Lotte Anker/Rodrigo Pinheiro/Hernani Faustino – Birthmark (CF 267)
We are living in time when experimental jazz musicians are not daily news stars (as if it ever was such time). In a different planet Danish sax player Lotte Anker with no doubt would be such a star.
Classically trained pianist in her teens, she switched to jazz reeds later and in her jazz-friendly homeland played with such great jazz musicians as former Miles Davis drummer US-born and Denmark living Marilyn Mazur, American pianist Marilyn Crispell and then still unknown Niels-Petter Molvaer. After her meeting with “new NY avant-garde jazz” representative sax player Tim Berne at one of festivals, she started long lasting collaboration with his band’s musicians pianist Craig Taborn and bassist Gerald Cleaver forming with them Lotte Anker Trio. With trio she recorded some her most successful and best known albums mixing her Scandinavian relaxed and airy saxophone sound with quite energetic NY downtown pulsation and freedom (learning a lot from Tim Berne and actually changing him in what could be Tim Berne trio).
Surprisingly, “Birthmark” is her different trio. This time she plays with two relatively unknown Portuguese musicians bassist Hernâni Faustino and pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro instead of Taborn/Cleaver and it works! Hernâni Faustino and Rodrigo Pinheiro are both bigger half of young but quite successful Portuguese Red Trio (their two albums got lot of positive press around Europe).It’s interesting that in new trio Lotte herself is NY loft sound generator, perfectly balanced with European free tradition representing bassist and pianist.
Music on this album is quite relaxed but has its nerve, very free form but melodic, often even lyrical, philosophical but without being boring, unique mix of Don Cherry Christiania-based music (without world fusion elements though), Tim Berne-like modern New York avant-garde jazz and European classic avant-garde tradition. And most important – all three musicians have that magic chemistry which separate great music from just good music, and it’s a rare thing.
Recorded and released in Portugal, this album has one more strong side – it isn’t too long and contains no fillers. With my full respect and even love to probably most successful of European young labels, Clean Feed Records has one serious problem – musical material editing. Many of their releases would be much, much better after even small additional cutting of not important or openly boring parts, making final albums not 79:56 min overloaded releases for crazy collectors but well produced concentrated music products for casual listeners. “Birthmark” is quite rare and successful exception – one more reason to have this album in your collection.
THE AMES ROOM – Bird Dies (CF 231)
This record from 2011 is definitely suitable for allegorizing the concept of “getting lost”. You can attempt to fine-tune the ears a bit, and start analyzing the kind of technical contribution by a single instrumentalist. But the guess here is that after about 15/20 minutes (at best) of the circa 48 that incorporate the performance the brain will be stabilized on “blurry standby” mode, and the physical essence – most preferably, the limbs – will be doing the hard work. Basically, Bird Dies is made of diminutive rhythmic and melodic follicles that keep revolving around themselves with rambunctious vehemence, interlinking parts producing a sort of agglomerative acoustic frenzy. Yet there is no primitivism involved, as Guionnet, Thomas and Guthrie are three outstanding instrumentalists who do not need highbrowed deceptions to stymie the probity of their quest. Their success in this context depends on a congenital ability in originating driving stoutness substantiated by decipherable configurations. Try as one might to put some distance from the resulting exhilaration, it’s very probable that these ferociously half-broken orbits will defeat the resistance to insistent foot tapping and autistic head nodding. Nimble acridness, sinewy muscle and polymorphic pulse: nothing is missing. Just add the punch-drunk syndrome granted by a loud playback.
Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (CF 270)
Four progressive-jazz and improvising luminaries lend their expertise for New York City-based drummer Ches Smith’s foray into a multi-purposed set, exploring and splitting the frontiers of avant-garde jazz, rock and other genres into asymmetrical components. Thus far, the artist has been in the thick of things, amassing an impressive discography, performing and recording with notables such as bassist Trevor Dunn, clarinetist Ben Goldberg and others. This album merges discordant free-form impressionism, micro-melodies, off-center jazz—and with accordionist Andrea Parkins onboard—the program includes glimpses of a carnival-like environment.
Smith’s cunning musicality is radiantly disseminated on “Animal Collection.” Here, the ensemble delves into odd-metered cadences, accelerated by a few pithy detours and unforeseen shifts in direction. But as the piece develops the band morph a succint melody and contrapuntal mechanisms into a howling incursion, sparked by the dual sax attack of Tony Malaby and Tim Berne.
Guitarist Mary Halvorson’s humbly crafted notes and Parkins’ understated voicings help define a parallel that contrasts simplicity with knotty digressions and an oddball melody, as Smith leads the charge via his solid rock beats and rumbling polyrhythmic flurries. Moving forward, the musicians intersperse a bit of social chaos with a total breakdown during the bridge and settle into a straightforward groove, leading to the garrulous closeout. On the basis of this outing and session work for others, Smith reveals a fertile imagination that complements his proficient technical faculties. No telling where he’ll go from here.