Monthly Archives: November 2012

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

Hugo Carvalhais – Particula (CF 253)
In the last year I have become a massive fan of the exceptionally talented composer/musician, Hugo Carvalhais. His debut, Nebulosa, was one of JazzWrap’s best albums of 2012. And yes, guess what, his new album, Particula, delivers the same kind of results and better.

With Particula, Carvalhais creates specific structures within very dense space. This is an album that lies somewhere between minimalism, fusion and chamber, but with all sorts creativity hiding in unsuspected places. “Chrysalis” peers into dark matter to bring forth a beautiful and introspective spirit which emanates from each instrument. Man focus being Pinto and Pifarely until the rest of group begin to intersect.

“Capsule” is possibly the most contemporary piece on Particula. With miniature melodies from Pinto and well place notes from Carvalhais all woven together early on by Pifarely and Costa, this a gorgeous piece that soon moves from contemporary to free form but still maintains a sense structure.

“Amniotic” is just as it refers and it’s a great closing tone for the album. It’s the same return to the dark, insular place that holds the sound in. Short bursts from Parisien, plucks from Pifarely and electronic waves from both Carvalhais and Pinto make this a eerie but special outgoing number.

The spirit and sense of adventure within the darkness is probably what draws me Hugo Carvalhais compositions. But either way Particula is one of those extremely special albums from a quickly important figure on the European scene. Highly Recommended. And one of JazzWrap favourite albums of 2012.

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Trespass Trio – Bruder Beda (CF 251)
In 2009, Trespass Trio released its debut album ” … Was There To Illuminate The Night Sky …”, and it was an immediate hit, at least in my end-of-year lists. The Swedish band, consisting of Martin Küchen on alto and baritone, Per Zanussi on bass and Raymond Strid on drums, is indeed exceptional.

In contrast to Martin Küchen’s other band, Angles, the trio’s approach is more minimal, more intimate, full of suppressed menace and calm development, yet also rawer and fierce, despite the similarity in themes. Compositions like “Don’t Ruin Me” and “Today Is Better Than Tomorrow” will be recognised by Angles fans.

The art work and the title of the album are highly unusual. Bruder Beda refers to a relative of Küchen “Ernst Gerson, a Jewish German veteran of the World War I who became a Catholic monk, adopting the name Bruder Beda. When he decided to return to the secular world, when both the Nazis and the Zionist movement were growing, big troubles waited for him”. Despite his efforts to claim he was Arian, he was eventually deported and killed in Auschwitz. If you read German, his story is related in this book. The whole complexity of the individual struggling with identity and trying to make his own life, his own truth, against forces trying to put him into a category of religion or ethnicity, both claimed and rejected, is well reflected in the music.

The entire mix of distress, sadness, rage and compassion can literally be felt when listening to Trespass Trio. It is moving and shocking. Hard and touching and deep.

Real music. True music.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

Matt Bauder – Day in Pictures (CF 210)
The generally stormless climate – tinted with past remembrances – typifying Day In Pictures contrasts quite a bit with the remarkable bundle of influences credited to Matt Bauder, whose musicianship is apparently rooted in his love for punk and soul yet was refined by studies with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Alvin Lucier and Ron Kuivila. But as soon as the tranquilizing themes of pieces such as the inaugural “Cleopatra’s Mood” – or the alluring “Bill And Maza”, scented by the essence of countless jazz classics of the 60s – take possession of your afternoon, one is promptly transported back to eras where the mere act of listening to a long playing while sitting on the couch was considered the purest form of delight. Tunes whose lyrical constitution can be even retained by the memory, to a degree: this is valid, for example, in “Parks After Dark”. But wait until the matter gets transformed, as the quintet starts bruising the noblesse via a broad-minded decomposition of the counterpoint, five autonomous voices heard in semi-fighting stance with the same clearness that was defining the collective texture to that moment, masterfully restored at the end. The proportion between logical order and investigation of self-direction is the record’s most convincing feature; within these spheres, Angelica Sanchez’s riveting chordal choices underscore the compelling interconnections of the leader’s tenor with Wooley’s now brooding, now impertinent trumpet, whereas Ajemian and Fujiwara never look set to incarcerate the pulse into mathematical exactitude in spite of the intelligible symmetry of the rhythmic bulk. Class being class, extreme recklessness is not indispensable to enjoy this ever-polite outing: you just need a full hour to be spent alone, minus extraneous disturbances.

