Monthly Archives: June 2009

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

CF 141Lucky 7’s –  Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
The brainchild of trombonists Jeb Bishop and Jeff Albert, the Lucky 7’s are a consummate example of post-Vandermark Chicago-based collectivism. Bishop’s longstanding work with fellow artists such as Rob Mazurek, Ted Sirota and Ken Vandermark informs his inside-outside approach, lending a forward thinking but historically aware sensibility to this versatile mid-sized ensemble. A New Orleans native, Albert brings the weight of his hometown’s history to play in this rousing septet, finding common ground between Big Easy swagger and Windy City muscle.

Joining Bishop and Albert on the brass heavy front line is the veteran performing duo of cornetist Josh Berman and tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson. Together with Bishop and Albert they form an engaging horn section, unfurling pointillist explorations one minute and rousing Second Line riffs the next. Vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and former New Orleans residents bassist Matthew Golombisky and drummer Quin Kirchner comprise the swinging rhythm section, with Adasiewicz’s scintillating accents amplifying the unit’s unique tonality.

Pluto Junkyard is their sophomore effort, following their 2006 debut Farragut (Lakefront Digital). The majority of the pieces are written by Bishop or Albert, with one each from Jackson and Kirchner. Eschewing conventional AABA forms and head-solo-head structures, these episodic tunes feature an array of advanced compositional devices. Shifting tempos, fluctuating rhythms and unexpected bridges, turnarounds and codas yield a string of dynamic mood changes. Vibrant bouts of controlled collective improvisation and effusive unaccompanied horn cadenzas materialize repeatedly throughout the album, revealing conceptual parallels between Chicago-based, AACM-oriented free improvisation and New Orleans-styled polyphony.

Extrapolating the advancements of Post-War jazz with an infectious blend of contrapuntal invention and elastic freedom, many of the tunes invoke the seminal efforts of visionaries like Andrew Hill, Oliver Nelson and George Russell. The album’s second half maintains this abstract yet accessible approach with a few stylistic detours, including “Future Dog (For Jaki)” which vacillates between collective freedom and funky Afro-Latin grooves, and Albert’s introspective post-Katrina meditation “Afterwards.” The coruscating power chords that fuel “The Dan Hang” feature Bishop tearing into his rarely played electric guitar, while “Sunny’s Bounce” is a joyous, in-the-pocket ode to Sun Ra’s early Delmark sides, closing the album on a high note.

Approaching classic New Orleans traditions from a modernist perspective, the Lucky 7’s challenge preconceived notions about contemporary brass bands. An excellent offering from the fertile Chicago-New Orleans axis, Pluto Junkyard presents a compelling vision of the future, informed by the past.

Gapplegate review by Grego Edwards

CF 143Transit – Quadrologues (CF 143)

The Group “Transit” Scales Improvisational Heights
Some of the new improv/jazz out there today does not follow the head-solos-head format that has been so pervasive in the music. It goes somewhere else, and in the process breaks down the distinction contained within that format. Instead, the music takes what I’d like to call a “concert-gagaku” approach to things. I mean that there is a sensitivity to the combination of sounds and instruments (the “gagaku” part) and a sort of intuitive, mentally mapped-out approach to what each performance will accomplish (the “concert-improv” part). Everything is a head and nothing is a head. All of it is soloing and none of it is. There is also an almost ritual fervor with which the musicians go about their art. Japanese gagaku is I think the oldest surviving example of such a music-making path. I refer to the heightened awareness of the importance of the sound emission of the moment as a kind of cosmic reality outside of everyday life, and the intense commitment to that reality. Whether the musicians involved would put it that way I’m not sure. It is that exacting ritualistic intensity of purpose that comes through to me on this end, regardless. And that makes for some extraordinary music. I allude above to a new CD by Transit, called Quadrologues (Clean Feed). Transit is a quartet with Reuben Radding on bass, a player with big ears and the ability to execute what he hears. He did a remarkable thing a while ago. Once a month he offered a free download of an improv session, each with a different lineup of players, for an entire year. I’ve listen to them all and they give me great respect for his approach. (Google Mr. Radding’s site if you want to hear them.) On some of those is trumpeter Nate Wooley, who makes up one-fourth of Transit here as well. Wooley most certainly is also a musician of discerning ears and carefully creative execution. He has done some nice work with The Magical Listening Hour, a wide-open chamber improv group with trombonist Steve Swell and others. Both Radding and Wooley bring to Transit that ineffable set of qualities I am talking about. Nate and Reuben are joined in the group by drummer Jeff Arnal and alto sax man Seth Misterika. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of hearing either before but they add a cosmic energy and concept to the proceedings on a par with the others. The CD that results has a flow and musical logic that comes out of the immediate moment of the performance, yet stands up well to repeated listenings. It’s as if the players had a clear mental map of the music they wanted to make, and then went ahead and realized it all in sound. I was taken by Quadrologues. It has that certain something the best improv gives you today. I hope they continue to perform together and I get to hear it! review by Antonio Branco

