Monthly Archives: January 2011

JazzWrap review by Vern

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
I’ve discussed Ricardo Gallo’s many virtues recently. He is an artist who continually gets better with each album. The Great Fine Line, his first album for Clean Feed records is another marvelous addition to his growing cannon of material.

This sextet recording was done just a few short weeks after his mainstay quartet had finished its third release, Resistencias (Ladistrito Fonica). The Great Fine Line is a more expansive and freedom exploring outing in which the musicians including Gallo stretch their emotional muscle with wonderful results.

The album’s title refers to the famous Argentine author, Julio Cortazar (author of the amazing novel, Hopscotch) and his belief that music is a no-mans land and that everything becomes blurred. This is true when it comes to The Great Fine Line with it’s varying passages and moments of exploration by each member.

On “Stomp At No Man’s Land” Ray Anderson and Dan Blake take prime space to rip through chord changes as Ricardo Gallo controls the balance around the edges. An intricate battle ensues on “Three Versions Of A Lie” in which the interchanges from each musicians is bold and vibrant. Gallo’s use of two drummers for this session is also a wonderful choice. It does give distinct to each track. Takeishi’s performance on “Three Version Of A Lie” is superb and dominates the proceeding.

“Hermetismo” starts in melodic, gentle tones with Helias, Gallo and Aklaff leading way until Blake and Anderson join in to make it almost a contemporary bop-ish affair. It’s probably the most straight-ahead piece on the album but still having abstract undertones. Contradiction? I don’t think so.

“La Pina Blanca” starts like a homage to New Orleans before spinning quickly into varying level of free form point/counterpoint. Lovely stuff as each member quickly shuffles back and forth in time.

With The Great Fine Line, Ricardo Gallo continues to make his name on the new jazz community. The diversity of his projects and his compositional work is truly setting him apart from the pact. Another well deserved must listen.

Lira review by Leif Carlsson

Hugo Antunes – Roll Call (CF 197)
Eurofri jazz. Två träblås, två trumslagare och så ledarenoch basisten Hugo Antunes. Som Malachi Favors i de tidigaArt Ensemble of Chicago står han med fötterna djupt icentrum av denna kvintett från Portugal, Italien, Belgienoch Tjeckien.De spelar en fri jazz med rötter i sextiotalet. Antunes sexkompositioner är ett slags stommar att bygga på. Detamerikanska smälter ihop med ett nutida Europa, särskilthos slagverken. Musiken resonerar som Archie Sheppkunde göra på den tiden med sin inblandning av nyakärvare insikter i det välkända. Blåsarna konverserar meddig som lyssnare och håller sig i normalregistret. Trummorna kompletterar varandra ochspelar luftigt och utan trängsel. Bandet kringlar sig framåt melodiskt, ett oslipat kollektivsom hellre vill kommunicera än fila på sin yta.

All About Jazz-New York review by Stuart Broomer

Matt Bauder – Day in Pictures (CF 210)
Tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Matt Bauder cuts a fairly broad swath through the more advanced improvisatory forms, from the orchestral free jazz of Exploding Star Orchestra to the meditative minimalism of the trio Memorize the Sky. His quintet Day in Pictures seems to circle some of the conventions of mid ‘60s postbop, his compositions suggesting such period explorers as Andrew Hill and Grachan Moncur III, with many touches that reach further afield, from Duke Ellington to Sun Ra to Pharoah Sanders and Klezmer. Those allegiances are immediately apparent in the makeup of the band, a quintet that matches Bauder’s reeds with trumpeter Nate Wooley (the two also the frontline of Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day), pianist Angelica Sanchez, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Bauder’s themes are both strongly melodic and (as the name would suggest) highly evocative, most notably the opening “Cleopatra’s Mood”, which moves to a middle-Eastern rhythm that’s both sinuous and forceful and which has its expressive edge consistently pressed by Bauder and Wooley’s multiphonics. That connection with tradition is at itsmost playful on “Reborn Not Gone” and “Two Lucks”, hard-swinging themes that suggest late bop and inspire Bauder to leap from register to register, from plosive to squeak. There’s a somber grace to “January Melody”, with Bauder’s woody clarinet in the foreground, while the extended “Bill and Maza” achieves an almost orchestral depth and density with contrasting thematic materials distributed among the group. There’s a sense here that every player in the quintet is knitting Bauder’s materials into a strong group identity, consistently enhancing his compositions as they achieve a genuinely collective language.

