Monthly Archives: March 2014

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.

Draai om je oren review by Guy Peters

CF 251Trespass Trio – Bruder Beda (CF 251)
In navolging van debuutplaat ‘…Was There To Illuminate The Night Sky…’, nog altijd een van mijn favoriete jazzalbums van de voorbije jaren, werd ook de tweede plaat van dit Trespass Trio een knetterende brok intensiteit, al ligt die wat minder aan de oppervlakte.

De Zweedse rietblazer Martin Küchen is dan ook een artiest die met beide benen op de grond staat, die nog altijd een band tussen kunst en engagement in stand houdt, en in de meest uiteenlopende contexten een eigen stempel weet te drukken. Of het nu gaat om solowerk als The Lie And The Orphanage, de bruisende ensembleplaten van Angles, de schraap- en ritselimprovisatie van Chip Shop Music of dit Trespass Trio: weinig artiesten leggen zo’n passie aan de dag en slagen er in om te spelen met zo’n emotionaliteit als Küchen, wiens hyperexpressieve stijl en sound in staat zijn om zowel uitbundige levenskracht als pijnlijk verdriet uit te schreeuwen. Altijd gedacht dat moderne jazz iets was voor koude intellectuelen die muziek maken aan de hand van statistieken en wiskundige formules? Trespass Trio laat horen dat het ook anders kan.

Samen met bassist Per Zanussi en drummer/percussionist Raymond Strid heeft Küchen opnieuw een album gemaakt dat aanvoelt als een grote raamvertelling die een complete luisterbeurt afdwingt. En deze keer zit er ook een verhaal achter: dat van WOI-veteraan Ernst Gerson, die een geestelijke roeping volgde als Bruder Beda en daarna opnieuw de seculiere levensdraad oppikte, maar door zijn Joodse roots in de problemen kwam en uiteindelijk naar de kampen verbannen werd. De Joodse geschiedenis en Palestijnse kwestie zijn al langer stokpaarden van de bewogen saxofonist, dus het mag niet verwonderen dat hij ook een dergelijk verhaal vorm geeft binnen een freejazzcontext.

Zowel op de alt- als de baritonsax dwingt Küchen meteen ontzag af, met een rauwe sound van een soms verscheurende intensiteit. De haast kwakende altsax maakt vanaf de eerste seconde van ‘Ein Krieg In Einem Kind’ duidelijk dat er een bijzonder verhaal verteld gaat worden. Een schreeuwerige oplawaai zoals ‘Zanussi Times’ of ‘Strid Comes’ is er deze keer niet bij, maar Küchen heeft die in-your-face agressie niet nodig om je als luisteraar bij de lurven te grijpen. Ook hier zorgt die jankende, zeurende en fulminerende gedrevenheid weer voor een meeslepend parcours, terwijl ook de ritmesectie volop ruimte krijgt voor zowel conventionele ondersteuning en soloruimte als introverte klankexperimenten.

Dit soort jazz, die resoluut vanuit de onderbuik vertrekt, kan soms wat vergen van de luisteraar, zeker als die een houvast nodig heeft, maar voor elk weerbarstig stuk als de opener, krijg je ook een tegenhanger als ‘Don’t Ruin Me’, dat negen minuten lang op gang gehouden wordt door een statige, licht exotische baslijn, terwijl Strid de vellen bespeelt met de handen en Küchen op de bariton kiest voor een eenvoudiger invulling. Er wordt ruimte gemaakt voor een contemplatieve bassolo, wat de terugkeer van Küchen achteraf dubbel zo intens maakt. De hevigheid gaat echter nog omhoog in ‘Bruder Beda Ist Nicht Mehr’, dat vanuit dramatisch gestreken bas werkt aan een steeds sterker wentelend cyclisch patroon, met nadrukkelijke passie, volumetoename en steeds woeliger ondergrond met een sax die met steeds meer uitschieters het zootje in stukken trekt.

