Monthly Archives: July 2013

Not Just Jazz review by Brent Black

CF 279Mark Dresser Quintet – Nourishments (CF 279)
With Nourishments, Mark Dresser has released that rare recording that transcends genre while attacking on both the cerebral and visceral fronts. A modern improvisational feast for the senses. Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

Mark Dresser is a bass innovator, perhaps the best that you may not have heard much out of and this would be due to his talents stretching from free improvisational jazz to new music. While his most recent recordings celebrate his prolific ability as a soloist, the aptly titled Nourishments heralds his return to the quintet format for the first time in two decades.

If a carpenter is only as good as his tools analogy holds true in music then Mark Dresser has an eye for talent as well. From alto saxophone rising star Rudresh Mahanthappa to trombonist Michael Dressen, this quintet boasts five legitimate leaders yet their performance is based on counterpoint and the careful manipulation of tone while never losing an intriguing lyrical accessibility. One particular highlight that is the wonderfully crafted use of telematic which is essentially riding the wave of digital technology by utilizing fiber optic remote performances for performances being carried out miles apart. The title track “Nourishments” is a telematic performance between San Diego and New York with changing tonalities and fiery rhythmic counterpoint. “Para Waltz” is an amazing and incredibly daring offering that creates a hybrid of sorts revolving around traditional poly rhythms and the non traditional exploration of microtonal shadings.

While the layers of texture and melodic sense of forward motion is dramatic, Nourishments has a deceptively subtle quality of tunes that are deconstructed and reinvented as the performance continues. This melodic masterpiece is brilliantly conceived and a triumphant marriage of simplicity and complexity at the same time.

4 Incredibly Solid Stars!

Jazzismus Was Here review

CF 275Lama + Chris Speed – Lamaçal (CF 275)
Fascinating rolling “mud” makes a loud, free jazz statement…Lama & Chris Speed – “Lamacal” (2013): Youth and talent pay an atmospheric homage to inspirational legends. This remarkably creative Portuguese group joins forces with the imaginative style of Chris Speed and elaborates remarkably on jazz heritage…Splendid and highly recommended stuff!

Free Jazz review by Dan Sorrells

CF 271Ellery Eskelin – Mirage (CF 271)
Ellery Eskelin, Susan Alcorn, Michael Formanek. Sometimes just reading the names in certain line-ups sends one’s brain into paroxysms of excitement. Eskelin felt the same way as he pulled the group together in Baltimore—tenor saxophone, pedal steel, bass, and more notably, the personalities behind them—whatever the result, you’d be hard pressed to say it wasn’t at least interesting.

The pedal steel has been so heavily appropriated by the popular country genre that, at least for Americans, it’s difficult to hear the instrument without having your ears automatically retuned to country western frequencies. Susan Alcorn has done much to remind us that the pedal steel is more than just a splash of twang and color—she’s made the instrument truly non-idiomatic, to borrow Derek Bailey’s terminology.

But unlike Bailey, Alcorn’s concern never seemed to be avoiding idioms—only with fully exploring the potential of an instrument that’s often boxed-in. Eskelin and Formanek have never been overly concerned with perceived idioms, either. Those who care to might pin them to jazz, but they are both from what was perhaps the first generation of modern jazzmen who were more concerned with digesting and integrating a wide spectrum of creative music than where they were pegged on some jazz continuum. While Wynton Marsalis railed, they forged ahead.

Nearly thirty years on, the mix on Mirage is as natural as it is unusual. The group creates an interesting counterpoint; the three instruments are so dissimilar in sound, this isn’t a music of easily blended sonorities. Rather, they tend to form more of tripod that bolsters the improvisation, three distinct legs doing their best to hold up the billows and rolls of the work. Still, there are occasions when the three stretch to mesh their sounds together. In “Divergence,” Eskelin and Formanek do just the opposite, converging at the end into a low, richly resonant register.

