Monthly Archives: November 2008

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero


Conference Call – Poetry In Motion (CF 118)
Il tessuto connettivo che riveste Conference Call è di quelli forti ed elastici allo stesso tempo, grazie ad una fitta trama di relazioni che caratterizzano i percorsi dei quattro musicisti coinvolti. Il formidabile sassofonista e clarinettista tedesco Gebhard Ullmann vanta un sodalizio decennale con il pianista Michael Jefry Stevens, a sua volta co-leader con il bassista Joe Fonda di un ensemble stabile che da più di vent’anni esplora con successo i territori del freebop. Il batterista George Schuller è l’ultimo arrivato ma ha comunque alle spalle ben sette anni di sodalizio con questo quartetto.

Tutti questi numeri non potevano non riversarsi in Poetry in Motion, un CD pertanto fortemente coeso e compatto, senza sbavature, intenso, dagli incastri perfetti e dallo sviluppo armonioso. I quattro musicisti hanno attraversato a vario titolo le vicende della musica improvvisata negli ultimi vent’anni e in questo disco sembrano tirare le somme, impegnati in una sorta di pausa di riflessione sui suoi possibili sviluppi. Vi è una grande senso di calma e di tranquillità lungo le sette tracce del disco nonostante la musica sia spesso attraversata da fremiti violenti o da improvvise deflagrazioni.

Il clima complessivo della registrazione è quasi di stampo cameristico, nel senso di una precisione esecutiva e di una pulizia di suono non sempre facili da trovare in musicisti abituati a scorribande sonore tutt’altro che meditate. Ma pulsa forte il battito dell’improvvisazione, che sia quella di stampo dolphyano del clarone di Ullmann o quella dai forti accenti accademici del piano di Jefry Stevens il quartetto è in perenne movimento grazie anche alle invenzioni e alle sollecitazioni dei due ritmi.

Le composizioni sono tutte meritevoli di attenzione anche se non possiamo non segnalare “Back to School“, dal tema ornettiano che esplode grazie al sax tenore di Ullmann , “Quirky Waltz“ dall’incedere guardingo e misterioso e il conclusivo “Desert … Bleu … East“, una ninna nana che si trasforma progressivamente in visione allucinata prima di chiudersi come un blues notturno.

Un altro gran disco da casa Clean Feed.

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins


Angelica Sanchez – Life Between (CF 128)
Since their relocation from Arizona in 1995, pianist Angelica Sanchez and her husband, saxophonist Tony Malaby, have made their mark on the fertile New York scene. Malaby has become omnipresent, appearing on over 50 albums in the last decade, while Sanchez has maintained a lower profile, playing often but recording sporadically, usually in a collective trio with Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey, last documented on Alive in Brooklyn, Vol. 2 (Sarama, 2005).
Life Between features Sanchez leading a stellar electro-acoustic quintet which includes regular collaborators Malaby and Rainey, stalwart bassist Drew Gress and specially invited guest, French guitarist Marc Ducret. This remarkable sophomore effort offers a summary of her impressive growth as a composer since her sublime debut as a leader, Mirror Me (Omnitone, 2001).

Alternating unadorned folksy melodies with elaborate contrapuntal lines, Sanchez’s writing modulates between harmonious accessibility and thorny involution as her pieces gracefully shift between open forms and taut written sections. “Black Helicopters” and the title track unfold with brooding atmospheric washes, while “Name Dreamer” and “Blue & Damson” introduce plangent motifs; each piece subtly surges into tumultuous meditations fraught with knotty intervallic themes, fractured rhythms and tonal extremes.

A singular stylist with a harmonically unfettered melodic sensibility, Sanchez’s effervescent lyricism takes center stage on the gentle acoustic piano ballad “Federico.” The bell-like tones of her electric Wurlitzer provide haunting ambience to the title track, colorfully penetrating linear variations on “Blue & Damson,” and a flurry of gnarled notes on the vigorous “SF 4.”

