Tag Archives: Geoff Farina

Village Voice reviews by Tom Hull

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
I used to be able to ID these cars: cover looks like a mid-1950s Oldsmobile (1956?), the sketch inside more like a 1959 Caddy, the ne plus ultra of tailfins. Lightcap’s a bassist, b. 1971, gets around, third album under his own name after two Fresh Sound New Talents. Runs a big horn line here, with tenor saxophonists Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby on all cuts, and alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo joining in on three of eight. Craig Taborn plays Wurlitzer, and Gerald Cleaver is the drums. Sounds like a freewheeling lineup, but they mostly hum along in sync. I used to have a monster Olds: a 1965, with a 425 cu. in. V-8, 4 bbl. carb, put out about 360 hp, ran real smooth keeping all that power bottled up under its big hood, kind of like this record. B+(*)

John Hébert Trio – Spiritual Lover (CF 175)
Bassist, from Louisiana, based in Jersey City, shows up on a lot of good records, now has two under his own name. Trio includes Gerald Cleaver on drums and Benoit Delbecq on piano, clarinet, and synth — mostly piano, but the switches muddy that somewhat. If you care to, you can focus on the bass and be rewarded for your efforts. Otherwise, Delbecq is a fine pianist — I recommend his 2005 album, Phonetics, but you get a taste of that here. B+(**)

Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
The label really seems to like group names, something I try to minimize in my filing: most seem like fronts for some principal, and even when group distribution is genuine so many group names become difficult to follow. I originally tried filing this under drummer Luther Gray: he produced and wrote the (very brief) liner notes. Don’t see any song credits. Of course, the person you hear is alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, who is always out front. Quartet is filled out with two guitarists, Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, who don’t make much of a mark. Some bits of Americana worked into the mix, giving it a bit of folk-gospel roots, but recast as free jazz, of course. B+(**)

Keefe Jackson Quartet – Seeing You See (CF 176)
Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, moved to Chicago in 2001, third album since 2006. Quartet includes ex-Vandermark 5 trombonist Jeb Bishop, who also plays alongside Jackson in Lucky 7s, plus Jason Roebke on bass and Noritaka Tanaka on drums. Snakey free jazz, probably more interesting for Bishop’s runs and smears, although Jackson can pull off some interesting lines. B+(**)

Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (CF 180)
Bassist, from Portugal, based in Germany, has a half-dozen or more records since 1996, four with his trio Azul (Frank Möbius on guitar, Jim Black on drums). Not sure if Prima-Matéria is a distinct group — doesn’t show up on Bica’s website project list nor on trumpeter Matthias Schriefl’s MySpace page (Schreefpunk, European TV Brass Trio, Brazilian Motions, deujazz, 2 Generations of Trumpets, United Groove-O-Rama, Schmittmenge Meier, Mutantenstadt). Group also includes Mário Delgado on electric guitar, João Lobo on drums and percussion, and João Paulo on piano, keyboards, and accordion. Assembled from three concerts — the one patch of applause comes at a bit of surprise, even if well earned. Rather patchy, the main shift turning on Paulo’s accordion, which puts the band in a mood for tango or something folkloric; otherwise they have a tendency toward soundtrack, with three placenames in the titles. Still, Schriefl is a smoldering trumpet player, and this never settles into the ordinary. B+(***)

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El Intruso review by Sergio Piccirilli

Lawnmower – West (CF 178 )

Calificación: A la marosca

Busca y encontrarás, lo que no se busca permanece oculto (Sófocles)
El arte es siempre un canal de conexión entre el universo exterior del artista y su mundo interior. La captación de ese todo unificado puede manifestarse en tres dimensiones fundamentales de la sensibilidad: la apertura hacia lo diferente que mora en el mundo exterior, la fuente del sentido que reside en la construcción interior de lo percibido y la exploración interior liberada mediante diversas formas de expresión. Esa búsqueda por revelar lo oculto que impulsa al artista, puede tomar vida y manifestarse de un modo trascendente a través de su obra. No obstante, en el devenir creativo no resulta sencillo poseer un sentido de lo universal que permita descifrar los signos transcendentes de los tiempos, sobre todo cuando nos enfrentamos en la actualidad a un paradigma cultural que parece darle la espalda a lo interior. La búsqueda del artista por trascender es un infrecuente contacto con el alma humana que nace de un principio de necesidad interior. Ese extraordinario objetivo que alberga en cada artista se encuentra mucho más cerca de lo que pensamos, ya que su fuente no está únicamente asociada a inalcanzables postulados estéticos o en los ademanes ampulosos de la sabiduría infinita, sino también en las propiedades emocionales de cada uno de nuestros actos, en la experimentación de lo mundano, en los silenciados sacrificios que nos impone la vida cotidiana.
El arte es una exploración interior; pero esa exploración, aunque parezca un juego de palabras, también es un arte en sí mismo y su cabal entendimiento, como decía Carl Jung, es similar a “tender un puente entre el conocimiento intelectual y conceptual y el conocimiento inmediato y vivencial”. La búsqueda interior y la necesidad artística, la experiencia y el saber acumulado, lo transcendente y lo mundano, pueden reunirse excepcionalmente en la obra de un artista.

