Daily Archives: October 13, 2010

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Chicago Reader article by Peter Margasak

Steve Swell and Mikolaj Trzaska: Intimate Free Jazz at the Velvet Lounge Wednesday
New York trombonist Steve Swell is one of improvised music’s most tireless figures, a musician who seems to take sustenance from working constantly in countless contexts, both as leader and sideman. His calling card is blustery, hard-charging free jazz—the kind of energy music he’s been playing for two decades with the likes of William Parker, Rob Brown, Rob Mazurek, and Gebhard Ullman. Swell is bandleader of several projects, most with shifting personnel, and one of the most interesting—and certainly the most germane to his performance Wednesday night at the Velvet Lounge with Polish reedist Mikolaj Trzaska—is a trio outing from last year called Planet Dream (Clean Feed CF 148 ).

Also featuring alto saxophonist Brown and cellist Daniel Levin, the album contains a mix of fully improvised pieces and knotty postbop tunes by Swell, and in every case the emphasis is on fleet give-and-take interaction. Because there’s no drummer, the music is superficially less aggressive than most energy music, but it’s hardly placid; all three participants can kick up dust with lines that move almost blindingly fast, and Levin’s pizzicato sometimes approximates a percussionist’s role. With his fat, brawny tone, Swell can make himself heard through the thickest of dins, but here he accommodates the relative intimacy instead of treading on the rest of the ensemble—though a piece like “Juxtsuppose” proves they can also make a mighty noise.

Mikolaj Trzaska
Trzaska made his first visit to Chicago in November 2008 at the Umbrella Music Festival, in a trio with bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang. A veteran of the Gdansk scene, he also operates the Kilogram label and has developed an international profile over the past decade, playing and recording with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Joe McPhee, Johannes Bauer, and Ken Vandermark—he’s part of the Chicagoan’s Resonance Project, which launched in Krakow three years ago and also includes Swell. Considering the company he keeps, it’s not surprising that he favors a blistering, high-energy attack, but he’s got a broader range than that. On the album Nadir & Mahora (Kilogram), cut with Zerang and Swiss cellist Clementine Gasser, Trzaska is relatively restrained and lyrical on alto and C-melody saxophones—though his playing, marked by a tightly coiled lines that lash the air like wind-snapped cables, remains intense even when he dials things down.

Swell and Trzaska will play as a duo and then be joined by a number of Chicagoans, including reedist Dave Rempis, drummer Frank Rosaly, and vibist Jason Adasiewicz.
Steve Swell photo by John Rogers

Signal to Noise review by Jason Bivins

Ivo Perelman / Brian Wilson – Mind Games (Leo Records)
Ivo Perelman / Gerry Hemingway – The Apple in the Dark (Leo Records)
Ivo Perelman / Daniel Levin / Torbjörn Zetterberg – Soulstorm (CF 184)
One of the great things about Ivo Perelman’s recent increase in activity is hearing him with all these hot drummers! Like many tenorists – hell, like many duo partners – he’s always been particularly energized by rhythmic urgency, whether that of his native Brazil on Ivo or that of Rashied Ali, for example. On his recent ace trio release Mind Games, his communication with percussionist Brian Wilson was almost telepathic. So it was a real treat to hear just the pair of them on Stream of Life. The brief, skittering, playful title track opens things up, and it gives you a sense of how emotionally wide-ranging this duo is – not just the heavy intensity you often get in free improv (though there’s plenty of that there) but also a masterful swing (“Clarice,” where Ivo’s tone is just so luxurious, just listen to him hold that note at the end!). They sound so patient and scalar on “Agua Viva” and on “Murmirios,” and at times it’s like listening to an Ayler march played by Ben Webster. Wilson is fond of brushes and subtly shifting patterns, almost Blackwell-like at times, but then he’s likely to let loose a sudden swell or cymbal aside or breakdown. He reveals himself cautiously, a spare player who speaks volumes, as on the patient click and clang of tuned percussion at the end of “Juntos Para Sempre,” which flirts mischievously with samba. There’s a beauty of a Perelman solo on “A Bola e o Menino,” where he explores long passages of circular breathing, slowly modulating phrases from the inside out, before retreating into hushed, almost cooing lyric lines. But it’s the sense of fun and discovery these two share that lingers longest in the memory, nowhere more so than on the playful folk dance “After the Third Wall.”

