Daily Archives: June 7, 2010

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Fight the Big Bull –   All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (CF 169)
Valutazione: 4.5 stelle
Dying Will Be Easy era stato il sorprendente album d’esordio che aveva rivelato una formidabile formazione riunita attorno alla figura illuminata del chitarrista Matt White. L’unico appunto mosso ad un disco pressoché perfetto riguardava la durata vinilica del lavoro (trenta minuti appena!). Matt White sembra aver colto la nostra implorazione e con questo All Is Gladness in the Kingdom rilancia e raddoppia regalandoci settantasei minuti di puro piacere per anima, corpo e mente.

Impossibile descrivere la musica contenuta nel CD e l’uragano di emozioni e pensieri che colpisce l’ascoltatore. Perché vengono meno i normali criteri valutativi di fronte ad una musica che non porge punti di riferimento, viscosa e incandescente come una colata lavica, proteiforme come un’ameba che scivola via appena pensi di averla tra le mani. Laddove l’album d’esordio era secco e accecante, All Is Gladness in the Kingdom porta all’estreme conseguenze i concetti spazio temporali là contenuti, dilatando in una sorta di vuoto pneumatico un materiale sonoro difficilmente imbrigliabile, grumoso, a volte claustrofobico, spesso disseminato di falsi indizi.

Potremmo allora immaginare che dietro “Mothra” si nasconda l’orchestra di Duke Ellington alle prese con una colonna sonora di James Bond, dopo una nottataccia in qualche bettola poco consigliabile. Che in “Jemima Surrender,” The Band venga catapultata nel bel mezzo di una conduction di Butch Morris, mentre in “Gold Lions” i Sex Mob incontrino i Lounge Lizards. O che “Eddie and Cameron Strike Back/Satchel Paige” sia in realtà una sorta di drum&bass eseguito da una qualche formazione di George Russell, e ci piace pensare che “Martin Denny” sia un party psichedelico organizzato in uno sperduto monastero tibetano.

Ma è solo immaginazione. Di certo vi è un chitarrista assai originale che per il momento privilegia le sue grandi doti di compositore e arrangiatore, una piccola big band di dieci elementi che nelle sua mani diventa straordinari strumento per dar forma alle idee di una mente musicale senza limiti, e, ciliegina sulla torta, il contributo della slide trumpet di Steven Bernstein, una sorta di padre spirituale del giovane geniaccio di Richmond, Virginia.

Stash Dauber review by the Stash Dauber Part 2

A bunch more good jazz (or whatevah) records
Back to the Clean Feed stack…

Eric Boeren – Song for Tracy the Turtle Live at Jazz Brugge 2004 (CF 186)
Dutch cornetist Eric Boeren’s Song for Tracy the Turtle – Live at Jazz Brugge 2004 is a disc that fairly wallows in its Ornettitude, and that’s a good thing. You have to go back to Old and New Dreams to find a band as imbued with the spirit of the pre-Dancing In Your Head Coleman units as Boeren’s 4tet. Not only do they cover four, count ’em, _four_ classic-but-not-overdone O.C. compositions (“Mr. and Mrs. People,” “Free,” “Moon Inhabitants,” and “The Legend of Bebop”), they also essay Ornettish originals, replete with hummable, bluesy unison heads, like “A Fuzzphony” and “Soft Nose.” Boeren individuates most when he blows a muted horn, while Michael Moore shines on both alto and Eb clarinet. Departures include the amorphously open-ended title track (which kicks off the set), and the lovely laments “Memo” and “Memories of You” (the latter a Eubie Blake composition, of all things). I’ll also admit to being a sucker for CDs with pictures of turtles on the cover, especially when executed as exquisitely as Clean Feed’s sleeves always are.

TGB – Evil Things (CF 181)
Perhaps recent listens to Bob Stewart with Arthur Blythe’s ’70s “tuba band” put me in a receptive mood to hear Evil Things by TGB, a tuba-guitar-drums power trio (I do believe the acronym stands for the Portuguese spellings of the instruments’ names). On tuba, Sergio Carolino is an agile soloist; at times, listening to his rides is an experience akin to watching a portly man doing handsprings and cartwheels. Guitarist Mario Delgado is equally splendid on acoustic, electric, dobro, and fretless instruments (dig his taffy-pull long tones on the latter instrument on the curiously bluesy “George Harrison”). His range is represented by the material the trio covers, which ranges from proto-metal (Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” and Deep Purple’s “The Mule,” which serves as a segue out of whirlwind drummer Alexandre Frazao’s solo on “Nameloc”) to country-jazz (Hank Garland’s vehicle “Close Your Eyes” starts out as a tango before erupting into surf-ska frenzy). The program runs the gamut from Gateway Trio-style exploration to Red-era King Crimson menace (there’s even a little grindcore Cookie Monster vocalismo from Paulo Ramos on “Aleister Crowley”). A stunning surprise.

