Daily Archives: March 17, 2009

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita

cf-123Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
Harris Eisenstadt is perhaps one of the more musical drummers within the big picture of modern jazz, free-jazz improvisation and what many cite as, new music. This album signifies the output of the artist’s second trip to West Africa, due to a Meet The Composers Global Connection grant. In the liners, he iterates that Wolof is the primary ethnic group and language of Senegal, and Sabar represents the traditional dance and drumming while serving as a foundation to denote life-cycle events. Eisenstadt asserts “Guewel,” is the Wolof word for griots, or hereditary musicians. Hence, the program spawns an uncannily coherent blend of the drummer’s highly rhythmic compositions, wondrously fused with West African cadences and progressive jazz arrangements. It’s a striking balance, enamored with the ensemble’s labyrinthian charts and odd-metered movements.

The drummer’s works cover a broad tract, where he intertwines off-kilter parade or ritual-like rhythms with group-based unison phrasings and asymmetrical patterns, largely topped-off with memorable melodies. And while Eisenstadt’s music is structured, he affords his band-mates plenty of room to expand and harmonize against a given theme. For example, French hornist Mark Taylor breaks out into a torrid improv jaunt during the opener, “N’daga/Coonu Aduna.”

Awash with highs and lows, a portion of these works are designed with maze-like horns parts amid free-form dialogues. Eisenstadt frames these West African-jazz pieces with tender spots, although he renders a multidimensional aura sans any chordal instrument or bass. The lack of keys or guitar pronounces a streamlined makeup, evidenced on “Rice and Fish/Liiti Liiti,” where the quintet executes an oscillating groove, nicely counterbalanced by Nate Wooley’s rather skittish muted trumpet lines.

Eisenstadt is at the pinnacle of his artistry here. In sum, he drives home the fact, that in the proper hands or minds, music is a border-less frontier. It’s a marvelous integration of stylistic components, equating to an irrefutably unique sum of the interwoven parts. (Essential…)

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

cf-137Denman Maroney – Udentity (CF 137)
Denman Maroney, the sole practitioner of “hyperpiano,” has a singular technique that is a natural extension of the pioneering efforts of such visionary composers as John Cage, Henry Cowell and George Crumb. Expanding on the well-established practice of augmenting the interior strings of the piano with found objects, Maroney bows, plucks and scrapes the strings with brass bowls, copper bars, plastic cases, rubber blocks and other objects with one hand, while playing the keys with his free hand. Transforming the concept of prepared piano into an interactive activity, he yields an infinite range of harmonic overtones, exotic tone clusters and indefinite pitches.

Mirroring his advanced approach towards improvisation, Maroney uses an array of complex structural devices to build his intricate compositions, such as multiple syncopated rhythms, hocketing melodies and preset undertone series. In spite of the preponderance of such esoteric devices, Maroney’s writing exudes a subtle accessibility, employing catchy melodic fragments that occasionally hark back to the early jazz age.

Embellishing these labyrinthine pieces is a veteran quintet, all members of Maroney’s previous ensembles. Fluxations (New World, 2003) featured multi-instrumentalist Ned Rothenberg and trumpeter Dave Ballou, while Rothenberg, bassist Reuben Radding and drummer Michael Sarin form the core of Maroney’s recent quartet effort Gaga (NuScope, 2008).

Consisting of seven distinct movements, each section of Udentity highlights a different aspect of Maroney’s multifaceted capabilities. The punchy opener entwines a cantilevered series of staccato refrains over a percolating funk vamp while the following piece unfolds with an effervescent melody bolstered by timeless unison harmonies.

Invoking past traditions, Ballou unleashes pungent smears from his plunger-muted trumpet across the pensive “Udentity V,” as Rothenberg’s clarion clarinet cadences careen through the abstruse avenues of “Udentity III.” All the while, Radding and Sarin navigate Maroney’s contrapuntal meters and interlocking rhythms with deliberate pacing and spontaneous invention.

Despite the quintet’s sterling contributions, it’s Maroney’s efforts that are the most striking, with excursions that often border on the surreal—such as the pirouetting vortex of scintillating metallic glissandos and oscillating harmonics that conclude “Udentity II.” His oblique phrasing on “Udentity V” is complemented by the rhythm section’s languorous groove, like bluesy Dixieland refracted through a cubist lens. The dynamic vacillations of “Udentity III” encompass a wealth of moods, alternating between austere pointillism and kaleidoscopic chromaticism.

Another exceptional release in a growing discography, Udentity is a stirring example of the adventurous yet accessible possibilities of jazz in the new millennium.

Free Jazz review by Stef

cf-139Trinity – Breaking The Mold (CF 139)
With all the respect I have for the Clean Feed label, when I put on this record, I thought, “no, not again”, when listening to violent saxes annex electronics, wondering why all this is necessary, even if the album starts quite slowly and relatively quietly, eery and gloomy. But as you grow accustomed to the band’s approach (if that’s achievable), the quality of the music increases. Again some Scandinavians doing strong things : led by saxophonist Kjetil Moster, the band further consists of Morten Qvenild on keyboards, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass, and Thomas Stronen on drums. So it starts in an interesting way, with plaintive wailing sax against a background of organ, bass, drums and electronics. Slowly the long piece moves into a more tense mode, with organ and sax reacting to each other in small bursts of sound, with interspersed electronics and then, well… all hell breaks loose, as you might have expected. The second, short piece is driven by the electronics and the arco bass, and if it were not for the sax joining after a while, it would be hard to classify this as jazz, yet it sounds good, like an ocean at night, slight wind, no land to be seen. In contrast, the third piece drops you in the middle of a rock avalanche, a weird unrelenting environment from which you can’t escape, wondering whether you would even want to. But all that is just the long introduction to the last, expansive, magnificent piece, that drags you along for half an hour of intense musical joy. It starts with a powerful interaction between sax and accompanying instruments, then the intensity drops for some floating mist created by organ and electronics, a barely tangible sound, a backdrop with no foreground. And when the emotional, fragile sax enters, you know you’re in for a treat, because of the intensity and the quality of the sounds created, the slow pacing, and the time taken to make each sound come to full fruition and appreciation, but as it goes with carefully built-up tension, it needs release somehow, … and it does come, gradually, intensifying the silent moaning, speeding up the tempo, increasing the volume, and the explosion does come, expansive, wild, pounding, crashing, screeching, howling, … What more do you want?