Monthly Archives: August 2010

Dusted Magazine review by Derek Taylor

Daniel Levin Quartet – “Knickerbocker” (from “Bacalhau”, CF 195)
Cellist-fronted bands are still an uncommon currency in creative-improvised music. Daniel Levin hasn’t let the stunted history of his instrument in the idiom dissuade him from taking the lead. Bacalhau documents a concert set by his working quartet in Portugal during the summer of last year. By that point, the group had been together nearly eight years and trumpeter Nate Wooley, vibraphonist Matt Moran and bassist Peter Bitenc were jointly-geared to their colleague’s chamber-rooted designs and directives. A strong ensemble rapport is certainly in evidence across the entire program, with Levin ceding as much space as he occupies and coming up with a concert performance that also registers as a cohesive album.

The layered theme on the opening “Looken” is a lost sibling to Eric Dolphy’s “Straight Up and Down.” A comparison to Dolphy’s classic Blue Note session is a good one for the quintet as well, with Levin’s cello often aping the phrasing and agility of an alto reed. Bitenc sometimes plays the straight man to Levin’s strings, as on “Bronx #3” where a sturdy walking line serves as an anchoring agent to a full-bore horsehair assault from the leader. The roles reverse on the bassist’s “P’s Jammies,” where his prowling pizzicato plies an aggressive lead vamp answered and embellished by his comrades. Wooley evinces a comparable breadth, bouncing from lyrical open-bell playing to harsh crenellated shrieks — and he still manages to make it all sound musical.

Levin’s compositions aren’t reticent when it comes to breaking down the band into component capsules. The roving contrapuntal patterns of “Dock,” “Oh Really” and “Knickerbocker” result in a balance of breathing room and incisiveness. Two duos explore texture-oriented playing in more explicit terms. The first pairs Wooley and Moran in an exploration of brassy drone patterns and quavering bowed-plank harmonics. Levin and Wooley converse on the second in flurried scalar exchanges that milk the most of their disparate instruments’ tonal ranges. At nearly 13 minutes, “Soul Retrieval” is the slow-smoldering centerpiece of the set and a nakedly-emotive opportunity for all four men to stretch out to the audience’s audible appreciation.

The salted codfish-constructed font for the cover script is another pithy analogue to the set: Long-gestating, deliciously rich material that can cause mild indigestion if devoured too fast or in excess.

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch – What Is Known (CF 192)
This is jazz with a rock attitude but with jazz rhythms and harmonics. The compositions and sound are angular, raw, unpolished, direct, full of drive and intensity. The compositions are full of rhythmic and harmonic changes, with subtle and great improvisations. Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa explains that she’s been playing long enough as a sideman, and that it was time for her to bring her own thing. And she does.

As said, the musical vision she creates is entirely her own, with lots of rhythmic delights and raw energy, with long unison phrases between guitar and sax, with fun elements and lots of room for improvisations.

Second, she selects a band of musicians who prove to be a perfect fit. John Finkbeiner’s guitar sound and Aaron Bennett’s tenor are each other’s equivalent. Finkbeiner’s guitar is slightly distorted, with no reverb and no sustain, resulting in the kind of in-your-face dry sound, which resides between assertive and aggressive. Bennett’s tenor is harsh and rough. Yet both can use nuance and emotional sensitivity when needed.

The rhythm section is Mezzacappa on bass, of course, and Vijay Anderson on drums. They add the solid rhythmic backbone and often provide the most subtle aspects of the music.To Mezzacappa’s credit, apart from Steve McCall’s “I’ll Be Right Here Waiting”, which is a short solo bass piece, her main project is to develop the music rather than to demonstrate her skills on her instrument.

The music is influenced by the free jazz and AACM jazz, but also Captain Beefheart’s “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” figures on the album. Although all that does not mean very much. This is Mezzacappa’s own music, with a sound and approach that are quite specific.

This is really great stuff, authentic and highly enjoyable from beginning to end.

