Monthly Archives: January 2010

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

The Godforgottens – Never Forgotten Always Remembered (CF 164)
There are times when the cumulative effort of listening to CD after CD of music can bog the senses. It is enormously time consuming, enormously tedious at times, and frustrating on a number of levels. The point is, when something doesn’t stand out one way or another, when it sounds like 500 other CDs you’ve heard in the last year, what do you say about it?

Thankfully today’s CD does not have that problem. The Godforgottens’ “Never Forgotten, Always Remembered” (Clean Feed) does stand out from the pack. It’s a free improvisation distinguished by Paal Nilssen-Love’s anarchic everything-but-the-trashcan drumming insouciance, by Johan Berthling’s earthy, rumbling double bass, and perhaps most of all, the brazen excitement of Magnus Broo on trumpet and the keyboard work of Sten Sandell.

The beginning of the performance has a droning quality set off by Sandell’s Hammond B3 and Broo’s cosmically directed trumpet. The sound of the group here is much more than the ordinary free improv ensemble at work. They hover and drone around a pitch center with avant asides and somehow manage to invoke that eastward gazing “Universal Consciousness” sort of sound that Alice Coltrane created in her prime, but without directly referencing it.

The second section has a rough-and-tumble, head-over-heels quality that is abetted especially by Nilssen-Love’s cacophonous crashing and clashing of timbres and textures. The final section brings the B3 into the mix once again with drones and melodic sustains, and with some really rather bracing trumpet from Broo.

This is accessible avant garde music that does not run through the usual exercises of how to attain a group collectivity. It’s different and it’s very good.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Michael Attias Blends the Cool and the Hot in New CD

Michael Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
There are times when you welcome an unfamiliar name and sound to the music corpus that constitutes your listening and playing life. Other times perhaps you can be satiated and nothing gets through the jaded ears into the appreciative consciousness. Then too, it can be that only the last few listenings in a cycle of familiarity can make everything clear to your musical head.

Michael Attias got through to me as a voice that should be heard only after a couple of listens to his excellent Renku In Columbra (Clean Feed).This is a showcase for his cool-hot alto playing, a subtle commodity that charms and caresses the senses with a real facility but also a sensitive sense of phrase and form.

The album runs through several originals by Michael and the formidably propellant bassist on the date, John Hebert. Then there are rather unknown but interesting pieces by Lee Konitz and Jimmy Lyons, one apiece.

Besides Hebert, drummer Satoski Takeishi adds a groovingly out presence. Russ Lossing joins the fray on piano for one cut.

This is improvisation as high art. Attias and Hebert are masterful, impressive, loquacious. Takeishi is alternately bombastic and playful, subtle and driving.

It shows that Michael Attias can create a sound on the alto that has a classic ring to it–cool like the coolists, hot like the new thingers, but filled with really interesting and original phrasing. These cats can swing and they can tumble out of time. They do either like they own their music, authoritatively. I am happy to get a chance to hear Attias and company hold forth so effectively on Renku. You might well feel the same way.

Chicago Reader review by Peter Margasak

Michael Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
Fluent, stylish saxophonist MICHAËL ATTIAS—whose long history with local cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm includes playing together in New York combos like Peep and Anthony Coleman’s Self-Haters in the early 90s—is the most jazz-oriented participant. On the excellent new Renku in Coimbra (Clean Feed), a trio outing with bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi, he’s impressively limber and resourceful, creating a graceful continuity even when he pares a solo down to a series of elliptical phrases. A sharp version of Lee Konitz’s “Thingin'” evokes west-coast cool, while the original tune “Do and the Birds” both lurches and glides, its interactions more turbulent but no less intuitive.