Sanchez’s incisive excursions are often the inverse of her husband’s, yet their dynamic rapport is mutually beneficial; Sanchez coaxes tenderness from Malaby, while he inspires her more aggressive inclinations. A congenial interpreter and stellar technician, Malaby’s contributions to Sanchez’s work are unswerving and emotionally compelling. His insectoid trills on “Black Helicopters” escalate with climactic urgency, while his pneumatic runs on the title track are muscular and heartfelt. He plies soulful glisses on “Federico” and spews quicksilver circuitous refrains on “514” and “Blue & Damson,” the later culminating in a miasma of fervent low tones and volcanic multiphonics.

Ducret’s dynamic versatility is legendary; combining Hendrixian electronic maelstroms with the virtuosity of Mahavishnu-era John McLaughlin, he unleashes salvos of spiky fragments on “Blue & Damson,” distorted shards and searing legato phrases on the jaunty “514,” and silky filigrees on “Federico.” His rapport with the veteran group is exemplary, sounding more like a longstanding member rather than an invited guest.

Gress and Rainey provide magnanimous support with a fluid undercurrent of rhythmic invention that negotiates sharp angles, stop-start rhythms and unconventional meters. They offer a stimulating bed of interactivity that facilitates a wide range of expression, from dulcet introspection to volatile agitation.

With inspired readings delivered by an empathetic line-up, Sanchez’s opulent compositions unveil breathtaking kaleidoscopic vistas, making Life Between one of the year’s most striking records.

Coming soon

Dusted Magazine review by Derek Taylor


Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
A sequel of sorts to Jalolu (2003), Harris Eisenstadt’s latest taps another side of his African musical experience and presents another pivotal project in the percussionist’s evolution.Guewel tweaks the quintet line-up of the earlier CIMP set, trading one of the trumpet chairs for Mark Taylor’s French horn. Taylor and baritone saxophonist Josh Stinton make for easy aural marks, but the inspired pairing of brass aces Nate Wooley and Taylor Ho Bynum is a bit more difficult to parse. Even with the decision to field distinct instruments, the duo’s more texture-oriented excursions can be a welcome challenge to untangle.

The streamlined program switches source locales from Gambia to Senegal with Eisenstadt’s detailed notes delineating both process and rationale. The drummer’s arranging goals are ambitious, fusing traditional regional rhythms with transcriptions of Senegalese pop music. A third element, collective improvisation, isn’t as easy to thread and the seams between sections are often audible, sometimes awkwardly so. These moments are relatively minor and the decisive energy of the ensemble and individual statements succeeds in shoring most of the leaks.

Deployed in twos, the source tunes borrow from the songbooks of Orchestra Baobob, Star Number One and others. Each set supplies melodic grist for the horns and ample room for loose-limbed grooves from the leader. Eisenstadt regularly divides the group up into smaller parcels, dialoguing closely with Taylor on “N’daga/Coonu Aduna” or scaling back his sticking after a stretch of staccato polyphony as Wooley and Bynum trade in steely growls on “Kaolak/N’Wolof.” “Dayourabine/Thiolena” builds from a call and response march into a gorgeous chamber colloquy of horns. Stinton muscles in on “Barambiye/Djarama,” shirking off measured phrasing for a statement stamped with raw-throated split tones and circular breathing as Eisenstadt deftly fractures the rhythm around him.

As fun and focused as the band is, a shout out seems due to engineer Reuben Radding, too. Better known as composer and improvising bassist, Radding’s capture of the sounds is according, giving all the instruments – especially the leader’s kit – clarity and brightness that is often immersive. Whether you’ve made earlier legs of Eisenstadt’s journey or not, this latest travelogue will bring you swiftly up to speed.

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto


Angelica Sanchez – Life Between (CF 128)
Jazz listeners generally choose between the orderliness of a jazz ensemble with a piano, or the freedom that playing sans the chordal instrument allows a group. For pianist Angelica Sanchez, her presence muddles that distinction. On Life Between she preserves the order—not by chords, but by her compositions, arrangements and, maybe, presence.

