Daily Archives: March 15, 2010

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

Kirk Knuffke – Amnesia Brown (CF 167)
Brooklyn-based trumpeter Kirk Knuffke’s sophomore effort, Amnesia Brown is a far more esoteric affair than his conventional piano-less quartet debut, Big Wig (Clean Feed, 2008). Eschewing a traditional rhythm section, Knuffke is joined by fellow members of Butch Morris’ Nublu Orchestra—legendary Downtown stalwarts Doug Wieselman (on clarinet and electric guitar) and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Through sixteen brief cuts, the trio waxes and wanes from contemplative to impassioned, bounding effortlessly from one mood to the next.

Swinging without constraint, Knuffke’s trio ignores the conventions of free-bop hegemony, moving beyond the stylistic antecedents of his previous release, invoking not only the innovations of the New Thing and AACM, but genres beyond jazz as well. Generating a surprising level of timbral diversity from a limited palette, Knuffke, Wieselman, and Wollesen veer from the chamber music-like austerity of “Narrative” to the raucous futuristic rockabilly of “Fix it, Charlie.”

Wieselman’s approach towards his choice of instrument often dictates the trio’s tenor; his clarinet can be mellifluous and lyrical (“Need”), or strident and caterwauling (“High-pants Bob”). His amplified fretwork tends to be more abrasive, coloring “Red Bag” with coruscating shards, but he is also prone towards reverb-laced twang, used to good effect on the surf-inflected “Leadbelly.” Knuffke’s warm tone and earthy phrasing provides a stimulating contrast to Wieselman’s skronky guitar, while transparently knitting with his pliant clarinet cadences. Wollesen proves his rhythmic ingenuity without a bassist, fulfilling the role of both time-keeper and melodic colorist.

Although the tunes are brief (three minutes on average) the trio manages to pack a significant number of ideas into each of these miniatures—more than some artists fit into an entire album. The title track and “Leadbelly” are stellar examples of the trio’s ability to integrate inventive, succinct improvisations into memorable themes. Showcasing their diversity, “Please Help, Please Give” serves as the dissonant flipside to the album’s tender closer, the romantic and sentimental ballad “Anne.”

Referring to a bizarre family incident involving his great grandfather from many years ago, Amnesia Brown is appropriately disjointed, but compositionally astute, revealing an expansive worldview encapsulated in microcosmic fragments.

Temporary Fault review by Massimo Ricci

Apparently, master pianist Joachim Kühn fell in love with drummer and composer Christian Lillinger’s work at a first listen, having had the chance of appreciating his playing at a festival in Ibiza in 2008. He is also the producer of this record, besides lending hands as a performer in three of its eleven pieces. Basically, Grund (=ground in German) is a quintet made of two reedists (Tobias Delius and Wanja Slavin) and two bassists (Jonas Westergaard and Robert Landfermann) in conjunction with the leader. The adjective that immediately springs to mind when listening to this recording is “cerebral”, not necessarily (and not always) in a negative sense. The well-oiled correlations between the parts and the right amount of emancipation thrown in every once in a while contribute to depict a music that sounds sharp but not acrimonious, elements of tradition and scientific analysis of the instrumental relations weighing exactly the same. If the intelligibility of the arrangements is absolute and the procedural democracy shown in all the tunes substantial – contrapuntal friction and thorny melodic linearity both critical ingredients of the recipe – nevertheless there’s a noticeable level of frigidity getting in the way of a thorough enjoyment of the CD, which in essence appears as a fine-sounding rational exercise with a couple of noteworthy moments (such as the superb “Feldarbeit”). Definitely one for the intellect, not for the heart.

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

Jorrit Dijkstra – Pillow Circles (CF 166)
An international summit meeting, Pillow Circles joins four American jazz musicians with four Dutch improvisers. Similar in feel to his Flatlands Collective, this effort finds Dutch expatriate and multi-instrumentalist Jorrit Dijkstra paying homage to a handful of artists who have inspired him, with each piece dedicated to an individual.

