Daily Archives: March 25, 2014

Jazz.pt 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.

All About Jazz review by Henning Bolte

CF 294Eric Revis – In Memory Of Things Yet Seen (CF 294)
Bassist Eric Revis is a heavyweight in more than one respect. He is doing the improbable in a remarkable way, thereby ignoring collectively imposed and maintained demarcations at work. Armed with his physically very present, raw and vibrant bass sound he beats his track into the realms of freely improvised music. He made his debut as a leader in 2012 with Parallax, on the authoritative Lisboan Clean Feed label, with a dream team of Jason Moran, Ken Vandermark and Nasheet Waits. His 2013 follow-up was an even more surprising trio with pianist Kris Davis and many peoples’ favorite drummer, Andrew Cyrille.

The contrasts of that trio’s City of Asylum proved to be a revelation; not resting on his laurels, however, Revis has already set up his next step with a high caliber 2+2 constellation that also includes percussionist Chad Taylor, tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry and altoist Darius Jones—a lineup capable of drilling through thick boards, which actually happens on its bold debut recording, In Memory Of Things Yet Seen.

Crazy things are claimed in jazz-related writing at times, but a link between Branford Marsalis and Peter Brotzmann is no longer fictitious because Revis has played and recorded with both musicians—nine albums with Marsalis and, as a unifying matter of fact, Marsalis steps in on two pieces of this extremely fine, grinding album.

Revis is not a man to balance styles; how would such a teetering affair then sound? He plays raw and uninhibited, direct, and always full-force. As a leader, he does not primarily act as harmonizer, support player or anchor; instead, by sparking, firing up and energizing, he makes the dust fly. The nuance is in the rhythmic fine tuning; it’s in the interaction with all the greatly contrasting voices that this music’s branding happens. These contrasts are used by the quartet in an impressive way, with high intensity and various temperatures as fervid, truthful sounds emerge. Revis’ attack is not unlike that of Howlin’ Wolf , the legendary blues giant. It is the primal force of the voice and soul which is manifest, far from stylized sadness, loneliness and a smoldering longing, revealed here in thirteen pieces that are equally striking and beautiful.

Only two of the thirteen pieces—”Hits” and “FreeB”—are entirely improvised. “The Tulpa Chronicles” is spread over the whole album in three parts. The first part is the album’s starting point, its ostinato vibraphone opening up a wide horizon after which the fierce roars, whacks and spanks of “Hits” tumble and fly through space. “Son Seals” is a fast, M-Base-like blues with brilliant expansion and contraction movements. It is superb how Revis and Taylor prepare the soil from which the two horns emerge with full thrust. “Somethin’s Cookin'” is an apt title for the subsequent piece that, at times, comes across as a mixture of blowing Tibetan and mariachi horns.

The range of variations across the album is remarkable . “Unknown” also is a killer piece, swinging hard and raw. “The Tulip Chronicles II” is short, with great resilience and is, above all, catchy and danceable. “Voices” is a slow burner filled with Jones and Henry’s full, raw saxophone sounds, with no place for sentimental moods. “Earned A Lesson” starts with a superb bass intro and possesses significant content, including a New Orleans second-line rhythm. “The Shadow World” is the decisive step to get the last slumber-heads awake. Reminiscent of Sun Ra, the qualities of all four musicians accumulate here in a highly intense way. “Hold My Snow Cone” is a slow blues, with Jones taking the torch from Arthur Blythe . The concluding “If You Are Lonesome, Then You’re Not Alone” is a hymn or gospel of the future, carried by a striking saxophone duet. Catching upcoming live performances of this group is highly recommended.

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF 293Kullhammar – Aalberg – Zetterberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 2 (CF 293)
This is the second installment of the Swedish trio’s manifold and largely, hard-hitting Basement Sessions motif for Clean Feed Records. And while the artists incorporate a high level of experimentation, they intertwine old school jazz values into the big picture via structured compositions and free-flight improvisations amid an aggregation of contrasting hues, capacious soundscapes and more. From a trio standpoint, the musicians bring quite a bit to the forefront. They expand, contract and generate some blazing, red-zone like turbulence with a few sizzling, free-bop style workouts

Reedman Jonas Kullhammar uses the Hungarian clarinet-like instrument taragato on the opening track, “Moksha.” He projects an off-center soundstage with this single reed, woodwind instrument that has a plump and rather hollow resonance. But the artists shift the tide on a per-track basis. For instance on “Oort Cloud,” Kullhammar, performing on tenor sax, glides atop a jazz-waltz pulse with reverberating and singing notes, rooted with a bluesy swagger, leading to the band’s downpour of free form dialogues and accelerated by the rhythm section’s mounting force-field. However, the diverse mix is chock full of unanticipated surprises such as “Elvin’s Birthday Song,” highlighted by Kullhammar’s lighthearted and bouncy soprano sax phrasings, and steered by bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg who anchors the flow and pitch. Here, drummer Espen Aalberg expands the soundscape with sweeping fills and polyrhythmic beats.

