Daily Archives: June 14, 2011

Time Out Lisboa review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

Ralph Alessi – Wiry Strong (CF 220) ****
O trompetista Ralph Alessi tem tido, na qualidade de sideman, “patrões” tão diversos como Uri Caine, Steve Coleman, Fred Hersch ou Jason Moran, pelo que estes não permitem prever o que se pode esperar dele como líder. Wiry Strong, o terceiro disco do seu projecto This Against That revela-o num sábio equilíbrio entre tradição e modernidade – nem a componente “tradicional” se resume à salmodia do catecismo bop, nem a componente “moderna” se aventura por territórios inóspitos e escarpas inacessíveis.

Nos músicos convocados, todos repetentes de Look, o disco anterior dos This Against That, destacam-se nomes com quem Alessi trabalha há anos, como Ravi Coltrane (sax) e Drew Gress (contrabaixo). Os temas, todos de Alessi, primam pela concisão e diversidade: da balada levemente enviesada de “Mira” à parada desconjuntada com trompete cacarejante de “Celebrity Golf Classic” (que dura apenas um minuto), da ondulação sensual e preguiçosa de “Sock Pupeteer” ao groove intenso de “Bizarro-World Moment” (um eco distante do universo M-Base de Steve Coleman), do inquietante coxear de “Medieval Genius” à elegia crepuscular de “Wiry Strong”, do bop dançarino de “A Dollar in Your Shoe” à marcha a um tempo solene e ridícula de “Humdrum”. Alessi e Coltrane-Filho assinam solos inspirados e sempre bem integrados no contexto, o primeiro brilhando em “20% of the 80%” e “Cobbs Hill”, o segundo em “Bizarro-World Moment”. Gress, Andy Milne (piano) e James Ferber (bateria) fornecem todo o apoio que se pode desejar.

Más Jazz Magazine reviews by Pachi Tapiz


Daniel Levin – Inner Landscape (CF 224)

Tim Berne / Bruno Chevillon – Old and Unwise (CF 221)
BassDrumBone – The Other Parade (CF 223)
Ralph Alessi and This Against That – Wiry Strong (CF 220)
Tim Berne: Insommia (CF 215)
En 2011 el sello Clean Feed cumple su décimo aniversario. Con más de 200 referencias publicadas, un año sí yotro también aparece destacado en las votaciones anuales entre los mejores sellos del año correspondiente en revistas y medios especializados. En el año de su aniversario ha publicado ya una decena de referencias, entre las que hay unas cuantas grabaciones destacadas.

Inner Landscape es un disco en solitario de Daniel Levin. El chelista es uno de los músicos que se podría calificar como habitual del sello en los últimos meses congrabaciones publicadas del Daniel Levin Quartet o apareciendo como colaborador en otros grupos (Ivo Perelman Quartet). Inner Landscape recoge seis improvisaciones que más allá del fruto de la inspiración instantánea en el momento de la grabación suponen un proceso de reflexión y maduración. El disco está grabado en dos sesiones en Nueva York y Chicago, y proponen un pequeño viaje a partir de los breves motivos que inician cada uno de los paisajes sonoros. Levin hace uso de todo su arsenal de recursos empleando el pizzicato y el arco, y también percutiendo sobre el instrumento. Entre las referencias musicales hay pasajes que miran hacia la música clásica, e incluso de un cierto folclore no imaginado. En otros cambia hacia los terrenos de la vanguardia jazzística y la improvisación. Sin tener como objetivo mantener un ritmo marcado, pero sin rehuirde las melodías, es sumamente interesante el escucharle e nun diálogo continuado consigo mismo.

