Daily Archives: January 18, 2010

Jazz and Blues review by Tim Niland

Tony Malaby’s Apparitions – Voladores (CF 165)
With many albums and side-man appearances over the past few years, saxophonist and composer Tony Malaby has become one of the busiest and most interesting musicians on the contemporary jazz scene. He’s also developed a relationship with the adventurous Portuguese label Clean Feed, which is the perfect home of a musician who’s horizons are ever expanding. On this album, he is joined by Drew Gress on bass, Tom Rainey on drums and John Hollenbeck on percussion. Highlights of the album include the very exciting “Old Smokey” which develops into a frenetic and engrossing improvisation. Texture is very important to this group and they explore a wide range of musical colors and feelings. On “Dreamy Drunk” they move a weaving and lurching melodic statement to a coherent and at times belligerent improvisation. “Sour Diesel” also develops a momentum that is unstoppable. This was an exciting album that has wide ranging vision and explores a lot of interesting musical territory.

Jazzword review by Ken Waxman

Nobuyasu Furuya Trio – Bendowa (CF 159)
Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi – Friendly Pants (Family Vineyard)

While this linkage of two CDs featuring Japanese-born saxophonists playing in a trio with a non-Japanese rhythm section, may appear somewhat louche, there are similarities reflected on these appealing discs of which even the two protagonists may not be aware. This is despite the reality that alto saxophonist Akira Sakata is a Nipponese Free Jazz legend, while tenor saxophonist Nobuyasu Furuya is much lesser known.

For a start each musician was initially trained in a different field: Sakata as a marine biologist and Furuya as a cook in a Zen Buddhist temple. Furuya, who lives in Lisbon, was initially attracted to baroque music, studied Turkish traditional music and played in noise, ska-core and Free Jazz groups. Today he composes for film, theatre and dance including multi-media presentations for Berlin-based Mayumi Fukzaki’s theatre company. Hiroshima-born Sakata, began playing Free Jazz 40 years ago and since then has not only worked with committed improvisers as diverse as pianist Yamashita Yosuke and bassist Bill Laswell but recorded pop-leaning records and sung Japanese folk songs. Following gigs with guitarist Jim O’Rourke, he has made three Free Jazz CDs with noise-improvisers drummer Chris Corsano and bassist Darin Gray. This is the third, plus his first North American release in two decades.

Again with a lower profile, the rhythm section which backs Furuya on Bendowa –named for the 13th century book by the founder of Soto Zen – are bassist Hernâni Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. Instructively both sessions are anchored by the self-effacing, sometimes inaudible bass players. Solidly present at all times, Faustino and Gray are the foundation upon which the saxophonists can stretch and splinter sound principles, as well as giving the drummers freedom to decorate tunes with shuffles, rebounds and precision strokes.

Faustino is conspicuously felt but barely heard throughout all of Bendowa’s five tracks, with the most profound application of this formula on tracks “Track 3” and “Track 4”.

Over the course of both these tracks Furuya gets to play all three of his instruments. Beginning with a snorting and wavering tenor saxophone exposition, his tone becomes dissonant and wide enough to suggest tug boat horn snarls. Meanwhile Ferrandini pats and paddles his cymbals and the bassist bounces his bow sul tasto. Moving from andante to largo following an unaccompanied exposition of split tones, Furuya pitch-sliding bass clarinet runs that initially resembled wild bird calls turn strident and stressed. On “Track 4” however, his stubby, bottom-toned flute sticks to the melody line until he begins peeping and crying semi tones through the flute’s body, rather like a restrained Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Ferrandini’s polyrhythms and subtle percussion thumps plus Faustino’s scrubbing and chafing allow Furuya to return with glottal-stopped and note-swallowing tenor saxophone runs that lead to clamorous braying and a final flat line exit.

Sakata’s improvisations often also end abruptly as he evidently runs out of steam on certain tracks. But the strength of Gray and Corsano accompaniment ensure that this doesn’t sound like a falling off, but a pause to foreshadow new creativity. Having developed a distinctive tone over the years, that is part-Jackie McLean and part-Hichiriki, the saxophonist’s sound is immediately identifiable, whether he’s spiraling and swelling split tones into molten frenzy or sliding and stuttering spidery timbres in his version of a ballad.

For instance on “Yo! Yo! Dime” – all the tracks are evidently titled in distinctive Japanlish – Sakata extrudes extended reed bites that expose various thematic materials then just as abruptly cut them off before they develop further. Eventually he reaches his desired strategy – shoving so much tonal variation into his solo so that not only is every note’s root sound exposed, but also all its extensions and partials. Meantime Gray thumps unhurriedly and Corsano burns, backbeats and thwacks snares, toms and cymbals in a circular pattern. Becoming more intense with squeaking staccatissimo, Sakata’s bugle-like tattoo hardens into a discordant sonic mass then abruptly ends.

