Daily Archives: March 8, 2010

All About Jazz review by Donald Elfman

Accordion Three-Fer: Triphilia; Nice Guy Trio & Will Holshouser

Will Holshouser Trio + Bernardo Sassetti – Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns (CF 160)
Alan Bern/Michael Rodach/Paul Brody – Triophilia (Jazzwerkstatt)
The Nice Guy Trio – Here Comes The Nice Guy Trio (Porto Franco)

Because it was portable and reflected the many cultures that came to the US in the 20th century, once upon a time in American popular music the accordion was the thing. Then it pretty much disappeared, seen as a kind of corny relic. But it has resurfaced as a vital and expressive instrument giving new and different color. Here are three stunning examples—all in trio format and with trumpet as an essential partner.

Alan Bern positively glows as he helps his comrades on Triophilia—Paul Brody on trumpet and flugelhorn and Michael Brodach on guitar—deliver an almost orchestral approach to tunes that suggest a whole world of influences. Bern and Brody are Americans who have relocated to Berlin, working here with native Berliner Brodach to give new dimension to everything from Jewish and South American music to Bartók to Gil Evans—all in original new compositions. There’s so much in these tunes: blues or the impression of same, in Bern’s “Angel Blue”; a sense of spiritual odyssey in Brody’s “Heschel”; a blend of new jazz and traditional colors in “Bartoki” and an ever-present sense of new worlds opening out of the old.

Rob Reich’s European-flavored accordion is the first thing we hear on Here Comes The Nice Guy Trio. It introduces the lovely, atmospheric “The Balancing Act,” a perfect name for what these San Franciscans accomplish. Reich, trumpeter Darren Johnston and bassist Daniel Fabricant blend improvisational skills, composition that smartly utilizes texture and mood and the best kind of group interplay. There are originals by all three but they take extraordinary, creative approaches to a couple of jazz classics such as Ornette Coleman’s “Folk Tale” and Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus,” featuring David Phillips’ pedal steel. On several songs, the trio is augmented by guest instrumental colors such as clarinet, violin, cello, dumbek and tablas.

Will Holhouser’s trio with Ron Horton (trumpet) and David Phillips (bass) has worked together for ten years to create a sound at once light and playful yet rich and intense. A session with pianist Bernardo Sassetti yielded Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns, which, says the leader, reflects something the pianist and this trio have in common—…” calm surfaces and deep waters.” It opens with “Danca Palaciana” by Carlos Paredes, master of the Portuguese 12-string guitar, accordion setting the tone immediately. Throughout the recording Horton uses a great number of his horn’s possibilities, Phillips buoys the proceedings, plucking and bowing with passion, and Sassetti inserts a heady lyricism and a sense of occasion. To hear how much these players enjoy each other, go to Holshouser’s “Dance of the Dead,” a funny, intricate series of movements, and album closer “Drunkard’s Hymn,” which playfully and gloriously finds the link between spirituality and alcohol.

Cadence Magazine review by Jay Collins

Avram Fefer Trio – Ritual (CF 145)
Familiar to Cadence readers and subject of a host of releases on the Cadence family imprints, reedist Avram Fefer brings a new trio, featuring bassist Eric Revis and drummer Chad Taylor, along for “Ritual”, a vivacious date that further highlights Fefer’s clear-cut approach. To add a customary change of pace that one expects when spinning a Fefer disc, in addition to his tenor, Fefer’s alto, soprano, and bass clarinet all make an appearance on the program’s nine outings. For the most part, Fefer’s improvisations are at the core of his vital compositions, though there are also several freely improvised moments that allow for personal reflections. Fefer’s spiritual muse hits out of the gate on the rolling rhythms of “Testament” featuring his probing alto, with that horn also featured on the search of the elastic “Ritual” and the momentum of “Outspoken” that contains a fluid rhythm line that wouldn’t sound out of place with the loft records of the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. Free-blowing realms also entice the communicative group on the restless “Blinky Palermo,” another alto-based beauty. Those familiar with Fefer’s Shades Of The Muse CIMP release will be happy to hear Fefer’s marvelous “Shepp In Wolves Clothing” interpreted by this trio, with equal parts Shepp and Roland Kirk, a spirited swinger where the ten minute playing time goes by way too quickly. Other highpoints include the spiritual quest of “Feb. 13th,” the Afro-Cuban groove laid down by Taylor on the soprano feature, “Club Foot,” and the bass clarinet musings of “When The Spirit Moves You.” A typically engaging set from Fefer that makes the most of his rhythm partners who obviously relish Fefer’s frameworks and the opportunity to consider improvisational realms in pure harmony. ©Cadence Magazine 2010 www.cadencebuilding.com

