Tag Archives: jeff davis

Jazzword review by Ken Waxman

Ancient but apt, the saying “you can take a boy out of the country, but can’t take the country out of the boy” is more accurate if the country is Canada and the “boys” are male and female musicians in the United States. No matter how busy they are, improvisers are always ready to play north of the border. Last month, for instance, Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt played two Toronto shows in one day before continuing an American tour.

CF 123Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
Being Canadian doesn’t mean cutting yourself from other interests as Eisenstadt demonstrates on Guewel (Clean Feed CF 123 CD. Named for the Wolof word for griots, the band – cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, trumpeter Nate Wooley, French hornist Mark Taylor and baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton – plays the drummer’s arrangements of West African pop music and ceremonial rhythms which he learned overseas. The tunes contain elements of southern dance tracks and brass band marches. Each horn man has the melodic smarts to meld with Eisenstadt’s multi-faceted drumming, producing catchy yet non-simplistic tunes. With his hunting horn sonorities, innate lyricism and pumping vamps, Taylor is a standout. The sympathetic arrangements stack horn parts atop one another in such a way that every solo becomes almost three-dimensional. Should a tune like Rice and Fish/Liti Liti begins mellow and impressionistic, then a drum beat signals a timbral shift with Taylor’s jujitsu tongue-fluttering matched with near Mariachi-styling from the other brass players. N’daga/Coonu Aduna transcends its marching band flavor as Sinton riffs harshly, accelerating to whoops and brays, while the meandering brass trill rococo detailing around him and Eisenstadt clatters, pops and ruffs.

CF 121RIDD Quartet – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
Davis is also part of the RIDD Quartet on Fiction Avalanche (Clean Feed CF 121 CD with CanCon provided by his spouse Kris Davis, who studied at the U. of T, and the Banff Centre. Outstanding on 10 group compositions, solos are weighed among Davis’ sensitive drumming, sweeping colors from distaff Davis, Reuben Radding’s tough, but restrained bass, and the kinetic runs of saxophonist Jon Irabagon. On Fiction Avalanche, the pianist percussively chords a counter melody that extends rasping bass slides and flattened reed vibrations. Monkey Catcher is a screaming blues expanded by Irabagon’s fortissimo split tones, yet tamed by Davis’ chord progression, key-clipping and flailing. Sky Circles is both atmospheric and lyrical. In unison the saxophonist’s buzzy trills and the pianist’s comping outline the theme. Segmented by winnowing squeals from Irabagon, the pianist moors the improvisation while advancing the theme chromatically. http://www.jazzword.com/review/126900

Temporary Fault review by Massimo Ricci

Clean Feed 1
A few words about ten less recent chapters from the ongoing (hopefully for long) saga of Pedro Costa’s label. Other titles will be gathered in a future instalment.

Clean Feed Cherry Picking

FIGHT THE BIG BULL – Dying Will Be Easy (CF 108 )
Under this name acts a reasonably bloodthirsty nonet led by guitarist Matt White, the composer of all the tunes. The instrumentation comprise two trombones (Reggie Pace, Bryan Hooten), clarinet (Adrian Sandi), tenor sax (J.C. Kuhl), trumpet (Bob Miller), percussion (Brian Jones), trap kit (Pinson Chanselle) and bass (Cameron Ralston). Given that the CD lasts slightly in excess of 31 minutes, the level of charged dynamics and overall energies that it transmits is noteworthy. Clearly stated themes get rapidly embittered in distorted fury, vapours of past influences gathered and shaken up into original recipes for a fresh kind of alternative dancing. Orchestrations that hint to big band enthusiasms and New Orleans-tinged business leave room for the instrumentalists to releases copious doses of vociferous rage, yet there’s also space for looking at atmospheres that are more reminiscent of a strip club than a jazz club. The mechanisms of lucidity don’t seem to be always in full control, but the somewhat disorderly conduct held by the ensemble is a plus, liberating the music from the sub-structural obviousness that this brand of projects frequently implies. The nervous sort of gaiety that characterizes substantial chunks of the compositions is exactly what defines their distinctiveness. Play loud and get slapped hard.

