Daily Archives: January 5, 2015

The 2014 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

1. Steve Lehman: ‘Mise En Abîme’ (Pi)
2. Wadada Leo Smith: ‘The Great Lakes Suites’ (TUM Records)
3. Ambrose Akinmusire: ‘the imagined savior is far easier to paint’ (Blue Note)
4. Sonny Rollins: ‘Road Shows, Vol. 3’ (OKeh)
5. Mark Turner Quartet: ‘Lathe Of Heaven’ (ECM)
6. Marc Ribot Trio: ‘Live At The Village Vanguard’ (Pi)
7. Jason Moran: ‘All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller’ (Blue Note)
8. Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band: ‘Landmarks’ (Blue Note)
9. Kenny Barron & Dave Holland: ‘The Art Of Conversation’ (Impulse)
10. Jane Ira Bloom: ‘Sixteen Sunsets’ (Outline)* 95.5 points, on 15 ballots.

The Rest Of The Top 50

11. Miguel Zenón, Identities Are Changeable (Miel Music)
12. The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring (Sony Masterworks)
13. Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden, Last Dance (ECM)
14 (tie). David Virelles, Mbókò (ECM)
14 (tie). Tyshawn Sorey, Alloy (Pi)
16. Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Over Time: The Music of Bob Brookmeyer (Planet Arts)
17. Chick Corea Trio, Trilogy (Stretch/Concord)
18. Fred Hersch Trio, Floating (Palmetto)
19. Jeff Ballard Trio, Time’s Travels (OKeh)
20. Vijay Iyer, Mutations (ECM)
21. Mary Halvorson/Michael Formanek/Tomas Fujiwara, Thumbscrew (Cuneiform)
22. Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer, Wiring (Intakt)
23. Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski, Gathering Call (Palmetto)
24. Aki Takase & Alexander von Schlippenbach, So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)
25. Billy Hart Quartet, One Is the Other (ECM)
26. Tom Harrell, Trip (HighNote)
CF29427. Eric Revis, In Memory Of Things Yet Seen (Clean Feed)
28. Jason Roebke Octet, High/Red/Center (Delmark)
29. The Nels Cline Singers, Macroscope (Mack Avenue)
30. Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, Habitat (Justin Time)
31. Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble, A Trumpet in the Morning (New World)
32. Frank Kimbrough, Quartet (Palmetto)
33. Hafez Modirzadeh, In Convergence Liberation (Pi)
34. Nels Cline & Julian Lage, Room (Mack Avenue)
35. Jason Adasiewicz’s Sun Rooms, From the Region (Delmark)
36 (tie). Joshua Redman, Trios Live (Nonesuch)
36 (tie). Yosvany Terry, New Throned King (5Passion)
38. Avishai Cohen’s Triveni, Dark Nights (Anzic)
39. James Brandon Lewis, Divine Travels (OKeh)
40. The Cookers, Time and Time Again (Motéma)
41. Darius Jones, The Oversoul Manual (AUM Fidelity)
42. Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein, Viper’s Drag (Impulse!)
43. Pat Metheny Unity Group, Kin (←→) (Nonesuch)
44. Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio, Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord Jazz)
45. Farmers By Nature, Love and Ghosts (AUM Fidelity)
46. Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. The Offense of the Drum (Motéma)
47. Sean Jones im•pro•vise (never before seen) (Mack Avenue)
48. Dave Douglas & Uri Caine, Present Joys (Greenleaf)
49. Ideal Bread, Beating the Teens: Songs of Steve Lacy (Cuneiform)
50. Mary Halvorson, Reverse Blue (Relative Pitch)


JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

SHH0011Joana Gama & Luis Fernandes – Quest (SHH 011)
There’s a passion and beautiful that emanates from this recording that made me feel like I was listening to a mixture of Mitsuko Uchida, Harold Budd and Christian Fennesz. Quest, the stunning debut from Joana Gama and Luis Fernandes is holds elements of experiementalism as well as classical introspection.

The duo present a series of quiet yet evocative soundscapes that are both a backdrop and a window into along a beautiful journey. “Dream” (written by John Cage) is errielly performed to perfection by Gama. The addition of Fernandes atmospherics heading into the middle passages gives the piece a more transcendent feel than even the original piece.