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley feat. Ikue Mori and Ken Vandermark – The Nows (CF 260)
Consider the great duos of the cinema, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson and so on-what each successful duo has in common, is a chemistry, an attraction or spark between them. Such is the case with the musical duo of percussionist Paul Lytton and trumpeter Nate Wooley.

What each of those film stars also has, is individual talent capable of starring in a lead role sans partner. Likewise, Lytton and Wooley (his junior by some 27 years) are masters of their own instruments. Lytton was a force behind the London free jazz scene of the 1960s, he founded the London Music Collective with (among others) Evan Parker and Derek Bailey. His drums can be heard behind groups led by Barry Guy and the American leader Ken Vandermark. Wooley’s trumpet is seemingly ubiquitous these days, in his quintet, solo performance, with groups led by Joe Morris or Mary Halvorson and in duo with Peter Evans. As with any fantastic partnership though, Lytton and Wooley always seem to raise their game when they are performing together.

This album was recorded during their 2011 US tour, Disc One was recorded at New York’s The Stone and Disc Two at the Hideout in Chicago. The session follows the duo recordings Creek Above 33 (Psi, 2010) and, like their recordings with guests The Seven Storey Mountain (Important, 2009) (with David Grubbs) and Six Feet Under (No Business, 2012) (with Christian Weber) the duo share the stage for half the discs in NY with Ikue Mori and Ken Vandermark in Chicago.

Usually, extended technique -a gift both musicians share-is a recipe for a disjointed sound and an impulse killer. With Lytton and Wooley though, the opposite is true. The trumpeter’s amplified growl and roar and his slurred shouts heighten the cymbal accents and drum traumas of Lytton. This disc, like their previous one never lacks for momentum. The pair play off each other’s sounds, Lytton the scrambled eggs of metal-on-metal and Wooley the over-blown amplification of his horn.

Adding Mori to mix up the electronics, Lytton and Wooley morph into to the duo of R2-D2 and C-3PO, crafting their conversation into a sci-fi dream. The balance of this duo doesn’t so much shift towards Mori’s computer electronics, as much as it makes room for her voice. Likewise, with Vandermark’s horns. He supplies the repetitive pulse on “The Ripple Effect” with his baritone saxophone, enabling the duo to sculpt a freer sound. The track “Automatic” finds Vandermark blowing bass clarinet notes and Wooley following with some traditional trumpet accompaniment while Lytton whips up the energy.

This fantastic duo is a perfect host to their guests, but certainly they are an act unto themselves.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Trespass Trio – Bruder Beda (CF 251)
Today, a look at an attractive release from the Trespass Trio, Bruder Beda (Clean Feed 251). It is named after (and centers around) the Jewish WWI hero, priest and minister who was persecuted and martyred by the Nazis.

Fittingly the music has a serious, sober, commemorative cast. Other than one collective improvisation, these are Martin Kuchen compositions, who plays alto and baritone. Per Zanussi is on double bass, Raymond Strid on drums.

The music is free, compositional, structured, passionate, anguished, moving. Much of the music in in a minor tonality, in keeping with the theme. On alto and baritone Martin is quite convincing and the rhythm team brings an intensity of focus to the session in keeping with Kuchen’s own musical commitment.

It is one of the most distinctively alive avant trio disks to come out this year to my mind. This is music of intensity, of tenderness, rage and transcendence.

