Daily Archives: December 21, 2009

Stash Dauber review

Mo’ Clean Feed Records
The demand for free jazz and creative improvised music must be a whole lot greater in Europe than it is here in these United States, because the folks at Clean Feed Records in Lisbon continue to release interesting, challenging recordings at a rate that would probably break the bank at an American label. Once again, it’s a varied bunch:

Will Holshouser Trio + Bernanrdo Sassetti – Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns (CF 161)
New York-based accordionist Will Holshouser and his drummerless trio meet up with Portuguese pianist Bernardo Sassetti on Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns. Together, they produce a music of lush romanticism, highlighted by Ross Horton’s trumpet, which alternately waxes lyrical and sings sassy, and Dave Phillips’ lovely work on arco bass. This is chamber jazz at its best, alternately wistful and playful, cast from the same mold as Dave Douglas’ Charms of the Night Sky. The title refers to the music’s European setting (recorded in Portugal) and “the mysterious link between alcohol and spirituality,” which sounds good to me.

Michaël Attias Renku – In Coimbra (CF 162)
Well-traveled Israeli-born altoist Michael Attias has a pensive sound, influenced by Lee Konitz and Jimmy Lyons (both of whom have compositions covered on Renko in Coimbra), with an acrid tone and acerbic ideas. He’s ably supported here by bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. The three can play with Art Ensemble of Chicago-like minimalism (“Do & the Birds”) or David S. Ware-ish intensity (“Fenix Culprit,” featuring a cameo by pianist Ross Lossing), sounding their best on “Universal Constant,” where their dialogue moves from abstraction (with Satoshi applying some extended techniques to his traps) to something approaching funk.

Empty Cage Quartet – Gravity (CF 161)
Empty Cage Quartet are so called because the members’ initials spell out MTKJ. “We are not conceptualists,” trumpeter Kris Tiner insists, in Gravity’s liner notes, which rival Cecil Taylor’s for density (if not obscurity). He and his mates Jason Mears (sax, clarinet), Ivan Johnson (bass) and Paul Kikuchi (drums) play through alternating sections from two pieces (“Gravity” and “Tzolkien”) that sound through-composed but are probably improvised, their horn polyphony and tightly-tuned drums evoking an agreeable collision of Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” with Out to Lunch, Point of Departure, or one of those.

Tony Malaby Apparitions – Voladores (CF 165)
Voladores is the latest outing for Tony Malaby’s Apparitions. On tenor, Malaby raises a plaintive cry like mid-‘60s Ornette on the previously unrecorded Coleman composition “Homogeneous Emotions,” and gets a burry, Sam Rivers-like sound on “Old Smoky,” where he’s as forceful as Rivers can be in a trio setting. On “Dreamy Drunk,” he comes across like Archie Shepp channeling Ben Webster and makes effective use of multiphonics. The basic horn-bass-drums trio is augmented by John Hollenbeck’s tuned percussion, which adds textural variety to the proceedings. On “Sour Diesel,” Hollenbeck injects melodica into the harmonic mixture (the way Jack Dejohnette used to on his ECM sides) while Malaby follows a circuitous melodic path on soprano. Might just be the pick of this litter.

Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore – Three Less Than Between (CF 153)
To play the bass clarinet is to invite comparisons to Eric Dolphy, but Jason Stein — a native Lawn Guylander now based in Chicago — volunteered to be thrown into that briar patch after switching from guitar as a teenager. On Three Less Than Between, he’s creating a vocabulary for his instrument on the fly as he goes: growls, squeals, intervallic leaps, and staccato lines, aided by a rhythm section – bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Pride – that’s equally inventive in supporting him. “Isn’t Your Paper Clip” explodes with energy, culminating in an old-fashioned clattering drum solo; the denouement is a relatively straightahead interlude with walking bass, followed by a restless bass solo with sympathetic drum accompaniment.

Nicolas Masson Parallels – Thirty Six Ghosts (CF 163)
Nicolas Masson Parallels’ Thirty Six Ghosts is proof that the land of William Tell has produced more than just watches and chocolate. The Shorteresque tenorman and his all-Swiss quartet (which features electric piano and stand-up bass) play a mostly introspective brand of jazz that’s informed by a love of 20th century composed music and, less audibly, alt-rock. Not surprisingly, the proximate model here is a less wired/weird version of early ‘70s Miles, particularly on the relentlessly funky “Hellboy.”