“Twisted Moments” and “Quest” give the listener a different perspective on the duo. Both provide haunting elements of electronics with subtle melodic tones from Gama. “Twisted Moments” with it’s killer bee swarm of effects is dazzling and probably shouldn’t be listened to outside if you are afraid of the little black and yellow flying creatures.

While “Quest” includes all sorts of found sounds and plucking inside the piano. A creative piece that undulates in various directions all the while keeping very focus on providing a linear emotional experience.

Quest is a solid debut from Gama and Fernandes. Both experimental and traditional with a real sense of adventure and solace that is more than just ambient sounds. I really hope they do another record together very soon. Highly Recommended.


JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

CF297Rodrigo Amado – Wire Quartet (CF 297)
A Rodrigo Amado release is always going to be filled with some excitement. And Wire Quartet is definitely exciting and does not disappoint. A wonderful line up that features members of Red Trio and the increasingly rewarding, Manuel Mota.

Wire Quartet consist of three very extended pieces. “Abandon Yourself” opens the album with slow building introduction where each member moves gently with well place focused notes. The piece moves into its second structure when Amado and Mota both let loose and Faustino and Ferrandini follow making this section of the piece the most chaotic and beautiful. The tone settles in the latter stages as each musician has their own moment to rise above. Great compositional/leadership work here from Amado allowing the members the freedom to craft the passages within the outlying structure.

Blues-like yet still encompassing sense of moving far beyond, “Surrender” has lots of free movements with Mota’s guitar screeching like Branca, Bailey or Thurston Moore rolled into one. Amado’s rolling tones and the some atmospheric brush-work from Ferrandini add a nice shine to the track. While on the closing number, “To The Music,” Amado really let’s loose with some terrific tones and patterns that feel like Ayler or Braxton. Mota’s guitars wails alongside Amado but never overpowers the piece.

Wire Quartet is a rock album with jazz undertones. It loud, fierce and abrasive like any other Amado record. Similar to Amado’s work with Luis Lopes but here we get the added touches of a fantastic quartet that pours even more muscle to Rodrigo Amado’s compositions. Which I didn’t think was possible. And the results are excellent and frankly–bloody brilliant stuff!


Free Jazz review by Paul Acquaro

CF302Peter Van Huffel’s Gorilla Mask – Bite My Blues (CF 302)
The second track, ‘What?!’ is a heart-stopping, hard-hitting, kind of feels-good-even-though-it-kind-of-hurts type of thrash-jazz-rock, which is all fine and good if you have stuck around after the first track ‘Chained’ peeled some skin off your face. It’s Peter Van Huffel’s Gorilla Mask – a heavy jazz trio from Berlin and their latest album, Bite My Blues, recorded mostly live, has been burning holes through my earbuds for a while now. It seems that each time I press play, powerful blasts of energy jolt me anew.

While Van Huffel’s alto sax channels fiery from the gut playing most of the time, there is also a great deal of melodicism in his playing. Between the typically short and catchy heads, his fierce playing arcs with electricity. The track ‘Fast and Furious’ is a good example – a couple of minutes into the tune there is a pause and drop in volume that gives the track a chance to change gears from blistering to reflective only to quickly return to even more blistering.

Van Huffel’s band mates are Roland Fidezius on bass and Rudi Fischerlehner on drums. Their accompaniment is an indispensable element to the album – the energy and forcefulness is kept in check by a mindful and subtle restraint that helps focus the lightning strikes. They have an extended interlude on ‘Skunk’ that showcases their rapport and a good display of their power can be seen in the track ‘Z’. The track’s stuttering rhythmic drive propels Van Huffel’s slightly overblown lines further and further, while at the same time holding it all back just enough to make the release mid-way all the more satisfying.

My only complaint, if you can call it a complaint, is that this is a beast of an album, it’s a thrill to take in all at once, but it may leave you a bit fried! Highly recommended.


