Daily Archives: January 20, 2009

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

cf-125TOWNHOUSE ORCHESTRA – Belle Ville  (CF 125)
A lot of improvisations are ruined by someone s’ try to outguess and often outmanoeuvre the companions, in the attempt of sticking a “me, myself and I” label on what should ideally be considered a collective effort. Those are the moments in which a being – especially a so called artist – reveals its negative nature, despite the apparent accomplishment of a sonic consequence. This sense of anti-hygienic virtuosity is nowhere to be found in Belle Ville, a 2-CD set by the all-star quartet of Evan Parker on tenor sax, Sten Sandell on piano, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on double bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums recorded live at the namesake venue in Oslo. The music, subdivided in two sections of about 45 minutes each – named “Belle Ville” and “Ville Belle” (d’oh!) – belongs to that neighbourhood of jazz whose products stimulate the proper kind of zip both under conscientious scrutiny and via a hassle-free approach to the listening. For the occasion, Parker bargains the large part of his everlasting roundabout tumults for a stout semi Braxton-esque jargon, an attitude explicated by beefy spurts and stalagmite-like excrescences, ears perennially open to any proposition turned up by the rest of the team’s brainwaves. Sandell’s pianism is frequently uncharacteristically neat, even contemplative in parts; yet the hazardousness of some of his solutions is probably among the most distinctive traits of the album, a lesson in free-climbing on the spiky rocks of erratic rigorousness. Håker Flaten and Nilssen-Love determine the ebb and flow of the session, at times leading the dynamics towards a quasi-static kind of suggestion, otherwise driving the essence of the interaction through the unsafe waters of swinging freedom without losing the hub of rhythmic repercussion, as always the hardest assignment for a role as important as theirs is.

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Improjazz review by Alexandre Pierrepont

cf099Tony Malaby / William Parker / Nasheet Waits – Tamarindo (CF 099)
Jouer, musiquer, frictionner. Un instrument contre l’autre (contre l’autre) tels des silex. Silex à souffles, silex à cordes, silex à peaux. Bois et métaux, bois et charbon, bois et sous-bois. Avec cela, comment produire des étincelles qui voltigent et vont former plus loin de nouveaux foyers d’incendie, qui montent en graines de feu, qui boutonnent la terre de flammes, qui s’embrasent, se dévêtissent, reverdissent ? Comment être la cause de tant de conséquences ? À tout moment, en toute assurance, ces trois hommes qui jouent passagèrement d’instruments se gratifient de perditions et de sauvetages, prennent plaisir à s’égarer ensemble et à se retrouver ensemble. La musique improvisée avec son nécessaire de voyage fantastique. J’y songe, mais voilà quelques années que la Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens diffuse ce message dans les couloirs et sur les quais du métro : « Attentifs ensemble », etc. S’ensuit l’habituel appel à la surveillance des uns par les autres qui sert désormais de lien social au pays. Mais, « attentifs ensemble », ça veut dire tout autre chose, n’est-ce pas ? Attentifs ensemble à tout ce qui pourrait fort heureusement nous dé-router, nous dé-tourner, nous dé-ranger (nous déterritorialiser, nous replanter dans le tout-monde). La musique improvisée comme sens de la désorientation. Utile à la vie, ça. Et ça joue. Dit-on. Ça s’entend. L’art et la manière de Tony Mallaby, dégagé enfin de ses responsabilités dans des groupes au « jazz » plus conventionnellement « moderne », est de refuser l’engagement. Non que son jeu soit fuyant ou désincarné (quoiqu’il sache camoufler son soprano ou son ténor en flûte ou en hautbois), mais il a l’art et la manière de se glisser entre les branchages de la contrebasse et de la batterie. Saxophone-phasme. Ainsi le saxophoniste, arrivé au croisement des routes, ne s’engage pas sur la voie déjà tracée du soliste azimuté. Il reconnaît les anciens chemins de terre. Il les emprunte. Il prend part aux activités de William Parker et de Nasheet Waits – ceux-là même qui épaississent le mystère – il joue sans cesse (musiquer, frictionner) avec eux, c’est-à-dire qu’ils s’écartent ensemble, attentifs. Phasme sur la contrebasse, lièvre dans le terrier de la batterie. Les classifications ne deviennent éclairantes que lorsqu’elles assument d’être subjectives, arbitraires, absurdes presque. Comme de dire que l’on écoute ici un trio de musiciens improvisateurs de la famille des chasseurs-cueilleurs.

