Daily Archives: November 16, 2010

The Squid’s Ear review by Paul Serralheiro

Tom Rainey Trio – Pool School (CF 185)  These three musicians seem to be having a romping good time in their metaphorical poolside interactions here. Released on the Portuguese label Clean Feed, this meeting of two New Yorkers (Rainey and Mary Halvorson) and a German saxophonist with an international profile (Ingrid Laubrock) is music with a footing in the traditions of experimental improvisation, but which resonates with the timbres and idiomatic elements of jazz.

The pieces are mainly short, concise, watertight, developing fragments of ideas in a tumble of inspired momentum. Rainey’s punchy drumming seems to provoke guitarist Halvorson to some hot shredding, as in the opening minute of “Three Bag Mary” and in the bubbling “Coney,” and saxophonist Laubrock (soprano and tenor) feels equally moved and blows some energetic lines in the same piece. The trio twists and turns in sympathetic fashion throughout, and pieces develop in surprising ways, even though they are all rather short.

In this rather spare drums-guitar-sax instrumental setting, Rainey at times takes on the role of bass player as well as drummer, like in the title piece, where he emphasizes the lower drums in a short duo with Laubrock, or in “Om on the Range” where he underscores the quiet, meditative material.

Halvorson’s guitar chops show dramatic variety as in the opening arpeggios of “More Mesa,” which provides quite a contrast to her more Derek Bailey-like sparkling, or quasi Wes Montgomery glowing chordal textures. The guitarist’s palette includes intervallic savvy, textural boldness, with little recourse to the crutch of electronics, coaxing from her Guild arch-top sounds that would have Charlie Christian nodding in approval. She kicks in some poignant intervals, rich chords and at times silky, at times barbed lines, as the music seems to need.

“Semi-Bozo” has some nice volume-control work from Halvorson and some of the most subtle drumming from Rainey, while Laubrock plays in more subdued, rich and airy lower partials in the intro, before launching into a freely evolving flight where everyone rips apart the constraints set out in the opening moments to show how improvised music can be many things, even within the confines of motivic coherence that musicians set for themselves.

“Crinckles” is Laubrock in raw expressionism a-la Braxton supported by her trio mates, each going their way, but keeping abreast all the way along…like three jets in showy flight patterns. The burly abilities of Laubrock can’t be understated as she shows she has the chops and imagination to play this music full-tilt, as in the screaming abandon of the aforementioned “Semi-Bozo,” and in the pliant, suave strains she sets down in the duo section of “Heymana.”

While this is clearly a trio effort where everyone comes out strongly, in the 12 cuts and nearly one hour of music, Rainey proves to be a sensitive, yet commanding performer/leader who knows how to provide space for his sidemen while directing traffic when needed. The result is an exciting offering.

Clean Feed feature on Instant Jazz !!!

CLEAN FEED to release its two hundredth album

And now the time has come to highlight the CLEAN FEED-label, from Lisbon, Portugal. Since its genesis in 2001, it has turned into a highly respected player in the field of improvised music, which is the result of years of hard work, stubborn dedication and vision. Originally, it was their intention to release just a handful of albums each year. That was the case in their early days (3 releases in 2001, 6 in 2002), but since then, the label has increasingly moved forward, convinced a lot of musicians and listeners and has become one of the most highly regarded labels for improvised music in Europe, if not the world.
It might feel weird to consider they’re based in Portugal, of all places, but as label boss Pedro Costa points out, this might be one of its most importants assets: “We see ourselves as a world label because the music is just one. And especially for a label based in Lisbon, the message has to be clear: concentrating on the music we believe is crucial to document this very rich era, whether it’s from New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm or Japan. That’s truly our manifesto.” Portugal boasts a strong live scene and very quickly the artist roster became quite impressive.
From the early days onwards, they offered music by local talents (people like Rodrigo Amado, Carlos Zingaro and Julio Resende) as well as work by international artists, quite often from the United States. Among them important and groundbreaking musicians like Gerry Hemingway and Charles Gayle, but also younger talents like Steve Lehman, as well as lesser known veterans of the scene, such as Dennis Gonzalez (who released an impressive string of albums that pulled him out of relative obscurity), Ellery Eskelin and Steve Swell.
But that’s not nearly it, as the label also welcomed a bunch of musicians from Scandinavian countries and Italy. Clean Feed also facilitated some surprising encounters, such as TownOrchestraHouse, which featured both powerhouse drummer Paal Nilssen-Love as well as saxophone legend Evan Parker. And several more players started popping in, like Ken Vandermark and Anthony Braxton, who also appeared on the label’s one hundredth release in 2008, a 4CD box set also featuring guitar player Joe Morris.

The ways in which Clean Feed manifested itself are manifold. There’s the roster, there’s the impressive quality and (later) quantity, but for a while, it also boasted some of the most recognizable artwork, with cd’s that were packaged in artfully folded carboard covers with magnets, which have made way for mini LP-sleeves recently. The label also featured a DVD by 4 Corners (an international project featuring Americans Adam Lane & Ken Vandermark, Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo and, again, Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love), and has guitar player Elliott Sharp curate a series within their catalog.
In the meantime, the pace at which the label released albums kept picking up. From the humble beginnings, they quickly moved to 20 releases in 2005, to more than thirty in 2009. We’ve recently seen a lot of younger talents making their entrance (Harris Eisenstadt, Kirk Knuffke, Peter Evans, Christian Lillinger), while several other artists released what may be their strongest work yet on Clean Feed (Tony Malaby, Hugo Antunes, Martin Küchen, with both his Trespass Trio and the Angles Sextet) or, as in the case of Tom Rainey, made their long-awaited debut (as a leader) on the label!
In 2010, Clean Feed cd’s are being distrubuted in the USA, Japan and in Europe (in Belgium by yours truly), and it has become a household name in the field of free jazz, avant-garde, world jazz and improvised music in general. Just look around the net, and you’ll see that CF-releases are turning heads and receiving excellent press from both the larger jazz institutions as well as specialised blogs and e-zines. There have been 39 releases so far, this year, and nine more are lining up. The past few years, the label also hosted the annual Clean Feed Festival in New York, because it seems to have extra strong ties with that city and its many musicians in particular (several Americans on the roster are New Yorkers or have strong ties with the local scene).
CF#200, TONY MALABY’s TAMARINDO ‘LIVE’ FEAT. WADADA LEO SMITH presents a quartet recording from June this year and features the amazing line-up of saxophone player Malaby, visonary trumpeter Leo Smith, as well as bass guru William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits (Jason Moran, etc). If that isn’t a line-up to make you drivel at the mouth, than no line-up in the field of jazz ever will. They’re selling it as “powerhouse free bop” and who are we to question that? We’ll offer more information about this new batch soon!
And what’s next? Time will tell, but there’s no doubt it’s gonna be an exciting ride. “I like to see us as an international label that doesn’t belong to any country, any scene, any kind of cooperative thing but only as a label that exists to release the music of today by people of today in the field of improvised music” (Pedro Costa).  Needless to say that Instant Jazz is looking forward to the future as well!