PAULO CURADO E O LUGAR DA DESORDEM – The Bird, The Breeze And Mr. Filiano (CF 113)
As the record’s name implies, the presence of double bassist Ken Filiano amidst leader Paulo Curado (alto sax, flute) and Bruno Pedroso (drums) is rather exemplary, classiness and sobriety always at the forefront either as accompanist or soloist, an extreme musicality symbolizing the cornerstone of his style, which is a pleasure to listen at any time. The Portuguese comrades are definitely not lesser musicians, though: this is a typical specimen of trio that might have risked to sound as a mellifluous disaster on CD and instead comes out of the speakers as a splendid kinship, the music walking at brisk paces without stumbling for a moment. Curado is a neat executor on both instruments, playing lines that result perfectly intelligible wherever he decides to go, perennial precision and clever sleights of hand never informed by excessive meticulousness. Pedroso’s wrists allow him excursions in several regions of drumming, including those which border with total freedom, yet he manages to emerge as the driving propitiator of impartially functional rhythmic designs at all times. Played with earnestness and elegance at once, these pieces appear like unprejudiced attempts to avoid that kind of pre-digested organization which gives jazz a glossy patina of unresponsive pointlessness.

The theory of “unrealized energy”, of which we find a meticulous description on the album’s sleeve notes, is at the basis of these 75 minutes of improvisations by pianist Jorge Lima Barreto. The length of the CD is, in truth, one of its limits but this notwithstanding some of the ideas that the sole protagonist performs are fascinating enough to release an overall sufficiently positive judgement. In “Zul”, which alternates not always lucid free forms to comparatively peaceful dissertations, the instrument is constantly intertwined with the emanations of a shortwave radio; this continuous presence defines the piece both positively and negatively, alternating moments of experimental intrigue to sections where there seems to be a little bit of confusion. The second half “Zelub” is much better, especially as Barreto’s more effective, less redundant playing is accompanied by four parallel recordings of natural and environmental sounds, including beautiful birds and other similarly engrossing presences. At times, for inexplicable reasons, I was reminded of Joachim Kühn in certain electro-acoustic partnerships on CMP. Still, despite a degree of heaviness mainly in the first part of the record, this is undoubtedly sincere music to appraise without acting as overly critical detractors.

TETTERAPADEQU – And The Missing R (CF 120)
A group formed by two Italians (tenor saxophonist Daniele Martini and pianist Giovanni Di Domenico) and a Portuguese rhythm section consisting of Gonçalo Almeida on double bass and João Lobo on drums, the name being an anagram – minus an “r”, hence the title – of a club named De Patter Quartet in The Hague, Holland, where the four conservatory students used to play together after the lessons. Where technical preparation of the musicians and instantaneous (and often ironic) creativity meet depends on the different circumstances that the music presents. Barely sketched ideas, adventurous sensitivity, a few grimaces and fully fledged compositions, the whole under a stylistic banner whose colours are mainly taken from jazz, but also from other kinds of immediate intuition, several moments characterized by intense silences and melancholic touches for good measure. Now tangentially intelligent, now more respectful of traditions, this record shows the artists’ will to do their best to maintain an optimistically untarnished approach to interplay; they sound dedicated, detached and having fun at once. The result is an extremely satisfying album, its moods and inclinations not in need to overwhelm the listener. Remarkable and, at the end of the day, successful in not giving us the chance of an accurate classification.

A Dutch word that means “mates” also defines a typical local delicacy, of which the musicians who play in the CD grew fond during a stay in Amsterdam. The exchange of musical experiences – Chicago versus The Netherlands – is at the basis of this album featuring virtual leader Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon, analog synth), James Falzone (clarinet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, analog electronics), Jason Roebke (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums, percussion). The compositions, mostly credited to Boston-resident Dijkstra, are visibly distinguished by a rather synchronized approach, the artists following a basic compositional scheme comprising a number of places for individual expression but always in the name of an orchestral result that often sounds regimented, only at times slightly more audacious. In general, the players do not seem to be looking too hard for alternative routes: once a suggestion is delineated, they develop a few instant propositions without putting excessive quantities of juvenile delinquency in there, wearing an “everything-under-control” mask whatever the proposition may be (among the declared influences, minimalist mavericks Terry Riley and LaMonte Young; still, curb your enthusiasm if you think to find anything even remotely similar to that music). This somewhat scarcely flexible application of colours and codes limits the sparkle factor of the pieces, which remain flawlessly elegant examples of semi-improvised concepts partially subjugated to a collective format, the whole impeccably executed yet unquestionably cold to these ears.

