Samuel Blaser Quartet – Pieces of old Sky (CF 151)
Trombonist, Blaser, is joined by a trio of guitar, bass and drums. Not a common configuration. In addition to this recording, Blaser has recordings as leader on ‘Between the Lines’ and ‘Intakt’. He was also a co-leader on one of Paul Motian’s last recordings called ‘Consort in Motian’ on the Kind Of Blue label. Trombonist led albums have a way of either having quite wide appeal or being for specialists only. I judge this album under review to fit into the latter. For the opening tune, in particular, I am not thrilled with the trombone tone. I am sure that the leader has made this quite intentional. On the other hand, these four musicians invite you to pay close attention to their quiet and reflective environment. I do think that the opening piece goes on too long. Attention fails me. Their point was clearly made in the first eight minutes or so of this piece. Drummer, Sorey, gets my vote in the second piece called ‘Red Hook’ and the bassist, Morgan, has interesting messages to provide. Here, Blaser provides a vastly more interesting sound that reveals his huge chops and the listener is given more to chew on. A substantial and engaging piece of music. The next piece returns to a forlorn setting that wears me out quickly. Then, ‘Mystical Circle’ provides a rather academic and technical start that is then energized by Sorey. However, it then takes me to a confused place and rebuilds for a time but, alas, offers no real sense of momentum. Maybe I continue to be thrown off by this recording with its stops, pauses and leaps forward to no seeming advantage. The next piece ‘Mandala’ nevertheless invites one to reconsider ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ but then takes one elsewhere. Excellent sound from the folks at Clean Feed. This record is a bit of an enigma to me after several tries. I would say there is considerable grounding for the future here. I sense better next steps will be found with these intriguing musicians.
Kullhammar/Aalberg/Zetterberg – Basement Sessions Vol. 1 (CF 246)
In the notes on the Clean Feed Records web site, they are almost apologetic about this album, likening it to a refugee from the “hard bop museum.” I think they doth protest too much, because this is an excellent album of crackling modern jazz that does nod to Rollins and Coltrane, but makes no bones about going its own way in a thoroughly modern fashion. The band is a collective of Jonas Kullhammar on saxophones, Espen Aalberg on drums and Torbjurn Zetterberg on bass. The opening “As Tajm Goes By” sets the tone for the remainder of the album with a fast uptempo trio improvisation bookending an open bass and percussion feature. The rubber really meets the road on ”7th Father” where the band takes off at a very fast clip, featuring Kullhammar great saxophone (tenor or baritone?) and using overblown accents to ramp up the excitement. The whole trio is playing like gangbusters on this one, strong freebop anchored by great drumming. Slow bass and almost surreal saxophone playing open ”Den Stora Vantan” with low blowing down deep giving the music an ominous feel of a late night foghorn cutting across a lonely sea, giving way to deep peals of anguished saxophone, making for a true dark night of the soul. With that excoriating performance out of their system, ”Pontiac” develops as a three way stylish modern jazz improvisation. Kullhammar builds tension with a repetitive figure before breaking into a powerful solo. This is well controlled and articulated jazz with a great rhythmic base from the bass and drums. Aalberg takes a brief drum solo to open ”Shadow” making way for strong bass and saxophone with a piercing tone. The trio networks well at fast tempos as Kullhammar breaks free for an exciting statement. The passion builds as he takes his solo into the upper reaches of the saxophone and spreads the wealth for a nice bass and drums feature.
RED Trio – Stem (CF 249)
Mettant en veilleuse les affres souterraines d’antan et bénéficiant de la présence rassurante de Nate Wooley, le RED Trio (Rodrigo Pinheiro, Hernani Faustino, Gabriel Ferrandini) requinque son improvisation de couleurs quelque peu saturantes.
Sans parler de totale déconstruction, l’instabilité et le doute donnent quelques sueurs froides au combo. Ainsi, les suspensions se cristallisant après d’intenses batailles (Ellipse) obligent à ne pas considérer le RED Trio comme une formation aux errements faciles. Visités par l’esprit frappeur (le duo trompette-batterie in Weight Slice), souvent scindés ou désunis mais convoquant parfois quelques vieilles brides de free jazz (Wooley, surpris plus d’une fois en des effleurements dixoniens), nos quatre amis gagnent à se défaire des facilités passées.
Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
The title track from Marty Ehrlich’s second Julius Hemphill inspired ‘Rites Quartet’ release, Frog Leg Logic, triggered a memory.
It transported me back to my university days when the album I was listening to had to be louder than the one my neighbor was listening to. His music would get louder so I turned mine up. Then something magical happened. The two songs, for some reason sounded really good together, creating something new. Ironically, the separating wall provided what it took to unite them. The track Frog Leg Logic is what that would sound like. There is something so creativity distracting about Hank Roberts’ cello, like he is playing a different song in another room. But it works so well. I can’t stop listening to it and luckily the joy continues throughout, whether it is bowed, strummed, plucked, or when borrowing from jazz, classical, and world music.
