Monthly Archives: March 2014

New York Times review by Nate Chinen

CF 294Eric Revis – In Memory of Things Yet Seen (CF 294)
As a bassist and bandleader, Eric Revis knows the trick to making heady abstractions feel like blunt physical facts, negotiable only on their own terms. Over the last decade, he has been a good indicator of smart ensemble cohesion — if he’s there, you can trust that it’ll happen — and he brings that ability to his new album, “In Memory of Things Yet Seen” (Clean Feed), featuring a knockabout quartet with Darius Jones on alto saxophone, Bill McHenry on tenor saxophone and Chad Taylor on drums.

A pair of pieces from the avant-garde jazz repertory, by Sun Ra and Sunny Murray, declares the album’s core allegiance. And in Mr. Revis’s compact but eventful tunes, the two saxophones are used to produce all kinds of useful friction, either in convergence or counterpoint. Adding to the stir on a couple of tracks is Branford Marsalis, in whose band Mr. Revis regularly plays. Here, he’s one more dauntless saxophonist jostling for position, and jostling well.

Free Jazz review by Chris Haines

CF 294Eric Revis – In Memory of Things Yet Seen (CF 294)
This a very different sounding album from it’s predecessor City of Asylum. Whereas City of Asylum contained more of a complex but colourful atonal texture, In Memory… is much more modal and linear with a clear forward direction. The line-up this time is also a very significant part of the difference, as it is a piano-less quartet of alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass and drums/percussion.

The emphasis is much more on compositional thought than straight ahead improvisation, and the pieces have been well put together using solid compositional devices. It is a lean and economical album, as one would expect from good compositional writing, with nothing extra added for the sake of it. The pieces work well individually and as a collection with excellent playing giving them, at times, a simplistic and easy natured feel. It is this point that gives the album its real strength, and as you would expect from the musicians that Revis has worked with in the past and continues to work with in the present the playing is excellent and effortless.

The music is interestingly syncopated at times and the melodies have great shape and character with the use of hocketing techniques & staggered entries creating extra rhythmic and textural interest in contrast with more straightforward unison lines.

The album starts with ‘The Tulpa Chronicles I’ with it’s beautiful sounding vibes creating a soft and gentle introduction to the album before launching into ‘Hits’, which is only one of two completely improvised pieces on the album. This creates a good contrast to the start of the album and this interest is extended with ‘Son Seal’ with it’s rhythmically interesting melodic writing being engineered by the clever use of time signature changes flicking between a straight beat and a swung pattern with subtle changes in tempo. This piece in particular just seems to get better with every listen. These three pieces really set the scene for the rest of the album, which continues just as strong in both ideas and playing throughout, whilst ‘The Tulpa Chronicles III’ conjures up the notion of a modern take on a medieval square dance with it’s arco ground bass pattern and accented rhythmic percussion.

Overall there is a clear sense of structure to the album without it ever becoming derivative. The written sections are interesting, and the improvised playing is strong. There is great interplay amongst the instrumentation within the writing, which exudes the quality that is clearly on offer here.

Gapplegate Classical-Modern review by Grego Edwards

SHH 006Joana Sá – Elogio da Desordem (In Praise of Disorder) (SHH 006)
This columnist has had the pleasure of covering the music of Joana Sá before. Today, another: Elogio da Desordem (In Praise of Disorder) (Shhpuma 006). It is subtitled “Interior monologue for semi-prepared piano, bells, sirens, voices and…”. And that it is. Ms. Sá is a growingly important presence on the Portuguese avant landscape. She makes music that has the momentum and spontaneity of improvised new music, yet there is a composed structural element that continually frames the music and evokes interrelated sound worlds that work together to inscribe a particular poetic state onto the moment.