RIDD QUARTET – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
Reuben Radding (double bass), Jon Irabagon (sax), Kris Davis (piano), Jeff Davis (drums), RIDD combine different types of situations and moods, ranging from the sober elegance of rarefied tunes where the piano dictates the behavioural rules of a jazz that follows – at least in part – the tradition without sounding démodé (the preferred facet of the group by this writer) to more oblique exemplifications of dissonant freedom, often interesting, at times a little tortuous, in general destined not to remain in the memory (this needs the opening of a discussion panel; how many records of contemporary jazz are in effect “destined to remain in the memory”, if not vaguely? Next time). The players, whose nimbleness is beyond debate, approach the material with the right balance of clever diplomacy and regulated sixth sense, rarely exalting the fuming aspects of improvisation in favour of a controlled attitude which sounds very welcome. Radding and Irabagon complement their reciprocal finesse splendidly, literate contrapuntal parallelisms calling attention also when the tune does not necessarily require it. Jeff Davis is the most discreet figure of the quartet, humility at the service of the collective yet extremely precise and reliable, a teaching for certain drummers who would have better served themselves by becoming wailing guitarists instead of banging our ears off the head. Still, the real pleasures frequently come courtesy of Kris Davis, improvisational intelligence on a par with her abilities as a refined interlocutor, chordal hues and sparkling arpeggios always noticeable at the forefront of the mix even in the less intelligible sections.

STEVE ADAMS TRIO – Surface Tension (CF 131)
Adams is a member of ROVA, in front of which a knowledgeable listener could even think of genuflecting – enough said. In this record he plays sopranino, alto, tenor and baritone plus bass flute, flanked by Ken Filiano on bass and Scott Amendola on drums. I’m usually kind-hearted towards instrumentalists belonging to the same rank of these three men, provided that clichés and formulas are left out of the equation which, we’re happy to report, is exactly what happens here. This is as fresh a jazz as a herbal antiperspirant: the music, entirely written by Adams, literally breathes, whatever the sort of proposition he presents. Inspired improvisations sounding like well-rehearsed charts, clever swinging, intense soliloquies and considerate interplay with just a pinch of disenchantment: everything is executed with congruence, the musicians’ intents perfectly aligned in a punctilious search for different solutions. While Filiano performs according to his customary instrumental stature, alternating dissonant bopping and arco-tinged sensitive shrewdness, and Amendola acts as a clear-headed rhythmic propeller gifted with remarkable clarity of vision, the leader is obviously a master of the game, the relationship with the mechanics of blowing air into tubes fuelled by a refined sense of suggestiveness and proportional technical monstrosity which makes us appreciate the sheer sound of any note that he emits, with a personal preference for the splendidly evocative considerations on the flute in tracks such as the gorgeous “ninth” (thus called by yours truly because the CD contains ten chapters, but the cover and the press release indicate only eight titles). A flawless example of creative interaction in a trio, a veritable clinic for many aspiring leaders who don’t have a clue about where they want to go.

JOHN O’GALLAGHER TRIO – Dirty Hands (CF 132)
The spectacular audio quality of the recording is extremely helpful in highlighting the instrumental adroitness of alto saxophonist O’Gallagher and his comrades, bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Jeff Williams. People who sound like they’ve been playing together forever, recorded in studio during a pause in a series of concerts and clinics in Braga, Portugal in 2007 which made their spiritual and technical fusion complete. It’s great when, while listening to an album, one can literally penetrate the essence of each instrument (which comes naturally easier when the sources are not too numerous). This happens time and again while we “concentrate on the concentration” demonstrated by the artists all over the course of this disc, which alternates mathematic precision, committed ardour and permanent imaginativeness in a noteworthy recipe, the sounds typical of this format in a way separated, clarified and amplified to express a unique mental picture. This perfect intelligibility is what attributes to the whole a positive mark: without sounding by any means conciliatory – quite the contrary, it is full of acute corners and razor-blade sharpness – this music is also capable of touching the soul at least in part, leaving ample room for reflection and air to breathe for the brain, never overwhelmed by what ignorant analysts often define “urgency” and instead is just inability to listen, which in my book determines a loss of the right to be called “musicians”. O’Gallagher, Kamaguchi and Williams are excellent listeners and the record is, accordingly, brilliant.

