Daily Archives: December 18, 2009

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

Tony Malaby’s Apparitions – Voladores (CF 165)
New York-based tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby’s seventh album as a leader, Voladores, is named after the visually stunning Mexican dance troupes he saw while growing up in Tucson, Arizona. Inspired by their celebratory rhythmic fervor, he employs a dynamic dual drummer-based quartet on this date, revisiting the heavily percussive line-up of his 2003 sophomore release, Apparitions (Songlines).

Bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey return from the earlier session, with second drummer Michael Sarin replaced by percussionist and composer John Hollenbeck—the mercurial creative engine behind Malaby’s exotic Warblepeck (Songlines, 2008). Serving as colorist rather than polyrhythmic timekeeper, Hollenbeck’s kaleidoscopic accents augment Rainey’s propulsive trap set ruminations and provide rich harmonic detail to Gress’ melodious musings, expanding the group’s palette considerably. The rhythm section’s bustling, yet tonally harmonious undercurrent allows Malaby unprecedented freedom, similar to Coltrane’s later period work.

One of the most significant tenor saxophonists working today, Malaby’s singular technique makes him one of the foremost improvisers of his generation. Where many of his peers mistake histrionics for intensity, Malaby values subtleties in volume, timbre and tone above dexterity and speed. Though his melodious phrasing often careens at a quicksilver pace, his nuanced attention to detail sets him apart from the masses of post-Coltrane acolytes. His supple, breathy embouchure lends “Lilas” a sublime air of introspection, while the roiling turbulence of his taut intervallic cadences amplifies the jagged contours of “Old Smokey.”

Malaby reveals his plangent lyricism from the start, opening the session with a vibrant rendition of Ornette Coleman’s previously unrecorded “Homogenous Emotions.” Ripe with multiphonic soprano glissandos, sinewy arco drones and militaristic percussion retorts, the mysteriously ritualistic “East Bay” invokes the early experimental narratives of the AACM, establishing his aesthetic lineage with the sixties New Thing and seventies Loft Scene. “Dreamy Drunk” is similarly structured, a languid epic that ascends from bluesy ethereal discourse to impassioned, muscular collectivism.

The labyrinthine “Old Smokey” spotlights the rhythm section’s uncanny listening skills and intuitive communal discourse as they navigate intricate meters and modulating tempos, spurred on by Malaby’s increasingly frenetic tenor. Framed by Gress’ buoyant runs and Rainey’s acute sense of timing, Hollenbeck’s effervescent accents provide abstruse syncopation to “Los Voladores,” while his lilting melodica swells and clattering percussion underscore the loping funk vibe of the soprano-driven “Sour Diesel.”

Three brief group improvisations highlight the quartet’s congenial rapport, providing spare pointillist interludes that counterbalance the album’s dense episodic detours. Another stellar addition to an impressively diverse and expanding discography, Voladores is further proof of Malaby’s growing importance as an artist of note.

All About Jazz Italy review by Giuseppe Segala

Samuel Blaser – Pieces of Old Sky (CF 151)    
Il secondo album in quartetto di Samuel Blaser definisce in modo nitido il lavoro del giovane trombonista svizzero, che già aveva calamitato l’attenzione con il primo disco a proprio nome, 7th Heaven, con il formidabile Solo Bone, dove ha ribadito doti non comuni di solista, e lo stimolante Yay in duo con l’esuberante Malcolm Braff.
Blaser è ben focalizzato sulle proprie idee e la scelta di insistere sull’organico di trombone, chitarra, contrabbasso e batteria si dimostra ottimale per lo sviluppo di una musica dialogica, a maglie ampie, che sa essere meditativa, intensa e giocata con dinamica intelligenza tra composizione e improvvisazione. Tali motivi sono portati in questo disco ad un grado elevato di maturazione, equilibrio e personalità, centrando l’attenzione su una musica rarefatta e meditativa, sulla linea di una certa estetica sviluppata negli anni dal batterista Pierre Favre, compatriota di Blaser, con il quale il trombonista collabora in modo sistematico.

Intensità contemplativa (mistica, come traspare da alcuni titoli) e capacità costruttiva che stupiscono in un musicista ancora sotto la soglia dei trent’anni. Sottili incanti che nulla spartiscono con certa musica estetizzante ed estatica proveniente dal nord dell’Europa, ma che trovano ragione nell’ampiezza dello spazio prospettico, nella profondità e convinzione poetica, nella capacità di scrittura del protagonista. Si ascolti a tale proposito il brano più serrato nel proprio intreccio, “Red Hook,” dove le linee si intersecano in fitto contrappunto, ricordando la scrittura di Braxton, ma imboccando poi strade originali.

