Monthly Archives: December 2012

Lucid Culture End best of 2012 list by Delarue

The 20 Best Jazz Albums of 2012

Assembling a year-end list that’s going to get a lot of traffic demands a certain degree of responsibility: to be paying attention, and to be keeping an eye on what’s lurking in the shadows because that’s usually where the action is. Gil Evans knew that, and that’s why he’s on this one.   As pretty much everybody knows, the final Dave Brubeck Quartet live show surfaced this year, as did the earliest known Wes Montgomery recordings, a tasty couple of rare Bill Evans live sets and a big box set of previously unreleased Mingus. The reason why they’re not on this list is because they’re on everybody else’s…and because they’re easy picks. This is an attempt to be a little more adventurous, to cast a wider net, to help spread the word about current artists whose work is every bit as transcendent. Obviously, there are going to be glaring omissions here: even the most rabid jazz advocate can only digest a few hundred albums a year at the most. And much as Henry Threadgill’s Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp and the historic Sam Rivers Trio’s Reunion: Live in New York are phenomenal albums, they both fell off the list since each has received plenty of praise elsewhere.

1. Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers
2. Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans
3. Hafez Modirzadeh – Post-Chromodal Out!
CF 2644. Ran Blake & Sara Serpa – Aurora
The second collaboration from the iconic noir pianist and the eclectic singer/composer is every bit as intense and otheworldly as their 2010 collaboration, Camera Obscura, and considerably more diverse. This one’s taken mostly from a concert  in Serpa’s native Portugal, a mix of classics, brilliant obscurities, icy/lurid cinematic themes and a riveting a-cappella take of Strange Fruit. It’s out on Clean Feed.
5. David Fiuczynski – Planet Microjam
6. Neil Welch – Sleeper
7. The Fab Trio – History of Jazz in Reverse
8. Giacomo Merega – Watch the Walls
9. Gregg August – Four By Six
10. Orrin Evans – Flip the Script
11. The Fred Hersch Trio – Alive at the Vanguard
11. Brian Charette – Music for Organ Sextette
12. Tia Fuller – Angelic Warrior
13. Guy Klucevsek –  The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour
14. Old Time Musketry – Different Times
15. Endemic Ensemble – Lunar
16. The Danny Fox Trio – The One Constant
17. Slumgum – Quardboard Flavored Fiber
18. Catherine Russell – Strictly Romancin’
19. Juhani Aaltonen and Heikki Sarmanto – Conversations
20. Bass X3 – Transatlantic

Downbeat review by Peter Margasak

CF 260

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

CF 263Ingebrigt Haker Flaten New York Quartet: Now IS (CF 263)
The term “texture” is often used when referring to an artist’s work. The surfaces of German painter Gerhard Richter or American Jackson Pollock’s paintings are rich with tactile feel, but the trained viewer can also appreciate the art below the cosmetic. The same applies to the quartet of improvisers organized by Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten.

Best known for his work in the bands Atomic, The Thing, Paul Giallorenzo Trio, and Free Fall, since moving to Texas Flaten has founded both The Young Mothers and the Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Chicago Sextet. The bassist is comfortable in both the jazz and alternative worlds. Here, the music is instantly composed with saxophonist Joe McPhee—with whom Flaten also recorded the duo date Brooklyn DNA (Clean Feed, 2012)—guitarist Joe Morris and trumpeter Nate Wooley.

Clocking in at a brief 39 minutes, the disc packs more punch than many lengthier sessions. The quartet eschews noodling for precision; there is nothing casual about this encounter. Morris, who often doubles on bass, is a most sympathetic companion for Flaten, as are McPhee (equally skilled on trumpet) and Wooley.

Together, this drummer-less quartet floats differing pulses, favoring interactions such as the conversation between Morris and Flaten on “Pent,” and Wooley’s fluttering notes against bowed bass on “Knicks.” The startling speed of “Giants” represents a heart-pounding four minutes of spontaneous felicity, while Wooley and Flaten open “As If” by setting the table for the quartet’s harmonies. McPhee and Morris slide inside this and other pieces, working each track and maintaining the originator’s framework. Each brief improvisation—the longest running 9:34 and the shortest a brief 2:13—is a well-woven tapestry of sound.

emusic review by Britt Robson

CF 266Eric Revis 11:11, Parallax (CF 266)
It’s almost a shame Eric Revis is still best known as the longstanding bassist for the Branford Marsalis Quartet, because his own projects have been consistently meaty, masterful and stylistically multi-faceted. Parallax — his third disc as a leader, not counting the trio Tarbaby — is a bold, star-infused quartet date that deserves to be heard above all the year-end list-making hoopla surrounding its release.   Revis emerges as the guiding force among such dominant sidemen as pianist Jason Moran, Ken Vandermark on tenor and clarinet, and Nasheet Waits in the drummer’s chair. He stakes out the terrain with showcases that include a modulated blizzard of notes from his bow on the 80-second solo opener, “Prelusion”; agile plucking on the 102-second mid-disc solo, “Percival”; and the closing title track, an ominous and deliberate texture-contrast duet with Vandermark.

