Daily Archives: September 20, 2010

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Guitarist Joe Morris, Trumpeter Nate Wooley in “Tooth and Nail” Duets

Joe Morris / Nate Wooley – Tooth and Nail (CF 190)
A CD of all-improvisational duets between archtop guitar and trumpet is not a standard sort of offering. A rather starkly rigorous lineup of this type can be anything from mesmerizing to a raving bore. Thankfully Tooth and Nail (Clean Feed 190) falls closer to the former end of the spectrum than the latter. Joe Morris, a player who seems to enjoy increasing exposure on disk, cajoles conventional and less conventional sounds out of his microphone-captured archtop guitar while Nate Wooley, another artist getting increasing attention, plays improvisational phrases that unleash an arsenal of techniques and ideas. Morris and Wooley are exposed to our ears without the cushioning of a rhythm section, and so they face one of the more difficult challenges of the improvising artist. There are no corners to hide in; there are no other players to fill in the gaps and take center stage when the chops or ideas flag. Both Morris and Wooley show amply on this recording that they have plenty of good improvisational ideas and that their chops are up to the endurance test. It’s helter-skelter, seat-of-the-pants musical performance all the way. Generally Morris and Wooley carry on a varied and contentful dialog with a kind of paralleling double voice rather than a call and response or line and counterline discourse. In the process they enter rarefied improvisational realms. The music remains on a somewhat abstract level throughout. In that sense this is more or less a purist-modernist outing. Don’t expect quotations from “On The Trail” or “BlueTail Fly.” Perhaps this music is not for everybody. Most music isn’t. What it IS, it is consistently. It is a high-level example of advanced improvisational duets. And it’s a good example of why both Joe Morris and Nate Wooley are getting so much attention lately. They gracefully carry their own weight but they also make that weight the standard by which similar ventures might be judged. In that way Tooth and Nail establishes a kind of standard measure for unconventional duet-ing.

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Canini

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Un giorno o l’altro bisognerà avviare una discussione seria sul concetto di mainstream in epoca post-postmoderna. Esiste ai giorni nostri un jazz che va per la maggiore? Ha ancora senso fare riferimento a un vocabolario estetico largamente condiviso e immediatamente riconoscibile? La questione è meno peregrina di quel che si potrebbe credere. Il termine mainstream è forse uno dei più abusati e fraintesi nel gergo jazzistico, sia da chi vi si trincera in nome del purismo, sia da chi lo usa per etichettare i conservatori. Eppure c’è una terza via, esiste una musica che racconta il nostro tempo rielaborando quel vocabolario al quale si faceva riferimento qualche riga sopra, quella serie di codici che fanno del jazz il jazz. E i Bigmouth di Chris Lightcap ne sono una splendida dimostrazione.
Deluxe è infatti mainstream senza per questo cedere alle lusinghe delle convenzioni. Mainstream nel modo in cui viene rispettato il tradizionale rapporto tra sezione ritmica e line-up; mainstream per la perfetta riconoscibilità dei temi e degli assoli all’interno di ciascun brano; mainstream per la diligente connotazione ritmico-armonica delle composizioni uscite dalla penna di Lightcap, che si srotolano con estrema fluidità, senza strappi violenti o sospensioni. Insomma, le regole del gioco sono quelle di sempre, quelle che ogni ascoltatore impara fin dai primi approcci all’universo jazz.

Rispettarle non significa però abdicare al già sentito. La scrittura è fresca e moderna, intrisa di attualità. Non c’è nessuna nostalgia, nessun intento emulativo di qualsivoglia maestro, nessun rimpianto per l’epoca d’oro del jazz, nessuna ossessione per i paletti e i tabù. C’è la consapevolezza di essere parte di una storia, ma non la sciocca convinzione che il meglio sia alle spalle.

Quel che manca per arrivare alle quattro stelle ce lo mettono i fantastici cinque coinvolti nel progetto. In primis Craig Taborn, straordinariamente efficace a livello ritmico (si ascolti l’intro di “Platform”): felino al Wurlitzer, più romantico al pianoforte. Felicissima anche la scelta di mettere a confronto i sax tenore di Chris Cheek e Tony Malaby: novello Lester Young il primo, elegantissimo e sinuoso, erede di Coleman Hawkins il secondo, con quel tono robusto e virile. Se non vi basta aggiungete al conto delle meraviglie il drumming impeccabile e asciutto di Gerald Cleaver e il contralto acidulo di Andrew D’Angelo, ospite in tre delle otto tracce.

Il passato non è mai stato così presente.

The Jazz Observer review by Forrest Dylan Bryant

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch

On an afternoon dominated by rhythm and blues, it was a small but adventurous group that headed for the room known as the Night Club to check out San Francisco bassist Lisa Mezzacappa and her twitchy, angular quartet, Bait & Switch. A few, not knowing what they were getting into, might have even found the band’s name accurate. But for those who could hang with the band’s multiple twists and turns, it was a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride.

Marked by tense, insistent riffing in odd meters, Bait & Switch draws its inspiration from what Mezzacappa calls the “little moments” in extended stretches of free improvisation — those times when everybody in a band finds themselves on precisely the same wavelength and the clarity shines through. Taking such little moments from recordings by Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and others as her sources, Mezzacappa has blown apart and reconstructed those snippets of sound into full-blown original tunes.

