Daily Archives: September 28, 2010

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Various Artists – I Never Met A Guitar (solo guitars for the XXI Century) (CFG 005)
The album consists of sixteen pieces, by the following musicians : Brandon Ross, Elliott Sharp, Gunnar Geisse, Henry Kaiser, Janet Feder, Jean-François Pauvros, Jeff Parker, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, Mary Halvorson, Michael Gregory, Mick Barr, Mike Cooper, Nels Cline, Noel Akchote, Raoul Björkenheim, Scott Fields.

The great thing about the album is the breadth of material that Sharp put together, and the quality and variety of the pieces.

There are some real discoveries here for me : Jean-François Pauvros is absolutely brilliant, demonstrating the beauty of slowness and emotional depth of his extended techniques; Mike Cooper playing on acoustic guitar, very bluesy and sensitive,

And my favorite guitar players of the moment are excellent too on the album : Noël Akchoté playing a crisp and sweet ballad, so does Nels Cline with possibly the most jazzy piece on the album, Raoul Björkenheim showing how subtlety and rawness can be combined, Brandon Ross on his six-string banjo.

Then there are of course the guys who have barely anything to tell, or at least they play stuff that we’ve heard so often before, and that leave me quite indifferent : either the blues (Michael Gregory), avant-garde emptiness (Kazuhisa Uchihashi), high speed emptiness (Mick Barr).

For the guitar freaks, some technical detail is given too about the mics and amps and guitar-builders, but it’s all within the boundaries of acceptability.

That being said, most of the tunes are not jazz at all. Lots of new ideas and insights into modern guitar playing. Not everything works though, and that’s possibly as well.

The Stash Dauber review

Various Artists – “I Never Metaguitar – Solo Guitars for the 21st Century” (CFG 005)
Lately, I’ve been falling in love again with the sound of the guitar. It’s a little orchestra you can carry on your back; plug it in, and you can use it to generate an electronic apocalypse of sci-fi proportions. So I found the arrival of this anthology of forward-looking solo guitar performers, curated for Portuguese li’l-label-that-could Clean Feed by the innovative axe-slinger/composer Elliott Sharp, to be particularly fortuitous. After a couple of spins, I can already tell I’m going to be spending as much time with it as I have with Nels Cline’s Coward and Jeff Beck’s Emotion and Commotion.

Sucker starts off with Mary Halvorson’s “In Two Parts Missing.” Opening with crystalline-toned, two-hand-tapped fret math, Halverson electronically warps and alters her pitch to create a sense of head-spinning discombobulation, then essays some distorted flamenco chords, sounding like a cross between the Sonny Sharrock of Guitar and the Zoot Horn Rollo of “Peon” and “One Red Rose That I Mean.” I guess what I’m saying is, she covers a hell of a lot of sonic turf in just 5:29.

On “Act As If Nothing Ever Happened,” Chicagoan Jeff Parker, whose work with Tortoise I need to investigate, layers searching lines over a shifting backdrop of organ-like chords and pulsing looped scraping noises. Bay Area experimentalist and Beefheart acolyte Henry Kaiser pays a spaciously multi-tracked electro-acoustic tribute to Nels Cline. Jean-Francois Pauvros takes bowed guitar to places Jimmy Page never imagined, making it sound for all the world like a weeping cello. (Electronics are an indispensible element of these solo performances, allowing the players to sample and loop themselves to create architectonic orchestral structures.)

Boulder-based prepared guitar specialist Janet Feder creates an elegiac mood on “Heater.” Raoul Bjorkenheim somehow manages to make his axe sound like a bowed bass, a saxophone, and a flute, sometimes simultaneously. Frenchman Noel Akchote plays a conventional chord progression with a shimmering, tremelo tone, while godfather Nels Cline — who’s poised to become the SRV of experimental guitar, and I mean that in the best way — is uncharacteristically muted and Jim Hall-like. Brandon Ross plays a somber lament on banjo, with wide intervallic leaps, while Mike Cooper plays an Ornette tune on resophonic guitar with slide.

Michael Gregory, a veteran of the ’70s NYC loft scene (when he was known as Michael Gregory Jackson), contributes a mutated Steely Dan blues shuffle. It’s noteworthy that Chicago expat Scott Fields, whose previously Clean Feed release Fugu I reported on earlier this year, recorded the dense and busy improvisation “Buzkashi” totally sans F/X. The sounds on Kazuhisa Uchihashi’s “Little Creatures” are scarcely identifiable as guitar, but not in the same way as Hendrix on Are You Experienced? — rather, the randomized electronic tones recall musique concrete and Stockhausen.

Mick Barr’s “Coiled Malescence” lives up to its name; I found its knife-in-the-ear ECU single-string acrobatics tough going. Luckily, Gunnar Geisse’s “The Day Rauschenberg Met De Kooning” provides some relief with its ringing, although still un-“guitar-like” harmonics. Curator Sharp shuts things down with “Telemetry,” a complex and fast-moving piece that’s more than just an interesting diversion. Those with an ear for this kind of thing should also check out his Octal: Book Two from earlier this year.

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Canini

Peter Evans – Live in Lisbon (CF 173)
In gergo jazzistico vengono definite “contrafacts”. Si tratta di composizioni ricavate da materiale preesistente, il più delle volte sovrapponendo una nuova linea melodica alla struttura armonica di un brano celebre. La pratica è antica come il jazz, anche se è legata a doppio filo alla rivoluzione bebop e al nome di Charlie Parker (al quale va attribuito il merito di averla elevata al rango di arte). Numerosi e celeberrimi gli esempi di “contrafacts” usciti dalla penna del sassofonista di Kansas City: “Ornithology,” ricavata da “How High the Moon,” “Ko Ko,” ottenuta rimodellando “Cherokee,” “Chasin’ the Bird,” una delle decine di brani derivati da “I Got Rhythm” di Gershwin. Altrettanto famosi i “contrafacts” firmati Monk: “Bright Mississippi” da “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “In Walked Bud” da “Blue Skies,” “Evidence” da “Just You, Just Me”. Per non parlare di “Impressions” di John Coltrane, mutazione genetica della “So What” davisiana. E la lista potrebbe proseguire più o meno all’infinito, tirando in ballo Tristano e tutti i “tristaniani,” Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Tadd Dameron, Jim Hall, John Scofield.

