Monthly Archives: July 2010

All About Jazz review by Chris May

Tom Rainey Trio – Pool School (CF 185)
Though there are more substantial things to observe about Brooklyn-based drummer Tom Rainey’s Pool School, let’s start by saying that the disc’s hand-tinted, faux 1930s cover art is among the more stylish to have emerged so far in 2010. And even if the imagery is most immediately resonant of summer in Portugal, the Clean Feed label’s home turf, intentionally or not, there is a connection to the music on the metal (yes, it does have something to do with deep ends).

Remarkably, the album is the first to be released under his own name by ninja of nuance Rainey, from the early 1990s a prominent figure on New York’s Downtown scene. In a 2004 interview with All About Jazz, he declared himself creatively fulfilled by his role as sideman/collaborator, “playing with friends who trust me,” and revealed no plans to form his own band. Whatever it may be that has caused him to change his mind, ears laugh at their good fortune.

The two friends who collaborate with Rainey here are guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, each a major new voice on her instrument. Both can create intensely visceral music yet are equally at home on more cerebral, long-form material, be it pre-composed or improvised. Both are sonic adventurers significantly extending the lexicons of their instruments. Stir in Rainey’s yin/yang rhythmatism and fascination follows.

The album has echoes of Laubrock’s wholly in-the-moment, collective improv suite, Sleepthief (Intakt, 2009), on which Rainey made up a trio with pianist Liam Noble; though not completely improvised, Pool School has a high ratio of sustained, unscripted, collective invention. But variety of atmosphere and form is a hallmark of the set. The 12 tracks move adroitly between the composed and the improvised, the inside and the outside, the sun lounger and the deep end. It’s often impossible to tell where the one starts and the other begins.

Is the wonderfully synchronous coming together of all three players which happens on “Pool School” itself 2:38 minutes in, for instance, the result of experience and empathy or pre-planning? Similar moments occur throughout the disc—some, such as “Home Opener”‘s halfway transition from the voluptuous to the spiky and “Coney”‘s reverse direction shift, sounding as though they were deliberated in advance by the musicians.

Well, anyway. In the end, the precise route taken doesn’t matter. This playful, empathetic trio hits the spot, and Pool School reveals new pleasures with each repeated spin.


BBC Music review by Martin Longley

The four-piece’s new album delivers a sustained sense of open-mouthed surprise.

Convergence Quartet – Song/Dance (CF 187)

The Convergence band name is particularly appropriate, as this group’s members are drawn from England, Canada and the USA. There is also a cross-pollination of styles and influences, as well as geographic backgrounds.

Taylor Ho Bynum blows cornet and flügelhorn, and made his name as a latter-day sideman to Anthony Braxton. In recent years, Bynum has been expanding his own presence as a bandleader and composer. Drummer Harris Eisenstadt has recently made a mark with his Canada Day combo, and is now dwelling in New York City.

Over here in the UK, bassist Dominic Lash is a semi-obscure force amongst the hardcore improv community, with one leg in the rockin’ free-form camp. Pianist Alexander Hawkins is the least familiar member of this unlikely transatlantic foursome, though he’s fast becoming an important presence on the improv scene.

All of the Convergers are concerned with improvisation, composition, and the unpredictable trajectories that lie between these two territories. The composite style of this band is made up from some very diverse elements, but they perform the magical sleight-of-hand that allows the retention of individuality, at the same time as developing a highly structured set of group themes that are blessed with a melodic openness.

Complete equality is the mission. All four players contribute pieces, and when they solo, these spot-lit passages are invariably pointed and brief, standing aside for the next volley, or awaiting an incoming ensemble theme. The tunes are tightly arranged, but this doesn’t inhibit their spontaneous fire. The album is crisply recorded, with Bynum’s horns being particularly close-mic’d, his ornately muted parps worming deep into the listener’s ears. Simultaneous soloing abounds. The next move is rarely predictable. A moderate-length piece will pass through many sections with great rapidity.

Frequently, a solo stretch might be completely unaccompanied. A swift spell before the band jumps back into the fray. On Next Convergence, Hawkins is scattering aggressive piano shards, climaxing with some full elbow-ramming (or so it sounds). He’s chased by a completely lonesome running bass solo, and a theme comes together. But no! We’re immediately off into a capsule drum solo, upended across the melody.