After releasing two self-produced recordings with drummer Tom Rainey and her husband, the great tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, she debuted to great acclaim on Mirror Me (Omnitone, 2003) which added bassist Michael Formanek. This session replaces Formanek with Drew Gress and adds French guitar legend Marc Ducret.

Certainly with that much firepower things are apt to tear apart quickly. These four sidemen are capable of releasing the improvisational equivalent of shock and awe. But, remarkably they don’t. And it is not because they are limited by the chordal policeman of Sanchez’s piano. Her instrument of choice here is the Wurlitzer, an electric piano favored by Herbie Hancock during the Miles Davis electric years and, more recently, Uri Caine in his own groups and as part of Dave Douglas’ ensembles. Its unique sound, almost meek as compared to a standard piano, acts more to sustain than as a traffic cop.

The tracks, all her compositions, can be noddingly memorable, like “514” and “Name Dreamer,” or emotionally packed as on “Federico.” When she prepares a piece that is open for a bit more improvisation such as “Black Helicopters,” her players release a very under controlled openness. Malaby’s saxophone simmers and Ducret pokes-and-prods through his bag of guitar effects. The result here is a refined and controlled music making, easy to digest even though the playing is quite sophisticated. Sanchez’s switch to acoustic piano playing here and on the short final piece “Corner Eye” is full of ringing bright notes. An excellent rejoinder to Malaby’s thunderous tenor, and the shock of Ducret.

This quintet of some of jazz’s finest improvisers allow Sanchez to realize her vision by tailoring their sound to this very special project.

Free Jazz review by Stef


Tetterapadequ – And The Missing R (CF 120)
This band’s curious name is a defective anagram of De Pater Quartet, referring to Muzikantencafé De Pater in The Hague, The Netherlands, a place which this band apparently likes a lot, and for which an “r” is missing, hence the title. There is nothing wrong with the music, though, quite on the contrary. The band consists of Belgian-Italian Daniele Martini on tenor sax, Belgian-Italian pianist Giovanni di Domenico, Portuguese bassist Gonçalo Almeida who resides in Rotterdam, and Portuguese drummer João Lobo. Whatever their origin, I must again congratulate Pedro Costa of Clean Feed for his unbelievable ear for good music, and for giving young musicians the chance to have their music released. The music of Tetterapadequ consists of 13 mostly short tracks of improvised music, mostly subdued, introverted and restrained, with the exception of the third track “Dopey”, which is a short drum solo. The four musicians create small creative aural environments, with scarce sounds, lots of empty space. Di Domenico’s piano usually sets the tone and the scene. Although some of the sounds come from extended techniques on the various instruments, the music is very accessible and intimate, between traditional jazz (there is even a short reference to Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade) and modern classical music, with the other musicians taking the overall sound to a higher stage, creating depth and perspectives that are new and fresh. They are not afraid to push things to the limit, as on the last track, when the first four minutes are nothing but silence, then the bass starts playing softly, with the piano strings being plucked gently, then the drum joins sparingly, and only after eight minutes can the sax be heard, hesitatingly, sensitively, over a one note piano rhythm, yet gaining in power, gaining momentum, hypnotically, majestically, ending in a scream/cough/laugh. Nice music, very creative and subtle.

New Clean Feed releases for november 28th


CF 127 – Flatlands Collective “Maatjes” (with Jorrit Dijkstra, James Falzone, Jeb Bishop, Fred lomberg-Holm, Jason Roebke and Frank Rosaly)
CF 131 – Steve Adams “Surface Tension” (with Ken Filiano & Scott Amendola)
CF 132 – John O’Gallagher Trio “Dirty Hands” (with Masa Kamaguchi & Jeff Williams)
CF 133 – Darren Johnston “The Edge of the Forest” (with Ben Goldberg, Sheldon Brown, Devin Hoff, Smith Dobson V and Bob Reich)
CF 134 -DVD) 4 Corners “Alive in Lisbon” (with Ken vandermark, Adam Lane, Magnus Broo and Pall Nilssen-Love)

