Daily Archives: October 20, 2008

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 www.cadencebuilding.com

Cadence Magazine by Grego Applegate Edwards

For your consideration: four piano trios, each with a different palette of musical colors.
After listening to the MI3 trio’s Free Advice, I am embar¬rassed to say that I missed Pandelis Karayorgis’ delightful playing until now. He has been around, recorded with Ken Vandermark among many others, and has a style all his own that is quite com¬pelling. In fact the entire trio has a definite vibe that manages to project a dynamism and spirit that gives one a real lift. As the CD liner notes explain, they became the house trio at Boston’s Abbey Lounge in 2002 and because there was no piano in the club, Pandelis was obliged to use an electric version. After that experi¬ence and a CD that used that configuration, they return here with an acoustic trio that manages to harness a kind of musical elec¬tricity without the actual voltage. The trio clearly is comfortable together. They listen without imitating one another, while nevertheless complementing what is happening at any point. Drummer Curt Newton fits the group con¬cept well, with a loose, seemingly casual, faux sloppiness that is every moment intentional and creative. McBride of course is one of the accomplished bassists around with a woody tone and direct articulateness. He gets a good amount of space to show what he can do. Pandelis is a terrific pianist. With a zeal for dissonance, a Monk-like abruptness and the controlled freedom of a Paul Bley—hashed together skillfully with pure Pandelis—he is in his element on this disk. With the opening “Mystery Song,” one knows that something special is happening. It’s the old Ellington number done a la Lacy but with more dissonance. Pandelis plays on the various possible harmonizations and intervallic relations as he goes. The group realizes the pulse freely without stating it overtly and it jells per¬fectly. An up abstraction comes into play with “Who Said What When.” With a loose-as-a-goose rhythm backing, Pandelis is all over the place, cascading dissonantly, then building with the rhythm section to a lovely froth. Sun Ra’s “Ankhnaton” has that familiar quasi-Egyptian head and it’s all played with panache, on the foundation of Afro rhythms and an ostinato bass. Pandelis then launches into tart dissonances and crazy post-Bop locked hand blocks. He often plays with clus¬ters of intervals, mostly tighter seconds, thirds, and fourths out of the harmonic logic of the piece at hand, but set free on their own from time to time, playing with the implications and deconstruc¬tions of the melody and harmony. There is an intervallic playfulness, and loose but firey disso¬nance. The MI3 trio isn’t afraid to express it all! If I had the money I would find every recording Pandelis has been on so far. But I don’t. This surely is one of the piano trio disks of the year for me. Jump on it if you dig the inside-out outside-in Freebop that they so masterfully execute.
© Cadence Magazine 2008 www.cadencebuilding.com

Mi 3 – Free Advice (CF 098)

Jazz Words review by Ken Waxman

T.E.C.K. String Quartet T.E.C.K. String Quartet (CF 089)

Carlos Zíngaro/Dominique Regef/Wilbert De Joode String Trio Spectrum (CF 110)
ZPF Quartet – ZPF Quartet Ulrichsberg München Musik Bruce’s Fingers BF 67