Algo de todo eso parece encajar con el enunciado estético representado en West, el álbum debut de Lawnmower. En este trabajo su líder, el baterista y compositor Luther Gray, manifiesta en cada gesto la búsqueda de un sonido interior y una voz propia que enhebre la aspiración artística con lo meramente experiencial. Así es como la plástica de la banda recoge los diferentes hábitos adquiridos en su carrera musical, desde el temprano paso por el punk con Tsunami a sus colaboraciones orientadas al jazz en las bandas de Joe Morris y Steve Lanter pasando por el tránsito en el campo de la libre improvisación junto a luminarias de la música creativa como Anthony Braxton, Steve Swell, Ken Vandermark, Taylor Ho Bynum, Fred Anderson y Joe McPhee, entre otros. Sin dejar de mencionar al álbum New Salt de 2005 en donde participaron tres de los cuatro integrantes deLawnmower (el baterista  Luther Gray y los guitarristas Geoff Farina y Dan Littelton); antecedente cuyos afanes artísticos parecen haber completado el ciclo de su evolución musical con la incorporación del saxo alto, y miembro fundador de la notable Fully Celebrated Orchestra, Jim Hobbs.

En el análisis del cuadro de situación en que se funda este proyecto resulta imposible eludir el extravagante nombre adoptado por el cuarteto, ya que Lawnmower (en inglés, cortadora de césped) no parece ser una denominación de sencilla aplicación para un grupo que orbita los contornos del jazz, el rock, el post-punk y el folk alternativo. Sin embargo, una mirada más profunda puede permitir el hallazgo de puntos de contacto en términos de ilación de conceptos.

En la denominación de una banda siempre subyace un enlace con los antecedentes practicados por sus miembros. Así es como un músico que durante su etapa formativa trabajó en la guardia de un hospital podría llamar a su primer experiencia grupal Traumatismo de Cráneo y triple fractura expuesta de tibia y peroné; o alguien que subsidió su carrera musical vendiendo electrodomésticos elegiría para su banda nombres tales como La Licuadora o El Lavarropas o La cocina de cuatro hornallas con encendido eléctrico (lo que esté en oferta).
En relación al caso que nos ocupa debemos señalar que Luther Gray asegura haber invertido muchas horas escuchando música mientras cortaba el pasto, de allí la proveniencia del nombre Lawnmower. Confesión que seguramente haría muy feliz al ingeniero Edwin Beard Budding, quien al patentar la cortadora de césped en 1830 afirmó que su invento haría “que los caballeros del campo, al usar mi máquina, estén realizando un ejercicio, útil y saludable”.

En concordancia con lo expuesto podemos atestiguar que escuchar el álbum debut de Lawnmower también es un “ejercicio, útil y saludable” pero que tiene la ventaja de no requerir para su disfrute que seamos “caballeros del campo” o que para su goce debamos usar una maquina de cortar pasto. Y si no me cree, escuche música en una cortadora de césped y después me cuenta. Lawnmower, en el álbum West, testimonia una declaración estética clara, convincente y muy personal, ornamentada con una infrecuente paleta sonora fundada en batería, dos guitarras eléctricas y saxo alto que le otorga una pátina de incontrastable originalidad a su alineación tímbrica.

Esas características se manifiestan y potencian desde la apertura con One, pieza en la que se distinguen los difusos contornos de un ambiente rural signado por la melancolía, la soledad y una atrapante sensación de pesadumbre. Mientras la aparentemente lábil batería de Luther Gray ofrece inquietantes matices, las guitarras de Geoff Farina y Dan Littelton construyen un envolvente entramado armónico estratégicamente embellecido por el dramático ascenso dinámico que dibuja el siempre atinado saxo de Jim Hobbs.

Glasstambién recorre una senda de atmósferas opresivas, tensiones subyacentes e intensidades contenidas pero adornada con inasibles ecos orientales que parecen retumbar en los confines de la música de los Apalaches. Un imaginativo mosaico sonoro que enlaza los circunspectos trazos que emanan de la batería y las guitarras con el sobrecogedor lamento que emerge del saxo.