Crow With No Mouth review by Jesse Goin

Boris Hauf Sextet – Next Delusion (CF 238)
A collision of musicians that on paper might suggest fractious, frantic results, is instead a gestalt of tempered, balanced, largely restrained playing, with egos in abeyance and empathy keenly evident. You can refer to Bill Meyers’ fine liner notes for a run-down of Hauf’s affair with the city, but I do find one aspect of this ensemble’s joined sensibilities of interest. Essentially the Sextet is an encounter between Chicago improvisers of the Umbrella Music Collective (Jason Stein, Keefe Jackson and Rosaly) and musicians associated with (let’s forgo bickering about placeholder names) EAI (Michael Hartman of T.V Pow, Hauf with his Efzeg affiliation, Steven Hess of, among many projects, Haptic). A little research reveals that all of the Sextet came to Chicago, from every direction, between 1999-2001. Efzeg became active in Vienna in 1999, but Hauf began his infatuation with the Midwestern city that year, returning annually, more or less, to this date; Keefe and Rosaly hit the city in 2001; T.V. Pow, as a trio, became active in the city at that time; in other words, the present-day Sextet gathered in Chicago at least 12 years ago, drawn to it as a burgeoning locus for experimental music. That’s one aspect of this collision.

The music at hand owns some of the blurring of individual roles associated with Efzeg or Haptic; the horns often braid and twine together without solos or a foregrounded voice. There are passages where, oddly and refreshingly, the three drummers lay out, opening a World Saxophone Quartet-like space for Stein, Hauf and Jackson’s stacked harmonies. The flip is true as well – one piece finds the percussion rumbling alone, with an admirably tamped-down fire. There are occasional bursts of frenetic reed work, though reigned in and always returning and folding back into the whole.

Somehow – and I count this as no small feat – Hauf has immersed himself for many years in his adopted city, his love for the improvisation forged there self-evident, without becoming derivative or diluting his own sound and approach. This enables the Sextet to be a strange brew, an authentic collective, remaining horizontal, unimpeded by egos, and able to foment, as they do on Next Delusion, a surprise or two.!/2012/11/this-obsessive-house-of-mirror-music.html

The New York Times review by Nate Chinen

Angelica Sanchez Quintet – Wires & Moss (CF 259)
This pianist-composer likes building structures and breaking free of them, as she shows on “Wires & Moss” (Clean Feed), her expressive new release. She has an expert team in place, featuring the same dauntless improvisers as on “Life Between,” from 2008: Tony Malaby on saxophones, Marc Ducret on guitar, Drew Gress on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. She grants them generous license, and the result is often a heightened tension (notably from Mr. Ducret). On “Soaring Piasa” the band eases from open abstraction to simmering incantation so gracefully that the dividing line effectively disappears.

Lucid Culture review by Alan Young

Ran Blake / Sara Serpa – Aurora (CF 264)
For a singer, recording a live album with Ran Blake is a potential minefield. The iconic noir pianist is no mere accompanist: he’s a bandmate. To say that he’s hard to follow is an understatement to the extreme. What is there about Blake that hasn’t been said already? That he is to improvisation what Schoenberg was to composition, maybe? Other pianists would kill to be able to command the kind of otherworldly menace that Blake goes up onstage and pulls out of thin air. And while there’s more often than not a rigorous logic to his melodic sensibility, there’s no telling where he might go with it.

This past May, Sara Serpa took fate in her hands and recorded a live piano-and-vocal album with Blake, titled Aurora and just released on Clean Feed. Adventurous as this may seem at face value, Serpa and Blake have the advantage of being old friends: she’s been a protegee of his since their days together at the New England Conservatory. Which comes as no surprise: they’re peas in a pod, rugged individualists and formidable intellects who share a fondness for third-stream eclecticism and a fear of absolutely nothing. This new album builds on the often shattering camaraderie they shared on their initial duo recording, 2010′s Camera Obscura.

What’s not news is that this is Blake being Blake, chilling, unpredictable yet at the same time giving the songs here plenty of wit, sometimes cruel, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes surprisingly droll. What’s news is how much Serpa, already a distinctive singer, has grown. The disarming quality of her completely unadorned, crystalline, reflecting-pool mezzo-soprano pairs off memorably and not a little hauntingly with Blake’s broodingly opaque, occasionally savage tonalities. Although her approach to a song has every bit as much rigorous precision as Blake’s, she’s back at her old Lisbon stomping ground here (at the sonically superb Auditorio da Culturgest, recorded both in concert and live in the hall the following day) and is clearly feeding off a triumphant homecoming of sorts.

