Daily Archives: December 2, 2008

Jazzword review by Ken Waxman

Somewhat of a departure for bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway, this co-op band with alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa features probably some of the most straight-ahead playing they’ve recorded since before they teamed up as the rhythm section of the well-regarded Anthony Braxton Quartet in the mid-1980s.

Mauger – The Beautiful Enabler (CF 114)

One could suggest that the presence of Mahanthappa, whose past work with bands lead by bassist Hubert Dupont or pianist Vijay Iyer has been more oriented towards the contemporary mainstream players created this situation. But one shouldn’t forget that Hemingway has done his share of straight-ahead work with the likes of pianists Fred Hersch and Michel Wintsch among others, as has Dresser. Gigs in drummer Greg Bendian’s bands, work with flautist Jane Ira Bloom and other less-than-experimental gigs are part of the bassist’s c.v.

Paradoxically as well here, Mahanthappa’s own composition “I’ll See You When I Get There,” brings out some of the most non-traditional phrasing from all three men, including quick-tongued, fluttering lines from the saxophonist. Taking the CD as a whole, the suggestion is that it has been released in the sequence in which the tunes were recorded. Listening to it this way, it appears that the three loosened up and began experimenting during the session as their confidence in one another’s interactive abilities grew. Thus by the time Hemingway’s “Meddle Music” comes around at the end of the program, you find that expectations set up by the foot-tapping rhythm and tonality of “Acuppa” that begins the disc, are realized without the program slipping into rote sameness.

“I’ll See You When I Get There,” for instance sets off Dresser’s scraped and striated string intonation against descending note clusters which characterize the saxophonist’s solo. As lower-pitched harmonics from the bass join with Hemingway’s pops and rolls, Mahanthappa augments his pitches upwards into multiphonics. Soon accented and emphasized note flurries are unleashes, with the reed interlude given additional resonance from Dresser’s broken-octave arco lines and the drummer’s hectic bonding beats.

Additionally if the initial trio interface sounds as if the three are ready to slip into “Bag’s Groove”, conventional grooves are stretched than dispensed with entirely by the time the tile track and “Meddle Music” come around. Mahanthappa’s exposed intervals are particularly wide on the former composition as reed cries meet Dresser’s brushed string stops which amplify as well as accompany. Angling his runs only slightly away from the melody, the saxophonist’s note clusters swell to super-sized at the climax, foreshadowing bravura techniques on the subsequent tune.

Each man operates at the height of his powers during the CD’s final tune. Dresser with wide-ranging sweeps and stropping stops; Hemingway with pounding back beats and cradled reflective tones; and Mahanthappa with flutter-tonguing, foreshortened breaths and expanded smears. Not only is his output spiky, but his unexpected texture liberation confirms a push towards the unconventional.

A CD that marks disparate players’ output gelling into a group sound, The Beautiful Enabler’s climatic re-ordering of the trio’s musical priorities, indicates that a more memorable outing could be in the offing.

All About Jazz Italy review by Angelo Leonardi


Angelica Sanchez – Life Between (CF 128)
Viene dall’Arizona come il marito Tony Malaby e ha tenuto finora un basso profilo, nonostante il suo debutto (Mirror Me) abbia ottenuto alti riconoscimenti, entrando nella top ten dei critici di “Jazz Times” per il 2003.
Vive a New York da 13 anni, Angelica Sanchez, ed ha un talento naturale che ha affinato collaborando con i protagonisti della scena d’avanguardia: da Tim Berne a Susie Ibarra, da Ed Schuller a Mark Dresser, da Greg Tardy a Ben Monder. Guida un proprio trio con Tom Rainey ed il marito (documentato nei due volumi Alive in Brooklyn) ed oggi torna in scena ampliando il gruppo del debutto a Marc Ducret e sostituendo Michael Formanek con Drew Gress.
Registrato nei famosi System Two Studios di Brooklyn, nel dicembre 2007 il disco evidenzia sia le doti strumentali e compositive di Angelica che il fantasioso lavoro dei singoli (in particolare Ducret e Malaby) e del collettivo.
Il percorso musicale si snoda attraverso brani in equilibrio sempre cangiante tra momenti cantabili, venati di sottigliezze folk, e aperture informali; tra episodi rigorosi e trascinanti improvvisazioni, tra richiami alle avanguardie storiche (la libera improvvisazione jazz degli anni settanta) ed il patrimonio espressivo del rock di quegli anni (McLaughlin ed Hendrix convivono nei visionari assoli del francese).

Il tema d’avvio apre con un’introduzione della Sanchez al wurlitzer, la tastiera favorita da Herbie Hancock negli anni elettrici di Miles Davis, ma non crediate di risentire l’ennesimo prodotto legato a quella celebre fase: “514” presenta in rapida successione un tema post boppistico iterato, un veemente assolo di Ducret alla chitarra elettrica e un vibrante intervento di Malaby al tenore mentre la Sanchez distilla in sottofondo accordi acidi. La tensione cresce per interrompersi bruscamente e concludere il brano.
Il brano seguente è una ballad crepuscolare che evidenzia le cameristiche concezioni strumentali di Angelica, passata al pianoforte acustico.
Il terzo brano è ancora diverso e mentre tornano i suoni del wurlitzer il clima successivo è da libera improvvisazione post free.

Avete capito, ogni brano ha un suo percorso e una sua storia. Nel disco c’è fantasia e gusto per la ricerca, condotti con passione e disciplina all’interno di precise coordinate di riferimento sempre alterate e contraddette.
La Sanchez e i suoi si muovono con creatività attraverso brani multiformi e spesso multitematici in una continua tensione emotiva e raffinato equilibrio tra parti scritte e improvvisate. Malaby, Ducret e la stessa Sanchez (versatile ed espressiva in uno stile a metà tra Paul Bley ed Andrew Hill) creano episodi ricchi di tensione e fortemente coinvolgenti.

Un lavoro di pregio che consigliamo vivamente.

Free Jazz review by Stef


Daniel Levin – Fuhuffah (CF 129)
The cello trio in jazz is an unusual line-up. Recently Erik Friedlander released his Broken Arm Trio album with cello-bass-drums, and before him Fred Lonberg-Holm and David Eyges come to mind. Now David Levin has done the same, and quite well even. The album does not have the great atmospheric feel of his “Blurry”, going for a more direct, raw approach, but assisted with two stellar band-members Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. On the album the compositions vary between real jazzy tunes, with a strong rhythmic backbone to more modern work-outs. In stark contrast with his previous albums is the nervousness, the drive, a little more tormented, or even hypnotic and eery at moments, but always rough and moving on, with the title song already setting the stage from the very beginning. The second track “Shape” is built around some odd rhythmic patterns. The traditional, “Hangman”, is absolutely brilliant and dark, starting with the melodic tune played by cello and bass played with arco, and evolving into eery soundscapes. For the following tracks, I am not too sure what happens, but I loose attention. It might be that I’m tired, but it may also be that the trio reaches a limit of possibilities. But it ends well again, with “Wood”, a great kind of rubbing shoulders between cello and bass, sounding like lovesick whales courting one another. And once you’re fully into this weird intimacy, all hell breaks loose again, with the last track, “Wiggle”, on which the trio unleashes its true jazz power by bringing a long high tempo tribute to Jimmy Lyons. The cello trio has of course its limitations. The lack of vocal power of the cello next to bass and drums makes it a hard task to keep the same drive at with a tenor leading the tracks, but nevertheless, this trio really manages to play some great stuff, even if not all the tracks are of the same high level.