“Meridian” starts slowly with a lovely bass and pedal steel duet, Alcorn’s guitar taking on a sour tone when it ventures into more dissonant territory. In “Absolute Zero,” she could almost be mistaken for some old-timey clarinet, and later on, steel drums, or early, whizzing synthesizers. Mirage was recorded mostly without an audience at Towson University’s new Fine Arts Center. However, the centerpiece of the album, “Downburst,” is a nearly 30 minute live performance, a vortex of shifting pitches that is easily the strongest display of the group’s synergy.Throughout, Eskelin’s breathy tenor brings a warm, lyrical quality to these freely improvised pieces, a beautiful foil to Alcorn’s haunting, melancholy abstraction.

Mirage makes the most of its unique palette of instruments and personalities. At this stage, we know well the high quality that can be expected of a project when Eskelin and Formanek are involved. And, though she’s certainly no stranger to some of the big names in free improvisation these days, hopefully this Clean Feed release will raise Susan Alcorn’s profile with fans of this music, too.

Jazzwrap review by Stephan Moore

CF 276Harris Eisenstadt’s September Trio – The Destructive Element (CF 276)
Two years ago, I was floored by the self-titled debut session from this trio of New Yorkers, September Trio. Now with their follow up, The Destructive Element, I can say I’m not surprised by their brilliance. It’s just the way they are.

The movement on The Destructive Element is more fluid and with well balanced song structure. “Swimming” is a beautiful midtempo love letter filled with solid, almost gospel influenced chords from Sanchez. While Eskelin’s romantic but muscular tone feels like Sonny Rollins hovering over the session.

Eisenstadt always seems to write the pieces with his band member’s freedom in mind. On “Back and Forth,” and “The Destructive Element” he gives Sanchez’s classical ideas the floor. And Eskelin layers a solid structure on top. Eisenstadt’s brushes provide the subtle hues for a lovely, all-around experience.

Eisenstadt does allow the session to be ballad or bop driven. The trio embarks on improvisation through “Additives” and “Here Are The Samurai.” Both have rolling melodies from Sanchez and crashing movements of Eisenstadt’s adventurous spirit on the kit. Free-spirited yet providing structure all the way.

The Destructive Element is more developed than it’s predecessor but also slightly different. Still keeping an introspective vibe but also providing more opportunities for its members to expand on their own. Harris Eisenstadt has become an excellent composer in various settings. For me, September Trio is one of his best.

The New York City Jazz Record review by Stuart Broomer

CF 275Lama + Chris Speed – Lamaçal (CF 275)
Lama (the word means “mud” in Portuguese) began in Rotterdam as a trio of Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva and bassist Gonçalo Almeida with Canadian drummer Greg Smith, the latter two adding electronic elements. They released their debut CD Oneiros in 2011, memorable (in contradiction to the band’s name) for a developed use of space, form and distinctive sounds and textures, whether in Almeida’s compositions or their improvisations. On Lamaçal (the irony continues with a title meaning mud puddle), the group is joined by New York tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed, now a regular guest, in a live set at the 2012 Portalegre Jazz Festival. The music here is almost always lyrical, though moods and textures will change, with the band unusually comfortable at slow tempos that support their sonic emphasis. It’s apparent from the beginning of the set with Santos Silva’s “Overture for a Wandering Fish”, a near-dirge that emphasizes a ragged brassy edge to her trumpet that she presses from village band to multiphonics in consort with Speed. Her expressive power takes a different but equally vocalic turn with the muffled half-valves of the concluding “Manta”. Almeida contributed four of the compositions here and his ear for the unexpected makes effective use ofSpeed’s clarinet on the title track, a piece oddly suggestive of both Boulez and traditional jazz, and the middle-East themed “Anémona”. Almeida’s melodic bass playing and subtle electronics stand out on the whale invocations of his “Moby Dick”. There are plenty of strong individual efforts here, but it’s camaraderie and shared invention that ultimately animate the music, from the vitality that the horns bring to the themes to the subtle dialogues that link all the members of the group. The improvised duet between Smith and Speed that opens the former’s slightly boppish “Cachalote” stands out, as do the fleet and edgy contributions of Santos Silva and Almeida to Speed’s Ornette-reminiscent “Pair of Dice”. Rather than sounding like a trio with a guest, Lama + Chris Speed already sounds like a band.

