Daily Archives: June 14, 2013

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

CF 270Ches Smith and These Arches Hammered  (CF 270)
Among the many notable creative improvising musicians currently based in New York, there are remarkably few whose purview includes significant collaborations with veterans of the fabled ‘80s and ‘90s Downtown scene. Ches Smith is one such artist, a powerful yet unassuming drummer whose resume includes impressive sideman work with Tim Berne and Marc Ribot, collaborations with contemporaries Mary Halvorson and Darius Jones, and membership in the avant rock bands Secret Chiefs 3 and Xiu Xiu. These Arches is Smith’s flagship ensemble, an unconventional bass-less unit no less unusual than Good for Cows, his longstanding duo with bassist Devin Hoff, or his solo percussion endeavor Congs for Brums.

These Arches features an intriguing multi-generational lineup, pairing seasoned accordionist/electronics wizard Andrea Parkins and ubiquitous guitar prodigy Halvorson with renowned alto saxophonist Berne and industrious tenor player Tony Malaby. Berne has proven to be visionary in his choice of younger collaborators; Jim Black, Chris Speed and Craig Taborn have all gone on to great acclaim following their tenure in Berne’s pre-millennial projects. Returning the favor, Berne has served as a sideman for some of his most compatible associates, including Smith.

The recent addition of Berne to the original four-piece roster amplifies the quintet’s fervency, simultaneously creating a conceptual link to the post-modern Downtown aesthetic that Berne helped shape with peers like John Zorn. Smith’s quixotic writing is reminiscent of the eclectic genre-splicing that defined the early Knitting Factory scene, although his stylistic juxtapositions are more organically cohesive than those of his predecessors. Despite the subtly diverse nature of the program, the individual tunes exhibit melodic similarities, lending the date a unified sensibility.

Reinforcing its title, Hammered traffics in somewhat heavier territory than the group’s 2010 Skirl debut, Finally Out Of My Hands. Most of the pieces were originally written for a rock-oriented lineup, a detail that’s readily apparent in the dramatic title track, which provides an excellent example of Smith’s sensitivity to dynamics. The number’s infectious theme is fashioned from nuanced variations on a soaring metallic riff driven by stop-time rhythms, bookending a series of divergent episodes that veer between swaths of coruscating noise, aleatoric pointillism and deft call and response.

Despite being chart-driven, the open structures underlying Smith’s labyrinthine compositions facilitate a wide range of individual interpretations. Dense, collective improvisations are counterbalanced by brief unaccompanied soliloquies and intimate duets, resulting in a fascinating array of detours, including Parkins and Halvorson’s pensive exchanges with Smith at the end of “Wilson Phillip” and the saxophonists’ sinuous interplay on “Learned From Jamie Stewart.”

The band’s intuitive chemistry also spurs their communal rapport. Together Parkins and Halvorson weave a phantasmagoric web of sound, underpinning the proceedings with a bevy of kaleidoscopic textures that range from skirling distortion and whirling fuzztones to chirpy percolations and glitchy bleats. Berne and Malaby, whose simpatico dialogue is further enriched by the tonal contrast between the former’s urbane precision and the latter’s folksy expressionism, make a suitably compelling frontline, capable of hushed lyricism to trenchant histrionics.

In light of such heavyweight company, it would be easy to take the leader’s sterling contributions for granted; his understated virtuosity eschews grandstanding pyrotechnics, driving his bandmates with concision and focus. Though the interpretive prowess of Smith’s collaborators is a key factor in the success of Hammered, their contributions are equally reliant on the malleability of the leader’s accessible writing. By gracefully incorporating everything from catchy post-punk themes to rousing Balkan-inspired motifs into a hybridized new standard, Smith successfully advances the erratic post-modern innovations of the recent past.