The duo with Hemingway is altogether different, not just because of Hemingway’s distinctive (more emphatic) rhythmic language but because several tracks feature Perelman’s piano playing. It’s overall still quite a restrained recording, at least by the standard of those who expect Perelman to breathe fire all the time. But even so, there’s an emotional urgency to his saxophone lines when set against the brisk patter of Hemingway’s brushes on the opener and thereafter. There’s great chemistry between the two on the conversational “Indulgences,” the patterns of “Sinful” which rise ever upward, and the semi-funked up closer “Lisboa.” But the treat is to hear Perelman’s reflective, at times spidery piano playing on several cuts, notably “A Maca No Escuro” – it sounds almost like an abstract Herbie Nichols tune. On “Vicious Circle,” they flirt with rhythmic shapes that – deep in the grain of Perelman’s piano phrasing – could almost be lifted from some traditional materials. And after the gorgeous and extremely spacious Hemingway solo on “The Path,” Perelman follows with pianism that buzzes with Borah Bergmann-like intensity. These terrific performances hint and gesture to familiar sources, but they leave your imagination to do its thing.

Finally, Soulstorm is a marvelous two-disc document of a meeting between Perelman, cellist Daniel Levin, and bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg. Pedro Costa’s notes reveal that, on their first meeting just before the recordings, there was a slightly tentative air to the music. Well, that’s absolutely nowhere to be heard on these extremely empathetic, emotionally rich improvisations. Perelman sounds so very searching on “Plaza Maua,” which is a dilly of a start to this two-hour ride. I certainly enjoy hearing his creativity without a percussionist here, and there are enough ideas – especially from the fabulous Levin, with whom he is currently doing some followup recordings – that the music moves forward with plenty of urgency. The players merge beautifully, not just in terms of line or even tone but also phrasin g and articulation of notes. The chemistry is superlative. Zetterberg is in some ways the ace in the hole here. He’s got this growl in the lower register, and his playing positively throbs in several wild duo features with Levin as well as in the counterpoint that surges everywhere. They can sing and swing heavily, though, as on “Dry Point of Horses,” where Perelman’s intervallic, lyrical playing is fantastic. And there are several points throughout these sets where, in the midst of boiling heat, he responds to a fragment or idea by taking an abrupt (but so fitting) left turn, either cooing like soft bird or getting all Johnny Hodges. Freaks for arco and melismatic playing will drool at “A Manifesto of the City,” and those who dig it languorous and reflective will love “Day by Day” and “In Search of Dignity.” But regardless of where the music is headed, even in moments of peak intensity (especially “The Body”), there is space; even at its outest, the music is lyrical. Top notch.

Le Son du Grisli review by Guillaume Tarche

Urs Leimgruber / Evan Parker – Twine (CF 194)
C’est dans une sincère « confraternelle du souffle » – et en un Janus plus abouché que bifrons – que se présentaient les saxophonistes (ténor & soprano) Urs Leimgruber et Evan Parker en ce début 2007, au Loft de Cologne.

Leur généreuse dépense, résolue, obstinée, prenait ce soir-là un tour particulièrement abondant : deux longs duos de ténors pour encadrer celui (tout aussi consistant) des sopranos, sur un terrain d’entente que le choix gémellaire des instruments ne fait que souligner – mais c’est vainement que les comparatistes songeront aux rencontres de Parker avec McPhee (Chicago Tenor Duets, Okka) ou Lacy (Chirps, FMP)…

On casse des bogues, on érafle des troncs, pépiant d’abord ; on roule ensuite des galets, mats, en pinçant le bec : agile, on injecte, on pique, combustion réciproque, échos d’autres échos, potlatch ! Sourdant çà et là des nuées de ce palimpseste continu, émergent des unités de souffle et de matières, des stéréophonies et des oracles, des ressacs et des miracles.

