Daily Archives: March 1, 2009

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

cf-130JOE MORRIS / BARRE PHILLIPS – Elm City Duets (CF 130)
What transpires from Elm City Duets after repeated dutiful listens is an impression of mutual regard, a quality which should be at the basis of cognisant interplay in every juncture. All the more complicated is fulfilling such an ambition in a guitar/double bass duo, a situation that only on the odd occasion warrants really good results – especially in terms of dynamics. Morris manifests a fan-like mindset in the liner notes, where he recalls his first meetings with Phillips many years following his “melting” the B side of Archie Shepp’s New Thing At Newport. The actual music in the CD doesn’t reveal any sort of excessive veneration, though, thus we can effortlessly appreciate the consideration given by the artists to the infinitesimal detail as opposed to prefabricated incidents. A sparkling chord occurs because it was meant to be there at that moment, yet no one knew in advance; a touching arcoed lament appears out of nowhere to project our own inner tremor in the area of unintentional thankfulness. In essence, we’re talking about a fairly untreated acoustic interface between two distinguished improvisers who give birth to frequent moments of superb artistic purity, either slightly encrusted by the strident features of the instruments or defined by an extremely efficient juxtaposition of smart clusters, percussive clattering, minimal patterns and strenuous contrapuntal digressions. In times of abundant eruptions of psycho-babbling vacuum, here’s a rare chance for the appreciation of a rather complex, yet kind-hearted expression of zealous musicianship by creative entities who have turned their will to remain unadulterated in a world of dubious circumstances into a distinct trait of tightly established earnestness, the sort of skill where even a minor blemish becomes an attribute to approve and learn from.

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita

cf-138Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient And Future Airs (CF 138)
Recorded in June 2008 at New York City’s Living Theater, revered British modern/free-jazz tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall aligns with his American counterparts for an energized meeting of like minded artistes. The leader of this date has been a pivotal figure on the global jazz scene with semi-structured ensembles large and small. His affiliation with the time-honored Mujician quartet is well documented, and is a unit that enjoys executing within extended compositions and improvisations. Here, the quartet follows suit, largely due to the forty-nine minute opening track,“Ancient Airs.” As Dunmall finds a superb foil with veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby.

The dual sax attack commences “Ancient Airs” with slowly levitating exchanges, accented by Kevin Norton’s multi-hued vibes patterns. They accelerate the pace via high-spirited assaults and then lower the temperature during the more introspective movements. Malaby switches to soprano in spots as the band pecks and gnaws during its expressionistic free-form dialogues. At times they move forward with maddening intensity amid gobs of contrasting lines. Moreover, bassist Mark Helias and Norton, performing on drums, lay down the modulating grooves.

The quartet delves into fee bop terrain to complement a torrential downpour of polytonal musings. Yet the program is by no means superfluous or contrived. Highlights abound, where Dunmall goes on a tear due to his whirling dervish bagpipes passages. It’s improvisation of the utmost caliber. And after a lengthy applause by the audience, Helias launches the second and final piece “Future Airs” with a supple motif, followed by the saxophonists’ moody and animated dialogues. They use space as the fifth instrument while often rendering mini-themes under the auspices of a circular entity splitting into multiple fragments. Sure enough, the musicians communicate fire and brimstone. In sum, they perform on a higher realm of the all-encompassing jazz spectrum.

Free Jazz review by Stef

cf-137Denman Maroney Quintet – Udentity (CF 137)
Pianist Denman Maroney is a restless spirit, seeking new ways to express himself, joining careful structural compositional elements with free form, and the result is utterly perplexing and warm. I have listened more than a dozen times to this album in the past days and it is extremely difficult get familiar with it. Each time I listen to this record, it sounds different. It is hard to identify themes, or even structures in it, but the music is carefully crafted nevertheless : the rhythms and tempos are different for the various instruments in the quintet, and so is the harmonic development. It is at times puzzling for the listener: once you focus on one thing, the other parts seem to escape attention, and vice versa. A kind of musical “trompe l’oeil” with ever ongoing shifts and differing perspectives. Musical time becomes a relative thing. On top of that, Maroney uses his hyperpiano extensions: anything that is handy to give his strings a different sound color will do: slides and bows of metal, rubber, plastic, brass bowls, CD jewel cases, tape cassette boxes, you name it. But the brilliant thing about Maroney’s approach is that his music sounds great. In contrast to many experimenters, the music still prevails here, and how. With a band consisting of Ned Rothenberg on clarinet and sax, Dave Ballou on trumpet, Reuben Radding on bass and Michael Sarin on drums, what more do you want? And I think you would need such technically gifted musicians to bring Maroney’s musical concept to a good end, and adding some. It must have required great efforts of concentration for them, yet the quality of the improvisations is such that all five musicians dance their way through even the most difficult parts. And despite all the complexity, the album is great fun. It is serious at times, but Maroney does not take himself too seriously. And because of the different tempi, it funks too at times. Music for the mind, heart and body. And like any good music, its quality increases with each listen. More joy to come.