Improjazz review by Cécile Even and Alexandre Pierrepont

cf097Steve Lehman Quartet – Manifold (CF 097)
Steve Lehman Quintet – On Meaning (PI Recordings PI25)
Du 31 mai au 2 juin 2007, ils sont quatre, dont Steve Lehman et Jonathan Finlayson, à occuper la Salão Brazil, dans le cadre du festival Jazz ao Centro à Coimbra, Portugal, et cela donne ” Manifold “. Quelque temps plus tard, le 18 juin 2007, ils sont cinq, dont Lehman et Finlayson, à occuper les studios Systems Two à Brooklyn, New York, et cela donne ” On Meaning “. Deux villes, deux disques, à l’embranchement. Restez, mobiles à l’écoute aussi. Restez mobiles, à l’écoute aussi. Restez mobiles à l’écoute aussi. Déplacez les virgules, les accents, les espaces et voyez voir. Venir. Tout est affaire d’embranchements et de pivotements, tout est dans l’interplay et dans l’entrecroisement – tout fuse. Les mots le disent : on se file et se faufile, à l’écoute et mobiles. Depuis le be-bop, au-delà du be-bop, la ” coulée automatique ” de certains improvisateurs (Jackie McLean, Jimmy Lyons, Anthony Braxton ou Steve Coleman, par exemple, chez les altistes) cultive cette certaine nervosité, volubile et coupante, comme une jonglerie d’écarts et de rapports. Steve Lehman est de ceux-là. Dans ” ses ” groupes, l’improvisation n’est pas thématique mais mathématique ; c’est une activité structurelle, génératrice de structures. Chaque formation est un système planétaire avec des soleils jumeaux un peu partout. L’un en dessous de l’autre, au détour et aux contours d’une comète voisine. Prenez le musicien qui joue : c’est un homme qui parle. Il accroche au passage ce qui se trouve sous le langage et découpe ses phrases pour libérer des voix bifurcantes. C’est tout un monde, une planète ou un système sonore soudainement, c’est ce que dit en substance Valère Novarina : ” Toute la matière sonore repose sur la parole ; c’est par elle seule que le monde est maintenu. ” En musique qui s’improvise de cette manière-là, il y a toujours quelqu’un pour s’écarter du sujet, pour passer inaperçu et consolider l’invisible. On danse autour d’un bras qui change de corps. Soleils jumeaux comme le saxophone et la trompette un peu partout sur les deux disques. Comètes voisines comme l’exploration des constantes et des variables dans la série Interface, sur ” Manifold “. Interface D : tout commence par un duo entre la trompette et la batterie, le quartette se recompose, tout finit par un duo entre le saxophone alto et la batterie. Interface F : la contrebasse parle seule, tandis que la trompette, le saxophone et la batterie ne font qu’apparaître à tour de rôle. Interface C : la batterie s’anime, le quartette est à éclipses. Interface A : le trio du saxophone, de la contrebasse et de la batterie alterne avec le quartette au complet. On pourrait presque croire à ces couplages d’instruments si les jeux de constructions rythmiques qui forment l’ossature de cette musique n’étaient répartis entre tous. Chacun est batteur ici, même Nasheet Waits sur ” Manifold “, réducteur de têtes et agrandisseur de formats, même Tyshawn Sorey sur ” On Meaning “, brodeur pulsatif à temps et contretemps, disposant d’une centaine de milliers de rythmes coupés courts qui pourraient être ceux du swing, du drum’n’bass, des percussions africaines et/ou contemporaines… Et les soleils tournent autour de ces rythmes lunatiques. La contrebasse de John Hebert se laisse glisser sur l’interface-bourdonnée des instruments à vent ; elle brandit la trompette sur l’interface-parlée de ses pentes et de ses pics. Il n’est nulle part question de s’accompagner, mais de se côtoyer. Dit autrement : on ne s’accompagne pas, on ne regarde pas en arrière, on se double et se dédouble. Sur Curse Fraction (” On Meaning “), vous entrez en flânant ; vous assistez à un slalom entre saxophone, trompette et batterie ; vous revenez, mystérieusement assagi, emporté par les ondes du vibraphone. Car vous ne l’entendez pas tout de suite, mais la batterie a ouvert un nouvel accès, une rampe de lancement. Tout est affaire de pivotements. De réitérations aussi pénétrantes que passagères, de tiraillements sans conséquences, de ralentissements ou d’accélérations subites et sommaires, de réfractions, d’embranchements, de déviations… ” Manifold ” et ” On Meaning ” sont des disques et des villes aux carrefours desquels quatre ou cinq musiciens jouent à dévier les sens.

