Monthly Archives: November 2012

Free Jazz review by Joe Higham

Angelica Sanchez – Wires and Moss (CF 259)
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.

Diario de Noticias review by João Moço

Concerto que o coletivo Angles (transformado em octeto) deu no 52.º Festival de Jazz de Liubliana foi recentemente editado pela Clean Feed.

Angles 8 – By Way of Deception – Live in Ljubljana (CF 256)
Classificação: 4/5

No final dos anos 60 o contrabaixista Charlie Haden criou a Liberation Music Orchestra, uma das mais ricas formações de jazz da época e que teve um papel preponderante na forma como esta música tem também um implícito carácter político.

Ao ouvirmos o recente By Way of Deception – Live in Ljubljana, gravação em disco do concerto que o coletivo Angles (transformado em octeto para essa noite) deu na 52.ª edição do Festival de Jazz de Liubliana a referência à Liberation Music Orchestra é clara.

Uma composição como Let Speak About Weather (and not about war) é apenas um exemplo da mensagem política e social que o saxofonista Martin Küchen (o líder e autor de todas as composições do grupo) quer transmitir com a sua música. Música esta habilmente orquestrada, assente na liberdade criativa do jazz contemporâneo, ao mesmo tempo que assimila outros universos sonoros mais distantes do jazz.

Neste By Way of Deception são assimiladas músicas dos Balcãs, percussões tribais que remontam para África, mas esse cruzamento nunca abandona a essência do jazz. Essa integração de outras músicas torna-se parte intrinseca e fundamental das composições, que não escondem a sua vertente dramática.

Nesta altura de convulsões sociais por toda a Europa, este novo álbum dos Angles acaba por ter um significado ainda maior.

All About Jazz Italy review by Maurizio Comandini

Carlos Bica & Azul – Things About (CF 239)
4 stelle
Il bel trio Azul, guidato da Carlos Bica, arriva al quinto album, dopo oltre quindici anni dall’inizio della collaborazione de l contrabbassista portoghese con il chitarrista tedesco Frank Moebus e con il batterista americano Jim Black. Forse il segreto di questo perfetto amalgama sta proprio nella dilatazione dei tempi e nella capacità di lasciare passare per il giusto tempo fra una collaborazione e l’altra. Non c’è spazio per la routine, il lirismo dei brani è alimentato dalla passione e dall’intelligenza, la capacità di scambiarsi ruolo all’interno del trio è ormai proverbiale. Il chitarrista Frank Moebus è preciso e puntuale, con un suono che irradia luce e splendore. Il suo fraseggio è sempre ben meditato, spesso angolare e sofisticato, privo di esagerazioni che in questo contesto sarebbero deleterie. La batteria nervosa e intelligente di Jim Black è ormai una garanzia che si dilata dai progetti a proprio nome per alimentare anche altri progetti ben selezionati.

Il contrabbasso di Carlos Bica è presente ed elegante, con un suono legnoso e carico di sapori antichi, un perfetto padrone di casa che lascia spazio ai propri ospiti intervenendo quando la situazione lo richiede, senza mai farsi prendere la mano dalla voglia del proscenio.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Hairybones – Snakelust (Clean Feed 252)
Some music drives with such a singular force that it totally occupies the space it is in. There is nothing but the music at that moment and you either surrender to it and let it wash over you like a kind of baptism or you leave the space and go it alone.   That’s the kind of music to be had in Hairybones’ single 53-minute rout Snakelust (Clean Feed 252). It’s the band live at Jazz em Agosto, Lisbon, last year and they are most definitely cranked for this set. Hairybones is the irrepressable Peter Broetzman on tenor, alto, etc.; Toshinori Kondo on trumpet; Massimo Pupillo on electric bass; and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Now that’s a formidable lineup.   The effects and volume element of Massimo’s bass and the electronics-trumpet of Toshinori gives the band an electricity that seems to bring out some harder playing from everybody. Paal is demonic, Peter, never the shy violet, is strongly possessed by the free-energy spirit here, Massimo does some very effective bass thundering, and Toshinori screams, wails and plunges into an aesthetic abyss for some of his best playing on disk.   There are times when the intensity reaches the level of Ascension and even beyond. Other times they explore less dense territory. They never flag nor do they play a single unfelt note, so far as I can hear.   I wont lie to you and say that this CD will convert those who dislike the free-energy-maelstrom sort of onslaught. I doubt that it will. It is a good one for somebody who knows nothing of this kind of music and wants to be blown away. Broetzmann fans and those who seek out the heat of out music will revel in it.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Pão – Pão (SHH002)
The Portuguese creative music-improv scene today gets a new label to showcase some of the more adventurous sides of what is going on. It’s called Shhpuma. It’s a division of the seminal contemporary label Clean Feed. And I have their second release, Pao (Shhpuma 002), on my player as I write these lines.