All About Jazz Italy by Vincenzo Roggero

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch – What Is Known (CF 192)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
“Baith & Switch è il mio garage jazz quartet che suona musica da me composta, ispirata ai miei eroi musicali, Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, A.E.O.C., Roloand Kirk, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra”. Sono le parole di Lisa Mezzacappa, bassista e compositrice molto attiva nella Bay Area, e forniscono le coordinate per orientarsi e addentrarsi nel suo mondo musicale.

Ma sono solo riferimenti, perché What Is Known è molto più che un compitino ben svolto e dai chiari punti di riferimento. Semmai, è un labirinto sonoro pieno di anfratti che rimandano suggestioni le più diverse, che richiedono orecchie ben aperte per poter cogliere quegli indizi che permetteranno di trovare la via d’uscita.

Perché è innegabile l’incontro con il suono scuro, a tratti ruvido, del rock suonato nelle cantine e nei locali alternativi, come il manifestarsi quasi pressante della libertà improvvisativa del free storico e quella più sofisticata della scena di Chicago. Ma, in mezzo, troviamo una serie di situazioni ibride, che prendono forma da piccoli frammenti sonori i più disparati e connotano la musica in maniera sorprendente.

I musicisti si muovono con grande confidenza e altrettanto controllo sui continui spostamenti metrici, sulle improvvise variazioni dinamiche e timbriche, sui cambi di direzione, creando una tensione continua che funge da necessario collante. Non ci sono primedonne in What Is Known, nonostante Baith & Switch sia formato da quattro forti personalità oltre che da strumentisti eccezionali, perché ogni musicista mette la propria arte al servizio del collettivo e delle composizioni di Mezzacappa.

Che sono intriganti, dalle maglie aperte ma dall’architettura millimetrica, ideali per raggiungere un prezioso equilibrio tra scrittura e improvvisazione. E, ciliegina sulla torta, Mezzacappa vi inserisce, quasi per caso, una versione mozzafiato di “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” di un certo Captain Beefheart, che da sola vale l’acquisto del CD.

Time Out Lisboa review by José Carlos Fernandes

Peter Evans – Live in Lisbon (CF 173)
Peter Evans é o prodígio da trompete de quem se fala – em solo absoluto, como líder, como sideman, no colectivo Mostly Other People Do The Killing – e ao ouvir este concerto no Jazz em Agosto de 2009, percebe-se porquê: arrojo, irreverência, técnica enciclopédica e rapidez fulminante, por vezes inflamando-se em explosões de virtuosismo esfuziante.

O quarteto, com um Ricardo Gallo (piano) encarregado de gerar remoinhos “ceciltaylorianos” e com Tom Blancarte (contrabaixo) e Kevin Shea (bateria) a alimentar incansavelmente a fornalha, tritura, calcina e reinventa o património do jazz. “All” (a partir de “All the Things You Are”) e “What” (a partir de “What Is This Thing Called Love”), “For ICP” (dedicado à Instant Composers Pool, a irrequieta big band holandesa) são labirintos angulosos e quebrados por voltas inesperadas, um bebop fractal em que, nos interstícios de acordes familiares, emergem arquitecturas desconhecidas, que por sua vez revelam ser compostas por estruturas mais pequenas – e assim até ao infinito. Só em “Latticework” (a partir de “Lush Life”, de Billy Strayhorn, e “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”, de Mingus) o fervilhar acalma e a beleza melódica e a melancolia vêm ao de cima. De resto, a hora escoa-se numa esgarabulha incessante, sem pausas para respirar entre temas – o que pode tornar-se cansativo. Mas uma escuta atenta pode revelar os encantos deste bebop mutante tocado por quatro músicos sobredotados, mas que se diria sofrerem de síndrome de Tourette.