Bringing an empathetic familiarity to the octet are three members of the Chicago- based Flatlands Collective—the veteran rhythm section of bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly, as well as trombonist Jeb Bishop, who are in turn joined by New York-based saxophonist Tony Malaby. The Dutch contingent includes violist Oene van Geel and guitarists Paul Pallesen and Raphael Vanoli. Together, the electro-acoustic unit explores Dijkstra’s wide-ranging suite with palpable enthusiasm, shifting from hypnotic minimalism and cinematic post-rock to aleatoric abstraction and pithy free jazz.

Originally commissioned for the 2009 North Sea Jazz Festival, the album-length suite reveals a multifaceted blend of dynamics and moods, inspired by past and present traditions. Pallesen’s folksy banjo lends a touch of surreal Americana to “Pillow Circle 41 (for Benoit Delbecq),” while Dijkstra’s analog synth conjures experimental futurism on “Pillow Circle 88 (for Robert Ashley).” The three horn front-line of Dijkstra, Malaby, and Bishop is formidable, ranging through intricate counterpoint, raucous collective blowing, and serene unison harmonies with ease, sometimes all in the same tune. The string section unveils a kaleidoscopic array of textures, from Geel’s sinewy double stops to the guitarists’ prismatic fretwork, which veers from impressionistic finger-picking on the lyrical “Pillow Circle 18 (for Fred Frith),” to the scorching feedback that concludes “Pillow Circle 88 (for Robert Ashley).” Roebke and Rosaly’s longstanding rapport carries them through endless shifts in tempo and rhythm, keeping the octet focused through a variety of approaches.

An expansive, episodic suite, Pillow Circles pays homage to everyone from AACM stalwarts Henry Threadgill and George Lewis to modernists like Fred Frith and Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame). Endlessly captivating, these splendidly executed multi-layered compositions reveal new facets with each listen, criss-crossing genres as easily as international boundary lines.

Radio Student Ljubljana review by Zoran Pistotnik

DENNIS GONZALEZ / JOAO PAULO: Scape Grace (CF 144)V zadnjem obdobju je eno osrednjih torišč ustvarjalnosti Dennisa Gonzaleza Portugalska. Svoje zamisli uresničuje ob sodelovanju portugalskih glasbenikov, večinski del njegove aktualne diskografije pa je izšel pri portugalski založbi. S pianistom Joaom Paulom sodelujeta že vrsto let, pri isti založbi sta že izdala koncertni album, lani pa sta se vrnila s projektom, ki je zaradi svoje tehtnosti nedavno tega prejel nagrado za portugalski jazzovski album leta. (v celoti!)

* V zadnjem obdobju je eno osrednjih torišč ustvarjalnosti Dennisa Gonzaleza, nam dobro in dolgo poznanega dallaškega samohodca po prostranstvih sodobnega jazza, Portugalska. Svoje zamisli uresničuje ob sodelovanju portugalskih glasbenikov, obsežen del njegove aktualne diskografije pa je izšel pri portugalski založbi Clean Feed Records. S pianistom Joaom Paulom sta koncertno že sodelovala, lani pa sta se vrnila s projektom, ki je zaradi svoje tehtnosti nedavno tega prejel nagrado za najboljši portugalski jazzovski album v letu 2009, ki jima jo je podelila ugledna združba Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores. K temu naj dodam, da je Dennis Gonzalez skoraj istočasno prejel še podobno nagrado v Italiji. All About Jazz Italia je njegov že leta 2008 izdani album »Hymn for Tomasz Stanko« najprej razglasila za najboljši album lanskega oktobra in potem še za enega najboljših v letu 2009. Dovolj dobrih iztočnici torej, da ta album, ki je na svojo predstavitev čakal dobro polovico leta, ponudimo v poslušanje.

O Dennisu Gonzalezu – dallaškem multi instrumentalistu, predvsem pa trobentaču ter skladatelju, literarnemu, vizualnemu in več medijskemu ustvarjalcu, pomembnemu glasbenemu pedagogu in animatorju, glasbenemu založniku in pobudniku številnih glasbenih projektov v zadnjih dobrih štiridesetih letih – vemo veliko. Ves ta čas je bil pogost gost na teh radijskih valovih, zato ni potrebe po ponovnem povzemanju njegove bogate ustvarjalne poti.

