Daily Archives: November 2, 2010

All About Jazz-New York review by Andrey Henkin

G9 Gipfel – Berlin (Jazzwerkstatt)

Drummer Han Bennink, part of the first wave of truly European jazz musicians, felt that he was continuing, albeit indirectly, a rhythmic tradition coming out of the drum corps of countries like Switzerland and Scotland. Other generations have followed, filled with players who used the accomplishments of Bennink, as well as others like Paul Lovens, Pierre Favre, Aldo Romano or Jacques Thollot (to give one example per country), as a template. German drummer Christian Lillinger, 27, who studied with another accomplished European in Günter Baby Sommer, is part of the latest wave, lending his talents to a wide array of projects. Though he is one of nine participants on Berlin, from G9 Gipfel (meaning “peak”), Lillinger’s drumming is crucial in corralling the various personalities involved. Trombonist Gerhard Gschlössl is the nominal leader of this ensemble but players like trumpeter Axel Dörner, saxist Tobias Delius and bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall are quite capable of yanking the leash of their master. Filling out the nonet are alto saxist Wanja Slavin, guitarist John Schröder, bassist Johannes Fink and, in a very rare turn as a sideman, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, éminence grisé in European jazz since the ‘60s. Only four contribute compositions but these lurch drunkenly from Gschlössl’s proto-bop swingers reminiscent of mid ‘60s Blue Note and Mahall’s rumpled avant excursion to Dörner’s hypercerebral musing and Fink’s kinetic, almost centerless sketches. So Lillinger has to be all kinds of drummers, as in as he is out, changing radically while maintaining his own aesthetic, all of which he does with a range impressive in one so relatively new to the scene.

First Reason is Lillinger’s debut under his own name, though he has previously released albums with the cooperative group Hyperactive Kid and several
other improvised, leaderless sessions. Delius and Slavin are part of the group, buoyed by the double double basses of Jonas Westergaard and Robert
Landfermann. The elder statesman here is pianist Joachim Kühn, one of the few jazz musicians actively working in what was East Germany in the early ‘60s.
Lillinger features as both writer and player on this album, penning 8 of the 11 tunes but, since this is a debut, it has the typical stylistic waywardness that can
make for an uneven listen. All of the tunes are good, especially the Vandermark-ian workout “Patient” but it is often hard to see how they connect, particularly
the ones featuring Kühn, which sound of another era, perhaps the pianist’s time with BYG-Actuel. The most interesting thing about the album is how, despite
having two horns in the frontline, First Reason is really dominated by the two varying approaches of Westergaard and Landfermann in tandem, Lillinger
skittering around them like a child mischievously running between the legs of his parent.

Lillinger’s latest project is a trio session of eight presumably improvised tunes with pianist Achim Kaufmann and bassist Landfermann. One can’t help
but think of archetypes of the free European piano trio:Howard Riley, Wolfgang Dauner, Siegfried Kessler, Joachim Kühn. Snatches of all those come through on
Grünen, a mélange of proto-classical, subversive swing and folksy impudence. Kaufmann is of an earlier generation of European improvisers, about two
decades older than the rhythm section. But do not presume unspoken leadership of this session. As he’s proven in the aforementioned album, his solo disc Null
and quartet outing Nicht Ohne Robert Volume 1 (also with Lillinger), Landfermann is a player firmly following Europe’s also-mighty bassist tradition. And here Lillinger can punctuate, cajole, react, ignore and bring to the fore all of his breadth as a player in an ensemble one-third the size of Berlin and without worrying about bandleading as on First Reason. As he gets older, Lillinger will be able to dominate a session like a Bennink without seemingly trying to but it’s heartening to see that European avant garde keeps attracting new adherents.