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF 276Harris Eisenstadt September Trio –  The Destructive Element (CF 276)
Celebrated for his musicality and leadership, drummer Harris Eisenstadt is a modernist who dispels preconceived notions that a drummers’ primary function is to keep time, and prop the frontline along with a bassist. With this 2013 instilment of his September Trio, he ingrains organic textures and a touchy feely loose groove modus operandi when not engaging his band-mates in structured unison choruses. Eisenstadt also imparts his clever call and response mechanisms when jabbing with tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and pianist Angelica Sanchez. Even without a bsssist, the band manages to project a spacious environment, at times tinged with bluesy and moody afterhours-like treatments.

The trio executes a pulsating and melodic primary theme on “Additives,” prefaced on unity and free-form modalities. Eskelin’s corpulent tone abets his fiery improvisational segments, whether he may be mimicking Ben Webster-style balladry or lashing out with a cavalcade of stormy crescendos. Yet variety is a common denominator throughout, as the trio’s inventions span asymmetrical cadences, and lyrically resplendent three-way dialogues.

“Back and Forth” features Eskelin’s sultry narrative, attractively underscored by Sanchez’ contrapuntal accompaniment, complementing a program synchronously designed with power, eloquence, and fluid mobility. The musicians tackle Schoenberg on two pieces comprised of punctual sax notes, counterpoint, and stringent movements. But they open the forum a tad, by interspersing some improvisation-based joviality into the mix as Eisenstadt generates the underlying momentum via his peppering and prodding. Indeed, September Trio pulls a lot of tricks out of the bag, but it’s a cohesive and largely rewarding set as the musicians infuse a sense of anticipation into the grand schema.

Jazzflits review by Herman te Loo

CF 277ERIC REVIS – City Of Asylum (CF 277)
In april van dit jaar (JF 196) besprak ik de cd ‘Parallax’ van bas-sist Eric Revis. Een van de conclusies was toen dat hij zich somsin veelzijdigheid dreigde te verliezen, en blijkbaar heeft hij datin zijn oren geknoopt. De muziek op zijn nieuwste album, ‘CityOf Asylum’, blinkt namelijk uit in een sterk programma, uitge-voerd door een subliem pianotrio. Aan het klavier vinden we KrisDavis, van wie ik onlangs ook al het verfrissende album‘Capricorn Climber’ besprak – eveneens uitgegeven door hetPortugese label Clean Feed. De Canadese pianiste heeft haareigen stem bepaald tegen een achtergrond van dwarse pianis-tiek, waarin Thelonious Monk en Paul Bley belangrijke inspiratie-bronnen vormen. Het improviseren vanuit melodische cellen, zotyperend voor de laatste, is sterk te horen in het openingsstuk,‘Vadim’. Melodisch improviseren is ook een pijler van het werkvan Monk, en diens ‘Gallop’s gallop’ wordt vanuit dat uitgangs-punt benaderd. Geen simpele imitatie van de stijl van de com-ponist, maar vanuit je eigen stijl doorwerken aan een thema,dat maakt pas echt indruk. Dat Revis een goede hand heeft inde samenstelling van zijn team, had ik bij de bespreking van‘Parallax’ ook al opgemerkt. De keuze voor Andrew Cyrille alsdrummer is opnieuw perfect. De inmiddels 73-jarige slagwerkeropereert vanuit de (Afrikaans beïnvloede) traditie van het melo-dische drummen, die vanuit Max Roach naar Ed Blackwell enSunny Murray loopt. De omfloerste trommels in het titelstuklaten horen waartoe deze grootmeester in staat is. De hele plaatlang is hij de subtiele onderstreper van het muzikale discoursdat bij voortduring helder en transparant blijft. En dan Reviszelf: hij levert loepzuiver strijkwerk dat tot pure ontroering kanleiden, zoals in het thema van ‘Harry Partch laments the dyingof the moon… and then laughs’ of het ingetogen gespeelde‘Prayer’ van Keith Jarrett, dat misschien wel het hoogtepunt isop een cd die toch al geen zwakke momenten kent.