Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fight the Big Bull (CF 108) release party

Fight The Big Bull Live at Cous Cous Richmond Virginia Sing along with Fight The Big Bull at their CD release party at Cous Cous. This is a compilatiion video of various songs including Weezer from The Blue Album, and The Band. The picture brightens up significantly at the 4 minute mark thank…

All About Jazz review by Greg Camphire

Trio Viriditas – Live at Vision Festival VI (CF 115)
Recorded at the 2001 edition of the long-running New York concert series, Live at Vision Festival VI showcases the top-notch Trio Viriditas, featuring reedsman/trumpeter Alfred Harth, percussionist Kevin Norton, and the late Wilbur Morris on bass. The long overdue release of this set follows the band’s studio effort waxwebwind@ebroadway (Clean Feed, 2002); both capture a band that capitalizes on a 70s loft jazz sensibility, combining a broad palette of improvisational and compositional approaches.

“Wind at the ear says June” launches the performance, as the trio swings in and out of different pockets, alternating between groove and pure texture. Harth’s antics on pocket trumpet recall Lester Bowie’s arch humor, while Norton’s bass drum is tuned to perfection to create a welcome center of gravity. The tune eventually deconstructs into an aura of vocal cries, bowed bass, and shimmering scraped cymbal bells, offering a warped sense of both dread and absurdity.

Harth is pretty sensational throughout the set, erupting outside his mouthpiece at times with vocalized yet nonverbal testifying, like a preacher with his tongue tied by the presence of a spiritual possession. Norton is a huge asset to the group, a virtuoso on the traps as well as vibraphone. And the late Morris plays like a grand master, with a huge tone earned from bandstand experience with Pharaoh Sanders, Horace Tapscott, and David Murray among others; he is sorely missed from the scene. Together, the band’s chemistry lights a spark that keeps even their most free playing linked by deep communication and trust.

Occasionally, when the trio veers into complete energy meltdowns recalling late-period John Coltrane, it can become a bit hysterical and wearisome, but only momentarily. The three musicians have their listening instincts sharpened, always creating logical yet surprising conclusions to what they played before. In this way, Trio Viriditas mines similar territory to earlier artists such as Air or Sam Rivers’ various trios over the years.

On “Melancholy,” the three set a mood befitting the tune’s name and utilize a refreshing lineup of sax, bass, and vibes. The tune manages to approach late-night, Miles Davis ballad territory, as well as the primordial wail of Albert Ayler’s pre-bop sensibility. Other highlights from Live at Vision Festival VI include the tasty modal swinger “A wind reads ruts saluting the blue silk beyond pain,” the ambient and contemplative “Braggadocio,” and the Monk-like playfulness and mystery of “Fuer die Katz’s deli(ght)+Starbucks.”

But the true gem of the set is Trio Viriditas’s gorgeous, album-ending rendition of Horace Silver’s “Peace,” again with the unique sax/bass/vibes instrumentation. The players honor the piano master’s original ballad melody with a tasteful interpretation, while also singing their own song. And after all, isn’t that what jazz is all about?

Paris Transatlantic review by Clifford Allen

Carlos Zíngaro / Wilbert De Joode / Dominique Regef – SPECTRUM (CF 110)
Spectrum is the work of a pan-European string trio that brings together Portuguese violinist Carlos Zíngaro, Dutch bassist Wilbert De Joode and French hurdy-gurdy player Dominique Regef. They take a different approach from similarly constituted groups like the String Trio of New York or the Kent Carter String Trio: no composed pieces or programmatic music, no bagatelles or dance pieces here – this is unruly, rough-and-tumble free music. Another thing that sets the group apart is the use of the hurdy-gurdy, a Renaissance wheel violin which allows the player to accompany his melodies with a constant drone, much like a bagpipe. Early-music instruments rarely make their way into contemporary music, much less free improvisation, so Spectrum’s unique palette is something of a treat for weird bowed-instrument loyalists.
The set begins with Zíngaro and de Joode’s broad arco sashays, bolstered underneath by Regef’s slight scrabble. These movements soon become tighter, detailed, less tonal, and the space occupied ever narrower through ponticello, massive bass clusters, and peals of metallic hurdy-gurdy scrape. Then, quickly and almost imperceptibly, the trio recedes into darting, hushed sounds and terse plucks in an array of sparse gestures and solid blocks. The final third of “Spectra 01” offers one of those “how did they get here” moments, Regef finding a nasty little low phrase to repeat and anchor a swarming line, subsuming de Joode’s throaty pizzicato and teasing scuttled mimicry from Zíngaro’s extended ballets before a unison hum closes it out. The second improvisation begins with Regef snipping away at the East European-flavoured violin-bass interplay, before a more resolute drone emerges to act as a launching pad for Zíngaro’s stark song. Nearly a half-hour in length, “Spectra 02” offers a peek at the cranked facility of Regef’s handiwork on an instrument that may seem almost primitive; his contributions flit within a narrow range, and are fleshed out by subtle sonic heaves. Spectrum is nasty, vicious and rhapsodic music, altogether an extraordinary addition to the improvised string-music pantheon.