Cadence Magazine review by David Dupont

cf-106(1) Paul Hubweber – Paul Lovens – John Edwards – Papajo Simple Game (Cadence jazz 1209)
(2) Michael Dessen Trio – Between Shadow and Space (CF 106)
(3) Kirk Knuffke Quartet – Big Wig (CF 107)
(4) Prana Trio – Pranam (Circavision 38725)
(5) Open Loose – Strange Unison (Radio Legs 13)

PAPAJO’s Simple Game (1) is not an easy session to listen to on the fly. By half listening to it you not only miss the nuances, but also grow frustrated because even the distracted ear detects the depths in the music, and to plumb those you need to devote the proper amount of aural energy to the session. Trombonist Paul Hubweber, percussionist Paul Lovens, and bassist John Edwards bring years of experience in collective creation, with each other and an array of other musicians, to bear on a session that develops organically. Each musician spontaneously fashions an individual part that contributes to the whole. They explore the cracks in the sounds of their horns, odd evocative bits that seem to belong either to the space age or just the ages. They respond both to what their compatriots are doing as well as to the jazz in their DNA. So it’s not surprising on “Smell It” when they work up to a train groove, or if they slip into a nifty four-to-the-bar walking pattern on “Orleans Trib,” which also finds Hubweber citing Parker’s “Confirmation.” But these evolve naturally from the freer thicket of groaning bass, clattering drums, and guttural wah-wah trombone. Every moment brings its own reward, at least those willing to give their ears and brains over to the effort.
(2) Despite having the same instrumentation, save for the inclusion of some subtle electronics on most tracks, Michael Dessen’s Between Shadow and Space has a very different approach. The trio of the leader on trombone and electronics, Christopher Tordini, bass, and Tyshawn Sorey, percussion, is committed to realizing Dessen’s compositions. They examine his tightly wound modules of tones and stretch them out, flip them on their ends, pull them inside out. Though the players imbue these pieces with Free improv energy, the performances grow from inside Dessen’s concepts outward. Tordini contributes fat, grounding bass lines while Sorey pushes the tunes forward. He implies Swing figures, loosening their screws so they serve as another textural color, but never lose a sense of forward motion. Dessen really couldn’t ask for a better accounting of his knotty compositions.
(3) Big Wig adds a trumpet to the mix, in this case the leader Kirk Knuffke’s trumpet. While Dessen’s pieces employ a thematic approach, owing to more classical methods albeit filtered through Free Jazz, Knuffke bookends his performances with trenchant, even singable, Free Bop heads. These are the kind of pieces ready made to launch rounds of solos, ending with fours with the drummer. Knuffke, however, departs here from the norm. Instead the quartet engages in finely tuned—this is a working band we’re told in the notes—interactions. The two Free interludes “Sustain 1 and 2” show the musicians’ fine intuition as an ensemble, tuning into a collective sound. Take “Something’s always change.” The head is a spare few bars long, a simple repeated riff that launches a short, rambling drum solo by Jeff Davis. The leader’s trumpet and Brian Drye’s trombone enter together, their lines bouncing off each other. They continue driving forward even when Davis’ drums drop off, leaving them with Radding’s bass as a third voice. The bass solos, then the entire quartet brings the tune in for a quiet landing with the theme returning in a smoother rendition before a final acceleration by the horns. Not that the individuals don’t get a chance to step out on their own. Radding, who’s a major asset to any session, has a powerful arco spot on “The Same.” And the chipper “Normal” does indeed have a round of solos ending with exchanges with the drummer, though those involve eight bars of tangled trumpet and trombone lines alternating with Davis’ outbursts. For his part, the leader has a fluid, probing style, more interested in content than flash. Drye mixes driving legato lines with marcato exclamations. What’s special about the day is the way all voices merge within the contexts set up by Knuffke.
(4) The Prana Trio of Brian Adler, drums; Sunny Kim, voice; and Stomu Takeishi, electric and acoustic bass, are at the core of Pranam, but as the music requires—and what the music requires depends on what the poems require—the trio augments its sound with electronics, keyboard, and reeds. Setting poems, ancient and modern, in a jazz-inflected contemporary music context can’t help but evoke the work of Steve Lacy. That influence is particularly strong on e.e.cummings’ “once like a spark” starting with Kim’s passionate declaration of the lyrics and Jeremy Udden’s knotty saxophone solo. But the Prana Trio ranges far afield in its settings of the poems, and Kim uses a variety of vocal approaches, from speak¬ing on the opening “Tao Te Ching” to the ecstatic chanting on the Rumi suite and the more ethereal chanting on “La Ilaha Il Allah.” Throughout she has a crystalline voice that delivers the lines with controlled passion. “Everywhere” showcases her voice in a ballad mode cushioned by saxophone and two clarinets. It’s a strikingly beautiful track. Still, “The Rumi Suite” shows the trio can create an orchestral sound without guests. Takeishi fills out the harmonic bottom with singing lines and atmospheric harmonics, and Adler’s percussion is sure-footed and, when called upon, majestic. It all depends on the needs of the words. Like fine jewelers Adler, Kim, and Takeishi craft perfect settings for these poems.
(5) The trio Open Loose’s Strange Unison is a case when the title’s worth pondering, especially given the trio’s moniker. With Malaby, Rainey, and Helias delivering a flowing stream of sound, any true unison—Malaby and Helias locked in on the same phrase in the same octave—would be strange indeed, phenomenal really, and, at the end of the ballad “CBJ,” they actually approximate it. But there’s unison of spirit in approach in these fluid ensemble improvisations inspired by Helias’ compositions. Though they produce a sound true to the band’s name—open and loose—that belies how they are locked into the compositions, And how composer and bassist Helias and drummer Tom Rainey keep the pieces on track, whether the deep Blues of “Blue Light Down the Line,” mournful ballad “CBJ” with its majestic scene-setting solo by Helias, or the trio’s varieties of Swing including the rattling, jalopy rhythm of “Illustrate.” Helias provides heads with plenty of melodic meat for all three musicians to chew on. Malaby is very much in his element here. The trio is a fine showcase for his impassioned, at times gnarled, lyricism. On “Irrational” the trio shows how it can work a simple groove—the boom chick of Rainey’s bass drum on one beat, and slapped, loosely closed high hat on the other—to fine effect. After the tenor and bass play the head in octaves, they drift off, each having his own idea where the piece should go. In the end they produce a unified performance that’s typical of the strong work throughout.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