Pao is a trio effort featuring Pedro Sousa on tenor sax, Tiago Sousa on keys, harmonium and percussion, and Travassos on live electronics. It’s a heady sort of new music-free improv sound they get, with layers of electronic texture and drone, sometimes aided by harmonium and other keyboard effects, for a tripartite series of soundscapes that places Pedro Sousa’s tenor overtop of the wash playing long notes, subtones, harmonics, unconventional soundings and breaking at certain points into a flurry of avant expression which stands out as significant contrast and musical event.

This is music of adventure, not exactly something to groove out on in some conventional jazzy sense. It is music of sound color, well done for what it is doing, moody, atmospheric. It is not music of a self-assuming sort. No one is trying to amaze you with prowess. It’s all about the sounds. That is fully legitimate (in the sense that it has as much right to exist as bebop or symphonic music) and they leave an impression that is both positive and memorable.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

The Fish – Moon Fish (CF 254)
In many ways at many times so-called “free jazz” depends for its success on inspiration and inventive commitment on the part of the musicians involved. If they are without a certain amount of “juice” and a certain level of ideas, it can be a little like the cartoon image of a hippopotamus taking a high dive into a much-too-small tub of water. Ouch!   I bring this up because today’s CD is just the opposite of this kind of lack. We have the trio known as the Fish doing a three-part improvisation on their recent CD Moon Fish (Clean Feed 254). They are filled with the inspiration of the muses for this one, tumbling their way through some kicking free space.   This is a well-matched European outfit of Jean-Luc Guionnet, alto, Benjamin Duboc on contrabass (who we’ve encountered rather often in good settings both here and on the guitar-bass blog), and Edward Perraud on drums.   They are supercharged and wail their way through this set, Guionnet sometimes worrying a phrase a la “Sunship,” more often proceeding in a linear way through phrases that blaze; Duboc creating forceful counter-onslaughts and digging in for a continuously thrumming energy foundation; Perraud feeling the spirit and busily pushing his kit to the barrage limits.   It’s the wild and crazy kind of freedom we have on this one, continuous, energized, on fire and beautifully frenetic. Nice one.

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

Platform 1 – Takes Off (CF 255)
Another couple of weeks and another excellent project featuring some of the best on the Free Jazz scene. Platform 1 is an international combination that has worked together in various forms (most recently as Resonance Ensemble). But what makes Takes Off slightly different is the freedom in which the musicians create and utilize the space around them to superb effect.

“Portal #33” had shades of Vandermark’s main outfit, The Vandermark 5. The sound is fast paced but with a fun well-intended groove. Williamson, Swell and Vatcher are killer. The piece swerves with more improvised lines towards latter portions before Broo and Williamson lead the quintet gently out.

This gives way to a steady, quiet and introspective “Stations,” in which Broo’s passages have a sweet delicate beauty to them. Williamson has a great quiet solo towards the end that is later joined by Vandermark. Really touching harmonies of dedication.

“Deep Beige/For Derek’s Kids,” a double melodic suite written by both Williamson and Swell, moves with dark entrancing tones through subtle notes from the horn section and some free movement by Vandermark on clarinet. This first portion lulls the listener into a quiet sense of abandon.

The mood becomes slightly more open and spacious with the second movement. Swell adds a blues-like touch that soon ventures into a very calculated abstraction and cacophony of the final album track “In Between Chairs.” An excellent closing number that brings the session full circle with a boisterous bit humour but also a solid sense that Platform 1 could be one of Vandermark’s more adventurous groups going forward. Solid stuff worth your listening pleasure.

Free Jazz review by Paul Acquaro

Elliott Sharp Trio – Aggregat (CF 250)
I find myself returning again and again to Elliott Sharp’s Trio recording Aggregat. Sharp is hit or miss for me, but I’ve enjoyed cherry picked albums like Monk/Sharpe and his duo recording with Scott Fields. Aggregat however, turned my ears on end.

Sharp, usually an unusually inventive guitarist is heard here on both guitar and saxophone. His sax playing is actually a bit more inside than out and flirts with the tuneful side of edginess.

The album kicks off with the angular composition ‘Nucular’, which features Sharp’s sax playing with a long free form improvization bracketed by an identifiable arching melodic head. This is followed up by the prickly electric guitar on ‘Hard Landing’. The guitar’s clean sound gives way to a distorted burst of energy, devolving from rhythm and melody into a miasma of sound. Beneath it and throughout, upright bassist Brad Jones and drummer Ches Smith keep Sharp’s explorations moving but grounded and the ideas well connected. The squeaky start to ‘Mal Du Droit’ gives way to some swinging free improv courtesy of the rhythm section, Sharp’s guitar see-sawing between a noisy smear of effected chords and precise searing lines. I could go on, discussing the sonic carpet bombings in ‘The Grip’ or the describe in excruriating detail the perturbing screech in ‘Amellia’, but I think I’ve said enough.

Squeaky moments and all, this one is a keeper in the persistent playlist.