Daily Archives: October 18, 2011

All About Jazz review by Jack Huntley

Billy Fox’s Backbirds & Bullets: Dulces (CF 204) 
In the liner notes for Dulces, Billy Fox outlines the influence that Bengali writer, artist and composer Rabindranath Tagore had on his own compositional insights, writing “Tagore boldly defied the expectations of each idiom.” And after listening to Dulces, it is apparent that Fox learned well. Like his mentor, Fox is able to use various musical idioms as powerful touchstones without lapsing into empty compositional rhetoric. Instead, Fox harnesses the energy and beauty of multiple dialects that culminates in an album of great depth as well as breadth.

Fox, it seems, also has an excellent ear for talent, as he has surrounded himself with a group of highly proficient musicians, Blackbirds & Bullets, capable of giving voice to his nuanced compositions. The band is tight, energetic and fluid throughout. The three horns, especially, are vigorously presented and dynamically move the music through its crests and ebbs. The upbeat Afro-Cuban opener, “Girl Cheese Sandwich,” starts with Fox’s maracas, James Ilgenfritz’s bass and Miki Hirose’s brooding trumpet, but then the horns unleash a wave of infectious melody that sways the song into a full-tilt ensemble piece reminiscent of Mongo Santamaria’s big band.

“Deva Dasi”” takes the band in a more rhapsodic realm, back again with a Middle Eastern vibe. Again, Fox’s band never settles for apathetic imitation, as the music is not defined by a single stylistic element, but gains its energy from weaving in and out of inflective phrases, and by counter-balancing solo or duet instrumentation with the force of the entire ensemble. Notably here, Julianne Carney’s biting violin and Matt Parker’s tenor sax couple perfectly with Evan Mazunik’s dreamy Fender Rhodes piano. Throughout the album, Fox has an ear for layering the instrumentation in unique ways, pairing instruments to gain the most effect. The slightly jarring yet intriguing movement from horns to organ/keys in the opening of “Tatsin” is another example of Fox’s talent for building his tunes through unique turns of instrumentation.

Dulces is astonishing in its compositional breadth and dazzling musicality. Fox’s music reflects the great jazz tradition of compositional aggregation, and Blackbirds & Bullets perfectly juggles the complex musical inflections while never dropping its crisp rhythmic vibe. As the great aggregator Charles Mingus once said: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple…that’s creativity.”

All About Jazz Italy review by Gigi Sabelli

Arrive – There Was…  (CF 217)
Valutazione: 4.5 stelle
Che la separazione tra nuovo e vecchio nel jazz rischi di far prendere abbagli ce lo insegna a suo modo anche questo bel disco, registrato da un quartetto i cui componenti dovrebbero fornire di per sé sufficienti garanzie all’ascoltatore più accorto e aggiornato.

Shelton è uno dei protagonisti assoluti del jazz chicagoano degli ultimi tempi, Adasiewicz è tra i musicisti più intelligenti dell’ultima generazione, come si capisce dalle sue collaborazioni con Mazurek o dall’accurata intervista che gli ha fatto recentemente Luca Canini per AllAboutJazz; Roebke lo abbiamo ascoltato in Italia con il gruppo di Mike Reed e Daisy suona regolarmente con Ken Vandermark.

There Was…, registrato nell’agosto del 2008 a Chicago (in uno studio in cui si era drammaticamente rotta l’aria condizionata), al termine di un tour statunitense, immortala un gruppo in cui l’attenzione per la forma e la struttura è associata ad un altrettanto valida considerazione per il suono.
In tutto questo si alternano momenti rigorosi e obbligati, swing poderosi in cui la batteria memore del Max Roach anni Sessanta e di Roy Haynes fa da contraltare al vibrafono rilucente e originale, capace di far riverberare lo spazio sonoro o al sassofono colemaniano di Shelton che in ogni assolo dimostra uno spiccato senso della frase.

Le parti scritte e gli sviluppi improvvisativi si muovo tra geometrie ad assetto variabile lungo strade in cui a far da apripista c’è sempre il poderoso contrabbasso di Roebke.

Harris Eisenstadt interview by Douglas Detrick at Jazz About


Jazz About review by Douglas Detrick

Harris Eisenstadt – September Trio’ (CF 229)
Harris Eisenstadt’s September Trio, with pianist Angelica Sanchez and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, play an improbably free-floating and poignant music on their first Clean Feed release as a trio (September Trio). The album’s texture is more sparse than even the unorthodox instrumentation would suggest. For a start, the word “fragile” comes to mind. It’s an album played almost entirely out of metered time with long and uncharted collective improvisations that seem like they could fall apart at any time. But the confidence with which these musicians spin their webs of intertwining melodies projects not fragility but poise. The music is delicate, but it is also robust, finding a firm foundation in the over-flowing lyricism that is weaved into the fabric of the music.

