Daily Archives: January 15, 2009

Cadence Magazine review by Jason Bivins


Luís Lopes – Humanization 4tet (CF 105)
Most readers will be familiar with all the players on The Humanization 4tet with the exception of the leader himself. Part of the vibrant young Portuguese scene, self-taught guitarist (and longtime music fanatic) Lopes has enlisted the excellent saxophonist Amado and the rhythm section from Yells at Eels to play a session that combines the vir¬tues of Free Bop, harmolodics, and Vandermark-ish genre play. The Gonzalez brothers open up the record with a vigorous shuffle, and Amado charges forward with big-toned playing that recalls Tony Malaby. The leader, once his chance comes up, is a weird one—and I say that with admiration. He plays with a clean tone, but he favors a middle pickup position so that the tone is slightly more tart than is customary. He slurs, he scurries, he stops in unexpected places to flail at a single note, and he plays waaaaaay behind the beat to create a most interesting kind of energy. Good stuff! He sounds especially compelling on the somewhat ominous lope of “Long March,” where he combines odd stairstep phrases with sudden glisses and the like (weirdly like Monk on some level). The band works nicely in and out of time on these six tunes, often wisely breaking down into solos and duos (Aaron Gonzalez sounds especially hot on “Cristadingo”). And they’re a versatile lot too, comfortable in the bustling Free playing of “Paso” (pairing grainy upper-register tenor and sustained guitar lines), in the staggered funk of “Principio da Incerteza” (spacious and airy, almost like an essay in non-phrasing), and digging into plain old riffing, as on “Big Love.” It’s a fine record, and a nice introduction to a quirky, winning guitarist.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

Cadence Magazine by Jason Bivins


Carlos Zíngaro / Dominique Regef / Wilbert DeJoode – Spectrum String Trio (CF 110)
The string trio featured on “Spectrum” isn’t of the orthodox chamber improv variety, though they certainly get to the woody textures, slashes and serrations, and microtonal materials that I can’t resist. What’s distinct is not only the presence of Regef’s unpredictably deployed hurdy-gurdy (drones are anything but a constant here) but the personalities of the players, less given to creating echoes of Bartok or Ligeti and more likely to create chorales out of non-melodic materials: squeals, cries in the dark, or animal mewling. Regef’s electric razor buzz in the opening minutes of “Spectra 02” is superb, cutting across and into the sounds generated elsewhere (contrasting particularly effectively with the melancholy lyricism from the violin). The piece gathers itself up into a fulsome drone that lasts for some time, and it recalls Terry Riley more than contemporary electroacoustic stuff. The players seem to excel in hesitancy, with pauses and rests being as prevalent throughout as are dizzying passages of threeway skitter-shriek. De Joode is an expert in navigating these almost tentative territories, as his long-standing employer Ab Baars seems to favor these in his trio. But he also makes his instrument improbably graceful, without ever coming across like he has cello-envy. Zingaro (I’ve no idea about the quotes on the surname, by the way) is the imp here, double-stopping and always on the verge of some fireside reel. The most caustic and dense piece is the closer, with considerable mimesis among all three (but particularly de Joode and Zingaro). It proba¬bly works better live, but it’s still satisfying. As is often the case with these kinds of sessions, the tracks are rich feasts best sampled—at least to me—one at a time. They’re each quite provocative, and filled with compelling details and ideas.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

Cadence Magazine review by Jason Bivins


Sten Sandell / Mattias Ståhl – Grann Musik (CF 109)
“Grann Musik” is a duo with similar virtues: spacious without being airy, racing without being overly chattery. Sandell is well known to readers, for his exuberant and highly idiosyncratic approach to Free improvisation—a dazzling technician who is also not so much in thrall to pianism as much as he’s after sound, with instrumentalism second. Stahl reminds me of Karl Berger somehow, not a Bop-derived master like Joe Locke or Bobby Hutcherson or even a new music maven who’s spent more time with Reich charts than improvising. He loves the timbre of his instruments first and foremost, and this is the warm heart of this duo, lighting up their fine counterpoint and serpentine lines. After covering the whole range of their instruments on the opener, the two trade woody jabs and low-end clusters on “Groandals Deli.” They move from there to the rich and complex “Olle Engkvist,” which opens with Stahl’s lovely, elliptical lyrical statement that seems to interpolate fragments of post-Bop tunes and Webern, before Sandell enters once more, tentatively climbing from the very depths of the keyboard. Things do occasionally get rousing and quite note-dense—as on “Albert och Herbert”—but there’s always a kind of avian quality to it, the whole somehow airborne. I hear this most clearly on “Vinterviken,” which sounds to me like Tony Williams’ first two records would if they were rendered more spacious and updated.
©Cadence Magazine 2008 www.cadencebuilding.com