All About Jazz-New York review by Terrell Holmes

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait and Switch – What Is Known (CF 192)
Lisa Mezzacappa, a California-based composer, bassist and leader of the ‘garage jazz’ band Bait & Switch, writes original tunes that are, ironically,
inspired by gigs where she and her bandmates shared solid improvisational moments. What Is Known comprises these augmented snapshots, played by the band with vigorous abandon. Mezzacappa’s plucked intro opens “Richard’s House of Blues”, a lively free-for-all. Guitarist John Finkbeiner then enters the fray with some sharp,
eccentric riffs. Tenor man Aaron Bennett joins Finkbeiner in the whirlpool and the men form a sonic tornado, spiraling down to near silence until Mezzacappa restarts the tune with a rumbling arco. Bennett and drummer Vijay Anderson support Finkbeiner’s musings on “Zzllzzpp” before the saxist steps in for some Trane-ish wailing, soloing above the dramatic group ostinato. Bennett brays like a donkey and squeals like a castrato under duress on “The Aquarist” and Captain Beefheart’s “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” is a burlesque blues with rock overtones as Finkbeiner’s guitar pushes Bennett’s gutbucket sax. Mezzacappa’s solo version of “I’ll Be Right Here Waiting”, written by the late drummer Steve McCall, is a lovely change of pace, her pizzicato opulent in tone and texture. She also plucks and bows madly on the impressionistic “The Cause and Effect of Emotion and Distance”, complemented by Bennett’s layered harmonics. “Ponzi”, with its Police-like ska overtones, quickly blossoms into a jazz burner, Finkbeiner and Bennett bracketing a fierce mano-a-mano by Mezzacappa and Anderson. Bassist and drummer also drive the raging storm that is “Catalypsoclysmic”. The title track is a total blowout with Mezzacappa’s pizzicato bridging the wide shores of anarchy supplied by Bennett and Finkbeiner, the chaos continuing on “Push/Pull” as Bennett flits around Finkbeiner’s repeated figure with elephantine bursts. Mezzacappa and her band of merry men plunder the jazz canon and delightfully toss the treasures
about, playing with a bold approach and delightful musicality. What Is Known is no holds barred all the way, so bring your best wrestling moves and dive in.

All About Jazz-New York review by David R. Adler

Louis Sclavis / Craig Taborn / Tom Rainey – Eldorado Trio (CF 193)
Is it possible for a jazz label to release too much good music? If so, Clean Feed has a wonderful problem on its hands. One can barely keep up with the flood of discs by such artists as Kirk Knuffke, Ivo Perelman, Kris Davis, John Hébert, Bernardo Sassetti, Nobuyasu Furuya, Julian Argüelles and Tom Rainey – and that’s just to list some of the recent trio sessions. With Eldorado Trio, we get an intriguing companion to Rainey’s Pool School, his recording debut as a leader from earlier this year. While the latter featured the drummer in a studio encounter with guitarist Mary Halvorson and tenorist Ingrid Laubrock, Eldorado Trio has him in a co-led concert setting with pianist Craig Taborn and multi-reedist Louis Sclavis. The sonorities are dark and expansive, although “Up Down Up” and “Possibilities” introduce crisp, almost swinging tempos and “Let It Drop” opens the set with quick and frenetic staccato interplay. Sclavis limits himself to bass clarinet and soprano saxophone; only on “Lucioles” does he play both, switching to the lower horn for the final snaking legato unison with Taborn. All the pieces are Sclavis originals except for three – “To Steve Lacy”, “Summer Worlds” and the closing “Eldorado” – credited to the full trio.

“La Visite”, the longest, slowest and most brooding piece in the set, stands as a kind of anomaly. Its harmony is unambiguous (A minor moving to E minor); Sclavis and Taborn blend beautifully on the mournful theme and Sclavis soon builds to a torrential, almost Coltrane-esque bass clarinet flight. “Lucioles”,
far more abstract harmonically, finds Sclavis (on soprano) and Taborn urging each other on during the improv while Rainey, in the eye of the storm, remains unperturbed. The trio chemistry is distinctive and the music more melodic than Taborn and Rainey’s work with Tim Berne in Hard Cell. There’s free-jazz fire at
its heart, but also an elusive element of folk lyricism.

The Jazz Mann review by Tim Owen

Peter Evans Quartet – Live In Lisbon (CF 173)
Rating: 4,5 out of 5
“The pleasure of listening to this thrilling concert derives equally from the vibrancy of the material and the zestful drive and immediacy of the group interaction.”