El saxofonista Tim Berne ya nos ha dado una gran alegría a los aficionados este año 2011 con la publicación de Insommia. Una grabación de 1997 inédita hasta el momento en la que a su formación Bloodcount (Chris Speed, Michael Formanek y Jim Black), se incorporaban el trompetista Baikida Carroll, el guitarrista Marc Ducret, el violinistaDominique Pifarelly y el chelista Erik Friedlander. La grabación incluía los largos “Open, Coma” y el inédito “The Proposal”. Representantes de las mejores grabaciones de TimBerne de la época, resulta un enigma el motivo por el que dicha grabación ha estado durmiendo el sueño de los justos durante más de una década. Especialmente, si se tiene encuenta que Tim Berne ha mantenido en activo su discográfica Screwgun Records con la que ha documentado magníficamente sus proyectos, y sobre todo porque se erige como una obra en absoluto menor entre las que dan cuenta de suforma de entender el jazz. El CD es imprescindible para los seguidores del saxofonista y compositor.

Old and Unwise es un dúo de Tim Berne con el contrabajista francés Bruno Chevillon. Once improvisaciones en las que los dos músicos establecen un diálogo de igual a igual y en el que tienen la sabiduría de modelar su discurso para pasar por diferentes estadios de ánimo. Para ello no hay más que escuchar la cierta delicadeza y parsimonia de “high/low”, y compararla con el ritmo marcado de la magnífica “l’état d’incertidumbre”, la fiereza de “Au centre du corps” o el carácter casi barroco de “back up the truck”. Berne, que aquí únicamente participa con el saxo alto, muestra que se encuentra en un magnífico estado de forma, lo mismo quele sucede al contrabajista francés.

BassDrumBone es una formación de contrabajo (Mark Helias), trombón (Ray Anderson) y batería (Gerry Hemingway) que “únicamente” lleva en activo más de treinta años. Los tres músicos son unas primeras figuras en el jazzy la improvisación, aunque su discografía como trío no es muy abundante. Por eso la publicación de The Other Parade debería ser más que bien recibidas por los seguidores del gupo. Recientemente Gerry Hemingway comentaba que las formaciones en las que se siente más a gusto son improvisando libremente en dúo (en los últimos meses ha publicado más de media docena de grabaciones en ese formato), yen solitario. Sin embargo este trío es una formación en la que se leve muy cómodo. En la que a los tres músicos se les vemuy cómodos. Alejados de los terrenos de la improvisación libre y la creación espontánea, algo que se podría calificar como vanguardia, cada uno de los músicos aporta tres composiciones. En ellas no tienen reparo alguno en mirar al pasa-do con cariño y con respeto evocando la música de Nueva Orleans o echando mano del blues. Los tres son unos maestros de sus respectivos instrumentos y demuestran ser unos buenos compositores, regalándonos con unas obras contagiosas que hacen que el pie no pare de marcar el ritmo.

Ralph Alessi es un trompetista que de algún modo hapadecido el estar a la sombra de otras figuras como Dave Douglas a pesar de ser un magnífico instrumentista. En Wiry Strong no sólo lo demuestra sino que además se erige encompositor y líder de un quinteto de campanillas en el que participan el saxofonista Ravi Coltrane, el imprescindible contrabajista Drew Gress, el baterista Mark Ferber y el pianista Andy Milne. Su obra es un disco de post-bop engañoso, o quizás incluso grabado con muy malas intenciones. Hay composiciones con unas estructuras muy definidas, pero que permiten un enorme grado de libertad a los músicos la hora de expresar sus ideas. Esto es algo que no es nuevo en absoluto, pero que a veces se olvida a la hora de afrontarla creación musical. Otro elemento que llama la atención es que en setenta minutos se desgranan quince temas muy variados y deslumbrantes analizados uno a uno y en conjunto que permiten sospechar que en directo este proyecto puede ser toda una sorpresa para los oyentes desprevenidos.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Harris Eisenstadt – Canada Day II ( Songlines)
Nate Wooley Quintet – (Put Your) Hands Together (CF218)
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a compromise is either “something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things,” or “a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial.” Inspired by their respective leader’s evolving familial identities, Canada Day II and (Put Your) Hands Together are two pertinent examples of the first definition. The former is the follow-up to the eponymous Clean Feed debut of Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day, the later is the premier of Nate Wooley’s new quintet, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Eisenstadt’s album in instrumentation, personnel and approach. The creation of both records is directly informed by family; Eisenstadt’s is influenced by the birth of his first child, Wooley’s is a love letter of sorts to his parents and relatives. Tempering avant-garde inclinations with accessible characteristics, they frame esoteric interests in subtly traditional settings, accentuating their singular talents in the process.

