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.

Le Son du Grisli review by Luc Bouquet

CF 270Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (CF 270)
Les questionnements du disque précédent ne sont plus. L’heure est au désordre. Ches Smith est ici le patron d’une entreprise de pillage et de non-sens (presque) absolu. Comme ici, tout va à Zoot Allures, Tony Malaby et Tim Berne, pourtant habitués à vagabonder avant fracas, se retrouvent immédiatement dans la fournaise. Sans préavis et sans chemin tout tracé. Mary Halvorson et Andrea Parkins ne sont pas plus sages, qui prennent part avec gourmandise à ce sabotage volontaire.

Esprits forts et jamais fuyants, cris sans chuchotements, gesticulations et riffs détraqués, les collisions ne peuvent que s’enchaîner. Ici, c’est le clou rouillé dans le talon, le scrupule dans la chaussure, les duels de saxophones mal dosés, les unissons embrouillés. C’est une maîtrise – puisqu’il faut aussi en passer par là – qui ne se prend pas au sérieux. Ici, le sonique ricane de ses habitudes. Ici, les cinq de These Arches ont le bon goût de saboter le bon goût.

Jazznytt review by Jan Granlie

CF 281Susanna Santos Silva / Torbjörn Zetterberg – Almost Tomorrow (CF 281)
UKENS PLATEANMELDELSE I JAZZNYTT: At musikk er kjærlighet, er noe de fleste kan være enige om. Man kan dyrke musikk som man dyrker kjærligheten. Enten på en god og varm måte, eller kaldt og kynisk.

Hvorfor i all verden starter jeg en anmeldelse med dette? Jo, fordi samarbeidet mellom den portugisiske trompeteren Susana Santor Silva og den svenske bassisten Torbjörn Zetterberg startet som et kjærlighetsforhold, og utviklet seg, temmelig kjapt, til et musikalsk samarbeid som nå debuterer på plate.

Zetterberg kjenner vel de fleste som en av Sveriges sterkeste bass-stemmer, noe han har bevist gjennom et mangeårig samarbeid med bl.a. saksofonisten Jonas Kullhammar, mens Santos Silva er mer ukjent for de fleste av oss. Jeg hørte henne første gang på 12 Points-festivalen i Dublin for noen år siden, og dette er hennes andre innspilling på Pedro Costas fine Clean Feed-selskap.

I forhold til Santos Silvas tidligere bravader med eget band, tar hun på denne innspillingen lange skritt ut til venstre. Fra å være en relativt streit trompeter med den ene foten i hjemlandet og den andre i den amerikanske jazztradisjonen, er hun nå langt inne i improland. Mesteparten av musikken er «komponert» i fellesskap (i studio), mens Zetterberg står for den fine tittellåta og «Nötskalsmusik #6», som begge plasserer duoen inne i et slags nedstrippa  Atomic-landskap.

Hele veien er det kommunikasjonen som står sterkest i denne duoen. Zetterbergs komposisjoner er, naturlig nok, de som har de mest opplagte melodilinjene, og fremstår også som de mest iørefallende låtene. Men vi merker oss Santos Silvas litt skarpe og flotte lyd i trompeten, som låter mye mer svensk (Magnus Broo) enn portugisisk. Hun er en trompeter som med «Almost Tomorrow» vokser seg stor og voksen musikalsk, og som man bør merke seg. Zetterberg er, som alltid, en bauta med bassen.  Ei strålende plate som overrasker.

English translation:
That music is love is something most of us can agree with. You can worship music as you worship love. Either in a good and warm way, or cold and cynical. Why on earth do I start a review like this? Well, because the collaboration between Portuguese trumpet player Susana Santos Silva and Swedish bass player Torbjörn Zetterberg started out as a love relation, and developed, fairly quick, into a musical relation which now makes it’s album debut. I guess most of us know Zetterberg as one of Sweden’s strongest voices on bass, something he has proofed through a longstanding collaboration with saxophone player Jonas Kullhammar among others, while Santos Silva is a bit less known to most of us. First time I heard her was a few years ago at the 12 Points Festival in Dublin, and this is her second recording on Pedro Costa’s fine Clean Feed label. Compared to Santos Silva earlier exploits with her own band, on this recording she takes a big step out left. From being a relatively straight trumpeter with one foot in homeland and the other in the American jazz tradition, she is now deep down in improland. Most of the music is “composed” together (in the studio), while Zetterberg account for the beautiful title track and “Nötskalsmusik #6″, both of which place the duo inside a sort of stripped-Atomic landscape. All the way it is communication that is strongest in this duo. Zetterberg’s compositions are, naturally enough, those with the most obvious melody lines, and also appears as the most melodious songs. However, we note Santos Silva’s slightly sharp and beautiful sounding trumpet, which sounds much more Swedish (Magnus Broo) than Portuguese. She is a player who with “Almost Tomorrow” grow big and musically mature, and who one should take note of. Zetterberg is, as always, a monument with the bass. A brilliant album that surprises.

Dark Was the Night review by Cayetano López

CF 275Lama + Chris Speed – Lamaçal (CF 275)
Lo mejor que se puede decir de la nueva escena portuguesa es que está logrando una identidad propia a base de no dejarse llevar por la imitación de ninguna corriente en particular y no sonar a nada familiar, buena parte de lo que he comentado en este aspecto acerca del contrabajista Hugo Carvalhais es igualmente aplicable a Lama, banda con la que mantiene una cierta afinidad.

Lama es un trío que lidera el contrabajista Gonçalo Almeida junto al baterista canadiense Greg Smith y la joven trompetista Susana Santos Silva, verdadera revelación para mí que en estos días ve también publicado un dúo con el contrabajista sueco Torbjörn Zetterberg en el que se sumerge en las procelosas aguas de la libre improvisación y del que pude disfrutar de su espléndida presentación en el reciente festival de jazz de Liubliana.

Tras un prometedor debut, Oneiros, esta segunda entrega grabada en vivo en Portalegre ha contado con el refuerzo del saxo y clarinete de Chris Speed, que lejos de actuar de invitado ocasional ha encajado a la perfección en el concepto de la banda con su estilo sosegado y profundo. Susana hace gala en este contexto de un lirismo que me recuerda a aquel Dave Douglas camerístico que tanto echo en falta en sus últimos proyectos. Lo más característico de Lamaçal es la creación de atmósferas que sorprenden con inesperados giros, un espíritu muy libre sin perder el gusto por la melodía, y todo ello aderezado de un sutil uso de la electrónica que le confiere un sonido muy contemporáneo. Una escucha sumamente disfrutable.

English translation:
“The best that can be said of the new Portuguese scene is that is making it’s own identity based not on the imitation of any particular stream and not sound as anything familiar, much of what I said in this regard about bassist Hugo Carvalhais is equally applicable to Lama with whom has a certain affinity. Lama is a trio led by bassist Gonçalo Almeida with Canadian drummer Greg Smith and the young trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, a true revelation to me that in these days I also saw released a duo with Swedish bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg in which she immerses herself in the stormy waters of free improvisation and enjoyed the splendid presentation at the recent Ljubljana Jazz Festival. After a promising debut, Oneiros, this second recorded live at Portalegre has had the sax and clarinet reinforcement of Chris Speed, that far from occasional guest act has fit perfectly into the concept of the band with his calm and deep style. Susana presents in this context a lyricism that reminds me that chamber music Dave Douglas that I miss so much in his latest projects. The strongest characteristic of Lamaçal is creating amazing atmospheres with unexpected twists, very free spirit without losing the taste for melody, and all topped by a subtle use of electronics which gives it a very contemporary sound. A highly enjoyable listen.”