Cadence Magazine review by Jason Bivins


Elliott Sharp / Scott Fields – Scharfefelder (CFG 003)
Two of Clean Feed’s best loved guitarists meet up “Scharfefelder” for a knotty, flinty series of performances based on compositional sketches the pair cooked up in advance. These kinds of exchanges can be quite compelling, particularly with two players so eager to achieve distance from everything even remotely associated with typical guitar duos. They do so without sacrificing their zeal for the basic characteristics of the instrument. For one thing, there’s lovely and quite dense counterpoint all over the place, notes replicating like pixels among the push-pull rhythms, string scrabble, and chiming harmonics of “Branedrane.” But the mood isn’t always antic or jittery. The music is disorienting but also quite reflective, even poignant on “Big, Brutal, Cold Raindrops.” Things billow out, or disperse like a droplet of soap in oily water, on “Minerali.” And they draw out long, looping lines that spool downward as tempo slackens on “Shuffle Through the Restaurateur Gauntlet.” Taken a track or two at a time, this stuff is bracing, though as an album my impression was that it went on for too long. As a whole, something about this music didn’t connect with me, and I consistently found it more impressive than enjoyable. Many listeners will dig this, as on some basic level it’s enough that two good guitarists play well together.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

Cadence Magazine review by Jerome Wilson

Empty Cage Quartet – Stratostrophic (CF 103)
The mood on “Stratostrophic” is nowhere close to fun. There are no liner notes in the CD package outside of an endorsement from Wadada Leo Smith, but between the track titles and the tense, anxious feel of the music you definitely sense that this band is commenting on current world events.
Hornmen Jason Mears and Kris Tiner are direct players who blow long eloquent phrases against the rumbling underpinnings of Ivan Johnson and Paul Kikuchi. Almost everything is in a march or Blues tempo and the CD is dominated by three long tracks. “Again a Gun” the horns blow in sad and weary unison over a frantic dropkick rhythm before they spiral out blaring solos that sound like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry at half speed. “Doorway Of Escape” sets small, insistent horn laments against ominous electronic percussion, all of which morphs into a bellowing, dark Blues over lurching rhythm. Finally, on “Don’t Hesitate,” the horns cry out in front of soft, ghostly noises before the bass joins in and kicks them up into more elastic and uptempo shouting that leads into Tiner’s and Mears’ most lustrous playing of the set. This is reminiscent of Charles Mingus’ rambunctious political music. It is soulful work infused with rage and passion and shows that the Empty Cage Quartet is the equal of any group out there today.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita


 Memorize The Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)
It’s an unusual yet consistently enticing series of pastiches by three crafty players hailing from Michigan, yet active in nearly all walks of jazz and its numerous permutations and regions.  And as the press release asserts, several of these movements sound as though electronics are involved.  Hence, it’s an all-acoustic program where the artists seemingly play riddles with your psyche. 

Multi-reedman Matt Bauder, double-bassist Zach Wallace and percussionist Aaron Siegel impart a Zen-like approach to progressive jazz and improvisation, consisting of drones and trance states amid subliminal variations of a theme and more.  With Siegel’s synchronous tapping of his instruments amid Wallace’s rotating ostinato motifs, the band occasionally generates some rather quiet mayhem. As they abide by a minimalist type approach throughout a good portion of the album. 

On “I Am The Founder Of This Place,” Bauder’s buzzing sax line are countered by Wallace’s staccato phrasings and it’s all subliminally mesmerizing.  Then they perhaps mimic a dysfunctional society during “Treat Me Like A Picture,” although the artists leave inexplicit aspects wide-open.  Moreover, they render garbled voices or so it seems, to depict spirits in a state of unrest or anger, while Bauder’s extended clarinet notes generate an oscillating sequence of events.

Vivid musical imagery is plentiful here.  The trio enacts a series of impressionistic pastiches of sound via subtle diversions that temper the pace of time while rolling matters into a flotation-based musical portraiture.  Akin to an art masterpiece, you’ll notice new elements on each subsequent encounter.  Sure enough, the visual component acts as an equally important framework to the band’s manner of delving into your mind’s eye.