Zato pa je João Paulo Esteves da Silva, kakor se glasi polno ime odličnega portugalskega pianista in skladatelja, manj poznana glasbena osebnost. Šele v minulem letu smo končno vsaj zaznali njegovo dosedanje ustvarjalno delo ter ga nato delno predstavili z njegovim prvim za založbo Clean Feed leta 2007 izdanim solističnim albumom »Memorias de Quaem«. Tega ste lahko poslušali v Razširjanjih obzorij radia Študent pred njegovim nastopom na lanskem Ljubljanskem festivalu jazza, kjer je imel solo recital prav v okviru predstavitve založbe Clean Feed. Danes predstavljani album »Scapegrace« je njegov četrti za to založbo, prejšnji je bil prav prej omenjeni solistični, sodeloval pa je tudi pri snemanju albumov nekaterih drugih glasbenikov, tako da lahko rečemo, da spada kar v ožje jedro glasbenikov, ki od ustanovitve založbe Clean Feed, se pravi nekako zadnje desetletje, snemajo zanjo. A João Paulo je svojo glasbeno kariero začel precej prej. Je seveda klasično izobražen pianist, ki je najprej diplomiral na uglednem portugalskem konservatoriju in izobraževanje nadaljeval na pariških konservatorijih, kjer je za svoje študijsko in pozneje izvajalsko delo prejel tudi kar nekaj uglednih nagrad. Vendar se je že v času šolanja ukvarjal tudi z jazzom in drugo glasbo, a je bil vrsto let predvsem zelo iskan spremljevalec vidnih izvajalcev portugalske popularne glasbe, pozneje tudi sodelavec pri projektih pomembnih portugalskih in tudi tujih jazzovskih glasbenikov. Prvi koncertni nastop v jazzovskem kontekstu je doživel že leta 1979 kot član neke skupine na enem izmed portugalskih jazzovskih festivalov. Svojo prvo ploščo z lastnim podpisom je izdal leta 1995 in nato leta 2002 za francosko založbo tudi svoj prvi solistični album.

Toliko na kratko v predstavitev njegove dosedanje glasbene kariere, ki se s sodelovanjem z Dennisom Gonzalezom, njunim skupnim albumom »Scapegrace«, njegovim nastopom v Ljubljani, in ugledno nagrado, ki sta jo pravkar dobila za omenjeni album, nedvomno širi tudi na druga mednarodna prizorišča.

João Paulo in Dennis Gonzalez sta gradivo za ta album pripravila v juniju 2007 v Lizboni na domu prvega, v nekaj popoldnevih skupnega igranja, poslušanja igre drug drugega, razgovorih in celodnevnih druženjih. Potem sta odigrala nekaj koncertov po drugih portugalskih mestih, na koncu tudi v mestu Seixal, kjer sta 12. junija v tamkajšnjem kulturnem domu posnela izbor skladb. Album vsebuje devet avtorskih skladb. Tri je prispeval Gonzalez, ostalih šest pa João Paulo. Uvodna »First Song«, ki ste jo že slišali, je bila njegova. V nadaljevanju oddaje si bodo sledile še: Gonzalezova »Anthem for the Moment«, naslovna »Scapegrace« Joãoa Paula, še ena Gonzalezova »Hymn for Later« ter nato dve, ki album zaključujeta in sta delo Joãoa Paula – »Broken Bop« in »Ultima Canção«.

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita

Sei Miguel – Esfingico – Suite For A Jazz Combo (CF 170)
Portuguese trumpeter Sei Miguel’s Esfingico – Suite For A Jazz Combo might initially suggest a hybrid classical-jazz score, but it’s largely entrenched within avant-gardist type fare.  Nonetheless, it’s an interesting endeavor, as the quintet morphs free-form minimalism with progressive jazz improvisation atop ever-so-subtle percussion grooves.

