Matt Bauder – Day in Pictures (CF 210)
Le titre qui ouvre Day in Pictures, Cleopatra’s Mood, évoque autant les belles heures du Swinging Addis que Krysztof Komeda découvrant l’Amérique. Premières images sorties d’un disque qui impose Matt Bauder en compositeur d’un jazz de taille.
A ses côtés : Nate Wooley (trompette), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Jason Ajemian (contrebasse) et Tomas Fujiwara (batterie). A la langueur de l’introduction et à son efficience mélodique, le quintette oppose ensuite un lot de ballades flottantes et soumises à vent d’ouest – pour empêcher toute dérive excessive, le ténor de Bauder s’emportera sur Parks After Dark et sa clarinette décidera d’un gimmick amusé que les instruments se repasseront comme un virus sur Bill and Maza.
Dans un autre genre, l’assurance des instruments à vent et l’inventivité porteuse de Fujiwara permettent à Bauder d’investir le champ d’un jazz de connivence : projections de bop ou swing dégagé de tout corset (Reborn Not Gone, Two Lucks) faits éléments de relecture d’un genre dans son entier. Ainsi, Matt Bauder réussit là où beaucoup d’autres échouent d’habitude : faire d’exercices de style un bouquet impérial d’originalités. Il suffisait de jouer juste, certes, mais aussi investi.
Peter Evans may be best known as the virtuosic trumpeter of Mostly Other People Do The Killing, bassist Moppa Elliot’s simultaneous tribute to and
deconstruction of jazz traditions. Meanwhile, though, Evans has other dimensions, both as a free improviser and as a bandleader. Each aspect is emphasized in one of the contrasting bands heard here.
Parker / Guy / Lytton + Peter Evans – Scenes in the House of Music (CF 196)
Since the early ‘80s, the trio of saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton has developed a profound level of interaction,
virtually redefining both the rate of musical information exchanged and the expressive potential of free jazz. Through the years, the group has welcomed a few distinguished guests, including George Lewis and Marilyn Crispell; for Scenes in the House of Music, Evans joins for a concert in the Casa da Musica, a gem-like concert hall in the Northern Portugal city of Porto. It’s tribute to the trumpeter’s intrepid creativity that he fits so well with the group, matching the sonic exploration of his solo performances to the rapid-fire shifts – in texture and in the alternately fragmentary and tumultuous rhythmic language – that in part define the Parker Trio. Each of the five improvised episodes is around 13 minutes long, identified by just “Scene” and number, and develops a shape of its own, often contrasting solos and duets with intense group dialogues. The interplay of the two horns is remarkable. At times Evans’ singular blasts and flurries can recall Don Cherry’s role as foil to some of the great tenor saxophonists of the ‘60s while at other moments he and Parker match one another’s timbres in a way that’s uncanny.
Peter Evans Quartet – live in Lisbon (CF 173)
Evans’ own band conception, as heard with his quartet at Lisbon’s Jazz em Agosto festival in 2009, is a radical mashup that layers the chord changes of standards like “All the Things You Are” and “What Is this Thing Called Love” with atonal and free elements, at times creating dense stacks of contradictory structures. These are sometimes employed freely by the band while at other times diverse parts will suddenly reassemble on a beat. Just as Anthony Braxton has in the past, Evans seems to reinvent the jazz crisis of the early ‘60s when chord changes were literally breaking up before one’s ears. If the most technically-gifted trumpeters of that era had a reluctant relationship with free jazz, it’s a joy to hear in Evans a trumpeter with the brash virtuosity of Lee Morgan or Freddie Hubbard who has embraced a radical freedom. His quartet here – pianist Ricardo Gallo, bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Kevin Shea – tears into the special challenges of this music with rare aplomb. While descriptions of Evans’ hybrid music can suggest a bizarre stunt, it’s much more than that. It’s often genuinely beautiful, at times in a traditional way and also moving, in a way that seems quite new. While these bands are very different in their forms and textures, both CDs are among the most accomplished releases of 2010.
Rudresh Mahanthappa / Steve Lehman – Dual Identity (CF 172)
Alto saxophonists Steve Lehman and Rudresh Mahanthappa are prime forces and motivators for the new jazz; artists who can boast impressive resumes as leaders, and first-call session champions that assist with surging the modern jazz element into diagonally opposed schemas. Dual Identities is a fascinating glimpse of what happens when two saxophonists merge their respective styles into dense compositional soundscapes.
