Daily Archives: February 22, 2010

All About Jazz Italy review by Vittorio Albani

Empty Cage Quartet – Gravity (CF 161)
****
Sono ormai diversi anni che “The Wire,” una delle migliori ed intelligenti riviste specializzate al mondo, cita l’Empty Cage Quartet (che alcuni ricorderanno sotto il nome di MTKJ Quartet, dalle iniziali dei cognomi dei suoi membri – clicca qui per leggere la recensione di Making Room for Spaces) quale una delle formazioni più illuminate ed illuminanti del new jazz.
La seriosa redazione londinese non ha torto. Quello che molti hanno bollato con il vecchio termine di free jazz è in realtà un nuovo modo di vivere il “sistema improvvisazione” in toto. Nelle utili note di copertina di questo nuovo lavoro uscito per l’attentissima Clean Feed portoghese, Kris Tiner, emblematico e misuratissimo trombettista del quartetto, spiega per bene che molto del lavoro del gruppo si basa su palindromi armonici e sequenze melodiche direttamente mutuate dallo studio dei cicli del calendario Maya. Ma, attenzione, non c’è nulla di cervellotico, di esoterico o di solo fondamentalmente intellettuale in questa musica. Non è accademia, in poche parole, ma solo ed esclusivamente voglia di possibilità, di strade potenziali.

L’energia nascosta che contraddistingue Gravity è sostanziale e indica chiaramente la purezza degli intenti. La qualità delle scelte è palpabile così come le forse risultanti messe in gioco. Il sottile gioco delle combinazioni e delle ricombinazioni non è ovviamente una novità ma è sempre straordinario annotare come, nel vasto mare della musica, l’avventura riesce sempre ad avere un logico seguito. La capacità di ognuno dei quattro componenti di questo progetto è indubbia e la creazione di strutture improvvisative in grado di espandersi o rapprendersi con sorprendente semplicità è dannatamente vincente. Un gioco per la mente più che per il cuore, ma alla fine della fiera, una festa di colori e una dimostrazione di forza creativa fa vincere l’idea che questi siano veramente nuovi concetti con i quali la grande storia dell’improvvisazione debba rapportarsi.

Gli amanti del genere hanno ben quattro album di questa formazione con i quali confrontarsi. Il fatto che la band viva poi priva dell’apporto del pianoforte (in molti altri casi vero pilastro di operazioni similari), la riconduce semmai ad altre importanti esperienze, prima fra tutte quella di un signore che si chiama Ornette Coleman. Mi divertirei a pensare a un neologismo come quello di una novella “estetica labirintica,” ma – rimettendo poi i piedi per terra – mi rendo allo stesso tempo conto che – con nelle orecchie sonorità simili – la mente fugge alla ricerca di icone in grado di dare spiegazioni che in realtà non dovrebbero sussistere anche se poi le parole tornano ad essere necessarie per presentare particolari forme d’arte.

Usando meglio la testa, l’unico consiglio da dare è quello di connettersi idealmente alle linee di questi brani, lasciando che la mente si adagi liberamente alla estrema modularità musicale che li contraddistingue. Atmosferica o pensante che questa musica sia, se per un attimo si riuscisse a catturarne almeno la coda, ci si potrebbe sorprendere ad intuire un possibile ma reale sviluppo del jazz moderno.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=4958

Advertisements

Stash Dauber review by SD

A Whole Bunch of New Stuff from Clean Feed
A fat envelope arrived last week from Clean Feed Records, the Lisbon-based label specializing in creative improvised music whose name has become as reliable a guarantor of quality for this jaded listener as Smog Veil and Aztec Music are, in different ways. Here’s what they sent.

Scott Fields Ensemble – Fugu (CF 171)
Guitarist Scott Fields is a Chicagoan by way of Madison, Wisconsin, who now resides in Cologne, Germany. He had a “countercultural” adolescence and started out playing blues in bars while still underage before falling under the spell of the Windy City’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. (“A Poem for Joseph,” which opens his album Fugu, is dedicated to Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist Joseph Jarman, with whom Fields has performed.) He put down his guitar when he was 21 and picked it up again 15 years later, earning a journalism degree in the meantime, although you wouldn’t know it from his infuriatingly convoluted liner notes. Fugu is a reissue of a 1995 date first released on his own short-lived Geode label. The pieces were written to accompany dancers but their tricky, irregular meters proved unsuitable for that purpose. The music’s subtly stunning on its own terms, though, performed by an unit of mainly classical players whose fiery interpretations of Fields’ compositions belie their academic backgrounds. Cellist Matt Turner and vibist Robert Stright particularly shine.

