Daily Archives: August 4, 2008

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

JASON STEIN’S LOCKSMITH ISIDORE – A calculus of loss (CF 104)
This trio’s peculiar denomination comes from Isidore Stein, Jason’s paternal grandfather who used to be a master locksmith in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan for over 30 years and didn’t trust the banks, keeping earnings stuffed in a sofa (he was right, by the way). Also rather uncommon is the group’s instrumentation which comprises the leader’s bass clarinet, Kevin Davis’ cello and Mike Pride’s percussion. Another intriguing factor is Jason Stein’s beginning as a rock-blues guitarist, subsequently shifting his love onto his current instrument after having met Eric Dolphy’s music, a great influence on his artistic vision. Locksmith Isidore can appear as based in some tradition one moment, swing and jazzy phrasing emerging from the cauldron of decontextualization, then switch to ferruginous EAI protuberances in the next (“Caroline and Sam” could very well be one of those slippery incidental meetings of scrape-and-scratch stillness and minimal melodic fragmentation). The playing is attentive, responsive on all fronts, never transcending to that semi-fetishist rigour that often prevents even gifted instrumentalists to express their timbral qualities in the name of a growingly abused concept of quietness. The conversational openings constantly remain under the sign of democracy, exacerbations of attitude and egotism not allowed; confrontations do happen, but are instantly directed towards a common goal, typically coincident with a non-deterioration of the musical virtues of the improvisations. Immediacy is not this ensemble’s forte: the almost reclusive character of the large part of the material (let’s exclude the short finale “J.H. 01”, a thoroughly lyrical signature if there was ever one) recalls Isidore’s obstinate tendency to hide money in the couch. In this record, the richness of particulars is equally ably disguised.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

Scott Fields Freetet – Bitter Love Songs (CF 102)

Everything in this CD – from the extremely sour liner notes, to the cruelly sneering track titles, to the leader’s “chip-on-a-shoulder” photo in the inlay card of my promo copy – reports of someone who is about to explode following a series of unlucky existential affairs. What better method to channel a potentially destructive fury into a handful of composition for guitar trio, and making them appear delivered from jazz stereotypes as well? That’s what happens in “Bitter love songs”, the latest news coming from Scott Fields, whose clean-but-not-too-much tone characterizes a fine brand of dissonant, almost irritating at times, angular tunes where he’s sustained by Sebastian Gramss on double bass and João Lobo on drums. Hammering down phrases that appear as acrid as one’s mood after a rollicking from the office’s chief, Fields sounds similar to a man obsessed, totally unmindful of the establishment of a harmonic permanence. Ostinato-based figurations and chords full of minor seconds and augmented fifths are served like hamburgers at McDonald’s, one after another in deadpan pessimism, until every honeymoon picture on the wall gets ripped off the frame. The calmer settings are tackled with a sort of extreme aloofness, all the more enhanced by a rhythm section that doesn’t want to know what “regularity of pace” means. The guitarist declares to have kept the words of these bitter songs to himself, but there’s no question that his music stings worse than a lawyer’s bill. If John Scofield (note the curious assonance) decided to go harmolodic, maybe he could ask here for a few lessons.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Luis Lopes – Humanization 4tet (CF 105)

Una pulsazione ipnotica con la cavata del contrabbasso che aggancia subito l’attenzione dell’orecchio, il ribollio della batteria che swinga libera, ed il groove di fondo è servito. Poi entra il tenore, ruvido quanto basta, note in economia per frasi suggerite, frastagliate, penetranti; infine la chitarra, elettrica ma dolce, avvolgente e naive, fuori da schemi e modelli riconoscibili.
Si presenta così l’Umanization 4tet, senza clamori, senza effetti pirotecnici, ma con un suono ben definito, un approccio compositivo originale, un fare un poco ruspante, le idee chiarissime, da formazione navigata. Ed invece sono all’album di debutto. Il leader portoghese Luis Lopes è ottimo compositore, chitarrista anomalo, gran assemblatore di talenti, solista maggiormente interessato al risultato complessivo piuttosto che a mettere in evidenza le proprie abilità o le singole voci.

In “Paso (for Pier Paolo Pasolini)“ si mette al servizio della lunga improvvisazione del tenorista Rodrigo Amado, creando macchie timbriche minime ma perfette nell’esaltare i delicati equilibri. In “Principio da incerteza (for Stephen Hawking)“ attraversa il brano con linee dall’andamento irregolare, utilizzando una tecnica di tipo puntillistico con reminiscenze di Derek Bailey. Mentre in “Long March (for Frida Kahlo)“ sono le venature country-folk alla Bill Frisell a prendere il sopravvento.

Detto dei fratelli Gonzalez, figli del grande trombettista Dennis, coppia ritmica affiatata, mobilissima, elastica, implacabile, non si può non sottolineare la grande personalità del sassofonista Amado. In possesso di un timbro d’altri tempi, che si lanci in improvvisazioni furiose come nella conclusiva “4 Small Steps“, o che costruisca frasi dall’architettura ineccepibile, Amado conserva una musicalità, un senso melodico, una souplesse esecutiva assai rare nei sassofonisti odierni che operano nei territori del jazz più creativo.

Gruppo da seguire con grande attenzione.

Free Jazz review by Stef

Mark Dresser / Ed Harkins / Steven Schick – House Of Mirrors (CF 117)
It is great that musicians keep coming up with creative approaches to music. In “House Of Mirrors”, Mark Dresser (bass), Ed Harkins (trumpets) and Steven Schick (percussion), go in search of planned rhythmic complexities and melodic improvisation, in itself an ambitious endeavour, yet in the hands of these three top musicians, it evolves into something combining the improvisational freedom and soulful intimacy of jazz, with the cerebral calculation of new music. Apart from the odd meters, tempo changes and rhythmic complexities, lots of attention is paid to the sounds of the instruments, leading to quite unexpected but refreshing ideas, such as the water percussion on “Osculla”, to the use of various types of trumpet by Harkins and the “surrealist” pick-ups used by Dresser for his bass (for more insights into this 20 year science project of his, click here). The intense focus on the rhythm gives the music an angular immediacy, with no room for expansiveness or lyrical explorations, requiring extreme concentration from the three musicians to come up with new ideas all the time. Indeed, there does not appear to be one moment on the album where automatisms and practised phrases find a place. On the composed pieces, the music does not flow, it bounces, and the improvised tracks luckily bring the reverse : more flow and less rhythm, making the overall result sufficiently varied and balanced. But whatever the point of departure, every note sounds new and specifically construed, which, together with the strong rhythmic base leads to some hypnotic moments, especially the two longest pieces, “Xonia” and “Osculla”. The various instruments act on exactly the same level to create the overall sound, and the traditional roles between melodic and rhythmic instruments are more often than not inversed, with the trumpet setting the rhythm and the percussion adding variation and color. Some tracks, such as “Rebus”, are totally free improv, and it is even hard to distinguish which sound is produced by which instrument. Dresser had been tinkering with the idea of exploring this approach to music since 1999, when he got acquainted with Harkins’ pedagogical book of rhythms. It took them almost nine years to bring the idea to fruition, and it’s certainly one worth to further explore, but let’s hope a little faster than nine years this time. The overall effect is clever, tight, refreshing, intimate and fragile music.