CF 127The Flatlands Collective – Maatjes (CF 127)
Quando, em 2002 se mudou para Boston, o saxofonista e manipulador de electrónicas holandês Jorrit Dijkstra já era um nome com créditos firmados na cena do jazz mais aventuroso e da música improvisada no seu país natal. Desde então, tem mantido estreitas colaborações com músicos norte-americanos. No caso presente do Flatlands Collective chama a si nomes cimeiros da cena de Chicago: James Falzone, Jeb Bishop, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jason Roebke e Frank Rosaly. Apesar de claramente marcada pelo idioma do jazz, a visão musical de Dijkstra incorpora elementos muito diversos, que vão da referida tradição jazzística à música improvisada contemporânea, passando por correntes mais minimalistas e pelas electrónicas. Dijkstra é um devoto do lyricon, um instrumento de sopro electrónico dos anos 1970, cujas potencialidades continua a utilizar com bom gosto. O músico e compositor holandês mostra-se um cuidadoso arquitecto sonoro, dispondo as pedras num interplay pouco convencional. As simbioses instrumentais – aqui mais ásperas ali contemplativas – revelam-se através da sobreposição de camadas sonoras, da exploração da alargada paleta de recursos tímbricos ou de jogos contrapontísticos. Em “Mission Rocker” entrelaçam-se serpentes sonoras. Graciosa nos seus uníssonos e motivos melódicos, “Micro Mood” é uma jóia. “Partially Overdone” e “In D Flat Minor” são dominadas pelas texturas criadas pelo lyricon, pelo contrabaixo e pelo violoncelo (acolitado por uma panóplia de pedais de efeitos) e por uma percussão de relojoaria, sobre as quais pairam os sopros. Peça muito interessante é “Druil”, que, a dado passo, evolui para territórios épico-swingantes. “Maatjes 2” é uma peça de contornos mais coloridos que termina de forma belíssima. Mais fantasmagórica e sombria é “Phil´s Tesora”. Muito bom.

Pinkushion review by Fabrice Fuentes

CF 144Dennis González/João Paulo – ScapeGrace (CF 144)
L’un est Américain et trompettiste, l’autre Portugais et pianiste. Sur une scène de Torres Vedras, petit coin de paradis situé au nord de Lisbonne, les deux musiciens de se livrer d’abord, en toute quiétude, à plusieurs tête-à-tête salués des deux mains, avant de rentrer en studio pour enregistrer ScapeGrace, neuf compositions pour prolonger la grâce et la poésie d’un dialogue improvisé avec une sérénité égale. Si par le passé, au début des années 1990, on se souvient d’avoir entendu João Paulo aux côtés du seul trompettiste Tomas Pimentel, avec qui il fondra d’ailleurs le groupe Almas e Danças (1992), en revanche, plus rares sont les occasions de retrouver le véhément Dennis González dans un contexte aussi intimiste et épuré. Un point qui laisse à penser que ce dernier a volontiers investi l’univers musical de son vis-à-vis plutôt que l’inverse. Lequel sentiment se trouve renforcé par un moindre crédit de compositions (trois) signées du texan et par la variété des approches stylistiques, qui balaie un répertoire étendu du jazz, au classique, sans oublier les musiques populaires ou traditionnelles tel que l’affectionne habituellement le pianiste lisboète. À son jeu impressionniste, au caractère debussien marqué, phrases déposées aux creux des mélodies avec un raffinement qui n’a rien d’ostentatoire répondent donc les tonalités ourlées de silence du trompettiste, tout entier voué à la pureté de son timbre, y compris lorsque la musique se délie de son lyrisme intrinsèque (“Broken Bop”). Quand vient la “Última Canção”, le temps semble littéralement se figer sous les doigts patients de Paulo qui égrène alors ses notes à la manière des grains de sable s’écoulant dans un sablier, tandis que González, épris d’un blues stratosphérique, déploie un souffle lancinant et sinueux d’une grande profondeur de champ. Comme pour ne point en finir de cet échange plein et délicieux.