Cadence Magazine review by Bill Donaldson

Steadily increasing his presence among some high-profile groups in New York, including Fred Hersch’s, Mark Helias’ and Paul Motian’s, Tony Malaby has incrementally expanded his reputation to create ever greater awareness of his propensity for exploring unconventional avenues of musical thought. However, Malaby’s improvisational power achieves its greatest fulfillment when he works with one of his trios. Tamarindo provides much evidence of Malaby’s considerable talent and unrestrained immersion into his music when bassist William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits join him on six of his pieces. All three being equally inflamed by the superheated nature of Malaby’s music, the musicians play freely throughout, exhibiting in the midst of their unified individuality remarkable technical control and unfettered imagination. Moreover, all three confirm their reputations of being creative powerhouses in their own right through the force of their musical personalities, all three of which complement those of the other two. Their levels of energy remain unabated throughout the single recording ses¬sion as they feed off one another’s ideas. The first track, “Buried Head,” starts inauspiciously enough, with Waits’ ding in the center of the cymbal, Parker’s ambling bass lines and Malaby’s tweets and squawks and subdued playing of perhaps a motive. It’s Parker who boosts the dynamism of the playing with quicker pulse and turbocharged intensity, to which the other two respond. It becomes evident that the intent is on-the-spot improvisation, rather than predetermination of direction. The tentativeness of “Buried Head’s” beginning builds on ever-increasing fervor, the musicians express¬ing the passion they feel in the process of playing the music before the final winding down from the ardent beseeching. “Floral and Herbacious” is more motivic, and over Parker’s arco bass work Malaby immediately sets up the six-note haunting pattern that emerges throughout the impassioned improvisations that follow. Indeed, the initial statement of theme leads immediately into a crashing, chattering, rumbling turbulence, though relatively brief, which contrasts suggestion with excitation. Then Parker literally takes over with a solo of such force, still slyly incorporating the six-note pattern, that Waits appears momentarily merely to follow and produce accentuation instead of rhythmic initiative. “La Mariposa,” on which Malaby plays soprano sax instead of tenor sax, not only sounds lighter, but Malaby uses longer tones to allow the sweet sound of the instrument to provide, yes, at time melodies for a great degree of sensitivity combined with, still, leadership. As a capper, Malaby sustains a final high note that can’t be counted in measures but rather in seconds, bringing attention to the fine tone that he projects. The title track appears to be derived from a folkloric theme that describes perhaps Malaby’s experiences in Costa Rica. From the twittering and warbling that goes on initially, he indeed must have enjoyed the sounds of the outdoors there. Loosening his embouchure and swirling through the melody delivered in spurts and outbursts, the calmness, as expected, rises into windswept fury, leaving one to wonder what happened in Tamarindo, or if the thrill arises from remembrance. Nonetheless, the totality of the music made for Tamarindo leaves one impressed by the unremitting commitment of these professionals to the communication of strongly felt emotions that only music can express.
©Cadence Magazine 2008

Tony Malaby / William Parker / Nasheet Waits – Tamarindo (CF 099)

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

Harris Eisenstadt –  Guewel (CF 123)
Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt has quickly become an essential part of the East Coast jazz scene since his return from the West Coast in 2005. In addition to numerous collaborative projects, he has spent a great deal of time abroad, studying traditional West African griot rhythms in Gambia and Senegal. Loosely translated as ‘musician’ in Wolof (Senegal’s primary ethnic group and language), Guewel is the latest entry in a journey that began on his seventh recording, Jalolu (CIMP, 2003), an homage to traditional Gambian music.