Opening his own Iris, Bynum alternates between sharp pricks and blubbery expulsions, then a duet of clipped drum-scatter and ravaged bow-bass suddenly calms for a soft floatation theme as the cornet re-enters. This can only be followed by a free-barrelhouse piano solo, and this is exactly what Hawkins delivers.

Besides the deep substance of the band’s own compositions, they also include a South African traditional tune and an old classic penned by the violinist Leroy Jenkins. Whatever the material, the Convergers operate a subverted organisational approach that results in a sustained sense of open-mouthed surprise.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Elliott Sharp: Solo Electric Guitar, Played His Way

Elliott Sharp – Octal: Book Two(CFG 004)
Elliott Sharp, guitar pioneer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, has always seemed to go his own way, in the process becoming a major presence in the now globally recognized downtown music enclave. He’s successfully created Sharpesque interpretations of the blues, composed and performed exciting works for both small and large ensembles, hosted a web radio show of great diversity and discernment for MOMA’s PS1 web site, among other things. He’s also recorded a series of improvisations for solo guitar.

Octal Book Two (Clean Feed CFG 004) finds Mr. Sharp on his Koll 8-string electro-acoustic guitar, which has both conventional and bass guitar strings. Without overdubs he creates a kind of suite of guitar events, each concentrating on various avant and conventional techniques that Sharp uses. Some he has developed in his own way; others, like harmonics, feedback sustain, and hammerings, he adapts to his own purposes.

What distinguishes Sharp’s music from some other unaccompanied solo avant guitar efforts is that each event to a lesser or greater degree concentrates on a melodic cell, scalular passage or quasi-riff. The music is freely articulated but not free in the stream-of consciousness manner. It is Elliott’s strong sense of structure that gives the listener clear musical sign-posts through the avant sound thicket (at least that is so for me). Each is a semi-miniature impro-compositional gem. He does not eschew repetition, and much of the music features dynamically invigorating cascades of rapidly articulated repeated lines. This of course is a feature of Elliott Sharp’s style and it is paired down to a single solo voice for this outing.

It shows that Elliott Sharp’s motor-sensory brilliance has in no sense abated. He is vital still.

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

Tom Rainey Trio – Pool School (CF 185)
Valutazione: 3.5 stelle
Chiunque abbia avuto il piacere di vedere/ascoltare Tom Rainey [dal vivo o su disco, più probabilmente nei gruppi di Tim Berne] non avrà avuto difficoltà a riconoscere nel musicista californiano uno dei batteristi più originali e versatili della sua generazione – che pure di talenti dietro i tamburi ne annovera molti.
Per il primo disco a proprio nome, confermando una qualità caratteriale di naturale undestatement, Rainey sceglie di formare un trio paritetico con due delle musiciste più stimolanti in circolazione, la chitarrista Mary Halvorson e la sassofonista tedesca [ma di base a New York] Ingrid Laubrock. Spazio all’improvvisazione dunque – o alla composizione istantanea, dipende da che parte la si guarda – e spazio a una musica spigolosa e non troppo conciliante, che si snoda tra ostinazioni allucinate e raffinatissimi giochi timbrici.

Mary Halvorson si conferma musicista peculiare e inafferrabile: sulla lezione di Derek Bailey immette spruzzi caustici di femminilità postmoderna e asciuttezze urbane, di quelle che sono pronte a lacerarsi su un chiodo arrugginito. La Laubrock per parte sua – l’avevamo già incontrata in trio su disco Intakt [Sleepthief, anche quella volta con Rainey alla batteria – si rivela improvvisatrice sulfurea cui non sono estranei i confini lessicali del blues e della sperimentazione più ardita, ma anche mantiene sempre una densa immediatezza espressiva.

Lontano dalla necessità di una pulsazione, per quanto frastagliata e obliqua come può essere nelle band di Berne, Rainey dà fondo a tutta la sua fantasia timbrica, suadente e inquietante a seconda dell’inclinazione. Ne esce così un disco che difficilmente attribuiremmo alla sola sensibilità del batterista: Rainey dimostra di essere artista aperto e che da questa apertura, dalle frastagliate sovrapposizioni con quella dei musicisti con cui incrocia le idee, sgorgano traiettorie e forme sempre nuove.