Temporary Fault review by Massimo Ricci

A Pair Of Not So Recent Clean Feeds
With many more to come (…). This makes me think that roundup reviews are not so useful after all. In the future I won’t wait for publishing a write-up until having listened eight CDs of the same label. It’s probably better to break them in smaller groups, or it could take years…

TRINITY – Breaking The Mold (CF 139)
A Norwegian quartet mingling dissimilar influences – jazz, space rock, harsh electronica – through predominantly jarring procedures that could appear scarcely lucid on a first try, but instead let slip a substantial degree of imagination. Ultimately, and most important, Trinity don’t sound like anything else (at least in the Clean Feed catalogue). All the four members have gone through the most disparate kind of collaboration: Jaga Jazzist to Mats Gustafsson, Raoul Bjorkenheim to Nate Wooley, the leader – saxophonist and clarinettist Kjetil Møster – a metal rock bassist in his past, before switching to reeds. Implausible yet efficient solutions abound, powerful sax blasts juxtaposed with half-ethereal, half-acrid atonal keyboard fluids (Morten Qvenild) that possess the rare gift of not sounding like an amassment of presets. The “rhythm section” – bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Thomas Strønen – is in actuality half of a palette where abstraction, violence, rituality and persuasive soloing succeed, seemingly in lack of a definite compositional planning. The complete nonexistence of ambassadorial accents and inconclusively politic neutrality typical of a fat chunk of contemporary jazz brings the whole to an acceptable balance, though. After a couple of spins one realizes that these bizarre sonic concoctions cannot be filed in the archive of banality, despite the difficulty of welcoming them with real infatuation. In any case Trinity deserve attention, if only for their different sound and explorative curiosity.

HERCULANEUM – Herculaneum III (CF 140)
Given the presence of a flute (Nate Lepine) and the album title, one would think about Focus. But this record is more like a finely detailed replica of certain past atmospheres involving medium-sized jazz combos and larger orchestral entities, the music skilfully devised in absolute respect for the tradition, lush arrangements and extensive solo sections alternated with sapience and sensitiveness. The large part of the tracks were written by drummer and vibraphonist Dylan Ryan, which might appear as an oddity but it’s not, the music possessing indeed an effervescent pulse that animates scores where, in some circumstances, the tremendous contrapuntal richness might induce someone to think to relative sluggishness. In that sense, David Mcdonnell (alto sax, clarinet), Nick Broste (trombone) and Patrick Newbery (trumpet and flugelhorn) provide a significant miscellany of non-invasive colloquialism and management of virtuosity, gratifying the ears with a melange of piquancy and obedience. Guitarist John Beard’s clean-toned rationality and bassist Greg Danek’s solidly corpulent presence complete an ensemble that consider revolution a dated concept while trying to revolutionize behind-the-times music. One can’t help but admit that listening to this attempt equals a lovely chat with a beautifully aged woman; even lovers of Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo could find something palatable here. Good stuff.

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

Weightless – A Brush with Dignity (CF  154)
Probabilmente uno dei segreti dell’alchimia di questo quartetto – che ha scelto una denominazione “senza peso,” ma che più correttamente potrebbe riferirsi a una serie di pesi espressivi a intensità variabile – è quella di lavorare per linee orizzontali, per piani mobili di improvvisazione. Ne fanno parte due dei più interessanti esponenti della scena inglese, il sassofonista John Butcher e il contrabbassista John Edwards, insieme a due musicisti italiani che negli anni si sono costruiti una meritata reputazione di sensibili esploratori del suono, il batterista Fabrizio Spera e il pianista Alberto Braida.
Rigorosamente registrati dal vivo, laddove “avviene” la loro musica [nel caso specifico due concerti in Germania dell’ottobre 2008], i Weitghtless consegnano a questo A Brush with Dignity quattro splendide improvvisazioni, ricche di melodie inaspettate, di soluzioni timbriche fantasiose, di livelli ritmici intercambiabili.

Si trovano alla perfezione i quattro, in bilico tra una abrasività tipicamente mitteleuropea e una capacità di fare “cantare” la musica che sarebbe riduttivo attribuire alla componente mediterranea del sodalizio, ma che nasce invece da una più intensa capacità di sintetizzare narrativamente [per quanto con la frammentazione tipica di queste scelte formali] quei piani di cui parlavamo qualche riga fa. Non sempre i concerti di improvvisazione, anche i più riusciti, sono godibili anche su disco.

Questa è una delle felici eccezioni.