The trio spirals into the stratosphere on the final track, “Moserobie Blues.” Kullhammar’s extended tenor sax solo, is perhaps a stylistic nod to John Coltrane’s awe inspiring hard bop solos, evidenced on Blue Trane (Blue Note Records, 1957), for example. Thus, Kullhammar’s rapidly paced and blistering harmonic progressions enact a whirlwind exposition atop the rhythm section’s whizzing pulse. Indeed, a high-caliber and multidimensional outing by this resourceful unit.

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF 289Matt Bauder And Day In Pictures – Nightshades (CF 289)
Matt Bauder And Day In Pictures: Nightshades Saxophonist Matt Bauder was mentored by celebrated avant-garde jazz saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton and has been a busy and quite productive artist on numerous jazz fronts. As a topnotch session man and leader, Bauder’s resume intimates fruitful affiliations with musicians who are at the forefront of the progressive jazz and avant-garde sectors. Fueled by an all-star lineup, Nightshades is the saxophonist’s second solo effort for Portugal-based Clean Feed Records, and is a program that shifts between mainstream jazz and ultramodern propositions.

Bauder kicks off the agenda with a Horace Silver style bump and grind oeuvre “Octavia Minor,” where pianist Kris Davis complements the leader’s gritty sax lines with cool accents and swirling chord clusters. However, compositional contrasts abound on other works as the band creates more than a few highly expressionistic firestorms, but alternates the avant-garde forays with pieces such as the old school conventional jazz type ballad, “Starr Wykoff.” Here, warm, late-night soloing activities are integrated into a curvy song-form, featuring Bauder’s contemplative lines and drummer Tomas Fujiwara’s delicate brushes.

“Rule of Thumbs” is a topsy-turvy excursion, marked by free-flowing dialogues as the soloists embark on a search and conquer mission while piloting through a surfeit of nooks and crannies as Davis equalizes the pace via linear runs and off-kilter phrasings. Moreover, the band alternates the current with succinct choruses, but venture into a heightened red-zone attack amid trumpeter Nate Wooley’s breathy intonation, scratchy notes and microtonal articulations. Otherwise “August and Counting,” begins with a knock- down, drag-out groove, tempered by Bauder’s tender interludes. And “Nightshades” closes out the album with a genial, New Orleans second- line boogaloo vamp.

Bauder’s strategic output combines ferocious improvisational activities that rattle the senses with other compositions and movements that could soothe the savage beast. It’s a hybrid gameplan that yields gratifying results.

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

CF 288Elliott Sharp’s Aggregat – Quintet (CF 288)
So I really don’t own much Elliot Sharp as leader. I have a number of albums featuring him as a member. So when I spent the last few weeks listening to two albums from one of his most recent groups, Aggregat, I was completely blown away. A really well focused, well imaginative ensemble that is more than the sum of its parts.

Complicated and sometimes groovy arrangements sift through the group’s debut, simply titled, Aggregat, “The Grip” and “Allelia.” Both pieces featuring abstract constructions from Sharp on sax augmented by more soothing and sparse paths laid out by Jones and Smith. Sharp’s horn sounding like barge horn alerting the other ships in its path.

Sharp is primarily on sax with this trio but also blends end his brilliant guitar work as well. This is featured on “Positronics,” a lovely rolling number that at times reminded me of contemporaries Thurston Moore or Marc Ribot. While the piece may sound free floating, it slow builds into a nice groove that even feels track from Bitches Brew era Miles Davis.

On the Aggregat’s follow up, Quintet, the group has expanded in size to its simply stated title. The addition of Nate Wooley and Terry Green provides new variety and depth to the overall sound and vision for Sharps group. “Katabatics” is a collision of horns, Smith’s poly-rhythms and the steady nature of Jones, all boiling over into a boisterous but lovely celebration of creativity.

“Blues For Butch” while using the blues as its blueprint, is more than that. It is highly elevated piece with great sections of improvised and explosive work from the horn section. “Lacus Temporis” and “Cherenkov Light” are both more experimental in nature and give a nice glimpse into the individual talents of each musicians.

Both Aggregat and Quintet are solidly composed by the multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp and beautiful performed by his bandmates. This was a great starting point for me and hopefully a good moment for you the listener to become fully invested in Elliott Sharp’s expanded vision.