Daily Archives: March 2, 2012

Point of Departure review by Bobby Hill

Lama  Oneiros  Clean Feed (CF 240)
Oneiros is the debut recording by Lama, a Portugal-based trio that grew out of 2008 conservatory studies of bassist Gonçalo Almedia and trumpeter Susana Santos Silva in Rotterdam; there they met Canadian drummer Greg Smith, who was providing percussion accompaniment for a local dance studio. Almedia and Silva were both already established members of the Portuguese improvised music scene, working in Atos and Spinifex Quintet, as well as American ensembles led by Carla Bley, John Hollenbeck, and Lee Konitz.  Smith had also worked in the US with David Binney, and abroad with England’s Colonel Red Live and Sandra St. Victor’s Sinner Child.

“Oneiros” is a Greek noun, meaning “dream.” Lama’s music often seems to alternately erupt and decay in a dream-like fashion, though never evanescently. And like many new generation creative improvisers, Lama embraces technology to this end. Almedia augments his double bass with pedal box-delivered effects, and Silva reconfigures and extends her trumpet and flugelhorn through loops, filters, and effects.

The resulting music is often challenging, but its complexities have clear purpose, particularly in establishing and sustaining mood. Almeida’s lovely “Melodia Minusculeha” has a precious veneer that belies its haunting undertones. An opening pedal point bass figure intermingles with muted trumpet lines suggesting child-like innocence. As Silva’s trumpet fades, the bass becomes more prominent; the trumpet then returns as flutters and soft whirls to reinforce a dream-like ambiance. Throughout the piece, Smith accents such susurrations with mallet rumbles and cymbal shadings. Lama creates contrasting dreamscapes on the Silva-composed “My Fucking Thesis”, where her trumpet is processed to sound at times almost reed-like against driving drums and bass accompaniment, and the opening track, “Alguidar,” which blooms from static scratches that are sustained throughout the song’s swinging tempo and mood shifts.

Oneiros is a solid archetype for future volumes of Lama’s sound-dreams.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano
Tony Malaby – Novela (Arragements by Kris Davis)
Canadian-born pianist Kris Davis’ student days intriguingly foreshadow her future endeavors: classical studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music; two summers at the Banff Centre for the Arts’ jazz program, where she met future collaborator Tony Malaby; then, moving to New York City to study composition with Jim McNeely. Her subsequent associations with peers like John Hollenbeck and Ingrid Laubrock, as well as her membership in collectives such as Paradoxical Frog and the RIDD Quartet, have developed in tandem with her own varied projects.

Aeriol Piano is her first unaccompanied outing. The solo recital has long been considered the ultimate proving ground for pianists; encouraging the broadest dynamic range from a performer, it captures every nuance of an artist’s expressive capabilities. From a respectfully abstract linear reading of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” and a handful of fully improvised miniatures to the ambitious “Saturn Return,” Davis explores the full potential of her instrument, both inside and out.

A product of her influences, Davis seamlessly incorporates lessons learned from disparate sources, adapting the dissonant intervals of Cecil Taylor, probing lyricism of Paul Bley and understated minimalism of Morton Feldman into a singular style largely devoid of the clichés of the jazz tradition, such as block chords or left-handed bass lines. Though capable of summoning turbulent salvos for dramatic effect, it is her ability to craft poetic melodies from oblique lyrical fragments – infusing heady abstraction with heartfelt beauty – that is her most impressive talent. The prepared piano opus “Saturn Return” takes this aesthetic a step further, serving as the conceptual centerpiece of the record. An episodic rumination through various stylistic precedents, Davis builds from romantic musings to thunderous drama before embarking on a lyrical exposition that draws equally from aleatoric experimentation and minimalist formalism.

Davis’ growing talent as a composer and improviser is well documented, but her skills as an arranger and conductor have been largely unheard, until now. Tony Malaby’s Novela features Davis’ multifaceted arrangements of six Malaby-penned compositions originally conceived for trio and/or quartet. Davis’ working relationship with Malaby dates back 10 years, to the formation of her longstanding quartet. In the ensuing years Malaby has explored a variety of instrumental line-ups to extend the breadth of his eclectic writing, from bare-bones acoustic trios to electrified quartets. Novela is his most extravagant creation yet, a horn-heavy nonet that combines the unfettered zeal of a riotous street band and the tonal sensitivity of a chamber ensemble.

The session consists entirely of previously recorded compositions; two even date back to Sabino (Arabesque), his 2000 debut as a leader. Although presumably selected for the sake of expediency, these six tunes provide Davis the opportunity to demonstrate her knack for transposing skeletal themes into intricate symphonic tone poems, revealing a previously undocumented talent in the process. Davis’ urbane charts subtly hint at her studies with McNeely, tracing a line back through the innovations of George Schuller and George Russell. They also conjure memories of the loft era, with zany march motifs and manic collective improvisations that owe as much to Muhal Richard Abrams and Anthony Braxton as they do Raymond Scott.