Ehrlich guides Roberts, James Zollar (trumpet) and Michael Sarin (drums) through this big jazz record. In many places it is much bigger than the sum of its parts. There is some big production with compressed drums and deep reverb. This is a big history lesson but it also carries a big flashlight to look ahead.
Walk Along the Way is a lesson in deconstruction and rebirth. What starts with a walk along the countryside quickly erodes into being lost in the forest. Roberts and Sarin grab the flashlight and forge on, providing a sinister backdrop for Ehrlich to play some darker passages over as Zollar blows some wind directly into your ear. Once safety is spotted, the group compose themselves and slowly put all the pieces back together until they are all again standing on stable ground.
The album takes an unexpected but pleasant turn on My Song; a duo of sax and cello. Ehrlich imitates the cello with warm tones and a convincing vibrato. Roberts returns the favor with some trills of his own. Both instruments fall into a dance of mutual respect while never becoming confrontational. Their history together is very obvious on this track. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.
Granted, there are a few moments that are not to my taste, but these are the things that question what it is I like about jazz in the first place. It makes my want to listen to more Julius Hemphill and further enjoy Ehrlich’s journey to here. For that alone, I am glad I gave this album a closer listen.
Lama – Oneiros (CF 240)
Valutazione: 4.5 stelle
Galeotta fu Rotterdam. O meglio il dipartimento di jazz del locale Conservatorio. Goncalo Almeida, contrabbassista, e Susana Santos Silva, trombettista, entrambi portoghesi, incontrano il batterista canadese Greg Smith e gettano le basi di quello che sarebbe poi diventato il trio denominato Lama. Un incontro fortuito per dar vita ad un trio speciale. Talmente speciale da apparire come una delle stelle luminose di questa prima parte di duemiladodici. Non saranno certo la palpabile affinità elettiva della Santos nei confronti di Bill Dixon o la chiara assonanza estetica con alcuni gruppi di Rob Mazurek e di Cuong Vu, a offuscare la luminosità del trio. Che brilla di luce propria, possiede una personalità fortemente definita, produce una musica che lascia senza fiato, nella quale tutti i possibili riferimenti si disintegrano per ricomporsi in straordinario pulviscolo sonoro.
Il contrabbasso espande i suoi tentacoli grazie anche all’uso di pedaliera e di loops, la tromba fruisce di processori digitali in tempo reale, ma sono solo dettagli tecnici perché gli strumenti vibrano in modo del tutto naturale come voce dell’anima e della mente. Benché composto da otto brani, ciascuno dalla forte connotazione e dalla struttura sfaccettata, Oneiros si può gustare come un unico, sorprendente sogno, popolato da personaggi variegati, più o meno reali – Dr. No, scimpanzé, pinguini, Tarantino – e da magie sonore degne del più ispirato affabulatore.
Ci sono melodie e brandelli di melodie – memorabile quella vagamente felliniana della title- track. C’é una pulsazione elastica, scura, profondamente acustica anche quando contaminata dall’elettronica – impossibile non riandare con la memoria al Charlie Haden versione Liberation Music Orchestra. Ci sono macchie di visionarietà – un caso il conclusivo “Tarantino”? – e cellule ritmiche che fluttuano leggere tra le diverse ambientazioni. Ma soprattutto vi è un concetto di “improvvisazione dolce” che rende entusiasmante il fluire di una musica che cresce di bellezza ascolto dopo ascolto.
Ballister Trio – Mechanisms (CF 245)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A free improvising trio walks into a club and begins a live performance by ripping the ears off its listeners. No joke here, just that flexing muscular music isn’t for the faint-at-heart. And certainly the trio of saxophonist Dave Rempis, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love is an audacious one.
Mechanisms is their second recording. Their first, Bastard String was self-produced in 2010 and, like this disc, recorded live. It is difficult to imagine this trio recording in a studio, rerecording or editing its music. The trio plays live, raw, and uninhibited.
The players are quite familiar and longtime collaborators in bands such as reed multi-instrumentalist Ken Vandermark’s Territory Band. Rempis and Nilsson-Love can also be heard in School Days, and the Chicago saxophonist and cellist both play in Vandermark 5 and various local ensembles.
The three lengthy pieces heard here wander from quietude to noise. Each piece releases a cathartic rush of energy. Although the players forage and rummage about, it is not aimless; they are planning a course. “Claprock” opens with Nilssen-Love digging a foundation with his tom-toms as Rempis finds an intemperate balance on tenor. The pause for cymbal work and thundering bass drum is a prelude to the adrenaline rush to come. Lonberg-Holm’s cello can pluck single notes or, via electronics, singe with a current that begs the question, is that a guitar?
Ballister Trio might start with the question Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun (FMP, 1968) raised: what do we do with all this energy? Rage, yes; but there is more. Rempis, trading between various saxophones, plays until exhaustion, his ferocity incomparable. The trio burns, but not for the sake of combustion. In between the uproar is the meat, the viscera, and the heart of sound. This trio finds beauty in the maelstrom.