Monthly Archives: March 2013

Dark Was the Night review by Cayetano López

CF 253Hugo Carvalhais – Particula (CF 253)
Hugo Carvalhais fue una de las sorpresas de 2010 con su debut Nebulosa, en el que contaba con toda una garantía, la presencia de un Tim Berne en estado de gracia que casi ocultaba la singularidad de su propuesta. En esta segunda entrega, el contrabajista de Oporto se ha enfrentado a la difícil papeleta de confirmar aquella magnífica impresión.

La base de su sonido se apoya en otros dos integrantes de la pujante escena portuguesa, los versátiles teclados de Gabriel Pinto y la sofisticada batería de Mario Costa, que junto con Carvalhais teje un pulso rítmico siempre cambiante. La banda se completa en esta ocasión con dos músicos franceses, el saxo soprano Emile Parisien y el violinista Dominique Pifarély. No se trata de un quinteto al uso, ya que explora diversas combinaciones de instrumentos y solo a veces se escucha a todo el conjunto a lo largo de temas de amplios espacios y desarrollo imprevisible.

Minuciosamente elaborado por un músico que ante todo se revela como un excelente compositor, Particula descoloca por la dificultad de adscribirlo a algún género o tendencia que resulte familiar. Lo más llamativo en un principio es el uso de sintetizadores y sutiles efectos electrónicos que le dan una misteriosa atmósfera futurista, pero bajo esa fachada se esconde un jazz camerístico de impecable factura. Un disco tremendamente original, de los que aportan nuevas perspectivas a la estética contemporánea.


Downbeat review by Peter Margasak

Made to Break

Free Jazz review by Dan Sorrells

SHH 003Parque – The Earworm Versions (Ssh 003)
I’m hoping The Earworm Versions will garner a little more international attention for Ricardo Jacinto, the Portuguese polymath behind the music of Parque. Jacinto’s a cellist, but his resume stretches on: a student of architecture and sculpture, he combines sound installations, visual performances, and improvised music into colossal vortices of art. Even without the visual/physical element, The Earworm Versions is an impressive piece of music, certainly worthy to stand aside the names of fellow architects of sound like Max Eastley or Eli Keszler.

The Earworm Versions features three performances. The first is a piece for cello, alto saxophone, electronics, and percussion played on two giant, suspended mirrors. “Peça de Embalar” is austere and moody, the cello drawing long tones over the timpani-like mirrors, sounds like thunder rising in the distance. “Os” features a similar instrumental line-up, only with 24 smaller, tuned mirrors that hang vertically from wires on the ceiling like cymbals.  The piece is interspersed with some readings from a sci-fi text (nothing special, but not terrible, either), which despite its strange subject matter represents the least interesting aural element at play. Still, at times the words and the sounds converge keenly. “It’s also fantastically cold,” says the voice early in the piece, and the low sound of the saxophone starts to lift, a sound almost like shivering, and then the delicate clatter of the mirrors, hammered like dulcimers, an orchestra of ice.

“Atraso” rounds out the selections, an improvisation that’s played back through a speaker on a pendulum, which is swung around a room by two performers, creating a disorienting Doppler effect that sounds as though the music is swooping and diving around your head. What sounds gimmicky on paper actually creates a compelling pulse in the music, a slippery rhythmic element that’s hard to pin down but proves to be the driving force behind the music.

There may be a debate to be had about divorcing these pieces from the structural and visual elements that make up their conceptual foundation, but the works can stand on the strength of the sounds alone. I’d like to think the performative and audio elements can serve two distinct functions and audiences (not mutually exclusive), rather than one being a lesser, incomplete version of the other. Either way, The Earworm Versions is lively listening, and a welcome edition to Sshpuma’s burgeoning little catalog.

Check out Jacinto’s site for video footage of the pieces featured on The Earworm Versions (be patient—for some reason they include the audience arriving and taking seats, too), and poke around some of his other installations while you’re there.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF 258Scott Fields – 5 Frozen Eggs (CF 258)
Alright, so today it’s not a matter of rock. The blog never has been and I suppose never will be only that. Today we consider something by an electric guitarist and his ensemble, something in the realm of avant jazz, free jazz if you like that term.  Scott Fields is a player of genuine stature in this realm. And the recording is a well-healed excursion with a top-notch ensemble. The album is named 5 Frozen Eggs (Clean Feed 258).   Scott Fields amassed some signpost-like and/or more fleshed-out compositions for the date to help the ensemble set mood, tone and direction. Then he and the group cut loose with some very free and eloquent improvisations. The results are what one might expect if you know the players–Marilyn Crispell on piano, Hamid Drake, drums, Hans Sturm, acoustic bass, and of course Scott on electric.   The Fields guitar style is pretty (sometimes very) electric and filled with all kinds of melodic twists and turns. You get the feeling listening as he plays that there is no discernable gap between what he thinks musically and what comes out of the instrument. The mind envisions lines of broad harmonic ramification, the hands execute with style and drama. He’s creating lines that sound like they are completely his–because they ARE.   The piano improvisations of Ms. Crispell are, as always, extraordinarily creative and impactful. Her playing has a logic to it and flows in unending inspiration, or so it sounds. Hans Sturm churns it up at the bottom with an excellent sound and feel. Hamid Drake comes across as poised, dead-on, yet very free. He swings in his very own way when called upon and he like the others can create much that’s inspired in a spontaneous setting. The complete drummer, he is.   So there you have it–four excellent improvisers doing great work interactively and individually, some appropriate compositional frameworks within which that happens, and a guitar stylist who belongs to a category of one, Scott Fields.   It’s music that stays essential and vibrant throughout. If I were rich and they were available, I’d have these folks play at my birthday party! The next best thing is 5 Frozen Eggs. Happy birthday to everybody with this one! Fields and company create music that celebrates life, freely and smartly.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF 260Paul Lytton /Nate Wooley with Ikue Mori and Ken Vandermark – The Nows (CF 260)
If Nate Wooley won some free jazz polls at the end of the past year for trumpet, it has no doubt something to do with his performances on The Nows (Clean Feed 260), a two-CD set of himself and percussion adept Paul Lytton in two live settings, the first at the Stone in NYC with Ikue Mori joining in on computer for about half the program, and another date at the Hideout in Chicago, with Ken Vandermark gracing the podium on bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor and baritone for the second half of the set.  Nate is exploring sound territory that is most decidedly avant and extended; Paul complements perfectly with a widened percussion kit and a keen dramatic sense. The guests fit in quite nicely–and it’s always a treat to hear the Vandermark baritone.   In the end, though, the two principals carry the day with some exceptionally imaginative out playing. “A triumph!”, I could add. Well, OK, it is that.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