All About Jazz-New York review by John Sharpe

Tim Berne – Insomnia (CF 215)
Inexplicably this session is being released some 13 years after it was recorded. This music is more than worthwhile and features two long-form compositions by saxophonist Tim Berne performed by an allstar octet. While we might ponder the reasons for such delay, the listener should be grateful to Portugal’s prolific Clean Feed label that sense has finally prevailed. Berne assembled a cast of regular collaborators, including his Bloodcount band of reedman Chris Speed, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jim Black, augmented by three strings and the trumpet of Baikida Carroll. As an instrumentalist Berne generally adopts a low profile. In spite of the limited roll call this is orchestral music show casing the leader’s arrangements, which allow improvised passages to emerge naturally from the written, retaining that crucial element of unpredictability. At over 36 minutes, “The Proposal” is the longer track, cycling through multiple sections that veer from the austere 20th century classical of some of the string voicings to the jazzier settings for the undersung Carroll’s sprightly trumpet. In fact the brassman’s Spanish-tinged excursion working out of a riff early onis one the highlights, as is the later intense pas de deux for Dominique Pifarély’s violin and Erik Friedlander’s cello. Speed contributes fervid clarinet, sometimes sharing prominence with Berne’s reeds, but more often as part of the angular movement that characterizes the piece. “Open, Coma”, which clocks in just short of a half hour, prefigures a rendition on a 2002 disc of the same name. More open than the previous cut, utilizing subsets of the ensemble, Berne creates pockets for improvisation within the charts. Guitarist Marc Ducret shines on the chiming crystal line introduction while Carroll again comes up trumps in a mercurial duet with Friedlander’s cello. Berne himself gets into the act with a gruff baritone outing over a staggered pulse, then developing into a forceful anthemic undertow, culminating in a typically asymmetric clattering drum solo by Black for an unusual close.

All About Jazz-New York review by Kurt Gottschalk

Ken Filiano & Quantum Entanglements – Dreams from a Clown Car (CF 207)
A circus is one metaphor you could draw for the new  disc by bassist Ken Filiano’s quartet QuantumEntanglements, a point verified by the fact that they suggest as much in the album’s title. But there are many other illustrations that might be drawn in response to the album – a jet engine plume seen (and heard) unfurling from very close proximity, perhaps, or an oil fire in a harmonica factory – but the point is that this is music that calls out to be named something and Dreams from a Clown Car is as good as any other moniker depicting joyful mayhem (and lends itself to some nice cover art as well). Illustration aside, this music is a polyphony bordering on cacophony, a methodical madness, a bright burst where not everything can be discerned atonce in the tradition of the Coltrane Ascension or the Coleman Free Jazz. This is not a measure of greatness, it is merely a mapping and the distinction between those watershed moments of the ‘60s and the current audio document (besides the passage of time) is that in this case the music is made by just four men. What Quantum Entanglements has that those earlier boundary-breaking bands didn’t employ is the electronic effects applied to the upright bass. Filiano’s subtle use of filters creates a soundbed that, against the rumble of Michael TA Thompson’s drums, can beheart-stopping. At the finest moments, Michaël Attias is also heard on bari sax, leaving an open sky (there’s that jet engine plume) for Tony Malaby’s soprano. Such is not the whole of the disc. Unlike the Coleman and the Coltrane, Dreams from a Clown Car is not about epic pronouncements. It’s seven evenly placed tracks, mostly hovering around the 10-minute mark, including some ballads with a classic feel, here perhaps referencing Charles Mingus or Oliver Nelson, if with a more contemporary structure. Again, lofty points from which to swing (not unlike a trapeze act) and with the implication that if all here is not entirely new, it’s played with a strong dedication.