Drummer and composer Eisenstadt’s music sets up skeletal phrases that are then given life through out-of-time, free improvisations. Each piece sets up a framework that serves as a point of departure. “September 1”, the first of seven compositions on the album, features Eskelin playing a simple melody, but with an expansive and emotive sensibility, stretching just a few notes into a more detailed portrait than the source material would suggest.

Eisenstadt, who is one of the most timbrally sensitive drummers around, provides an open-ended accompaniment that leaves plenty of space, with deftly placed drum textures coming in and out of silence. Sanchez’s opening arpeggios seem like they might provide a constant, rhythmic presence, but she lets them spin away into a new idea by the end of the first phrase of the melody. It is the kind of playing that might seem flighty in a different setting, but here it is a fitting compliment to Eskelin’s long lines, as if the constant movement of ideas actually grounds the music, rather than unsettling it.
September Trio achieves a rare and special balance. For music that is so gentle and unstructured, it still maintains a vital energy through every twist and turn. The secret is in the layered, complex sentiment at work. The beautiful timbres created by all three players, lush as they are generally, are here and there interrupted by sounds that are harder to categorize, but the music keeps on turning, like a mobile set gently in motion. The pieces could easily be given romantic names, but instead are titled “September 1,” “September 2,” and so on, through “September 7.”

Like the titles of these pieces, the music has no predetermined meaning. Instead, the trio is free to abstract from the ballad-like melodies, letting their own inventions work in complement, and sometimes in conflict with each other. The September Trio makes its impact through the subtlety and richness of expression within the framework of this somber collection of pieces, and September Trio will surely be among 2011’s best.

Un dia más un disco más review by Yahvé M. de la Cavada

Bruno Chevillon / Tim Berne – Old And Unwise (CF 221)
Mira que me harto a decir que Tim Berne no tiene un disco malo. Garantizado, amigos.

Si existe un jazz contemporáneo, en el sentido más radical de la palabra, Berne es uno de sus abanderados. De hecho, lleva siéndolo casi tres décadas y, si hay algo que ha estado presente a lo largo de toda su carrera, es un compromiso con la libertad inédito para muchos otros.

Su dúo con el fabuloso contrabajista Bruno Chevillon trae a la mente discos tan destacables como este: Ornery People (a dúo con Michael Formanek) y el asombroso Cause & Reflect (a dúo con Hank Roberts). No hay mayor coincidencia aparte de la unión del saxo de Berne con las cuatro cuerdas del contrabajo (del chelo en el caso de Roberts) y que tanto el saxofonista como sus partenaires, prometen y entregan un repertorio impecable.

Suena tan crudo, dinámico y real como siempre, o sea, mucho. A no perdérselo.

Music and More review by Tim Niland

Side A – A New Margin (CF 235)
One needs a continuous RSS feel all its own to keep up with the number of projects saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Ken Vandermark is involved in these days. This is a comparatively new project, a collaborative one featuring Vandermark with Havard Wiik on piano and Chad Taylor on drums. It is interesting to hear Vandermark playing in a group with a pianist, and a bassless one no less. But it works really well, and the music is consistently fresh and interesting, drawing its inspiration from the “free-bop” of the late 1960’s and adding thoroughly modern touches and flourishes. They come out of the gate hard with the pugilistic “Boxer” and “What Is Is.” Vandermark cycles through a variety of horns throughout the album, creating a variety which is attuned to the nature of the music whether the uptempo tunes mentioned above or the slower and more abstract “Arborization” or “Permanent Sleeve (Walking Hand).” On these performances, the trio slows the pace, and allows the music to develop in an abstract, organic manner. The finish strong with the pulsing “Giacometti” bringing them full circle to the hot blooded fast and nimble jazz they began with. Vandermark is his usual excellent self through the album, giving his all whatever the instrument or the setting. Wiik, a member of the excellent Scandinavian jazz band Atomic, and Chad Taylor who is ubiquitous on the Chicago jazz scene are with him step for step, turning what could have been a soloist with accompaniment record into a true trio conversation. This was a consistently enjoyable and interesting album. The group plays with considerable passion and brings an air of freshness and joy to the proceedings.

JazzWrap review by Vern

Thomas Heberer – Klippe (CF 226)
Stunning. Simply stunning. I really stumbled into this record. It came about as a result of listening to the recent Equilibrium album, Walking Voices. I wanted to investigate some more material that Joachim Badenhorst had worked on and the new album from German born now New York resident, Thomas Heberer kept coming into view. Mainly from friends constantly telling me I need to check this guy out. And I finally decided I’d better take a listen. And what a surprise…

He studied under the great Manfred Schoof as well as plays in the collective Instant Composers Pool, led by Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. But aside from those illustrious backgrounds, he has a loaded catalogue of music that varies in themes (somber to cinematic to Moleaver-esque electronics) but is played with the highest of quality.

