Daily Archives: December 27, 2010

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Stephan Crump / James Carney: Echo Run Pry (CF 199)
Echo Run Pry de Stephan Crump (contrabajo) y James Carney (piano) incluye dos improvisaciones de en torno a 25 minutos que manejan muy bien la dinámica de la música, incluyendo pasajes en los que ambos músicos se dan a la búsqueda de melodías mientras que en otros son más abstractos; en unos momentos lo que prima es la traquilidad, frente a otros en los que se busca un mayor expresionismo.

Lo importante es que en ningún momento ambos músicos muestran prisa por provocar que la música se desarrolle de un modo u otro, gracias a lo cual el disco es un buen reflejo de un buen concierto de libre improvisación, teniendo en la escucha y el diálogo su eje fundamental.

Avant Music News Best of 2010 List

Perhaps we’re a bit later than most, but below is our best-of list for the year. We have a tie for number one, as well as a long list of runners up. Enjoy.

Best of 2010:
Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
Henry Threadgill – This Brings Us to Volume 2

Runners up:
Algernon – Ghost Surveillance
Anderson, Vijay – Hard-Boiled Wonderland
Aidan Baker – Liminoid / Lifeforms
Albert Beger / Electroacoustic Band – Peacemaker
James Blackshaw – All is Falling
Brown vs. Brown – Odds and Unevens
Hugo Carvalhais Trio featuring Tim Berne – Nebulosa
Chicago Underground Duo – Boca Negro
Barry Cleveland – Hologramatron
Noah Creshevsky – The Twilight of the Gods
Dave Douglas / Keystone – Spark of Being: Soundtrack
Elephant9 – Walk the Nile
Enterout Trio – Pink Ivory
Peter Evans Quartet – Live in Lisbon
Exploding Star Orchestra – Stars Have Shapes
First Meeting (with Natsuki Tamura & Satoko Fujii) – Cut the Rope
Fond of Tigers – Continent & Western
Satoko Fujii ma-do – Desert Ship
Satoko Fujii / Orchestra Tokyo – Zakopane
Hardedge / Graham Haynes – Led Into Uncertainty
Heinali and Matt Finney – Conjoined
Jaga Jazzist – One-Armed Bandit
Kayo Dot – Coyote (EP)
Rudresh Mahanthappa / Steve Lehman – Dual Identity
Szilárd Mezei Octet – Tonk
Lisa Mezzacappa / Bait and Switch – What is Known
Robby Moncrieff – Who Do You Think You Aren’t
Nichelodeon – Il Gioco del Silenzio
Perhaps Contraption – Sludge & Tripe
Guillaume Perret / The Electric Epic – Guillaume Perret & The Electric Epic
Respect Sextet – Farcical Built for Six
Talibam! and Alan Wilkinson – Dem Ol’ Apple Pie Melodies
Third Object Orchestra – Five Movements for Six String Players
Gebhard Ullmann / Steve Swell 4 – News? No News!
Univers Zero – Clivages
Vox Arcana – Aerial Age
Iannis Xenakis – Works with Piano (Takahashi)
Zs – New Slaves

Peter Margasak’s Best of 2010 list (Chicago Reader)

I don’t mind making year-end lists, and in some cases I even enjoy reading them—but anybody who bothers arguing about them is a fool. It’s impossible to hear everything released in a year, and the “consensus” picks—the albums that show up on list after list—say more about how widely available and heavily promoted a piece of music is than they do about its quality. On the day I wrote this, the ten records below stood out in my mind as the best of 2010. Ask me to choose again in a week, though, and I might come up with a different list.

10. Seu Jorge and Almaz Seu Jorge and Almaz (Now-Again/Stones Throw) A lot of people first heard Brazilian singer Seu Jorge thanks to his David Bowie homage in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but even at the time I thought it was the least interesting thing he’d done—so I certainly didn’t expect this spontaneously recorded collection of covers to be the highlight of his career. Jorge and Almaz (a nimble trio featuring two members of Nacao Zumbi) reinterpret Brazilian classics by stars like Jorge Ben, Tim Maia, and Martinho da Vila, familiar English-language tunes from Kraftwerk, Roy Ayers, and Michael Jackson, and a heavy obscurity from a group called Tribo Massahi. The scrappy band borrows from dub, psychedelia, and rock to inject its loose, suave arrangements—whether of sambas, bossa novas, or R&B hits—with electric vitality.