Alcuni brani fanno della frammentazione una vera e propria arte, da apprezzare solo nel momento in cui si sceglie coscientemente di frammentare anche l’ascolto. Ma ci sono cose come “More Mesa” che si srotolano deliziosamente tra le mani dell’ascoltatore, solcandone le linee con dolci abrasioni della memoria. Avventuroso.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Red Trio: Red Trio (CF 168 )
Red Trio se estrena discográficamente con el CD homónimo. En la tradición post-evansiana de los tríos de piano en los que los tres instrumentistas están al mismo nivel, la música se trabaja y desarrolla a nivel colectivo. 

El batería Gabriel Ferrandini y el contrabajista Hernani Faustino ya dejaron hace unos meses una magnífica muestra de su capacidad para improvisar en grupo en el Nobuyasu Furuya Trio (Bendowa, Clean Feed. CF159CD  / Nobuyasu Furuya Trio + Quintet: Stunde Null. Chitei Records. B45F). Rodrigo Pinheiro se destapa como un magnífico pianista, aunque en este caso el potencial del trío es superior a la suma de sus partes.

Ottawa Citizen review by Peter Hum

Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman – Dual Identity (CF 172)
The live recording by a quintet co-led by alto saxophonists Mahanthappa and Lehman seems at least somewhat conceptually indebted to Coleman, although I’m sure there are other points of departure and lots of original thinking too.

To be completely honest, I’m not familiar enough with Mahanthappa and Lehman to be sure of who’s playing what. Their sounds are close — both tart and full to my ears — but I believe Mahanthappa’s sound to be more ripe, and Lehman’s sound to be more taut. Also, based on their composing and melodic language, their esthetics are similar. Mahanthappa and Lehman are definitely united in making tense, challenging, hard-edged music that has no time for music as usual or half-heartedness.

The disc’s music is very dense, with a predilection for what I think of as abstract, complex funk, marked by stuttering rhythms, tightly knit melodies with almost incantatory refrains, and far from obvious forms (Montreal alto saxophonist Remi Bolduc, no slouch when it comes to hearing what’s going on in music, recently wrote as his Facebook status: ” Dual Identity with Lehman and Mahanthappa… Post-Modern Pharaohs… Pretty hard form to figure out….”)

Songs such as the disc’s opener The General, the more concise Foster Brothers, the epic Extensions Of Extensions Of (kicked off by some of Damion Reid’s hard-hitting drumming) and Circus  focus on gyrating, boldly assertive hornwork over a raging, super-syncopated backdrop. As I hear it, guitarist, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Reid do an excellent job of making this very complex and concrete music groove, while Liberty Ellman is gluing the music together with planes of harmony and perfectly placed chords.

With SMS, much rumbling and some steely playing by Ellman set up the fast, invigorating groove. The mystery deepens when the tune’s rumbling theme returns. Resonance Ballad is short and rumbling, a chromatic update on the kinds of modal incantations that John Coltrane created. Katchu, a composition by guitarist Liberty Ellman, is an intriguing ballad and a relative point of repose on the disc. Although the song is pretty, it still accommodates the hard-edged playing by Mahanthappa and Lehman, right down to their closing, dual-horn cadenza that segues into the driving tune Circus.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Keefe Jackson and Quartet Notch Off A Winner

Keefe Jackson Quartet – Seeing you See (CF 176)
Chicago. I’ve written about some of the very lively music coming out of there on numerous occasions. Today, another CD by some of the brightest in the firmament. Keefe Jackson, with his tenor, his bass clarinet and his jazz compositions, leads a quartet on the new Seeing You See (Clean Feed 176). It’s a superb combination of musical vehicles and lustrous blowing.

Keefe has his own sound and approach. He is not given to the continuous unleashing of extra-timbral resonances (nothing wrong with that, though), but concentrates more on creating interesting lines. He is in terrific form on this album. Then there’s Jeb Bishop, a trombonist that perfectly aligns stylistically with Jackson. He too is after the expressively outgoing linear improvisation. And he happens to be one of the most formidable trombone talents to come along in quite some time. The rhythm section finds the virtually ideal embodiment in Jason Roebke on bass and Noritaka Tanaka on drums. They can swing strongly or take a more diffuse freetime approach, or something in between the two (which may be hardest to pull off) depending on the character of the piece at hand. And they do it with seeming ease, which belies the hard work and dedicated realization of talent that it takes to get to their level.

I find just about everything that this loose confederation of Chicago cats put across to be important music. This one takes the legacy of Ornette’s classic pianoless quartets and builds a new, sparklingly clean-edged edifice on top of it. Highly recommended.