Carlos Bica – Matéria Prima (CF 180)
Delgado’s also a key element on two bassplayer-led sessions. On Labirinto, Dave Hollandesque bassist-composer Carlos Barretto leads a trio, Lokomotiv, with the guitarist and drummer Jose Salgueiro. Delgado explores more tones and textures than the average guitar-slinger would think to in the course of a single session, reinforcing the impression of himself as a European Nels Cline, while the trio reminds you of everything you liked about fusion and ECM back in the ’70s. Leader Barretto’s arco work is particularly gorgeous. Carlos Bica’s Materia Prima opens with the surf-blues of “D.C.” — with a riff straight out of Jimi’s “Voodoo Chile” — before settling into a program of very stylish chamber jazz that includes covers of tunes by Marc Ribot (another discernable influence on Delgado) and Ry Cooder. Bica’s own compositions are moody, atmospheric soundscapes that evoke cinematic images, like John Zorn at his best.

Stash Dauber review by the Stash Dauber Part 1

A whole bunch of good jazz records
I’ve been remiss in reviewing stuff the past couple of months, so this weekend I plan to listen my way through the massive stack of discs here on my desk, starting with the last _two_ releases from estimable Portuguese label Clean Feed.

Ivo Perelman / Daniel Levin / Torbjörn Zetterberg – Soulstorm (CF 184)
Most titanic among their recent offerings is Soulstorm, a double CD’s worth of improvisatory dialogue between the first-time trio of Brazilian-born tenorman Ivo Perelman, cellist Daniel Levin, and bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg, recorded in a single afternoon and evening’s worth of unbridled inspiration. The players are conversant enough in the language of their instruments and skilled enough in the art of listening that their inaugural collaboration sounds like the work of a seasoned group. The pieces take their time unfolding — most are over ten minutes long and “Plaza Maua” runs 24:34 — and are magnificently detailed, nuanced, and shaded. Over the course of the two discs, the musicians cover the whole spectrum of emotions, their interplay often recalling that of Ornette’s ’60s bands with David Izenzon, or his more recent two-bass lineup. There’s a whole universe of music encapsulated in the 1’s and 0’s on these shiny silver discs.

Tom Rainey Trio – Pool School (CF 185)
Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock is heard to good advantage on two new Clean Feed trio releases. Pool School finds her in the company of leader/drummer Tom Rainey and guitarist Mary Halvorson. Rainey’s a familiar of Julius Hemphill acolyte Tim Berne and a most cerebral percussionist, last heard by me on Ash and Tabula, an electronics-heavy trio recording with Nels Cline and Andrea Parkins. Halvorson’s an alum of Berne and Anthony Braxton’s bands, capable of a nasty, skronky, Sonny Sharrock-like attack. Laubrock’s main axe is soprano, but she plays a lot of tenor here, as well, her sound infused with dark melancholy. On Paradoxical Frog, she plays tenor exclusively and collaborates with pianist Kris Davis and monster drummer Tyshawn Sorey; imagine if Tony Williams instead of Sunny Murray had accompanied Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons at the Cafe Montmartre in ’62. All three of these musicians are composers first, and it shows in their interaction. The ringer in the set is “Homograph,” a 12-minute-plus example of extreme minimalism.

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman – Dual Identity (CF 172)
Dual Identity is the name of a quintet co-led by altoists Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman. Mahanthappa’s best known for his association with pianist Vijay Iyer, with whom Lehman’s also worked in the cooperative trio Fieldwork. Also on board is guitarist Liberty Ellman, playing a semi-hollow electric rather than the flat-top acoustic he employs with Henry Threadgill’s Zooid. The two saxes harmonize, play contrapuntal lines, and intertwine their solo voices the way Arthur Blythe and David Murray did on Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition. Ellman comps like early John McLaughlin and provides a rich-toned third solo voice. Matt Brewer’s a supportive bassist, while Damion Reid’s a crisp, propulsive drummer. The live recording is impeccable.