9. Koboku Senju Selektiv Hogst (Sofa) This year my favorite album of free improvisation is by Japanese-Norwegian quintet Koboku Senju, which consists of Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar), Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board), Eivind Lonning (trumpet), Espen Reinertsen (saxophone and flute), and Martin Taxt (tuba). The familar vocabularies of the horns and guitar are nowhere in evidence, and the music trafficks in no identifiable genre—even the pieces that sprang from prompts like “death metal” or “funeral march” called out by band members sound nothing like those styles. Koboku Senju makes its own road, finding a calm through-line across the turbulence it creates and lending an austere and meditative beauty to a profusion of details and textures that easily could’ve been dizzying. It’s useless to try to identify foreground and background; the pleasure comes from how the parts fit together and morph en masse.

8. Ideal Bread Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy (Cuneiform) Though soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy was one of the first jazz musicians to launch a repertory band—in the early 60s he played the music of Thelonious Monk with School Days—he’s hardly an easy subject for such a group. (Of course, the same thing could be said of Monk.) Lacy’s exploratory aesthetic and dry, austere tone—a huge departure from the soprano’s usual sweet sound—are so inextricably linked with his material that it’s hard to do anything that doesn’t sound either imitative or disrespectful. But Ideal Bread—baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, bassist Reuben Radding, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara—have done Lacy proud again. Whether synthesizing ideas from several different Lacy arrangements of the same tune or extrapolating solos from sections of the written score, they play the master’s music with a thoughtful, focused rigor that’s on par with his.

7. Atomic Theater Tilters Vols. 1 and 2 (Jazzland) This Scandinavian quintet seems to turn up in my top ten every time it makes a record. Atomic has evolved constantly since forming in 1999, and over the past few years they’ve pushed their bold postbop toward a much more open and spontaneous sound—making their music more exciting and challenging without losing a bit of its satisfying soulfulness. I’m cheating a little here, as these excellent 2009 live recordings are spread across two releases, but either one would’ve made my list alone.

6. Khaira Arby Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont Music) Malian singer Khaira Arby, a major figure in her homeland for more than a decade, released her first U.S. album this year and followed up with a stateside tour that included two knockout performances at Chicago’s World Music Festival. Ali Farka Toure was one of her cousins, and the kind of spindly, cyclical guitar licks he made famous turn up all over Timbuktu Tarab, interwoven with terse n’goni and fiddle parts; the music also has affinities with the so-called desert rock of bands like Tinariwen. What sets it apart is Arby’s searing, powerful voice, ironclad pitch control, and regal bearing. This is not only the best African record I heard in 2010 but one of the best I’ve heard in many years.

5. Marc Ribot Silent Movies (Pi) For this gorgeous solo album, mercurial guitarist Marc Ribot recorded music he’s scored for films both real and imaginary, abetted on a few tracks by subtle atmospheric noise from Keefus Ciancia (credited with “soundscapes” on the sleeve). As much as I’ve enjoyed the recent outpouring of technically dazzling fingerstyle guitar records, I like the rough-edged power of these electric-guitar pieces even more—they favor raw emotion and dark, harrowing beauty over hypnotizing intricacy. With his off-kilter style and jarring stabs of dissonance, Ribot has always been great at ugliness, but he’s never made it sound as graceful and vulnerable as he does here.

4. John McNeil and Bill McHenry Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (Sunnyside) On their second album together, trumpeter John McNeil and tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry carry on their convincing reappraisal of the “cool” west-coast jazz of the 1950s. Prodded by the spiky swing of drummer Jochen Rueckert and bassist Joe Martin, they resurrect tunes by overlooked pianist Russ Freeman and bring subversive humor to 40s pop tunes like “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Aren’t You Glad You’re You.” The classic west-coast sound isn’t particularly aggressive, but it’d be a mistake to write it off as lightweight or insubstantial because of that—and McNeil and McHenry demonstrate exactly why, bringing a stunning rapport to the exhilarating multilinear improvisations typical of the style.