Fight the Big Bull – All is Gladness in the Kingdon (CF 169)
A cursory glance at the band shot on Fight the Big Bull’s All Is Gladness in the Kingdom caused me to wonder, “WTF is this, ‘freak folk’ shite?” I needn’t have worried. Far from it, they’re a robust and forward-thinking ensemble from Richmond, Virginia, of all places, helmed by guitarist-composer Matt White. They sound like the Gil Evans Orchestra with a screw loose, or one of those freewheeling Euro outfits like Willem Breuker’s Kollektief. Like the ’70s Evans outfit, they aren’t above incorporating rawk influences (including the foulest sounding fuzztone I’ve heard in several years) to their tumult of squalling saxes and growling trombone. Elsewhere, their woodwinds sing as smoothly and sweetly as the ones from Ellington’s Blanton-Webster band. The secret ingredient on All is Gladness… is trumpeter-composer Steven Bernstein (Sex Mob, Millennial Territory Orchestra), who traveled to Richmond from Da Apple for ten days of rehearsal, performance, workshops, and recording. On “Mothra,” they sound like a futuristic sci-fi soundtrack gone haywire. And I just can’t resist their wild ‘n’ wooly cover of “Jemima Surrender” from the Band’s self-titled sophomore LP, an album they apparently dig real much. Which, come to think of it, _was_ pretty freaky (if only for its out-of-timeness) and folky (if you accept the premise that Ray Charles and Bobby Bland could be considered “folk music”).

Jorrit Djikstra – Pillow Circles (CF 166)
Speaking of large ensembles and Europeans, on Pillow Circles, commissioned for the 2009 North Sea Jazz Festival, Dutch saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra (based in the U.S. since 2002) leads an all-star octet that includes saxman Tony Malaby, trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Frank Rosaly. Imagine if you will an ebulliently percolating jazz that’s expansive enough to accommodate rustic touches like guitarist Paul Pallesen’s banjo, moments of spacious experimentalism and even a soupcon of indie depresso-rock (dig the segment dedicated to Fred Frith). This is visceral music with intellect and a fair amount of humor. What’s not to like? (And by the way, how’s your Dutch?)

RED Trio – RED Trio (CF 168 )
RED trio is neither (as far as I can tell) a group of doctrinaire Communists or a King Crimson tribute band. Rather, it’s a collaboration between three adventurous improvisers — pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernani Faustino, and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini — all of whom have worked with saxophonist Nobuyasu Furuya; the bassist and drummer appeared on Furuya’s Bendowa album for Clean Feed last year. They claim the heritage of the Bill Evans-Paul Bley trio, not so much for the sounds and moods they create as for their instruments’ roles as equals rather than foreground-and-background. This is daring, edge-of-seat stuff.

Kirk Knuffke Trio – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
On Amnesia Brown, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke leads a trio that features two of his bandmates from Butch Morris’ Nublu Orchestra, drummer Kenny Wollesen and multi-instrumentalist Doug Wieselman (Lounge Lizards, Flying Karamazov Brothers). Knuffke’s a searchingly lyrical trumpeter, while Wieselman switches off between a mellifluous clarinet and a guitar that spans styles from surf to skronk. Wolleson’s a thinking, listening percussionist. The music they make together is alternately contemplative, exploratory, and abrasive, but always incandescent. The 16 tracks that comprise Amnesia Brown are short but flow together seamlessly.

Sei Miguel – Esfingico (Suite for a Jazz Combo) (CF 170)
Sei Miguel plays pocket trumpet a la Don Cherry and, on Esfingico: Suite for a Jazz Combo, leads a group that includes alto trombone, bass guitar, electronics, and small percussion. While the group’s episodic interplay is interesting, the connections they strike never seem to generate much heat or light. This is the kind of thing that’s best experienced live, when you can observe the physical dynamic between the players.

The thickness of the Clean Feed catalog that accompanied these releases provided heartening evidence that there’s a thriving audience for this kind of music — in Europe, at least, if not here.
http://stashdauber.blogspot.com/2010/02/whole-bunch-of-new-stuff-from-clean.html