Fondamentale l’apporto dei musicisti coinvolti, ai quali il leader chiede di amministrare uno spazio sonoro ampio, tridimensionale. Il formidabile batterista Tyshawn Sorey interpreta con naturalezza un ruolo di interlocutore al quale è concessa una maggiore densità di fraseggio, ma in modo delicato, filigranato, attento alle sfumature dinamiche sottili e alla logica del contrappunto spontaneo. Il bassista Thomas Morgan, unico superstite rispetto al precedente quartetto di una formazione in continuo divenire, si muove con felpata spazialità, mentre la chitarra di Todd Neufeld mostra empatia particolare nel rapporto con il trombone. La cosa spicca con evidenza in “Mystical Circle” e nei due “Choral”.

Blaser controlla da virtuoso il fraseggio agile e l’emissione multifonica, ma sceglie di limitare ogni eccesso, per concentrarsi sullo sviluppo di un suono d’insieme e sulla costruzione di linee e disegni densi di significato, che giungono al massimo dell’intensità in “Mystical Circle,” meditazione sospesa nel cuore dell’album.

Free Jazz review by Stef

Empty Cage Quartet – Gravity (CF 161)
The Empty Cage Quartet keeps releasing quality albums year after year. The band consists of Jason Mears on alto and clarinet, Kris Tiner on trumpet, Ivan Johnson on bass and Paul Kikuchi on drums, and has been performing for many years in the same line-up. This is without a doubt their most mature statement to date, with a self-assured delivery that goes beyond the common expectations about jazz. The band’s compositions are based on numeric concepts : “Calendric number sequences generate cyclical Tzolkien forms that combine and recombine, seeking an intuitive, organic union of numerological complexity and visceral groove”. That’s how Kris Tiner describes it in the liner notes, adding “We are not conceptualists”. And he is right. What counts is how the music sounds. All the rest are just methods to create new approaches, to open doors as yet unopened, to create new insights, to challenge existing patterns and notions. And that’s what this band does, creating layers of music around the core structures, improvising and expanding, delving into the new possibilities that are offered. The overall result is strong. Needs to be heard.

The downside of it is that it lacks the emotional drive and expressivity of the previous albums, as if the one goes at the expense of the other. Even if the approach is interesting, the intellectualisation of the music creates a little more distance with the listener. In that sense, their previous album “Stratostrophic” was stronger. But again, if you like the band, this is for sure one of their best so far. And don’t get me wrong : there is plenty of emtional delivery, yet it’s a little less of a strength. Infusing their new concepts with the sustained emotional power of some of their previous albums would work miracles. http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/

Christian Broecking “Best of 2009 list” on Jazz House

1. David Murray “Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club” (Jazzwerkstatt)
2. Henry Threadgill “This brings us to, Vol.1” (Pi)
3. Steve Lehman “Travail. Transformation, and Flow” (PI)
4. Jen Shyu “Jade Tongue”  (Jen Shyu)
5. Ralph Towner, Paolo Fresu “Chiaroscuro” (ecm)
6. Christian Lillingers Grund “First Reason” (Clean feed)
7. C.O.D.E. Ken Vandermark, Max Nagl u. a. “play the music of O. Coleman and E. Dolphy” (Handsemmel Rec. Crack)
8. Positive Catastrophe ”Garabatos Vol.1“ (Cuneiform)
9. Joshua Redman “Compass” (Nonesuch)
10. Vijay Iyer “Historicity” (ACT)

David R. Adler “Best of 2009” list on Jazz House

1. David S. Ware, Shakti (Aum Fidelity)
2. Miguel Zenón, Esta Plena (Marsalis Music)
3. Gerald Clayton, Two-Shade (ArtistShare)
4. Vijay Iyer Trio, Historicity (ACT)
5. Steve Lehman Octet, Travail Transformation & Flow (Pi)
6. Herculaneum, Herculaneum III (Clean Feed)
7. David Binney, Third Occasion (Mythology)
8. Edward Simon Trio, Poesía (Cam Jazz)
9. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam)
10. SFJazz Collective, Live 2009: The Works of McCoy Tyner (SFJazz)
11. Julian Lage, Sounding Point (Decca/Emarcy)
12. Ben Wendel, Simple Song (Sunnyside)
13. Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio, Reflections (Wommusic)
14. Abdullah Ibrahim, Senzo (WDR/Sunnyside)
15. Keith Jarrett, Testament (ECM)
16. Stefon Harris’s Blackout, Urbanus (Concord)
17. John Patitucci, Remembrance (Concord)
18. Marcus Strickland, Idiosyncrasies (Strick Muzik)
19. John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside)
20. Linda Oh Trio, Entry (ind.)
21. Fred Hersch Plays Jobim (Sunnyside)
22. Samuel Blaser, Pieces of Old Sky (Clean Feed)
23. Henry Threadgill’s ZOOID, This Brings Us To, Volume 1 (Pi)
24. Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Strings, Renegades (Delmark)
25. Claudia Acuña, En Este Momento (Marsalis Music)