Ma se gli esempi di “contrafacts” potrebbero essere snocciolati a centinaia, fino a oggi mancava un intero disco scientificamente dedicato all’argomento. Ci hanno pensato Peter Evans e la Clean Feed a colmare il vuoto, dando alle stampe la registrazione di un live risalente all’agosto del 2009. Oltre al trombettista newyorchese, sul palco del mitico “Jazz em Agosto,” c’erano il contrabbasso di Tom Blancharte, il pianoforte di Ricardo Gallo e la batteria di Kevin Shea.

Un intero disco dedicato scientificamente all’argomento, si diceva. Già, e la parola chiave è scientificamente. È lo stesso Evans nelle note di copertina a raccontare come il fil rouge sia il confronto cercato e voluto con materiale preesistente. “All,” ad esempio, è un ripensamento cubista di “All the Things You Are,” mentre “Latticework” nasce dalla sovrapposizione di due brani: “Lush Life” di Billy Strayhorn e “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” di Mingus. E se “What” è prevedibilmente basata su “What Is This Thing Called Love,” “For ICP” è una sorta di collage ispirato alle musiche dell’orchestra di Mengelberg e Bennink.

L’operazione, ovviamente, non ha nulla a che fare con il citazionismo gratuito e nemmeno con la rimasticazione sterile di polverosi standard. Live in Lisbon, pur non riuscendo a smarcarsi da una certa vena cervellotica, è intrigante e godibile dal primo all’ultimo minuto. Forse un tantino labirintico, ma senza dubbio pensato con estrema lucidità. Evans, poi, è un musicista magnifico e un fenomenale improvvisatore (come già testimoniato dal recente Nature/Culture, doppio per solo tromba pubblicato dalla Psi di Evan Parker).

File under impossible mainstream.

The Stash Dauber review

Jason Robinson /Anthony Davis – Cerulean Landscape (CF 198 )
In the fullness of time, the ’70s have come to seem (to your humble chronicler o’ events, at least) like a golden age of jazz, possibly because that was when I was discovering the music. The thrill of the new sticks with you. Back in the ’70s, some of my favorite recordings were duos — a format that, besides being inexpensive to record and a reflection of the influence of the AACM, also tended to throw the performers’ individual contributions and interaction between them into brilliant relief.

Bassist Charlie Haden was responsible for some of the ones I loved best: Closeness and The Golden Number with revolving casts of partners, and As Long As There’s Music with pianist Hampton Hawes. (If you’re lucky enough to live in Fort Worth, Doc’s Records had the first two of those the last time I looked.)

Another recording from the period I recall today with some fondness was pianist Anthony Davis’ Of Blues and Dreams, which, atypically for the time, was largely through-composed, a finely wrought set of chamber jazz. Davis went on to compose operas and teach at universities, but the latest batch of Clean Feed releases includes this 2008 date that pairs him with multi-reed man Jason Robinson, with whom he’s been duetting since 1998.

For the most part, the pieces that Robinson and Davis prepared for this set are almost Ellingtonian in their lapidary elegance and beauty, highlighting the richness of Davis’ chordal voicings and Robinson’s big, brawny, Ben Webster-ish tone on tenor. On Robinson’s “Vicissitudes (For Mel)” and the impressionistic title tune from Of Blues and Dreams, which they revisit here, the two men evoke the spirits of Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons. The theme to “Andrew” (which could be a dedication to Mr. Hill, I suppose) has a Monkian angularity. A nice surprise.

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
Deluxe marks bassist Chris Lightcap’s third album as a leader.  He’s well-travelled and looms as a significant session bassist for a wide scope of progressive-jazz veterans, including drummer Matt Wilson and other luminaries.  The artist morphs the title of his 2003 release for the Fresh Sound, New Talent label into the band name, featuring a top-flight sax section, here on this craftily arranged production.

Craig Taborn instills a sense of antiquity into the session via his Wurlitzer piano work.  He generates a cunning edge to complement the saxophonists’ appeasing fusion of tranquility, warmth and boisterous improvisational segments.  Moreover, Lightcap and estimable drummer Gerald Cleaver lay down the firm grooves, while projecting fluidity during pumped-up backbeats and when supporting the high impact sax choruses.

The band generates blood, sweat, and tears on pieces formed by yearning lines, bluesy phrasings and hardcore progressive-jazz frameworks.  Among other positives, the rhythm section provides the underpinning for an explosive sax attack amid rolling and tumbling sequences.  On “The Clutch,” Lightcap and Cleaver dish out a samba-jazz pulse, accentuated by Taborn’s airy and sparse notes.  It’s a calm before the storm approach, topped off with the soloists streaming extended notes within a cyclical groove.  They segue into a piece titled “Two-Face,” where the saxophonists delve into a free-form extravaganza, spiced with rifling lines and intersecting mini-themes.

Lightcap successfully combines a new wine in old bottles tactic, highlighted by strong material and subliminally stated overtones.  His compositions combine rugged aspects with sinuous patterns and an in-the-pocket component that contrasts intermittent and somewhat understated nods to other genres.   It all coalesces rather efficiently in concert with a highly-entertaining form factor.