All About Jazz Italy review by Paolo Peviani


Paulo Curado e o lugar da Desordem – The Bird. The Breeze and Mr. Filiano (CF 113)

Il disordine come libertà, libertà di creare e di utilizzare i diversi linguaggi del jazz. E’ questo l’orizzonte programmatico in cui si muove Paulo Curado, una delle figure di riferimento del jazz portoghese, qui in compagnia di musicisti che interpretano il jazz con altrettanta libertà: Ken Filiano (note le sue collaborazioni con Don Minasi) e Bruno Pedroso.
Jazz libero, dunque, nel senso più letterale del termine. Tutte le tracce portano infatti la firma congiunta dei tre musicisti e rivelano un approccio collettivo alla musica, l’improvvisazione intesa come composizione (ed orchestrazione) istantanea.

Un approccio “radicale” ed assai rischioso, che però il trio – forte di un’esperienza ed una coesione non comune – gestisce molto bene. In alcuni momenti pare addirittura difficile credere che si tratti di musica completamente improvvisata, tanto l’esecuzione è coerente e consequenziale (si ascolti, ad esempio, la prima traccia).

Ma ciò che differenzia in modo significativo questo album da tante produzioni discografiche free è l’uniformità del risultato. La musica qui proposta è sempre di ottimo livello, e sono del tutto assenti quei tipici alti e bassi che si tende a dare per scontati e quasi inevitabili nel free. Il segreto? A mio modesto parere, l’assoluta assenza di quella che viene definita “ricerca strumentale”. Non siamo cioè di fronte a musicisti che smontano, violentano lo strumento, per cavarne dopo minuti di “ricerca” (e spesso di noia per l’ascoltatore) un timbro inconsueto, ammesso che lo sia (e comunque tale “ricerca” non la si poteva fare come compito a casa?). Qui siamo di fronte a musicisti che, più semplicemente, cercano di suonare insieme sviluppando nell’istante un percorso sonoro coerente. Bravi!

All About Jazz review by Martin Longley


Clean Feed Festival
The Living Theatre
September 19-24, 2008

Last year, the Clean Feed festival was housed at The Cornelia Street Cafe, but for 2008’s six-day stretch this crucial Portuguese label has now moved to the slightly more formal environs of The Living Theatre in the Lower East Side. It was local beatnik poet Steve Dalachinsky who connected label with space, so he gets to emcee each night, encouraging folks to purchase discs, gobble olives and consume wine that just happens to originate from Portugal itself. Every night of the festival seems to bring a new piece of scaffolding to the surroundings, as set construction evolves for the next Living Theatre production. The stage lighting is quirky, too. Glowing washes bloom at seemingly inappropriate moments, then are quelled into dimness. After a few nights, this unpredictability takes on a strange charm.

Although stretching out its tentacles from Lisbon, Clean Feed has a strikingly complete understanding of the New York scene, or even, more specifically, the Brooklyn scene. This is underlined by the fact that they can organise a festival that almost exclusively features local combos, most of them throwing out an extreme degree of creative heat. Each evening features a double bill of acts…

Friday 19th: Normally, the opening set by the Drunk Butterfly trio (this is the name of their debut disc) would be a sufficient to produce a warm glow, but reedsman Mark Whitecage, bassist Adam Lane and drummer Lou Grassi end up being easily transcended by the Michael Dessen Trio. This Californian trombonist is just beginning to make his mark, and recently released Between Shadow And Space on Clean Feed. The wonders of that record are thankfully translated to the live stage, with Dessen utilising laptop alterations, but customarily in a subtle manner, organically re-curving his output. This set relishes extreme contrasts between near-silence and dense activity, moving from meditation to mash-up, without any sense of inappropriate behaviour.