Sleutelstuk is ‘Today’s Better Than Tomorrow’, een compositie van Küchen die gedragen wordt door een melodie die woeste tristesse uitstraalt, maar ook aanleiding kan zijn tot andere omkadering. Zorgde het stuk bij Angles voor een emotionele oplawaai van formaat, dan gebeurt het hier subtieler, met een tussenstuk dat door Zanussi en Strid op fluisterniveau uitgewerkt wordt, en een finale die zachtaardiger paden verkent. Beluister dit echter in ideale omstandigheden – geconcentreerd en mét koptelefoon – en het is onmogelijk om niet opgeslorpt te worden door die muzikale poëzie, die een contrasterend vervolg krijgt in het gespierde ‘A Different Koko’, een korte brok freejazz die danst met een robuuste aanstekelijkheid.

‘Bruder Beda’ is een beklijvend album, dat ondanks verfijning en nuances opvalt door zijn groot kloppend hard en een onaflatende begeestering. “What can we achieve with strings, reeds, skins and sticks? Except for being ignorant music makers, what are we?” Dat vroeg Küchen zich af in de liner notes van de vorige plaat. Een mogelijke reactie, het vertellen van een prachtig verhaal als daad van verzet, ventileren van agitatie en zoeken naar berusting, is hier terug te vinden.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

CF 288Elliott Sharp Aggregat –  Quintet (CF 288)
When Clean Feed Records released renowned multi-instrumentalist and composer Elliott Sharp’s Aggregat in 2012, it was met with a round of bemused, albeit enthusiastic reviews. After all, it was the first session to be issued featuring Sharp’s reed playing as prominently as his distinctively amplified fretwork. For years Sharp has augmented his six-string extrapolations with brief detours on soprano saxophone or bass clarinet and occasionally, tenor saxophone, but rarely for entire tunes – let alone albums. Supported by the intrepid rhythm section of bassist Brad Jones and drummer Ches Smith, Sharp was able to convincingly transpose his cyber-punk inflected themes into a primarily acoustic format.

That project led to a new incarnation; bolstered by an expanded lineup, Quintet ups the ante considerably over the previous trio effort. Joined by trumpet phenomenon Nate Wooley and rising trombonist Terry Green, Sharp forgoes his trusty axe altogether, sticking to his trio of horns exclusively throughout this unamplified set. Wooley’s bold use of extended techniques and Green’s highly expressive vocalizations are a perfect match for Sharp’s own vanguard aesthetic; although Sonny Rollins’ muscular lyricism is an obvious influence on the leader’s bristling tenor runs, the tonal manipulations of visionary saxophonists like Steve Lacy and Archie Shepp are even more prominent in his wheelhouse.

Recorded in Bryce Goggin’s studio, the room’s natural reverb and the fact that each composition ranges from a concise two to eight minutes in length lends a sense of sonic cohesiveness to the proceedings, despite the diversity of Sharp’s methodology. “Anabatics” embodies the sort of skirling contours and vertiginous intervals commonly associated with Sharp’s thorny writing, yet the sprightly free-bop opener “Magnetar” evokes Ornette Coleman’s early Atlantic sides, as the three horn frontline deftly navigates the rhythm section’s briskly modulating tempo shifts. The cinematic travelogue “Arc of Venus” showcases an even subtler side of the quintet, its exotic soundscape colored by ghostly muted horns and dramatic mallet work, while the aleatoric impressionism at the center of “Lacus Temporis” is not immediately identifiable as part of Sharp’s oeuvre at all. Nonetheless, such excursions provide an aural respite from more turbulent fare, with Sharp’s young sidemen offering consistently stellar contributions at every turn.

Green proves a most enthralling player, with un-tempered growls, slurs and smears bolstering his vociferous phrases, but it’s Wooley who nearly steals the show. As one of the most inventive and imposing young trumpet players performing today, Wooley’s technical innovations extend Bill Dixon’s legacy, expanding the timbral range of the horn into previously unheard realms of nuance and texture. Attentive to the material at hand, Wooley customizes his tonal approach to dynamically suit each work, plying barely audible metallic cries throughout the spectral meditation “Cherenkov Light” and unleashing well-timed blasts of coruscating white noise on the oblique swinger “Katabatics,” perfectly complementing each piece in turn.

Sharp easily holds his own in the company of these spirited young Turks, matching their unfettered discourse with an experienced fervency that manifests in an expressionistic array of multiphonic split-tones, sustained altissimo refrains and sinuous pitch bends. Emboldened by a collaborative mindset emblematic of the group’s name, Quintet is Sharp’s most conventionally jazz-oriented – and thereby intriguing – album to date.