The Godforgottens – Never Forgotten, Always Remembered (CF 164)
The Godforgottens is the name adopted by Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo and the Sten Sandell trio. On Never Forgotten, Always Remembered, they perform three lengthy extemporations – the longest nearly 20 minutes – with titles that are variants of the album’s title. On “Always Forgotten,” they create brooding, oceanic swells with Sandell playing first-time Hammond B3 as well as piano. “Never Remembered” starts with a cascade of drum thunder from Paal Nilssen-Love, over which Broo and Sandell spar. “Remembered Forgotten” starts as a duel between Broo and Nilssen-Love before Sandell and bassist Johan Berthling enter the fray. Their interchanges can be either exhilarating or exhausting, depending on your point of view.
http://stashdauber.blogspot.com/2009/12/mo-clean-feed-records.html

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All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

Empty Cage Quartet – Gravity (CF 161)
Widely admired for its intricate mathematical construction, the Mayan calendar is far more than just a lightning rod for misguided prophets predicting the end of the world; it is also the source of inspiration for Gravity, the fourth studio recording from the young West Coast-based Empty Cage Quartet.
The album consists of two extended compositions, which are broken into sections and alternated throughout the session. “Gravity” and “Tzolkien” rely on combinations of pitch palindromes and symmetrical harmonic and rhythmic sequences derived from calendar-based number series to yield an endless variety of thematic variations. Despite such meticulous frameworks, the written material is designed to provide additional avenues for group improvisation, which the quartet invests with the same freewheeling enthusiasm that has defined their oeuvre since their inception.

The Empty Cage Quartet, comprised of saxophonist Jason Mears, trumpeter Kris Tiner, bassist Ivan Johnson and percussionist Paul Kikuchi, has been building on the piano-less quartet innovations of Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton since 2003. Collectively, the members of the ensemble have studied with such luminaries as Wadada Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins, Vinny Golia, Milford Graves and Charlie Haden—legendary artists whose individualism informs the group’s singular aesthetic.

Although “Gravity” and “Tzolkien” may sound like formalist exercises on paper, in practice the quartet brings these labyrinthine pieces to life, investing contrapuntal melodies, cantilevered harmonies and compound meters with unflinching enthusiasm. Using the prescribed structure of each piece as a guide rather than a constraint, they range free and loose, bringing a raw, unfettered sensibility to the proceedings.

Fraught with harsh angles, stop-start rhythms and odd meters, these modular compositions defy simple analysis, yet never sound academic. Mears and Tiner wax opulent harmonies over Johnson and Kikuchi’s calibrated undertow, with each member contributing equally to the quartet’s intimate four-way conversations. Their approach to each section varies, veering from atmospheric introspection (“Tzolkien 1+13”) and pensive pointillism (“Gravity: sections 5-7”) to cascading torrents of sound (“Tzolkien 2+9” and “Gravity: section 8”). They draw on multiple traditions, shifting from abstract funk to swaggering bop on “Gravity: section 4,” while “Tzolkien 3+6+7” eradicates notions of austerity with its syncopated vamp and lively discourse between Mears’ staccato alto and Tiner’s muted horn.

Equally informed by complex compositional theory and raw improvisational fervor, Gravity is a compelling example of challenging, yet ultimately accessible creative improvised music. Much has been written about the importance of composition for the future of jazz; this date is an early contender for future case studies.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=35035

All About Jazz review by John Sharpe

Michael Blake / Kresten Osgood – Control This (CF 136)
Canadian saxophonist Michael Blake and Danish drummer Kresten Osgood have forged a strong connection, working in diverse formats including the reedman’s Danish band Blake Tartare. On Control This the instrumentation is almost incidental. What you get is two musicians interacting and having a good time through spontaneous invention (though the inclusion of the goofing around at the end of Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl” wasn’t essential to make that point). Blake’s breathy alto saxophone toys with melodic phrases on the opening “Salutations,” in playful combination with Osgood’s gradually increasing rhythmic mass. Some of the best moments come when the saxophonist’s reiterations mesh with the drummer’s spacious rhythmic architecture, as on the buoyant “Elephants Are Afraid of Mice.” “Cheryl” apart, “Creole Love Call” is the only preconceived piece, featuring a loose chorale of three overdubbed saxophones in a South African kwela feel, framing joyful tenor saxophone and drum freedom.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=33453

So Jazz Magazine review by Alexandre Caldara