Tag Archives: Gary Pickard

All About Jazz review by Jack Huntley

Billy Fox’s Backbirds & Bullets: Dulces (CF 204) 
In the liner notes for Dulces, Billy Fox outlines the influence that Bengali writer, artist and composer Rabindranath Tagore had on his own compositional insights, writing “Tagore boldly defied the expectations of each idiom.” And after listening to Dulces, it is apparent that Fox learned well. Like his mentor, Fox is able to use various musical idioms as powerful touchstones without lapsing into empty compositional rhetoric. Instead, Fox harnesses the energy and beauty of multiple dialects that culminates in an album of great depth as well as breadth.

Fox, it seems, also has an excellent ear for talent, as he has surrounded himself with a group of highly proficient musicians, Blackbirds & Bullets, capable of giving voice to his nuanced compositions. The band is tight, energetic and fluid throughout. The three horns, especially, are vigorously presented and dynamically move the music through its crests and ebbs. The upbeat Afro-Cuban opener, “Girl Cheese Sandwich,” starts with Fox’s maracas, James Ilgenfritz’s bass and Miki Hirose’s brooding trumpet, but then the horns unleash a wave of infectious melody that sways the song into a full-tilt ensemble piece reminiscent of Mongo Santamaria’s big band.

“Deva Dasi”” takes the band in a more rhapsodic realm, back again with a Middle Eastern vibe. Again, Fox’s band never settles for apathetic imitation, as the music is not defined by a single stylistic element, but gains its energy from weaving in and out of inflective phrases, and by counter-balancing solo or duet instrumentation with the force of the entire ensemble. Notably here, Julianne Carney’s biting violin and Matt Parker’s tenor sax couple perfectly with Evan Mazunik’s dreamy Fender Rhodes piano. Throughout the album, Fox has an ear for layering the instrumentation in unique ways, pairing instruments to gain the most effect. The slightly jarring yet intriguing movement from horns to organ/keys in the opening of “Tatsin” is another example of Fox’s talent for building his tunes through unique turns of instrumentation.

Dulces is astonishing in its compositional breadth and dazzling musicality. Fox’s music reflects the great jazz tradition of compositional aggregation, and Blackbirds & Bullets perfectly juggles the complex musical inflections while never dropping its crisp rhythmic vibe. As the great aggregator Charles Mingus once said: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple…that’s creativity.”
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=40416

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Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds and Bullets – Dulces (CF 204)
Billy Fox writes and arranges music for a modern jazz sextet (plus Fox doing maracas and a violin player guesting on one track) on his album Dulces (Clean Feed 204). It’s music that’s well worth hearing.

There are quasi-world grooves, soulful riffs that build up with rootsy ensemble lines and funked out grooves. The soloists are cool, the music engaging.

What’s most interesting here is Fox’s straightforwardly effective music and the way it is arranged.

It’s modern; it’s not slick; it’s not that out; it dwells in a timeless realm of earthiness. If Trane’s album Dial Africa had a modern equivalent it would be this.
http://gapplegatemusicreview.blogspot.com/

All About Jazz-Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds & Bullets – Dulces (CF 204)
Valutazione: 3.5 stelle
Pupillo di Jane Ira Bloom, cresciuto tra punk, rock, metal e quant’altro, il batterista Billy Fox sembra privilegiare negli ultimi lavori il ruolo di compositore e direttore musicale, come avviene anche in questo Dulces. Ma, a differenza dei precedenti dischi organizzati sotto forma di suite, Dulces presenta sei brani autonomi, dalla specificità marcata, che vivono di vita propria nonostante su di essi aleggi lo spirito di Rabindranath Tagore autore del conclusivo “E Ki E Sundaro Shobha”.
Spirito che ha prodotto più di duemila composizioni abbracciando i numerosi stili folklorici indiani, così come la musica religiosa, la musica classica indiana e quella europea conservandone e rispettandone l’originalità. E spirito che trasmette un senso di serenità, di leggerezza, di soavità, di fragranza – dolci, per l’appunto- a tutta l’incisione. Non vengono esibiti soli(sti) eccezionali in Dulces ma, come nella miglior tradizione dolciaria, è il perfetto dosaggio e amalgama degli ingredienti a risultare decisivo per la buona riuscita finale.

E allora spazio a robuste linee melodiche attorno alle quali i musicisti creano convincenti trame armoniche, spazio a gustosi impasti timbrici, ad accattivanti modulazioni ritmiche e soprattutto spazio all’immaginazione. Perché “Girl Cheese Sandwich” sembra portarci dalle parti di Dizzy Gillespie e della sua frequentazione con il compositore e arrangiatore argentino Lalo Schifrin. “Deva Dasi” profuma di balcani e di oriente, “Tatsin” è la perfetta colonna sonora per un blaxploitation movie, mentre la conclusiva “E Ki E Sundaro Shobha” è una ninna dolce come zucchero filato.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=6191