Elliott Sharp – Octal: Book Two (CFG 004)
Octal: Book Two is a solo recording of performances on a prototype eight-string guitar/bass by composer/multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp. For someone who’s exploring all the possibilities of his instruments, including atonal and percussive sounds, Sharp can be relentless, sending seemingly endless chains of notes cascading over each other, leaving nary a second of empty space. In other pieces, you can hear his orchestral concepts (in the liner notes, he references post-quantum physics and string theory), while elsewhere, he sounds like Robert Fripp and Tony Levin from the early ’80s edition of King Crimson embodied in a single musician, which can be quite frightening! On the closing “Inverted Fields,” he uses an eBow and feedback to wring multiple tonal voices from the same instrument. A rigorous and challenging program that rewards repeated listenings.

All About Jazz review by Stuart Broomer

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
Bassist Chris Lightcap released a CD called Bigmouth on Fresh Sound-New Talent in 2003, featuring a quartet with drummer Gerald Cleaver and the unusual frontline of two tenor saxophonists, Tony Malaby and Bill McHenry. Seven years later, Lightcap returns to the concept, with “Bigmouth” now the name of the band rather than the CD. In the intervening period, the band and the concept have evolved considerably. Cleaver and Malaby are still present, but the second tenor saxophonist is now Chris Cheek, while Craig Taborn is playing piano, both in its acoustic form and a Wurlitzer electric. Alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo appears on three of Lightcap’s eight compositions here.
As might be expected from the frontline, it’s a band of real power, but there are other dimensions as well. Lightcap works from a broad compositional palette, developing strong grooves with Cleaver that emphasize the R&B affinities of the two tenors, as well as a strong Latin feel. The scintillating “Ting” has a Mexican vibe and there are lovely liquid ballads as well. There’s a preference for consonant harmonies here that’s furthered by the majesty of the two tenors, Cheek usually the smoother sound of the two, Malaby using more vocal inflections. Their dovetailing lines, cascading over Lightcap’s bass ostinatos, are the essential component of the developing dialogue of “Clutch” or “Two-Face.”

Taborn’s Wurlitzer piano adds a special ambience, an unexpected period sound that seems to emphasize the Southwest. D’Angelo’s alto is an effective contrast to the weightier tenors, adding a clarion edge to the ballad “Silvertone” and spiraling, celebratory lines to “Ting.” Bigmouth is a special band, demarcating its own territory, filled with surprisingly open spaces.

Point of Departure review by Art Lange

Keefe Jackson Quartet – Seeing You See (CF 176)
Previously found at the head of a sextet, Fast Citizens, and the double-that-size Project Project (both have discs on Delmark) – bands which demonstrate his burgeoning compositional chops while serving as outlet for some of Chicago’s most potent soloists – Arkansas-native and Windy City-transplant Jackson here ups the ante by downsizing the manpower. With his name on the marquee and having provided all ten of the program’s diverse tunes and/or strategies for improvisation (from the buoyant “Put My Finger On It” to the airy textural exploration “Since Then,” the fanfare of “Word Made Fresh” to the dirge-like “Close”), there’s no doubt who’s in charge; nevertheless, there are contrasting aspects within his own musical nature that result in a yin/yang coexistence of tensions in the group dynamic. For example, the quartet format ensures plenty of solo space, and one attractive source of tension is the way in which Jackson’s tenor saxophone improvisations balance ardor with control, spontaneity with thoughtfulness, such as the momentum created by his asymmetrical phrases and surprising accents in “If You Were,” or his eruption of notes in “Eff-time.” With trombonist Jeb Bishop as ebullient frontline foil, contributing racy escapades and a mastery of buzzing, growling, snarling mutes, the intensity level soars; their relationship is frequently reminiscent of the Archie Shepp/Roswell Rudd ‘60s partnership, especially their tart harmonization of themes, episodes of counterpoint and overlapping comments (heard on “Maker” and “Turns to Everything”), and the seemingly spontaneous riffs that twist the music off on unexpected tangents. By working in so many similar, small but effectively arranged details, Jackson escalates the tension between the expressive solos and their structural settings. The rhythm section, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Noritaka Tanaka, offers its own layer of tension – subtle rather than rambunctious, they rumble rather than roar, and occasionally evaporate completely. There’s nothing particularly new here; it’s an uncommon mixture of the familiar and the distinctive that sets this music apart from the crowd.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF174)
Chris Lightcap, one of the more enterprising Downtown bassists to emerge in the past decade, has built an impressive discography as a sideman, accompanying such luminaries as Rob Brown, Joe Morris and Craig Taborn, among many others. Deluxe is the Clean Feed debut of his Bigmouth ensemble, an augmented variation of his quartet, whose previous two albums, Lay-Up and Bigmouth, were both released on the Fresh Sound label.