All About Jazz-NewYork review by Clifford Allen

Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra – Ashcan Rantings (CF 203)
Bassist Adam Lane began his Full Throttle Orchestra while still calling the West Coast home, as an environment that could bring together his interests in jazz and new music with a punkish energy. Though the term “orchestra” in a traditional sense might be a stretch for this outfit, orchestration – or sound organization based upon internal relationships – is not foreign to Lane’s concepts as a bandleader/composer. Ashcan Rantings is the third Full Throttle disc, and second for Clean Feed Records, and is organized around a decidedly East Coast nexus – trumpeters NateWooley and Taylor Ho Bynum, trombonists Reut Regev and Tim Vaughn, reedmen Avram Fefer, MattBauder and David Bindman and drummer Igal Foni on two discs’ worth of original material. While Lane’s work is certainly informed by tensions and differences, he also gives it a swinging shove, quickly evident following the lush, brass and reed opening to “Imaginary Portrait”. Supple bass and drum lines propel a decidedly buoyant series of loose knots, out of which Regev’s peppery brass sinews emerge. This contrast is further espoused by Wooley’s solo, which moves from crackly feeding-back to Lester Bowie-like bravura and back. “Marshall” deftly plots an Eastern European slink, broad ensemble strokes that remain both weighty and airy, in perfect counterpoint to the clambering openness of DavidBindman’s (Brooklyn Sax Quartet, et al.) tenor and the fluttering delicacy of a duet between Regev and Foni (underpinned by bass, but still a duo). The title track begins with a horsehair-grinding arco solo from the leader and moves into the sort of sludgy rock rhythms (cue distortion) that have occasionally popped up on some of Lane’s other compositions. It’s quite effective when the bassist couples electronic fuzz with Bauder’s splattering baritone work (Surman-like on the gorgeous “Bright Star Calypso”) and the noise buriesthe ensemble vocalizations in a curious textural stew, which is not without buoyancy. A group is only as compelling as its parts and Lane has both clear respect for and interest in the players, giving them space to do what they do.

Wall Street Journal review by Martin Johnson

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 74)
“Deluxe,” the superb new recording by bassist Chris Lightcap and his group Bigmouth, a quintet that has played together since 2005, is emblematic of a few trends on the local jazz scene.

The album features several first-tier New York musicians— saxophonists Tony Malaby, Chris Cheek and Andrew D’Angelo, drummer Gerald Cleaver and keyboardist Craig Taborn—and is the first recording by Mr. Lightcap’s group in nearly eight years. It was done for Portugal’s Clean Feed label, which has picked up the slack as many American labels reduce their output of new jazz.

“It’s hard to get us together in one place,” said Mr. Lightcap recently at a café near his Windsor Terrace home. “We’re all so busy that we don’t get to play as much as we’d like.”

As domestic jazz recording has declined, so have the opportunities for the next wave of greats to play on the best-known stages in jazz. To get exposure, they have turned to smaller places instead. On Thursday, Bigmouth will perform at the Stone, an artist-run space in the East Village.

Mr. Lightcap, who is 39, has played with avant-garde and mainstream groups since arriving in New York in the early 1990s. His primary sideman gigs now are with violinist Regina Carter and her Reverse Thread group, which blends jazz and African music; and with such leading musicians as pianist James Carney, guitarist Ben Monder, drummer Matt Wilson and Circle Down—a group led by drummer Chad Taylor.

Ms. Carter first heard Mr. Lightcap at a rehearsal with saxophonist Dave Rogers 11 years ago. “The charts were rhythmically challenging,” she said, “but Chris’s playing was assertive and motivating.” She added that she was impressed by the sound he achieved without amplification.

It is Mr. Lightcap’s sound—big and elastic—that makes “Deluxe” so appealing. Most bassists provide the musical ground for their bandmates from behind, but Mr. Lightcap’s combo features his sound out front with no loss of unity. Messrs. Malaby and Cheek’s two tenor saxophones are out front, too, creating soaring harmonies and incisive, contrasting solos.

Mr. Lightcap said the band’s structure grew out of his experiences here in the late ’90s. “I played in a lot of trios—usually bass, drums and sax—without a chordal instrument because a lot of rooms didn’t have a good piano,” he said. That led him to start thinking about a group with no piano and more saxophones on the front line; his first two recordings as a leader were in a two-sax, bass and drum quartet.

On “Deluxe,” Mr. Lightcap has added a third saxophonist, Mr. D’Angelo, on two tracks. It’s the first time they’ve recorded with Mr. Taborn, who joined the group in 2005 on Wurlitzer electric piano and acoustic piano. “I love the sound of the Wurlitzer,” the bassist said. “It takes me back to some of the music I loved growing up, like Ray Charles in the early ’70s, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Live at the Fillmore,’ Donny Hathaway’s ‘Live,’ and Yes.”

A native of Latrobe, Pa., Mr. Lightcap studied piano and violin as a child, but didn’t become passionate about playing until he took up the bass as a teenager. He attended the Governor’s School of the Arts, a Pennsylvania program for aspiring musicians. “I was the only bassist, so I got to play everything,” he said.