Revis challenges his supergroup in unique fashion by structuring “Celestial Hobo” around the individual musical reaction of each band member to a poem by Bob Kaufman. He and Waits build funhouse mirrors out of crazy-glue in their intrepid intros to two standards, raking and scratching for beats on Fats Waller’s “I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter,” and lurching about like mimes pretending inebriation on Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin’ Boy Blues.” And among Revis’s group compositions, “Edgar,” sports a marvelous stalk-swing groove that is by turns spooky and whimsical.

The sidemen deploy their enormous talents with bristling elegance, mixing brutish abandon with expertly honed restraint, so that the customary patterns of ensemble interplay are elevated and/or altered by extraordinary innovation. You hear it in the way Vandermark refuses to climax the tension of his high-wire clarinet solo on “MXR,” the way Waits swings the centrifugal force out to the periphery on the Waller tune, the two-handed gusto that Moran uses to both goad and waylay the groove on “IV,” and the distinct unison harmonies Moran and Vandermark wring out of their front-line tandem on many of the tracks. The two group improvisations are among the best of their kind that I’ve heard in recent years. “IV” is hard-bop rampaging through thorny rose bushes. “Hyperthral” lives up to its title, gradually escalating into shred-fest while Revis’s bass holds the ground with the ever-presence of an afternoon shadow. A “parallax” describes the displacement of an object viewed along two different lines of sight — an apt title for music with this many angles and ideas.

The New York Times review by Ben Ratliff

CF 266Eric Revis 11:11 – Parallax (CF 266)
The bassist Eric Revis likes to play strong and loud and is willing to cut across lines of style and tradition to satisfy his need. He’s done it in Branford Marsalis’s Quartet, one of this country’s top-billing jazz groups; in Tarbaby, a trio with the pianist Orrin Evans and the drummer Nasheet Waits; and in a trio led by the German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, with which he toured last year. That’s a pretty good range, from some baseline verities of the American jazz tradition to free improvising with art-brut appeal.

For his new album, “Parallax,” he’s found a new forum. Originally, for some 2009 New York club dates, he brought together a quartet with Ken Vandermark on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Jason Moran on piano, and Mr. Waits on drums.

This is good bridgework, particularly between Mr. Vandermark and Mr. Moran. Their worlds — in Chicago and New York — don’t overlap much. But they’re close enough. Both use compositional structures and organic group interplay and scholarship to experiment with jazz as a history and a process, revisiting old landmarks, shuffling tradition into new shapes. (They’re both MacArthur grant recipients, for those with scorecards.)

The music, rough and baleful, seems to have pretty old time-stamps on it, though. Much of “Parallax” sounds to me like the ’80s or early ’90s, reminiscent in passing of music by John Carter, Tim Berne, David S. Ware and many blended-together nights at the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street. It can sound like research into a variety of strategies: marches, groove, free rhythm; solo-bass features, sometimes double-tracked; blues language and collective improvisation; a Bob Kaufman poem interpreted variously in music by the band members; originals with small or jagged melodies and reworked old songs. (There are two pieces of old-time repertory: an emphatic, stomping version of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin’ Boy Blues” and a more indirect and wild paraphrasing of Fats Waller’s “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.”)

The record is searching for a partnership of sound, and so the action pulls toward Mr. Moran and Mr. Waits, who have one: they’ve played together for more than a decade and instinctively lock together through feel and dynamics. Some of the album’s thrills, like the tossing, tumbling passages in the middle of “Hyperthral,” “Split” and “IV,” are essentially theirs. Mr. Revis follows his own internal mandate to be stormy or forthright in his improvising, and so does Mr. Vandermark, but they can seem isolated within the project. The record’s a good idea, and a good start; the band needs more time to gestate.

Mark Corroto’s Best Releases of 2012 – All About Jazz

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of jazz have been greatly exaggerated. 2012 has been an outstanding year for jazz and improvised music. Here is a list of some of the best.

