Monthly Archives: April 2011

JazzWrap review by Vern

Aram Shelton…Rising Above It All

Aram Shelton’s Arrive – There Was…(CF 217)
Aram Shelton has spent years moving and developing his musical language. From his home state of Florida to Washington D.C., Chicago and now currently residing in San Francisco, Shelton is becoming one of the most revered saxophonist’s in underground circles. All the while, he has maintained a creativity that is both skillfully harmonic and resolutely improvised. Aram Shelton encompasses both the free jazz aesthetics of Ornette Coleman and the tonal language of Jackie McLean. Shelton was an integral part of the Chicago scene with the groups Fast Citizens (w/Keefe Jackson), Dragon 1976, Cylinder and his most consistent and flourishing, Arrive.

Arrive is now on their third record, There Was… (Clean Feed Records) the quartet puts together some fantastic arrangements with dizzying improvised moments in between. There Was… could be considered the second official album. The previous album Live At Elastic includes all but the title track “There Was”. The Elastic album is a bit rawer and possibly more “works in progress” until fully realized for There Was.. On the opener and title track, Shelton and Daisy interchange some aggressive and fun-filled passages. This is met with the same energy when the trio of Daisy, Roebke and Adasiewicz gather and tear through chord changes. It’s a well structured melodic piece with improvised moments that settle nicely inside your ear.

“Lost” really experiments with time, rhythm and harmonics. The group gently improvises its way through the first half with a steady and balanced groove laid just underneath by Roebke and Shelton. Adasiewicz later takes the group into “third stream” territory. It’s a frenetic dreamlike moment between the trio again before Shelton completely lets loose. It’s the type of aggression that makes his collaborative efforts with Keefe Jackson shine.

“Golden” quickly becomes an expression of free acoustic magnification (I kinda made that one up. Needed something that sounded good.). But “Golden” does typify everything Aram Shelton is about–exploring new structures, deconstruction and re-framing/reshaping the sense of things. It’s has ballad-like quality that slowly builds into a triumphant exclamation of purpose.

With There Was… Aram Shelton again makes the case that Chicago artists (whether in Chicago or just leaving) are on the boundaries of jazz and testing it, to see what come next. Highly Recommended stuff.

Free Jazz review by Joe Higham

Tim Berne – Insomnia (CF 215)
Tim Berne’s international octet recorded INSOMNIA live in the studio, summer 1997, finally it gets to see the light of day now in 2011. If you know Tim Berne you’re probably already aware of his compositional style, playing etc and this doesn’t stray far from his normal territory. If however you’re not so familiar here’s your chance to enter into the world of Tim Berne in style.

In recent years Tim Berne has often been working with smaller groups with an almost ‘in your face’ style of playing and writing but this new (old) record places his work in a refreshingly new light. This octet plays two surprisingly soft yet intriguing compositions, a music which due in part to the extended line and use of stringed instruments, gives the music a quasi chamber ensemble feel. In more recent years we’ve heard the improvised ‘Buffalo Collision’ but also ‘Science Friction’ and ‘Big Satan’s’ hard hitting style, very rhythmical, almost post punk. But here, even with Jim Black on hand to play drums (often as percussion), the music still stays kind of ‘light’ with a feeling of space. In this case it’s a real eye opener (or is that ear) as you get a chance to really hear all the details of Berne’s often complex music, a style that somehow remind me of Steve Coleman meets the tintinnabulation of Arvo Part, yet is totally original.

To discuss these long compositions – ‘The Proposal’ (35mins) and ‘Open, Coma’ (29 mins) – in a short review as this is difficult. Both compositions work in a similar way with themes and improvised sections developing either from or into miniature musical tutti. Some sections feature a solo instrument, some duos or become trios, quartets etc. Jim Blacks playing really deserves a mention here as he keeps the music (and the beat) going more like a percussionist, and even though he does play straight sections of drums he often gives the music a sense of tempo without actually using the whole kit. All the players shine throughout the disc with the likes of Marc Ducret giving a few wonderful acoustic (12 string) guitar features such as the opening to ‘Open, Coma’. Chris Speed is his usual sublime self with a beautiful sound and soloing that is his trademark. Baikida Carroll (someone I know less) also stands out on several occasions with a fine sound and excellent improvisational ideas. Tim Berne is of course himself as always, searching and soulful.

Anyone who knows Berne’s music probably has a favourite record (*) and this is also a record with much to recommend it, good compositions, strong soloing and due to the dense music, but light instrumental sound, it’s quite easy to listen to. If you don’t know Tim Berne it could be a good place to start, and for others, it’s probably another disc to add to your Berne collection.

