Daily Archives: January 10, 2012

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

Dennis Gonzalez & Joao Paulo – So Soft Yet (CF 243)
So Soft Yet (Clean Feed) is an album of beauty and depth. For me this latest collaboration between Gonzalez and Da Silva has even more resonance than their first stellar partnership on 2009’s Scrape Grace (Clean Feed). This might be due to the longer relationship together and the new material that feels both more unified and diverse.

“Como a Noite” opens the session in a delightful and romantic fashion. Filling the void with lush poetic tones both musicians are taking you on journey that will include some extraordinary exaltation as well as moments of deep reflection. “Broken Harp” has the feeling of Chick Corea and Miles Davis playing solo. Da Silva switches to electric piano and deploys some terrific and spellbinding notes. It has deep psychedelic grooves with some nice improvising from both men. Gonzalez travels up and down with a crisp and reverberating tone that along with Da Silva becomes hypnotic towards the closing passages.

So Soft Yet is deeply rooted in a more interpersonal manner that allows the listener to sink deeper and deeper into music. “Thirst” sees Da Silva on accordion and the conversation the two musicians have is playful and jubilant. The Portuguese elements are well present on this piece as it feels like you’re traveling blindfolded down the town street just listening to all the sounds and creating your journey. Lovely stuff.

“Sobre Mi Mi Koracon Doloryozo” is my personal favourite. It’s a celebratory piece that is both buoyant and joyous. Gonzalez and Da Silva have a unison that feels like two classical musicians who have performed together for decades. “Augurio” closes the session with dark parameters intertwined past fusion eras with modern eclecticism with beautiful harmonies.

A partnership that started essentially out of nowhere, these two renowned and revered musicians have made two astounding records in just under three years. So Soft Yet is a cool document that expands the floats with high spiritual moments that spread delicately across space and time. Emotional material and highly recommended listening.

emusic label profile on Clean Feed by Peter Margasak

Label Profile: Clean Feed Records
File under: Free jazz, post-bop, improvisation Flagship acts: Ken Vandermark, Marty Ehrlich, Nate Wooley, Gerry Hemingway, Evan Parker, Paal Nilssen-Love Based in: Lisbon, Portugal
Like most record labels, the Lisbon jazz imprint Clean Feed Records began modestly when it opened in 2001. The label was, and remains, part of a larger operation founded by Pedro Costa and his brother Carlos, both veterans of Portugal’s record business. They started Trem Azul (Portuguese for Blue Train, like the famous John Coltrane album) as both a record shop and a record distributor, with Clean Feed serving as their international label. From the start, they had grand ambitions. “I felt I could add something to the music scene,” says Pedro Costa. “It had been on my mind for many years, but the conditions were finally ideal in 2001. From the very beginning the idea has been to treat the whole world as just one scene, as this vital music is happening everywhere, usually off of most people’s radar. Maybe we contributed a bit to changing that.”   The label celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, and it’s steadily emerged as one of the most important and creative labels documenting contemporary improvised music, from swing-rooted post-bop to challenging free jazz. During its first year, the label issued only three albums; it doubled its output the following year. These days, Clean Feed turns out 32 high-quality albums annually. A sprinkling of adventurous American musicians share space with little-known but progressive voices from Portugal, and while the label now boasts a remarkable roster from all over the world, it remains committed to local players like Carlos Bica, Rodrigo Amado, Bernardo Sassetti and Luis Lopes.   eMusic’s Peter Margasak caught up with label founder Costa to talk about the label’s history and future.   ——————————————————————————–
On the evolution of the label’s sound:   I never wanted to create a sound or an aesthetic. It’s something I never really liked in labels. But when you make your choices, you kind of end up creating a sound, especially when, after 10 years, you have a catalog of 240 titles. I think there’s a certain openness, though, since Clean Feed has released music from many different places. We cover contemporary music from many different scenes, and this is truly what makes Clean Feed unique. We have released music from Stockholm, Oslo, Lisbon, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Tokyo, Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, London and Paris, among other places. Not many labels do this, and that kind of blurs the idea of a single aesthetic or sound. We cover the wide field between improvised music and this thing called jazz.   On the inspiration of other labels:   I was inspired by the early days of ECM, and labels like Hat Art, Intakt, AUM Fidelity, Antilles, Arista and a few others, but I never wanted to do the same thing. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother with it. I wanted to have something different and open up things in every aspect, musically and graphically. I was sure then, and I still am, that there was space for Clean Feed.   On the label’s graphic design:   I worked in record stores for many years, and the way you present the music is very important. It was always on my mind to have this distinct graphic look to present our work. I think one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it definitely helps both the music and the label to have this in mind. Clean Feed’s graphic designer Jorge Travassos says, “Each design approach is different. I’m always concerned to fit my work according to each musical proposal or concept, and since the music on Clean Feed has a lot off variety, the design tries to reflect that range. Despite this, we always try to make the musician happy with the final result.”