DARREN JOHNSTON – The Edge Of The Forest (CF 133)
Remarkable compositions and skilled arrangements designed to create the perfect setting for solos played with zest and exhuding joy to perform. This pretty much sums up the near-perfection of this CD, among my overall favourites in this batch, which gives back copious doses of almost physical pleasure spin after spin – a rare characteristic even in technically superior, high-level releases. Trumpeter and composer Johnston, who has worked among others with Fred Frith and Myra Melford, is aided by Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Sheldon Brown (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Devin Hoff (upright bass), Smith Dobson V (drums) and, exclusively in “Foggy”, by accordionist Rob Reich. A response to the pedestrian attitude of those combos based upon the “nonexistent-theme-thrown-away-before-inconclusive-blowouts” modus operandi, the pieces are constructed with architectural extensiveness, a plurality of diverse keys to open the doors of never-invasive, ever-articulate ramifications leading the group into territories explored with Zappa-esque tightness in uncompromising perseverance, at the same time lightening up the connotations of otherwise unsurprising redundancies. Not for a minute we experience that feel of imminent catastrophe which often underscores excessive freedom, destroying the good intentions that a tune might show: the music flows with the head on its shoulders, the players walking surefooted amidst potential turmoil maintaining rationality and brilliance, and ends exactly where it had to, its latent coldness replaced by a formidable musicality which makes us completely forget about the meaning of “lackadaisical”. A disciplined yet spirited album: if you have to pick just a few in this tentet, this is one of them.

Jazz’N’More review by Jürg Solothurnmann


Note: 4


MICHAEL DESSEN TRIO – Between Shadow and Space (CF 106)
Note: 5
Auch die amerikanische Szene gebärt ständig neue Musiker. Der aus Denver/ Colorado stammende Knuffke. Bevor der Trompeter 2005 den Sprung nach New York wagte, studierte er bei Art Lande, Ron Miles, Hugh Ragin und Wynton Marsalis. Mit seiner aktuellen Musik beruft er sich auch auf  Butch Morris, Steve Lacy und Ornette Coleman. Man könnte die Umsetzung seiner meistens konventionell groovenden Stücke als heutigen Freebop bezeichnen, der einer Linie folgt, die mit dem „George Russell Sextet“ in den späten 50er Jahren beginnt und über Don Cherrys Suiten und das AEOC, aber auch Europäern wie z.B. Manfred Schoof weiterführt. Die gehaltvollen zwölf Themen, das Niveau der häufig kollektiven Improvisationen und die robuste Kompaktheit seines Quartetts sind beachtlich. Der Form Thema-Soli-Thema wird kaum angetastet, und an stärkere Reize gewöhnte Ohren wird’s kaum stören, dass hier pantonal improvisiert wird. Die symbiotischen Interaktionen mit dem Posaunisten Dessen erweitern sich manchmal auch zu freien Soundgesprächen. Eine gemässigt moderne, aber integre Musik, die verschiedenste alte und neuere Quellen verdaut.

 Verschiedenste Quellen wie Malerei, Konzeptkunst, Weltliteratur (Neruda) und Biologie inspirierten die Kreationen des Südkaliforniers Dessen, ein Komponist und Experimentalmusiker, der die Posaune gesanglich-elegant und unkonventionell verwendet und von den Kollegen „kompositorisches Mitdenken“ verlangt. Darum ergeben sich mit der „Rhythmusgruppe“ wesentlich abwechslungsreichere und enger verzahnte Interaktionen und ein starker innerer Zusammenhang von Thema/Initialidee und improvisatorischer Verwertung, wobei der vielgefragte Sorey (George Lewis, Vijay Iyer, Anthony Davis usw.) hervorzuheben ist. Die subtile Farbgebung der Perkussion und das teilweise sparsame, andeutende Spiel wird gekonnt erweitert durch die manchmal vom Computer umgeformten Posaunenklänge. Bemerkenswert ist die Bestimmtheit des Bassisten, die auch einfach Gesten bedeutsam macht. Bei aller Avanciertheit eine gut durchhörbare Musik.

