Daily Archives: June 1, 2011

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

Ralph Alessi and This Against That – Wiry Strong (CF 220)
Born out of the jazz laboratory of Brooklyn’s M-Base experiments of the 1990s, trumpeter Ralph Alessi has always seemed to be a farouche player. Never hankering for the spotlight, he always seems satisfied to turn in solid deliberate efforts that don’t court flattery. Maybe it is his subtle nature, but what some might have missed has always been picked up by his fellow musicians. He has been called upon by the likes of Fred Hersch, Uri Caine, Jason Moran, Don Byron, and Sam Rivers to complement some significant musical statements the last few years.

One of his ongoing projects, This Against That, is a like-minded affair with fellow M- Base graduates Ravi Coltrane and Andy Milne. These birds of a feather have collaborated on each others’ projects for the last decade and share a self- effacing approach to music making.

Like Cognitive Dissonance (Cam Jazz, 2010) Alessi employs Milne and bassist Drew Gress, but adds Coltrane and drummer Mark Ferber. Wiry Strong is composed of 15 tracks, four of which are short group improvisations built to complement the remaining Alessi-penned works. Like the improvisational sketches, the music is quite attentive to atmosphere. Alessi paints modest scenes in which the players interact, usually in pairs. The trumpet and bass first trade lines on “A Dollar In Your Shoe,” then saxophone and piano, while Ferber energizes the mood. On “20% of the 80%” the piano and bass are in lockstep, while the title track has a bit of trumpet and drum gymnastics. Alessi eschews the theme-solo-theme mode for this varied palate of tones and attitudes. Coltrane is a perfect collaborator for this presentation, tailoring his sound to the mood at hand. Each piece is quite inconspicuous, revealing itself not as blatant theater, but as fine-drawn and discerning storytelling.

Time Out Lisboa review by José Carlos Fernandes

Nate Wooley – (Put Your) Hands Together (CF 218 )
Custa a crer que alguém com um currículo tão rico como o do trompetista Nate Wooley – já aqui foi mencionado a propósito de discos de Stephen Gauci, Daniel Levin, Adam Lane, Matt Bauder e Harris Eisenstadt – só agora se estreie como líder. Os parceiros que escolheu para o seu quinteto são velhos conhecidos dos grupos atrás mencionados: Josh Sinton (clarinete baixo), Matt Moran (vibrafone), Eivind Opsvik (contrabaixo) e Harris Eisenstadt (bateria).

O resultado fica um pouco aquém do que seria de esperar desta conjugação de jovens talentos: free bop desenvolto e exemplarmente tocado mas sem muito que o diferencie de outros discos nesta corrente, excepção feita a “Ethyl”, que alterna, ciclotimicamente, bizarra pulsação minimal e swing elástico.


Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

WEIGHTLESS – A Brush With Dignity (CF 154)
Weightless is a quartet shaped by pianist Alberto Braida, bassist John Edwards, saxophonist John Butcher and drummer Fabrizio Spera. These tracks were recorded during a German tour in 2008; they show the host of dynamics and the plausibility of the chromatic choices that should ideally constitute the starting point of nowadays’ jazz, but that unfortunately have become a rare commodity instead. The initial “Apre” is characterized by restrained vitality permeated by a sincere love for dissonance, the artists’ combined sensibilities cementing the grounds of a sagacious interplay. A welcome scent of purified air and the sharp management of a concentrated palette are brought forth by the foursome in the longest and finest improvisation “Centri”, a piece that illustrates the terms “balance” and “composure” much better than a mere description. Braida’s tasteful rarefactions and Spera’s chirurgical picking of spots to drive an irregular pulse get counterbalanced by milieus defined by Butcher’s isolated phrases – the man is able to find poetry even in the harshness of splintered harmonics – and the constant, if unobtrusive support to the whole apparatus given by Edwards’ compliant propulsion, a sign of intelligence stamped in the place where average bassists would probably insert bop-ish zigzags accompanied by the grunt of their own voice pretending to repeat the lines they’re playing, which is a horrible commonplace – one of the many that this group avoids like plague. In “Vista”, the minuteness of the instrumental gesture is fundamental for the development of an all-embracing concoction of sketched circuits and barely discernible signs. The conclusive “Termo” recovers some of the no-nonsense harmonic conflicts that had been discarded in the central sections, possibly closing a circle. Again, it’s difficult to pin the details down barring pathetic frame-by-frame depictions. Let’s just say that the connection between an attentive audience and four musicians whose aerials are among the most receptive around is easily established, and that the group’s name is exactly the reverse of how this terrific album sounds.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Tim Berne –  Insomnia (CF 215)
Anybody who follows the avant jazz scene knows that Tim Berne was a major force in the music a while ago. I guess the ’90s were the most visible years for him. I don’t know that he’s been anywhere other than around after that, but it seems that his presence has been somewhat less. It could be that I’ve simply missed some of the releases and I don’t get out clubbing much these days due to a poverty element in my life.