Minimalistic Music review

Svajcarski kompozitor i tenor saksofonista Nicolas Masson sa svojim “Parallels” quartet-om, predstavio se publici prosle godine odlicnim albumom izdatim za sve uticajniju Portugalsku etiketu “Clean Feed”, koja se moze pohvaliti veoma kvalitetnim i raznovrsnim katalogom kada je savremena jazz scena u pitanju. Ne mogu da kazem da mi bas svako izdanje sa “Clean Feed-a” odgovara u potpunosti, ali se ovaj album definitivno nasao u drustvu nekoliko odabranih koji su objavljeni prosle godine. Ono sto upada u oci i sto je za mene prvenstveno bitno u jazz-u, jeste neverovatna uravnotezenost i jedinstvo svih muzicara ukljucenih u ovaj projekat. Svi disu maltene kao jedan organizam, i sviracki i idejno, pokazujuci da su perfektna uskladjenost i sadrzaj mnogo bitniji od pojedinacnog tehnickog umeca i razmetanja virtuoznoscu (ne kazem da ovde toga nema, ali je sve opet podredjeno kolektivu kao celini). To sam na blogu vise puta pomenuo kao glavni adut koji muzicari zajedno treba da imaju da bi mi privukli paznju.

Odmerene improvizacije i melodicnost koja je sve, samo ne slatkasta i bezazlena, je ono sto cini ovaj album izuzetnim i privlacnim. Ritam sekcija, na perfektan nacin uklopljena da cini jedinstvenu celinu sa ostalim instrumentima u njihovoj zvucnoj igri. Nekada prateci njihovu putanju, a nekada i kao kontrast, kada zvuce sanjivo i etericno. Medjutim, nikada suvise slobodna i van glavne teme. Zastupljeni su elementi rock-a, koji mi nije previse drag u jazz-u, ali glupo je praviti bilo kakve generalizacije, posebno kada se naidje na ovakav album. Preciznije, radi se o njegovim odjecima, vise u smislu energije i asocijacija, sa posebnim senzibilitetom i sofosticiranoscu.

Pojedinacno, rekli bi nista posebno i nista novo, ali zajedno, sve ove karakteristike cine album vrednim slusanja. Vodilo se racuna o svakom segmentu, od pocetka, pa do samoga kraja. Inspiracija je pronadjena u Japanskim slikarima poznatim po detaljisanju i pridavanju vaznosti sitnicama (otuda mozda povezanost), sto i cini da se ovom izdanju pristupi sa maksimalnom radoznaloscu, ali i predrasudama.

Predrasuda ce mozda biti kao sto sam ih i ja imao, posebno kada sam procitao ovaj predhodni podatak vezan za slikarstvo i Japance (sve deluje kao umetnicka pretencioznost), ali se nadam da ce se kod mnogih rasprsiti vec posle odslusanog manjeg dela albuma. Na sta god vas ova muzika asocirala, dajem joj sansu da zauzme zapazeno mesto u vasoj kolekciji, narocito ako ste ljubitelj savremenog jazz-a.
Puna preporuka!!!

Peter Margasak “Best of 2009” list at the Chicago Reader

Best of 2009, Part Three (20th to 11th)

20. Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics, Inspiration Information 3 (Strut)
Veteran Ethiopian composer, keyboardist, vibist, and arranger Mulatu Astatke—whose tunes you’ve heard if you’ve seen Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers—hooks up with avant-garde UK hip-hop/funk crew the Heliocentrics and creates an unexpectedly simpatico hybrid. I’m usually suspicious of calculated cross-generational or cross-stylistic experiments—Inspiration Information 3 is part of a Strut series that’s also paired Tony Allen with Jimi Tenor and Horace Andy with Ashley Beedle—but this one works perfectly. Haunting pentatonic melodies tussle with the kind of grooves Sun Ra might have written if he’d been born six decades later.

19. Vic Chesnutt, At the Cut (Constellation)
Adding another layer to the tragedy of Vic Chesnutt’s suicide is the fact that he’d just released what might be the most powerful album of his career. A combo including Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto and folks from Montreal’s Godspeed/Silver Mt. Zion crowd wrap up his singing in arrangements both tender and harrowing—the opener, “Coward,” is easily the most unsettling rock song I heard all year. “Flirted With You All My Life,” a breakup note to death, stings much worse if you know about Chesnutt’s previous suicide attempts (to say nothing of the one that succeeded), but even if you’re completely ignorant of the details of his troubled life this record can clobber you emotionally.

18. J.D. Allen Trio, Shine! (Sunnyside)
J.D. Allen has been leading a growing reinvestment in the saxophone trio on the New York jazz scene. John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins remain clear points of reference, but this group—with the sturdy rhythm section of bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston—has a no-nonsense concision and lean architecture all its own. Shine! puts the spotlight on some of the most fundamental aspects of jazz—subtle group interaction, focused improvisation, and infectious rhythmic buoyancy.