Cadence Magazine review by Jerome Wilson

Transit – Quadrologues (CF 143)
The group Transit contains musicians such as Reuben Radding and Nate Wooley, who are known for doing more abstract music, but here the four men work together to form a powerhouse group sound. Seth Misterka’s alto and Wooley’s trumpet are consistently powerful whether pealing out lyrical melodies or spitting intense whispers. But it’s the rhythm section of bassist Radding and drummer Jeff Arnal that really holds it all together with deep, thudding rhythms in the energy sections of this work and enveloping cymbal and bow work on the quiet parts. “Flip” features shuddering sax and trumpet over rattling bass and drums that resolves into vocalized alto phrases. And “Walking On Fire” is hair-raising group shouting. “Speaking In Tongues” best shows the group’s strengths with Wooley crying forlornly in semi-Arabic wails over Arnal’s and Radding’s rubbery beats with Misterka oozing through the cracks. Transit is a band that shows a potent blend of exoticism and power.
©Cadence Magazine 2010 www.cadencebuilding.com

All About Jazz review by Martin Longley

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
Amnesia Brown was the name bestowed upon trumpeter Kirk Knuffke’s absconding not-so-great grandfather. Apparently, he just sidestepped to a nearby town (and a new family), changing his name on the way. It’s not quite clear how his memory (or lack of it) informs the repertoire of this album, but he also happens to provide the fourth track’s title.
This trio has its roots in the Nublu Orchestra, which regularly plays a Monday night residency at the East Village club of the same name in New York City. Knuffke is joined by drummer Kenny Wollesen and Doug Wieselman, the latter alternating between clarinet and guitar. This is an extreme instance of instrumental oscillation and these switches do much to impose completely opposed characters whenever Wieselman swaps roles. On clarinet he’s darting and capering lightly around the composer/leader’s bright constructions; on guitar he’ll darken the proceedings into a rusted reverb wire-tangle, chopping and clipping with untamed aggressiveness.

The pieces are two, three, maybe four minutes long, so Knuffke is able to include 16 tracks, providing ample opportunity for a feast of compressed melodic adventuring. The three revel in their own sound, but the nearest approximation can be conjured up by imagining a fantasy supergroup that alternately pools the talents of Jack DeJohnette, Ed Blackwell, Jimmy Giuffre, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler and Don Cherry.

Knuffke is a clarion cutter, dotting out detailed flurries. He’s never less than scintillating. “Red Bag” is savage and broken, an angry burst, then “Leadbelly” sets up a marching groove, almost heading down to New Orleans on its rolling pathway. “Hears It” is particularly manic, followed by the serene “Totem,” which transforms into an urban funk rumble. “Need” is a spidery slope, “Narrative” is contemplative, “Please Help, Please Give” rages. All of these natures belong to Knuffke and his cohorts, exposed with sensitivity or pugilism according to the rapidly-shifting moods of these refreshingly pointed strafes.

Free Jazz review by Stef

Scott Fields Ensemble – Fugu ( CF 171)

Guitarist Scott Fields fits in his own musical category, trying to reconcile new music with jazz elements, inventive with musical structures and patterns, yet with an end result that is often very (too) cerebral and abstract. This album uses the same complexities, with odd meters and changing time signatures, and somehow it all seems to fit and work perfectly well. It was originally written for the dance ensemble of Li Chiao-Ping, and already released in 1995. From what I understand from the somewhat tiring liner notes is that the piece was never performed, and you can understand why, when listening to it.

That being said, the music is beautiful. Scott Fields plays nylon-string guitar, Matt Turner cello, Geoff Brady percussion, John Padden double bass and Robert Stright vibraphone. The shifting meters and the chamber-like ensemble perform with precision and clarity, keeping the music open-textured and thematically relatively free, despite the structure, that, implicit though it is to the listener, creates a sense of release when the puzzle pieces falls into place.The improvisations are excellent, and it’s a pleasure to hear Fields playing guitar in a relatively straight-forward way, especially on “The Plagiarist”, a very nervous and uptempo piece. The rest of the band is absolutely great, with the sound combination between the cello and the vibes working extremely well. On the long “A Carrott Is Not A Carrott”, the interaction between Turner’s cello and Fields’ guitar is full of sad melancholy, the interplay between cello and walking bass on “Fugu” a pleasure, as is the careful precision play between vibes and percussion.

A real treat, and an excellent idea to make this music available again.