3. Alasdair Roberts & Friends Too Long in This Condition (Drag City) Alasdair Roberts started his musical career in the mid-90s as leader of the Will Oldham-worshipping Appendix Out, but since then he’s committed himself to Scottish folk. On this powerful album, which consists of nine traditional tunes and one original instrumental, he brings contemporary vitality, parched soul, and spontaneous, unmannered beauty to his interpretations, distinguishing himself from just about everyone else I’ve heard sing this repertoire. He’s joined by a stellar support cast, including English folk singer Emily Portman on concertina and backing vocals and Trembling Bells guitarist Ben Reynolds on lap steel.

2. Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans Scenes in the House of Music (Clean Feed)
The trio of reedist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy, and percussionist Paul Lytton is a paragon of European free improvisation, carrying on the first-wave style of brutally intense radical abstraction. Every member has a profoundly individual vocabulary, deployed in the service of rigorous full-ensemble interaction—no soloing over changes here—and the group’s energy and inventiveness haven’t flagged after nearly 30 years. It’s a testament to the wizardry of young trumpeter Peter Evans that he can step into this lineup of titans and improve it—his sensitivity and musicality place him in the uppermost rank among improvisers the world over.

1. Jason Moran Ten (Blue Note)
Pianist Jason Moran, bassist Tarus Mateen, and drummer Nasheet Waits have played together as the Bandwagon for a decade, and the title of the trio’s latest album, Ten, is a tip of the hat to that fact. They’ve been one of the best bands in jazz for that entire stretch in part because of the allegiance the rhythm section shows Moran, which results in a rare kind of ensemble drive. Ten complements Moran’s sturdy, consistently surprising originals with pieces by fellow iconoclasts Thelonious Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Leonard Bernstein, and Jaki Byard, but despite the pianist’s dominant role in determining the group’s repertoire, its roiling, cohesive performances are never less than collective creations.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Various Artists – I NEVER META GUITAR (CFG 005)
I get a kick out of how deceptive this disc’s title is. The invocation of the qualifier “meta” suggests that this compilation of brief solo pieces might be fairly self-reflective, self-questioning, even self-regarding. And indeed, many of the post-Bailey developments in guitar (thinking here of all the Rowe-inspired players) have focused on problematizing not just the instrumental associations the guitar has but on problematizing instrumentalism full stop. How interesting then that the vast majority of these pieces – many of which are multi-tracked, electronically supplemented, or occasionally “interrupted” by a tape or similar production move – are sentimental and quite lyrical. Gloriously so, I might add. Not all of the sixteen tracks are equally successful, but the level of accomplishment is so high (and the way it works as an album so surprising, given how often such compilations fall flat) that it’s easy to overlook the minor missteps and focus on the fab.
Mary Halvorson’s “In Two Parts Missing” is one of the most harmonically dense pieces here, with fragments of bop phraseology strung together but regularly upended by spring-loaded moments where it sounds as if something has snapped internally, leading to a massive electronic quaver, a “sproing!” that’s quite excellent. Jeff Parker’s fully formed “Act As If Nothing Ever Happened” is gorgeously, gauzily melancholy. Henry Kaiser’s “Blame it on the Tonkori” is built around chiming 12-string, with lovely ebowed feedback that sounds like a whistle (which I couldn’t help hearing as a nod to Robbie Basho). Only two players are relatively new to me: Jean-Francois Pauvros’ bowing isn’t quite my thing, but I love Janet Feder’s raw strumming. Raoul Bjorkenheim’s rhythmic language is distinctive even in solo context (“I Told You So”), and he comfortably occupies the disc’s middle section along with a series of stunners from Noël Akchoté (I’m a sucker for his sweetly lyrical “Joanna”), Nels Cline (his distinctive lyrical language is so emphatic on “Study for a Hairpin and Hatbox”), Brandon Ross, and a heart-stopping slide showcase from Mike Cooper. After that run, the next few pieces don’t quite win me over as much: Michael Gregory actually plays trio blues, Scott Fields and Kazuhisa Uchihashi fuss and scrabble a bit, and Mick Barr does his solo Orthrelm thing. But the disc closes strongly, with a visit to Gunnar Geisse’s spectral drone world on “The Day Rauschenberg Met De Kooning” and a goodnight kiss of fractal madness from E#. Quibble if you will about who’s not here (Joe Morris, anyone?) but this is top shelf stuff.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Jason Robinson / Anthony Davis – CERULEAN LANDSCAPE (CF 198 )
Californian reedist and composer Jason Robinson has been documenting consistently engaging new music on the Accretions label for some time now (most recently on his vivid solo disc Cerberus Reigning, where he supplements his customary axe with electronics). On his duo summit with Anthony Davis, he gets to showcase some of his liveliest and most lyrical playing. From the first notes of the opening “Shimmer” he sounds enthused by Davis’s boisterous, dancing rhythms and harmonic subtleties (it could almost be Muhal imitating Bill Evans), responding with ebullient, faintly quavering soprano lines. But the disc as a whole traverses many different territories. Notes billow and pop on the spacious, at times crystalline “Someday I’ll Know.” The exchanges are spiky, fractious, and pinwheeling on “Vicissitudes (for Mel),” after which they enter a kind of spiral world on “Translucence,” but one whose very abstraction is somehow defined by idiomatic playing: quasi-stride piano and lovely alto flute that wend their way at last to a haunting descending line. The punishing reading of “Of Blues and Dreams” and the muscular swing of “Andrew” are great palate cleansers for the superb, sumptuous course of “Cerulean Seas and Viridian Skies.” Its urgent alto opening ushers in far more heart-on-sleeve romance than I’d expected, a veritable rhapsody.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton + Peter Evans – SCENES FROM THE HOUSE OF MUSIC (CF 196)
When an improviser accepts an invitation to play with a combo of such long standing and immediate distinctiveness, is it better to try and fit in to a perceived aesthetic or to lob bombs in the hopes of destabilizing and redirecting things? In posing this question, I’m not suggesting that the PGL sound is in any way ossified, any more than the scads of other working groups that have so energized free improvisation over the decades. Just listen to the distance between, say, Atlanta and Zafiro as proof. Rather, there’s simply nothing else like the way they inhabit certain kinds of territories, and the peculiarity of their exchanges. On this fantastic festival date, Evans’ presence makes the music both more flinty and more burnished than before, in ways that recall George Lewis’ guest spot on Hook Drift & Shuffle. The trumpeter spits out fire, but also sails above the music and generates some wonderful counterpoint; he inserts himself into the dense foliage of the music but is also a quirky odd man out with his occasionally puckish, neo-freebop lines. And with the trio in such fine form, it’s a pleasure of a record. The grain of the music is subtle but it’s stitched together by that frisson we love in this band, its circulation of overtones, hints of melancholy, sudden dropoffs, and quicksilver pace. And while I want to keep raving about Evans, there are marvelous features for Guy (a wonderfully metallic solo to open the third “Scene”) and Parker (a frenzied skirl to open the fourth) throughout. Exploratory and intense as ever, this performance has an audible joy and humor to it that confirms the exuberance of the players.

