Clean Feed Records eat the plate
Clean Feed records, founded in 2001, has been the most prolific and adventurous label for jazz this new century. Based in Lisbon, Portugal their offerings have included many of jazz’s old guard including reed players Evan Parker, Paul Dunmall, Charles Gayle, Vinny Golia and Anthony Braxton and trumpeters Dennis Gonzalez and Herb Robertson, along with current innovators bassist Joe Morris and reed players Ken Vandermark, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Tony Malaby, to name just a few.
Clean Feed’s reach seemingly has no bounds, featuring the greatest players alongside new names in jazz. As with the Blue Note or Impulse! jazz labels of the 1960s, listeners can be assured a consistent presentation of high quality music no matter if the name on the album cover is familiar or not.
Marty Ehrlich Rites Quartet – Things Have Got To Change (CF 150)
Saxophonist Marty Ehrlich has been a mainstay of the New York jazz scene for decades. He founded the Dark Woods Ensemble and has recorded with everyone from pianist Andrew Hill to saxophonists John Zorn and Ehrlich’s hero, saxophonist Julius Hemphill. Of late, he has been producing long thematic works. This quartet session is a bit of a change, a variety of shorter pieces that delight the ears with crisp solos and swinging interplay.
The cast includes familiar and distinctive players negotiating five tracks by Ehrlich and three from Hemphill. Hemphill’s compositions are joyfully produced, with the semi-classic “Dogon A.D.” acting as the anchor here. The band, solidified behind drummer Pheeroan AkLaff who negotiates the bluesy piece as a bouncy vehicle for each solo. Ehlrich’s coughing alto aligns with Eric Friedlander’s cello in syncopation to the beats. Elsewhere, the cello offers that slightly different (from a bass) feel on the track “On The One,” that makes this music feel as if it has a mind to be a chamber ensemble, but with the recklessness of a nightclub band. Maybe it is the untamed trumpet work of James Zollar that keeps the music real. This is one of those special recordings that begs for more.
Samuel Blaser – Pieces Of The Old Sky (CF 151)
Swiss-born, New York-trained Berlin resident trombonist Samuel Blaser begins his Clean Feed debut with a 17-minute meditation by his quartet of Todd Neufeld (guitar), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). The dreamlike and ponderous pace acts as a slow motion series of features for brooding trombone and guitar. Likewise, “Madala” stirs emotions by way of its deliberateness and pace-building for tension. Sorey is the suitable choice for the drum seat. He has developed a knack for playing that is beyond jazz, using his kit as a frontline player. Both “Red Hook” and “Speed Game” up the ante, elevating the pace and forcing a bit more tension into the music. Blaser responds with shorter thoughts and tighter solos, but those flowing notes remain.
Harris Eisenstadt – Canada Day (CF 157)
Canadian-born drummer Harris Eisenstadt is quickly becoming known as a modern jazz composer/arranger to watch. His work is thoroughly modern, with elements of West African drumming. His music is reminiscent of the innovations saxophonist Wayne Shorter was introducing in the 1960s on Blue Note. His Quintet Canada Day concentrates on group improvisation, forwarding the individual sounds of saxophonist Matt Bauder, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, trumpeter Nate Wooley and bassist Eivind Opsvik to bear on these eight compositions.
The quintet negotiates the drummer’s penchant to change time and rhythmic patterns within a song while maintaining the groove. “Everyday Is Canada Day” begins with dreamy vibes before the band enters, building the song from a simple platform. Wooley’s trumpet solo bumps against the vibes with its temerity and coarseness. Eisenstadt is blending sounds here to great effect, as he does on “After An Outdoor Bath.” He never seems to forget the pleasures of listening when he is making music.
Nobuyasu Furuya – Bendowa (CF 159)
Lisbon-based saxophonist Nobuyasu Furuya takes a walk around with the saxophone masters of energy jazz: Peter Brotzmann, Frank Lowe and Roscoe Mitchell. Bendowa might have been mistaken for an early AACM recording. The Japanese-born reedsman and flutist plays here in a Portuguese trio with Gabriel Ferrandini (drums) and Hernani Faustino (bass). While the music pushes the outer edge, it never breaks down into a noise-fest. The steady groove of Ferrandini and Faustino allow for Furuya to apply his craft. His tenor on “Track 1” splats big strokes of paint all over the canvas, while “Track 2” finds him playing more traditional sounds (Japanese?) on his flute. The aggressive bass clarinet notes heard on “Track 5” float and dive into the rolling maelstrom of bass and drum animation. This is free jazz, coming from a classically trained reedsman. Maybe this new “new thing” music is the best thing to come from globalization.