A few words on some Clean Feed artists…

Ken Vandermark
He’s 100 percent committed to the music as I’ve never experienced before. Ken plays great music and he’s a total human being. He’s been very inspirational to all of us in the music business.

Marty Ehrlich
An amazing musician I’ve been listening to for many years now. His career speaks for itself, and he’s always looking for new adventures in music.

Nate Wooley
Nate represents the new generation of avant-garde musicians — informed and open to new ideas and new ways to develop his art form.

Gerry Hemingway
Like Marty Ehrlich, he’s someone I’ve been listening to for a very long time and it’s truly an honor to have released his music almost since the label started. He was the first widely known musician to believe in the label, and I will always thank him for that.

Evan Parker
Evan is a jazz master, a classic musician, but also a restless soul looking for ways to keep his music fresh. I love him as a musician, one of the main jazz artists for the last 30 years or so, but also as a great human being.   Paal Nilssen-Love
Like Ken Vandermark, Paal Nilssen-Love is a hard-working man. Just go to his website and follow his traveling life — he’s everywhere. I think of him as a seminal player in contemporary jazz and I have no doubts he’s already made his mark on jazz history.   Tim Berne Tim is another huge figure in contemporary music over the past 30 years. His playing, his compositional skills and his vision about the music are truly authentic and unparalleled. I’ve been his fan for a long, long time and to release some of his music has been a dream come true. Amazing guy, too.

All Music Guide review by Glenn Astarita

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
Encompassed by the 48-minute marathon title track, the live performance captured on Bird Dies is irrefutably exhilarating. Featuring French alto saxophonist Jean Luc Guionnet’s lead voice, The Ames Room embarks on a splintered approach to free-bop, propelled by drummer Will Guthrie’s penetrating beats and bassist Clayton Thomas’ pumping bottom.

Perhaps the album title serves as an antithesis to the “Bird Lives” maxim ascribed to bop’s troubled genius Charlie Parker, where the hustling, pawning of saxophones, and recurring substance abuse led to his passing. This fast-paced memorial is conceivably exercised on a broad plane via the trio’s loose, but pummeling ostinatos, nestled within a fractured loop of concepts.

Guionnet’s rough-hewn tone is built on animated and staggered phrasings. Throughout the band’s relentless momentum, he carves out a tumultuous soundscape, filtered through the buoyant rhythmic element. Repetitive to some extent, the in-your-face gait offers a forum for extensive improvisation; nonetheless, it’s a high-impact endeavor that must have kept the audience on the edge of its seats.

The musicians exude angst, chaos and a locomotive-like cyclical impetus, tinted with a guttural underpinning via blistering choruses and understated variations. A relatively young band, the artists stay on target by engineering a consistent foundation, and do not simply waver into a free-form abyss during the course of the proceedings. The Ames Room provides a tensely articulated mosaic of sound, transposed into a blueprint for originality, which is a commendable attribute when considering these avant-garde-based endeavors.

New York Times review by Nate Chinen

Bobby Bradford /Mark Dresser / Glenn Ferris – Live in LA (CF 241)
Mr. Dresser also plays a pivotal role on “Live in L.A.” (Clean Feed), a more casual recording featuring the trumpeter Bobby Bradford and the trombonist Glenn Ferris, both veterans of the avant-garde. Their performance, from 2009, unfolds as rough-and-tumble sport, but not without a framework: only two of the eight tracks here are whole-cloth inventions. The others, especially three by Mr. Ferris, tend to build on the blues, with an unambiguous feeling for swing. “For Bradford,” a tune by Mr. Dresser — at one point it was in the repertory of Trio M — suggests the shifting tonalities of Mr. Bradford’s old associate Ornette Coleman. Both Mr. Bradford and Mr. Ferris play with pugnacious alertness, doing some of their best work in an improvised tandem. Mr. Dresser is the anchor in their midst, and every bit as active with his use of contrapuntal texture.