With countering maneuvers, off-centered metrics and scintillating aerial assaults, the quartet primes for the kill on “The General.” Here, the saxophonists bob, weave and impart an idiosyncratic and sizzling modus operandi atop unorthodox beats. Like whirling dervishes vying for top honors, the sax men produce high-impact statements amid a devilish, yet appeasing climate, while guitarist Liberty Ellman takes some of the edge off via his shrewdly articulated solo during the bridge. “The General” radiantly launches a program, steeped within technical veracity and cunning group-centric interplay, that proposes ammunition for the mind’s discerning eye.
Peter Evans: un trompetista versátil
Hace mucho que en la escena del jazz no irrumpía un trompetista como Peter Evans. Sumamente versátil y fino estilista, tiene ya un bagaje más que notable. Integrante de los Mostly Other People Do The Killing, es también reclamado por primeras figuras de la libre improvisación. Evan Parker lo ha reclutado para su Electro Acoustic Ensemble y también le ha publicado un par de discos a trompeta sola (con lo que implica de apuesta personal por su música), en su sello Psi.
Peter Evans Quartet – Live in Lisbon (CF 173)
Entre la última hornada de grabaciones publicadas en Clean Feed, Peter Evans aparece en dos. Live In Lisbon recoge su participación en el festival Jazz Em Agosto de 2009 liderando el Peter Evans Quartet. Evans es el autor de todas las composiciones, muy buenas, y lidera un grupo que funciona magníficamente (con Kevin Shea, batería de los Mostly…, el pianista Ricardo Gallo y el contrabajista Tom Blancarte). Sin embargo ni lo uno ni los otros son lo más importante. Lo más destacable de la grabación es el magnífico nivel y la gran versatilidad que Evans demuestra (una vez más) con la trompeta, en esta ocasión con un jazz contemporáneo en el que hay unos cuantos hallazgos en forma de composiciones.
Parker / Guy / Lytton + Peter Evans – Scenes in the House of Music (CF 196)
Scenes In The House Of Music es radicalmente distinto. El trío formado por Evan Parker, Barry Guy y Paul Lytton es una de las formaciones más veteranas dentro de la libre improvisación europea. Este trío invitó a Peter Evans a participar en una de sus sesiones de libre improvisación en directo y el trompetista respondió a la perfección. No sólo funcionó en un rol al mismo nivel que sus tres compañeros como instrumentista, sino que se erigió en el líder del cuarteto en más de un momento. Tal y como sucede en las grabaciones de este grupo la música se va repartiendo en distintas fomaciones encontrando momentos para los solos (con Evan Parker y sus respiraciones circulares, o con Barry Guy y su forma de aplicarse sobre el contrabajo), los dúos, tríos y también para el cuarteto (obviamente). Los años de experiencia del trío provocan que su trabajo, que funciona sin fisuras, aparezca aún más sólidamente cementado gracias a la participación de su invitado.
The Convergence Quartet – Song/Dance (CF 187)
It must have seemed like a long shot when the young British pair of pianist Alexander Hawkins and bassist Dominic Lash invited two illustrious north Americans, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and drummer Harris Eisenstadt, to join them for a series of dates back in the fall of 2006. But now after two subsequent tours under the banner of the Convergence Quartet, the foursome is forging its own distinct identity. Its second disc continues the format found on Live In Oxford (FMR, 2007). Each member brings charts to the party which ensures a variety of styles, but common ground comes from a left field take on the interstices between composition and improvisation.
Not only are all four musicians accomplished writers, they are also fearsome improvisors, and the blend makes for a heady brew. Hawkins is carving a name for himself through his own Ensemble and as part of the collective Decoy, whose collaboration with reed player Joe McPhee, Oto (Bo Weavil, 2010), garners critical plaudits. Frequent associate Lash has also lent his far-reaching bass to collectives with saxophonists John Butcher and Tony Bevan and drummer Chris Corsano. Bynum, though strongly associated with reed player Anthony Braxton and the late trumpeter Bill Dixon, has developed an increasingly influential body of work, while Eisenstadt’s leadership vehicles stretch from small group intricacy, via explorations of West African rhythms, to soaring orchestral vision.
This repertoire passed muster on tour before being distilled to the essence for the recording. That accounts for the tightness of the tricky charts, but also for the relaxed way in which the band inhabits them with strong solos and well developed arrangements, featuring some haunting melodies alongside the instrumental prowess. There is a lot happening on each cut such that it seems that someone is always improvising, no matter what else is going on.