Tomajazz review by Yahvé M. de la Cavada

cf-121RIDD Quartet – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
Recuerdo la primera vez que escuché a Jon Irabagon. Estaba en mi casa, con el disco Twelve de Jostein Gulbrandsen sonando de fondo mientras hablaba por teléfono con otro crítico. En varios momentos de la conversación, mi mente se iba con las líneas que tocaba el saxofonista e interrumpía a mi interlocutor con alocuciones del tipo, “ostras, como suena esto” y “¿pero este tío quién es?”. Comentamos el nombre de Irabagon y coincidimos en que no nos sonaba de nada, pero quedó almacenado en mi memoria.

Algo más de un año después, hace no demasiado, Irabagon ganó la Thelonious Monk Competition de 2008. Este hecho, afortunadamente, atraerá cierta atención sobre el joven saxofonista filipino-americano, que además ha publicado uno de los mejores discos del año: Jon Irabagon’s Outright!.

Pero hablemos de Fiction Avalanche.

En un principio, me pareció que el RIDD Quartet no era sino una nueva versión del cuarteto de Kris Davis. La pianista lleva unos años trabajando desde la escena independiente (en muchas ocasiones junto al excepcional Tony Malaby), desarrollando una música cerebral, pero libre y distendida al mismo tiempo. Sin embargo, la presencia de Reuben Radding al contrabajo y, especialmente, la de Irabagon, eliminaban esa posibilidad.

El grupo tiene afán democrático y en muchos momentos reina la colectividad bien entendida y la excelencia grupal. El matrimonio Davis se entiende a la perfección y Radding ha tocado en tantos frentes que le resultaría imposible no compenetrarse. Y luego está Irabagon, que es sin ninguna duda uno de los saxofonistas más interesantes e inspiradores de la escena actual. Tanto, que lo repetiré en una línea aparte.

Jon Irabagon es uno de los mejores saxofonistas que se pueden escuchar actualmente y, si no ocurre ningún imprevisto, estoy seguro de que estamos ante uno de los grandes nombres del jazz del futuro.

Dicho esto, y sin ánimo de repetirme en exceso, hay que remarcar que la colectividad del RIDD Quartet se ve comprometida por la enorme personalidad del saxofonista. Kris Davis está estupenda, repleta de ideas y más centrada que en algunos de sus propios discos, pero Irabagon muestra una madurez y un lenguaje arrollador.

Dicho de otra forma: que Fiction Avalanche no pase desapercibido ante ti, porque bajo su apariencia inofensiva se encuentra un disco mayúsculo de música tan libre como contundente. Te gustarán todos los miembros del cuarteto, pero enseguida llegará el momento en que cojas rápidamente la carpetilla repitiéndote “ostras, como suena esto” y “¿pero este tío quién es?”. Eso, o algo parecido.

Cadence Magazine review by David Dupont

cf-106(1) Paul Hubweber – Paul Lovens – John Edwards – Papajo Simple Game (Cadence jazz 1209)
(2) Michael Dessen Trio – Between Shadow and Space (CF 106)
(3) Kirk Knuffke Quartet – Big Wig (CF 107)
(4) Prana Trio – Pranam (Circavision 38725)
(5) Open Loose – Strange Unison (Radio Legs 13)

