Monthly Archives: November 2009

Blogcritics review by Jordan Richardson

Samuel Blaser Quartet – Pieces of Old Sky (CF 151)
Born in Switzerland, Samuel Blaser lived in the heart of Swiss watch-making country. The town he was born in, La Chaux-de-Fonds, was also a vibrant jazz community and housed a pair of expatriate American jazz legends in Kenny Clarke and Sidney Bechet.

It stands to reason, then, that Pieces of Old Sky would embody both the meticulousness of Swiss watch-making and the free form jazz of living in a musical community.

The Samuel Blaser Quartet, one of many groups of which Blaser is an active member, features Blaser’s measured trombone skills alongside the guitar of Todd Neufeld, the double bass of Thomas Morgan, and the drums of Tyshawn Sorey.

Still in his twenties, Blaser’s skill as bandleader is surprisingly mature and represents a sense of timing and poise that few musicians hold. His playing is creative and measured, infused with poise and the natural ability to mesh seamlessly with the other performers.

Pieces of Old Sky demonstrates the quartet’s clever and calm mastery of their craft. It is filled with moments of stunning volatility and moving precision, allowing each member to showcase his art with accents and splashes of musical colour. Through it all, Blaser remains both the centre and foundation of the record through his thrilling playing.

Measured playing is the order of the day on the album’s opening track, the lush and extensive “Pieces of Old Sky.” Clocking in at 17 minutes, the title track is delicate, soft and meaningful. It serves as the perfect elegant introduction to the players in the quartet, as each member softly makes an entrance over Sorey’s deep percussion and Morgan’s atmospheric bass.

“Red Hook” shifts things in somewhat of a different direction. Blaser’s trombone moves through the tricky arrangement eloquently, but it’s Neufeld’s guitar that stands out as he punches the notes and adds glowing texture.

Other tracks make great use out of the communication between bandmates, such as the well-paced “Mandala.” The interplay is astonishing, as it relies on hushed, open spaces more than filled boxes of composition. “Mandala” is a track best exemplified by its lack of force in that it allows the quartet the time and space to move cleanly and clearly through a subtle piece of work.

Pieces of Old Sky is a haunting and exhilarating collection of work from the Samuel Blaser Quartet. Exemplifying the attention to detail and carriage of the leader while honouring the traditional skill of each individual player, this is a jazz record that respects the silence and stillness as much as it respects the driving heartiness of well-played jazz.


Publico review by Nuno Catarino

Nobuyasu Furuya Trio  – Bendowa (CF 159)
O japonês Nobuyasu Furuya, actualmente a viver entre Berlim e Lisboa, tem feito furor nos concertos pela chama incendiária do seu saxofone tenor: ao vivo é capaz de rugidos intensíssimos, capazes de assustar fãs de noise. Mas a arte do palhetista – Furuya toca saxofone tenor, clarinete baixo e flautas – não se resume à ferocidade; além de dominar diferentes instrumentos, o japonês utiliza uma variedade de diferentes técnicas. Acompanhado por uma dupla rítmica portuguesa, Hernâni Faustino no contrabaixo e Gabriel Ferrandini na bateria, tem neste trio uma plataforma segura para explorar um jazz aberto com ascendência no “free” e ligação directa a Peter Brötzmann – e que nos momentos extremos se aproxima da fúria de um Kaoru Abe. Mas é simultaneamente capaz de uma irrepreensível contenção “zen”, especialmente quando se aplica na flauta em delicados murmúrios. Neste álbum, “Bendowa”, homenagem a um monge do século XIII, o japonês tem o apoio inteligente de uma dupla lusa que não se limita a um papel de background: complementa e interage, reage e provoca. Ferrandini é talento bruto em ascensão (aqui está vibrante e atento) e Faustino tem uma performance especialmente rica, servindo-se do contrabaixo com criatividade.

Jazz Review review by Glenn Astarita

Luis Lopes / Adam Lane / Igal Foni – What is When (CF 146)
Portuguese guitarist Luis Lopes defies rigid classifications due to his rather unconventional mode of execution witnessed on this persuasive trio date, featuring American rising star bassist/composer Adam Lane and rock solid, Israeli drummer Igal Foni. It’s a mesmeric gala, brimming with circular themes, and fractured movements.

The guitarist’s patchy voicings ride atop the rhythm section’s bustling cadences, where the band instills a sense of perpetual motion. Here, Lopes dissects and interlinks concise patterns into a semi-structured program, in concert with tangible motifs and the musicians’ ardent improvisational maneuvers. Lopes is a stylist and uses closed-hand tapping techniques while putting matters into overdrive via his cross boundary exercises. He merges free, jazz-rock with dynamic, hard-core experimentalism.

On “Cerejeiras,” the trio conveys temperance with a sinister backdrop, accentuated by Lane’s creaky, arco-based notes and Lopes’ diminutive phrasings. But they kick up a storm during aptly titled, “The Siege,” as Foni offers a tumultuous undercurrent. Then Lane stretches with his airy and pensive solo on “Melodic 8.” In other regions of sound, they launch booming unison ostinatos and venture towards off-kilter metrics, occasionally abetted by Lopes’ haze of progressive-metal like, crunch chords and odd tunings.