With his pocket trumpet and music score direction, Miguel casts an unusual set of metrics here, abetted by Rafael Toral’s modulated resonance feedback circuit implementations.  Essentially, the music is underscored by evasive sub-themes and trickling EFX noises, nicely contrasted by alto trombonist Fala Mariam’s occasional injection of bluesy choruses.  However, Miguel steers the musicians through stark movements that seemingly emanate from a rather quiet space and an odd configuration that intimates a state of apprehension. 

Miguel and Toral offer probing contrasts to the man vs. machine paradigm, while Cesar Burago intersperses poignant world-groove beats, spanning metronome-like patterns and undulating flows.  Not much gets out of hand, as the performers render the intensity level at a modulating pace.  At times, Miguel’s vision and mode of execution imparts a bottom-feeding type visual, as though the music is a soundtrack for an oceanic nature flick. But on the final piece “IV.V.VI – Estas As Palavras,” they pick up the momentum via buoyant rhythms, streaming electronics and fluttering horns. 

Like it or not, Miguel is most assuredly on to something here, which is a notion that parallels the promotional notes, stating his John Cage influences.  Indeed, the subversive flair, asymmetrical currents and darkly woven fabrics of sound, intrinsically taunt the mind’s eye.

Monsieur Délire review by François Couture

Fight the Big Bull – All is Gladness in the Kingdom (CF 169)
Ô que je suis emballé par ce disque! Fight the Big Bull est un ensemble – on pourrait le qualifier de big band – de Richmond en Virginie. Pour cet album, son leader, le guitariste Matt White, a invité le trompettiste Steven Bernstein à y faire une sorte de résidence d’artiste. Résultat: un disque où White et Bernstein se partagent la composition. Fight the Big Bull adopte un style hybride qui emprunte à la tradition de Duke Ellington et au big band actuel (je pense en particulier aux ensembles de Fred Ho). Les pièces sont vives, riches, éclatantes, parfois dansantes, fortes en humour et en émotions fortes. “Mothra” de Bernstein ressort du lot, mais il y a beaucoup d’excellents morceaux ici, sur un disque qui fait dépasse les 75 minutes. Un disque confiant qui respire la bonne humeur, la camaraderie et l’audace assumée.

Oh am I thrilled by this CD! Fight the Big Bull is an ensemble – you could call it a big band – from Richmond, Virginia. For this album, its leader, guitarist Matt White, called in trumpeter Steven Bernstein as a sort of composer-in-residence guest. The result is a record where White and Bernstein share composition credits. Fight the Big Bull goes for a hybrid sound that owes as much to Ellington’s big band tradition than to avant-garde big bands (like Fred Ho’s ensembles, in particular). The pieces are lively, rich, bursting with arrangements, dancing at times, humorous, and full of rollercoaster-like thrills. Bernstein’s “Mothra” is a highlight, but there’s plenty more excellent stuff on this 75+minute record. A confident album full of good humour, camaraderie, and strong-footed boldness.

Monsieur Délire review by François Couture

SEI MIGUEL – Esfíngico: Suite for a Jazz Combo (CF 170)
Un superbe disque signé Sei Miguel, et le premier album du trompettiste portuguais pour l’étiquette Clean Feed. Ici. Miguel s’entoure de la tromboniste Fala Mariam (impressionnante), du bassiste Pedro Lourenço, du percussionniste Cesár Burago et de Rafael Toral au “circuit de larsen à résonance modulée”. Ce quintette interprète une partition de Miguel, qui dirige aussi. Mouvements lents, interactions pointillistes, jeu d’improvisation libre sur canevas, le tout non pas dominé mais encadré, subtilement, par le jeu de trompette fragmenté et doux mais assertif de Miguel. De la superbe, de la classe, une écoute exigente qui récompense l’effort.

A splendid record by Sei Miguel, his first for the Clean Feed label. Here, the Portugese trumpeter is surrounded by trombonist Fala Mariam (impressive), bassist Pedro Lourenço, percussionist Cesár Burago, and Rafael Toral on “modulated resonance feedback circuit.” This quintet is performig a score by Miguel, who is also conducting. Slow movements, punctual interactions, free improvisation over a set canvas, the whole thing framed (not dominated) by Miguel’s fragmented, soft yet assertive trumpet work. This has flare and class. It’s a demanding listen, but the reward is definitely worth it.