All About Jazz Italy review by Angelo Leonardi

CF 136Michael Blake – Kresten Osgood – Control This (CF 136)
Control This è il disco che Michael Blake ha realizzato col batterista Kresten Osgood e di cui annunciava l’uscita nella bella intervista di Luca Vitali, pubblicata in settembre [clicca qui per leggerla].
Il sassofonista canadese è ormai un protagonista della scena di New York: iniziò ven’anni fa con i Lounge Lizards di John Lurie per proseguire col Jazz Composers Collective e altre formazioni accanto a Ben Allison, e con apprezzati lavori in proprio (primo fra tutti Kingdom of Champa, prodotto da Teo Macero).
In questo disco che vede Blake estendere il suo interesse anche al contralto, la simpatetica relazione tra i due strumentisti emerge ai massimi livelli, non solo sul piano strumentale ma sul terreno di un’estetica condivisa, in equilibrio tra improvvisazioni free, libere esplorazioni della forma e vivo rispetto per la tradizione jazzistica.
Un chiaro esempio sono le incisioni di “Creole Love Call” (nel cui tema Blake ha sovrainciso alcune parti di sassofono) e “Cheryl” dove l’identità storica dei brani convive con l’intenso e vorticoso dialogo reciproco. Il primo è caratterizzato da una lunga e veemente improvvisazione che può essere accostata all’enfasi di certe pagine coltraniane (il duo con Rashied Ali, ad esempio) mentre il secondo si snoda entro confini dinamici più controllati, in un’ammirevole interplay che coniuga la qualità melodica di Blake all’alto all’incalzante drumming poliritmico di Osgood.

Di grande interesse i brani originali, ognuno caratterizzato da una precisa fisionomia, nella generale condivisione di un’estetica liberamente improvvisata. Tra i più coinvolgenti ricordiamo il veemente “Elephants Are Afraid of Mice” e il rarefatto tema d’apertura, “Salutations,” un dialogo ricco di sottigliezze in una narrazione pervasa da sottile ritualismo.

Time Out Lisboa review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

CF 127Flatlands Collective – Maatjes (CF 127)

Música plana (mas nada chata)

As terras planas parecem excitar a imaginação dos músicos de jazz, a julgar por estes testemunhos vindos da Bélgica e de um holandês emigrado no Midwest

Jorrit Dijkstra (saxofone, sintetizador) nasceu a norte das campinas flamengas que geraram a FES, mas trocou as planuras neerlandesas pelas planuras do Illinois. Em Chicago reuniu um sexteto com os mais estimulantes nomes do jazz local, nomeadamente o trombonista Jeb Bishop e o violoncelista Fred Lonberg-Holm, que baptizou como Flatlands Collective. Maatjes é tudo menos monótono: “Druil” é um retrato daqueles dias de “céu tão baixo que até os canais se perdem” (cito outra vez Brel), “Phil’s Tesora”, caloroso e enérgico, é o seu reverso, “Partially Overdone” é o equivalente sonoro de um banco de nevoeiro, “The Gate” é uma fanfarra para sirenes de nevoeiro, “In D Flat Minor” é uma incursão minimal-repetitiva com sax preparado, cuja agitação mecânica desacelera progressivamente e desagua num final lírico e tranquilo. A lista das faixas na contracapa está toda trocada, o que faz com que o que se ouve não corresponda às notas de Dijkstra para o CD, o que obriga a algum trabalho detectivesco para fazer coincidir as faixas com os seus nomes reais.

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

CF 127Flatlands Collective – Maatjes (CF 127)
Fissare su disco le complicità, le dinamiche, le fluidità, che emergono durante un tour, è pratica che spesso risulta utile alle band – specialmente a quelle che non hanno la possibilità di suonare e provare con continuità – che così possono documentare con la massima attenzione espressiva tutte le sfumature della propria musica. Accade anche al Flatlands Collective, guidato dal sassofonista e compositore olandese Jorrit Dijkstra, che arriva così con Maatjes alla seconda prova discografica, dopo Gnomade pubblicato dalla Skycap Records.
Trasferitosi negli States da diversi anni, Dijkstra ha trovato nella fervida scena chicagoana i musicisti adatti a costruire con lui una convincente serie di architetture tra scrittura e improvvisazione e non c’è dubbio che con artisti della sensibilità del violoncellista Fred Lonberg-Holm o del trombonista Jeb Bishop il gioco si faccia stimolante.

Completano la band i clarinetti di James Falzone e l’elastica ritmica composta da Jason Roebke e Frank Rosaly, che già dall’iniziale Mission Rocker sostiene un groove scuro e incalazante. Così, con tre fiati a disposizione, uno strumento versatile come il violoncello che nelle mani di Lonberg-Holm può assumere molte vesti e, non ultimo, con l’utilizzo dell’elettronica e di congegni analogici, Dijkstra può disporre di un vocabolario molto ampio, che si frammenta in combinazioni sempre differenti e consente nell’ambito della stessa composizione di passare da momenti di libertà collettiva a costruzioni molto precise.

Si passa dalle legnose sonorità di “Micro Mood” a riferimenti a Sun Ra o ai compositori minimalisti [sempre filtrati attraverso una lente di attenta condivisione delle possibilità individuali], passando per temi come “The Gate” di evidente cifra evocativa, con grande qualità musicale, ma anche una astrattezza di fondo che si traduce talvolta – complice anche la non eccessiva capaictà di impatto melodico dei temi – in una complessiva freddezza. Comunque interessante.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF 145Avram Fefer – Ritual (CF 145)
Not everybody has heard, or even heard of Avram Fefer. That is unfortunate. He plays tenor, alto, soprano sax and bass clarinet. He is especially known for his tenor work. He has had some remarkable associations in recent years, notably with piano veteran Bobby Few and as a member of Michael Bisio’s group.