(*) = Mine’s probably ‘Feign’.

Time Out Lisboa review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

Arrive – There Was… (CF 217)
There Was… administra com justeza a liberdade que dá frescura e ímpeto ao jazz e a estrutura que permite que o edifício não pareça uma amálgama de caprichos momentâneos e mostra que há formas criativas de reciclar o jazz da Blue Note circa 1960.

O saxofonista alto Aram Shelton lidera este quarteto com base em Chicago e providencia seis peças free bop, que o vibrafonista Jason Adasiewicz (Lucky 7s), o contrabaixista Jason Roebke (Jorrit Dijkstra, Jason Stein) e o baterista Tim Daisy (Vandermark 5) moldam com apurado sentido de cumplicidade. Shelton, com as suas linhas sinuosas e assertivas e lirismo ácido, leva “Lost” a um final intenso, e “Frosted” voga como uma nuvem, tornado mais leve do que o ar pelo vibrafone encantatório de Adasiewicz.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Matt Bauder Quintet – Day in Pictures (CF 210)
Reed-tenor jazzologist Matt Bauder has integrity. He writes well. He plays with the assurance of someone who has internalized the music, grasped its essentials and communed with his instruments to emerge with a kind of brilliance and right-sounding quality. And as a bandleader he can pick the right people too.

A Day In Pictures (Clean Feed 210) gives you plenty of evidence to consider, and plenty of inspired moments to appreciate. He’s gathered together a quintet that gells nicely. Matt’s tenor sets the in-and-out clock to midnight, and the time flies by. He’s lucid, he’s given it all some thought and brims with good ideas, well executed. He does not ape somebody else. He apes himself. His clarinet playing goes someplace too.

Nate Wooley brings the seasoned polish and flexibly masterful playing style that gets him more and more attention on the scene in recent years. He forms a perfect foil in the front line. Bauder and Wooley meld as one in their approach, but remain themselves in the process.

The new voice of Angelica Sanchez on piano gets good exposure on Pictures. She, the complete pianist: beautifully concise in her phrasing on the inside moments; logically lucid in the free-er spots. She has real talent and does much to make this session hum.

The rhythm team of Jason Ajemian on bass and Tomas Fujiwara at the drums brings the ideal balance of swinging drive and daring looseness that beautifully suits them for Bauder’s in-and-out.

Finally, the pieces. They are brilliant as well. There’s a nod to the history of the music, some classic Blue-Note-like referencing that shimmers when placed in a more modern context. And there’s much else about these pieces. They show the hand of a talented jazz composer.

So there you have it. Five excellent players playing first-rate modern jazz. One excellent jazz scrivener showing seven of his best numbers. The combination has real heft, power, excitement.

Very much recommended.

CKCU FM review by Bernard Stepien

Ivo Perelman / Torbjörn Zetterberg / Daniel Levin – Soulstorm (CF 184)
Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Boston in 1981 to study at the Berkley School of Music. Since then, he has been performing and recording both in the US and Europe, namely with pianist Paul Bley and Matthew Shipp. He is known for extreme projects such as his Blue Monk Variations, 1996 where he made a CD exclusively playing Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk in a solo format. Tonight, we will play his Clean Feed double CD, Soulstorm, that has yet another peculiarity, the band. Pedro Costa, producer of Clean Feed offered Perelman to be recorded, but Perelman after accepting the offer told Pedro Costa to find the sidemen. On top of the fact that this project has been achieved with a band that never played together before, the choice of instruments is also out of the ordinary and did not deter Perelman from further engaging. Bass, Torbjörn Zetterberg and Cello, Daniel Levin perfectly blends in with the low register by definition of the tenor. The result is stunning. The conclusion: who needs drums in Jazz? Also, that story is in sharp contrast with the traditional picture of too marketing oriented producers of major labels that are notorious for steering musicians off their holy missions.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra de Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Some free improv dates are neither here nor there. Ricardo Gallo’s The Great Fine Line (Clean Feed 209) manages to avoid that. It’s here. By that I mean it has an immediacy. The composed sections structure the freedom in ways that bop heads frame the improvisations. Only this is not bop derived in any palpable way.

But like for example one of those Sonny Simmons ESP dates from the ’60s, there is the framework of the melodic head routines and there are rhythmic-harmonic and melodic turning-pivoting points that the soloists work within. Those structural elements provide a scaffolding to the proceedings. And they do so in varying ways.