Prayers of Deathrecuerda la evocación de la música country que suele caracterizar a algunas composiciones de Bill Frisell; pero mientras estas últimas permiten imaginar a un vaquero sonriente, recién salido del coiffeur y doctorado en Oxford, en la aproximación de Lawnmower se visualiza uno abandonado a su suerte, andrajoso, solitario, rebelde y, por ende, mucho más creíble.

Giant Squid(en inglés, Calamar Gigante), al sumergirse en las profundidades de un desconocido y frenético paisaje sonoro, parece hacer honor a su título. Una colisión de perturbadoras disonancias e insólitas armonías en donde el saxo alto resulta la única “voz” humana que logra emerger a la superficie.

En las sombrías texturas de la opresiva y a la vez frágil atmósfera de Dan se enfatizan aspectos estructurales, cromáticos y formales que, a la manera del arte abstracto, eluden imitar modelos o formas naturales. Mientras que en la etérea I Love, los sutiles trazos de la batería de Luther Gray, el inquietante bloque sonoro de las guitarras de Geoff Farina y  Dan Littleton y la soberbia enunciación melódica del saxo de Jim Hobbs se funden en una embriagante danza de extraña belleza. Finalmente, Two oficia como una especie de secuela expandida y optimista del tema de apertura pero atravesado por ruidos ambientales que asemejan el sonido de (claro está) una cortadora de césped.

Lawnmowerdespliega una asombrosa aptitud para crear imágenes cargadas de tensión, limita el efectismo a momentos claves y apela a la sugerencia antes que a impactar con determinados recursos, haciendo que las propiedades emocionales de cada tono respondan a un juego de la imaginación en donde las formas musicales parecen entrar en contacto con el alma humana.

La deuda que tenemos con el juego de la imaginación es incalculable (Carl Jung)
http://www.elintruso.com/article.php?id=1841

Burning Ambulance review by Phil Freeman

LAWNMOWER – West (CF 178)
This group is a collective that started out as a trio. Under the name New Salt, drummer Luther Gray and guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton released a self-titled album in 2005. Though I haven’t heard that album, reviews suggest it was more spacious and post-rock than this one. The addition, on West, of alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs (like Gray, a frequent collaborator with guitarist/bassist Joe Morris) takes the music into a seething, blues-punk/skronk-jazz realm.

The disc doesn’t put the two guitarists in separate stereo channels, or identify who’s playing what in any other way. From one angle, that’s a little annoying, but from another, it helps unify the group as a single sonic entity. It doesn’t really matter either way, though, because as the disc opens, they’re both working in a gritty, electric blues-rock idiom. Not in the macho, thudding manner of Free, Foghat, Humble Pie etc. (all of whom I love), but something more alt-rockish and attenuated. “One,” the first track, is a slow-burning blues over which Hobbs takes harsh, almost Albert Ayler-esque solos. On the second track, “Glass,” the guitarists are quieter, but Hobbs gradually builds up to some sandpapery, Peter Brötzmann-like shrieks.

“Prayer of Death” finds one guitarist playing a folky melody over and over, like a cross between Bill Frisell and a very quiet Sonny Sharrock, as Hobbs takes another fierce solo full of abstraction and disorienting noisiness. “Giant Squid” is the most abstract and aggressive track of all, with one guitarist heading into Pete Cosey territory while the other lands somewhere between Caspar Brötzmann and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Hobbs plays it fairly straight on this one, opting for high-speed runs rather than waves of skronk—it’s the only time the guitarists manage to muscle him aside. “Dan” is eight minutes of near-silence, drones and the occasional rubbed cymbal. This leads into “I Love,” which offers more drones, but some lovely, if occasionally raucous, ballad playing from the sax. And on the album’s final track, the near-fifteen-minute “Two,” we’re back to the twanging country blues of “One”—straight-up Ry Cooder shit from the guitars, with Hobbs playing lines that are just slightly off, setting the listener’s teeth on edge in a good way. In the piece’s final stretch, one guitar sets up a loud drone almost worthy of Sunn O))), as the saxophone gets all Ayler-ish again.

I see I haven’t talked about Luther Gray’s contributions. Well, he’s got no bassist to lock in with, which forces him to either assert himself with blast beats and clattering snare rolls or be a nuanced accompanist inserting minimalist rhythms behind the slowly cycling guitars. He chooses the latter path throughout, and it ties the album together extremely well. This is a great record, too skronky and assertive for casual listening but fascinating and unique.

1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Definitely.