Opening with brooding intensity, “Floating Head” features contrapuntal horn formations churning like storm clouds gathering in pursuit of the leader’s evasive soprano. “Floral and Herbacious” follows, blossoming into a cornucopia of dynamic ensemble shifts led by Ralph Alessi’s melancholy trumpet and Joachim Badenhorst’s caterwauling bass clarinet. After a dramatic exchange between Dan Peck’s bleating multiphonic tuba (played with a tenor saxophone mouthpiece) and his section mates, the ensemble swells behind Malaby’s rhapsodic tenor, concluding an excursion as quixotic as the surreal sonic travelogue “Mother’s Love.” The influence of Raymond Scott is heard in the quirky “Warblepeck,” which rivals “Remolino” for pure capriciousness. The former tune demonstrates the nonet’s capacity for rhythmic fervor as well as orchestral color, counterbalancing pneumatic horn charts with John Hollenbeck’s kaleidoscopic percussion accents. Davis’ spacious arrangements repeatedly reveal a penchant for such dramatic pairings; she isolates Michael Attias’ diaphanous alto at the outset of “Cosas,” stages a garrulous duet between Peck’s tuba and Ben Gerstein’s trombone during the coda of “Floating Head” and joins Peck and baritone saxophonist Andrew Hadro for a riotous trio interlude on the madcap closer, “Remolino.”

While Davis is more than just an arranger here – she also conducts the horns and plays piano – ultimately, the star of the show is Malaby, whose unbound expressionism continues to push further and further beyond conventional tonal extremes with each release. Inspired to lofty heights by Davis’ opulent charts, Tony Malaby’s Novela is one of the saxophonist’s most compelling efforts to date.

Point of Departure review by Ed Hazell

Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet  – Frog Leg Logic  (CF 242)
Marty Ehrlich has long been one of the premiere songbirds of new music. He writes strong melodies and his best solos have the lyrical flow of song, his tone the shine and vibrato of the human voice. His new CD, with a revamped Rites Quartet – Ehrlich and trumpeter James Zollar are joined by cellist Hank Roberts, and drummer Michael Sarin – is a vibrant and tuneful example of his art.

The band’s instrumentation begs comparison to groups led by the late Julius Hemphill, an early mentor of Ehrlich’s. As Ehrlich matured as an artist, so did his relationship with Hemphill; Ehrlich was a sideman and peer in Hemphill’s big band and his final working ensemble, the Julius Hemphill Sextet. He has continued to explore his compositional legacy through his leadership of the Sextet. Ehrlich has certainly absorbed and personalized some of Hemphill’s techniques, which is especially evident in the funky cello vamps that undergird “Ballade” and “You Can Beat the Slanted Cards.” The resemblances, while worth mentioning, are hardly the full story and Ehrlich is securely his own man throughout.

He certainly solos in his own voice. On “Ballade” his every phrase is big and bold and played for all it’s worth and Ehrlich’s relationship to what came before him is clear, even when it strikes you at first as surprising. Perhaps that song-full quality in his soloing is closest in spirit (although not in form) to Johnny Hodges. His remarkably cohesive flute solo on “Solace” hangs together like a well crafted short story, with every detail supporting the narrative and deepening its emotional impact. Even his solo on the short, agitated “Walk Along the Way,” with its short nervous phrases built from wide intervals, menacing growls, and irregular silences, while seemingly fractured and jumbled, betrays the essential storytelling quality of his improvising. He is player of wide emotional range, as well. In its slow but purposeful unfolding, “My Song,” a duet with cellist Roberts, displays unforced lyricism, autumnal melancholy, and serenity. “Gravedigger’s Respite” capers along with a joyfulness that buries not the dead, but death itself.

Zollar makes an excellent foil for Ehrlich. There’s a dark undertow in his tone that nicely counterbalances Ehrlich’s brightness – he’s a master colorist. On “You Can Beat the Slanted Cards,” he busts his notes apart into growls, crimps their edges with a half-valve squeeze, or hammers them out into broad, bronzy smears. The constant play with texture and color, as well as phrase length, gives the solo a jumpy, charged, percussive quality. He also uses his command of a wide spectrum of timbre to create call and response between registers, and between sounds and lines in his solo on “Solace.”

Roberts and Sarin function as both rhythm section and lead voices as called for by the situation. They keep the music varied, but uncluttered, letting hints and implications of the beat carry the tunes forward just as often as they nail a groove. The open group sound, the interplay of melody and color, the emotional commitment and intellectual engagement of the band make this one of Ehrlich’s finest albums.

Improjazz review by Luc Bouquet

JazzMag review by Thierry Quénum

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Baloni – Fremdenzimmer (CF 237)
A “Fremdenzimmer” is the German word for a guest room, litterally “a room for strangers”, usually paid for, in private houses, farms or other places, the kind of room which you have kind of accept the way it is when you are travelling and can’t find no other lodging. The title demonstrates a willingness for adventure, including the risk of the unknown, and the acceptance of what will befall them.