There’s a new one of Avram in a trio context (with Eric Revis on bass, Chad Taylor, drums), namely Ritual (Clean Feed). It’s an excellent example of why he’s one of the forces of good out there on the reeds. We have Fefer where he perhaps likes most to be, playing his own pieces freely in a small group context. His colleagues give him great support and contribute appreciably to the group sound and dynamic. Mr. Bisio, though, is the man of the hour. He plays vividly conceived improvisations all through the set, constructing lines that alternately blaze, charm, cajole, and create compelling worlds of structured sound.

This is great new jazz. What else is there to say?

ejazznews review by Glenn Astarita

CF 143Transit – Quadrologues (CF 143)
The second offering by this New York City based quartet is largely assembled upon an abundance of intriguing tonal contrasts, where progressive and free-jazz translucently merge into a coherent group-centric sound. Designed with layers, and climactic theme building maneuvers, the hornists’ generate soaring and frenetic phrasings atop levitating motifs, tinged with minimalist exchanges and weaving lines.

They transmit an emotive gait that touches your senses in various ways and means. At times, alto saxophonist Seth Misterka and trumpeter Nate Wooley render haunting sub-plots, driven home by drummer Jeff Arnal’s rolling tom patterns. Yet the musicians temper the flows via soft overtones, and a few concise nods to world music. No doubt, this is not a one-dimensional outfit.

With bustling metrics and spiraling horns, the musicians also plunge into a bit of crash and burn fare on the avant-jazz romp titled “Meeting Ground,” where Misterka’s popping notes, communicate a sense of urgency. Otherwise, the respective performers are well-known within global jazz and improvisation circles due to their extensive solo and group-led discographies. Hence, the synergy here becomes evident early on and further evidenced by the whirling ostinato and circular passages executed on the memorable “Speaking In Tongues.” In sum, it’s an entertainingly divergent and persuasive string of musical events.

All About Jazz review by Wilbur MacKenzie

CF 148Magical Listening Hour – Live @ Southstreet Seaport (Cadence Jazz Records)
Steve Swell – Planet Dream (CF 148)

While these two new discs from trombonist Steve Swell may exhibit elements of contrasting methodology, at the root of both projects is a somewhat utopian idealism, wherein humanity’s collective process of identifying with sound leads us closer to more harmonious coexistence.

The Magical Listening Hour is the collective improvising quartet of Steve Swell, trumpeter Nate Wooley and saxophonists Louie Belogenis and Michael Attias. Live @ The South Street Seaport documents the ensemble’s first public performance and consists of two lengthy tracks, one just under a half-hour and the other just past the 40-minute mark. The performances are not so much two distinct pieces as related views into a collaborative dynamic that allows for sound to exist in a space with other sounds. Ideas come and go and form is not a matter of executing a distinct architecture as it is a question of allowing sounds to dictate their own life span.

Wooley and Swell have worked together quite notably in Blue Collar, which has released two discs and has a third on the way. Here they continue their inquiry into the sonic extremities of brass instruments, allowing their attention to rest on the various incidental sounds that listeners, and often performers, tend to overlook. Belogenis and Attias are both masters of manipulating reed instruments to conjure new sonic intrigue.

Swell has worked with cellist Dan Levin and saxophonist Rob Brown before in various contexts, but a tightly woven trio environment provides for a very exposed look at how three distinct identities can contribute to a meaningful whole while maintaining individual directionality. Planet Dream forgoes Magical Listening Hour’s concept of experiencing the gradual passage of sound and time in favor of a pursuant drive towards an abstract goal. In this charged trio, the true meaning of the quest is not to reach a finish, but rather to continue to coexist. An excerpt from the liners is illustrative: “One person may have his or her own dream, but when it’s shared and acted upon by others, it no longer belongs to one person alone, it belongs to everyone who shares in it.”

The improvisations are intense, whether on a microscopic plane like the one that opens the title track or the densely maximalist polyphony of Swell’s tune “Juxtsuppose”. The disc is balanced between fully improvised pieces and Swell’s compositions, the ensemble dynamic making for a free-flowing liquidity that ties everything together. The improvisation “City Life” illustrates the conundrum of maintaining one’s distinct identity while contributing to a meaningful group dynamic: Levin’s dynamic solo introduction gradually is overtaken by a forceful ensemble statement, only to reveal a sublime duo for Swell and Brown. The trio returns, transformed, yet with the same ubiquitous consideration for balance and cooperative development.