Daily Archives: July 9, 2010

Chicago Reader review by Peter Margasak

Eric Boeren Quartet – Song for tracy the Turtle Live in Brugge 2004 (CF 186)
The music of Ornette Coleman occupies a special place in the imagination of Eric Boeren. The dynamic Dutch cornetist writes original tunes that share the puckish melodic sensibility and uncontained joy of Coleman’s music, and he often covers Coleman outright—there are two of the master’s songs, for instance, on the excellent new Song for Tracy the Turtle—Live at Jazz Brugge 2004 (Clean Feed). But Boeren is no mere copycat or tribute artist. A key fixture on the Amsterdam scene, he brings elements of Coleman’s aesthetic to the loosey-goosey, quick-change approach pioneered by Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink in the ICP Orchestra. His terrific quartet, which released its first album in ’97, uses set lists that are really more like clusters of tunes—the musicians decide which number to play when (and at what point to jump to the next one) on the fly. Boeren has a seemingly telepathic connection with his brilliant front-line partner, reedist Michael Moore, and the rhythm section—muscular bassist Wilbert de Joode and, on Song for Tracy the Turtle, German free-jazz drummer Paul Lovens—goes from cushioning the horns with a spry bounce to blowing open the sonic space with an eruption of clatter. (Lovens, who in the early 70s helped define the noisy, gestural, unmetered style that’s now common in free improvisation, proves here that the roots of his radical technique lie in his understanding of the ebb and flow of swing.) The horn players tangle and untangle, sometimes sliding into new song by teasing bits of its melody out of the sweet-and-sour harmonies and jagged counterpoint of their ongoing improvisation. Other times the transitions are sudden—the segue from the title track into “A Fuzzphony” is a single graceful leap—but their logic feels totally natural even when it’s impossible to see them coming. For these rare Chicago shows the quartet will play not with Lovens but with its regular drummer, the inimitable Han Bennink. See also Sunday at Hungry Brain.

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All About Jazz review by Chris May

Kris Davis / Ingrid Laubrock / Tyshawn Sorey – Paradoxical Frog (CF 183)
There’s so much music bursting out of saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and her cultural reference points are so diverse, that you never quite know, as you take a disc out of the sleeve for the first time, what she’s going to be up to—aside from going further. The intriguing Paradoxical Frog contains more surprises.

Among the first fruits of Laubrock’s more or less full-time relocation from London to Brooklyn, the album is a trio set made with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, on which the composing opportunities are shared out between the three players.

Despite its instrumentation, a good portion of the album is reminiscent of piano/bass/drums trio The Necks at its most spacious and unhurried, on discs such as Mosquito/See Through (ReR Megacorp, 2005). Lyrical, understated, concerned with consonance rather than dissonance, leisurely of pace but with motor rhythms running through them, “Slow Burn,” “Homograph” and “On The Six”—all composed by Sorey—are perfectly realised examples of how less can add up to more.

The three tunes take minimalism to the edge, with Laubrock and Davis frequently rocking back and forth gently between key centers, and Sorey adding subtle punctuation. “Homograph” is remarkable. For 12:34 minutes, Laubrock and Davis exchange single notes in whispered call and response. To start with the notes are held only briefly, but as the track progresses they are sustained for longer. Practically every note offered by each player is followed by a few seconds silence, before the other answers. The sonically adventurous Laubrock, on tenor (as she is throughout the album), here mostly avoids high harmonics, vocalizations and broken notes, focusing instead on the conventional vocabulary of the instrument. “Homograph” may not sound exciting described thus, but it is a remarkably compelling performance.

Laubrock’s two tunes, “Paradoxical Frog” and “Canine,” have more complex harmonic structures, but by her standards they too are relatively straightforward. They also contain, in her solos, some of the disc’s more outside moments—although, as on “Homograph,” she generally eschews radical sonics. And while tonal innovations are among the delights of her most recent album as leader, Sleepthief (Intakt, 2009), and the Tom Rainey Trio album Pool School (Clean Feed, 2010), it’s an equal pleasure to hear her relishing the “natural” sound of the tenor. Both tracks begin softly, gradually building in intensity; “Paradoxical Frog” closes with a brilliantly nuanced drum solo over an insistent little piano motif; “Canine” with a typically playful Laubrock melody, brief and bouncy and repeated several times by the trio in unison.

Davis’ three tunes are more consistently hot and bothered. “Iron Spider,” which opens the album, is its shortest and fiercest track, all big drums, squalling saxophone and Wagnerian piano. As such it’s also the least typical track, a bracing curtain raiser which in retrospect seems to be saying, “we can cook at high temperatures when we want to, but we’ve mostly chosen not to.”

Strong sunlight, as it were, before the dappled beauty ahead.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=36985

All About Jazz review by Mark F. Turner

Steve Lehman / Rudresh Mahanthappa – Dual Identity (CF 172)
Recorded live at Portugal’s Braga Jazz Festival in 2009 Dual Identity features two leading sax innovators—Steve Lehman and Rudresh Mahanthappa—in a stunning performance. Their discographies are synonymous with the current environment of progressive jazz; music that stretches boundaries with fresh ideas in conceptualization (Lehman’s spectral harmony experiments in Travail, Transformation, and Flow (Pi Recordings, 2009)) and broad culture awareness (Mahanthappa’s unique blend of Eastern and Western music in Apti (Innova Recordings, 2009)). Their bold alto frontline is further enhanced by simpatico partners in crime: guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Damion Reid in a recording that does not disappoint. It is a lucid document of what happens when diverse yet like-minded musicians collaborate to deliver cutting edge music.

The compositions are evenly divided among the saxophonists repertoire with fresh reworkings of Lehman’s “Post-Modern Pharaohs” from Artificial Light (Fresh Sound, 2004) and “Circus” from Mahanthappa’s Mother Tongue (Pi Recordings, 2004). From the former composition’s complexity to the latter’s intricate shifts in balladry and Indian modes, what is expected from these fierce horn leaders is delivered in spades: labyrinthine runs, sharp patterns and a cerebral quality within heavy grooves. The two horns are animals of the same skin; complimenting one another, not only in tone, but also in playing style, exhibited in the exhausting horn trades in “Rudreshm” as their voices intertwine like vipers in a pit.

But the success lies in the exceptional band effort from all participants. Ellman—also a key member of Henry Threadgill’s eclectic Zooid ensemble—is superb where his unique phrasing and staccato soloing on “Circus” is quite memorable. Reid and Brewer do more than just hold the rhythmic line—exacting beats and vivid spots with an elaborate three and a half minute opening drum solo in “Extensions Of Extensions Of” and authoritative bass maneuvers in “1010”—they obliterate it.

The question was asked in an interview prior to the release whether identity was important to each of the leaders in this music. Since 2004, yet in different forms, Lehman and Mahanthappa have been collaborating, developing, experimenting and evolving their identities into this quintet project. Things take time. But it was emphatically worth it.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=36972

Village Voice’s Jazz Consumer Guide review by Tom Hull

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman – Dual Identity (CF 172)
Two alto saxmen, rising stars at least according to Downbeat’s critics, in a free-jazz quintet mediated by guitarist Liberty Ellman. Mahanthappa has sopped up Coltrane and the Karnatic tradition, but here blends in with Lehman, who learned his stuff from Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton, with a more accessible take on the latter’s compositional discipline. No jousts or flights of fancy­, just dense patterns swung over freewheeling rhythm—all live, no less. A
http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-06-29/music/jazz-consumer-guide