On the level of the players themselves there is good musical event making. Gallo is a pianist who works out of structures himself, regardless of whether they are those set up for the band’s improvisations or just self-imposed. So in that way his playing is a microcosm of the larger group context.

Trombonist Ray Anderson plays himself, which makes him a good addition to just about any date I can think of that he has been on. He can get flat-out boisterous but there is a more introspective side to his playing as well.

And he makes a good contrast with fellow front-liner Dan Blake, who is mostly on soprano but straps on his tenor for two numbers. Blake is a little chameleon-like, tailoring his improvisations to the moment. His soprano work comes off more convincingly than his tenor on this date, but of course that may just be the luck of the draw and what take ends up being used? That’s only speculation. At any rate the two engage in effective and consistently interesting two-part improvised counterpoint at times, and that gives you some of the high points of the set.

Mark Helias is his dependable inspired self here, whether arco or pizz. Satoshi Takeishi and/or he and Pheeroan Aklaff provide a dynamically loose and entirely appropriate percussive foundation for what is going on.

Gallo the bandleader is quite present here in the choices made on who does what and when; Gallo the pianist I would like to hear more of in a smaller context to get a better handle on where he would go, but what he is doing on this one shows that he is a player of promise–like Andrew Hill in his prime, Gallo is dedicated to doing what fits his compositional stance. And finally Gallo the composer of heads, tails and centers certainly comes through here in good ways. He DOES do a short duet with Aklaff on “Improbability,” and it comes off as slightly tentative but not uninteresting.

Those who don’t have the money for everything may find this one less indispensable than some other new releases. But protracted listens may well make you a believer. It is a fine band and Gallo puts a singular stamp onto the proceedings in ways that make me want to hear more of him. I am glad I have heard this one and will most definitely be listening more. So there you are.

NPR Music review by Kevin Whitehead

Tim Berne: Slow-Cooked Jazz
Tim Berne – Insomnia (CF 215)
Saxophonist Tim Berne came up on New York’s so-called “downtown scene” 30 years ago. That scene is known for postmodern jump-cutters like John Zorn, who’d leap from one style to another in the space of a beat. But Berne went another way — he’s fascinated by gradual transitions. In his music, improvisers take their time, wending their way from theme to theme over a long, continuous set.

Insomnia is a lost-and-found live recording from 1997, now out on the Clean Feed label. The music sounds so fresh that the 14-year wait is barely worth mentioning; it’s pre-stood the test of time. Berne plays in all sorts of combos, but the sound here is more sumptuous than usual, owing to expanded resources. Eight pieces include a string trio of violin, cello and bass, augmented by a rhythm instrument rare in improvised music; Marc Ducret plays acoustic 12-string guitar with a woody, steely, ringing sound.

Berne likes long pieces where players drop in and out; the shorter of two suites on the new Insomnia runs half an hour. But he brings a keen sense of proportion to the music, even when the players spend far more time inching between melodies than playing those lovely themes themselves. The tunes are sturdy bridge piers, supporting the improvisations that span them. Early on, Berne learned from his mentor Julius Hemphill the power of majestic long tones, and of taking your time in a style of music where players often hurry.

Berne’s written lines are dissonant but orderly; their strong shapes are ready-made for improvised paraphrasing. Sometimes, a renegade soloist will spin variations right over the melody, so you get the tune and the improvisation at the same time.

I love the undulating texture of Berne’s octet sound, as Chris Speed’s clarinet melds with violin, and violin with cello, and cello with Berne’s alto sax, and his baritone sax with bass. That blurring of timbres adds an air of mystery, like ghostly figures passing through long-exposure photographs. But the progress of Berne’s long suites unfolds like a road novel, full of picaresque or elliptical episodes, with heroes who end up far from where they started. Or, put yet another way, Tim Berne is a master of slow cooking. He keeps you waiting, but it’s worth it.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Mostly Other People Do the Killing – The Coimbra Concert (CF 214)
Live jazz has traditionally gained a certain cache among the cognoscenti. In the age of the 78, artists were limited to the three or four minute cut; live playing allowed them the stretch out. With the advent of the LP, artists could go on for quite a bit longer, which they started to do on Prestige albums in the early ’50s and everywhere else after that. The CD enabled even longer stretches, as we all know. Nonetheless the live situation puts improvisers in less clinical environments, ideally in front of an appreciative audience. So there has still been something to be said about the live appearance and the live recording for capturing jazz at its uninhibited best.