2. Should you buy this record? Absolutely.
http://burningambulance.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/31-days-of-album-reviews-18-lawnmower-west/

Free Jazz review by Stef

Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
****½
When quickly listening to the new Clean Feed releases, this one struck me immediately as something special. Not only because of its unusual title and art work, but also because the line-up consists of two electric guitars, played by Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, the alto of Jim Hobbs (of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra), and the drums of Luther Gray. The latter is the band’s leader and composer, and last but not least by the wonderful music you hear on this album.

The first track starts with dual guitar single chord repetitive background (with some changes), over which Hobbs’ wailing sax gets more passionate as the music progresses, with rhythmless drumming by Gray to support this: the effect is rock-ish and trance-inducing at the same time.
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“Lawnmower”, you say? What’s the link? It so happens that Gray spent hours (thousands!) mowing lawns while listening to music of all possible genres in his headphones. Good for the musical education, bad for the ears. His music integrates these various influences.

The second piece is calm but with an underlying tension and intensity that is almost creepy. Again, the guitars and the drumming are full of control and restraint, playing the least possible sounds to generate the most effect, while the alto is full of sad emotions alternating with resignation and pain, with one guitar adding drama with some high feedback tones.

“Prayer Of Death”, starts with some Bill Frisell-like country guitar, too soft and too easy, with simple chord changes and basic drumming, making me almost turn off the music, but gradually the screaming sax puts everything luckily in a different perspective. On “Giant Squids”, weird guitar sounds and frantic drumming conjure up images of unknown and unwanted experiences of the deep, with only the sax doing something what can be called normal. And then it gets weirder all the time, more minimalist, more fragile and sensitive than the previous tracks, with barely vibrating sounds creating a fantastic sound texture on “Dan”, but then bizarrely, like in a David Lynch movie, you get to hear “I Love”, a slow dance, with sax-playing reminiscent of the 50s, if it were not for the contrasting guitar noise in the background.

And the long last track takes you into lawnmower territory – industrial noise shifting color and shade, with Doppler-effects, drone-like but with a sax that sings on top of it, like the tune from the headphone barely making it over the noise of the machine.

A major achievement of creative composition, careful sound arrangement, controlled and powerful playing. Highly recommended.
http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2010-05-10T08%3A33%3A00%2B02%3A00&max-results=7

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
Drummer Luther Gray explains in the brief liner notes to West, the debut of his ensemble Lawnmower, that the album is an attempt to reconcile the various genres he has worked in throughout his musical development. From his early days spent in punk bands like Tsunami, to his jazz-oriented work as a sideman with fellow Bostonians Jim Hobbs, Joe Morris and Steve Lantner, Gray has built a diverse discography founded on one common denominator—quality.

This session encapsulates Gray’s wide-reaching interests with the assistance of three empathetic peers. Criminally under-sung, saxophonist Jim Hobbs is one of the most creative and visceral jazz stylists working on alto today, while electric guitarists Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton invoke the sonic diversity of the indie rock scene. Farina’s experiences in post-punk bands Karate, Gloryteller and Secret Stars meshes well with Littleton’s more folk oriented approach, previously heard in bands like Ida and The Hated.

This date is a continuation of sorts to the work heard on New Salt (Xeng, 2005), which featured the same line-up sans Hobbs. Gray’s nuanced drive and elastic timing provide the quartet with a surfeit of textural and tonal stimuli. Hobbs’ expressive alto soars above the kaleidoscopic underpinning provided by Farina and Littleton, as the guitarists trade ideas and motifs with a languid, majestic intensity. The modal drones of Farina and Littleton’s guitars are a prevailing force throughout the session, veering from the spare pointillism of “Dan” to the harsh electronic gales that dominate the last half of “Two.” The over-arching concept fuses introspective, feedback laden guitar rock with the raw, freewheeling impetuousness of free jazz.

Jazz is widely perceived as an urban art form, and often, rightly so. But the spacious, unhurried dynamics Gray and company offer on West evokes the bucolic vistas of open sky territory more than the bustling fervor of a metropolis. The dramatically ascending “One” and the ethereal ballads “Prayers of Death” and “I Love” are steeped in Americana, as Farina and Littleton’s reverb drenched guitars ply countrified twang for Hobbs and Gray to embellish, deconstruct and collectively reinvent. “Glass” favors a more exotic patina, as the guitarists’ ringing arpeggios weave a dreamy mosaic of Eastern tonalities around Hobbs’ vocalized alto, while the appropriately titled “Giant Squid” conveys menace with a spasmodic thicket of coiled dissonances.

A pitch-perfect merger of jazz and rock, the conversational interplay between the members of the quartet espouses the finer aspects of improvisation, delivered in the instrumental tone colors of contemporary rock music. There have been many similar efforts over the years, but few quite as successful as West.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=36335