He wasn’t completely sold on becoming a professional musician, but after graduating from Williams College he attended a workshop with the great drummer Ed Blackwell that convinced him to come to New York and give it a shot. Here he distinguished himself by playing on both sides of a divided jazz scene. “There were a lot of cliques back then,” he said. “But now everybody plays everything.”

Mr. Lightcap met Mr. Cleaver (whose own band, Uncle June, will follow Bigmouth at the Stone on Thursday), at a session with pianist Ben Waltzer in 1998. Mr. Cleaver said in a recent email that “Chris has always had a very deep, spiritual quality in his playing; everything he plays swings hard and is funky.”

For the new project, Mr. Lightcap said that he wanted to avoid the rustic sound of most jazz recordings. “As real as that sounds, it’s artificial,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like that in the studio.” Instead, “Deluxe” has an opaque sheen that makes the sound fuller and more expansive. “I really wanted the sound to reflect that this band is so much more than the sum of its parts.”

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Ricardo Gallo’s Terra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Ricardo Gallo, pianista colombiano residente en Nueva York e integrante entre otros del Peter Evans Quartet, mantiene en activo desde 2007 su quinteto/sexteto neoyorkino Tierra de nadie. En él participan pesos pesados como el trombonista Ray Anderson, el contrabajista Mark Helias y el baterista Pheeroan Aklaff, además del saxofonista Dan Blake y el percusionista y baterista Satoshi Takeishi. El grupo toma su nombre de una cita de Un tal Lucas de Julio Cortázar en la que se definía a la música como una tierra de nadie. A partir de esa idea concibe este grupo como un lugar de encuentro en el que los músicos se puedan expresar con total libertad.

En su estreno, The Great Fine Line, el pianista no duda, como autor de las nueve composiciones, en introducir referencias folklóricas a lo largo de los temas del CD y que aportan un interesante toque de color. Sin embargo ni su papel como líder ni las referencias locales son los elementos más importantes presentes en su música.

El reparto democrático de los roles de los músicos en el grupo están presentes desde el inicio mismo del CD con “Intruders”, la pieza que lo abre. Allí cede el protagonismo a sus compañeros, y no es hasta bien entrado el tema cuando suenan las primeras notas de su piano. Una actitud que se va repitiendo a lo largo de toda la obra.

Tampoco es la inspiración folklórica el elemento prominente en la música del disco, sino sobre todo y fundamentalmente lo magníficamente engrasado que se muestra el grupo, en el que sobresalen especialmente un Ray Anderson muy inspirado y un Mark Helias que borda sus intervenciones. De esa manera todos ellos hacen suya la música -con algunos temas deliciosamente cantábiles-, llevándola a un interesante terreno de fusión multilingüe. Al contrario de lo que sucede en otros acercamientos de músicas locales a los terrenos del jazz, en esta ocasión el resultado de esta integración fluye con una magnífica naturalidad.

Como única pega a la grabación, que en realidad no es tal sino más bien una observación, aparece la cuestión de la disposición de los temas. Los seis primeros, los más extensos, son las piezas más logradas: “Three Versions Of A Lie” (con Ricardo Gallo especialmente inspirado y un magnífico intercambio entre este con sus compañeros), “Intruder’s”, “Stomp At No Man’s Land” y “Hermetismo”. Sin embargo los tres temas finales, especialmente “Improbability” y “La pina blanca”, dejan la impresión de haber sido añadidos para extender la duración hasta la hora de rigor en estos tiempos del CD. Quizás sin renunciar a ellos se les hubiera podido  haber encontrado una mejor acomodación entre el resto. A pesar de ello, son pocas las pegas que se pueden añadir al magnífico estreno discográfico de Tierra de nadie.

All About Jazz-Italy review by Maurizio Comandini

Various Artists – I Never Meta Guitar (CFG 005)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
L’etichetta portoghese Clean Feed ha chiesto al chitarrista newyorkese Elliott Sharp di curare una antologia di brani dedicati alla chitarra contemporanea e ha raccolto il risultato in questo ottimo album: sedici brani affidati a sedici diversi interpreti. Sedici storie che si compenetrano e che riescono a raccontare le mille sfaccettature legate alle illimitate possibilità dello strumento. Tutti gli interpreti hanno scelto di muoversi in solo ad eccezione di Michael Gregory che invece ha deciso di farsi affiancare da basso e batteria nel blues stralunato “Blue Blue”.
Viaggiare da soli non necessariamente significa viaggiare con un solo strumento: infatti in alcuni casi le chitarre si sono moltiplicate a sovrapposte, alla ricerca di un irrobustimento del suono, di un ispessimento della memoria. Le manipolazioni sono il segno più costante, la dimostrazione di una flessibilità che si fa benedetta se affidata alle mani giuste.