Mezzacappa is one of those bassists who is as much fun to watch as she is to hear. Switching restlessly between bowed and pizzicato playing, she might rock back on her heels or lean in close to her music stand at any moment, sometimes plucking forcefully at the strings as if to flick off something nasty, at other times melodic and introspective. Her solo lines roam hither and yon, like a housefly buzzing around a room: hovering, meandering, or banging against the window trying to get out.

The band’s other main voice belongs to tenor saxophonist Aaron Bennett, whose agitated skronk quivers and shakes as if about to implode, or turns huge and open, brushing the outer edges of tone. When he gets truly heated up, his body twists in uncomfortable directions and his own gulping breaths become a part of the music, marking the time with an odd, hiccuping sound. John Finkbeiner offers a sort of wry commentary on guitar, with fractured half-grooves like miniature cubist paintings, while drummer Vijay Anderson chugs away like a runaway train, quick-paced and unswerving. Time and again Anderson would fall into a riff and worry it down to a nub, then toss it aside in the blink of an eye in favor of some new variation.

They may have been out of sync with the rest of the Festival on this day, but Bait & Switch’s little moments provided an intriguing afternoon shake-up.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

STEVE SWELL – Planet Dream (CF 148)
A set of complex compositions and a few improvisations that at times sound as vivaciously articulate as a drunken teacher’s excursion in front of blank-eyed pupils, elsewhere giving a chance to the protagonists for starting their own brand of Pindaric flight, always with technically impeccable flamboyance but, alas, only occasionally warming this listener’s heart. Trombonist Steve Swell looks at Planet Dream as a sort of utopia, a world where complete self-expression is warranted and people are accepted for what they are. Cellist Daniel Levin and alto saxophonist Rob Brown are happy to help the nominal leader in this vision, the instruments entwined in a series of mainly talkative constructions that result rambunctious, mildly impertinent, bluesy, once in a blue moon solemn and, not infrequently, overwrought. It’s not a matter of recognition of singular personalities: all three are very fine musicians, and listening to unquestionable abilities is okay. What leaves us pondering at what could have been made differently is the dearth of introspective vibration, in that the music seems to expose a bit of coldness rather than really involve. There are moments in which the mind appreciates some measure of relief, and in this particular record the blend of eagerness and spotless virtuosity tends to suffocate the soul, ultimately turning a meeting of champions into a semi-sterile round table characterized by an inclination to speak concurrently, the risk being that of stifling the constructive words that are pronounced.

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra – Ashcan Rantings (CF 203)

Wow, what an album! From the very first notes, you’re sucked into jazz history, full of Africa, full of blues, with the interplay and the soloing of the highest level throughout. Adam Lane writes in the liner notes that “this is fun music, designed to uplift the spirit and bring the listener and performer to a more joyful place than they (we) were before”, and believe, it more than delivers on that objective.

The band is Adam Lane on bass, Avram Fefer on alto sax, David Bindman on tenor and soprano sax, Matt Bauder on tenor and baritone sax, Igal Foni on drums, Reut Regev and Tim Vaughn on trombone, Taylor Ho Bynum and Nate Wooley on trumpet.

The themes are compelling, starting with funeral march-like first piece, “Imaginary Portrait”, with African influences as on “Marshall”, or Ellingtonian as on “Nine Man Morris”, but the blues is all-pervasive, with great highlights in the quieter parts, as on the duet between Lane and Nate Wooley in the first piece, or Lane’s intro to “Desperate Incantations”. Despite the composed parts, the larger part of the music is improvised, over structural and rhythmic cells. Two of the compositions, “Ashcan Rantings”, and “Lucia” already figured on Lane’s “Four Corners” CD.

The solos are wild at times, bringing the music far beyond any concept a big band might have, with sometimes two or three musicians overlapping. giving expansive and expressive power to the already strong drive and pulse.

Lane himself is in full control of what is happening with his bass underpinning everything without limiting the band. The sound quality of the bass is absolutely exceptional too, with a kind of forefront presence that works really well.

The great paradox about this magnificent music is like the blues itself : it sounds so sad and melancholic at moment, so sweeping with “weltschmerz”, sometimes so full of distress and anger, but the totality is so deeply emotional and full of joy that it’s hard to describe. Lane’s gut-wrenching and heart-rending intro of the title track says it all. The only piece that is joyful by itself is the last one, “Bright Star Calyspo” (sic), which collapses into wild and rhythmless soloing, before bringing the album to its great finale.

And it all fits, and there are no weak moments, not in the compositions (some of them, like “Mahler” will stick to your brain for a while), not in the interplay, not in the soloing. And you get your money’s worth on top with this double-CD’s more than ninety minutes of absolute musical delight. Adam Lane knows and feels and lives music. So far, all of his albums were among my favorites of the year, but this one is superb.

Man, man, man – this is music I will still listen to with joy in a couple of decades and recommend to my great-grand-children. (They will for once stop listening to the electronic rhythmic bleeps that some new device will integrate directly in the auditory part of their brains, they will for once stop being totally disinterested in the ashcan rantings of their great-grandfather and listen in awe to the great acoustic music of the past).

Highly recommended.