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.
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.
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.
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.