Sound of Music review by Thomas Millroth

CF 269Trespass Trio + Joe McPhee – Human Encore (CF 269)
Jag har skrivit det förut, det gäller än. Martin Küchen har mutat in område efter område som jag inte väntat mig. Det är skört, det är skevt och han har återupprättat konvoluttexten, temat och titlarna. Annars verkar ju sådant vara hänvisat till slumpen i tider av föga engagemang. Küchen hävdar att musiken betyder något, att han kan vara explicit med egen historia.   Här knyter han ju egentligen an till de stora pionjärerna inom fri jazz. De hade en romantisk konstnärsyn, där musiken var en konst där varje ton kunde höras och ses som en ring på vattnet efter stycket som plumsat i det allmännas damm.  Naturligtvis ger tro och övertygelse bättre musik. Likgiltighet gränsar till ironi. Att inte vilja stå för något.   I konvolutet talas det om kränkning av social moral och etik. Musiken rasar med vassa plåtkanter här någonstans. Inte för att klangen är ovan, inte för att musikerna spyr upp gamla former söndertuggade. Nej, de demonstrerar ingen leda, ingen sorg, mer då ett slags estetisk upprördhet. På trots liksom låter de musiken vagga framåt som en tung vagn, där varje dekor, varje detalj är underbart utformad. Att det gungar litet skevt, javisst. Det där slagverket av Raymond Strid, det är så underbart i sina småljud, sina oväntade klanger och sin goda suveräna smak att det ibland glömmer bort att gå i takt exakt. Inte ens före eller efter, bara för sig själv. Det är härligt för det är så vackert gjort.   Martin Küchen själv har en sval klang inuti sin saxofon, litet metallisk, men flödande, som om han skrev brev med bläckpenna för länge sedan och glömt bort adressaten. Därför är brevet inte avsänt ännu. Joe McPhee sjungande på trumpet eller saxofon. En kärv försångare, som ännu ekar av de andliga hymnerna och stridsmarscherna från länge sedan. Ljudet är som en strypsnara på en skönhet han tillber men vägrar låta gå vanliga vägar. Att dessa officianter framför den vackra musikens altare inte helt är i takt och överens, det stör nog mest basisten Per Zanussi, som med stora labbar föser ljud och kamrater in i något som är gemensam rörelse.   Det lyckas. Tillsammans spelar de en musik som en gång kunde kallas andlig, då menar jag i Tylers, Sanders eller för den delen Coltranes anda. Fast det inte riktigt låter så. Men de far med samma tåg i samma riktning. Än en gång konstaterar jag inför denna tjocka, feta, klirrande, vemodiga fria jazzmusik att Martin Küchen är en av dem som abonnerat på begreppet skönhet i svensk musik.

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

CF 271Ellery Eskelin – Mirage Ellery Eskelin (CF 271)
Ellery Eskelin is a troubadour. His creative talent has been on display both as leader and member for almost three decades. A warm and enveloping texture to his recordings is always present. On his latest, Mirage, his display an intriguing outback journey that feels like a desert soundtrack.

Susan Alcorn’s shimming opening chords on “Rain Shadow” forecast a session that is filled with majestic passages and mysterious undertones. Eskelin’s notes weave slow a gently around bass and guitar and accentuate the haunting nature of piece. “Saturation” is an rolling improvised piece that while each member seems be moving in divergent directions by midway, a slight melody evolves and then slowly deconstructs. Alcorn and Eskelin play off one another beautifully.

There are times when Eskelin’s tones sound like late period Ornette Coleman circa the Naked Lunch soundtrack. One of those moments for me was the epic piece “Downburst.” A slow moving blues style ballad mixed with intrigue and experimentalism. Fromanek and Alcorn have silent and introspective conversation throughout. This, while Eskelin’s journey moves across like broad strokes of a small paintbrush. Lovely and lengthy.

Mirage is document that paints a beautiful and luxurious picture with influence of avant garde, blues and Americana. This, all resulting in an excellent soundtrack for a Summer journey. Enjoy a very deep listen.