Si parte con la giustamente celebrata Mary Halvorson per giungere al curatore Elliott Sharp, dopo un lunghissimo viaggio che tocca lande pietrificate e assolate, per poi piombare in valli oscure che si specchiano nella luce della luna. Il testimone passa di mano fra chitarristi molto noti (Jeff Parker, Henry Kaiser, Raoul Bjorkenheim, Noel Akchotè, Nels Cline, Brandon Ross, Scott Fields) senza tralasciare quelli meno noti ma altrettanto bravi a dipingere bozzetti affascinanti e colmi di magia.

Chicago Reader review by Peter Margasak

Matt Bauder’s “Jazz” Record
Matt Bauder – Day in Pictures (CF 210)
Regular readers of the Reader probably know that I’ve been a huge fan of reedist and composer Matt Bauder since his Chicago days back at the turn of the century. He only lived here for two years—since then he’s gone to grad school at Wesleyan and spent a year at the prestigious ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, and he now lives in New York—but he made a big impact during that short time, and he’s been a regular visitor ever since.

Bauder is intensely curious, often to the detriment of his career momentum—it’s harder to get noticed if you’re always changing gears or hopping from scene to scene. But that diversity—from the revisionist doo-wop of White Blue Yellow and Clouds to the minimalist soundscapes of Memorize the Sky to the chamber music of Paper Gardens—is one of the most exciting things about his work. In an interview I did with Bauder last year for Down Beat he told me, “I want a balance, and I wouldn’t be doing all of these different things for this long if I wanted one of them to take over. I feel like I can’t take a narrow path like that.”

Bauder considers jazz his musical core, though, and relates everything else he does to it. Late last year he finally released his first indisputably “jazz” record, the self-titled debut of his quintet Day in Pictures (Clean Feed). On its seven great original tunes, his gorgeous tenor saxophone and his agile, full-bodied clarinet blossom in their full glory, swinging and stomping. This won’t be a surprise if you’re familiar with Bauder, because he plays knockout solos all the time—it’s just that he usually does it in someone else’s band, from Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra to Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day to Taylor Ho Bynum’s old sextet.

“I’m a product of what the jazz tradition has become,” Bauder said in our Down Beat interview. “I do see myself as a jazz musician because I’ve studied it a lot and I started out playing in jam sessions as a teenager. When I go to make a record I think openly because of how much is out there, but I think it’s all influenced by jazz.” There’s no audible connection between Day in Pictures and, say, Memorize the Sky, aside from a commitment to improvisation, but for Bauder they’re related at a foundational conceptual level.

Below you can listen to a track from the new album, “Reborn Not Gone,” and pick out the jazz-nerd references—its rhythms obviously rhyme with the Miles Davis/Gil Evans version of “Gone” from Porgy and Bess, and the tune’s melody nicks ideas from Charles Mingus’s “Reincarnation of a Lovebird.” The whole record is Bauder’s love letter to 50s and 60s jazz, but his band—trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Angelica Sanchez, bassist Jason Ajemian, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara—is so strong and idiosyncratic that the music never sounds like a throwback. Bauder also slyly acknowledges his Chicago ties in several song titles: “Parks After Darks” is a wink to guitarist Jeff Parker, “Bill and Maza” is a tribute to Bill Dixon, whom he met and worked with under the leadership of Rob Mazurek (the “Maza” of the title), and “Two Lucks” is a pun on the name of bassist Matt Lux.

Unfortunately, the record arrived in my mailbox in December, as I nailed down my year-end lists, and I didn’t have a chance to consider it. But Day in Pictures is certainly one 2010’s best jazz recordings. Here’s a recent interview and in-studio performance Bauder did for Soundcheck, a program on New York’s WNYC. He leads a trio with Fujiwara and bassist Eivind Opsvik. Below you can watch some great-sounding video footage of the session—as one astute observer has pointed out, Bauder is rocking a mid-70s Bill Evans look.