Daily Archives: January 10, 2012

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.

Squid´s Ear review by Florence Wetzl

Tony Malaby – Novela (CF 232)
For his new CD Novela, saxophonist Tony Malaby made an interesting choice: he decided to cull six of his compositions from previous releases and present them afresh. This time he’s working with a new set of musicians and has greater intimacy with the tunes, but the biggest difference is that each piece has been given a fresh arrangement by pianist Kris Davis, who has channeled her inner Gil Evans in order to create exciting configurations that make the songs shine anew.

Malaby has plenty of experience playing with larger groups, including Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra and Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, and this knowledge has clearly informed his facility as a bandleader. He elicits excellent performances from Novela’s mega-powerful nonet, a group composed of Malaby on soprano and tenor sax, the excellent Michael Attias on alto sax, Andrew Hadro on baritone sax, Joachim Badenhorst on bass clarinet, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Peck on tuba, Davis on piano and conducting, and John Hollenbeck on drums and percussion.

The first song, “Floating Head,” exemplifies the virtues of this CD. The music is fast, bold, and powerful, the arrangement full of delicious swoops of impeccably synchronized instruments. There are many delightful layers of sounds and textures in this song, many unexpected accents and shifts, but although the music is positively thick with ideas, everything is still tastefully executed. One of the pleasures of this piece is hearing Dan Peck’s tuba, an instrument that eminent arrangers such as Evans and Claude Thornhill used with great inventiveness; the tuba creates a rich bottom for the entire piece, stretching both the song and the listener’s ear. Davis is fabulous on piano: her angular, agile approach keeps the music on its toes and ignites the entire tune.

Mention must also be made of the excellent “Warblepeck.” It’s a playful, lilting song with funky sax work by Malaby and fabulous percussion by Hollenbeck. The arrangement incorporates a marvelous polyrhythmic drive, and includes some wild slippy-slidey horn work that creates a positively joyful cacophony.

At the first public performance of his Birth of the Cool nonet, Miles Davis broke tradition (as usual) by insisting that the sign in front of the club read: “Arrangements by Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans, and John Lewis.” Likewise, it’s impossible to extol the virtues of Novela without noting: “Arrangements by Kris Davis.” It’s heartening to see that the art of arranging is still going strong in the jazz tradition, and Malaby’s excellent CD shines a light for others to follow.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

This French-American combination of reeds, piano and drums reveals its values through a type of music whose immediate outlook appears cleverly questioning and emancipated from styles at once, making the most of swiftly executed instant designs that never give the idea of miscalculated moves or sixth-sense deficiency. Yet in Eldorado Trio, a mix of studio and live performances, there are also episodes – such as “La Visite” – that literally touch the heart in their mournful rigour. The articulated clarity with which the musicians express inner urges and creative tendencies is testimony to an exceptional ability in controlling and pacing the improvised and/or scored counterpoints upon which the CD is masterfully edified. The thematic delineations are informed by admirable gravity, focus and lack of ideological and instrumental dispersion. Moody suggestions and cutting insinuations may alternate over the program, according to a consecutiveness of intelligible complication and un-mellifluous pensiveness; there’s no trace of pessimism whatsoever, but it’s not an all-smiles album either. The interplay is major league throughout: Taborn’s pianism incredibly tight even in the “troublesome” tracks, Sclavis – who conceived the large part of the material – offering lyrically hurting or obliquely peppering lines depending on what crosses his mind, Rainey working the drumset with realistic far-sightedness and heartening absence of easy tricks, thus adding further stability and class to this challenging set.