Igor 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 ?
Eric 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.
Christian Lillinger’s Grund: Second Reason (CF 265)
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.
Hugo Carvalhais – Particula (CF 253)
A quintet date with Carvalhais (bass, electronics), Emile Parisien (soprano saxophone), Gabriel Pinto (piano, organ, synthesizer), Dominique Pifarély (violin) and Mário Costa (drums). I should say right off that the music is well outside of my range of the last couple of decades at least but, still, it’s quite well done and, even to these jaded ears, worms its way in and sits with surprising comfort. There’s something of a classic ECM feel, especially with the soprano tracing catchy unison lines with piano and bass, but also hints of Anthony Davis’ Episteme ensemble (the opening to “Capsule” bears more than a passing resemblance to Davis’ “A Walk in the Valley”) and, in Pifarély’s violin, a welcome tinge of Leroy Jenkins. As well, Carvalhais’ playing strikes me as owing a good bit to Dave Holland–his intro on “Simulacrum” almost sounding like an outtake from a Circle session–and Pinto occasionally recalls Paul Bley.
This can be problematic for me, needless to say, but on the other hand, the influences are well-chosen and the group manages to, to some degree, transcend them, creating work that somehow stands on it own without teetering. It may not be my current cuppa, but I can easily imagine it being greatly enjoyed by both fans of the earlier music and nascent ears looking for an attractive and intelligently played alternative to more humdrum attempts at maintaining the genre.
Ran Blake and Sara Serpa – Aurora (CF 264)
In a time when it seems to pay off more to play it safe than it does to take creative chances, Ran Blake and Sara Serpa provide refreshing respite on Aurora. Their second album deals a new hand to some jazz favorites, digging into a range of standards with exhilarating musicality. Blake and Serpa began playing together when the singer attended the New England Conservatory and the pianist served as her mentor. “I feel I am a bit more mature,” says Serpa. “The first album (Camera Obscura) was much more experimental for me since I didn’t know what it would sound like. This second album is almost like a rebirth of the duo … I feel Ran and I are more comfortable playing with each other.” That maturity shines through, but it’s also easy to tell that the duo has blossomed creatively. Blake and Serpa play wonderfully off each other, with compelling piano lines engaging with elaborate and angular vocals in seamless fashion. Blake’s career, a six decade roller-coaster ride, has found him carving out space as one of the finest improvisers going. His tonal work-outs combine with his more melodic sensibilities, creating a patchwork of ivory-tinkling that is at turns revitalizing and vulnerable. Serpa is the perfect complement. The New York-based composer and vocalist has compiled an adventurous career both as a leader and as accompaniment. She debuted in 2008 with Praia and has mastered the navigation of changing dynamics. She is a stunningly shrewd singer on top of it all and her versatility makes Aurora head into uncharted waters with a certain degree of comfort.
That’s not to say that this isn’t a challenging disc. Consider “Dr. Mabuse,” inspired by the Konrad Elfer score to Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler. The piece is an emotional work-out that finds Serpa shifting through wordless tones while Blake punches accents and sharp, vivid lines into the mix. Or contemplate “Love Lament,” a piece written by R.B. Lynch for Abbey Lincoln. Here, Serpa and Blake play with tradition but swing off on a hard turn with well-lit staccato cuffs and kaleidoscopic dynamics. There’s an ominous sense skulking beneath the dishonestly lovely surface, a tenor that pianist and singer edge closer to the top. Aurora is a rousing, diverse, stimulating program from Serpa and Blake. From a laid-bare performance of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to the bouncy pithiness of “Fine and Dandy,” this is an undertaking that does not dare play it safe.
Eric Revis 11:11 – Parallax (CF 266)
Eric Revis é, desde 1998, o contrabaixista do quarteto de Branford Marsalis. Com o seu som profundo e cavernoso, deu sempre grande solidez à música do grupo. Este é o seu terceiro CD, que reúne um conjunto estelar — dois instrumentistas do trio Bandwagon, de Jason Moran, o baterista Nasheet Waits e o próprio pianista Jason Moran, mais o saxofonista Ken Vandermark, músico de múltiplos projetos no free, associado à Clean Feed. À partida, o recurso a Vandermark redunda num sucesso, na medida em que fornece a este quarteto uma grande originalidade de som que um saxofonista mais ortodoxo poderia tornar acomodatícia. Aliás, a sua utilização do clarinete contribui também para a variedade tonal que “Parallax” encerra. Toda a obra está recheada de momentos inventivos e originais, onde as composições servem tanto o coletivo como as vagas de improvisação. O sentido de unidade está bem representado em ‘Dark Net’, uma composição do saxofonista Michael Attias. Também ‘Split’, de Vandermark, é um bom trampolim para a imaginação do quarteto, neste caso já funcionando dum modo mais tradicional, com a intervenção de Jason Moran. Portanto, quatro músicos de talento concebem uma música espontânea com prodigiosos instantes. O CD está em nome do contrabaixista, que evita ‘solar’ em excesso; para isso utiliza curtos interlúdios que se integram na estrutura acústica do grupo. Seria errado não destacar as duas peças mais tradicionais tocadas. A primeira, uma grande canção de Fats Waller, ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’, em roupagem original, com o contrabaixo em intensas linhas com arco, às quais se sobrepôs a linha melódica. Outra é o tema de Nova Orleães de Jelly Roll Morton, ‘Winnin’ Boy Blues’, com Moran a destilar grandes ideias e um solo inspirado de Ken Vandermark. Um álbum coerente e brilhante, com um Jason Moran genial.