Featuring a similar instrumental line-up and concept as Jalolu, Guewel was motivated by Eisenstadt’s recent stay in Senegal’s capital city of Dakar. Blending ancient and modern customs native to the region, Eisenstadt fuses Senegalese pop music (M’balax) to traditional Wolof rhythms (Sabar) to paint an enthralling tone poem that depicts the hustle and bustle of urban life in West Africa. Using these multi-tiered structures as the foundation for expansive improvisations, Eisenstadt’s unorthodox all-horn line-up of Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Nate Wooley (trumpet), Mark Taylor (French horn) and Josh Sinton (baritone saxophone) temper their free jazz leanings with hearty doses of euphonious melody.

Eisenstadt maps out strategies for improvisation that have more in common with contemporary chamber music than unstructured free jazz. Expertly arranged and dynamically varied, each piece features an ever changing assortment of instrumental combinations. Intimate duets with the leader and soliloquies with full horn section accompaniment regularly alternate with massed collective improvisations and anthemic fanfares. The horns offer myriad modes of expression, veering from coruscating trills, brash raspberries, smeary growls and multiphonic bleats to mellifluous unison harmonies and dulcet refrains.

Eisenstadt plays a magnanimous support role, driving these works with an endlessly shifting series of rhythms, tempos and textures. Ripe with multi-part harmonies and staccato counterpoint, these tightly composed tunes are peppered with thickets of cacophony and fragments of mellifluous harmony that recall a bevy of traditions. Over the course of these five long-form pieces the group alternately invokes surreal marching bands, ragged Ivesian brass sections, tribal ceremonial griots, Gamelan influenced court ensembles and the early experiments of the AACM.

Eisenstadt’s exceptional arranging skills were previously documented on The All Seeing Eye + Octets (Poo-Bah, 2007), his marvelous interpretation of Wayne Shorter’s under-sung 1965 Blue Note album of the same name. This date continues that thread with a similarly unconventional line-up and singular concept. A truly unique recording, Guewel is an unclassifiable fusion of pan-global music traditions and another potent example of Eisenstadt’s rising presence as a composer of note.

Clean Feed Fest III in New York

Photos by Hernani Faustino

Stash Dauber review

A week or so ago, my friend Anthony Mariani was spielin’ on the FW Weekly’s blog thingy about how listening to jazz makes you hip. Quoth the Italian kid: “Most of Coltrane’s free compositions and moments really exploited the notion that jazz…could sensibly and artfully reflect the rhythms of life: sometimes falling in perfect sync, sometimes just bouncing all around or into one another, and all the while leaving in their wakes contrails of color and mood. AS WITH LIFE, you have to slow down and pay CLOSE attention to what [jazz musicians] are doing to have the best experience possible.”

Luis Lopes – Humanization 4tet (CF 105)

Now, I happen to agree with his point about jazz reflecting life’s riddims and requiring your full attention to fully appreciate it. (As far as hipness goes, I’m with Tower of Power: “Hipness is what it is; sometimes, hipness is what it ain’t” — how’s that for obliqueness?) My fave musical artiste Of All Time is probably Charles Mingus, whose best album, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, features exactly the kind of ebb and flow Mariani describes, a musical environment that changes and shifts from moment to moment like a busy cityscape; in the past, I’ve bought any recording I could find from Mingus’ 1964 European tour to hear the way the musicians transformed the set, which was essentially static, from one night to the next.

But you need time and attention to pick up on such subtlety, and lately I’ve been kinda busy between work, trying to book shows for a couple of bands, and just the normal (and some not-so-normal) stuff you have to do to get through life. All of which is by way of explaining why I’m just now getting around to reviewing this superb CD, which bassist Aaron Gonzalez gave me when I saw him play at Lola’s with Yells At Eels back in August.

I first met Aaron’s father, trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, 30 years ago when I tagged along while a guitarist friend of mine went over to jam at his house. Dennis had just released his first album Air Light (Sleep Sailor), and he and his wife Carol were very gracious. Dennis went on to perform and record with a veritable “who’s who” of the jazz avant-garde, from AACM veterans to European upstarts, but in 1994 he retired from music, except for what playing he did as a teacher20in Dallas public schools.

