Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
Most familial histories include at least one black sheep forbearer, a member who marched to the beat of his own drum at the expense of his or her loved ones. Trumpeter Kirk Knuffke pays wry tribute to one such outcast of his clan on this latest Clean Feed release. The eponymous individual was a great grandfather who abandoned his family and started a new one in a neighboring town. Upon discovery, he cited the affliction as his reason for leaving and the nickname stuck. The story passed into hereditary lore and became a handy thematic source point for a trio project Knuffke had been trying to organize with fellow New York-based improvisers Doug Wieselman and Kenny Wollesen.
Their instrumentation distantly recalls Shelly Manne’s “The Three” with Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre, though clarinetist Doug Wieselman doubles on electric guitar rather than playing multiple reeds as Giuffre did and the resulting music is quite a different bag. Knuffke foregoes mutes, manipulating a highly malleable tonal palette with embouchure and valve effects instead. Wollesen is the rhythmic fulcrum, applying tenacious metered glue in daubs or full-fledged strokes depending upon the composition, all of which come from Knuffke’s quill. All three men are members of Butch Morris’ Nublu Orchestra and that large scale mindset to movement and color informs their small group interplay.
The sixteen compact pieces never stray over five minutes and most clock significantly shorter. They neatly divide along which axe Wieselman wields. Many of the clarinet pieces pivot on fluid counterpoint and communicate chamber associations as a result. The guitar tracks are often more rock-inflected in cast with Wieselman lathering on jangly reverb and carving out fanged arpeggios as he does on “Double”, “2nd” and “Hears It”. “Totem” sounds a bit like concentrated fusion-era Miles distilled of all distracting detours as quietly echoing plectral notes harden and intensify and a porous beat gradually consolidates into an incrementalized groove.
Knuffke remains his cool-toned, unruffled self in either context and his rounded, textured phrasing comes across like a cousin to other players like Tom Harrell and John McNeil. On clarinet pieces like the madrigal-minded “Practical Sampling” and the wobbly waltz-time “High-pants Bob” knotty heads allow for closely twining debate. Wieselman veers from heavy vibrato trills to birdsong chirrups and the variety again creates colorful contrast with Knuffke’s gliding lines. The lovely tone poem “Anne”, unfolding as an airy processional of simple construction, serves as an optimal closer. Amnesia really isn’t an option in the wake of these exciting sounds.
Alberto Pinton / Jonas Kulhammar / Torbjorn Zetterberg / Kjell Nordeson – Chant (CF 156)
This beefy quartet was drawn from existing Stockholm bands by baritone saxophonist/clarinetist Alberto Pinton at the suggestion of Clean Feed producer Pedro Costa. As bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg describes it in his liner note, it’s half of his octet, half of tenor and baritone saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar’s quartet, half of Kullhammar and drummer Kjell Nordeson’s quartet Nacka Forum and more than half of Pinton’s quintet. The group that emerges from three days of live recording in Coimbra, Portugal is a free-bop powerhouse, the two-saxophone frontline producing a startling breadth of sound. The compositions are particularly strong, with four from Pinton and three each by Kullhammar and Zetterberg.
Kullhammer’s abbreviated heads on “Chantarello” and “Chantpagne” provide all the momentum the band needs, feeding the tenor saxophonist’s rhythmic drive as he mixes naked major triads, honks and offside commentary with both acuity and intensity. Pinton and Zetterberg provide more developed and often more reflective pieces, including the former’s complex yet lyrical “Soul Samurai” and the latter’s richly conceived and voiced “Den Stora Väntan,” which develops into ear-bleed sonics from the two saxophonists, at times giving the sensation of a factory with feeling.
It’s clear here (and from Mats Gustafsson’s example) that Sweden encourages the most forceful members of Adolphe Sax’s family. Pinton’s drive and sonic template are titanic and Kullhammar is comparable when he turns to the lower horn. At times, in fact, Kulhammar overblows the lower range of his tenor in a way that’s uncannily baritone-like and it’s all pushed along by the urgings of Zetterberg and Nordeson, as forceful and thoughtful a rhythm section as you could hope. Except for Nordeson, who has a strong presence in San Francisco, the musicians aren’t well known outside of Scandinavian jazz circles, but there’s a combination of thought and passion in this music that makes it essential hearing.
Luis Lopes – Adam Lane – Igal Foni – What is When (CF 146)
La Clean Feed si conferma label di riferimento per la musica d’avanguardia. Di solito pubblica lavori di musicisti americani. Ma ci sono diverse, e meritevoli, eccezioni, come il sassofonista Rodrigo Amado e – in questo caso – il chitarrista Luis Lopes, che troviamo alla guida di un trio internazionale insieme al contrabbassista statunitense Adam Lane e al batterista israeliano Igal Foni.
I tre mischiano con intelligenza punk, free, freefunk, rock, con l’energia della chitarra prepotentemente in primo piano in un paio di brani. Ma non mancano atmosfere di insolita poesia, in brani come il lungo “Cerejeiras,” che procedono sghembi su percorsi che delineano una storia raccontata a bassa voce. È uno dergli aspetti del trio, che subito dopo, ad esempio in “The Siege,” riprende a riversare colate di lava su chi ascolta. Un’energia primordiale, un modo rozzo ed allo stesso tempo raffinato (i brani sono costruiti con logica ed i musicisti conoscono bene i percorsi intrapresi) di interpretare il trio per chitarra e ritmica.
Quel che colpisce di più è che con le loro sonorità distorte sono in grado di raccontare qualcosa, più innamorati di quello che vogliono dire che del suono in quanto tale. L’avanguardia nelle loro mani acquista un volto familiare, che nelle sue tante sfaccettature ha quel qualcosa di particolare che sveglia il senso uditivo dell’ascoltatore.