Daniel Levin Quartet – Bacalhau (CF 195)
Chamber jazz is alive and well. Cellist Daniel Levin’s Quartet embodies the new sensibilities to be heard and felt on multiple levels. That can be seen most particularly in their new fifth CD, Bachalhau (Clean Feed 195).
The quartet consists of Levin on cello, Nate Wooley on trumpet, Peter Bitenc on contrabass and Matt Moran on vibes. It’s a sonorously well-wrought ensemble. Each instrument has its aural space (well recorded here live) and they blend in ways that give you a musical landscape that expands into the distance but is dotted with events that make the distance seem smaller, somehow.
The first two pieces show the vital contrasts the group can achieve. “Looken” has a post-bop-to-free orientation, with a strictly modern-jazz sounding head and wide ranging avant-before-and-beyond solos to a walking bass. “Duo Nate and Matt” gives you a more improv-oriented new music side as Matt bows his vibraphone keys and Nate sustains the grainy lowest registers of his trumpet.
The music on this fine CD continually traverses the territory between those two spectrum ends. And with the improvisatory talents of the quartet members always out front, they do it in ways that never seem contrived or tentative.
Levin-Wooley-Bitenc-Moran are making important music. It’s well worth hearing.
SKM (Stephen Gauci / Kris Davis / Michael Bisio) – Three (CF 189)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Stephen Gauci ha avuto come maestri Joe Lovano, George Garzone e Frank Wess. Kris Davis è sempre stata affascinata dal possibile connubio tra musica contemporanea e jazz. Michael Bisio è forse il contrabbassista che si avvicina di più al lirismo inquieto di Charlie Haden. Tre musicisti quindi che flirtano con una tradizione in movimento e che hanno trovato nel corso degli anni una propria via al rinnovamento del linguaggio jazzistico.
In Three si gettano a capofitto nella libera improvvisazione – “Now” è l’unico brano scritto ed è una straordinaria esibizione al contrabbasso archettato di Michael Bisio – condividendo storie, visioni, sensibilità, prospettive assolutamente personali. Ne esce un album sorprendente, spiazzante, ammaliante come il canto delle sirene, per certi versi cerebrale ma lontano da intellettualismi fuori luogo, perché si avverte continuo e instancabile, il pulsare nella materia della creatività, del mettersi in gioco con il cuore e con l’anima.
SKM è un trio che si potrebbe definire di stampo cameristico (l’assenza di ritmica e la strumentazione non possono non rimandare alla storica formazione Giuffre/Bley/Swallow) ma la musica che produce è tutt’altro che immobile, rigida e priva di swing. Anzi il diverso approccio dei musicisti e il loro differente background producono una tensione continua quasi palpabile fisicamente, con il piano metafisico della Davis che accende il sax ruvido e abrasivo di Gauci mentre il contrabbasso di Bisio punzecchia con linee melodiose le asimmetrie del flusso sonoro.
Three è album da gustare appieno, con preziosità che emergono ascolto dopo ascolto. E due perle a illuminare il tutto. “Something from Nothing” è brano che nasce dal nulla davvero – le corde pizzicate del pianoforte, il legno del contrabbasso leggermente percosso, le chiavi del sassofono ad alimentare il ritmo – che progredisce come una sorta di Bolero minimalista e un po’ schizofrenico. Mentre in “No Reason to or Not to” ogni cosa sembra accadere per caso, salvo poi magicamente ricomporsi tra cambi di tempo e spazi che si dilatano e comprimono dolcemente.
Urs Leimgruber / Evan Parker – TWINE (CF 194)
Parker’s reed duo canon is small but includes memorable sessions with Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, and Joe McPhee. Urs Leimgruber proves a worthy match on Twine across three extended improvisations. As might be expected, the playing is conversational, Leimgruber’s drier breathiness and more measured phrasing contrasting with Parker’s husky grace and mercurial flow. The two plait together sinuous exchanges with a keen ear for balance: as labyrinthine as the duos get, there’s no overplaying or mere showmanship. If anything, a certain sense of caution seeps in, as if the two are holding back a bit. While this CD may not be as gripping as the Sandell duo, it is still well worth the time of anyone interested in Parker’s music.