It’s the same game plan for pseudo-ballads like “That Day of Rain”. Linear and pinched, Sakata’s low-keyed trilling eventually transform into strings of pressurized notes and split-tone cries as Corsano’s casual rumbles and thumps plus sensed walking from Gray maintains the mood. It’s the saxophonist who shatters it, weighing in with glossolalia and splayed note patterns. The fortissimo climax reached is then abruptly cut off.

Obviously what can be defined as Free Jazz with a Japanese tinge still exists and thrives in that country and abroad. These CDs confirm this. http://www.jazzword.com/review/126977

All About Jazz concert review by David R Adler

Michael Attias
Brooklyn, NY December 3, 2009

Michael Attias is known for his work on alto and baritone saxophones, but on the new Clean Feed disc Renku In Coimbra he plays only alto. This was his game plan too at Barbes (Dec. 3rd), where he gathered together his Renku trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. The music of Attias’ alto sax heroes bookended the set, starting with Jimmy Lyons’ “Sorry” and ending with Lee Konitz’ “Thingin,'” both of which appear on the new CD. Of course these tunes took on the spiky, free-flowing coloration that Attias and his partners have developed so beautifully, a language of sparsely orchestrated yet precise themes, open harmony and intuitive transitions. Without a pause, “Sorry” gave way to Hebert’s slowly pulsing “Wels” and Attias’ three-part “Bad Lucid,” broken up by virtuosic unaccompanied bass and a drum break that found Takeishi assaulting his snare from underneath. The bass-drum interplay crackled on Hébert’s “Fez,” with Takeishi hand-drumming at first, then moving on to more aggressive accents. Attias shifted the mood with a lyrical intro to his balladic “Lisbon,” inviting a fluent overlapping texture of arco, brushes and cymbal washes from the band. With the jazzier bounce of Attias’ “Spun Tree,” the leader forcefully took charge, navigating a tricky form with fire and poise. He drew improvisational focus from the simple melody of “Thingin'” before closing with “Renku,” the trio’s theme song, full of drive and contrapuntal detail. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=35211

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

LUCKY 7S – Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
Please welcome a truly brilliant septet which features – somewhat bizarrely – two lead trombonists (Jeb Bishop and Jeff Albert) and performs conspicuously intricate, ear-rewarding compositions, intelligibly articulated in invigorating swiftness, the cleverness of the arrangements at a persistently remarkable level. The rest of the lineup consists of Josh Berman (cornet), Keefe Jackson (tenor sax), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Matthew Golombisky (bass) and Quin Kirchner (drums).

This is easily one of the finest albums to come out of Pedro Costa’s imprint in the last year or so; persuasive compositions, nearly palpable structural mass, the instrumental delineation neat as a new pin. A refined complexity is deployed with judiciousness, never intended as a means to leave people impressed with pathetic flurries of bells and whistles. Illegitimacy and fury get channelled in energizing flows brimming with authority and, in a way, pressure. There’s something in these kids – look at those great faces inside the sleeve – which makes me think to each one’s different upbringing, to the juvenile (and probably ongoing) enthusiasm that was felt while practicing at home, dreaming of living a musician’s life in search of the purest mental freedom. You know what? Judging from Pluto Junkyard they succeeded, reinforcing the assumption according to which a mixture of precise directives and good-natured anarchy is the best weapon against cerebral stagnancy. Oh, and the rocking blowout “The Dan Hang” must be heard to believe: heavy riffage, muscular drumming and fuming squealing by an armada of clairvoyant pilgrims.

Had this writer been a po-faced Downbeat contributor, he’d have given this 70-minute CD four stars and a half. Being myself instead just a non-corporative nihilist bear amused by ordinary people’s illusions, who also happens to instantly recognize if an artist – and, in general, a person – is worth of a shufti, trust my words: Lucky 7s kick ass. Even if when they swing.

All About Jazz review by Jeff Stockton

Tony Malaby’s Apparitions – Voladores (CF 165)
Since arriving in NYC about 15 years ago,Tony Malaby, through a series of fortuitous (and well-chosen) associations (including Marty Ehrlich and Mario Pavone, among others) as well as spots in Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and William Parker’s Little Huey Orchestra, has proven himself an adroit sideman, whether the concept is tilted toward the avant garde or aimed straightahead. Since his debut fronting a quartet in 2000, he has demonstrated himself to be a daring leader on a variety of small-group saxophone projects.

One of those early associations was with drummer Tom Rainey who anchors the rhythm section with bassist Drew Gress on Voladores, a session that might otherwise be a run-of-the-mill trio affair if not for the presence of John Hollenbeck, who’s credited with percussion ranging from traps to “small kitchen appliances.” Malaby calls his band Apparitions and, aside from the opening track, an Ornette Coleman composition, the band is elusive in their attack. They pump on “Old Smokey,” but the tune’s stuttering tempo and touches of marimba and vibes create a dreamy atmosphere. On “East Bay” the mood is set with Gress’ arco bass and Malaby’s soprano. But on tenor, Malaby doesn’t let up, whether dirty on the title cut or relentlessly inventive on “Dreamy Drunk,” he is as convincing and fresh a voice as there is on the scene.