Improv Music Collective top 10 for 2008

1. Clockwise – Michael Bates’ Outside Sources (Greenleaf Music, 2008 )
2. Zemlya / The Synth Show – Mark O’Leary (Leo Records, 2008 )
3. The Gift of Discernment – Dennis Gonzalez (Not Two Records, 2008 )
4. The Beautiful Enabler – Mauger (Clean Feed, 2008 )
5. The Rings of Fire – Daniele Cavallanti & Tiziano Tononi (Long Song Records, 2008 )
6. Humanization 4tet – Luis Lopes (Clean Feed, 2008 )
7. Within – Francois Carrier Trio (Leo Records, 2008 )
8. New Code – Peggy Lee Band (Drip Audio, 2008 )
9. Your Very Eyes – Xabier Iriondo & Gianni Mimmo (Amirani Records / Long Song Records, 2008 )
10. Renegade Spirits – Dennis Gonzalez (Furthermore Recordings, 2008 )
http://www.myspace.com/improvmusiccollective

All About Jazz review by Robert Iannapollo

cf-128Angelica Sanchez – Life Between (CF 128 )
Pianist Angelica Sanchez has been forging her own path on New York City’s music scene since 1995. Although she only has one release under her own name—the excellent Mirror Me (OmniTone, 2003)—she’s added substance to the ensembles of saxophonist Tony Malaby, drummers Kevin Norton and Susie Ibarra, among others. She also co-leads a trio with Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey. For Life Between she has expanded the lineup of the quartet on her first disc to a quintet, with the addition of guitarist Marc Ducret.
Life Between features eight new compositions that span a wide range: from the darkly ominous “Black Helicopters” and tricky maneuvers of “SF 4” to the wistfully lyrical “Federico.” Alternating between acoustic and electric pianos (a Wurlitzer that gives the music a distinct flavor), Sanchez discretely orchestrates and directs through deft comping. All the players respond with quick-witted improvisations that are always mindful of the material. There are a lot of options contained within these compositions and the musicians take full advantage of them. Malaby is a player with a big, burly sound yet he’s just as effective in the quieter moments. Rainey is a masterful colorist on his drums yet when the music calls for a basic drive, he’s there at the forefront. The wild card of the band is Ducret, whose adroit handling of fuzz-toned drenched lines, feedback drones and delicate melodies shows an innate understanding of and enthusiasm for Sanchez’ compositions.

It’s the little moments that put this disc over. On “Blue And Damson,” when Malaby ends the theme with a sustained tone, Ducret picks it up with a measure of feedback and runs with it. “Black Helicopters” contains a crescendo passage with Malaby hovering menacingly over the rhythm section, becoming increasingly agitated as the volume increases. At the conclusion of “Corner Eye” the group splinters into an extended dissipating passage. Sanchez has an exciting and responsive working band at her disposal and has given them great material with which to work.