Others of note —

Nels Cline, Coward (Cryptogramophone)
John Hicks, I Remember You (HighNote)
Martial Solal, Live at the Village Vanguard (Cam Jazz)
Nelson Veras, Solo Session Vol. 1 (BEE Jazz)
Mika Pohjola, Great Tunes By My Friends (Blue Music Group)
Dan Tepfer, Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys (ind.)
Julian Argüelles, Inner Voices (Tone of a Pitch)
Charles Evans, The King of All Instruments (Hot Cup)
Jason Stein, In Exchange for a Process (Leo)
Daniel Kelly, Portal (3×9)
Katherine Young, Further Secret Origins (Porter)
Mika Pohjola, The Red Bicycle (Blue Music Group)

Gerry Hemingway & Thomas Lehn, Kinetics: Tom & Gerry (Auricle)
Gerry Hemingway & John Butcher, Buffalo Pearl (Auricle)
Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway, A Duet of One: Live at the Bakery (IPO)
Jim Hall & Bill Frisell, Hemispheres (ArtistShare)
Michael Blake & Kresten Osgood, Control This (Clean Feed)
Alan Sondheim & Myk Freedman, Julu Twine (Porter)
Andy Milne & Benoit Delbecq, Where Is Pannonica? (Songlines)
Jesse Stacken & Kirk Knuffke, Mockingbird (SteepleChase)
Satoko Fujii & Myra Melford, Under the Water (Libra)
Dennis González & João Paulo, Duo (Clean Feed)
Dan Tepfer & Lee Konitz, Duos with Lee (Sunnyside)
Ben Monder & Bill McHenry, Bloom (Blue Music Group)
Eddie Harris & Ellis Marsalis, Homecoming (Elm Classics)
Gary Peacock & Marc Copland, Insight (Pirouet)

Tyshawn Sorey, Koan (482 Music)
Pascal Niggenkemper Trio, Pasàpas (Konnex)
Anthony Wilson Trio, Jack of Hearts (Groove Note)
J.D. Allen, Shine! (Sunnyside)
Manuel Valera, Currents (MaxJazz)
FLY, Sky & Country (ECM)
Jerome Sabbagh, One Two Three (BEE Jazz)
Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore, Three Less Than Between (Clean Feed)
Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron, Dream Dance (CAM Jazz)
Han Bennink Trio, Parken (ILK)
Darius Jones Trio, Man’ish Boy: A Raw and Beautiful Thing (Aum Fidelity)
Digital Primitives, Hum Crackle & Pop (Hopscotch)
Chad Taylor, Circle Down (482 Music)
Kevin Hays Trio, You’ve Got a Friend (Jazz Eyes)
Sam Yahel, Hometown (Posi-Tone)
John Hollenbeck/Theo Bleckmann/Gary Versace, Refuge Trio (Winter & Winter)

Laurence Donohue Greene “Best of 2009” list on Jazz House

Steve Adams Trio – Surface Tension (CF 131)

Bill Dixon – Tapestries for Small Orchestra (Firehouse 12)
Agustí Fernández – Un Llamp Que No S’Acaba Mai (psi)
Jim Hall/Bill Frisell – Hemispheres (ArtistShare)
Indigo Trio (Nicole Mitchell/Harrison Bankhead/Hamid Drake) – Anaya (Rogue Art)
Mary Halvorson/Reuben Radding/Nate Wooley – Crackleknob (hatOLOGY)
Håkon Kornstad – Dwell Time (Jazzland)
Masada Quintet – Book of Angels, Vol.12: Stolas (feat. Joe Lovano) (Tzadik)
Bobby Previte – Pan Atlantic (Auand)
Miroslav Vitous Group – Remembering Weather Report (with Michel Portal) (ECM)