Eisenstadt doesn’t have a conventional feature, but he stretches over the bass riff and understated cornet/piano concord at the conclusion of his own “Next Convergence.” Hawkins excels on the same track, spraying notes with his right hand as his left marches up the keyboard before both meet in crashing unison. He shines also on Bynum’s “Iris,” where his driving rhythmic display appears to have strolled in from a different number entirely, encompassing Thelonious Monk-ish dissonance, stride and two handed counterpoint, bringing proceedings to an unexpected ending. That piece opens with the composer parading the tricks of his trade with slobbering growls, emphatic farts and querulous squeals all fashioned into a marvellously musical introduction. Hawkins’ title track showcases duets, with brash cornet partnering an abstract tattoo initially, then notably later where piano and drums provide an insistent backdrop for a chorus of wide ranging arco creaks by Lash and Bynum’s whistles and slurs.
There is a staggering range of approaches explored. At one extreme is Lash’s austere “Representations 17,” which in concert relies on a laptop for some combination of cues, score or instruction, but here manifests as a sequence of disjointed overlapping sounds which come in bursts of activity, and the occasional melodic fragment which isn’t sustained, becoming more pronounced in a final off kilter coming together. While at the other is the joyful upbeat South African jazz of “Kudala (Long Ago)” complete with Bynum’s playful cornet parachuting in for a goodtime romp. Lash’s “Second” makes for a bright opener, with piano and cornet spots gradually stretching the buoyant framework of interweaving lines. Elsewhere “Albert Ayler (his life was too short)” is a gentle processional rendition of the late Leroy Jenkins tune with cornet taking the composer’s violin part, while “The Pitts” is a lyrical world weary theme by the drummer with a lilting piano solo. Although the broad sweep might disorientate some listeners, nothing smacks of pastiche, and the varied program coheres around the conviction and skill of the participants. So prolific is the Clean Feed label that some releases are easily overlooked. This shouldn’t be one of them.
Jason Robinson / Anthony Davis – Cerulean Landscape (CF 198)
“If Ellington were to collaborate with science fiction author Samuel R. Delany, one might encounter a cerulean landscape.” This evocative quote from the liner notes to Cerulean Landscape, multi-reedist Jason Robinson’s long-awaited duo album with legendary pianist Anthony Davis, paints a vivid picture of their mutual admiration for the work of Duke Ellington and his colorful interpretations of the blues—in all its forms.
Robinson has been performing live with Davis (his former professor) since 1998, subsequently recording their first duets for his 2002 concept album Tandem (Accretions). An active member of both the East and West Coast scenes, Robinson is a gifted artist on the rise whose concurrently released debut as a bandleader, The Two Faces of Janus (Cuneiform, 2010) offers a compelling demonstration of his varied talents.
An esteemed member of the AACM whose reputation was established in the mid-1970s Loft Jazz scene, Davis went on to compose award winning operas like X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X and Amistad, in addition to numerous chamber, choral and symphonic works. Cerulean Landscape is a return to form for the veteran improviser, featuring some of his most capacious and unfettered soloing in years.
Setting their engaging dialogues in brilliant relief, this sumptuous session reveals the subtle nuances of their longstanding rapport, as Davis’ opulent chords and cascading right hand figures dance gingerly around Robinson’s mellifluous tenor. Alternating between sonic extremes, the duo intersperses passages of lilting lyricism with trenchant essays in discordant angularity, occasionally segueing from regal Ellingtonian splendor to fervid crescendos within the same piece.
Like Davis, Robinson’s aesthetic seamlessly combines inside and outside approaches. Structuring his narrative solos with a keen architectural logic, Robinson gracefully pivots from plangent refrains to coarse screeds, incorporating an array of extended techniques into expansive ruminations that trace their lineage from Coleman Hawkins to Albert Ayler.
Davis and Robinson’s pellucid restraint provides a sweeping, romantic undercurrent to “Shimmer,” “Someday I’ll Know” and “Cerulean Seas And Viridian Skies.” “Translucence” explores the tenuous line between the composed and the improvised, a quixotic meditation featuring Robinson’s diaphanous alto flute and Davis’ effervescent impressionism. Delving into vanguard territory, Robinson’s labyrinthine “Vicissitudes (For Mel)” and the episodic title track from Davis’ Of Blues and Dreams (Sackville, 1978) spotlight a series of terse dialogues fraught with coruscating cadences and brash arpeggios. Similarly abstruse, “Andrew” transposes a Monkish melody into an acerbic exploration of thorny variations.
Balancing mainstream and avant-garde concepts with characteristic grace, Robinson and Davis’ congenial interplay offers a consummate summation of the jazz tradition in its most conversational and fundamental form—the duet.