Evans is well matched with the others in his quartet. A previous incarnation substituted guitarist Brandon Seabrook for Ricardo Gallo’s piano, which dramatically alters the configuration. Gallo is a Colombian composer and pianist who formerly led his own quartet out of Bogotá. His piano playing, which can be characterised by great delicacy, is frequently animated on this outing by a ferociously hard-hitting tonal fullness and clarion precision. The lucidity with which his touch imbues the melodic aspects of Evan’s themes mitigates some of the complexity of the compositions (of which more later). Tom Blancarte, unlike Gallo, is a regular partner of Evans’, with the two men recording as a duet under the name Sparks. Here, Blancarte’s double bass pulses from a stereo’s woofers with vividness and woody resonance. Kevin Shea, on drums, is quite restrained in contrast to his more usually eruptive, wild-card anarchy, as in his performances with MOPDTK or, more particularly, his own Talibam!. He works hard to make a primarily (though by no means solely) supporting role fresh and unpredictable. A marvellous bass/drums tussle in “Interlude 3” shows this fabulous ‘rhythm section’ at their inventive best.

As for that compositional complexity: Evans –  in his very worthwhile notes that accompany the CD version of the album – describes his own compositions as “puzzle-like”, and explains that central to his conception is “the continual adaptation and metamorphosis of found materials derived from earlier songs and song forms”. The original composition “All”, for example, references Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are”. It is based on Kern’s chord structure, but “any of the tempos referenced in the notation can be maintained by any number of the ensemble members together or separately since they all fit over a basic pulse”. I’m comfortably familiar with Kern’s song in diverse interpretations, and Evans has rendered it as something radically new. It’s only in his respectful nods to the original melody that the debt is overtly heard. Likewise, Evans’ “What” takes Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” and reconstitutes it in ways so inventive that the resultant music is essentially Evans’ own. Evans describes the ways in which the notation permits “components of [the] piece [to] be put on top of each other in various ways without disturbing the general form: a bass line that can double with the trumpet line as the melody, and later, a melody (in the piano and trumpet) of long tones that rests on top of the first line”. “Palimpsest” similarly transcends its roots in the music of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”, which are explored with a loving appreciation of the beauty that permeates the original compositions. Mingus would surely have approved.

While the originality of his musicianship has frequently been noted elsewhere, I think it’s worth quoting from Evans’ notes in order to reflect the time and intellectual effort that Evans has evidently invested in the evolution of his compositional skills. It’s not necessary to dwell on these details, however, when listening to the results. Although his notes undoubtedly add an extra level of appreciation, what brings the session so vividly and thrillingly to life are Evans’ leadership and the improvisational and interpretive skills of the quartet. The pleasure of listening to this thrilling concert derives equally from the vibrancy of the material and the zestful drive and immediacy of the group interaction.

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie launches “The Great Fine Line” at Joe’s Pub

On November 11th
Check more at: www.joespub.com/component/option,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,40/id,5467

“…The emotional resonance invoked by the music is striking. So too is the structural and formal sophistication of the young keyboard player Ricardo Gallo’s music.”
-James Nichols, All About Jazz, May 9th 2008

Ricardo Gallo’s “Tierra de Nadie” performs original music conceived as a sort of imaginary musical folklore, a “No man’s land” which is the intriguing basis for exploratory improvisations. Featuring Mark Helias on bass, Ray Anderson on trombone, Pheeroan akLaff on drums and Dan Blake on saxophones, pianist Ricardo Gallo aims for a vivid collective sound, rooting the music with lush compositions that picture a landscape of its own, providing a space in which contributing musicians can inhabit freely and also, that is devoid of flags.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Ricardo Gallo is active as a composer of contemporary concert music, and as a pianist performing jazz and improvised music.  He leads different projects that relate aspects of Colombian folklore to contemporary musical expressions.

* This concert will be the release of Tierra de Nadie’s debut album: “The Great Fine Line”, issued under the Portuguese label Clean Feed Records, which was lauded record label of the year in 2009 by All About Jazz NY. This album is also the 5th by Ricardo Gallo as a group leader.

Price: $12 in Advance; $15 at Door
7:30 PM – November 11