PAPAJO’s Simple Game (1) is not an easy session to listen to on the fly. By half listening to it you not only miss the nuances, but also grow frustrated because even the distracted ear detects the depths in the music, and to plumb those you need to devote the proper amount of aural energy to the session. Trombonist Paul Hubweber, percussionist Paul Lovens, and bassist John Edwards bring years of experience in collective creation, with each other and an array of other musicians, to bear on a session that develops organically. Each musician spontaneously fashions an individual part that contributes to the whole. They explore the cracks in the sounds of their horns, odd evocative bits that seem to belong either to the space age or just the ages. They respond both to what their compatriots are doing as well as to the jazz in their DNA. So it’s not surprising on “Smell It” when they work up to a train groove, or if they slip into a nifty four-to-the-bar walking pattern on “Orleans Trib,” which also finds Hubweber citing Parker’s “Confirmation.” But these evolve naturally from the freer thicket of groaning bass, clattering drums, and guttural wah-wah trombone. Every moment brings its own reward, at least those willing to give their ears and brains over to the effort.
(2) Despite having the same instrumentation, save for the inclusion of some subtle electronics on most tracks, Michael Dessen’s Between Shadow and Space has a very different approach. The trio of the leader on trombone and electronics, Christopher Tordini, bass, and Tyshawn Sorey, percussion, is committed to realizing Dessen’s compositions. They examine his tightly wound modules of tones and stretch them out, flip them on their ends, pull them inside out. Though the players imbue these pieces with Free improv energy, the performances grow from inside Dessen’s concepts outward. Tordini contributes fat, grounding bass lines while Sorey pushes the tunes forward. He implies Swing figures, loosening their screws so they serve as another textural color, but never lose a sense of forward motion. Dessen really couldn’t ask for a better accounting of his knotty compositions.
(3) Big Wig adds a trumpet to the mix, in this case the leader Kirk Knuffke’s trumpet. While Dessen’s pieces employ a thematic approach, owing to more classical methods albeit filtered through Free Jazz, Knuffke bookends his performances with trenchant, even singable, Free Bop heads. These are the kind of pieces ready made to launch rounds of solos, ending with fours with the drummer. Knuffke, however, departs here from the norm. Instead the quartet engages in finely tuned—this is a working band we’re told in the notes—interactions. The two Free interludes “Sustain 1 and 2” show the musicians’ fine intuition as an ensemble, tuning into a collective sound. Take “Something’s always change.” The head is a spare few bars long, a simple repeated riff that launches a short, rambling drum solo by Jeff Davis. The leader’s trumpet and Brian Drye’s trombone enter together, their lines bouncing off each other. They continue driving forward even when Davis’ drums drop off, leaving them with Radding’s bass as a third voice. The bass solos, then the entire quartet brings the tune in for a quiet landing with the theme returning in a smoother rendition before a final acceleration by the horns. Not that the individuals don’t get a chance to step out on their own. Radding, who’s a major asset to any session, has a powerful arco spot on “The Same.” And the chipper “Normal” does indeed have a round of solos ending with exchanges with the drummer, though those involve eight bars of tangled trumpet and trombone lines alternating with Davis’ outbursts. For his part, the leader has a fluid, probing style, more interested in content than flash. Drye mixes driving legato lines with marcato exclamations. What’s special about the day is the way all voices merge within the contexts set up by Knuffke.
(4) The Prana Trio of Brian Adler, drums; Sunny Kim, voice; and Stomu Takeishi, electric and acoustic bass, are at the core of Pranam, but as the music requires—and what the music requires depends on what the poems require—the trio augments its sound with electronics, keyboard, and reeds. Setting poems, ancient and modern, in a jazz-inflected contemporary music context can’t help but evoke the work of Steve Lacy. That influence is particularly strong on e.e.cummings’ “once like a spark” starting with Kim’s passionate declaration of the lyrics and Jeremy Udden’s knotty saxophone solo. But the Prana Trio ranges far afield in its settings of the poems, and Kim uses a variety of vocal approaches, from speak¬ing on the opening “Tao Te Ching” to the ecstatic chanting on the Rumi suite and the more ethereal chanting on “La Ilaha Il Allah.” Throughout she has a crystalline voice that delivers the lines with controlled passion. “Everywhere” showcases her voice in a ballad mode cushioned by saxophone and two clarinets. It’s a strikingly beautiful track. Still, “The Rumi Suite” shows the trio can create an orchestral sound without guests. Takeishi fills out the harmonic bottom with singing lines and atmospheric harmonics, and Adler’s percussion is sure-footed and, when called upon, majestic. It all depends on the needs of the words. Like fine jewelers Adler, Kim, and Takeishi craft perfect settings for these poems.
(5) The trio Open Loose’s Strange Unison is a case when the title’s worth pondering, especially given the trio’s moniker. With Malaby, Rainey, and Helias delivering a flowing stream of sound, any true unison—Malaby and Helias locked in on the same phrase in the same octave—would be strange indeed, phenomenal really, and, at the end of the ballad “CBJ,” they actually approximate it. But there’s unison of spirit in approach in these fluid ensemble improvisations inspired by Helias’ compositions. Though they produce a sound true to the band’s name—open and loose—that belies how they are locked into the compositions, And how composer and bassist Helias and drummer Tom Rainey keep the pieces on track, whether the deep Blues of “Blue Light Down the Line,” mournful ballad “CBJ” with its majestic scene-setting solo by Helias, or the trio’s varieties of Swing including the rattling, jalopy rhythm of “Illustrate.” Helias provides heads with plenty of melodic meat for all three musicians to chew on. Malaby is very much in his element here. The trio is a fine showcase for his impassioned, at times gnarled, lyricism. On “Irrational” the trio shows how it can work a simple groove—the boom chick of Rainey’s bass drum on one beat, and slapped, loosely closed high hat on the other—to fine effect. After the tenor and bass play the head in octaves, they drift off, each having his own idea where the piece should go. In the end they produce a unified performance that’s typical of the strong work throughout.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

