Daily Archives: November 16, 2012

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.
http://crowwithnomouth-jesse.blogspot.de/2012/11/this-obsessive-house-of-mirror-music.html?m=1#!/2012/11/this-obsessive-house-of-mirror-music.html

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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.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/arts/music/songs-from-jamey-johnson-cody-chesnutt-and-flying-lotus.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1352941860-xbFIx5YJ17pbReWY2ORtmQ&_r=0

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.
http://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/ransara2/

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.
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/theticket/2012/1116/1224326638453.html

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.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=43333

Free Jazz review by Joe Higham

Angelica Sanchez – Wires and Moss (CF 259)
***½
What a magisterial opening to an album, ‘Loomed’ bumps into action giving a positive impression with the first melody. Here I am listening to Angelica Sanchez’s 4th album(*) to date as a leader, a finely produced album of lovely melodies and searching solos. This is also the second album from Clean Feed with this line-up, Tony Malaby – saxes, Marc Ducret – guitar, Drew Gress – bass, Tom Rainey – drums and of course Sanchez – piano, and a very fine group it is.

The album is made up of six pieces which work on the development of melody and freedom. It’s a concept that is gradually evolving throughout the modern jazz world. Structured melodies give way to open ended improvisations, sometimes wild and improvised, and others based on rhythms or melodic fragments used elsewhere. What gives these records, this one included, a very exciting side to them is the ability to interpret chord progressions using modern vocabulary. Lessons learnt from Albert Ayler, Braxton or Derek Bailey are now the norms, moving the art post-bop orientated improvisation into the realms of jazz for conservatory musicians. On this album tracks such as the fine opening ‘Loomed’ let the musicians probe areas that aren’t necessarily suggested in the initial tune before working in a more melodic area that although semi-written inspires the musicians to find alternative vocabulary. ‘Feathered Light’ lets Tony Malaby weave intricate soprano lines that are neither tonal nor atonal. However before Malaby solos Angelic Sanchez opens up the material a little in the same way that Keith Jarrett did back in his classic Impulse years band of Paul Motian, Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden. In fact the music probably owes more to that era (style) than one would maybe think.

‘Soaring Piasa’ finds Tony Malaby and Marc Ducret trading ideas before Angelica Sanchez gives the rhythm section some sort of harmony to work with. Drew Gress and Tom Rainey accompany her like a modern Bill Evans trio before the sax of Tony Malaby joins them by which time it’s clear that the melody is being developed and prepared to lead the group towards the end of the piece. It’s a very graceful and inventive piece that combines open soloing and classic melodic writing. the excellent ‘Wire and Moss’ which features Marc Ducret also works a little on the same idea. A sort of A-B-A structure with ‘B’ being the melody. ‘Dore’ has a dense melody full of rhythmic surprises. Gradually it lets the musicians find their own way, who then develop a more ‘open’ approach to the improvisation. ‘Bushida’ the final track is given over to Drew Gress who opens up the tune with a wonderful unaccompanied bass intro. The piece then moves gradually away into a dark melody that is punctuated by Tom Rainy’s (almost rock) drumming which accompanies Marc Ducret rough solo and Tony Malaby’s poly-harmonic(**) lines.

It’s a strong idea to finish an album that is certainly a pleasure to listen to. I imagine this will certainly be of interest for those who enjoy music that is ‘new’ in terms of jazz, yet aren’t ready to jump directly into more abstract improvised music.

*= I could only find, and remember, the following : ‘Mirror Me’ (Omnitone), ‘Life Between’ and ‘A Little House’ on Clean Feed Records.
**= Sorry for the maths expression ‘poly-harmonic’, but somehow it seems to conjure up the idea of these atonal/melodic lines.
http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.pt/