Jazztimes review by Mike Shanley

Harris Eisenstadt September Trio (CF229)
For an album of works composed and directed by the drummer, September Trio doesn’t focus on Harris Eisenstadt. Tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin stands out with his broad tone and flair for microtonal pitch bends, which lends drama to his voice. Pianist Angelica Sanchez adds glistening lines that open up the music, whether it sounds like a free ballad (as several of these tracks do) or something built on clear changes. But Eisenstadt makes himself known, stirring the mixture delicately in a way that recalls Paul Motian’s approach to such sensitive music. He may not always play time, but he’s clearly contributing to the ebb and flow.

The album was recorded in one session in 2010, and for that reason Eisenstadt titled the seven tracks “September 1,” “September 2,” etc. Whether it was conceived as a suite or not, the pieces sometimes have similar personalities, though there are enough distinctions to keep them from blending into one another. Eskelin’s appearance in the first track bears an emotional quality that sounds somewhat like Albert Ayler, if that tenor titan could operate within a hushed climate. In several places throughout the album, the saxophonist adopts an almost whiney tone, which makes the situation both pretty and unsettling. He and Sanchez get into an extended conversation during “September 3,” while the next track contains open spaces between phrases, as if they felt overly polite, waiting to see who should lead. Ironically, the piece that seems the most composed is the 1:59 closing track, which ends abruptly, right as expectations hit an all-time high.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
Kris Davis comes out of avant improv/ jazz, or at least that is where the cognitive playing space I know of hers takes place. On her solo disk Aeriol Piano (Clean Feed 233) she incorporates sensibilities from jazz (an abstracted version of “All the Things You Are”) new music-classical (“Saturn Return,” which uses a partially prepared piano and reflects a free rumination on the Cagean pianistic aura), free-balladic/new music confrontations (“A Different Kind of Sleep”) Post-Cecilian agitation (“Good Citizen”), whirling osinato post-minimalism (“Stone”), and on from there.

This is a solo album that doesn’t play itself in the background. YOU are needed as an active listener for it to work. It is music-as-adventure, something we may have seen too little of in the insular worlds of various genres in recent times. With Aeriol Piano anything goes, or may go. And it goes well wherever it goes. That’s healthy. That’s creative. Let’s see where she goes next!!

The New York City Jazz Record review by Ken Waxman

SFE – Positions and Descriptions Clean Feed (CF230)
For the past 20-odd years as “Butch” Morris has demonstrated conduction: structuring free improvisation using a specific series of hand gestures, many improvising ensembles have been created in his its wake. Whether groups use or not signals developed by Morris to rearrange and sculpt notated and non-notated music, conduction is part of their inventory. As these releases demonstrate however, it depends on individual musicians’ skills for a performance to be fully satisfying.

This is apparent on Verona, collecting two Morris-directed conductions from 1994 and 1995. While both involve 11-piece ensembles, the instrumentation in 1995 makes it more satisfying. The three parts of “Verona Skyscraper” vibrate with a lyrical exposition and juddering intensity that upstages the five parts of “The Cloth” from 1994. As two percussionists, a guitarist and two pianists stretch, smack and crunch a pulsating ostinato, distinctive solo interludes interrupt the cacophonous friction. Bill Horvitz’s guitar plinks are contrapuntally paired with one pianist’s key clipping or the aggression of the rhythm section is muted by Stefano Benini’s legato flute tone or contralto wisps from Marco Pasetto’s clarinet. Throughout, Zeena Parkins’ harp plinks are lyrical with a hard edge. As the massed instrumental textures quiver continuously, the stand out soloist is J.A. Deane on trombone and electronics. His braying plunger work cuts through harmonized woodwind extensions or the layered friction of piano strumming cadenzas. Eventually the full-force instrumental bubbles to a crescendo, then ebbs to signal the finale by shrinking to triangle pings and guitar plinks.

Although Deane also solos on “The Cloth”, the minimalist quivers predominating from dual cello string shimmies, low-frequency piano chording and gaunt oboe tones make the themes overly precious. When the downward pinches of Parkins’ harp stand out as disruptively staccato, the textural sameness of the other textures becomes apparent. Luckily by the time the carol-like “Omega” is played, sul ponticello strokes from the celli, and whacks from Le Quan Ninh’s percussion join barking trombone guffaws to angle at least this piece towards concluding excitement.