Canada Day has been Eisenstadt’s primary vehicle for integrating his divergent interests since 2007, often yielding a rich fusion of inside and outside concepts that remain palatable to mainstream sensibilities. A masterful tunesmith with a keen ear for intriguing compositional gambits, Eisenstadt infuses his writing for the group with a strong melodic undercurrent, relying on his bandmates to expand beyond notated material into vanguard territory, balancing conventional song-craft with unfettered abstraction.

The birth of Eisenstadt’s son, Owen, exerted considerable sway over the creative arc that informs Canada Day II, which offers an intriguing mix of emotionally direct tunes written after his son’s birth and more intricate fare that was composed beforehand. In Eisenstadt’s own words: “My wife had just given birth and I was kind of floating along in a tired and sentimental way. I found myself writing simple songs … in stark contrast to the way I’d formulated [pieces] which were written before Owen was born.”

The album’s easygoing demeanor is implicit from the start; Eisenstadt introduces the stirring opener, “Cobble Hook,” with a carefree unaccompanied drum solo that perfectly complements the tune’s sunny melody. Eivind Opsvik’s pulsating bass lines inspire vibraphonist Chris Dingman’s effervescent cascades, which in turn fuel Matt Bauder’s probing tenor saxophone musings – the net effect is infectiously uplifting. The nursery rhyme inspired melody of “Song For Owen” elicits subdued statements from Bauder, Wooley and Dingman, who ruminate on the nostalgic theme with sumptuous lyricism.

The second half of the set is dominated by the more complex “To” based pieces (“To Eh,” “To Be,” and “To See/Tootie”) which were composed before Owen’s birth, revealing Eisenstadt’s facility for writing complex, yet accessible suites. Each composition modulates through an episodic series of changes in color, dynamics and mood, such as “To See/Tootie,” which features one of Nate Wooley’s most ear-opening trumpet excursions, and “To Seventeen,” which ebbs with a laconic reggae beat, inspiring a bluesy lament from Wooley, whose bristling contributions are among the record’s high points.

“Judo with Tokyo Joe (for John Zorn)” ends the album on a moody, cinematic note, the title referring to an old Humphrey Bogart film Eisenstadt watched with Zorn, who encouraged the young drummer to get back into composing despite his exhaustion as a new parent. In spite of the rather unremarkable title, Canada Day II contains some rather remarkable music, making it a fine follow-up to the quintet’s debut, and proving that negotiating the balance between family and art can sometimes have its advantages.

Making a radical departure from the austere minimalism of the lowercase improv scene he has long been associated with, Wooley’s (Put Your) Hands Together is the most accessible and traditional release of his career to date. This new ensemble spins a subtle variation on Wooley’s former quartet with vibraphonist Matt Moran, bassist Reuben Radding and late drummer Take Toriyama, which was disbanded after Toriyama’s untimely passing. Mirroring Eisenstadt’s Canada Day in instrumentation and personnel, Wooley’s quintet features Moran as the only holdover from his old quartet, with Opsvik and Eisenstadt joined by bass clarinetist Josh Sinton.

A mostly spare and relaxed affair, (Put Your) Hands Together is inspired in part by Wooley’s formative experiences playing in big bands alongside his father, with each piece dedicated to one of the important women in his life. In a March 2011 interview with fellow trumpeter Douglas Detrick, published by FONT (Festival of New Trumpet Music), Wooley describes the album’s origin: “It’s mostly a thank you to the women that raised me, my mom, my wife, my grandmother and all of her sisters … It’s also a nod and a thank you to my dad who has always wanted me to just make a record where I am playing notes in time with a rhythm section … Those parts are for him and for my mom who also would like to hear a record that doesn’t sound like ‘breaking glass’ as she puts it.” Conceding to their wishes, Wooley integrates foundational jazz elements (standard chord changes, recognizable time signatures, etc.) into his oblique themes, yielding a beautiful neo-traditionalist hybrid subtly reminiscent of the adventurous 1960s Blue Note records of Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill and Bobby Hutcherson.