It was his sons that brought Dennis back to playing in 1999. After playing with their dad in an accordion-led trio playing traditional Mexican music, bassist Aaron and drummer Stefan — who also perform together as the grindcore duo Akkolyte — invited him to join them in a new venture: a trio playing jazz and improvised music. Since then, they’ve released three CDs (one a double) and toured North America and Europe several times. While a Yells At Eels lineup that included tenorman Rodrigo Amado toured Portugal last year, he and the brothers recorded the Humanization 4tet CD under the leadership of guitarist Luis Lopes.

As a guitarist who teethed on Hendrix and Buddy Guy and reveres masters of the simple like Ron Asheton and Eddie Hazel, I’ll admit to having a bias against most jazz guitarists. While I definitely admire what they do and certainly am not up to their technical level (I once tried to jam with Keith Wingate and felt like a five-year-old attempting to converse with an adult), what they do doesn’t always move me. There’s something about the dryness of most jazz players’ tones and the precision of their attack; I want somebody that leaves more blood on the strings, like Sonny Sharrock or Pete Cosey.

That said, I quite enjoy Luis Lopes’ playing on this, his first recording as a leader. His fretwork has some of the hallmarks of guys I dig like Bern Nix from Ornette’s original Prime Time band (his tone and some note choices on lead-off track “Cristadingo”), Extrapolation-era John McLaughlin and early John Abercrombie (particularly Lopes’ tasteful use of effects). His staccato solo on that opening cut is a good example of his style: Lopes isn’t flaunting technique for its own sake, he’s milking it for its expressive potential. His compositions (which include dedications to an Italian film director, a British scientist, an American musician and a Mexican painter) provide open-ended frameworks for exploration.

Saxophonist Amado’s a fully-formed and expressive improviser, part of the reason why the late Dewey Redman told me (when I interviewed him for the Weekly back in 2003) that American musicians can’t command top dollar in Europe anymore: “They’ve got their own set of musicians now.” Amado’s burry tone and thematic ideas recall Sonny Rollins; the unison lines he plays with leader Lopes on some of the tunes recall both the late-period Pharaoh Sanders on Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Ages and John Surman on McLaughlin’s Extrapolation, as well as Rollins when he employed Jim Hall.

Aaron Gonzalez has the same dark sound and highly physical approach to the bass as Ornette’s longtime accompanist Charlie Haden. I once had the privilege of standing next to him onstage when we played together with a noisy rock-based improv ou tfit called Kamandi. At the end of the night, Aaron showed me his left hand: there was skin hanging off every finger. His lengthy pizzicato intro to “Long March (For Frida Kahlo)” is somberly lyrical. Elsewhere he drives the band hard, swinging with forceful abandon.

The Great Tyrant’s Jon Teague, who’s subbed for Stefan Gonzalez on a Yells At Eels gig in Dallas, once speculated aloud what it must have been like “growing up in that house,” where role models and exemplars like Alvin Fielder, Andrew Cyrille, or Famoudou Don Moye were frequently present. Stefan’s his own guy, though, behind the traps, an explosively aggressive player who can also be very delicate. On “4 Small Steps,” there are moments when his cymbal-and-snare work is reminiscent of the Elvin Jones “erupting volcano” effect from Trane’s Meditations. And these guys are just getting started.

Humanization 4tet is the kind of record that rewards repeated listenings — like a good book or a fine painting, you can always find something there that escaped your notice before. And if that ain’t hip, I don’t know what is.

All About Jazz review by Robert Ianapollo

Trio Viriditas – Live At Vision Festival VI (CF 115)
A recently-spotted chat group thread queried, “Is the trombone dead?” A large number of responses set the questioner straight but one response was something like, “No. But the vibes and tuba are.” This answer would surprise such active veterans as Gary Burton, Khan Jamal, Bobby Hutcherson and Karl Berger, all of whom are still producing vital music. It would also surprise such younger practitioners of the instrument as Matt Moran, Stefon Harris and Joe Locke. And it would surely surprise the player on these this disc, in his own way, is keeping the instrument relevant at the dawn of the 21st century.