Flash forward 12 years and bassist/composer Simon H. Fell’s Positions and Descriptions owes as much to juxtaposition as conduction, although Steve Beresford s on hand to bring conduction clues to the 16-piece ensemble. The nine-movement suite is described as “a compilation … incorporating composed, pre-recorded and improvised elements”. With the pre-recorded sequences at a minimum, the tension engendered is between the composition’s notated and free-form sections. Early in the suite Tim Berne’s mercurial saxophone lines create free jazz interludes abetted by drummer Mark Sanders’ rim shots. Later, a chamber ensemble of clarinet and strings echo ornate textures as glockenspiel, vibes and bells jingle contrapuntally and a tubax burps. From a jazz standpoint, “Movt. III” is the most exhilarating track, with Sanders’ bass drum accents and Fell’s pumping strings leading the band though a vamp reminiscent of Count Basie’s 16 men swinging. In counterpoint clarinettist Alex Ward produces reed-biting shrieks and trumpeter Chris Batchelor brassy slurs. Before a cacophonous ending, pianist Philip Thomas and violinist Mifune Tsuji output a faux-schmaltzy tango. Preceding and following this, harp glissandi and baroque-styled trumpet maintain the composition’s formalistic aspects. Fell makes jokes as well. “Plusieurs Commentaires de PB pour DR [Description 5]” described as a “mini concerto for baritone saxophone”, only features the horn’s distinctive snorts when introducing the following “Movt. V”. Before that the piece involves flute whistles, piano key percussion and half-swallowed saxophone tongue slaps. The concluding “Movt. V” gives guitarist Joe Morris a dynamic showcase for kinetic string snaps. At the same time Fell has orchestrated sequences in which staccato string vibrations, woodwind smears and horror-movie quivers from the electronics arrive in sequence. Taken adagio, the finale involves every musician creating snarling dissonance.

Whether that last sequence actually involved conduction, giving top-flight soloists their head is evidentially as good a guarantee of quality music as theory.

O Público review by Rodrigo Amado

Uma permanente inquietação

Ao quinto álbum, Carlos Bica & Azul atingem o ponto máximo de depuração, algures entre o jazz, a pop e uma total devoção ao formato canção. Rodrigo Amado

Carlos Bica & Azul – Things About (CF 239)
Carlos Bica, contrabaixista e compositor, tem conseguido manter ao longo de toda a sua carreira uma invejável vitalidade criativa, tendo por base uma permanente inquietação, uma busca do equilíbrio perfeito entre forma e abstracção, entre a magia do improviso e as linhas sublimes de uma canção. Desdobrando-se em inúmeras colaborações e em projectos como os Matéria Prima, com os quais editou o ano passado um fascinante registo de estreia, é no projecto Azul que encontramos a matriz original da sua música. Projecto partilhado com Frank Mobus (guitarra) e Jim Black (bateria), os Azul atingem neste “Things About” o seu ponto máximo de depuração, num registo que representa uma total devoção ao formato canção, aqui dominado de forma superior por Bica. Sem atingir o nível superlativo de “Believer”, anterior álbum do grupo editado em 2006, “Things About” não deixa de representar um enorme triunfo no percurso do contrabaixista. Sequências harmónicas, melodias e ambientes cinemáticos são trabalhados com rigor e intensidade pelos três músicos, erguendo canções que impressionam pelo seu formato “definitivo”, equilibrando de forma sublime elementos jazz, rock alternativo, blues e pop, em que nada é deixado ao acaso, numa demonstração de controlo criativo que acaba paradoxalmente por ser o único ponto fraco do álbum. Mas aquilo que se sente perder em espontaneidade, algo que permeava subtilmente as canções de “Believer”, ganha-se na exuberância poética dos oito temas que Bica compõe para este novo disco (dois deles em colaboração com Mobus), aos quais acresce aquilo que parece ser uma improvisação colectiva, um breve solo de bateria e um tema luminoso da autoria de João Paulo, “Canção vazia”, um dos pontos altos do disco. Destaque ainda para o tema título, “Things about”, com um “groove” contagiante que serve de base a solos poderosos de Bica e Mobus. Num álbum registado sobretudo em tempos médios e lentos (excepção feita ao breve e vibrante “Deixa pra lá”), marcado pela contenção sempre relevante de Black e por uma invulgar clareza das linhas de Mobus, Bica revela um fraseado maduro que recusa o acessório, particularmente incisivo quando pega no arco, e de uma beleza absoluta nas suas linhas em pizzicato (a evocar o som de Dave Holland). Mantendo a universalidade da sua música e apurando uma mestria rara na escrita de canções, Bica reafirma-se como um dos grandes nomes do jazz europeu.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