An instrumentalist with a robust tone and flawless timing, Lightcap’s melodious writing is his true talent, much like fellow bassist/composer Ben Allison, whose work Lightcap’s slightly resembles. Many jazz composers draw from the pop music of their youth for inspiration, but Lightcap integrates rock-oriented tonalities and conventional harmonic progressions into a compositionally advanced jazz context more successfully than most.

Though fairly straightforward, this harmonious and often cathartic approach is met head on by the dual tenor front-line of Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby, whose lush horn voicings soar over the shimmering Wurlitzer chords of Craig Taborn, as Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver drive infectious themes home with élan. Special guest alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo makes a strong appearance as well – his biting tone and quicksilver cadences elevating the three cuts on which he plays.

Placing an emphasis on melody first and foremost, the opener, “Platform,” is an exemplary demonstration of the band’s interpretive prowess. Taborn’s probing variations on the tune’s supple theme are embellished by Cheek’s plangent tenor, who passes the baton to Malaby for a rousing finish; if Taborn’s warm Wurlitzer tone is the heart of Bigmouth’s sound, then Cheek and Malaby’s breathy unison tenors are its soul. Selflessly elevating the front-line’s buoyant lyricism, Cleaver’s workman-like downbeats and subtle percussive asides conspire with the leader’s stalwart contributions, providing the quintet with a steadfast rhythmic foundation.

The epic Americana of “Silvertone” and the lilting waltz-time “Ting” feature D’Angelo’s terse alto, which waxes lyrical through the first half of “Silvertone,” then re-appears at the coda, joined by Cheek and Malaby. Building in intensity at the finale, the three saxophonists peal off epic sheets of sound that transcend the tune’s modest beginnings.

The remaining tracks also plumb euphonious melodies, rich harmonies and carefree rhythms, with Lightcap revealing a fondness for subtle Afro-Latin accents and subdivisions of three-quarter time, featuring both on the jubilant “Deluxe Version.” The band’s mellifluous tendencies come to the fore on the wistful ballad “Year of the Rooster,” with “The Clutch” spotlighting dulcet interplay between Cheek and Malaby over a brisk syncopated rhythm. Malaby and Taborn reveal their more extreme inclinations on the pensive “Two-Face,” taking the tune out with a rancorous burnout that raises the bandstand. Only the appropriately titled “Fuzz” acquiesces to conventional rock music clichés, with Lightcap’s distorted bass and Cleaver’s thunderous trap set palpitations invoking populist strains.

A stellar example of accessible, forward-thinking new jazz, Deluxe pulls at the heartstrings and moves the body, without forgetting to exercise the mind.

The Jazz Breakfast review by Peter Bacon

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman – Dual Identity (CF 172)
This has been out a couple of months but it has been so absorbing me that is has been difficult to step back and write about it.

Mahanthappa and Lehman, both alto saxophonists of a certain 21st-century New York downtown sensibility, really are taking jazz into fresh territory, and they work extraordinarily well together. Mahanthappa brings a raga sense of busyness achieving serenity, while Lehman has a drier sound and style that often reminds me of Henry Threadgill, both in tone and harmonically.

For this disc they have Liberty Ellman on guitar, Matt Brewer on bass and Damion Reid on drums. I think it’s all a live gig though there is not applause between every piece.

The best bits are when the two saxophones are going at it like competing wasps around a flower, while bass and drums hold a half-time groove and Ellman adds dark, slightly menacing chords to offset the saxophones. As the horns get more intense, swapping the improvisations back and forth while the other holds a complementary pattern, so Reid ups the temperature to a real tattoo, though with very little cymbal action to get in the way of the trebly saxophones.

Try track 9, RudreshM, as a prime example. The title track is a really mind-blowing exchange between the two leaders, full of multiphonics and their own weird harmonic and melodic language. It’s so strange and yet so strangely compelling. Whenever I hear this music I imagine how exciting Charlie Parker would have found it.