Stephen Gauci  Thunk! (Not Two Records)
Matt Wilson/Arts & Crafts Attitude For Gratitude (Palmetto)Rivers/Holland/Altschul Reunion: Live In New York (Pi Recordings)
Angles 5 By Way Of Deception (Clean Feed)
Steve Lehman Dialect Fluorescent (Pi Recordings)
New Zion Trio Fight Against Babylon (Veal Records)
Smith/Moholo-Moholo Ancestors (TUM Records)
Federico Ughi Songs For Four Cities (Skycap Records)
Elliott Sharp Aggregat (Clean Feed)
Rodrigo Amado Burning Live ( JACC)
Trio M The Guest House (Enja Records)
Aram Shelton Everything for Somebody ( Singlespeed)
Jason Stein Quartet The Story This Time ( Delmark)
Neneh Cherry/The Thing The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Superjazzz)
Rich Halley 4 Back From Beyond (Pine Eagle)
Zanussi 13 Live ( Moserobie)
Ivo Perelman The Foreign Legion (Leo Records)
Kullhammar/Aalberg Basement Sessions Vol.1 (Clean Feed)
Harris Eisenstadt Canada Day III ( Songlines)
Josh Berman/His Gang There Now (Delmark)

Troy Collins’ Best Releases of 2012 – All About Jazz

Considering the quantity of recordings released in a year’s time, attempting to compile an end of the year list mentioning every first-rate session would be difficult at best. The ten titles included below are among the most exceptional new jazz albums I’ve heard in 2012.

Jason Robinson – Tiresian Symmetry (Cuneiform Records)
Multi-instrumentalist Jason Robinson’s second Cuneiform release is once again inspired by Greek mythology. Despite the esoteric foundations of Robinson’s sophisticated writing, his nonet’s spectacularly creative interpretations evoke a far broader contemporary influence, ranging from thorny AACM-inspired creative orchestra music to evocative pre-war Ellingtonia.

Living By Lanterns – New Myth/Old Science (Cuneiform Records)
Working from practice tapes culled from Sun Ra’s El Saturn Audio Archive, drummer Mike Reed conceived new arrangements for an expanded version of his Loose Assembly quintet. This impressive summit meeting between Chicago and New York’s finest young improvisers transcends mere repertory, creating strikingly original new music from another artist’s unfinished material.

Mary Halvorson Quintet – Bending Bridges (Firehouse 12 Records)
The widely celebrated 2010 premier of Mary Halvorson’s Quintet confirmed the young guitarist’s growing reputation with a selection of urbane compositions as impressive as her idiosyncratic improvisations. This date offers further proof of Halvorson’s talent as leader of an eclectic ensemble whose efforts are as challenging as they are appealing.

Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Fast Citizens – Gather (Delmark Records)
Chicago’s current generation of creative improvising musicians draws pertinent parallels to the AACM’s polystylistic innovations, best exemplified by the collective Fast Citizens. Vanguard cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm serves as leader for their third album, ushering the group into brave new worlds that encapsulate the entire spectrum of the Windy City’s storied jazz history.

Darius Jones Quartet – The Book of Mae’bul (AUM Fidelity)
The third release from alto saxophonist Darius Jones to document his extraordinary growth as a bandleader delves into rarefied territory. Other than a few spirited numbers, languorous mid-tempo ballad fare dominates the session, providing another view of Jones’ expansive artistry in a more traditionally lyrical quartet setting.

Ross Hammond Quartet – Adored (Prescott Recordings)
The debut of Sacramento-based guitarist Ross Hammond’s Quartet is among the most impressive in his growing discography. Leading a stellar quartet of respected veterans, Hammond strikes a considered balance between the accessible and the avant-garde, making this a perfect introduction to the work of an artist deserving greater recognition.

Michael Formanek – Small Places (ECM Records)
Michael Formanek’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2009 ECM debut as a leader seamlessly blends the composed and improvised, effortlessly segueing from ethereal impressionism to earthy expressionism. His all-star quartet’s near clairvoyant interplay makes this one of the bassist’s finest albums.

Matthew Shipp Trio – Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear Recordings)
Pianist Matthew Shipp’s varied efforts over nearly three decades have increasingly focused attention on the venerable acoustic piano trio format. The second release by this particular lineup offers a bold reinterpretation of the tradition and a compelling reminder of Shipp’s singular mastery of the jazz idiom.

CF 259Angelica Sanchez Quintet – Wires & Moss (Clean Feed Records)
Despite her relatively low profile, pianist Angelica Sanchez’s sophomore Quintet effort expands upon its predecessor’s deft equipoise, gracefully shifting between open forms and taut written sections, conjuring vivid sonic panoramas that are among the most satisfying of her burgeoning career.

