Lama – Oneiros (CF 240)
From the seeds of invention planted at a conservatory in Rotterdam in 2008, through experimentation and fruitful hard work, the Portuguese-based trio LAMA delivers a wild ride with Oneiros , their debut album and one of the best releases in 2011. The music is equal parts avant-garde and modern jazz, mixed by trumpeter Susana Santos Silva [Devil’s Dress (TOAP, 2011)], bassist Gonçalo Almeida—both of whom provide electronic embellishments—and Greg Smith on drums.
From the onset of “Alguidar,” the trio’s bold inventions make a cutting impression—the sound of static, an ethnic melodic riff, ethereal sounds of acoustic and processed persuasions. In the end, it all comes down to musicians with complete facility on their instruments creating art through inventiveness, where compositions emerge and reshape at the drop of a dime with changes in tempo, heated exchanges, robust solos, and plenty of room for experimentation.
The title track could be the soundtrack for some art-house independent film with Smith’s tribal-beat toms. There is also the grindhouse aura of “Tarantino,” where Silva’s opulent horn is silhouetted against the eerie presence of the pedal effects generated from Almeida’s bass. The ominous tone finds respite in “Melodia Minúscula,” a beauteous flowering of soft trumpet tones, a simple bass ostinato, and percussion colorizations. It’s like waking up in on different planet that is still personal and familiar.
Two of the more memorable pieces make bold statements. “Overture for Penguins” is an onslaught of sound: trumpet trills, chaotic drumming, and a dirge-themed melody. Silva’s “My Fucking Thesis” is not only brash in name, but also features some remarkably spirited playing. Oh, and let’s not forget “The Chimpanzee Who Told Man How to Cry,” where Silva’s digitally processed horn builds around her trio mates’ tempestuous playing. While there are shades of influences from the past and present, the trio successfully pulls off the hat trick by sounding totally unique while demanding respect with superlative musicianship. Oneiros is brilliant and distinguishable.
Marty Ehrlich – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
So I’ve really only starting getting into Marty Ehrlich work in the last few months but what I have listened to has impressed me beyond belief. His most recent, Frog Leg Logic, with his Rites Quartet is, simply put — sumptuous. A melting pot of themes, developed by a solid band and a great deal of inventive writing by Ehrlich, makes Frog Leg Logic a joy to experience from start to finish.
Built on post-bop aesthetics, Ehrlich leads this quartet through some fantastic compositions. In addition, the members each rise to the challenge and create some high voltage duel exchanges with their leader. “Frog Leg Logic” opens up with this high energy and never let’s go. Zollar and Ehrlich have intense exchanges that fuel this piece with a confidence and boldness that carries throughout the session. Sarin’s drumming is rapid-fire but with a rhythmic quality that will have you banging along with the beat.
“Ballade” with its expansive yet reflective mood gives the listener a sweet sense of the blues as seen through the eyes of Ehrlich and Roberts. Hank Roberts’ performance on cello is amazing. He plays the instrument with such smoothness and diversity that you almost don’t recognize it as a cello until you look at the album credits. Really incredible musicianship. Ehrlich has a few moments throughout this piece where he and the group spin outward into a more free form atmosphere but then quickly return to the blues base of the song and eventually let you fade gently into its closing chords.
“Walk Along The Way” settles into an almost third-stream mood. It’s sparse, dense and quiet. Sarin and Roberts add elements and harmonics that echo back and forth in your eardrums. Ehrlich’s performance is steady and exploratory. Improvised notes and breaking patterns that are aptly matched by Zollar, making a stellar tandem.
“Solace” showcases the quartet in a funky yet quiet mode. Almost Brazilian at heart, this piece is romantic yet avant garde all in the span of a few short minutes. Ehrlich takes up flute for this one and sounds perfectly at home, providing refreshing perspective and contrast to the previous tracks leading up to this point.
“The Gravediggers Respite” returns the listener to the original themes of the session’s opener. Ehrlich and Zollar are rolling with thunder and verve that will have you excited and stunned. Zollar is sublime, rattling off notes like Dizzy Reece or Clifford Brown. Sarin delivers a scorching improvised solo towards the end.
I was blown away by Frog Leg Logic. Fred Ehrlich shows that he may be one of the best kept secrets on both sides of the Atlantic. Frog Leg Logic is a brilliant work with various motifs that I think will be eye opening for many.