Jazz Prospecting review by Tom Hull

Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg –  Soulstorm (CF 184)
Recording date just given as “April 18” — presumably before the March 2010-dated liner notes. Tenor saxophonist, b. 1961 in Brazil, based in New York, has at least 35 albums since 1989, including a few more in the queue that I haven’t gotten to yet. Levin plays cello (as has Perelman on occasion), and Zetterberg bass, so they sort of flow together into a backdrop for Perelman’s musings, some rough and tumble but most sensitive and eloquent. A-,-Part-9.html?PHPSESSID=3a70611cdcb3ed6ad6aeebb64d3ec18c

Jazz Prospecting review by Tom Hull

Elliott Sharp – Octal Book Two (CFG 004)
Guitarist, b. 1951. AMG lists him under classical (chamber music) since 1986, although his rather large discography goes back to 1977. I hadn’t heard anything until he showed up playing Monk on Clean Feed, and now I’m up to four records, barely scratching the surface. Solo guitar — having a lot of trouble with the small print here, but the credit actually looks like “Koll 8-string electroacoustic guitarbass.” Interesting but marginal, turning ambient toward the end. B+(**),-Part-9.html?PHPSESSID=3a70611cdcb3ed6ad6aeebb64d3ec18c

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Eric Boeren 4tet – Song for Tracy the Turtle, Live In Brugge 2004 (CF 186)
Eric Boeren plays a nice cornet. He is in the free zone but looks backward to bop and what came after as much as he looks ahead. His compadres for Song for Tracy the Turtle (Clean Feed 186) are well chosen and certainly well-known in free improv circles. There’s Michael Moore on alto and clarinet, Wilbert de Joode on contrabass, and Paul Lovens on drums. The date was well-recorded, live at Jazz Brugge 2004.

They have an early-Ornette Coleman quartet sound about them, tempered by where they have been and what they are as players. And they do three of Ornette’s numbers, as well as one by Eubie Blake. The rest are Eric’s pleasing originals. It’s delightful music. Now it may not set the world on fire, but it shows all concerned in a good place, playing well. It is good to hear this group! Check them out.

Clean Feed Festival review at Downbeat by Michael Jackson

Clean Feed Festival Builds Improv Bridges

In times of fiscal duress, the arts can flourish regardless. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Federal Art Project even fueled creativity during the depression.

Still, Pedro Costa’s Lisbon-based Clean Feed label is something else entirely. Last year with the globe in the bowels of recession, Costa released 36 new Cds of challenging music and intends to up that tally to 45 in 2010. No instance of quantity over quality, each Clean Feed CD is gorgeously packaged and features choice recordings by new vanguardists from both sides of the Atlantic.

For the past five years, Costa has hosted label festivals in New York. In consultation with Umbrella/Pitchfork promoter Mike Reed, this year Costa set sights on Chicago, since a growing slice of his roster, including Herculaneum, Charles Rumback, Ken Vandermark and Jason Stein, emanate from the Windy City.

Over two days at Chicago’s Cultural Center, Hideout and Heaven Gallery, Clean Feed featured the New York trio of reedist Ingrid Laubrock, pianist Kris Davis and vaunted drummer Tyshawn Sorey, Memorize the Sky (reedist Matt Bauder, drummer/vibist Aaron Siegel, bassist Zach Wallace), Chicago’s Keefe Jackson and Lisbon’s RED Trio.

Jackson’s trio, in which bassist Jason Roebke is integral, concluded its set in the Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall with “Maker”, the opener from the recording dubbed Seeing You See on the label. Charles Mingus-like in ominous passages. “Maker” stunningly balances Jackson’s chiseled tenor tone and Jeb Bishop’s livewire trombone. Also salient was Jackson’s increasing use of the eerily profound contrabass clarinet. The ecletic crowd at the Cultural Center included seniors, who were a little taken aback during the following set, when Sorey walloped his side drum after protracted minimalist. Laubrock held much in reserve, altough the slow builds, effectiveon the fine Clean Feed document Paradoxical Frog, dragged a little live.

A superbly impromptu set where Bishop and bassist Josh Abrams met Portuguese guitarrist Luis Lopes at the Hideout proceeded an impressive showing from local sextet Herculaneum. Driven by whip-crack drummer Dylan Ryan and exploratory alto saxophonist Dave McDonnel, Herculaneumfeatured fresh, though-composed structures, in the case of “Eyeball# recalling Trevor Watts’ Moiré Music, which makes abundant, intelligent use of horn-heavy frontline.

Bass clarinetist Jason Stein’s trio Locksmith Isidore works around drummer Mike Pride living in New York, so when they get together they don’t spare the horses. The audience was regrettably thin for the final sets at the Heaven Gallery but the music writ large. “RED Trio” hunkered down as soon as Rodrigo Pinheiro’s fingers hit the piano. Hernani Faustino’s hydraulic bass in close cahoots with gabriel Ferrandini’s nervously acute percussion made this dark-hued improv of a high order. Stein, Roebke and Pride fed off the chamber-like intensity of the sparsely intimate space with a brilliantly tight set.