The appearance of a live 2-CD set of Mostly Other People Do the Killing [The Coimbra Concert (Clean Feed 214)] naturally brought out a set of heightened expectations when I took it out of its mailer several weeks ago. MOPDTK in the studio can be boisterous and wild. What will the band live sound like? More so? To jump ahead, I was not disappointed.

This is a fine band. Peter Evans (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (tenor and sopranino), Moppa Elliot (double bass) and Kevin Shea (drums) are some very impressive new players on the scene individually, and together they rise to some high places indeed.

So we have the band in a live concert. As is often the case with this band, the cover is a send-off–this time of a Keith Jarrett album. It has a shot of an intensely introspective pianist going to it on the cover. Between the gatefold and outside covers, all four band members are shown being expressive and intense at the piano, only, of course, the joke is that there is no piano on this record or as a part of the group!

The music? Like the ICP Orchestra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, MOPDTK can indulge in outrageously exuberent semi-parodies and pastiches of past jazz styles. The approach shows a profound respect for the forms, but also a kind of over-the-top playfulness that is not unlike a kid getting out of hand with the fingerpaint. There is no adult present (so far as I can determine) to stop the “nonsense” and so it beautifully and delightfully continues through the course of two long CDs worth of music. And they do some “serious” playing here throughout as well.

It’s another fine outing from a band that has become an essential part of what’s going on that’s good in today’s jazz. They combine the “in” of tradition with the “out” of near-perdition in their own very considerably musical and very considerably hysterical way. I mean that in a good way.

MOPDTK has become a group one should not miss. This set shows them growing as a band, glowing as individual players, and having a hell of a lot of fun in the process. Yeah!

Le Son du Grisli review by Luc Bouquet

Daniel Levin Quartet – Organic Modernism (CF 212)
Ce qui pouvait irriter sur le dernier CD (Bacalhau / Clean Feed)  du Daniel Levin Quartet, à savoir le rôle systématiquement rythmique octroyé à la contrebasse de Peter Bitenc, s’en trouve sensiblement modifié ici ; l’improvisation collective gagnant du terrain.

Sans toutefois déloger les compositions aux lignes (trop ?) claires du violoncelliste, les improvisations – souvent en duo – et déjà abordées auparavant (Live at Roulette / Clean Feed), apostrophent le crépuscule engourdi du précédent album. Ainsi, tel duel de cordes (Daniel Levin et Peter Bitenc in Lattice), tel reflet scintillant de vibraphone (Matt Moran in Kaleidoscope), telle transperçante trompette (Nate Wooley in Furniture As Sculpture), telle nervosité rebelle (le magnifique duo Levin-Wooley in Expert Set), embellissent et enrichissent une musique qui ne demandait, peut-être, que cela.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Nate Wooley Quintet – (Put Your) Hands Together (CF 118) 
Paso adelante en la carrera de Nate Wooley. En (Put Your) Hands Together el trompetista no trabaja como viene siendo habitual en su carrera en los terrenos de la improvisación libre, integrado en proyectos de otros músicos como Daniel Levin, Harris Enisestadt, Reuben Radding o Matt Bauder, o en proyectos colectivos. En esta ocasión lidera un quinteto a su nombre y se encarga de todas las composiciones salvo una.

Tres de sus compañeros son Matt Moran, Harris Eisenstadt o Eivind Opsvik, músicos con los que ya ha trabajado a fondo y con quienes ha aparecido en distintas grabaciones. El último integrante del quinteto es el clarinetista bajo Josh Sinton.

(Put Your) Hands Together se articula en torno a la composición “Shanda Lea”, de la que realiza tres lecturas. Con ella comienza el CD a trompeta sola, demostrando su gran técnica. A trompeta sola también finaliza la grabación, pero en este caso en su lectura se toma unas licencias mayores a la hora de improvisar con lo que logra un enfoque distinto. La tercera lectura es en dúo con Josh Sinton y con ella el tema finaliza con una gran solemnidad.

El resto de los temas pivota entre las opciones que posibilitan las composiciones de Wooley, los arreglos que explotan la sonoridad de un quinteto con una formación no muy habitual de trompeta, contrabajo y batería más clarinete bajo y vibráfono, y un buen puñado de solos magníficos por parte de los cinco músicos. El resultado de todo ello son piezas como las tres lecturas de “Shanda Lea”, “Ethyl”, “Hazel”, “Cecelia”, “Hands Together”, aunque por abreviar y por no aburrir, se pueden resaltar todos los temas en general.