Pinkushion review by Fabrice Fuentes


RIDD Quartet – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
Le jazz venu de Brooklyn n’en finit décidément plus de nous ravir. Quelques semaines après la découverte de Rob Mosher (cf. ci-dessous), dans un tout autre style — plus déconstruit et formaliste — ce nouveau RIDD Quartet résonne déjà comme une formation majeure. Derrière ce nom énigmatique se cachent le contrebassiste Reuben Radding, le saxophoniste Jon Irabagon, le batteur Jeff Davis et la pianiste Kris Davis, déjà auteure cette année d’un indispensable Rye Eclipse. Difficile d’ailleurs de ne pas percevoir un jeu subtil d’échos et de correspondances entre ce disque et Fiction Avalanche : un même propos fait de fluctuations dynamiques, de motifs thématiques à peine esquissés et d’orientations contrariées traverse en effet les deux œuvres. Point de soliste à proprement parler, mais un mouvement d’ensemble imprévisible qui débaroule une pente escarpée, amassant sur son passage de multiples influences. Un rapide aperçu de leurs antécédents montre combien tout est affaire d’éclectisme chez les musiciens du RIDD Quartet : Irabagon (vainqueur récemment du prix Thelonious Monk) a joué pour Bright Eyes, Lou Reed, Ron Sexsmith, il est aussi membre du groupe post-bop déjanté Mostly Other People Do The Killin et a composé pour des compagnies de danse (Rioult Dance Company) ; Radding fricote avec certains as du free jazz contemporain (Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, Rob Brown, Matthew Shipp) et intervient également au sein de diverses formations balkaniques ; quant au couple Davis, unis ou séparé, il évolue dans des univers ambivalents qui vont de la musique contemporaine au free jazz, en passant par le hard bop. Autant d’inclinaisons qui travaillent en profondeur Fiction Avalanche. Mais moins sur le mode de citations ou d’emprunts stylistiques ponctuels (à chaque style son morceau) que sur le versant d’une dramatisation reconduite (tous les styles peuvent inquiéter chaque morceau), à base de transgressions harmoniques ou tonales qui communiquent à l’album son caractère diffracté et proprement vertigineux.

All About Jazz review by John Sharpe


RIDD Quartet – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
What makes a great free jazz record? Spirited interplay, unpredictability, extended technique, energy, variety, spontaneous arrangements that defy notation and a sense of structure and purpose are some of the ingredients evoked by the debut disc from the RIDD Quartet.
Monikered after their initials, the collective of upcoming New York-based musicians is jointly credited for all ten pieces dating from a session back in June 2005. Recent Monk prize winner, saxophonist Jon Irabagon demonstrates his avant credentials with sharp-toned outpourings frequently edging into controlled tonal distortion, while pianist Kris Davis combines barreling atonal runs and hammered repetition with Jarrett-esque luminosity. Bassist Reuben Radding is likewise unafraid to display his lyrical tendencies alongside his cutting edge, most prominently with a foreground pizzicato passage of understated beauty worthy of a Charlie Haden during “The Eye and The Telescope.” Completing the foursome, percussionist Jeff Davis clatters and lurches with an ear to attentive detail which characterizes the whole group’s interaction.

While the shorter pieces generally explore a single territory—the darting nervous energy of “False Aura” or the breathy melodicism of “Paoli”—”Float/Run” intrigues with a section of careworn romanticism sandwiched between bursts of spiky querulousness, all in just over two minutes. Elsewhere there is scope for more involved development, with the longest track “Sky Circles” building from a freeform ballad opening to a fiery climax, by way of dense interplay and a delicious alto saxophone and arco bass intertwining, over its 12-minute course.