Free Jazz review by Chris Haines

CF306Joe Morris Quartet – Balance (CF 306)
Joe Morris is probably the most important guitarist working within free music at present. He has a wealth of recordings dating back over the last three decades and has been particularly prolific with various projects during the last few years. However, for me, I always feel that he produces his most important work in his quartet format. This particular recording pulls together his string-based quartet of Mat Maneri (viola), Chris Lightcap (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums) and himself on electric guitar. This is the same line-up that produced the extraordinary album Underthru, and the same instrumentation as the excellent A Cloud Of Black Birds.

Joe Morris has a unique style and nobody else quite sounds like him especially when he is playing electric guitar in a more free jazz type setting, which as you would expect from this line-up is the mode of expression explored on this album. With the instrumentation that is involved the music has a chamber feel at times, particularly on the more introspective pieces such as Trust, but can be equally full-on as well. As with all good quartet writing and playing the focus is shared throughout the instrumentation and each musical personality comes to the fore right the way through the album, giving good contrast and balance to the material and the album as a whole.

All the pieces appear quite aptly titled with the first piece Thought being a complex but static texture that bubbles underneath the surface as if the ensemble is contemplating the musical excursion to come. This then moves into the second track Effort, which in contrast to the first piece contains a lot more ideas, textures and interplay. Although all tracks have single word titles I wouldn’t say that the musical pieces are summed-up by them, but rather give the listener a starting point which the music illustrates and explores further. This seems like an obvious thing to say, but I listen to so much music that doesn’t do this that when I finally hear music that does it so well it’s so refreshing to dwell on this simple fact. As you would expect from four excellent improvisers the playing contained within is a delight to listen to with Morris and Maneri being on particularly good form and shouldering the responsibility of holding down most of the foreground material.

Although showing what could be considered abstract tendencies the music seems to be contained by larger forms and alludes to fast bop-type pieces as well as ballad-like forms, chamber pieces, and free improvisations, which are all spun through Morris’s personal musical vision and incredible technique, resulting in the type of sound-world that only he can muster in this way. If you have heard his free jazz styled music before, (although Morris would consider all his music to be just ‘free music’ with no distinction) then you won’t be disappointed by Balance. If you haven’t heard a Joe Morris album before then this wouldn’t be a bad place to start, although I personally feel that Underthru just has the edge on it. However, this is a very welcome release from an important improvising musician, whom for my money works at his best within this particular format.


Free Jazz review by Stefan Wood

CF308CDJonas Kullhammar – Basement Sessions Volume 3 (The Ljubljana Tapes) (CF 308)
Recorded in 2013, Jonas Kullhammar’s “Basement Sessions volume 3: The Ljubljana Tapes” is a live concert, featuring Kullhammar, Jorgen Mathisen on tenor, Torbjorn Zettberg on bass, and Espen Aalberg on drums.

“Basement,” composed by Mathisen, is a high energy track that gets everyone hitting on all cylinders, Aalberg and Zettberg providing a solid, toe tapping hard bop rhythm, with Kullhammar and Mathisen synchronizing the lead. It is very spiritual, and evokes mid 60’s Coltrane. “Allting kan ga itu” is a Kullhammar tune, very Dolphy esque, the saxophones going up and down the keys, before moving into a Zombies “Time of the Season” rhythm with saxes playfully on top of the beat. “Master of What” is a more contemplative, slightly somber tune by Zettberg, with the group establishing a theme, then Kullhammar or Mathisen alternating solos, each doing variations of the theme, then playing together. “Fresk Baglaens” is a funky hard bop tune, Zettberg providing a deep bottom with the bass, a sax keeping the rhythm while the other does a free improv solo. Toe tapping ear candy goodness, with a nice drum solo by Aalberg. “Rough 2” has that old Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers swagger, a medium tempo, low key swing that, once the theme is established, passes off to long stretching solos by each horn player, then back to the theme. Very old school, yet refreshing. The album ends with “Sekar Jepun,” a low key mood piece that again evoke’s Coltrane, spiritual yet somber.

Kullhammar’s group has really taken the music from the past and made it contemporary, evoking, yet never imitating. Their own personal cultural heritage, as well as incorporating modern improvisation esthetics, have helped to create their own sound. One surprising thing about this album is how short it is — less than 43 minutes. That may be a good thing. It does leave you wanting for more — but that problem is solved by going back to the other two volumes in this series. Another fine effort by this group.