Music and More review by Tim Niland

Michael Attias – Twines of Colesion (CF 188 )
Recorded live during a jazz festival in Portugal, this album develops in a slow and thoughtful manner as the musicians expand themes and improvisations in a deeply artistic manner. Attias plays alto saxophone, joined by Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, John Hebert on bass, Russ Lossing on piano and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. “(New) Loom” opens the album with the instruments widely spaced, building slowly as the tension of the horns increases. The lengthy performance builds to a section of strong free-ish horn playing before Malaby steps out with a powerful solo statement. Hebert leads into “Lisbon” with a extensive and subtle bass solo, joined after a while by subtle smeared horns and spare piano, creating a poignant sound-scape. “Fenix Cluprit” begins with light saxophone and spare piano, developing a faster rolling pace, spurring saxophones to a flight of nimble fancy. “Hunter” finds the saxophones making inquiries over dark toned piano, slowly developing the spacious atmosphere in gentle waves of sound. “Le Puits Noir” has a light and spacious percussion foundation, with Takeishi sounding nimble and dexterous. Strong, swirling saxophone, fast tenor with the drums rising to the challenge build to a deep and powerful conclusion. Quiet and atmospheric development mark “The Very Thing” with breathy saxophone joining gentle piano, bass and drums. The music develops to a faster and more vibrant conclusion. “Vitesse De Laumiere” features percussive piano and strong twin saxophones with thick bass providing a strong foundation for a sweeping alto solo, before Attias bows out and Malaby takes the music into strong and vibrant territory. “The Maze And The Loom” ends the album on a quiet note, with gentle swirling horns that swirl and twist like a strand of musical DNA. The musicians play throughout this album in a very thoughtful and patient manner, allowing the music to develop organically. The breadth of their musical vision is inspiring, as they work to widen and expand the nature of the music.

New York Times feature on Kris Davis by Ben Ratliff

Kris Davis
Over the last couple of years in New York one method for deciding where to hear jazz on a given night has been to track down the pianist Kris Davis. She has been playing in town for 10 years, but her gigs have become almost constant: with the bassist Eivind Opsvik, the saxophonists Tony Malaby and Ingrid Laubrock, the drummer Tyshawn Sorey and others. It was only a matter of time before she became unavoidable on record, and now’s that time. Ms. Davis’s style is wide, and dependent on its context: a kind of tour of post-free jazz and contemporary classical music, Keith Jarrett to Cecil Taylor to Morton Feldman. Her own work can be cerebral and darting and easy to grasp, as on the solid new record by the Kris Davis Trio, “Good Citizen” (Fresh Sound), with the bassist John Hebert and the drummer Tom Rainey. Somewhere in the middle of the scale, mildly experimental, is “Three” (Clean Feed), by the drummerless SKM Trio, with the saxophonist Stephen Gauci and bassist Michael Bisio. And on “Paradoxical Frog” (Clean Feed), in a trio with Ms. Laubrock and Mr. Sorey — a frequently stunning record, and so far one of this year’s best — she bounces among extremes of quiet and attack, changing her role drastically from track to track.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Kris Davis / Ingrid Laubrock / Tyshawn Sorey – Paradoxical Frog (CF 183)

Tom Rainey Trio – Pool School (CF 185)

Since 2001, Portugal’s Clean Feed Records has ceaselessly documented new creative improvised music on both sides of the Atlantic. Their astonishingly prolific run continues, with two recent trio releases – Pool School and Paradoxical Frog – sharing similarities in approach and personnel, including up and coming German-born saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock.

A former student of David Liebman, Laubrock’s unorthodox soprano and tenor technique is refreshingly devoid of the clichéd mannerisms typically adopted by many post-Coltrane saxophonists. Her vocalized tone and predilection for expressive outbursts is balanced by a subdued lyricism and dynamic sensitivity, veering from spectral whispers to howling cries. Laubrock recently relocated to New York City from London following the release of her widely acclaimed 2008 trio album Sleepthief (Intakt), a collective effort with British pianist Liam Noble and American drummer Tom Rainey. A reunion of sorts, Pool School once again features Laubrock and Rainey in a trio setting, this time accompanied by the phenomenal Brooklyn-based guitarist Mary Halvorson. Rainey’s long-awaited debut as a leader, Pool School is the first title issued under his own name after over two decades and countless records made as a sideman with artists as diverse as Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom and Carmen McRae.