Be that as it may his recent release inSOMNIA (Clean Feed 215) finds him in excellent company with plenty of conceptual thrust. It is a rather large band by today’s standards, an octet, and the lineup is filled with some heavy hitters–namely Baikida Carroll, Michael Formanek, Marc Ducret, Dominique Pifarely (violin), Erik Friedlander, Chris Speed, Jim Black, and of course Tim Berne himself.

It’s a session that consists of two long pieces with much in the way of free (and often collective) improvisation, pre-arranged ostinato motifs, ensemble parts and a lot of atmosphere. In many ways it’s a continuation of the larger group excursions Tim Berne has done. There’s a kind of stylistic unity to what he’s about. One thing follows out of another with a logic and the Bernian identity stamp, so to speak.

In the end the music satisfies and sounds contemporary without pandering to the peanut gallery. Tim Berne has that serious streak in him that comes with a dedication to doing something modern and substantial, something that has a particular sound yet allows the soloists plenty of free play within the context of the music.

Well worth checking out!

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Canini

Mostly Other People Do the Killing – The Coimbra Concert (CF 213)
Valutazione: 4.5 stelle
I lettori più affezionati dovrebbero sapere di quale smodata considerazione godano i Mostly Other People Do the Killing su queste pagine virtuali. Tre lunghi anni sono passati da quando l’epifanico Shamokin!!! ne segnalò la rumorosa presenza sul pianeta-jazz; due dall’altrettanto entusiasmante This Is Our Moosic. Da allora la fama del quartetto è doverosamente cresciuta. Moppa Elliott e soci si sono fatti un nome e una reputazione, hanno varcato l’Atlantico e si sono esibiti in mezza Europa. L’Italia, ovviamente, sta nell’altra mezza. E allora, aspettando che qualche direttore artistico si prenda il merito di essere stato il primo a farli suonare nel Bel Paese, il doppio The Coimbra Concert è perfetto per ingannare l’attesa e farsi un’idea di quel che i quattro possono combinare dal vivo.
Perfetto perché in cento e passa minuti, i due CD (editi, manco a dirlo, da una Clean Feed ormai in odore di santità) riescono a raccontare come meglio non si potrebbe quanto accaduto a Coimbra nelle serate del 28 e 29 maggio 2010. In quei giorni un sisma jazzistico di magnitudo dieci della scala Charlie Parker ha colpito la città portoghese. Dal vivo i Mostly sono una forza della natura, una serie di catastrofi una appresso all’altra. L’indole terroristica del quartetto trova linfa vitale nella possibilità di dilatare a dismisura i brani, intrecciare le composizioni, dare libero sfogo agli istinti dissacratori più turpi e inconfessabili, infarcire gli assoli di citazioni imprevedibili. Come quando in “Round Bottom Square Top,” così, a gratis, fanno capolino i Pink Floyd di “The Wall”; oppure il John Coltrane di A Love Supreme che spunta in “Pen Arguyl”. Buffoni esibizionisti? Amoralismo jazzistico? Certo. Ma condotto con spirito lucidamente irriguardoso e con un perverso godimento al quale è impossibile resistere.

Ben venga la soda caustica. Ben venga il bagno di sangue di ritmi e strutture. Il modo migliore per rapportarsi con le consuetudini non è ignorarle, ma farle a pezzi. In pochi riescono a prendere così sul serio l’arte di non prendersi sul serio. Vivaddio c’è ancora chi non ha remore e nemmeno santi in paradiso. Loro si definiscono Terrorist Be-Bop Uber-Jass Ensemble. Definizione linguisticamente discutibile, ma perfettamente calzante. L’ironia è un’arma formidabile per chi la sa brandire. E nel caso dei Mostly abbiamo a che fare con quattro splendidi improvvisatori, menti lucide in ebollizione. Peter Evans è trombettista dalle doti mirabolanti, dal fraseggio impeccabile e cristallino; Jon Irabagon è quanto di meglio sia capitato al sassofono in tempi recenti; Moppa Elliott è uno dei bassisti più solidi in circolazione; Kevin Shea e il suo drumming anarcoide sono un piccolo-grande miracolo di caos sistematico.

Mettete i bambini a nanna e sbarrate le finestre: i Mostly Other People Do the Killing sono tornati!