Energetically closing out this absorbing disc, “Blue Sky” evolves from arco bass sweeps and saxophone exclamations into an avant-Latin feel, with stabbing piano momentum spiced by adept cymbal work. Let’s hope the group’s next recording is not another three years in gestation.

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins


RIDD Quartet –    Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
Fiction Avalanche is the debut recording of a formidable young collective, the RIDD Quartet. Pianist Kris Davis, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, bassist Reuben Radding and drummer Jeff Davis are bandleaders at the forefront of a new Brooklyn scene, one which subtly incorporates the vagaries of myriad genres and styles into new avenues for exploration.

Consisting of ten collectively composed tunes, these stylistically cohesive works veer between dulcet sentimentality and unfettered aggression, modulating from one emotional extreme to the other—often in the same piece. The quartet understands the value of restraint however; keen listening and an empathetic rapport embolden their dynamic transitions with a poised focus that many collectives lack.

A singular artist on the rise, Kris Davis’s neo-classical aesthetic blurs the line between restless impressionism and aleatoric invention. While turbulent salvoes are unleashed in climactic passages, it is her ability to summon disquieting lyrical fragments that reveals her true talent. Her euphonious refrains on “Paoli” are sublime, but it is the tortuous filigrees on “Sky Circles” and “Blue Cry,” alternating between atonal patterning and poetic introspection, that are most striking.

As a key member of bassist Moppa Elliott’s Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Jon Irabagon embraces every aspect of the tradition, from featherweight balladry to coruscating skronk. A sonic extremist, his capacity for transposing dissonant multiphonics and undulating overtones into tuneful phrases is demonstrated on “Sky Circles” and the vociferous “Monkey Catcher.” His keening cries yield strangely appealing harmonies when combined with Davis’ tinkling, harpsichord-like note clusters on pieces like “The Five Ways.”

Reuben Radding’s robust tone and nimble phrasing makes a complementary pair with Jeff Davis, whose colorful accents and vigorous rhythms gracefully negotiate fluctuating dynamics and rubato rhythms of indeterminate meter and tempo. A true collective, the conventional roles of soloist and accompanist are in continuous flux, allowing Radding and Davis greater freedom. Periodically repeated thematic motifs act as harmonic anchors; knotty piano arpeggios and circuitous saxophone cadences provide fleeting melodies as pliable bass and drums generate propulsive forward momentum.

Resounding with fragments of bittersweet melancholy and mellifluous lyricism, punctuated by escalating thickets of caterwauling noise, Fiction Avalanche is an emotionally intense and dynamically varied document from the next generation.

Point of departure review by Stuart Broomer


RIDD Quartet – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
The RIDD Quartet is a Brooklyn-based band that consists of Jon Irabagon on alto, Kris Davis on piano, Reuben Radding on bass and Jeff Davis on drums. This is the group’s first recording and the genre might be described as free jazz. Each piece of music is attributed to the entire group, which suggests collective improvisation, but there are often more formal elements at work than that would suggest. “Paoli” is among the most predetermined, with Irabagon developing a strong melodic lead and Kris Davis creating a repeating ostinato. There’s similar patterning in “The Five Ways,” with Kris Davis elaborating a dissonant and recirculating filigree against Irabagon’s high frequencies. The music is deeply traditioned, though not in the sense of pastiche that marks Irabagon’s membership in Mostly Other People Do the Killing. The opening “False Aura” – notable for its concision – has the saxophonist generating a monotone rhythmic motif that resembles “C-Jam Blues,” the rest of the quartet chiming in with an energetic rhythmic confluence reminiscent of an early (pre-1962) Cecil Taylor group, the Davises sharing a fondness for densely-knit polyrhythmic figures. Irabagon’s use of extended techniques often seem to echo saxophone practices in Rhythm and Blues bands; thus when the group seems most outside, it’s likeliest to end up in the hard-core blues, “Monkey Catcher” being worthy of Julius Hemphill or Tim Berne. There’s more fluency with form in the extended “Sky Circles,” which builds from genuinely lyric reflection to intense collective dialogue. It’s usually Irabagon and Kris Davis who are front and center, but it’s unquestionably a band, propelled along nicely by Radding and Jeff Davis, who supply consistent stimulus and commentary. It’s a fine group, consistently musical, with a distinctive predilection for knotting formal elements.