Adapting a traditional framework as the foundation for his wayfaring explorations, Wooley’s confident opening statement on the infectious title track is emblematic of his unorthodox technique, which incorporates everything from the under-pressured pedal tones of Bill Dixon to the coruscating dissonances and breathy microtonality popularized by European practitioners like Axel Dörner and Franz Hautzinger. Slowly building through a series of thematic variations, he gradually increases the velocity and frequency of his attack, amplifying the textural density of his lines without drifting into bombastic histrionics or overpowering the underlying structure of the tune. Possessing a soulful timbre far earthier than most of his peers, at his most extreme, as on “Cecilia,” he elicits coruscating flurries of breathy ululations and hoarse cries that exceed the limits of prescribed tonality. Yet his range is extremely broad; his sublime ruminations on “Hazel” and his heartfelt dialogue with Sinton on a folksy duo version of “Shanda Lea” – an Appalachian-tinged theme that appears in triplicate across the album – are heartbreaking in their intimate emotional candor.

Wooley’s bandmates bring a similar sensibility to the leader’s unassuming material, carefully extrapolating his catchy angular melodies with poetic restraint. Their congenial interplay on the contrapuntal “Elsa” (loosely based on “Lazy Bird”) and driving “Cecelia” (borrowing changes from “Confirmation”) boost the energy level of the session, with “Ethyl” employing a particularly imaginative use of contrary motion, as Sinton’s caterwauling bass clarinet is offset by the intermittent punctuations of a revolving minimalist motif.

Though (Put Your) Hands Together finds Wooley occasionally tempering his uncompromising technique to play actual changes in straight time, there is no sense of concession in this music; his efforts in this context are as sincere and compelling as his more abstract efforts. This compromise between extreme expressionism and a more conventional approach highlights his unique sensibility, presenting his singular talents in a new light, one which resounds with endless potential.
http://www.pointofdeparture.org/PoD35/PoD35MoreMoments3.html

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

RALPH ALESSI AND THIS AGAINST THAT – Wiry Strong (CF 220) 
The cover – picturing a lean and mean bare-knuckle fighter from an ancient era – is attractive in itself, however the tunes performed by this quintet are both refined and functional besides the “wiry strong” character they are indubitably gifted with. Leader Ralph Alessi is an archetypal specimen of egalitarian coordinator: scores that sound like reduced arrangements for a bigger orchestra, a sensation of bodily fulfilment elicited by the flawless distribution of acoustic weights and hues. He’s a trumpeter whose level of coolness equals that of rational lyricism; not a note out of place, a solid yet soft tone, a reassuring presence when necessary. Ravi Coltrane’s parallel contribution is unpretentious, totally distant from the noticeable tendencies to overblown soliloquy affecting 90% (and counting) of jazz saxophonists. We are not swearing to the gods when saying that a fraction of an illustrious DNA emerges quite clearly during his solos: check “Station Wagon Trip” or “A Dollar In Your Shoe” to get an idea. Pianist Andy Milne is a contrapuntal regenerator and a master painter of melancholy, calmly touching the listener’s inside strings while linking the horn/reed tandem in introspective sameness, “Halves And Wholes” a magnificent case in point. The rhythm section consists of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber: their importance in the group’s economy is clear, as they sustain several aspects of the interplay with a combination of crepuscular awareness (dig the arco drone in “Pudgy”) and resilient propulsion, thoroughly managing the music’s overall drive. It’s a lengthy album at over 71 minutes, but there’s no finding a weak moment throughout, including the short improvisational tracks interspersed with the longer ones.
http://touchingextremes.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/ralph-alessi-and-this-against-that-%e2%80%93-wiry-strong/