Comprised of a dozen collectively improvised pieces running an average of four to five minutes, this date shares numerous conceptual similarities with Sleepthief. Both albums offer experimental narratives bolstered by considered interplay and impressively intuitive logic, with Halvorson’s idiosyncratic electric guitar providing a far more assertive edge than Noble’s crystalline piano. Whether worrying volume pedal-swelled riffs, finger picking unresolved arpeggios or pitch bending sampled loops into oscillating sine waves, she maintains a consistent flow of capricious ideas, providing surging momentum to the session’s fluidly abstract demeanor.

Laubrock’s embouchure and phrasing is well suited to these sketches, her breathy to guttural utterances readily embellished and exacerbated by Halvorson’s oblique six string extrapolations. Rainey’s pneumatic drive reinforces his trio-mates affinity for coarse textures and caustic expressionism, with spiky climactic interludes dominating cuts like “Three Bag Mary,” and “Semi-Bozo.” The aptly titled “Om on the Range” and the ghostly closer “Pacification” showcase the trio’s sensitive side with intimate pointillist explorations that spotlight Rainey’s knack for conjuring evocative moods and textures, rather than simply framing his abilities as a percussive powerhouse.

Laubrock is also on the front line for Paradoxical Frog, which treads comparable sonic territory to Rainey’s album while mirroring the instrumental line-up of her highly touted Sleepthief. For this date, the international pairing of Noble and Rainey has been replaced by the duo of pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. The key difference between Paradoxical Frog and both Pool School and Sleepthief is the equally divided authorship of pre-written material; each member contributes compositions, resulting in a somewhat more varied and structurally defined recording.

One of the most acclaimed new artists to emerge in the past decade, Sorey’s persona has been split between the breakneck polyrhythms of his sideman gigs and his burgeoning abilities as a composer, one whose fascination with austere minimalism continues to manifest itself in interesting and occasionally frustrating ways; for all the empty silence of “Homograph” there is the burgeoning emotional fire at the heart of “Slow Burn” to counter it. Sorey’s dynamic diversity is shared by his compatriots, whose interests are equally expansive; Davis’ influences range from Gyorgi Ligeti to Paul Bley. Davis and Laubrock’s contributions also tend to be more vibrant and engaging, with Davis’ riotous, almost ritualistic opener, “Iron Spider” and the punchy “Ghost Machine” providing cathartic stabs of angularity to an otherwise austere session.

Despite the division of material, similarities in writing styles appear occasionally. Davis’ closing “Feldman” follows an analogous trajectory to Sorey’s “Slow Burn,” gradually arcing from serene piano refrains to a taut collective climax and a somber coda. Though Laubrock only contributes two pieces, they are among the album’s highlights. Journeying episodically from lyrical introspection and hyperkinetic aggression to nervy quietude, the title track encapsulates all of the album’s primary themes. “Canines” streamlines the same concepts, trading an extended bout of regal impressionism for a muscular, funky coda.

Following in the wake of Sleepthief, the simultaneous release of Pool School and Paradoxical Frog make a strong case for Ingrid Laubrock as a major new player worthy of extra attention, and is a testament to the creative diversity of the Downtown scene and Clean Feed’s efforts to document it.

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Michael Attias – Twines Of Colesion (CF 188 ) ****
Last year I praised alto saxophonist Michaël Attias’ “Renku In Coimbra”, a trio with John Hébert on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. This album was recorded live at the same Coimbra festival in Portugal but some years later, and this time with Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano, and Russ Lossing on piano, to form a quintet.

This is modern jazz at its best, with solid themes and rhythms, with excellent improvisations, rich in overall ideas and timbral nuances and texture.The additional horn and the piano add to this overall wealth of sound, especially because of the natural sensitivity of both players, which is very much in line with Attias’s own lyricism.

Pieces like “Fenix Culprit”, which start with vibrant slowness, like heat hovering over a deserted road, yet gradually pick up speed and momentum without losing the overall sensitivity and core concept, really demonstrate the band’s power.

This power is also the result of the band’s willingness to be vulnerable and fragile. Listen to “Hunter”, on which Malaby and Lossing get the floor for a long introductory duet of extreme beauty and sensitivity before the theme sets in.

On the downside, I wonder about the editing of the performance. This live performance again sometimes has applause at the end, sometimes not, which is a disturbing experience as I’ve mentioned before. One can also wonder about the last piece, which starts with a two minute duet between the two saxes, then the band joins for fourty seconds to bring the theme once before the track stops, as if aborted.

Don’t let this spoil the fun.

PS : For those of you living in New York, the CD will launched at a concert next week, August 19, at the Cornelia Street Café.