The trio casts an abundance of tantalizing propositions throughout this veritably, exciting album, and shun the paths frequently travelled. Each piece stands on its own, and it this point in time, I sincerely hope the unit records again. Marked by diametrically opposed angles and odd-metered song-forms, the artists maintain a keenly identifiable, group-centric methodology.

The Wire review by Phil Freeman

Nobuyasu Furuya Trio – Bendowa (CF 159)
Nobuyasu Furuya, a Japanese saxophonist now resident in Lisbon, makes his recorded debut with this excellent trio, backed by bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. Bendowa is named after a text by Zen monk Dogen that describes how to perfect the Buddhist way through the disciplined meditation know as zazen; and some passages among its five untitled improvisations are indeed meditative.

The second piece, for example, begins with bowed bass and gently caressed cymbals, in a manner that suggests an awareness of post-jazz improvisatory strategies. But Furuya’s flute playing on this track is quite disruptive, ascending from delicate puffing hiss to a full volume shriek that sounds almost like feedback.

The third piece is a Brotzmanniacal workout featuring ferocious tenor blowing as well as a middle section during which Furuya makes distressing, almost gastric sounds with the bass clarinet, while Faustino attempts to yank his instrument’s strings off, and Ferrandini offers intermittent commentary on toms and cymbals.

Indeed, throughout the disc, Faustino’s playing is practically an assault. Even when Furuya seems to be heading in the direction of traditional Japanese flute technique, as on the fourth piece, the bassist is back there strumming and bowing like Jimmy Garrison having a brain haemorrhage. This is the weakest track, if only because Furuya has a brief outburst of singing through the flute, something that must be discouraged. Excellent work overall, though, from a player worthy of free jazz fans’ attention.

Gapplegate review by Grego Edwards

Charles Rumback – Two Kinds of Art Thieves (CF 152)

Drummer Charles Rumback and his Freely Mellow Quartet
Charles Rumback has a new quartet recording out on CD called, interestingly enough, Two Kinds of Art Thieves (Clean Feed). He is joined for this session by Jason Ajemian on bass, Joshua Sclar on tenor sax and Greg Ward on the alto.

This is free improvisation of a decidedly vital yet introspective nature. The two sax interplay of Ward and Sclar is quite interesting and effective. They work together well; the two weave lines in tandem in ways that show they are keenly listening to one another and responding in kind.

This is not music that overwhelms with its intensity, nor is it meant to be. What it does do is create an atmosphere of somewhat somber, sensitive group music making. It will not overawe you. But if you approach it on its own terms it will offer a world of meditative improvisation that many will find quite attractive.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Zé Eduardo Unit – A Jazzar – Live In Capuchos (CF 155)
Aunque se agradece el intento y la simpatía del contrabajista Zé Eduardo de llevar en Live In Capuchos al terreno del jazz la música de algunas series de dibujos animados como Los Simpson, La abeja Maya, Dartacan y los tres mosqueperros o Noddy, junto con temas tan importantes en Portugal como el mítico “Grândola Vila Morena”, la propuesta no termina de cuajar. Aunque la formación es de lujo, le acompañan ni más ni menos que el saxofonista Jesús Santandreu y el batería Bruno Pedroso, los tres músicos dan la impresión durante demasiados momentos de estar más pendientes de que la música no se aleje demasiado de unas melodías más que reconocibles y de los arreglos (que en algunos casos suenan un tanto forzados), que de respirar y dejar que la música crezca, se expanda y se desarrolle. Y aunque no hay nada que objetar, que conste, acerca de los tres músicos y su tremenda capacidad como instrumentistas, la escucha del CD deja la impresión de que la grabación podía haber sido mucho mejor.

Free Jazz review by Stef

CF 154Weightless – A Brush With Dignity (CF 154)
British saxophonist John Butcher and bassist John Edwards are two of the most prominent voices in European free improvisation. They are joined by two Italian improvisers, Alberto Braida on piano and Fabrizio Spera on drums. As with many free improvisation, forget about roles in the band: all musicians contribute in equal parts, adding sounds, interacting and creating high levels of immediate intensity. The band’s name is well chosen, as the music is somewhere suspended in the air, very sparse and devoid of a need to produce sound, free of earthly concerns, although it flows quite organically, naturally, without structure or foundation. The musicians play their limited notes and sounds with reserve, paying full attention to each of them, infusing every one of them with power. Braida can play a few keys, just enough to add to the overall atmosphere, without feeling the need to make chords, or phrases. It’s the sound that counts, and in that he finds a real soulmate in John Butcher, whose careful powerful minimalism is impressive as usual, Edwards’ versatility and creativity, both on arco and plucked is astonishing, and listen how Spera builds depth, contrast and color. Some moments are harsh, others are of an incredible subtlety and nuance. The end result is one of ethereal beauty, not easy to get into, but worth every note.