On his latest album, Klippe, Heberer delivers a chamber session that is moving as well as experimental in texture. The title refers to Heberer’s childhood growing up near the Baltic Sea. The music strongly evokes a sense of space, long depths and far-reaching exploration.

“Torn” opens the disc with a delicate examination of space that has both a European classical element as well as encompassing aesthetics of free jazz. It slowly builds just for a moment and quickly recedes back into your consciousness. Heberer’s performance is steady and emotionally effective.

Heberer’s composition, “Mole” reminds me of early Enrico Rava. It’s crisp and vibrant with sharp passages from both Badenhorst and Heberer. Niggenkemper adds an eerie backdrop with his soft touches on the bass strings. “Stapellauf” shows some of the affect Schoff’s influence has had on Heberer. It swirls with frenetic and dark tones from both Niggenkemper and Heberer that pulsate and shift back and forth.

“Blanker Hans” and “Luv und Lee” both feature a mixture of improvised and structured chords that sees Bandenhorst and Heberer playing counterpoint while Niggenkemper rides up and down the scales with subtle abandon. “Einlaufbier” returns the listener to shore after a long journey. It’s quiet and short but the final notes will linger in your memory well after the session ends.

Klippe is beautifully composed and executed. Stripped of additional instrumentation and giving his fellow musicians the room to roam and improvise, Thomas Heberer is becoming more than just one of the best kept secrets in the European and New York music scene. Highly Recommended.

JazzWrap review by Vern

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
Intimacy. That’s what always strikes me about Kris Davis. The sense of intimacy.

Having been on the scene for only few short years, her visibility has grown in the last few years due to a string on releases as leader and with collaborators.

I mistakenly forgot to write about her last record Good Citizen (Fresh Sounds New Talent) as one of my albums of the year in 2010. But this year make no mistake, my two top records of years are set in stone. And I bet you can guess one of them right now, eh?!?

There is a peaceful quality to her latest release, the solo piano effort, Aeriol Piano (Clean Feed). “Saturn Return” unravels slowly with dark intentions crafted around a simply melody before moving to a more improvisational mood. It feels like an early John Cage piano work. It’s complex yet gentle enough for the newest of listeners to grasp every endearing moment.

A slight reinterpretation of “Good Citizen” is intriguing to experience without the quartet from the last record. This time around it feels more climatic; with more cascading moments than the previous version may not have allowed you to hear.

“Beam The Eyes” travels methodically along a path of inversion that makes crackling and disturbing sparks of life towards its conclusion. This theme also carries through a short time later on both “Stone” and “The Last Time” with moments that parallel Keith Jarrett and even more multiform pieces by Morton Feldman. There’s a serenity that is broken up with moments of fierce treatment to keyboard but with clear justification of theme. “Work For Water” closes out the album on a steady more classical trained tone. It’s a soft wistful way to end a session that has interwoven so many challenging patterns.

For one to really enjoy and understand one of the best kept secrets in jazz, you have to experience Aeriol Piano for yourself. Kris Davis is one of a short handful of creative pianist on the scene today.

If you are looking for legacy of modern improvised piano since Keith Jarrett, and more recently Jason Moran–Kris Davis is it. More on Aeriol Piano towards the end of the year. But for now, I repeat what I said at the outset–Aeriol Piano is one of my two top albums of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

I love the music of these guys. They sound fresh, inventive, clever, and utterly soulful and compelling. They are Thomas Heberer on trumpet, Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet, Pascal Niggenkemper on bass, and Joe Hertenstein on drums. The first three already made the excellent “Clarino” on No Business last year, while Heberer, Niggenkemper and Hertenstein released “HNH” on Clean Feed. And now they are back, with one trio and one quartet.

Thomas Heberer’s Clarino – Klippe (CF 226)
The incredibly impressive percussion-less chamber music on this album is the result of Heberer’s own “Cookbook” notation, by which improvised phrases are played, repeated and then reintroduced into an agreed structure. The approach requires astute listening and concentration, an aspect which is audible in the music, and adds a kind of dimension of caution and fragility. In contrast to many other musicians of their generation, they hardly ever resort to extended techniques, yet they use their instruments in the most “voiced” traditional way, but with the skills of virtuosi.

The overall sound as a result is calm, precise and subtle, sometimes grave, sometimes playful, often full of wonder, full of surprise. There is an incredible tenderness for the notes played, and intense feeling of cohesion despite the freedom the musicians have. Even if some of the pieces sound abstract at first listen, this is easily compensated by the sensitivity in each musician’s timbral richness and the emotional delivery.

I could start describing the music, but as usual words fail me. You have to listen to it yourself (here, on eMusic, for instance). Trust me, you won’t be disappointed,

Highly recommended!