Sadly with the passing of bassist Wilber Morris in 2002, Trio Viriditas became an historic footnote in the careers of drummer/vibraphonist Kevin Norton and reed player Alfred Harth. In their lifespan they only issued one recording (Waxwebwind@ebroadway) so this live date from the 2001 Vision Festival is particularly welcome. Although the members of this trio were from wildly divergent backgrounds, the communication was remarkable. Kevin Norton is more familiarly known as a sensitive yet powerful drummer but he’s equally adept on the vibes. Trio Viriditas, while not exclusively a vibes trio has Norton playing enough vibes to qualify for this review. And those are some of the most salient moments of this disc. The nine tracks are edited from the full performance, the first half of the program being primarily improvisations, the last part compositions. It’s mostly on the latter half where Norton plays vibes. Morris’ ballad “Melancholy” finds him playing slow, arpeggiated figures behind Harth’s beautiful, impassioned tenor statement. Elsewhere brittle fleet lines work contrapuntally with both Harth and Morris in dense three-way improvs. And the disc ends on its high note, a deep, soulful version of Horace Silver’s “Peace”. With two albums, Trio Viriditas didn’t leave much behind but what is there makes for a worthy and enduring legacy.

Free Jazz review by Stef

RIDD Quartet – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
I am not too familiar with the way in which musicians work with labels, or how long it takes before they can get their material released, but I am perplexed that pianist Kris Davis manages to release two albums within a few months time on two different labels, and more importantly, that both are of a very high qualitative level. The RIDD Quartet further consists of Jeff Davis on drums, Jon Irabagon on sax and Reuben Radding on drums. This album is not unlike “Rye Eclipse”, although it is more transparent, more accessible, less urgent in its need to tell the story as its predecessor. Many of the compositions have the same abstract and emotional quality of her other recent album. But this is of course a quartet album, not Kris Davis and band. Jon Irabagon I find a revelation on this album. To be honest, I thought his “Outright” album, released earlier this year, was quite mediocre, yet here his tone, free lyricism and emotional drive are excellent, not of the same level of Malaby, though, but really strong. Radding is as good as we know him and so is Jeff Davis, and both complement each other well. The second track, “Sky Circles”, starts out quite slowly and gentle, yet it gradually starts building intensity and momentum. Whether it’s slow emotional explorations as on the title track (which does not sound like an avalanche at all, by the way), or a more intense and raw approach as on the beginning “The Eye And The Telescope”, the four musicians manage to have a quite unique coherent and creative angle, with introspective and expansive moods alternating, exploring sound interactions and rhythmic invention. The stylistical elements used are subtle : repetitive piano string pluckings, or repetitive sax phrases, come and go, as do melodies and themes, and so does the volume, and the instruments, but all very subtly, creating slight differences and changes, nothing abrupt, yet full of little surprises that make this quite a great listen. I like it a lot!

Cadence Magazine review by Jay Collins

Elliott Sharp – Octal: Book One (CFG 002)
Where focused on lengthier improvisation in a live setting, is a “live in the studio” venture that consists of eight compositions that serve to ignite Sharp’s thoughts. Instrument-wise, Sharp utilizes a custom-built, 8-string electro-acoustic guitarbass, essentially a guitar with two bass strings. His second release for Clean Feed, after his Monk-centered label debut, Sharp’s program mixes avant, Jazz and Blues with a technical approach that emphasizes his percussives. These traits spring forth on the whirlwind of “Through The Wormhole,” the prickly “Intrinsic Spin” and the frenetic “Antitop and Charm.” Sharp also creates several atmospheric pieces like the swelling “Symmetree” or “Strange Attractor,” that flourish on their drone-like approach thanks to Sharp’s utilization of the e-bow device. Though somewhat part of a whole, as evidenced above, Sharp’s Blues sensibilities are never too far away, feelings which are pinpointed on the countryish Folk of “Modulant” and “Quaternion,” the closing selection that saws and slithers. While (1) might be a more revealing exercise in terms of emotional weight and a developing narrative, presents a variety of scenes in more easily palatable segments that is as good a point as any to witness a truly original instrumentalist at work.
©Cadence Magazine 2008