Free Jazz review by Stefan Wood

CF305Baloni – Belleke (CF 305)
Baloni is an improv trio comprised of Joachim Badenhorst (bass clarinet, clarinet & tenor sax, worked with Han Bennink and Tony Malaby), Frantz Loriot (viola, played with David Ware), and Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass, played with Frank Gratowski). Belleke is their second album on clean feed, their debut Fremdenzimmer garnering accolades for their unique brand of music, part chamber jazz, part surreal improvisations inhabiting classical trappings.

“Belleke” opens the album with the clarinet and strings combining for a low volume and, evenly paced, like gliding across calm waters, but with the feeling of some tension. “Building Nothing Out of Something” is where each instrument is pushed out of their familiar trappings; the clarinet squeaks like a rusty swing, the bass like an industrial machine being stressed with weight, and the viola a high pitched feedback wail. Chamber industrial noise abstractions. An outstanding track is “Feuertreppe,” meaning Fire Escape Staircase. The viola and bass bow and pluck from a slow simmer to a burning frenzy, deftly managing both high and low registers, before fading into the clarinet solo, where later joined by the strings in a Schoenberg like classical piece, before the three build up the tension, clarinet leading with all three in medium register, then fading into an almost minimal silence.

“Turning Inwards Like a Glove,” is perhaps the centerpiece of the album, a soulful bass clarinet solo that is then joined by a frenetic plucking of the double bass, with the viola bowing a little behind the two in a high register. The strings provide the background for the bass clarinet to then gently float above, creating a very spiritually uplifting piece. Tracks like “Heaving Hearts,” “Casse Meditative,” and “Snowflakes” all demonstrate the trio’s ability to redefine the boundaries of how their instruments sound, in as of themselves and how they interact with each other. The music never digresses nor is superfluous, the mostly sub eight minute works are succinct and clear. “What Grows Beneath,” the final track, alternates from free form blowing of the sax to minimal notes of the stringed instruments and back again, ending with the sax gently soloing over a soft toned but frenetic viola bowing.

Belleke is an excellent album of creative music making, defying convention and creating a unique sound that combines improvisations with classical sensibilities. Recommended.


freiStill review by Andreas Fellinger

CF302Peter Van Huffel’s Gorilla Mask – Bite My Blues (CF 302)
Verzerrte Tieftonmonster, bis die Hypnose greift, stampfende Patterns und rollende Sticks, und darauf, dazwischen, überall: entfesselte Melodien, melodische Entfesslungskunst. Der Ur-Ottensheimer und langjährige Berliner Rudi Fischerlehner (Rupp/Müller/Fischerlehner, Fiium Shaarrk, …) an den Drums und Bassist Roland Fidezius (The Aquanomics, CallMeCleo, …) legen Brett nach Brett, Sprungbrett nach Sprungbrett für das oft und zurecht gerühmte Altsaxofon des Kanadiers Peter Van Huffel (House Of Mirrors, Boom Crane, …). Treibender Rockblues, impulsiv und tight, schleudert Free Jazz durch die Luft, dessen Ausdruck – egal ob schwebend oder exaltiert – nachvollziehbar bleibt und dadurch mitreißt. Das sich verausgabende Blasinstrument steht klar an der Spitze der Soundformation, Van Huffel ist der solierende Kapitän, dessen Besatzung ihm nichts als Steilvorlagen liefert. Diese Live-Aufnahme aus Toronto fängt ein stimmiges Set ein, mit reichlich starken und einigen großartigen Momenten. Bei Broken Flower etwa blüht passagenweise Schönheit auf, die an die wunderbaren Ruhephasen auf Throat von Little Women erinnert. Und die Abschlussnummer Z birgt eine Wende, die dem Auditorium so plötzlich die vielzitierten Schlapfen auszieht, dass es bis zum Ende der Platte nicht merkt, dass es vor fünf Minuten barfuß gegen die Wand geklatscht wurde. (steroid)