It is especially true of the suite of movements contained in the present recording. Through use of a piano whose strings have been prepared with various objects within a particular range of notes, through the use of sirens and bells that punctuate the affect of certain passages with the sound of a symbolic sort of alarum, through various amplified noises (“noise boxes”) (which come off as electronics, as that they are), through bowing and other unusual ways of sounding the piano and the appearance of a toy piano and a harmonium at times, through periodic recitation (by Rosinda Costa) of texts by Goncalo M. Tavares, a set of special moods are created, filled with vivid sound color and pianistic avant-virtuosity.

Joana’s music has a flow to it that after hearing a few times seems unique but somehow appropriate. The music has a natural quality that is ultra-modernistic nonetheless. What strikes me in her music, especially here, is the mastery of avant techniques harnessed to a sureness of purpose that brings together aspects of the classical avant and the free-improvisatory schools. All clearly and movingly holds together as compositional.

I am especially impressed with how this music after several hearings continually stimulates the hearer’s imagination with a master sound-painter’s expert touch and larger vision. Nothing sounds random and yet there is continuous sound-invention without much at all in the way of repetition.

In Praise of Disorder has a monumental elocutionary eloquence to it that puts it on rarified turf. Anyone with an interest in the avant garde today should listen closely.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

clean feed made to break layout TEXTO DIFERENTE - ROJOMade to Break – Provoke (CF 273)
Made to Break moves mountains. Virtual mountains. With sound. Music. It’s Ken Vandermark’s new group, who improvise around structures in ways Ken has devised but there is no need to go into exactly how in this space. The liner notes to today’s release explain. Ken’s lately been influenced by punk rock and Ethiopian music and in some ways that gets in here.

There is a combination of electro-acoustic sounds (Cristof Kurzmann) and instrumentalists (Tim Daisy, drums, Ken on reeds and Devin Hoff, electric bass).

Provoke (Clean Feed 273) is a nice set with three long numbers recorded live in Lisbon. The band gets a full chance to find their maximum level of expression and they surely do.

This is avant improv that swells, rocks, grooves and explodes in very nice ways. Hoff plays electric bass in a foundational but innovative way. He’s excellent, with a big sound. Tim Daisy is a drummer who can go anywhere and do it with his own kind of authority. He does. Ken you I am sure know and he is strong and unpredictable as always. Christof’s electro-acoustics add plenty of color and a thickening texture, at times sounding like more than one voice, which of course is what you can do with such possibilities, and he does it all well.

This set is an adventure and a challenge–to be free, to be more than acoustic, to be big in sound and to be small too in contrast. It’s a hip outing. Out with hippening happening.

Add this to your Maestro Vandermark corpus and you will be glad you did. I am! review by Bernardo Alavares

CF 293Kullhammar / Zetterberg / Aalberg – Basement Sessions Vol.2 (CF 293)
Depois de um primeiro volume de “Basement Sessions” muito bem conseguido, Kullhammar, Zetterberg e Aalberg presenteiam-nos com o segundo. O trio de saxofone escandinavo (Aalberg é norueguês e os seus colegas suecos) leva-nos para uma cave num clube de jazz que não perdeu a autenticidade apesar das novas leis antitabaco.

O trio é formado por músicos no limbo das promessas do jazz europeu, mas já com um pé a ascender ao inferno do reconhecimento unânime internacional. Jonas Kullhammar tem-se afirmado como um dos grandes saxofonistas da sua geração, com uma sonoridade a rasgar um espaço livre entre o bop e o free.

Por cá conhecido pelo seu duo com a trompetista Susana Santos Silva (editaram juntos “Almost Tomorrow”, igualmente pela Clean Feed), Torbjörn Zetterberg é um contrabaixista omnipresente na cena musical sueca. Lidera o seu próprio grupo, o Torbjörn Zetterberg Hot Five. O baterista e percussionista Espen Aalberg divide a sua actividade entre a música “erudita” / clássica, colaborando regularmente com inúmeras orquestras e ensembles, e o jazz, mostrando cada vez mais competências neste género.