17. Liam Noble Trio, Brubeck (Basho)
Thanks to the metrical experiments of his ubiquitous landmark album Time Out, pianist Dave Brubeck has long been dismissed by some jazz fans as a square, clunky player, but terrific British pianist Liam Noble flies in the face of that prejudice with this superb homage. Noble is wonderfully flexible, equally at home in free-jazz settings and mainstream contexts, and his scrappy trio manages to be both sincere and revisionist in its precise, energetic interpretations. Nothing here is too outre, and I doubt the music will provoke much reconsideration of Brubeck’s work—but it certainly would be nice if it did.

16. Tinariwen, Imidiwan: Companions (World Village)
The original Tuareg rockers pull back on the power, reverting to the stabbing intensity of their earliest work, which conveys emotion through nuances in its lilting vocals and floating matrix of guitars. Tinariwen’s style of musical hypnosis hasn’t varied much over the years—even the change on Imidiwan is of degree, not of kind—but when a band consistently casts spells like these, who cares?

15. David Sylvian, Manafon (Samadhisound)
For his latest album, veteran art-pop singer David Sylvian surrounded himself with a heavyweight crew of free improvisers and experimentalists—Christian Fennesz, Evan Parker, Otomo Yoshihide, Keith Rowe, Franz Hautzinger, Sachiko M, and John Tilbury among them. Within meticulously calibrated improvised settings he sings his elliptical lyrics with rhapsodic splendor, shaping grandiloquent melodies that contrast radically with the stark, spiky, sometimes even menacing music.

14. Mario Diaz de Leon, Enter Houses Of (Tzadik)
This stunning album by young New York composer Mario Diaz de Leon features members of the International Contemporary Ensemble—a superb new-music collective based here and in New York—who bring crisp, bracing technical rigor to de Leon’s mind-melting pieces, which draw liberally from noise, free improv, and the work of modern composers like Xenakis and Ligeti. He’s fluent enough in the languages of his various influences that his work never sounds like an arbitrary pastiche. In fact in “Mansion” the transitions between pure acoustic sound—the flutes of Claire Chase and Eric Lamb—and lacerating electronic feedback are as organic as they are abrupt. Enter Houses Of portends great possibilities for new “classical” music.

13. A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Délivrance (Leaf)
When American musicians catch a fever for some faraway regional tradition, it usually ends up as a fleeting obsession, but Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost (aka A Hawk and a Hacksaw) have proved themselves an exception to the rule. They’ve not only stuck with their love for Roma fiddle music, they even relocated to Budapest, Hungary, for a year and a half, where they studied with bona fide practitioners and eventually formed a band with some of them. Lots of great players help out on Délivrance, where Barnes and Trost maintain a distinctly American artsy feel amid the wildly sawing fiddles, sprightly cimbalom (played by the great Kalman Balogh), and pumping accordion. And as they proved at the Empty Bottle in September, they can also pull off a great show without the European ringers.

12. Buika & Chucho, El Ultimo Trago (Warner Music Latino)
Remarkable Spanish producer Javier Limón strikes again, pairing Buika—a powerhouse black flamenco singer from Mallorca—with brilliant Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés for a program of songs made famous by Mexican ranchera icon Chavela Vargas. It might seem like some kind of postmodern bricolage, but everything here sounds utterly natural. Valdés has such an authoritative rhythmic drive that he can’t help but give the whole endeavor an Afro-Cuban feel, but Buika has the kind of smoky, malleable voice that can traverse any style—the music they make together feels almost nonidiomatic.

11. Christian Lillinger’s Grund, First Reason (Clean Feed)
Ubiquitous, flexible German drummer Christian Lillinger has made his first album as a leader, and it’s a knockout—not least because his impressive band includes saxophonist Tobias Delius, bassist Jonas Westergaard, and pianist Joachim Kuhn. Lillinger’s tunes are both distinctive and open enough to allow for potent improvisation and lots of interactions between members, particularly the jabbing exchanges between Delius and horn man Wanja Slavin, and second bassist Robert Landfermann gives the bottom end extra movement and muscle.