Joe Morris/Nate Wooley – TOOTH AND NAIL (CF 190)
Tooth and Nail features Joe Morris on acoustic guitar and Nate Wooley on trumpet, whose playing on these eight tracks is less focused on immersion and intertwining than on contrast, feinting and exultation in sonic difference. After the lovely exchanges of “Metronorth,” where wood and brass cage each other in the ring, Morris’s fascinating flinty bridge work on “Gigantica” sets up lobs for Wooley to bat down with the force of his breath. But this is no mere recital of bitty, gestures. The two really relish the abstracted slices of bop language on “Steelhead” and “Terrific Snag,” with Morris swinging hard. “Noble Reasoning” finds him fascinatingly reworking an ascending phrase, with a Braxtonian mini-hiccup at its heart, with Wooley a laughing bird crossed with Cootie Williams. If it’s invention and outness you’re after, don’t worry. Check out the serrations and choked chords on “Forest Grove,” along with Wooley’s muffled squeaks and brassy whines, or the soft drones and koto sounds of “Barberchaired.” It’s a fascinatingly varied duo outing, the kind of thing to play to shut up that guy who says free improv has no roots. Kudos!
SKM (Stephan Gauci / Kris Davis / Michael Bisio) – THREE (CF 189)
Lyricism and spiderwebbed dissonance from the engaging Kris Davis open up “The End Must Always Come,” and, for all its density and sheer sonic abundance, there’s so much detail in terms of polytonality, registral shifts and rhythmic cross-cutting that her playing is jaw-dropping. When Gauci enters, ragged and antic, Bisio knows just how to wend through or bolt down this kind of playing – listen to his stellar recent duets with Connie Crothers if you need more evidence – as a beautiful bit of repetition seals the piece to a finish. They’re spiky and contrapuntal again on “Like a Dream, a Phantom,” which opens with a lovely duet with Davis and Bisio where the pianist is given stylistically to sudden turns away from dense layers of sound to whip up a sudden rhapsodic swell that sends her crashing back to crab-walk away from the tide in another complex direction. Gauci digs into the rhythmic fragments with great sympathy, riding, transforming and even slowing things down altogether for a lovely balladic space where the saxophonist is simply in the zone. Things change up a bit with the tasteful inside piano and bass-body rhythm on “Something from Nothing,” where Davis’ quicksilver repetitions and variations are almost like Borah Bergmann, via Vijay Iyer. There is dark spaciousness to open the appropriately titled “Groovin’ for the Hell of It,” which in time comes to exult with lower register piano, alto squawks, and shouts. For more groove, dig the nice threeway rhythm on “Still, So Beautiful,” where Gauci sounds like he’s having a blast tossing out curve balls, keeping folks on their toes and playfully fucking with the pulse, even halting altogether at times .”No Reason To or Not To” is the most abstract piece, with plenty of space everywhere, but the trio ends with a return to their sweet spot, the rhythmic race and overlapping lines of “Just to Be Heard.” More deliciousness from the ever-impressive Clean Feed, and a real statement from Davis in particular.
Peter Evans Quartet – LIVE IN LISBON (CF 173 )
Talking of playing major festivals, that’s exactly what Evans did last year when he took his own quartet – with pianist Ricardo Gallo, bassist Tom Blancarte and the irrepressible Shea – to Lisbon’s Jazz em Agosto. Here, the references to jazz history are even more explicit, with the trumpeter deliberately setting out to work with (within and without) the changes of well-known standards, including Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are”, Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life”, Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” and – my favourite – “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” by Charles Mingus. Mingus is very much the palimpsest (that’s the title of Evans’ cover version) here, having done the same thing to the Kern and Porter chestnuts on his own Presents Charles Mingus album half a century ago, and Evans’ work with complex harmonic modulations, shifts of tempo and elaborate arrangements has more in common with Mingus than it does with 60s free jazz, which all but abandoned harmonic changes altogether.
It’s all very impressive – almost too impressive, especially on the closing “For ICP”, where the band insist on playing the frighteningly intricate rhythms of the cycling four-note theme in unison (tantamount to showing off, if you ask me – as anyone suspected for a moment they didn’t know how to do it in their sleep), and the capacity crowd in the Gulbenkian Foundation no doubt lapped it all up. But, thankfully, the voluminous applause was edited out on the disc. Just as well – we wouldn’t want all that praise to go to Mr Evans’ head now, would we?