À excepção da terceira faixa (composta pelo veterano do jazz sueco Bernt Rosengren), as composições são todas de Aalberg. Sentimos o hard bop no sopro de Kullhammar (qual Sonny Rollings que passou a puberdade nos anos 1990) e nestas composições que representam hoje, fidedignamente, a tradição do que foi e pode ser agora o jazz. Mas o som deste trio vai igualmente beber às procuras melódicas orientais de músicos como o recentemente falecido Yusef Lateef ou o (também quase sueco) Don Cherry.

Não deixando de ser e soar a uma Europa loura, estes músicos conseguem, sem qualquer pretensiosismo, deixar a ressoar a musicalidade das procuras identitárias afro-americanas em torno de um universalismo nos momentos mais conturbados da luta “black”. Parte da história do jazz é reescrita neste álbum obrigatório de 2014, confirmando de uma vez por todas a qualidade de três grandes: Kullhammar, Zetterberg e Aalberg.

Jazz Word review by Ken Waxman

CF 282Trumpets and Drums – Live in Ljubljana (CF 282)
Kaze – Tornado (Circum Libra Records)
Taking legendary musical battles like those of King Oliver vs. Freddie Keppard as a starting point, trumpet duals are as old as Jazz itself. Nonetheless unreserved experimentation, which has characterized the best improvised music over the past few decades, has transformed the idea of so-called cutting contests into episodes of cooperation. You can note it in these CDs which both feature two trumpeters with rhythmic accompaniment. Not only is there no attempt by any of the four brass men involved to Roy Eldridge-like blow his partner out of the picture, but despite a congruence of instruments, neither instrument sounds remotely like the other.
One of innovative pianist Satoko Fujii`s many working groups, Kaze is a Gallic-Nipponese unit which pairs the pianist and her trumpet playing husband Natsuki Tamura –both Japanese – with two representatives of Lyon`s creative music scene: trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. With five tracks, composed by Fujii, Tamura or Orins, extended techniques from all concerned are used to advance a program of high quality modern sounds.

Sounds and extended techniques are the root of Live in Ljubljana as well. A century removed from mainstream Jazz, New York trumpeters Nate Wooley and Peter Evans can play in the tradition, but spend most of their time using brass impulses as sound design sources, in this case adding Evans’ piccolo trumpet and Wooley amplifier to the mix. While the drum power via American Jim Black and Briton Paul Lytton is twice that of Tornado, a chordal instrument is lacking, plus further wave forms arrive via Black’s electronics. Accordingly abstract improvisation is the order of the day with two lengthy tracks entitled “Beginning” and “End”.

Because of the Live in Ljubljana line-up, individual identification is practically impossible. The acoustic percussion for instance is devoted mostly to disconnected notions which austerely wipe drum tops or singly strike cymbals. Added as an intermittent ostinato is a sizzling, electronic process that suggests amoeba-like quivers. On top of the continuum, the trumpeters squeeze, spew and suck miniature and mutilated split tones from mouthpieces and valves. Despite the wispy pops and agitated pig-snorting that occasionally surface, the narrative remains balanced enough to eventually solidify as a protoplasmic mass which is a much electro as brassy. Each track reaches an appropriate climax. “Beginning” is completed when one’s horn’s alp-horn-like echoes and the other’s contemplative tremolo flutters blend as a concentrated drone. “End” ends as a race into high-pitched hide-and-seek chase between the two brasses is brought up short by metronomic drum patterns. The coda exposes an even sparser sequence which culminates with what sounds like “Taps” deconstructed as both explore their horns’ innards.

As compositional as it is improvised, Tornado balances its trumpet shenanigans with poised story telling from the pianist and dedicated swing drumming. On “Wao” for instance, Fujii uses positioned glissandi to wring a linear melody out of Daffy-Duck-like slurping and whistling from the brass men with the same ease in which a pseudo-romantic keyboard exposition corrals the same trumpet pumps into some canny harmonies.

Even more representative are two tracks composed by the pianist, “Triangle” and the title tune. On the latter Fujii’s keyboard skills both prod and bolster the trumpeters from outputting pressurized and valve-splitting textures into creating notably sympathetic swing that takes in heraldic gestures and Spanish tinges. She builds this bridge with spectacular pianism that instinctively moves from a sardonic variant of “Chopsticks” to internal piano harp smack and plucks when needed.