CF 261Michaël Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Michaël Attias è sassofonista di origini israeliane che, stabilitosi a New York nei primi anni novanta, ne è diventato voce tra le più originali e musicista tra i più richiesti da personaggi come Tim Berne, Paul Motian, Mark Helias, Jason Moran per citarne alcuni. Se innumerevoli sono le partecipazioni a progetti altrui, i dischi licenziati a suo nome si contano sulle dita di una mano e ci mostrano un sassofonista dalla grande irruenza improvvisativa, dalla spiccata sensibilità interpretativa esaltata principalmente dalla formazione del trio. Spun Tree presenta invece un classico quintetto – piano trio come sezione ritmica e sassofono/tromba come front line – evidenziando un cambio di direzione nell’approccio compositivo, una chiara ramificazione delle dinamiche esecutive e rivelandosi come il disco della piena maturità. Attias si guarda bene dalla tentazione del cliché di un neo bop rinfrescato con qualche spruzzata free e un po’ di avant giusto per gradire. I cinque elementi del gruppo si muovono come elettroni alla perenne ricerca di un equilibrio che sarà sempre instabile perché le forze centrifughe tendono a sopraffare qualsiasi tentativo di quiete. Sax contralto e tromba tracciano traiettorie impazzite che, quando colgono l’attimo fuggente dell’incontro, si trasformano in scintille, il pianoforte sfiora le scie luminose creando grovigli densi di materia sonora in rotta di collisione con i fiati, mentre contrabbasso e batteria frammentano il pulviscolo sonoro rendendolo materia impalpabile da catturare e convogliare nelle giusta direzione.

Le melodie si formano in modo del tutto naturale da questo vagare senza meta apparente, si materializzano attraverso piccoli accumuli o leggere stratificazioni, per poi dissolversi misteriosamente. Ma è la figura di compositore acuto e ispirato che emerge prepotente dall’ora abbondante di Spun Tree, album che non finisce di stupire ascolto dopo ascolto e che svela tutta la sua bellezza in un sottile gioco di scatole cinesi.

(Free) Jazz Alchemist review

CF 240LAMA – Oneiros (CF 240)
Although 2/3 of the LAMA trio is portugese the band actually was created in Rotterdam, where Susana Santos Silva and Goncalo Almeida were studying at the jazz department of the city conseravatory. The music this trumpet trio proposes is somewhere between what’s free and mainstream in jazz, the mixture nicely spiced up with an intelligent use of electronics. One can easily fall in love with the “Oneiros”.

The title track is a delicate ballad which glides elegantly as bass and trumpet state the melody in unisono, along spare, steady toms drumming.  “Alguidar” that starts the cd could be divided into different parts, between dark suspense and light, between mysterious tones and melodies, that the track shifts back and forth to seamlessly. “Ouverture for Penguins” brings a surprising mix od noir atmosphere (enhanced by the disturbed echoes flying around) and strong groove, with jamming trumpet solo. While the melodies are sharp and the playing gives them enough bite, the distortion, fx effects, echoes blurr it somehow on the edge, resulting in a more misty tones.

Goncalo Almeida is responsible for all but two compositions on the album, Greg Smith wrote a a dynamic “Dr. No” which remings you of action movies, and Susana Santos Silva the tune “My Fucking Thesis” where electrified trumpet sounds rides with rock solid drum’n’bass charge.

The albums is cohesive, the strong tunes share the decisive grooves, catchy tunes as well as immaginative arrangaments. I feel I’ve rarely heard a trio album where such attention to a complete arrangement was present. The three instruments always fall into precise spot, where they shoud be, might it be a single touch of the drum. Each piece is like a precious music box, carefully crafted. “Melodia Minuscula” charms you into meditataion with warm and simple melody based on gentle touch of strings and most modest percussion touches. All three players deserves a lot of credit for the entire album but the lyrical bass solo in this piece feels really heartwarming.

The LAMA’s music balances intelligently between moments of dramatical and comical, earthy and dreamy and “The chimp who taught men how to cry” exemplifies that with a jumpy, cartoon-like intro that fuses into dramatic tones that get darker and madder with groovy crescendo. As the tension breaks suddenly the cartonish theme returns. The slow, spacious and psychodelic “Tarantino” that ends the cd brings to mind the music of Cuong Vu

“Oneiros” presents some great playing but most of all some brilliant writing. The compositions are tunefull, rich, filled with surprising melodic twists and turns, witty and insightfull. Most satisfying listen on many levels LAMA “Oneiros” comes most definitely recommended.