Daily Archives: December 11, 2009

Point of Deaparture review by Art Lange

Charles Rumback – Two Kinds Of Art Thieves (CF 152)
Ambient jazz? Post-prog-improv? Not to suggest that Chicago-based drummer Charles Rumback and cohorts have devised a new genre, but there’s a curious stylistic vibe at play here, part gravitational pull and part tectonic drift, that defies the usual categories. Four of the six pieces are credited to Rumback – a youthful veteran of electronica duos, fantasy-folk-rock co-ops, and free jazz forays – but nothing seems crafted or arranged; if anything, simple strategies for spontaneous give-and-take result in an equality of ensemble responsibility. Don’t expect head-and-solo “songs” (as the composer credit calls them) – instead, Rumback and saxophonists Greg Ward (alto) and Joshua Sclar (tenor) construct crossfire schemes in arcs of flowing counterpoint. Sclar and Ward are insistently complementary rather than confrontational (more in the mode of a mellow Marsh and Konitz than an excitable Ammons and Stitt, while sounding nothing at all like either pair), and though over the course of a gradual crescendo may grow briefly agitated (as in the opening “Ice Factory”) inevitably return to a calm, casual, albeit quizzical, demeanor. “Four Ruminations” epitomizes their relationship; as Sclar sets down a snaky ostinato, Ward squalls above, then they switch roles. The prevalent mood is one of tempered lyricism, so the drama that emerges comes from their reciprocity; Rumback is prone to understatement –sustained rolling patterns and nuanced accents – and bassist Jason Ajemian limits himself to harmonic grounding in his sporadic appearances. If, on occasion, it seems as if they are a bit overly cautious, chalk it up to generational preference. Some new influences are at work here.

All About Jazz review by Martin Longley

Michael Attias – Renku In Coimbra (CF 162)
Within the realms of his Renku trio, the reed specialist Michaël Attias deliberately glides towards a contemplative space. His partners in sensitivity are bassist John Hébert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. In this setting, Attias deliberately confines himself to the alto saxophone, although his sonic results are anything but self-shackled. Often, when Attias is playing around the city he’ll be soloing more aggressively or crafting sharply jabbing themes as part of a thrusting frontline. Most of the pieces here inhabit a peaceful zone, allowing maximum potential for individual elaboration. There’s a hovering, circulatory motion, with these three playing at the traditionally lyrical end of their range.
Renku is a form of Japanese poetry that usually involves real-time collaboration. These sessions were recorded in Coimbra, Portugal, when his quintet was playing a three-nighter at the 2008 Jazz ao Centro Clube Festival. Although Attias is the leader, he only provides two compositions, with Hébert bringing three, the songbook completed by a tune apiece from Jimmy Lyons and Lee Konitz. The latter’s “Thingin'” has Attias capering lightly, Takeishi’s brushes glancing lightly around his skins and cymbals, Hébert’s bass creeping underfoot.

Abstraction reigns on “Do & The Birds,” with Takeishi pottering around his field of gongs and woodblocks. Attias enters over a thrumming bass line, delicately flamingo-legging through their terrain. “Fenix Culprit” makes a hectic dash, Attias squirming out his lines, letting them wriggle seductively past the ears. This track features guest Russ Lossing on piano.

All of the compositions keep their duration down concisely, fomenting direct communicativeness. “Sorry” (the Lyons tune) features outstandingly dexterous bass and drum solos towards its conclusion and all three players are both wiry and supple on “Universal Constant.” When Hébert’s opening “Creep” is reprised at the disc’s close, it recalls an Art Ensemble Of Chicago feeling of mournful yearning.

Free Jazz review by Stef

The Godforgottens – Never Forgotten, Always Remembered (CF 164)
The Sten Sandell Trio + Magnus Broo is something else entirely than what you would expect. The band is called the Godforgottens, with Magnus Broo on trumpet, Sten Sandell on Hammond B3 organ and piano, Johan Berthling on double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums.

The first piece starts like a tune from a nightmare, with hypnotic bowed bass, an endless menacing organ sound circling around a single tonal center, chaotic background percussion and the trumpet that hovers over it all, screeching full-voiced. Gradually rhythm emerges, the tempo increases, bass strings are plucked, piano chords add drama. The trumpet is still lamenting. Full voice.Then stops. The piano chords run wild. The drums roll, full of patternless madness. Then the storm dies down.

The second piece starts with tribal drumming, deep-voice throat-singing by Sandell, hesitating trumpet tones. The sound of the unexpected. Totally unexpected. Then you get the organ again. Quite harmonious yet weird. Full of gravitas and fire. The trumpet follows suit in short staccato blasts. Even if the rhythm section does everything not to create a sense of flow – at best rocks thundering down mountains, the organ and the trumpet do have a sense of direction: they flow.Then stop. Then it’s Paal Nilssen-Love demonstrating what modern drumming should sound like: all spikes and splinters and unreleased built-up tension. Piano and trumpet dance around each other. Remaining pounding. Staccato. Slowing down. Bass plucked. Sensitivity reigns. Subtlety dominates. Bass bowed. One note on piano. Two notes on piano. A bell-like trumpet sound. A cymbal. Like after the storm: raindrops falling from leaves.

The third piece starts with the known and appreciated Broo & Nilssen-Love duet. Broo can sound like Don Cherry, and like Louis Armstrong and like Lester Bowie, with a deep sense of blues and lyricism. Even in his wildest excursions, like here. The drums go through the roof. The piano joins the free bop. Out of the ensuing chaos, the bass emerges as the solid foundation. Sandell takes the lead. Then Broo does Cherry: all sympathy with the universe, joyful and sad, dancing and serene. The whole band joins. Light-footed and deep. So beautiful. Then the organ is back. Dark and menacing. Supported by the bass. Scattering the joy. No rescue possible. All hope gone.The trumpet screaming in wild laments. High and piercing. The drums rattling. Increasing the tempo. The intensity. Broo counters with a powerful melodic phrase. All heart and warmth. Subduing the violence. Redemption? Resignation? Revenge? It all ends with a single endless organ tone, over which Sandell practices his tuvan overtone singing, shamanistic and tribal …  mesmerizing.

You can’t put this music in a genre box. It’s fantastic.