Whether this relates to the musicians or the listener is not clear, possibly to both, and you’re taken on this musical journey by Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor, Pascal Niggenkemper on bass, and Frantz Loriot on viola, respectively of Belgian, German-French and French-Japanese origin.

The journey goes deep into the realm of lyricism and sonic beauty, a journey of strange harmonic encounters, timbral greetings, shared distances, differences of perspectives adding to the overall texture. As with these encounters, possibly hiking, on foot, the pace is slow, vulnerability a prerequisite for openness, openness the prerequisite for suprise, suprise the prerequisite for new ideas and the aha-erlebnis of new possibilities.

You get stories here, tiny and small and real and sensitive and authentic, the beauty of strangers meeting and becoming friends, immediately going to the essence, talking about joy or misery, without too much elaboration, without varnish and polish, because the chemistry is here, in the personalities, the voices, including the low-volume singing by Badenhorst, the emotional sharing, the musical vision.

Just beautiful. So real!

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Un inizio dolce e soave, leggermente bucolico e cameristico, fa presagire paesaggi sonori celestiali e meditativi. Inaspettatamente al minuto uno e quarantadue irrompe il violoncello pizzicato di Hank Roberts che dà il via ad un blues torrido, cadenzato e sensuale. Sembra di sentirlo addosso il caldo umido del Delta, i profumi e gli odori intensi della natura, lo scorrere lento e indolente del grande fiume, il contralto di Marty Ehrlich voce di un lamento che si fa invocazione e poi preghiera. Improvvise accelerazioni qua e là, la tromba di James Zollar che nasce come un gorgoglio e traghetta il New Orleans sound sulle sponde scarne care a Bill Dixon, la batteria, al solito sensibile, di Michael Sarin , la chiusura con il ritorno alle origini. Sono i dieci minuti abbondanti di “Ballade,” una delle cose più emozionanti ascoltate negli ultimi tempi, la perla di Frog Leg Logic firmato Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet.

Che è disco compatto, profondo, ispirato, godibile dal primo all’ultimo minuto, con altre frecce al proprio arco come il free bop della title track, il funky obliquo e armolodico di “You Can Beat the Slanted Cards,” lo scoppiettante zigzagare del conclusivo “The Gravedigger’s Respite”.

Se nel precedente Things Have Got to Change il Rites Quartet tributava più che un omaggio a Julius Hemphill (del quale Ehrlich è uno degli eredi musicali più rappresentativi) interpretando due brani mai incisi dal leggendario sassofonista di Fort Worth, in questo Frog Leg Logic compaiono solo composizioni originali.

Ed è Marty Ehrlich cento per cento. Anche se il benevolo spirito di Hemphill aleggia non solo nel citato “Ballade” ma in una sorta di visionarietà poco esplicita, sotterranea e trattenuta, ricca di sfumature ed aperta a molteplici interpretazioni. Dell’eccellenza dei musicisti si è detto ma piace sottolineare il ruolo svolto da Hank Roberts, vero e proprio battitore libero timbrico e ritmico dell’incisione. Come il violoncello di Abdul Wadud nel capolavoro Dogon A.D. (Arista Freedom – 1972). E il cerchio, forse, si chiude.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Brandelli di melodia che si ricompongono per un istante al termine di un girovagare tortuoso e apparentemente senza meta tra tasti di ebano e di avorio, martelletti, corde tese, cassa di risonanza e il vuoto circostante. Si tratta di “All the Things You Are” sofisticata, essenziale, minimalista, ma colma di pathos, biglietto da visita di Aeriol Piano, convincente prova solitaria di una sempre più convincente Kris Davis. La giovane pianista canadese, solidi studi accademici alle spalle, collaborazioni eccellenti (Tony Malaby, John Hollenbeck, Theo Blackman, Chris Speed, Bill Frisell tra gli altri), leader di formazioni assai interessanti, supera brillantemente il banco di prova più temuto dai pianisti, quello dell’incontro ravvicinato e solitario con lo strumento.

Il resto dell’album si sviluppa sulle stesse coordinate tracciate nella lettura dell’unico standard presente. Quelle di un pianismo avventuroso a prescindere dalla materia prima a disposizione sia essa una forma canzone, una pagina scritta, una cellula melodica, un idea ritmica, un oggetto strofinato nella pancia dello strumento, una pausa o il silenzio.

Che è il protagonista assoluto di “A Different Kind of Sleep” delicata escursione di note in assenza di gravità, una passeggiata nello spazio che mette i brividi per come la semplicità possa essere esaltata a bellezza sublime. Colpiscono in Davis la capacità di fondere in una cifra stilistica decisamente personale il background accademico con il linguaggio del free (alcuni cluster alla Cecil Taylor sono formidabili elementi di contrasto nell’economia dell’incisione) oltre ad un evidente interesse per la musica contemporanea.

Musicista da seguire con molta attenzione.