Ravi Coltrane – Spirit Fiction (ue Note Records)
Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane’s sixth record as a leader presents multiple facets of his diverse artistry in varied settings ranging from duo to quintet. Gracefully alternating between arcane post M-Base rhythmic experiments and more lyrical excursions, this is Coltrane’s most mature and engaging statement to date.

Le Son du Grisli review by Luc Bouquet

CF 257Igor Lumpert – Innertextures Live (CF 257)
De ce jazz sans tension(s) et sans émoi(s), on ne raffole pas. Parce que trop précautionneux, parce que refusant la périphérie et parce que plafonnant en des motifs monotones, l’oreille s’évade. Reconnaissons néanmoins au saxophoniste ténor slovène Igor Lumpert une délicatesse non feinte et une sensibilité idéale quand s’invite la ballade (Sea Whispers, This Is for Billie Holiday). Sans brusquerie, contrebassiste (Christhopher Tordini) et batteur (Nasheet Waits) assistent le saxophoniste dans sa quête de douce prudence. Mais sans danger, où est le salut ?

Music and More review by Tim Niland

CF 266Eric Revis 11:11 – Parallax (CF 266)
Bassist Eric Revis has played with Branford Marsalis among many other luminaries in the jazz world. On this album, he leads a fascinating inside-outside band full of star power: Jason Moran on piano, Ken Vandermark on saxophone and clarinet and Nasheet Waits on drums. The musicians pulling in opposite directions could have made for a mess, but far from it, the group plays with a powerful muscularity that makes for a particularly hard-hitting album that comes off as an example of hard-bop for the 21st century. “Hyperthral” begins in a scattered and anxious fashion, developing interplay for sax and drums, and evolving into a burly improvisation filled with power. The excitement builds to a high level of energy full band power. The group comes out fighting on “Split” led by an upbeat piano trio, with strong drumming and ripe keyboard. Ripples and smears of saxophone, pouring ahead, cascade out from Vandermark as the band drives forward in an exciting performance. “IV” features acidic sounding saxophone over a supple bass and drum rhythm, building a real nice modern jazz feel. Moran’s piano ups the ante even further as the music becomes a tumbling landslide. Going way back, “Winin’ Boy Blues,” lurches forward with bluesy saxophone, crashing drums and old-school jazz. Moran has it all under his fingertips and is great here, while Vandermark digs deep growling and spitting. This was a fine album, with some of the best players on the modern jazz scene playing solid originals and a couple of unexpected originals.

Free Jazz review by Martin Schray

CF 265Christian Lillinger’s Grund: Second Reason (CF 265)
*** ½
In my real life I am a high school teacher. I like my job and I like teaching kids. However, especially some of the boys cannot sit still, they rock with their chairs, they drum on their desks with their fingers, they fumble through their hair. I guess Christian Lillinger was just like them, he even called his first group Hyperactive Kid. With his rock’n’roll quiff Lillinger, who is only 28 years old, looks like a mixture of Minutemen’s George Hurley and Paul Lovens on speed, and he also plays like that when he is mauling his drums, jumping up and down behind his kit, using all kinds of materials like steel springs, megaphones, or plastic bottles. He is constantly in motion, his drumming is a highly explosive mixture of sound explorations and power play.

Grund is the German word for “reason” but also for “ground”, “cause” or “base”. In an interview with a German newspaper Lillinger said that for him Grund means the ground where he came from, the two basses (Robert Landfermann and Jonas Westergaard) were his platform. They build the base on which Christopher Dell (vibes), Achim Kaufmann (piano), Tobias Delius and Pierre Borel (saxes) can soar. Grund (the band) is like a meta-instrument, an organism from which each instrument can crystallize slowly and individually before it is absorbed in a tight rhythmic network again. Lillinger calls this “interconnection”.

You can see what he means in a shorter piece like “acht!” which starts with a piano/bass/vibes unison part before Lillinger joins in. Far in the distance you can hear a saxophone squealing before the track tilts and drums and sax entwine in an interesting dialogue until the sax vanishes in the group context again. “Schnecke” (which is the German word for “snail” or “slug”) is a similar track, rumbling and rocking, you can find weird circus elements, breakbeats and strange saxophone shrieks. Kaufmann and Lillinger drive the band in front of them. Very often this music transgresses the borders of “jazz”. It is close to new music, the band creates sonic arches which seem to come from a soundtrack for an expressionist film of the 1930s (as in “Grund VII”). On the other hand there are free jazz elements, although not in a traditional way because a lot of the music is composed.

Lillinger says he has ideas he wants to file out. He likes rehearsing, he likes working with his band on these ideas, he wants to be completely free. This is what improvisation means to him in the end – it has to flow.