Ze Eduardo Unit – Jazz Ar: Live At Capuchos (CF 155)
A mover and shaker in the Portuguese jazz scene for decades, the bassist Ze Eduardo would be comfortable playing with Han Bennink and the ICP Orchestra, Roy Nathanson’s Jazz Passengers or Steven Bernstein’s Millennium Orchestra. His brand of jazz doesn’t skip humor as an element of the music, and the audience responds affirmatively on this October 2008 live date. His trio, or unit, is composed of tenor saxophonist Jesus Santandreu and drummer Bruno Perdroso, both heard on the previous release A Jazzar no Zeca: A Musica de Jose Afonso (Clean Feed, 2004).
Don’t get the wrong impression, this is serious music making. The band just loves what they do. Their take on “The Simpsons” theme is in no way camp. The band lays down a solid groove, phrasing the familiar cartoon theme here as they do with other cartoons characters here. Their “serious” music includes the coughing interludes on “Abelha Maia” that never miss a beat between bits and pieces of “Santa Lucia.” This agreeable recording is music making at the highest level, it just happens to be very jocular.
Pinton / Kullhammar / Zetterberg / Nordstrom – Chant (CF 156)
From Sweden comes a quartet of improvisors that were assembled for a series of concerts and this recording. All four have played together in various ensembles, but this combination, a “power” ensemble, displays a tenacity that yields special results. The musicians are saxophonists Alberto Pinton and Jonas Kullhammar, bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg and drummer Kjell Nordeson. The piano-less quartet effects a harmonious sound from the baritone and tenor combination on the majority of tracks. Pinton and Kullhammar make this a friendly competition for space and solos, exercising sonic demons on “Chantpagne,” as the timekeepers Zetterberg and Nordeson keep the pulse and intensity level quite high. The possibilities for this music are boundless. The pliant dueling baritones march to “Den Stora Vantan” while all the music making is done by the drummer.
The obvious homage here, “Cross/For Bluiett,” has saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett’s outward jazz vision in mind as it sails a chamber blues into the audience’s ears. The band ends with “Mount Everest,” a direct reference to the Swedish free jazz band of the same name whose passion for saxophonists Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman are shared by our heroes. The wow-factor is increased with every track heard on this excellent disc.
Julio Resende – Assim Falava Jazzatustra (CF 158)
The unforgettable pianist Julio Resende performs this live set in Lisbon with his band and a few special guests. Assim Falava Jazzatustra follows his 2007 release Da Alma (Clean Feed). Here he summons a quartet with the notable Spanish saxophonist Perico Sambeat and the most excellent Swedish bassist Ole Morten Vagan. The music is a blend of rhythmic and percussive jazz that is instantly agreeable. Resende’s piano can at times give off the Cuban vibe, as on “Perico Sambeat,” or a classical sound, as on “Ir F Voltar.” On the latter track the band is joined by vocalist Manuela Azevedo from the pop band Cla. The band’s rocked-out take on “Boom!” finds Resende’s piano ringing bell-like throughout. He plies the keyboard with such a predatory feel here. In contrast, his cover of the Pink Floyd song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is elegant and sanguine as he negotiates the nostalgic piece. Worth the price of admission to that concert, his rendering of that classic song is priceless.
Charles Rumback – Two Kinds Of Art Thieves (CF 152)
Chicago drummer Charles Rumback leads a quartet of like minded musicians on a very introspective album. Rumback is a member of bands varying from post-rock to electronica, including Colorlist, The Horse’s Ha and Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Lightbox Orchestra. Here he employs bassist Jason Ajemian (Dragons 1976, Rob Mazurek, Bill Dixon), tenor saxophonist Greg Ward (Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, People Places & Things) and alto saxophonist Joshua Sclar (Westport Art Ensemble). The music is characterised by paced, even-keeled, small gestures of sound. Often Rumback is playing quiet fingers on his drums while the saxophonists whisper notes in exchanges that are more late-night conversation than trading fours. The music, thoroughly composed, prefers to make its case with quiet gesticulation and soft melody. The slightest sound makes a large impact here. An impressive debut.
Weightless – A Brush With Dignity (CF 154)
These live dates from October 2008 in Germany mark the coming together of UK artistsJohn Butcher (saxophones) and John Edwards (bass) and Italians Alberto Braida (piano) and Fabrizio Spera (drums). All four had played together in varying combinations before, but the Weightless tour of Italy and Germany was their first as a complete unit. The natural combination of saxophone, piano, bass and drums gives listeners an accustomed lineup, but the music making (as you might not be surprised) is far from traditional.
The disc opens with “Apre,” a stellar piece of energy jazz that builds momentum as the players trade off duos and solos. What is remarkable here is the distribution of sound. A mark of seasoned players, the music is never crowded: all parts are distinctive and can be set apart in listener’s ears. Quite the feat for instantly composed music. The remaining tracks settle into an agreeable sense of interplay. Butcher is more inclined towards his extended techniques and the others follow suit. As with all free music, different parts are compelling for different listeners. The live (in concert) experience is quite unlike that of the recorded listen. That said this is a fine recorded listening experience.