The New York City Record review by Elliott Simon

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds and Bullets – Dulces (CF 204)
Dulces is a strong mix of culturally diverse influences. Billy Fox, a percussionist who composed six of the seven tunes, ostensibly sits out as a musician (he does add maracas on occasion) and allows a superb sextet to interpret his pieces. These tunes respectfully retain their worldliness, a credit to Fox’ robust aesthetic and the band’s keen perception of his intent. The results are both great party cuts along with spiritually contemplative pieces. A frontline of versatile trumpeter Miki Hirose and saxophonists Gary Pickard and Matt Parker engage in a manner that produces a worldly choir while individually conjuring up exotic lines. Keyboardist Evan Mazunik surprises with his funkiness and combines with bassist James Ilgenfritz and drummer Arei Sekiguchi to navigate what, at times, is a panoply of infectious rhythms. The session begins with Hirose tentatively using his horn to explore the melodic curds and whey of “Girl Cheese Sandwich” before Sekiguchi signals a catchy tri-horn voicing that is put to bed by an evocative extended bassline. Pickard’s snake-charming soprano sax then lays down a refrain that hypnotizes “Go Pocket Pickles!” into a semi-tumescent state. This is perfect foreplay for the full blown excitement of “Deva Dasi”, featuring Julianne Carney’s erotically exotic violin as part of this extended paean to the ancient Indian ‘temple girl’ tradition. A quick funky visit to “Tatsin” is made courtesy of Mazunik’s hip organ and Parker’s tenor before “Elisha and the She Bears” powerfully retells its biblical story of prophetic vengeance. Things close out with an ethereally beautiful version of a selection from Bengali cultural pillar Rabindranath Tagore’s large corpus of songs. Worldly in every sense, Dulces is a sweet but by nomeans sugary mix of Mid-Eastern, South Asian and African musical ingredients, thoroughly blended into a jazz base.

All About Jazz-Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds & Bullets – Dulces (CF 204)
Valutazione: 3.5 stelle
Pupillo di Jane Ira Bloom, cresciuto tra punk, rock, metal e quant’altro, il batterista Billy Fox sembra privilegiare negli ultimi lavori il ruolo di compositore e direttore musicale, come avviene anche in questo Dulces. Ma, a differenza dei precedenti dischi organizzati sotto forma di suite, Dulces presenta sei brani autonomi, dalla specificità marcata, che vivono di vita propria nonostante su di essi aleggi lo spirito di Rabindranath Tagore autore del conclusivo “E Ki E Sundaro Shobha”.

E allora spazio a robuste linee melodiche attorno alle quali i musicisti creano convincenti trame armoniche, spazio a gustosi impasti timbrici, ad accattivanti modulazioni ritmiche e soprattutto spazio all’immaginazione. Perché “Girl Cheese Sandwich” sembra portarci dalle parti di Dizzy Gillespie e della sua frequentazione con il compositore e arrangiatore argentino Lalo Schifrin. “Deva Dasi” profuma di balcani e di oriente, “Tatsin” è la perfetta colonna sonora per un blaxploitation movie, mentre la conclusiva “E Ki E Sundaro Shobha” è una ninna dolce come zucchero filato.

Jazz Prospecting reviews by Tom Hull

Jaruzelski’s Dream: Jazz Gawronski (CF 211)Italian sax trio, with Piero Bittolo Bon on alto (and smartphone), Stefano Senni on bass, and Francesco Cusa on drums. Don’t know where they came from, what they’ve done in the past, or why they’re obsessed with all things Polish. I can begin to unravel such jokes as “Soulidarnosc” and “Mori Mari Curi” (the discoverer of radioactive elements like “Polonium” that killed her) but not “Swiatoslaw” or “Zibibboniek” or “Maria Goretti Contro Tutti.” Presumably the group name honors (if that’s the word) the last Communist dictator of Poland, Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski. Gawronski, however, appears to be an Italian politician, prominent in Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, first name Jas, easy enough to play off. Gruff, garulous free sax, with enough beat to keep it steady. For a while I thought “Sei Forte Papa” was “New York, New York.” I wouldn’t put anything past them. B+(***)

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds & Bullets: Dulces (CF 204)
Percussionist, credited only with maracas here, has two previous albums, The Kaidan Suite and Uncle Wiggly Suite, and a couple of side credits — e.g., worked with Bobby Sanabria. So how does a maracas player sustain interest? He recruits players I’ve barely (or never) heard of, spread out among two saxes, trumpet, keybs, a one-track violin guest, and gives them each a few minutes to stand up and out. Also does a superb job of working out horn charts for transition. B+(***)
http://www.tomhull.com/blog/archives/1567-Jazz-Prospecting-CG-26,-Part-3.html?PHPSESSID=6c92a8fbe0e7d78232edb35b59c888e8

Time Out Lisbon review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

Billy Fox – Dulces (CF 204) *****
Billy Fox é percussionista (neste disco toca maracas), função habitualmente vista como subalterna. Mas Fox é, acima de tudo, um compositor e líder inspirado, como se pode comprovar pelo muito recomendável The Uncle Wiggly Suite (2004, Clean Feed), e agora reuniu um curioso sexteto que dá pelo nome de Blackbirds & Bullets: trompete, dois saxes, teclados, contrabaixo e bateria.
Dulces é ecuménico mas coerente e inspirado: “Go Pocket Pickles” é uma borboleta presa numa teia de harpa (na verdade um piano eléctrico), “Deva Dasi” é uma fantasia klezmer que vai do diáfano ao paroxístico, “Tatsin” dança sobre groove funk e orgão Hammond, “Elisha & The She-Bears” é ritmo de encantar serpentes assombrado por Rhodes espectral.
Um triunfo da imaginação.