggered unison phrasings, dense layers, and spacious environs to its irrefutably divergent arsenal.  Moreover, trumpeter Kris Tiner and alto saxophonist Jason Mears manage to complexly reengineer the thematic component amid poignant extended note choruses and knotty time signatures.

The musicians alter various flows where they venture into modern mainstream, bop and avant-garde, chamber music.  Thrills a minute as they say!  And in other areas of this album, the artists engage in off-kilter military type progressions via regal horns voicings along with periods of introspection and deep-grooves.  Needless to state, they’re a musically well-versed bunch as surprises come at you on a per track basis.  The quartet also explores the freer side of matters, to round out a wondrously balanced program.

On “The Illusion of Transparency,” bassist Ivan Johnson and drummer Paul Kikuchi delve into some asymmetrical cat and mouse type dialogues.  Then with the album finale titled “Don’t Hesitate to Change Your Mind,” the hornists and rhythmic section generate an ascending climax via glaring horns and soaring movements.  There you have it: one of the finest jazz outings of 2008.  To that end, good things should be on the horizon for this very exciting and strikingly clever outfit.