The history behind the names of these two pieces for improvising chamber group is too difficult to synthesize here; check the liners or google around, also to learn about the various evolutions of the very orchestra’s appellative. What’s transparent is that the opening period is dedicated to Masami Akita (aka Merzbow), though Fields and his companions decided to approach the task with the sagacious expertise of a qualified ensemble paying homage to a time-honored composer rather than a Japanese noise merchant. The outcome is a superb paradigm of how to carry out a joint improvisation, the timbres so consistently interconnected in different permutations and dynamics that giving privileges to “lead” designs and distinct ideas becomes a pointless exercise. Our friendly advice is to relinquish a bit of focus and abandoning yourselves to a compelling stream of beautifully emitted music, nurturing one’s yearning for density in a collective statement without losing grip on the poetic aspects of the diverse instrumental idioms.   The first, and a sizeable chunk of the fourth movement of “Ozzo” are plain wonders, replete with fine games of call and response, tactful probing of quietness and recurring parallelisms between assorted groups (sax, accordion and strings in particular evidence, with Thomas Lehn’s synthesizer adding pinches of analogue salt and the flutists inserting small enigmas throughout). The rest is more directly reminiscent of the conductor’s style both in terms of composition and as a guitarist: minuscule cells and dissonant quirks succeed and involve, the interest maintained by the extreme unsettledness generated by the palette’s variety. With musicians of the caliber of Frank Gratkowski, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Melvyn Poore, Angelika Sheridan and Georg Wissel among the many – everybody deserving a “well done” – this live recording (Cologne’s Loft, January 2009) is as impeccable as a pre-planned studio session.

Squid´s Ear review by Florence Wetzl

Gerry Hemingway Quintet Riptide (CF 227)
A quintet with two horns and a rhythm section is a classic jazz lineup, and drummer Gerry Hemingway has long been enamored of this traditional form. In fact, for the past twenty-six years, Hemingway has reformatted his quintet several times, with earlier members including notable musicians such as clarinetist Don Byron, trombonist Ray Anderson, and bassists Mark Dresser and Ed Schuller. The latest incarnation of his quintet features Oscar Noriega on alto sax and clarinets, Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax, Terrence McManus on guitars, and Kermit Driscoll on acoustic bass and electric bass guitar. Their new release Riptide is a joyful CD full of beautiful music, nine multi-textured compositions by Hemingway that shine bright as the sun.

A few songs deserve special mention. The title track “Riptide” is extraordinary: the song starts off with wild, rollicking energy that does in fact sound like the sea, a clattering of shells in a swirl of liquid energy. It’s an interesting arrangement where the horns provide steady accents and the guitars stretch and dance over them. All the soloists cut loose, with the saxes bending and soaring on bold, shifting runs, and the guitar and bass unfurling deep discordant chords, urgent and wild and tidal.

“Meddle Music” is a fabulously funky tune. Again it’s an interesting arrangement, with McManus keeping a steady drone under the horn’s tight front line. After the initial melody, the song breaks into a kind of abstract funk, with Hemingway and Driscoll shifting the rhythm at will. For those who enjoy the power of the electric guitar, McManus’ solo is a powerhouse; he cuts loose and dives into discordance and feedback with complete freedom.

The CD’s special gem is the tune “Backabacka.” Liner note writer Brian Morton calls the music “heterodox kwela,” referring to the South African street music known for its skiffle-like beat. The song has a spritely melody and a light, playful swing, and all the musicians play their hearts out. It’s an immensely pleasing song that radiates pure joy; this is the one to play on a rainy day when your spirit needs a boost.

In addition to the excellent music, mention must be made of the insightful liner notes by Brian Morton, who is perhaps best known for his work on the Penguin Guide to Jazz series. Here Morton shows everyone how it’s done, weaving a charming narrative that helps the listener to listen and appreciate the music at hand.

Hemingway’s quintet is certainly capable of a multitude of moods and genres, and altogether Riptide is a rich, unusual CD, a treasure of sounds and rhythms and dancing lines. And Hemingway proves once again that tradition doesn’t necessarily mean stale, witness the fresh breath he infuses into this classic jazz lineup.