Daily Archives: May 8, 2013

Squid’s Ear review by Phil Zampino

CF 267Anker / Pinheiro / Faustino – Birthmark (CF 267)
The trio of Anker, Pinheiro and Faustino is a reunion of sorts, as all three are part of the Variable Geometry Orchestra, as heard in the 2007 Creative Sources release Still. As a smaller working group the three find common ground in abstract free improvisation, recording this exemplary album of distinctive playing. The Copenhagen-born, New York-based saxophonist Lotte Anker enjoys a diversity of settings, which includes the trio of Anker, Taborn, Cleaver, and the Mokuto Trio with Peter Friis Nielsen and Peter Ole Jorgens. Pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro and bassist Hernani Faustino are both members of Lisbon’s Red Trio, who bring a variety of tactics to contemporary improvisation, using abstract density and tangential lines that bring an interesting equilibrium to their work.

Bassist Faustino’s roots are as an electric rock bassist; in this trio setting his playing on the double bass, plucked and bowed, keeps a steady yet never frantic pulse while maintaing a healthy distance from obvious choices. Pianist Pinheiro works in clusters and long lines, creating circular structures that lead into interesting and unexpected avenues, often through complex and meticulous runs. Where Red Trio tends to plays quickly and percussively, here Pinheiros and Faustino are more subdued and introspective. The recordings appear on the surface to present more melodic interplay than is typically associated with these players, probably attributable to the influence of Lotte Anker’s playing. Anker is an expressive player, with a relaxed tone that reminds of Lee Konitz or Paul Desmond, though her strategies are much different. Her effortless playing belies the fierce technique and creative strength of her mind, heard in both short figures and extended runs, with beautiful melodic glimpses that resolve in elegant ways. Her playing takes this trio into territory that sounds restrained, yet on inspection is filled with intricate and expansive approaches to improvisation.

On the seven tracks of Birthmark all three players are intently listening, constraining wilder flights in favor of educated and confident discourse. “Golden Spiral” is the perfect example of this trio’s dialog, an extended work that gives ample time to each player. The work unfolds slowly, led by Faustino’s bowing work, while Anker slowly adds harmonic utterances and short crying tones that extend as Pinheiro introduces single tones, short rhythmic steps that push Anker forward; Pinheiro’s lower register playing is offset by Anker’s high tones, while Faustino maintains a low circular foundation, all three building tension. The playing increases in intensity without gaining speed, an interesting illusion that gains momentum with increased activity: Anker extending her lines, Faustino’s bowing becoming more forceful, and Pinheiro’s playing adding more complexity and range. The music becomes a subtle whirlpool, adding harmonic strength, and then unexpectedly dropping out for a solo section from Pinheiros, from which the piece builds again. This kind of exchange characterizes the trio, who provide space and support for each other without allowing the improvisations to become excessive or agitated. The music has a sort of delicacy, keen and astute, but never overbearing; it is a model of control and discipline while fascinating the listener with each player’s voice, and with their compelling conversation.

Squid’s Ear review Florence Wetzel

CF256Angles 8 – By Way of Deception, Live in Ljubjana (CF 256)
This powerful live recording from the Swedish group Angles is a welcome addition to the fine tradition of protest music. The “deception” in the title can be interpreted many ways, but surely it refers in part to the Western leaders who live at an emotional distance from the wars they wage abroad. Yet despite the machinations of the leaders, the people of the world can always find mutual ground, particularly through the common denominator of music. With Angles’ latest release, they face the deception head-on: this is music by the people for the people, with the hope of waking up the people.

Angles normally has six members, but for their 2011 performance at the 52nd Ljubljana Jazz Festival they added a second saxophonist and a pianist. The extra sax lends vigor to their already potent front line of trombone, trumpet, and sax, and the piano finds a cousin in the group’s vibraphone, that beautifully resonant instrument so woefully underrepresented in avant-free groups. The audience is also a member of the group, energizing the band through their receptivity and appreciation, and adding a lift to the music that can be felt even via a recording.

The CD starts off with the twenty-minute “By Way of Deception,” an urgent song that sweeps up the listener with its vitality and jubilant energy. The song is full of shifting interludes with threads of folk music, displaying the group’s mighty front line as well as exquisite interplay between different instrumental combinations. “Dactyloscopy” is a wild and woolly dance, a mighty burst of chaos that highlights the musicians’ mobility and great freedom of expression. “Today Is Better than Tomorrow” is a tuneful, stately piece that’s deeply heartfelt, and “Let’s Speak about the Weather (and Not about the War)” is full of playful rhythms, including some shining vibraphone work. The performance closes with the thirty-minute tour de force “Don’t Ruin Me / Let’s Tear the Threads of Trust,” a grand exploration that includes full-on cacophony with all hands on deck, plus sparer interludes with splendid bass and piano solos.

This music is on fire — it’s full of passion and purpose, and it brings to the fore the talents of these eight excellent musicians as they speak their truth through sound. A world without deception is surely possible, but for true change to occur, everyone will need to summon up their highest abilities and deepest aspirations. By creating music that is simultaneously a call to arms and a joyful celebration, Angles 8 is certainly doing their part.