Monthly Archives: May 2013

All About Jazz Italy Vittorio Albani

CF 263Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – Now Is (CF 263)
Potremmo essere velocissimi. Il bassista norvegese che oggi abbraccia gli orizzonti texani è davvero uno dei musicisti che sono entrati da qualche anno nel gotha del free più creativo e propositivo. La portoghese Clean Feed, che lo sa da qualche tempo, lo santifica nuovamente con questo Now Is che potrebbe davvero essere la definitiva consacrazione di Håker Flaten, crema eccelsa del movimento più intelligente legato alla musica contemporanea. E lui, per non deludere nessuna attesa, benedice il nuovo lavoro lasciando a casa ogni scelta ritmica per eccellenza, scegliendo un inaspettato e sorprendente quartetto con il fido Joe McPhee al tenore, il chitarrista Joe Morris e il trombettista Nate Wooley. Niente batteria, niente pianoforte. Le poche basi interpretative toccano il blues e atomi di bop; il resto è pura improvvisazione in senso davvero nuovo e lontano sia dalle “classiche” accezioni europee o nordiche, sia da quelle del fin qui conosciuto mondo chicagoano o che comunque gravita attorno a quelle aree. Il risultato è una tela sonora di vastità rara; materiale musicale da analizzare per ore che piacerebbe sicuramente a Pollock, per niente assimilabile a qualcosa di similare affrontato da formazioni imparentate ma, forse, più concettualmente vicino alle filosofie di Malachi Favors con un pizzico del Charlie Haden più ricercato. Now Is è un gioco di affinità elettive, spazio destrutturato, quaranta minuti di precisione, dove nulla sembra lasciato al caso. Empatia spontanea e frammenti di lucida avantgarde cross-generazionale. Wooley ci piace moltissimo in “Rangers,” Morris in “As If,” McPhee in “Knicks,” Håker Flaten, giustamente, dovunque.

Che cosa vuol dire? Vuol dire che la tendenza è quella di una pittura sonora dove ogni tassello santifica le varie personalità e l’energia di ogni attore del lavoro. Qualcosa di metallico che avvicina il tutto al punk-jazz e poi il piccolo mare luminoso dei due minuti e rotti finali di “Post,” ballad che chiude il cerchio aperto con il “Port” iniziale.

Astratto ma mai tagliente, sensuale in modo certamente peculiare e personale, selvaggio e controllato quanto basta. Di certo non un capolavoro imperdibile, ma trentanove minuti da studiare a fondo per comprendere le nuove costellazioni del cielo di una modern music fatta di accenti, spazio, colore, cacofonia, naturalezza e momenti di autentica tensione. Grandiosa sintesi di ciò che oggi potrebbe essere per molti eccitazione, per altri (i più distratti) noia. L’originalità è però davvero unica ed è questa, innanzitutto, da portare sull’altare.

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.

Jazz Music Archives review by Slava Gliožeris

CF 267Lotte 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.–review.aspx?id=243172

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

CF 231THE 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.

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF 270Ches 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.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF 265Christian Lillinger’s Grund – Second Reason (CF 265)
If brilliantly composed, excellently performed mid-sized ensemble avant jazz is to your liking, Christian Lillinger’s Grund and their Second Reason (Clean Feed 265) offer you a good deal of it.  The Grund is a seven-piece outfit of Achim Kaufmann on piano, Christopher Dell on vibes, Pierre Borel on alto, Tobias Delius on tenor, the double basses of Jonas Westergaard and Robert Landferman, and Christian at the drums.   It is a band that has a controlled but energetic outness in the improvisations and a new-music styled ensemble sound. Lillinger’s compositional hand gives the music a sophisticated yet outside edge, from the highly figurative post-bop avant heads to ensemble lines sounded in tandem with the solo sequences.   The ensemble is well-rehearsed, exacting, cohesive and powerful. Christian’s drums flow freely, the horns, keys and vibes have solo strength and the music is a superb outcome of the considerable thought and effort that went into it.  Bravo!