Saturday 20th: Brooklyn tenorman Stephen Gauci’s Basso Continuo involves the central concept of twinned basses (Ken Filiano, Mike Bisio) and no drums, with the leader and trumpeter Nate Wooley building the front firing line. Somehow, the delicacy of the quartet’s interactions doesn’t sound as enveloping as on last year’s Ndidhyasana album, particularly as the basses sound quite thinly arrayed within the Theatre’s hard environs. The horns dominate, with their stringent chatter, and the sonic confrontations within the band tend to have a negative effect on the communal result. Fortunately, Gauci helps matters along by being in a particularly concentrated state, throwing himself completely into the music. There’s a different manifestation of power during Dual Identity’s set. These guys are even harder, and before long Damion Reid’s drumming style begins to batter on the cranium, trebly, cutting and militarily insistent. Around halfway though the set, the entire combo locks into a convoluted groove, and co-leader alto saxophonists Steve Lehman and Rudresh Mahanthappa begin a spiralling ascent, attempting to surmount each other’s solos in a totally gripping fashion. This is funk complexity in the post Prime Time anti-tradition.

Sunday 21st: This is the night that FONT Music and Clean Feed unite, with a pair of trumpeters to the fore. The Empty Cage Quartet, from Los Angeles, features Chris Tiner (flugelhorn), joined by reedsman Jason Mears, bassist Ivan Johnson and drummer Paul Kikuchi. Their set is adequate, but is topped by that of Dallas trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez and Brooklyn bassman Rachlim Ausar-Sahu, who necessarily opt for a spacious, thoughtful dialogue, peppered with some of the festival’s most mainstream moments. Effectively, this is the only unremarkable evening in Clean Feed’s kinetic run.

Wednesday 24th: Bassist Sean Conly’s Re:Action begin the evening in striking fashion boasting not only the fine horn thrust of trombonist Joe Fielder and saxophonist Michael Attias, the latter hefting his baritone with Herculean authority. All this, and their drummer is Pheeroan akLaff..! The only way to follow this combo is with the best presentation of this year’s festival, delivered by the mighty Hellbent, a newish quartet led by tenorman Michael Blake. He has a dream line-up convened to play a brilliant set of compositions, employing an instrumentation which is hardly typical in the jazz sphere: Marcus Rojas (tuba), Charlie Burnham (violin) and Grant Calvin Weston (drums). This is a team of fierce individualists, embracing funk and abstraction, employing tuneful riff-themes and disemboweling solo tactics. There’s an inspired confidence to their playing that lends the illusion of a casual engagement with the material. Burnham seethes with amplified power, stroking with liquid friction across his strings. Rojas is a buffeting presence, wobbling with great agility. Weston releases a storm of energy, completely uninhibited in his quest for the ultimate drum explosion. Clean Feed’s Pedro Costa admits that he’s not yet familiar with Hellbent, but it must be a certainty that there’ll be an album on the label’s prolific release schedules in the very near future.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci


Carlos Zingaro / Dominique Regef / Wilbert De Joode – Spectrum (CF 110)
Exanthemas and regurgitations, running away and running on empty to stand still at last, unremitting whirlwinds and reasonably calm drones. A game of paradoxical hypotheses is played without repentance by this special trio, recorded at the Spectrum Festival (Porto, 2004) in three lengthy improvisations that challenge any kind of cataloguing. Zingaro’s violin coils excavate and exasperate, hinting to the limits of a non-existent tonality only to let us visualize how tiresome the playing might be if that restriction had to be complied with. Implacably anarchic, the man’s systematic disfigurement of phrasing emphasizes the photoelectric temperament of the music, which seems to change whatever one tries to focus the attention on, almost responding at the smallest movement of the body. Daring disagreements come from Regef’s hurdy-gurdy, as he tries to set things on a vaguely more controllable level through periodic stases and erudite manipulations of a singular instrument, which in his hands can sting and cuddle while still entertaining hopes of minimalist acceptance. Atypical qualities keep coming into view also when bassist De Joode enters the picture, a firm clutch on the low-frequency register evidently unarguable, the arco as a propeller of collected forces finally finding a meeting point to recharge batteries and start yet another crucial trip to random destinations. Reciprocal respect – these guys do listen to each other, and it shows – and the ideal proportionality between the sonic details make of “Spectrum” an album to get pleasure from time and again.