Paris Transatlantic review by Stephen Griffith

Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra – ASHCAN RANTINGS (CF 203)
What’s different about this two-disc set that should attract more attention than the previous two largely ignored offerings by this nonet version of Adam Lane’s “orchestra”? Maybe the presence of household names (at least in the miniscule number of households that listen to this music) like reedist Avram Fefer and trumpeters Nate Wooley and Taylor Ho Bynum. Maybe the lack of skronky electric guitars that bolstered the overt Motörhead influences that sent purists scurrying to the safety of their Ken Burns sets (although once the leader has lulled them into complacent acceptance with the lush arrangements on the first disc, he breaks out his fuzzbox midway through the title cut on the second). Or maybe it’s the haunting sense of familiarity of the excellent original compositions, two of which were featured on a prior quartet date Four Corners. Whatever the reason, it deserves your attention.
The Mingus influence was clear in the first recorded incarnation of the group, No(w) Music on Cadence Jazz Records, but, despite the lack of a piano, never has it been more evident than here, whether in the prominent placement of Lane’s bass in the mix or his pugnacious squaring-off with soloists throughout. But the influences are significantly more varied: the opening arrangement of “Imaginary Portrait” recalls the more recent David Murray Octet, and “Desperate Incantations” begins with a South African lilt before Lane prods the duelling trumpets of Wooley and Ho Bynum into a frenzy. “Nine Man Morris” sounds like a large group arrangement of an early Braxton fractured motif until Lane slows things down for a Tim Vaughn trombone feature. Top drawer stuff.