Monsieur Délire review by François Couture

RED Trio – RED Trio (CF 168)
Un solide disque de free jazz d’inspiration américaine, avec Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernani Faustino (contrebasse) et Gabriel Ferrandini (batterie). Paul Bley semble être une référence. Rapide, énergique, avec de jolis développements tentaculaires en filigrane. Le jeu de Faustino, particulièrement mis en évidence à deux reprises, est sec mais fluide, un alliage intéressant.

A strong record of American-style free jazz featuring Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernani Faustino (bass) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums). Paul Bley seems to be a source of inspiration. Fast, energetic, with some nice tentacular developments underpinning it all. Faustino’s playing, particularly highlighted in a couple of spots, is dry yet fluid, an interesting combination.

Age of Everything review by Joe Morris

Sei Miguel – Esfingico (CF 170)
Sei Miguel who plays pocket trumpet, is one of the most interesting improvising musicians on the scene today. He and his wife Fala Mariam who plays alto trombone, and their close associates Cesar Burago on percussion and Rafael Toral on electronics Pedro Lourenco on bass make beautiful music in a near perfect conversational environment. Somehow Miguel has found that space where melody, rhythm, and a delicate balance of sound and silence bridges that gap between what is high art music and what is pure folk music.

Miguel who is Brazilian, lives in Lisbon Portugal. He and Fala Mariam are two of the deepest artists I have ever known. They are committed to making music and making art. Fala Mariam besides being one of the most original voices to play trombone, is a fantastic painter as well. They operate in a kind of familial way with their ensemble and that closeness is obvious in all of their playing. They play with a vocal quality that is beyond anything called microtonal, with them it’s just more personal than that.

The title of his new CD on Clean Feed Esfíngico – Suite for a Jazz Combo might seem funny to people who think that a term like Jazz Combo is old or corny. But Miguel is very much committed to the idea that Jazz is still viable and indeed necessary as a platform for his music. Listening to him and performing with him—as I have done on two occasions, makes it easy to understand why that is. Miguel and his tight crew are speaking through their instruments, telling stories to each other and to listeners and always reaching for that rarefied space where music functions on so many levels that it defies description yet still reminds us of our humanity.

To me, any good original music that declares itself to be jazz, actually needs to ignore the tired old jazz dogma that says that good, original music has no place in jazz. Miguel and company play by those terms. They admire depth of intent, pure sound, close interaction and the sense of adventure that makes the great musicians associated with jazz truly beyond any category. Once again, like so many times before, new jazz has emerged in an unexpected place. This time Lisbon is where it’s at.

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Sei Miguel – Esfingico (CF 170)
The album’s subtitle, “Suite For A Jazz Combo”, is somewhat misleading in the sense that the word “jazz” is too limitative for the music you can hear on the album, nor is the word “combo” the right one either, since you rarely hear all musicians play together. The band consists of Sei Miguel on pocket trumpet, Fala Mariam on alto trombone, Rafael Toral on modulated resonance feedback circuit, Pedro Laurenço on bass guitar, Cesár Burago on timbales and small percussion. The music is minimalist, soft (as the opposite of loud), consisting of a very open canvas of precise coloring with sparse notes, slowly revealing structures and rhythms as they move along. There is forward movement, the result of agreed structures and possibly compositional elements. It took me a while and many listens to get into the music, but the end result is very rewarding. If present, the rhythm changes are varied, unusual yet compelling, Miguel’s clarity of tone is a pleasure to hear, and so is Mariam’s trombone. Laurenço’s bass-playing is also more sonic than rhythmic, adding textural depth and emphasis. The electronics are restrained and functional, driving the music forward, feeding it back, without being too intrusive. A weird but very enjoyable sonic environment is the end result, carefully crafted, full of emotional tension and opening new directions for music in a clever and creative way. Enjoy!