Sporadically as abstract as Wooley’s and Evans’s work is on the other CD, Tamura’s and Pruvost’s split tone brass waves are propelled from multiphonic acrobatic and clownish excesses to processional parallelism by cunning links from the pianist and Orins. As outgoing with scene-setting rim shots and bangs on this piece as he is reticent on “Tornado”, Orins also demonstrates how rhythmic fulfillment can result from concentrated on a buoyant beat without involving thick or hard tones. Meanwhile Fujii’s somber percussiveness sweeps the horns’ crying triplets and show-off staccato spews into a straightforward theme which bonds as it exposes appropriate excitement.
In the end the watchword that unites both these two high-quality sessions is cooperation. And the fascination lies in observing how each achieves it.

Chicago Reader review by Peter Margasak

Matt Bauder’s ever-evolving sound

CF 289Matt Bauder and Day in Pictures – Nighshades (CF 289)
Reedist Matt Bauder spent just a few years in Chicago, between 1999 and 2001, but he made a strong mark—and the city’s improvised music scene left its imprint on him in return. He’s a no-nonsense musician with an abiding curiosity. He has forged a deliberately mercurial musical personality over the years. There’s nothing mysterious about his ideas or interests, but their nonchalant diversity and range have made it hard to pin him down as this or that. Of course, that’s one of the things that make the reedist, composer, and bandleader so special; not only is he good at many things, but working in disparate contexts is necessary for him. He recently joined the touring lineup of Arcade Fire following a long stint on the road with Iron & Wine; he regularly subbed in the Broadway production of Fela!; he’s worked in bands led by Taylor Ho Bynum, Anthony Braxton, Rob Mazurek, and Harris Eisenstadt; he’s explored abstract electronic music, engaged in long-from improvisation with the trio Memorize the Sky, and even played modern takes on classic doo-wop with his project White Blue Yellow and Clouds. In 2010 I wrote a profile of Bauder for DownBeat magazine, and he told me, “I want a balance, and I wouldn’t be doing all of these different things for this long if I wanted one of them to take over. I feel like I can’t take a narrow path like that. I see other people do it and get a lot of success from it, but it’s not possible for me.”

Still, Bauder retains his roots in jazz, and that sensibility colors everything he does. He recently released Nightshades (Clean Feed), the second album by his excellent quintet Day in Pictures—a jazz quintet through and through featuring trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Kris Davis (who replaces Angelica Sanchez, from the group’s debut), bassist Jason Ajemian, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara—and it arrives as one of his most accomplished efforts yet, a superb, elegantly swinging session built upon six sturdy, well-crafted original compositions. The record is dominated by the sort of classic, soulful hard-bop sound forged in the 50s, but within that durable model the individualism of each player comes through. Bauder introduces the handsome ballad “Starr Wykoff” with a lengthy tenor sax solo marked by harmonic ambiguity, dazzling rhythmic variation, breathily sensual tonality, and rich melodic generosity, leading into a tune that would’ve sounded at home in the repertoire of Coleman Hawkins. Both Bauder and Wooley expertly pour modern techniques and ideas into a classic model with astonishingly good, deeply satisfying results.

On the surface the opening piece called “Octavia Minor” flips the script a bit, summoning the spirit of vintage Ethiopian music, but once you get beyond the pentatonic harmonies and patient melody, the internal motion and improvisations are of a piece with the performances that follow. Below you can check out the wonderfully churning piece “August and Counting,” which opens with a thrumming groove and tart contrapuntal blowing from Bauder and Wooley. As the piece unfolds, the hornmen never really drop out, trading phrases, dropping accents on one another’s lines, and improvising in thrilling tandem, with Davis unspooling mahogany blankets of shimmering sound. I feel confident that Nightshades will end up as one of my favorite albums of 2014. That kind of quality and resonance is something that you can rely on Bauder to deliver.