Three plus one times two or two plus one times one. These may seem like ambiguous mathematical formulae, but they’re actually the personnel make-up of these exceptional string-informed CDs. The “one” here, is Portuguese violinist Carlos Zingaro. His associates include three different bassists: American Ken Filiano (on T.E.C.K.), Englishman Simon H Fell (on Ulrichsberg) and on Spectrum, Wilbert De Joode from the Netherlands; two different cellists: London-based Marcio Mattos (on Ulrichsberg) and New York’s Tomas Ulrich (on T.E.C.K.); plus odd-ball instruments – for string groups – of drums (London’s Mark Sanders on Ulrichsberg); acoustic guitar (New York’s Elliott Sharp on Spectrum); and hurdy-gurdy (France’s Dominique Regef on Spectrum). Divorced from the conventions of even modern chamber-music ensembles, the three CDs realize a variety of propositions, Each confirms that sophisticated, string compositions are still being crafted – even if the genesis involves instant composition; that profound string-oriented chamber pieces don’t have to be limited to the standard quartet instrumentation that has remained unchanged since the 18th century: first and second violin, viola, and cello; and that Zingaro’s inventiveness is unfazed by numerous situations. The Lisbon-based fiddler, who has had lengthy or briefer associations with fellow sound explorers such as French bassist Joëlle Léandre and American composer Richard Teitelbaum plus developed scores for theatre, dance and film projects, adapts without strain to the presence of unconventional chamber music instruments. Of course the percussive asides from Sanders are rather individual themselves, considering that the drummer usually makes a point finding a place for himself within other advanced settings, such as in saxophonist Evan Parker’s bands. Furthermore, on Ulrichsberg, the other three players use extended techniques and electronics to expose and alter the tessitura of the strings, exposing partials and overtones as well as the expected timbres and dynamics. That frequently means that wood block pops, resonating configurations of bells and gongs plus cymbal clattering and the gentle patting of stretched skin tops replaces steady beat patterns on the percussionist’s part. This dovetails harmonically with the others’ output which includes angled spiccato from Zingaro; sul ponticello lines from Mattos – whose background includes work with dance companies and electronic ensembles – and low-pitched slaps and cumulative adagio sweeps from Fell, who has also composed notated works and is a member of the London Improvisers Orchestra. The resulting striated polytones and abrasive string action provide intermittent thematic alteration to the sometimes chiaroscuro interface. Eventually though, as the strings’ timbres veer towards higher pitches and become more fragmented, the bassist’s pedal-point stopping leads to a harmonic convergence of four-way, multi-part affiliation. Similar bonding strategies appear from the different cast on T.E.C.K., although the non-chamber quartet instruments are played by Sharp, a guitarist with extensive immersion in contemporary New music as well as blues and jazz; plus bassist Filiano, who not only plays in improvising groups with Zingaro and Portuguese reedist Rodrigo Amado but is bassist of choice for a number of American jazz men. Additionally, cellist Ulrich, the other string-slinger, holds his own in bands including the likes of Léandre and Zingaro. T.E.C.K.’s nine selections provide additional wave form scope for everyone, especially the violinist, whose sounds often take on the trilling character of woodwinds. For his part Sharp’s protracted bottleneck-like rasps and chromatic rasgueado prove more rhythmic than anything Sanders projected on the preceding CD, while the larger stringed instruments pile on sul tasto strokes, thick and striated pitch-slides and tough, focused passing chords. The results range from discordant double-and-triple-stopping to a striated intermezzo of grinding oscillations, colored by splintered clinks and pinched, fortissimo runs. When the four simultaneously decide to investigate the pizzicato mode, the resulting mash-up metaphorically at least suggests the sounds those swollen, 100-instrument balalaika or mandolin philharmonics of the late 19th or early 20th Century made. However the harsh resolution, broken octaves, down-stroked frail and snapped ricochets are definitely post-modern and 21st Century. Highly rhythmic and rife with fiery cries that are equally POMO are the interludes from Regef’s hurdy-gurdy on Spectrum. Still when the chordophone instrument isn’t producing peeping spetrofluctuation as if Regef was playing a reed, or sounding organ-grinder-like tremolo drones, the hurdy-gurdy’s history as a vertical viola is evident. Regef, who has used the hurdy-gurdy to accompany singers as well as improvise with saxophonist Michel Doneda among others, impressively – and singularly – adapts the ratcheting recoils of his medieval-styled cranked instrument to modern times. Here the hurdy-gurdy’s harsh whirring both contrasts and complements Zingaro’s sometimes sweetly legato pulses, while De Joode – who imperturbably plays with everyone from pianist Michiel Braam to saxophonist Ab Baars – merely digs into his instrument’s thick tones to keep the other two on an even keel. Regef’s almost oonomatopoeic impulses frequently swell to become both intense and opaque, which leads the others to create antipodal thumps and strokes. With the hurdy-gurdy squeezes as pressured as they are buzzing, new strategies emerge. At one point Zingaro triple-stops a protracted pressured line that is as dense and staccato as Regef’s output, while De Joode thumps and walks his bass. These basso chords echo long enough so that they adhere to the cumulative sounds from the others. Later, as constant chordophone drones reverberate on hard surface, creating a blurry, neo-primitive electro-acoustic texture, the response from the fiddler is lyrical and gently pitched to break up the nearly ceaseless continuum. Then the bassist responds with plucked jazz inflections including finger-tip taps and harmonically advanced bent notes. At the climax the hurdy gurdy’s reverberating overtones first resemble electronically-triggered oscillations, then dissolve into familiar organ-grinder tones, and are finally subsumed by the harmonic union of the real strings. Whether modern chamber music or Zingaro’s advances are your chief interest, there is much to impress and edify listeners on these discs.

Mauger (Mahanthappa/Dresser/Hemingway) – The Beautiful Enabler (CF 114)
Drummer Gerry Hemingway and bassist Mark Dresser are progressive jazz pioneers via performances and recordings with legendary multi-reedman/composer Anthony Braxton.  Ultimately, they’ve imprinted a colossal impression within improvisational circles as their solo albums and collaborations attest to their respective significance within the global, modern jazz realm.  Here, young rising star and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa provides a thrilling component to the overall schema that is engineered upon the trio’s cunning improvisation and dense fabrics of sound.

All parties enjoy ample soloing room, as they respectively alter and then dictate the variable flows and sub-plots.  In effect, the trio’s buoyancy is marked by complex unison motifs amid a bobbing and weaving mode of attack.  With Dresser’s bowed bass lines and multipurpose underpinnings, Maranthappa often develops linear thematic forays, firmed up by Hemingway’s acute manner of staying on top of the pulse.  They expand, contract, and delve inward while occasionally drawing up notions of avant-garde chamber-like environs.

On the piece titled “The Beautiful Enabler,” they seemingly dodge bullets, largely due to Maranthappa’s intensifying and rippling choruses.  Yet they descend the energized approach into a near whisper to consummate a program that is loaded with highs, lows, plateaus and rapid ascensions into the cosmos.  It doesn’t get much better than this folks.