The first song is Saturday, a ballad recorded by Sarah Vaughn early in her career. From its defiantly icy intro, “Saturday…just a doesn’t matter day” becomes a coolly poignant lament. When Autumn Sings, the first of two R.B. Lynch/Abbey Lincoln compositions, finds Blake doing an offhandedly creepy waltz up against Serpa’s surprisingly bluesy melismatics. And yet, by the end, he’s lured her deep into the shadows.

The duo veer between phantasmagorical ragtime and various shades of macabre on a piano-and-vocalese improvisation on Konrad Elfers’ Dr. Mabuse, from the film soundtrack – it’s one of the album’s high points. From there they segue into Cansaco, a 1958 hit for fado icon Amalia Rodriguez. It opens with a moonlit mournfulness, Blake and Serpa exchanging motifs, always understating the song’s lovelorn drama

They follow that with a jauntily carnivalesque take on the bizarre 1950s space-travel relic Moonride, inspired by the Chris Connor version. Serpa sings Strange Fruit a-cappella with a chilling nonchalance, only digging into the melody when the imagery becomes grisly. Blake’s solo spot, titled Mahler Noir, defamiliaizes a couple of late Romantic theme with a tersely crystallized, crepuscular menace that wouldn’t be out of place in peak-era Pink Floyd. Then they romp twistedly through The Band Played On, chosen since the song appears on the soundtrack to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.

Love Lament, another Lynch/Lincoln song, gets a broodingly spacious understatement, Serpa matching Blake ellipsis for loaded ellipsis. They keep the snowswept angst going with Wende: the way Serpa sings “pressing so deep into my soul” will rip your face off. By contrast, Fine and Dandy juxtaposes wry Van Morrison allusions with Serpa’s utterly trad, completely deadpan acrobatics. They close the show with a ballad Serpa selected, Last Night When We Were Young, underscoring this ode to defeat with an absinthe hush that’s as quietly powerful as anything these two artists can conjure. Like their previous collaboration, this album makes a mockery of any attempt to rank it against others from this year or for that matter any year. This is music for eternity, a bleak yet sometimes unexpectedly amusing antidote to the shadows encroaching around us.

Irish Times review by Cormac Larkin

Ran Blake/Sara Serpa – Aurora (CF 264)
The combination of adventurous Portuguese vocalist Sara Serpa and legendary “Third Stream” pianist Ran Blake is an inspired summer-winter pairing. The two met first as student and teacher at Boston’s New England Conservatory, but since their first duo recording (2001’s excellent Camera Obscura) the relationship has matured into something quite unique and original.

Blake’s darkly enigmatic harmonies, delicately poised between form and freedom, throw Serpa’s unaffected but affecting vocals into sharp relief; the results stand alongside the very best of the piano-vocal tradition. their latest offering, recorded live in Lisbon earlier this year, is a fascinating collection of lesser spotted standards, including a riveting version of Billie Holiday’s politically charged Strange Fruit and quirky takes on old Tin Pan Alley chestnuts The Band Played On and Last Night When We Were Young.

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

Angelica Sanchez Quintet: Wires & Moss (CF 259)
Perceptive composer and cunning improviser, educator/keyboardist Angelica Sanchez has risen to the A-list of modern stylists and innovators. As history dictates, she largely summons the crème-de-la-crème of like-minded artists for her solo endeavors. Indeed, Sanchez’s burgeoning discography for Clean-Feed records bears witness to her resourceful persona. On Wires & Moss, she traverses a route initiated upon evocative moods and jarring tone poems.

“Soaring Piasa” is an 11-minute opus designed with guitarist Marc Ducret’s angular and creaky extended notes that help establish an unwieldy and slightly ominous introduction. As saxophonist Tony Malaby fills in the gaps along with Sanchez’s nimble piano voicings. Hence, an unnerving calm underscores the storyline. But they subsequently raise the pitch, due to the leader’s fractured jazz phrasings and subtle reverse-engineering processes, instilling a notion that many unanswered questions prevail.

It’s an open-ended piece that morphs into a structured theme, centered on a simple and congenial melody line, where Malaby elevates the pitch via his plaintive cries during the finale. Sanchez and associates inject quite a few teasers into this multifaceted work. The ensemble decrees a translucent median, toggling between artistic risk-taking and modern mainstream while tossing several riotous detours into the grand schema.